“It is gone your majesty.” “Gone?! How can it be just… gone?! Have you not been watching the shards day in and day out, for centuries now? Oh and suddenly one is misplaced?” “Not misplaced, sir. Stolen, surely.” “So, a Gelap citizen has infiltrated your sacred temple and claimed a prize? And how, does this happen? Who could have done this when no others have been able to?” “We… we are unsure… The shard stolen allows the user stealth but at the cost of his intent to kill. We can only imagine the person who stole it is more noble than the average citizen of Gelap in order to not murder on the daily, but a thief nonetheless.” “So, a noble thief? That makes about as much sense as a priest stealing it, eh?” “One of ours would never!” “So you say. I am not so sure. Watch the shards, groups of you. I don’t know how lazy you have become but no more! No more shards will be stolen! Make sure of it, or it will be your life.” “Yes… sire,” the Imam said slowly, irritation showing in the twitching of his brow. The king of Cahaya tapped his golden scepter on the stone floor, the echo of the metal reverberating off the tall buttresses of the ceiling and confirming his word was firm, iron, law. The man, Nicolai, in his white Imam robes turned from his majesty and headed from the throne room, the guards at the door opening it for his exit, and then closing them behind. Next to the king, his queen Isa, looked even more troubled than her husband. “A ball… we must… we must have a ball…” “A party? At a time like this?!” king Raja scoffed, looking at his wife with a gaze that suggested she had finally gone mad after their many years on the throne. Isa narrowed her eyes at her husband though, and his lips fell silent, anticipating her explanation. “We throw a ball, for the royalty of Gelap, let them invite whomever they wish, but while they are here, so will their security be. We send our own forces to their borders to retrieve this shard and bring it home,” she explained calmly, a few grey hair twinging her soft yet aging face. The king, his head of blackened hair with its own grey streaks, looked thoughtful, taking into consideration every detail before speaking. “Yes, we shall throw a ball. But we cannot send our own troops away. If those from Gelap will be within our borders, we need them here… I have heard of a warrior though, one who might know others. Peasants but if we offer a reward, surely they will not fail their king. And they will be less conspicuous than our guards,” he said, his wife nodding in agreement. And with this, the king issued a decree. Tomorrow, a ball would be held, and the decree was sent over the borders to Gelap with haste. For the longer the shard was missing, the harder finding it would be. The Cahayan messenger arrived on a black horse to the Gelap castle, threats of rape and whistles following him into the halls from the guards, though his noble face never faltered. He walked head held high into the throne room, where king Palsu and queen Zina sat on their thrones, with their daughter Adi by the queen and the royal advisor and general to the Gelap army standing beside the king. The Cahayan messenger presented his announcement of a ball, to which Korek, the adviser, protested his annoyance at such short notice. But when the king offered his daughter as a match to go with him he could hardly refuse. The Cayahan noticed the visible disgust displayed by the princess but simply thought of her as corrupt as the rest, just not fond of a man much older than her, which he could understand. “I will tell my lords you accept,” the messenger bowed, turning and galloping away with a horse lightened of the jewels on its saddle thanks to those who watched it while he spoke to the royals. Within both kingdoms, news spread quickly and vastly of the ball, for it was a bit of an unusual thing for the kingdoms to even acknowledge the other’s existence, much less intermingle. Despite this high alert of all things royal going on in the peasants’ gossip, a messenger of the king managed to covertly recruit Tellius Atton, a well-known warrior of Cahaya to come to the castle to discuss plans of retrieving the shard during the night of the ball when the security of Gelap would be thinned. Though, he and two other warriors brought in to assist were warned- it was not likely someone as obvious as a Gelap military man who stole the shard. More than likely it was a secretive mercenary who got in and out and was trained in very secretive arts of deception. And if they became lost, to not expect to be rescued. “Do we have an accord?” the king asked the brute of a man before him, after offering significant riches and glory for the shard’s safe return.