The entourage entered the city without stopping until they reached the Lords Palace, where the city administrators would hold meetings to govern Algin and the rest of the League. Ephraim knew the place well because since he had been born his father spent most of his time there. Perhaps that was the reason the beauty of the place no longer impressed him.

The palace had been built in an old style after the reconquest to celebrate the gorman people. Its granite walls stood on a rectangular base of stone blocks that was itself fifteen feet high. To reach that level one had to walk up a slightly inclined ramp located at the southern end of the building. Along the ramp many granite pillars lined the side routes symmetrically, covered in the green of the ivy sprouting from the rocks.

At the end of the ramp was the only entrance to the palace, which had only one floor level. Its roof, in the form of a dome, had a circular opening in the middle which let in the sun light. It shone into the throne room, from where the lord of the city ruled his people. In the corridor that connected the entrance to this room the entire history of Algin was in tapestry that had been draped on the walls.

The entourage approached the guard warding the bottom of the ramp. Irwen swiftly said, ”Im Irwen Stold and I have urgent issues to treat with Lord Aleen. Tell him that the Brotherhood has rescued his children and has important information regarding the east. ”

The soldier at first seemed surprised to hear that and before he took the message he certified that the two were indeed Aleens children. So he ran up the ramp to pass on the message.

Minutes later he returned, but now maintaining his composure. When he reached the bottom he said, ”Lord Aleen will hear you now. The rest may return to your base and the children will be escorted to their home by the city Ward. Some men are on their way here to take them. ”

Irwen impatiently responded, ”See here, I have to take this to the Lord, ” and he nodded his head to one of his men who shoved the captured priest forward. ”It is best if some of my men go with him to keep him in our custody. ”

The guard regarded and thought over the situation before saying, ”Very well. Three of you may go and I will get some guards to help you. ”

Following that, the guards that had been selected to escort the young siblings arrived and took them back to the Aleen residence. When they arrived at their house, which was next to the city park, they were welcomed by Hanton, the main butler in charge of the household. Both of them were very fond of Hanton because upon the death of Melane Aleen the old servant raised the children in the absence of their parents.

So when he received word of the arrival of his young masters he ran to the gardens to greet them. When they saw the kind and welcoming figure of the old servant they both rushed in his direction to hug him.

”You two don know how glad I am to see you back here! ”

”Hanton, Ive missed you so much! ” Valerie said, and Ephraim noticed some tears streaming down her cheeks.

”We were saved by some men of the Brotherhood, they did the incredible to rescue us, ” said Ephraim.

”Those are special men, I will have a few lanterns lit for them by the lake in their honor later. But come with me, I will have a bath drawn for you both and prepare a warm meal for you to eat. ”

The two were taken to the bathing rooms. Ephraim finished his first and went to where his sister was to talk to her. Valerie was still in her tub and a flowery aroma took over as she bathed. Ephraim saw that one of the servants was handling her hair and he asked that she leave so that he could speak to her alone.

Just as the door was closed he said, ”Strange that father didn come to greet us, do you think he wasn concerned about us? ”

His sister was noticeably impatient when she replied, ”Its just how he is Eph, and surely you can expect him to change just because we were gone for a long time. ”

”But we were kidnapped, that should at least leave him worried, shouldn it? ”

”And he probably is, but he is lord of the city. That always comes first, you should already know that by now. ”

”Yes, I know, ” Ephraim answered, crestfallen.

Valerie took the moment to change the subject, ”You were really getting along with that gorlandish, weren you? ”

”Ahh, you mean Rand…yes, I like him. Hes different, you know, like us… ”

”You mean hes troubled, like us? ”

”Hehehe…yes, I guess you could say that. He lost his parents and led a very different life from ours and those of our other friends. ”

”In a way, we have lost our parents too, ” Valerie responded, ironically.

”You say that because you don like father but I prefer him, even as he is but alive, to nobody. ”

”Hummm…Well, I have my doubts. But anyways we will always have each other, ” and she winked at him.

”Dammit Val, you never take me seriously. ”

”Eph, you take yourself too seriously. ”


That night the lord of the city arrived at his house late. Supper time had already past but his children were still awake, awaiting his return. As he entered his house he saw and walked towards them. Ephraim saw his father for the first time since summer had begun. He was still an austere and intimidating figure, but seemed to be very tired that night.

”Good that you both are still awake. Are you okay? Any serious wounds? ”

”We are fine, father, ” Valerie replied.

”Very well, I have already thanked Irwen for what he has done for us. I wanted to come home early to see you but many things required my attention and time past. ”

”It is fine, don fret over it, ” responded Ephraim.

”Well, I imagine you both have already had your supper but I myself am starving. ”

After he said that he turned to the servant who had opened the door and said, ”Set the table and prepare me something to eat! ”

And turning to his children once again he said, ”Come with me, I have something to tell you. ”

Lord Aleen went to the lavatory to wash up and then the three sat at the table. As he was served, the father continued the conversation.

”We do not have much time for trivialities so I will set them aside. Tonight I have made a decision and I am here to tell you about it. This incident has exposed just how delicate the situation of the League really is and soon we will have to act to correct it. You two have become easy targets for my enemies and I fear that even in this city you are no longer safe. ”

Ephraim went pale as he heard that and started to tremble nervously but felt Valeries warm hand grab his under the table and that calmed him.

”To guarantee your safety I have decided that both will participate in special training in one of the Brotherhoods bases. Its localization is a secret and there you will be out of danger until the situation in the League is resolved. ”

Both were speechless for a moment but it was Valerie who had the presence of mind to reply with, ”What do you mean? Training for what? How can you decide something without consulting us first? ”

Ephraim could note the change in his fathers demeanor after she had spoken those words. He became so intimidating that the boy lowered his gaze and stared at the table.

”Valerie, since when do you have the right to contest my orders? ” asked her father, who did not need to raise his voice to intimidate people.

Lord Aleens cold and calm tone was enough to chill any heated debates. Valerie was visibly upset after he replied but remained silent.

”Well, as I was saying, this training will do you good. It will help you prepare for your future responsibilities of the League. In the past some city nobles have participated in it and all have been very successful. For today that is all, tomorrow I will tell you more. ”

After that brief exchange the three sat in silence. Ephraim saw that was a good opportunity to try and dispel the situation and so he said, ”Alright, father. If that is what you wish, I don see a problem. I grew to like them very much and I think there is so much we can learn from them, who seem to be amazing people.

But to his astonishment Valerie said, ”Father, may I be excused? ”

”Yes. ”

She left the room and went up to her chambers.

The two remained alone in the dining room. Ephraim felt awkward towards his father and there weren any servants nearby at that moment. He thought that would be a good time to tell him his secret. Maybe then he could change his fathers mind about the training and Ephraim could take Valerie with him. It was likely that his sister would prefer that to the imposition of the training.

So he gathered his courage and said, ”Father, I have something I want to tell you. ”

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