For generations the Heartphilia family has stewarded the lands of Fiore, earning the loyalty of the people with justice and temperance. When the country was occupied by the empire of Edolas, the men of the Heartphilia family served the embattled kings of their lands. Today Dairren, the eldest son of the teyrn takes up House Heartphilia’s banner in service to the Crown – not against the men of Edolas, but against the dark mages rising in the south.
“I trust, then, that your troops will be here shortly?” asks Jude Heartphilia, the head of the family, facing the fireplace in the main hall.
“I expect they will start arriving tonight, and we can march tomorrow. I apologize for the delay, my lord. This is entirely my fault.” Hades replies while staring at the back of Jude’s brownish leather coat.
“No, no. The appearance of the dark guilds in the south has us all scrambling, doesn’t it? I only received the call from the king a few days ago, myself.” Now the teyrn turns around to face his ally and old friend. “I’ll send my eldest off with my men. You and I will ride tomorrow, just like the old days!”
“True. Though we both had less grey in our hair then. And we fought the men of Edolas, not… monsters.” Hades says almost spitting out the word ‘monster’. To the world every mage is a monster, a disgusting creature that must be destroyed before it can develop its deadly powers.
Jude nods and laughs. “At least the smell will be the same.”
Both men wince as they hear the side door being shut. A young girl at the age of 17 walks in wearing a fine dress out of silk. Her golden shoulder long hair flutters with each step she takes towards the two men in the middle of the hall. With her big brown eyes she carefully looks around as if she needed to be alert.
“I’m sorry, Lucy; I didn’t see you there.” The head of the Heartphilia family turns to face the girl but looks afterwards back at his friend next to him. “Hades, you remember my daughter?” he asks.
“I see she’s become a lovely young woman. Pleased to see you again, my dear.” Hades says in reply.
“And you, Arl Hades” Lucy answers as she walks over to stand next to her father.
“My son Roman asked after you” Taking a closer look at the blondie before him, Hades takes a step forward.
Being irritated by his stare Lucy first glances over to her father, hoping he would help her out. It’s not like she doesn’t like Roman but she never thought of him the way he probably thinks of her. Actually she never thought of anyone being more as a friend to her. Then she realizes her father isn’t going to say anything until she gives an answer to Hades.
“But Roman is... a few years younger than I am” is the first and only thing that comes to her mind.
“As you get older, those years make less difference. A lesson often hard won.” Says Hades, who obviously expected something other to hear. With an annoyed look on his face he glances over to Jude, waiting for him to say something.
“I doubt she’ll be receptive, Hades. My fierce girl has her own mind these days, Maker bless her heart.” Lucy notices that her father tries to sound amused but she knows exactly that every time she says something that wouldn’t please him, he would beg the Maker for forgiveness or the sort. “At any rate, my dear, I summoned you for a reason. While your brother and I are both away, I’m leaving you in charge of the castle.”
Lucy, who’s looking ashamed to the ground, raises her head in surprise and glares at her father. “What? Why can’t I go into the battle with you and Dairren?” Her brother used to tell her about the glorious battles against mages and dragons and other creatures he fought when she was little. He kept promising her that once she becomes old and strong enough he’ll take her with him and she could see a real dragon. All she wants since she was little is to get so close to one that she could even touch it. That is the one thing she was hoping and training for her entire life and now her father won’t allow her to join them.
“I’m certain you’d more than prove yourself, but I am not willing to deal with your mother if you join the war.” Jude looks with a stern expression on his face but eases when he sees the disappointed and sad look on Lucy’s face. Trying to be a bit funny he adds: “She’d kill me if I let you go. She’s already twisted into knots about your brother and me going.” He smiles gently at his daughter.
“Then let me talk to her. I’ll convince her…”
“I doubt that. You know your mother, and she made it clear there is no debate.” Jude sighs. “This is no needles task. I ask you to take a great responsibility. Only a token forces is remaining here, and must keep peace in the region. You know what they say about mice when the cat is away, yes?”
Still feeling depressed Lucy nods. “I understand, father. I’ll do my best.”
“Now that’s my girl. In the meantime find your brother and tell him to lead the troops to the Tower of Ishal ahead of me. Be a good lass and do as I’ve asked. And don’t you worry, my dear.” He puts a hand on Lucy’s right shoulder and smiles at her. “Your brother and I will put an end to these creatures in no time and then hopefully we can live in peace.” With that he signals Hades to follow him into the library so they can discuss further plans for the battle.
Lucy watches them leave, then she takes a deep breath and sighs. Every time someone calls the mages creatures, demons, monsters and the sort she becomes upset. Why wouldn’t she? No one knows that she herself is a mage as well. No one except for Layla Heartphilia, her mother. She is the one who teaches Lucy everything she knows about celestial spirit magic. Of course they have to do it in secret. As soon as someone finds out, Lucy would be tortured and killed. She doesn’t even dare to tell her father about her abilities. She loves him more than anything on this world, but she knows how Jude hates the mages and wants to exterminate them. He doesn’t even care whether they are dark mages, who are possessed by the thought of abusing their powers to become even more powerful, or just ordinary mages, who learn all kind of magic to help people.
The blondie crosses the huge hall and exits through the side door she came in. Looking first to her left, she then turns right and walks down the long corridor. Reaching the stairs leading to the upper floors, she hears a familiar voice from her right. As soon as she sees the person talking to her mother, she remembers the woman the voice belongs to. It is Isolde, Hades’ wife. Lucy thinks of her as a beautiful and elegant woman. She never once has a fold in her silk dresses and her reddish hair is always made perfectly. Not a single streak is on the wrong place. Also the way she walks, makes every man near her turn around so they can take a closer look at her. Though as beautiful she is on the outside, on the inside she is an arrogant and selfish woman.
“And my dear Hades brought this back from Edolas last year.” Isolde says showing Layla her golden necklace with small emerald stones on it. “The marquis who gave it to him was drunk, I understand, and mistook Hades for the king” The woman ads and laughs spiteful.
Layla chuckles and turns as soon as she hears Lucy coming. “Ah, here is my lovely daughter. Darling, you remember Lady Isolde? Hades’ wife?”
“I think we last met at your mother’s spring salon.” says the woman now looking at the bold girl.
“Of course. It’s good to see you again, my lady” Lucy answers and bows.
“Yes. You remember my son, Roman?” she gestures towards the boy standing a few steps away from his mother and Lady Layla. “He’s not married yet, either.”
‘Not this again’ Lucy thinks and forces a smile on her face and looked at her friend.
“Don’t listen to her.” says Roman turning towards Lucy lightly blushing. “It’s good to see you, my lady. You look beautiful as ever”
“Thank you” Lucy replies and turns her head so no one notices her blushing.
“And this…” Lady Isolde gestures towards a young girl, maybe 13-years-old, with short black hair. “… is my lady-in-waiting, Iona.” The girl bows not daring to look at anyone. “Do say something, when I’m being so kind and introduce you to a highborn Lady, foolish girl!”
“I’m sorry, mistress.” the girl replies, then raises her head to look at Lucy. “It is a great pleasure, my lady.” Lucy smiles pitiful at the girl.
Isolde sighs turning back to Lady Layla. “It’s so hard to find a good servant these days. Now, if you will excuse me, I think I shall rest now, my dear. Roman, I will see you and Iona at supper.” Isolde says, then turns around walks away slowly.
“Come, Iona. We’ll retire to the study for now.” says Roman. “Good evening, your Ladyship” He bows and walks off down the stairs, followed by the girl.
“You should say goodbye to your brother while you have the chance” Layla steps closer to her daughter.
“Mother…” Lucy says quieter to make sure no one can hear them. “Why can’t I go with Father and Dairren? You know I’m strong! I learnt how to use a sword and I can help them to defeat the dark mages without using my… abilities” the last word she only dares to whisper.
“My dearest, you know, it would be too dangerous for you. A single mistake could be the last thing you’ll do.” Layla sighs “I know it’s difficult to stay in the castle and watch others ride off, but we must see to our duties first. You understand that, don’t you? It’s in the Maker’s hands now, and we must cope as best we can.”
Lucy knew from the start that her mother won’t let her join the war. “I have a bad feeling about this” she admits quietly.
Layla's expression saddens as she moves forward to hug the girl in front of her tightly. “As do I. Your father and brother are marching off to fight Maker-knows-what. All the assurances in the world don’t comfort me. But it wouldn’t help for us to take up arms and follow. Your brother and father have their duty and we have ours.” she steps back still resting her hands on Lucy’s shoulders.
“Are you staying at the castle?” The blondie asks her mother.
“For a few days. Then I’ll travel with Lady Isolde to her estate and keep her company for a time. Your father thinks my presence here might undermine your authority.”
“I don’t think you should go” Lucy says looking with concern in her voice.
“Don’t worry. It won’t be long.” Layla again hugs her. “I love you, my darling girl. You know that, don’t you?”
“I love you, too” says Lucy feeling relaxed in her mother’s arms.
“Now, go do what you must. I will see you soon.” her mother kisses the girl on her forehead and walks down the stairs towards the gardens.
Lucy is disappointed that she isn’t able to convince her mother. Now she starts to give up her dreams like seeing a real dragon, fighting against a dark mage, testing her ability as celestial spirit mage! She wants to see what her spirits… her friends are capable of! It’s not like she hasn’t summoned them and seen their powers before, she just never had the opportunity to watch them in a real fight. And probably she never will…
The blond mage crosses a few other halls, rooms and corridors, before she reaches her brother’s study. The door is opened. Her brother is inside talking to Lilyana, his wife and six-year-old son, Oren.
“Is there really gonna be a war, papa? Will you bring me back a sward?” asks little Oren with excitement.
“That’s ‘sword’, Oren.” replies Dairren kneeling down so he can look strait at his son. “And I’ll get you the mightiest one I can find, I promise. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Lilyana places her small and soft hand on Dairren’s shoulder, while trying to not let the others notice her concern. “I wish victory was indeed so certain. My heart is… disquiet.” She says. Dairren and Oren probably doesn’t, but Lucy notices Lilyana’s shaking hand. ‘Poor Lilyana’ Lucy thinks to herself. ‘I wish I could do something to calm her down’
“Don’t frighten the boy, love. I speak the truth” Dairren chuckles looking back at his son. Now standing up he turns towards Lucy. “And here is my little sister to see me off.” Dairren waits until Lucy comes close to him so they can hug one other. After a few seconds they let go of each other. “Now dry your eyes, love, and wish me well” Dairren says looking back at his wife.
“Should I wait outside?” asks the blond girl his brother while looking at the poor woman sobbing in front of her.
“Stay. I’d like to say farewell.”
“I wish I could go with you” Lucy herself is now doing her best to hold back her tears. Though she wouldn’t cry because Dairren is leaving, she would cry because she can’t join him…
“I wish you could come! It’ll be tiring, killing all those dark mages myself.” He laughs. Lucy always loves the way her brother would joke around no matter what the circumstances are. And she loves it too, that Dairren never once called the mages something different than what they are. It’s like he secretly knows about her and her spirits and nevertheless he’s not condemning her.
“You’ll be missed, brother” says Lucy.
Dairren laughs and replies “If it’s any consolation, I’m sure I’ll freeze in the southern rain and be completely jealous of you up here, warm and safe.”
Lucy smiles back at him. “I bring a message: Father wants you to leave without him”
“Then the arl’s men are delayed.” He sighs. “You’d think his men were all walking backwards. Well, I’d better get underway. So may dark mages behead, so little time! Off we go, then. I’ll see you soon, my love.” Dairren says to Lilyana then giving her a kiss.
“I would hope, dear boy, that you planned to wait for us before taking your leave?” Jude says from behind as he and Layla walk into the room to say their farewells.
“Be well, my son.” Layla walks up to her son and kisses him on his forehead. “I will pray for your safety every day you are gone.”
‘A good shield would be more useful’ thinks Lucy to herself.
“The Maker sustain and preserve us all. Watch over our sons, husbands, and fathers and bring them safely back to us.” says Lilyana. She is quite fond of the Maker, too fond of Him for Lucy’s taste.
“And bring us some ale and wenches while you’re at it!” Dairren laughs but stops as soon as he sees the angry look on his wife’s and mother’s face. “Err… for the men, for course.” He adds and winks towards Lucy. The girl begins to chuckle but stops instantly.
“Dairren! You would say this in front of your mother?” snaps Lilyana and gestures towards Layla who looks annoyed at her son.
“What’s a wench?” asks little Oren. “Is that what you pull on to get the bucket out of the well?”
“A wench is a woman that pours the ale in a tavern, Oren” answers Jude looking at his grandson “Or a woman who drinks a lot of ale” he mumbles.
“Jude! Maker’s breath, it’s like living with a pair of small boys. Thankfully, I have a daughter” says Layla facing her husband.
Dairren chuckles. “I’ll miss you, Mother dear. You’ll take care of her, Sister, won’t you?” He looks at Lucy and laughs.
“Mother can handle herself. Always has” Lucy jests.
“It’s true. They should be sending her, not me. She would scold those dark mages back to where they came from.”
“Anyhow.” says Lucy still laughing “It’s getting late. Now if you ill excuse me I’ll go to sleep. I have much to do tomorrow.” Lucy bows and takes her leave. ‘I’m not sure why but I have a really bad feeling about all this…’ Lucy sighs while walking towards her room.
‘What is it now?’ Lucy thinks after she has been woken up by screams and shouts from the outside of her room. Climbing out of her bed she puts on her dressing gown and walks over to her window. To her surprise it’s still dark and strangely foggy outside. As she hears the screams and shouts continue she becomes more and more alert. Quickly she puts on her leather slacks and shoes and her chainmail, then grabs a dagger and her celestial spirit keys and slowly opens the door to the corridor. There’s nothing going on outside so carefully she opens the door a bit more, ensuring she doesn’t make any loud noises. As she steps outside Lucy looks around the corridor just in case she overlooked something before. Quickly she rushes down the corridor to the room of her parents. However the beds are empty. ‘Mother and Father, where could they be?’ Lucy turns around just in time to dodge the huge blade smashing down upon her. She has barely time to look at her attacker as the next strike follows while she’s kneeling on the floor. A man at least one foot higher than herself stands in front of her wearing an armour covered in blood. Quickly Lucy draws her dagger and avoids to be hit on her head. As soon as the soldier draws back his sword to prepare for his next attack, Lucy slams her dagger into his right thigh. The man drops his long sword while crying out with a deep rasping voice. He then quickly reaches out for his sword again, but Lucy is faster. She jumps to her feet and with the handle of her dagger she hits the man in the head, knocking him out. The soldier falls with his face first to the ground and remains unconscious. Carefully Lucy takes a step forward to take a closer look at him. “No way.” the girl gasps “This can’t be true” she whispers. Not being able to look away, she just keeps staring at the man, hoping the symbol on his back will change. A red in half parted heart with thorns and some kind of line, which reminded Lucy of a flower, was clearly to be seen on the back of the armour. The symbol that is only to be seen on the armours of Hades’ men. “Traitor” Lucy whispers. “Traitor!” She can’t hold back the tears, she just lets them roll down her cheeks. As fast as she can, the blondie rushes out of her parent’s room and down the corridor, passing a room where the door was left opened. She then freezes when she remembers the people the room belongs to. Lilyana and Oren. Her body is shacking, her vision is blurred and she might be imagining things but she is quite sure, she saw two persons lying on the floor covered with blood. The blond haired mage walks back to the room where the door was left opened and enters. “No!” she cries out and rushes over to the woman lying in the middle of the room. “Lilyana. Lilyana!” Lucy shouts and falls to her knees next to her sister-in-law. With a shaking hand the blond girl reaches out to touch the woman’s cheek. “Why are they doing this? What’s going on?!” she whispers while looking to the little boy lying dead on the bed. Lucy quickly stops crying as a thought strikes her. She turns her head to look out the open door as if someone is watching her. No one is there. “Mother. Father” she barely says. She quickly jumps to her feet and runs down the stairs, at the end of the corridor.
“There she is!” A man in a uniform with the symbol of Hades’ house shouts from behind. Two other men join him as they start to chase after her. Lucy just crosses one hall after another, hoping she will get rid of her followers. Then she suddenly stops as she sees them. Her mother already dead on the floor lying in a puddle of her own blood and her father sitting next to her, looking up at a tall armoured man standing in front him. Before Lucy could have done anything, the soldier stabs through her father’s heart. “No! Fathe-”
Suddenly someone takes hold of her and places a hand tight on her mouth. Lucy tries to hit and kick and bite her attacker but it’s no use. She is being dragged inside the kitchen behind them. As soon as the door is shut, the grip around Lucy’s hand loosens. “My lady, please, you need to calm down and stay quiet, otherwise they’ll find us!” says a soft voice of a man. To signal the man, she understands the situation, Lucy nods. He then lets go of her hand and mouth and the girl turns around quickly, so she can take a look at the person next to her. Surprisingly Lucy doesn’t remember she has ever met the man before.
“Who are you? And why did you bring me here? I could’ve saved my father!” Lucy knows it’s not true what she said, she just doesn’t want to admit it.
“I’m no one of importance, my lady. I served here at the castle and was mostly positioned in the kitchen. My lady, your mother and father are dead. Hades betrayed them while he had the chance. Now that your troops marched along with your brother to the south, you are assailable and hardly a danger to him.”
“But why did he betray us? My father? His old friend??” A few tears escaped Lucy’s eyes again and rolled down her cheeks.
“That I don’t know, my lady. And now is not the time to find out. Please, come with me.” Not waiting for an answer he grabs Lucy’s hand again and leads her to the storeroom, where he shoves a few crates to the side. Lucy just stands there not knowing what he is up to until she sees a small hidden well. “Here” the man says and gestures towards the hole. “This well leads to an underground tunnel. You climb down there and follow the tunnel. When you reach a crossroad turn left and follow the path until you reach the end of the tunnel. It leads into a forest a few miles away from the castle. Now hurry before they find you!” He whispers afraid that they might be heard.
“I can’t just leave! What about my people? My home?” Lucy says. She doesn’t know what she could do, now that her family has been murdered.
“Everyone has already been slaughtered down, or if not they are being slaughtered down right now. There’s nothing you can do! Please, my lady hurry”
‘I don’t wanna admit it but he’s probably right. If I die here as well then who will take vengeance for our people and family and home?’ Lucy thought wiping her tears from her eyes. “What about you? Aren’t you coming?” she asked.
“No. I’m staying. I need to help those who still live and have a chance to escape. I wish you good luck, my lady, and farewell” With that he turns around and leaves. Lucy then climbs down into the deep and dark tunnel and starts walking down the path she was told to choose. The further she walks the quieter the shouts and screams become. After a few minutes she hears nothing except for her own steps and the sobs that escape her.