Chapter 1: Awakening
The warm autumn wind brushed the fallen leaves of the auburn trees on the cobblestone ground. Quiet murmurs of the elven villagers softly filled the ears of Grayson Lazarus. He leaned against the wooden fence of the training yard as he watched the knights train, his thin figure out of place yet so at home. The ebony hair on his head softly flowed in front of his eyes as he fiddled with the bow in his hand. He had to watch these knights train every day, and every day they seemed to be getting worse. “Gray, come over here and show them how it’s done!” His uncle, Chasedeth, the Chief Commander of the Guards and military, hollered at him from the other side of the training yard.
His footsteps were soft with his mahogany brown leather boots quietly tapping on the stone of the ground as he made his way to where his uncle was training the archers. Bow in hand, he came to a halt and mentally assessed the recruits. “Show these whelps, how to fire a bow correctly,” Chasedeth remarked with a sly smile appearing on his face.
With one swift motion, he was centered on the many targets set up 100 leaps away. The raven colored bow softly squeaking as he drew it back with an arrow loaded into it. Gray’s mind was calm as his posture stayed the same sloping manner that it always was. Whipping as it hit the farthest target right in the center, the arrow drove through the hay of the target with great force. Harsh claps erupted as he continued to fire arrow after arrow into the same place, making them crash into one another and break the previous ones.
“That, you prats, is how you shoot a bow. This is if you didn’t know, Grayson Lazarus other known as Prince Gray. Be respectful as always when you see him, and never miss a shot in his presence.” Chasedeth ordered as Gray lowered his bow. It was true that most people didn’t know what he looked like because he rarely went out into public. Usually, his days were spent in the royal garden or in the rich regions of the city, and sometimes you could find him in his room on the west end of the elven castle. “You really showed them, Gray, I think your skill is improving.”
“Thank you, uncle. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go to Brandon Stormblade’s shop and get my bow tempered…” Grayson’s voice was always kind and elegant, such as the way of the elven people who were all refined. Their pointed ears and fancy clothes made them even more so.
“Of course.” He replied with a kind smile. This notion caused Gray to suddenly take off in a quick paced walk, out of the training yard and onto the local streets of the rich residents.
The ancient elven city of, The Reach is set up in three levels of hierarchy. The royal family sits on the top of the Reach with their Golden castle overlooking the whole city. Next, is the Rich who live just outside the gates of the palace. They are the literal brown-noser’s of the city and are all a bunch of pompous scrubs, according to Gray anyway. Finally, the peasants who live in the lower regions of the city and are right next to the golden gate to leave the kingdom. No higher-level person ever leaves the town, and if they do it’s for war or trade deals.
“Where are you going?” An annoyingly familiar voice made Gray stop in his tracks and in his thoughts. He slowly whipped his head around to see his scrub of an older brother, Demetri, standing against the wall of a tavern. “You aren’t abandoning your post as a Knight Trainer, are you?”
“Even if I was, it’s no matter to you. Shouldn’t you be with father learning how to be a king right now anyway?” Gray’s voice was always harsh and snappy towards his brother, with whom he did not like to converse nor look at. His father always saw Demetri as the son he’s always wanted and completely neglected Gray, although Gray’s features showed that he looked like his father more than Demetri did.
“If I had been called upon by the king, you are to still show me some respect in a manner of… well, I will be your king within the year.” Smirking like a fox who just deceived a mouse, Demetri approached Gray. “And I’ll be marrying the beautiful bride whom, if I recall, you have feelings for.” It was true, Gray and the Lady Camille Snow were once the best of lovers but had to break up because the king wanted her to marry the heir to the throne. Demetri often used this fact to try to anger Gray and found joy in seeing his features show irritation. He is the older brother after all.
Gray took in a deep breath before speaking to keep his calm. “Goodbye, Demetri.” This was his chance to escape, and he took it. Demetri’s silent laughs were evident in Gray’s mind as he made his way to the blacksmith’s shop on the edge of the divide between the Rich and the Peasants.
“Ahh… Gray!!” Brandon’s voice seemed relieved to see the young prince as he approached with his broad stature and open arms towards Gray. As always, he embraced his thin body, against Gray’s will, before letting go and snatching the bow to take it into his shop. “Needed to get away from training, eh?” Bran’s voice was deep and his orange hair softly hung in his face as he started to restring the bow.
“How’d you guess?” Sarcasm filled his voice as Gray leaned against the oak wooden counter where Bran was working.
“Listen, Gray, I’ve heard a rumor around town that you may or may not know something about.” Bran started as he continued his work and Gray got closer to hear. “Coming into town, a group of travelers with a request for help from the elven people. They say a dragon has taken over their city, and only we can help ’em.” His language showed that he wasn’t of a high family.
“My father won’t help them. But, I can try to talk to my uncle, Lance about it. He always advises the king, so maybe he can convince him that I can go help the people!” Gray’s posture was bright and full of life for a split second. Getting the chance to help people was always something that brightened his day, if only for a second.
“Woah there, I didn’t say I wanted you to go off gettin’ into trouble now.” As if on cue the door of the mahogany wood shop burst open and it was no surprise to see, Lance, with his platinum blond hair the length of his chest and his skin a light tan, standing there with a bright smile on his face.
“I heard my name…” Lance smiled as he entered the shop with his white leather boots matching his tunic which hugged his skin tightly.
“Ah… Sir Lance, how did you hear your name?” Bran asked as he handed Gray the bow back with new strings and a new wrapped handle.
“Well, of course, I was watching my favorite Nephew and I heard trouble so I came in here to see what you two troublemakers were discussing. Evidently, I was correct.” Lance was the more refined of the three brothers, himself, Chasedeth, and the King. “So, I assume this is about the group of rascals rumored to be entering the city and seeking counsel with the King. Of course, that is what this is about.” He spoke over the two younglings of 205 years and continued to assume and speak. “The answer is yes, I’ll speak with the king but no… I’m not going to let you go outside the wall.”
“Uncle, you know I wish to see the outside of the wall once more. It’s the only thing I desire. I wish to be an explorer for the royal council.” Gray was soon cut off by his uncle.
“I know my young nephew, but there is still so much you have to learn. Do you not remember what happened to your little brother?” Knowing it would upset Gray, Lance still brought it up. If anything was Gray’s weakness, it was the mentioning of his little brother. As the memories started stabbing his heart, he braced his hands on the counter before he could fall over from the pain of these events.
Once, a hundred years ago when Gray was still an arrogant fool, he had a little brother named Olly. The kingdom was letting refugees, from the overtaking of the war, into the gates as a sanctuary. A pack of orcs came through and took poor Olly as a hostage to steal the riches of the kingdom. It was Gray’s responsibility to kill the orc who had Olly in his grasp, but as he drew back his bow… he had completely missed the shot and the arrow drove into the wall of the tavern behind that nasty orc. This caused a chain reaction of first, Olly’s head being completely removed in front of Gray as Olly whimpered out his name. Then, Gray fell to the ground on his knees and didn’t cry at first, he just cursed the gods. Finally, once he let the tears flow, that was the ending of the perfect prince named Gray. Since then, he has been a different person.
“That won’t happen. Gray’s better now. He’s the best archer in all the land. I’ll go with him, Lance!” Gray was quiet as Bran defended him. Tears threatened to well up as the two seemed to continue their discussion, but their voices blurred in his brain. The memory stung, like a dagger to the heart. It was like his uncle just ripped open an old wound which was only beginning to heal if only little by little.
What Bran had said, Finally, reached the skull of the broken apart Gray, making him snap back into reality. “If Bran goes with me, it will be okay, uncle. Let me do this… Please?” His voice was hoarse as he pulled back the threatening tears. He doesn’t cry in public and hasn’t since that day so long ago for humans, but only a blink in the lifespan of an elf.
“Okay Gray, I’ll speak with your father and the council about this. But, if you get murdered out there or injured, I’ll kill you.” His uncle softly told him with a pat on the back. Footsteps filled the empty space surrounding the two men. Before either could speak, the royal Lutes, Viols, and Zampognas interrupt their thoughts. The rich and the best knights were being summoned to the palace for the royal council meeting, no doubt because of the group of travelers. The music continued as Gray looked to Bran who was giving him the “okay” look as he headed to the oak door.
The streets buzzed in the young prince’s long pointed ears as he quickly weaved through the gathering crowd of noblemen and ladies along with several finely dressed knights. All of them flooding into the castle as if they were water of a spilled goblet. People often shoved into him and tried to push him aside but he never budged, nor was mean to them because of it. Any other royal elf would’ve snapped at them for even touching them, but he was too in his head that he didn’t even notice there were other elves around him. His brain didn’t even acknowledge that his feet had carried him inside of the white and gold palace and his servant was taking him to his room. Nothing seeming to get into his brain.
“Your grace, what color will you be wearing to the council meeting today?” His servant asked and he finally recognized that he had somehow made it into his room.
“Huh…? You choose.” He brushed his servant out of his head as his mind went back to the painful memory of Olly. This was a dagger of the past that drove his future and his present. Lingering ever slightly in the corners of his mind and hiding in the shadows of his thoughts. Before he knew it, his servant had him dressed in a forest green tunic, his favorite color. “Thank you…” Gray’s voice was quiet as he speedily trotted down the never-ending corridors and golden elegant decorations of the palace. The quiet sounds of the villagers chatting drove into Gray’s skull as he entered the throne room. Four Familiar thrones stood before him as he slowed his pace and elegantly walked to the gold throne next to his mother’s tree throne. His brother was slowly following behind him and shaking the hands of the many villagers. The music started again as the crowd started to settle down and the king entered the throne room. The long ebony brown hair matching that of Gray, the refined gown and pale skin matching the youngest prince, the king softly and gracefully sat down in the biggest throne in the center of the room next to the queen’s throne. This was everyone else’s cue to sit down and so the royal family did.
The huge wall-sized golden doors of the throne room opened with a loud clatter which filled the whole room. A group of figures soon appeared in the doorway and noisy footsteps swallowed the hall. Gray sighed to himself. Although he wanted to help these people, he never liked council meetings. Especially when they were as formal as this one was. This means that he must sit up straight and pretend to be a perfect son like he used to be, before everything.
“Thank you for agreeing to see us, Your Graces.” A human male with golden blonde hair bowed to us as the group came to a halt before the thrones.
“The Reach is willing to hear what you have to say.” Gray’s father examined his own hand as he spoke these words. This notion made it obvious to Gray that his father was completely uninterested in what this group has to say.
“Our city, Gandew, has been taken over by the great dragon, Maku. We are here to ask assistance in getting rid of this menace.” The same human male told the four royals. This person fascinated Gray because he is the first Human that he has seen. A dwarf stood behind the human and was earning glares from the noblemen along the sides of the aisle where they were standing. Also in the group was a snow elf, he thought, and some more humans. One of them had a long cloak and their race was unidentifiable as the figure held a wooden staff.
“Interesting.” His father glanced over at his uncle, Lance. “I’ll be sending my son, Grayson, to help you with this small issue.” Everyone’s gaze fell on Gray and he stood up gracefully, fighting back his urge to glare at his father. Gray bowed his head before his father and mother stood up and linked arms. “Dismissed.” The pair elegantly trotted down the aisle of the room and out one of the side doors. Gray’s small frame carried him to the group of travelers who huddled in a group as the noblemen left the throne room.
“Hello, your grace.” The blonde male, who had spoken for the group, greeted him.
“Your grace.” The rest of them bowed after him.
“Just Gray is fine since we’ll be traveling together for a prolonged period. We’ll set off in two days’ time.” Gray told them as he slowly started walking, the group trailing behind them. “This servant will show you to your rooms.” Gray forced himself to stay in a good posture as he spoke. His servant appeared out of nowhere and led the group away, but Gray found his arm subconsciously grab that of the cloaked figure with the staff. There was something off about this character that had put an uneasy yet familiar feeling in his stomach every time he looked at him. “Have we met?”
“No, I don’t think we have.” A frail, old, voice sounded from underneath the dark blue cloak as his head tilted up to meet Gray’s eyes. “I didn’t know if it was true. I’m one of the last sorcerer’s left and, to be frank, I didn’t think that you were, indeed, the last one that we have been searching for. The six of us had thought that your Master, Mokaw, didn’t leave an apprentice… but here you are.” Before Gray could respond the old wizard spoke for him. “This journey is no coincidence. We were brought together for a purpose. Now, I encourage you to get some rest before tonight. Humans and Dwarves through quite a party.”