Castle Roland

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W


Chapter 10

Posted: 7 Dec 15

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories

An Evening of Revelations

When the giant doors to the Great Hall finally began to move, Kieren and the others had to step back, so the massive portals wouldn't hit them as they swung outward. Once the doors were open, the boys hurried through the gaping entranceway and were so excited that they could barely breathe. Eagerly, they looked around the storied room and were greeted by so many wonderful sights that they didn't know which ones to focus on first.

There were numerous arrays of battleaxes, swords, lances, shields and various forms of armor artistically displayed on the different sections of the wall. These were tastefully interspersed between several large, ornate tapestries and a multitude of fine paintings. There was just so much to look at that the boys' heads were rotating back and forth, as they tried to catch every minute detail.

Before the trio had finished examining more than half of those displays, Kieren lifted his eyes upward and began studying the vaulted ceiling that loomed many meters overhead. He was immediately fascinated by the plethora of elaborately carved beams that crisscrossed and decorated the upper portion of the chamber. There were also brightly painted replicas of various coats-of-arms attached to these beams at regular intervals and this created a truly magnificent sight to behold.

When Kieren began to grow weary of craning his neck so he could look up at the ceiling, he let his gaze fall to the freshly waxed parquet floor, which shone like glass beneath his feet. Upon this fine flooring stood three extremely long tables, set and ready for dining. The tables had been arranged in the shape of a large, inverted triangle, with small gaps between them for the serving staff to pass through. These tables had obviously been placed in this fashion so the diners could eat and still observe the others in attendance.

Kieren continued to absorb the magnificence of this splendid room until Beraut broke his concentration and summoned him to be seated. Knowing he had to do as he was told, he followed the wizard to the head table, which he thought was a bit odd. He quickly attributed his presence there to the fact that everyone else that had traveled with Beraut was now waiting to be seated there with him. Kieren felt slightly better about this arrangement when he was directed to the seat between Beraut and his two friends, which kept him from feeling out of place.

The remaining tables quickly filled with other guests and soon an army of servants began to pour out of the kitchen. The first wave of domestics brought out vast assortments of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with others carrying large pitchers filled with a deep red wine. Then came the next surge, with young women ladling soup from large ceramic tureens, each of which was carried by a pair of teenage boys.

That group was followed by a bevy of maidens toting a multitude of baskets filled with freshly baked bread and rolls. These were placed at various intervals along each of the tables, so they were in easy reach of each diner. While they were carrying out their duties, an array of serving girls was also busily running back and forth from table to table, constantly refilling goblets with wine. They would continue this frantic ritual, without slowing down, throughout the entire meal.

The meats came next, carried out on large platters by big, broad-chested men. There was roast boar, which was served with an apple in its mouth, along with fresh venison, roast duck and pheasant, as well as large piles of beef. This came from a freshly slaughtered cow, which had been specially raised and fed in the royal herd. It was then cooked sparingly over an open fire, before being left to soak in its own juices. There was so much food that Kieren soon found himself stuffed from just sampling the assortment. When he thought he could hold no more, out popped more of the serving staff carrying new delights.

This time the servants were bearing an assortment of pastries. There were cakes, pies and a selection of sweet rolls; some filled or topped with jam or fresh fruit, and this was the finishing touch to the formal banquet. As the last of the help offered their goods, a young man, just a few years older than Kieren, strode into the hall to entertain them.

Romaric and Garreth became excited when they recognized the musician, as he made his way to the raised area where he would perform. They quickly relayed the story of their meeting to Kieren, who was surprised by their tale. As Daimon began his first song, the guests hastily ended their conversations. Slowly, they settled back to enjoy his melodic voice and the soft, sweet sounds of his instrument. It was evident this young man had considerable talent and was happy to display it for them.

The two young elves were thrilled they had met up with Daimon again and waved at him coyly, to gain his attention. Unaware of their efforts, the troubadour continued to play song after song, some of which the duo had heard earlier in the day. Finally, Daimon caught sight of the elves at the head table and a look of surprise quickly registered upon his face.

Even though he was astounded at seeing the pair in such distinguished company, Daimon maintained his composure adequately enough to continue his performance. Although he was still singing, he was also wondering why the boys would be present at such a formal occasion. He then quickly decided this gathering was probably to form a new craft guild. That would mean his recent acquaintances were here to be accepted as novices into the trade, whatever it was, and they were probably the sons of influential elves.

Once in a while, Daimon would give them a special wink or a toothy grin, but his playing and vocalization never faltered. In fact, the guests were enjoying his tunes so much that after he completed each one they would reward him with a hearty round of banging on the tables, to recognize his talent. Not only that, but many of them would also toss a coin or two in his direction and on occasion one of them would even offer Daimon a drink. This gave him an opportunity to moisten his throat and take a short breather before he moved on to his next set.

The clean-up crews were now busily removing the last of the leftovers and dirty dishes from the tables. While they were doing this, Garreth and Romaric disclosed the details about their previous meeting with the musician to Beraut. Then, they offered to introduce Kieren to their new friend, just as soon as they found an opportunity.

By this point, everyone in the hall was relaxing comfortably in their well-cushioned chairs, as they continued to enjoy Daimon's talent. No longer were any of them eating, since no one felt he could hold another morsel in his overstuffed belly without bursting, so Daimon had their full attention.

As those assembled allowed their food to digest, they also glanced at the servants straightening up the hall. Many of the guests were also eagerly lighting up pipes and enjoying an after dinner smoke, as they continued to down the fine ale and wine that was being served. The combination of these pleasures soon caused those in the room to fall into a trance-like stupor. This was the direct result of the fine food, strong drink and pleasant entertainment, along with a good pipe for some of them. In fact, the only noise that could be heard, other than the angelic sounds of the minstrel, was the movement of the work crews, as they shuffled back and forth across the floor while continuing their duties.

Kieren took this opportunity to glance around at those seated at the other tables. He was trying to see if he could figure out who they were and where they were from. In addition to this, he also took note of the order in which they had been placed at the various tables.

Besides Beraut, his two friends and himself, Kieren realized Nathar, the Steward of Leander, the Elf King and General Daveel were all on the other side of the wizard. At the table to their right sat the dwarf representatives and at the table to their left were gathered an assortment of men, representing the various human segments of the Tarolian population. As Kieren sat thinking about the differences between the races, he noted the many personal, cultural and language variations that separated them from each other. This left him totally amazed that such vastly dissimilar groups would become united in such a venture as this. Madumda's threat, he conjectured, must be even mightier than he first supposed, if it was able to force the alliances currently found in this arena.

After Daimon finished his final tune, the boys became aware that the bustle within the room had totally ceased. The servants had completed their jobs and left the hall, although none of the boys had noticed this before now. Obviously, their rapt attention to the music Daimon had been so sweetly rendering had prevented them from becoming aware of the lack of other activities.

At this point, Daimon began to gather the compensation he had received. He eagerly scurried about, as he picked up the coins that had been tossed in his direction and were now scattered on the floor. Once he had retrieved the last of his tips, he exited the hall, but not before bowing one final time to his audience. After he had departed, Kieren noticed the doors leading into the room had all been closed, which left the dinner guests completely alone in the Great Hall. As soon as this happened, Beraut pushed his chair back from the head table and rose to his feet, so he could address those still present.

"My dear friends and fellow countrymen," he began. "I believe you all realize why we are met in this hallowed place, but I will briefly explain some other information you may be lacking. As you might know, the old fox, Madumda, has started to gather his army at Treblanc, in order to ready them for a battle against our collective forces. His allies, however, are straggling to his stronghold and do not deem the need for haste. This is providing us with dearly needed time to make our preparations.

"We have, although you may not know it, two plans to prepare prior to the battle. The first will be to decide how we will combine our forces before we march north to encounter our adversary. The second, and possibly the more important plan, is for a mission of great secrecy. It is into this latter task that I shall delve first."

At this point, Kieren noticed the expressions on many of the other guests' faces had changed. It seemed that some of them were uncertain or unaware about this secret mission. They apparently understood they were here to form one, large army and about the battle they would have to fight, but anything beyond that seemed to be new to them. Therefore, each of those assembled gave their full attention to the wizard, so he could bring them up to speed.

Before he could begin, however, the door to the kitchens burst open again, but this time an elfin warrior strode through it. Behind him were two others, each with his sword pointing into the side of one of a burly serving men who had carried in some of the meats earlier.

"Excuse the interruption, Master Beraut," the first soldier began, "but your precautions were justified. We just caught this man trying to listen in on your conversation through the serving door, well after everyone else had left."

Beraut gave the man a very intense visual scrutiny, as if he were trying to read his mind. Once he finished doing that, he then focused on the elfin guard.

"Have him taken to my quarters and kept with the other man," the wizard told him. "I will question him in greater depth when I return there later."

After saying this, Beraut turned his attention to Nathar, so he could ask a question.

"My dear steward, may I be so bold as to have King Dylan's troopers inform your men that I would like a guard posted two meters in front of each door leading into this hall?"

Nathar was quite flustered by this recent breach in security and began to stutter in response.

"B-b-but of c-c-course," he managed to get out, so the wizard nodded toward the elves and sent them on their way.

After the warriors left, it took a couple of minutes for things to settle down again, since most of the guests were whispering to one another about what had just taken place. They were trying to share whatever information they currently had, as well as asking each other questions about the other man Beraut had just referred to. They were also busily making conjectures about whom the serving man was working for and what he had been up to. After giving them time to work this out of their system, the wizard signaled everyone to quiet down and be seated again. Once this was accomplished and order had been restored, the wizard continued.

"The mission I was referring to just prior to this unfortunate interruption is extremely important, so I would like to give you a few details about it. With the demise of King Orthilue and his family, Madumda's commander captured the royal talisman and delivered it to his master. Once the Dark Lord had this symbol of our defiance safely within the walls of Treblanc, he felt he no longer had to worry that its power would be used against him.

"Although each of you probably learned about the prophecy concerning Madumda's eventual destruction, none of you have been aware of the missing piece of the puzzle. Only King Dylan of the elves and I have known that an heir of Ethelbert has survived and eluded Madumda's bloody purge. However, it is now time for this heir, leading a small party of warriors, to travel to Treblanc so he can recover this long-lost talisman."

There were multiple gasps heard around the room and many of the guests began to stir. Then, everything went deathly silent again. After things quieted down, Beraut continued his address.

"This heir has grown up in the Woods of Wildoness, under the protection of the elfin people," Beraut continued, before pausing momentarily for dramatic effect.

This announcement brought about even more whispering, as those in attendance craned their necks to scan the head table, as well as the rest of the room. They were doing everything possible to see if this individual might be present, but the only ones to fit the bill were the three young elves seated beside Beraut.

'Certainly,' they thought, 'none of them could be the heir to Ethelbert and Orthilue.'

When they failed to find anyone else who might be the one Beraut had referred to, they thought possibly the elfin guard was holding the heir in another area, for safety reasons. Their focus was eventually broken, however, when Beraut began to speak again.

"I believe now is the appropriate time to introduce this person to you," the wizard managed to utter, before everyone began looking around again.

They were now glancing toward the various doors leading into the Great Hall, as they expectantly awaited this person's entry. Since nothing happened and the doors remained closed, they turned their attention back to the wizard. Possibly he was planning on using magic to summon the heir here, so they sat on the edge of their seats and waited to see what happened next. Instead of the various scenarios they had anticipated, the wizard merely turned to his right, held his arm out and spoke.

"May I introduce to you Kieren, a direct descendent of both King Ethelbert and King Orthilue. Hopefully, he will be the next one to wear the crown."

As soon as this announcement was made, Kieren and his two friends reacted to this news. Garreth and Romaric were gawking at their friend, with their eyes bulging from their sockets and their mouths hanging open. Kieren, on the other hand, remained focused on Beraut, in a stupefied daze. Each of them was totally shocked and amazed by what Beraut had just announced, as they attempted to piece this bit of information in with everything else they had been told earlier. Up until this moment, the wizard had never fully explained why Kieren had been requested to accompany him on this mission, but now it all began to click into place.

Beraut had started to tell Kieren this information earlier, before he had been distracted by the interloper and then never got a chance to finish. Even though Kieren had been told he was an heir and related to the Tarolian kings, it never dawned on him that he could somehow be a direct descendent of the great kings he had grown to idolize.

Still stunned by this pronouncement, the two elves continued to stare at their friend, their mouths agape. Silently, each of them began to wonder how they could have known Kieren for all this time without realizing he might be a future king.

On the other hand, Kieren's heart nearly stopped beating and his mind began to spin when this information was disclosed and the realization of what it meant sank in. Almost immediately, a myriad of questions began to form in his mind that he wanted Beraut to provide the answers to, but he couldn't get his tongue to work so he could ask his mentor. Instead, he just thought about the things he wished to know and then made conjectures about the answers.

'If I'm an heir of Ethelbert and possibly the next to sit on the throne, does this mean I'll have to leave my family for good?' he wondered. 'It must also be the reason why Beraut told me I would be needed here and why he advised me that I'd have to put personal desires aside. He said there were more important matters to be dealt with first.'

Kieren's breathing was now rapid and shallow and his heart was beating erratically in his chest. His mind was busily flying over a multitude of implications this announcement generated when something else the wizard said popped into his head.

'Wait!' he silently screamed to himself. 'Did Beraut also say I would have to go to Madumda's stronghold to find something?'

While Kieren had been struggling with his personal thoughts, Beraut had been trying to get him to rise, so everyone in the hall could see who he was. However, these attempts had been unsuccessful, until Beraut grasped the young man's arm and gently pulled him to his feet. Red-faced and trembling slightly, Kieren finally managed to rise from his chair. As soon as this happened, he was greeted by the tumultuous thunder of applause and table banging currently being made by this small gathering.

Unaccustomed to such attention, Kieren's face reddened even more from embarrassment. Not only had the introduction painted him as being someone important, but the ovation that followed was also more than he could deal with. Without warning, he felt the blood drain from his head and his knees began to buckle. He was just about ready to sit down again, when fate did it for him. His shaky legs unexpectedly gave out and he started to swoon. Before anyone else realized what was going on, Kieren suddenly collapsed.

Beraut caught sight of what was happening out of the corner of his eye and reacted instinctively, as he hurriedly tried to reach out and break the lad's fall. Since he hadn't noticed what was occurring until Kieren was already on the way down, he wasn't able to move swiftly enough to be effective. Romaric, on the other hand, was able to react in time to prevent his friend's head from smashing into the arm of his chair or the table. He also supported Kieren's weight long enough for Beraut and Garreth to come to his aid and assist the future king. Lovingly, Romaric, Garreth and Beraut lowered Kieren into his seat, and then the wizard set about tending to the semi-unconscious youth.

Although no one saw where he retrieved it from, the wizard quickly produced a small vial that he held under Kieren's nose. Immediately, the boy shook his head in response to the pungent smell that filtered into his nostrils. Slowly, the stench helped him shake the cobwebs from his brain and become cognizant of where he was again. As soon as Beraut thought Kieren could understand what he was saying, he whispered into the teen's ear. No one else was able to hear what was said, but before long the wizard turned to speak to those assembled again.

"I hope you will forgive the lad," he urged. "Until a few days ago, Kieren didn't even know he was required to come here with me and until today hadn't been told about his heritage either. However, he seems to be fine now."

While everyone in the hall was murmuring about what they had just heard and witnessed, King Dylan nudged the wizard, in an attempt to gain his attention. Once Beraut acknowledged him, the king whispered the question he wanted answered.

"Do you think we should send Kieren back to his room to rest?"

"No," Beraut answered adamantly. "I'm afraid recent events have proven this place is not as safe as I would have hoped, so I want him here, near me, until it is time for him and the others to depart. Besides, there is more information he needs to become aware of."

The King nodded in understanding, while the wizard turned back to address the next item on his agenda.

Even though Kieren was able to hear what Beraut was saying, his mind was somewhere else. His thoughts were consumed by other things, such as why his parents hadn't told him about any of this. Could it be they didn't know either? No, they must have known, because his mother had told him they knew this MIGHT happen. This made Kieren realized she must have known about this all along!

And what was it that his father had begun to tell him? Wasn't it something about waiting until he reached adulthood before they told him? Didn't he also say Beraut and King Dylan had both requested that he not be told about his heritage? Kieren was growing angrier with every passing second as he considered these issues, because he thought everyone had been treating him like a small child again. Didn't he have a right to know about this news well before it was announced to everyone else?

The longer Kieren pondered these questions, the more upset he became. The trouble was, his parents weren't here for him to lash out at. After all, they had been the ones most responsible for keeping him in the dark and treating him like a baby, so he was planning to have it out with them just as soon as he returned home.

Kieren also wanted to scream out his frustration at that moment, but fortunately he remembered where he was. Since the wizard was still speaking, he stifled the impulse and sat quietly instead. Although Kieren would later only remember a very small portion of what took place from this point on, he tried to listen to what was being said. He felt it was better to do this, rather than focus on his preoccupation about having been left in the dark.

"We must now select from among this gathering," Beraut told the audience, "those who will accompany Kieren on this mission. I have already granted permission for two young elves to be included in this group, but it was not because of their strength or skill as warriors. They were included because of their love and devotion to their friend, which are qualities that might well prove beneficial on this journey. For this reason, I would like to introduce them to you now. Romaric and Garreth, will you please rise?"

The two startled elves quickly glanced at each other first, before looking toward Beraut. When he nodded and motioned them to stand, they slowly rose to their feet. They had not changed their minds about accompanying their childhood friend on this mission, but they were embarrassed by the attention they were now receiving. They were also questioning whether they were worthy and capable of such a great responsibility.

Neither Garreth nor Romaric had any idea about the purpose of this adventure when they first volunteered. Considering what they now understood about the impending assignment, they independently conceded they probably should have remained silent back in Aurelia. If they had, two mighty elfin warriors could have gone along to protect Kieren instead of them and Kieren would have been better off. They would never be able to forgive themselves later, if their inclusion caused the mission to fail or cost Kieren his life. Unfortunately, it was too late for these thoughts now, so they merely sat back and observed the remaining selections to this little band.

At this point, Beraut began to solicit additional volunteers from among the others in attendance. Even though the details of this mission had been withheld from them, the leaders of the various factions had been advised before they journeyed here the exact number of their bravest warriors that should accompany them. The leaders suspected these warriors would be required for an assignment, even if they didn't know the nature of the mission, so they brought along their very best representatives.

The first to volunteer was Alairic, a river elf, who was very large for his race and obviously a very skilled warrior. The boys wondered why they hadn't noticed him sitting at the far end of their table prior to this. He and another elf had been sitting on the other side of General Daveel, but Kieren and his two friends had no idea they were there. They had been oblivious to him and the other elf until this very moment, although it appeared the wizard, Nathar, King Dylan and General Daveel knew they were there.

Noting Alairic's impressive stature helped to allay some of Garreth and Romaric's doubts about having volunteered their services previously. They felt better that at least one impressive elfin warrior had been included, although they still thought their addition had prevented one or two more mighty elfin warriors from being selected.

Now that Alairic had been added, the dwarfs volunteered three of their own – Sedain, Quintain and Doenilio. Each of them stood a little over a meter tall, which was characteristic of their race, and all three had very rough and rugged appearances. They were also very powerfully built, seasoned in battle and it was easy to sense their ferocious nature.

The next volunteers were gleaned from the independent northern city-states. This area, which lay to the north of Citadel Mountains and the Devil's Horseshoe, contained three very distinct regions. The inhabitants of each of these areas were easy to distinguish from each other for several reasons. First, there was a gross dissimilarity in their garb and unique physical features, as well as noticeable differences in their speech patterns and dialects.

The first of the northerners to volunteer was Hadwin, from Nardin. He was a very pale-skinned, dark-haired warrior and was dressed in clothing dyed in pale earth tones, which gave him an almost ghost-like appearance. He was about average height for a man, but had a very broad, muscular built, which was also a common trait for Nardinians.

The next to join the group were two knights from Mitiku, Selvaggio and Turquinine. The Mitikuans were giants among men, standing over two meters tall, and the reddish hue of their skin contrasted nicely to the black attire they almost always wore. This helped to transmit a devilish and sinister air, which added to their ferocious aura. As impressive as their physical appearance was, the boys nearly burst out laughing when they began to speak while offering their services. This was due to the fact that they spoke in a very stiff and archaic form of the common language, which for some reason sounded comical to the teens.

The last one to become part of this special force was Rhys, who was from Akikta. He was a dark-skinned warrior and his skin tone resembled the same brown shade as the medium wood-tones of the Tarolian hardwoods. He was dressed in fairly light, flowing materials, which seemed to contradict and belie his imposing stature. His height fell between that of the warriors from Nardin and Mitiku, but he was no less impressive as a fighter. As the different members of this newly formed group examined each other, Beraut spoke again.

"I will also join this company, but at a later date, after the preparations for battle have been completed. At that time, I will journey to the dwarf stronghold, Thorold, with the dwarf King Brolin, so I can join Kieren and his companions on the second leg of their venture. I strongly urge them, however, to heed these warnings while we are separated."

Beraut then paused briefly, so he could study each volunteer to make certain they were attentive to what he was about to tell them next. Once he was convinced he had their full attention, he continued.

"I want each of you to remain constantly vigilant once you leave the castle. Take nothing for granted and do not judge anything to be harmless. Above all else, you must protect Kieren, first and foremost. He alone remains our best hope of destroying my misguided brother and is, therefore, irreplaceable.

"In addition to this, never forget that Madumda has many spies and brigands in his service and the road ahead will be filled with other dangers not of his making. For these reasons, you must remain alert at all times and trust only in yourselves."

With these final warnings acknowledged, the party was now complete and ready to go – twelve members in all. This select group was now comprised of two wood elves and a river elf, four men from the three northern city-states and three dwarfs, but that wasn't all. In addition to those ten, Kieren was there to represent Leander and the rest of Tarolia, although he was the only one selected from this area. This was due to the fact that Beraut feared additional volunteers from Central Tarolia would make the group far too obvious. The wizard concluded it would be more likely for outsiders to suspect them as potential conspirators, so they would be more closely watched. If that were to happen, the group would attract unwanted scrutiny, rather than this disjointed and unusual combination of warriors. They wouldn't leave together though, nor would they join up until the last possible moment.

Finally, the group would include Beraut, the sole survivor of the good that remained from the Council of Wizards. Even though he was the final member of the party, he would not travel with them the entire time and only become part of the group later. This impressive, yet fairly small band of volunteers represented all of the major factions of Tarolian life and their typical distrust of each other would help to disguise the true nature of their mission. Beraut was now ready to give them their final charge.

"From this moment forward, the future of the kingdom will depend upon your skills as warriors and be intertwined with your ability to succeed," he warned. "For those reasons, I wish each of you Gods' speed and good fortune."

The wizard now stepped toward Kieren and gave him a mighty hug, which caused a thunderous cheer to fill the hall. This was the way those who had gathered here chose to recognize the long-lost heir to the Tarolian throne and pledged their allegiance to him. When this excited outburst finally died out, Beraut looked at his audience and smiled.

"My friends, it is late and I'm sure we all need our rest. For that reason, I suggest you retire straightaway. Fare-thee-well and may you have a pleasant slumber."

Having been dismissed, the murmuring in the hall began again, as those in attendance pushed their chairs away from the tables. As the others were preparing to leave, Beraut glanced over at the boys and told them to stay put for a little longer. Once he was convinced they were not going anywhere, he moved about the hall to say a personal goodnight to the others.

As the wizard glided from one group to the next, he also thought about the troubadour who had entertained them earlier. After he'd heard about how the young man had met up with Garreth and Romaric earlier, Beraut decided he would have to make some discrete inquiries into the musician's background as well. There were just too many unanswered questions about the young man, along with the unlikely coincidence of their meeting that would have to be explained.

The wizard was extremely curious about how the musician had managed to come into contact and befriend the two elves prior to the banquet. Beraut felt he had to be certain this encounter was merely the result of a random event and not something Madumda had somehow managed to arrange. Had his evil brother planted this person at the castle as another of his spies and asked him to befriend anyone he recognized as having just entered the capital? He suspected this was not the case, but he needed to be certain.

Although it would take additional effort on his part to contact his sources and gather the required information, it was something he felt compelled to do. Beraut wasn't about to carelessly overlook such a potential threat, but his past experiences had also taught him to be patient. He was willing to bide his time in this type of circumstance, especially if he felt it would eventually help him discover the truth concerning a matter of such importance.

When Beraut finished making his rounds and had spoken to the remaining guests, he made his way back to the three teens.

"I will now walk you back to your chambers. I would like for you two," he stated, while indicating he was speaking directly to Garreth and Romaric, "to stay with Kieren and keep him company until I am able to join you again later. Kieren, I have other information I need to share with you, but first I have more important matters to attend to. Before I do anything else though, I must interrogate the two men that were caught trying to spy on us. I shall do this as quickly as I can, but I want you three to stay together until I advise you otherwise."

Kieren, Garreth, and Romaric each nodded his head in understanding and agreed to do as the wizard requested. They then stood up and followed Beraut out of the Great Hall, as they made their way back to the upper level. Once they reached Kieren's door, the three youths entered the bedchamber and quickly bolted the door behind them, as Beraut had urged them to do.

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