This chapter is a little slow but the story speeds up in the next few. Please tell me what you think. ~Star

Chapter One

Prince Terry walked down the empty halls wondering if the halls had always been this barren. He tried to think back to when he had last been in the royal castle. It had been over ten years since his mother's death and his father had sent him to live with his aunt in the next country over. He wasn't quite sure what to think of his father. Terry had been seven when he was sent away, he didn't have many memories of The King before then and he had only been written to twice. Once to tell him to work hard and the next one to call him back home.

All the way back he heard whispers of his father and how he started to act crazy after he sent the prince away. But that is all he heard before his escorts would shove their way into the crowd and demand everyone to be quiet. Now that he was back in the palace he wasn't sure what to believe, everyone he had met so far was wary of him and would barely talk to him and he had only seen his father once and that was for his official greeting back. Other than that he was left completely alone, well except for his shadow escorts that never left him. He walked into the big throne room and was surprised to see it full of people. His father was sitting regally on his throne looking sharply out on everybody, on his left was his councilor, Lord Pos, on his right was the court's ice queen, Lady Cassandra. The two facts that he picked up as soon as he returned was Lord Pos was an oily snake and to be watched, and Lady Cassandra was his father's most trusted person and was to be carefully avoided. In spite of this, he let his gaze linger on her, she was beautiful, in a cold sort-of way, Her pale green dress accented her sharp eyes.

Terry forced himself to look over at his father and saw King Markl looking at him. He did a full court bow to his father and when he had straightened up, his father's gaze had moved on. He looked around the room where he saw groups of people all arranged so everyone could see the King. Terry wondered again what his father had done to cause such caution, because even though there was laughter and smiling coming from everyone in the room they were all watching each movement of The King.

As Terry debuted about whether to try and join a group, he saw movement come from behind him at the doorway. He turned to see a full guard leading two men in. He couldn't help but make a face at how many men were there for just two men. He turned to look up at his father. King Markl was glowering at the two men. When they came to a stop, King Markl said, "These are the men who have been disrupting my tax trains? They don't look like they could steal honey from a bee."

The crowd strained a laugh at the ill-made joke. The King smiled as he went on, "You two have caused trouble for far too long, you both will be sentenced to die tomorrow morning by hanging." After he made that statement, Lady Cassandra leaned over and whispered in his ear, he smirked at her and then said to the room. "On second thought, I have a better punishment for those who dare to challenge me. You will be drowned in the lake just like we do to those found practicing dark magic." He grinned at the men's faces of horror as they were taken back out of the room by the guard.

Terry was puzzled, death by drowning? He thought. Why did his father do that? Wasn't there better way to kill someone than that? He looked around and saw that everyone was trying to hide the tension they were feeling. He needed to find someone who would talk to him and tell him what was going on.

Finding someone to talk with him was harder than he thought, every time he joined a group, the group would go silent, and then start asking about the weather for his trip back to the palace. He just wandered from group to group hoping someone would talk to him. He finally came up to a group that actually greeted him and didn't act surprised when he asked to join their group. A man with dark brown hair held out his hand and with mischief in his brown eyes said, "I don't hear from you in ten years and now you don't even greet an old friend?"

Terry gave him a longer look and smiled, "Sammy?! Is that really you?"

His friend smiled and said, "No one calls me Sammy anymore, it is either Sam or Lord Cont. It is good to see you well."

Terry smiled and listened to Sam introduce him to those in the circle. They had just finished introduction when they all came to attention to the King. Terry almost had forgotten that his father was still in the room, he came to attention a split second after everyone else. They all watched as King Markl and Lady Cassandra walked out of the room.

He looked back at his companions and noticed that they had all tensed up again. He was just about to ask Sam what was going on when Sam flicked a look at his escorts, then at him and shook his head. Terry nodded and thought again how he was going to get rid of his escorts.

After a week and not ever being able to be alone without his escorts his father all of the sudden assigned them somewhere else. Terry was confused, but didn't ask any questions. The first thing he did is go up to Sam and ask him to tell him what happened during the ten years while he was gone.

Sam said simply, "It is Lord Pos. He came just after you were sent away and told the King of a prophecy that his throne would be taken away from him. King Markl became steadily more paranoid about who was going to take his throne. He now sees everyone as an enemy except those in his inner circle. All he cares about now is how powerful he is and that no one takes that away." Sam sat down on a chair and looked up at him, "There is a group of thieves who has been terrorizing anything that has the crown symbol on it. Tax trains, supply trains, guards, whatever they can get their hands on, and the King has not been responding to their actions very well. Do you remember those two men he had drowned? They were part of that group. I am worried that the King will tear apart this country looking for this group. The people aren't very happy with him and the more he does the more join this group."

Terry looked at him and asked, "Why is this group doing is? Do they have a name by the way?"

Sam smiled sadly, "Their name is Shadow Archers. As for why they are doing this, last year the village Tumel was wiped out because your father thought that they were conspiring against him."

Terry looked aghast, "Were they?"

"No, they weren't. The year before that a whole settlements crop was burned as punishment, I don't know why they were being punished. He has raises taxes at least once a month. The list goes on, these men have plenty of reasons for what they are doing." Sam said solemnly.

"Is there anything we can do?" Terry asked.

Sam shook his head, "Most of us that are here in court are here as prisoners in case our fathers decide to do anything, or if we try to do anything, they will go out and kill our families. So most everybody here just watches their steps very carefully."

Terry looked at him not knowing what to say, "…… When I … When I arrived here a week ago, I know something was going on but I didn't realize how big it was. How could this happen? "

Sam shrugged, "We have been living in it for over five years now, I guess we don't think about that, but it is here and we have to deal with it."

Before Terry could say anything a servant came to the door and said, "Your Highness, you need to come and get ready for the dance." Terry nodded and numbly followed the servant back to his rooms.

Several hours later, Terry still found his thoughts numbed and slow moving, except he was trying to handle the dance at the same time as well. What should he do? He finally decided to push it from his mind and focus on the dance in front of him. The young lady who he was dancing with had a polite court mask on and was dancing perfectly with him. He finished the dance, only to have Lady Cassandra come up to him and order him to dance.

He nodded and carefully put his hands in the correct places and started with the music. He spent the dance looking elsewhere, his thoughts were interrupted by her asking stiffly, "How do you like being back Home, My Prince."

He looked at her quickly and saw her light green eyes looked shrewdly at him, "It is taking some getting used to, I have been away for so long." He replied.

She slightly nodded her head, and was quiet for the rest of the dance.

The rest of the night passed quickly enough, so did the next two months. Terry found himself on the sidelines watching what was going on. He had no clue what to do to help or even if he did want to help. He would be going up against his father if he did, Terry still had some respect for the man, although that puzzled him. Why should he respect a man who was tearing apart his own country just for power? He watched as the Shadow Archers stole again again from his father and how his father would burn this field or put more guards up in retaliation.

Terry had been back for a two and a half months when he was called for a conference for his father. It would be the third time he has talked with his father since he returned. He stepped into the room and saw that only his father was in the room. King Markl was sitting in a chair and told him to come in and sit down.

Terry sat down and looked into his father's dark blue eyes, the same eyes that he had. It was one of the features that marked them as father and son.

"My boy, I have an assignment for you." The King started.

"What is it?" Terry cautiously asked.

"I want you to go with a shipment of supplies to help guard it." Was the answer.

"Why do you need me to help guard it? You have all those guards." Terry asked.

"BECAUSE THEY ARE IDIOTS!!" King Markl leapt to his feet and yelled. He looked very angry.

Terry immediately said, "I am sorry I asked, I spoke without thinking."

King Markl looked down at him and narrowed his eyes, "The shipment leaves tomorrow, I expect you to be ready to go. You may leave now."

Terry looked shocked at his father and realized that whatever respect he had been clinging to was now gone. He nodded his head, not trusting himself to speak, got up and left the room.


Author's note- tell me what you think, there will be more action in the next chapter.