Blackness hung in the old mines like thick tar choking the veils of the Black Mountains. Blaidd wandered through the labyrinthine caves that spread out like spider webs, doubling back on themselves, but Blaidd knew them all well. He felt more at home here, surrounded by cold damp stone, than in the High Court at Oswin. The caves had been his refuge each time life had stabbed him in the back; rejected by the girl he longed for, his father’s sudden illness, the demands of being a Wielder thrust upon him.

He sat in silence, his thoughts seeping into the stone around him, lingering, festering.

Hours spent roaming the depths of the mountain’s underworld paid off in many ways. He had seen men smuggling precious things in and out of the city, and Blaidd used this knowledge on both the merchants and the thugs. One might say he had established a network beyond the caves that served his needs.

But tonight, he was here to cash in on another discovery.

Months ago, Blaidd had stumbled upon the ancient symbols charred into the walls of one of the deeper caves. Certain he had been through this area before, but never seen the markings, he stopped to examine them. The flow of the characters had looked familiar, although the language was none he had studied, so he returned night after night determined to decipher them. Finally, he borrowed a book from his mother’s library, old and fragile paper, but bound with hard, scaled leather. The glyphs where similar, but the writing on the wall was badly deformed and faded.

He studied the book and pieced together enough to surmise it was a binding spell, but incomplete at best. Frustrated, he slammed the book to the ground and felt a chill run through his body. “Haden,” he cursed and retrieved the book, careful to make sure he hadn’t damaged it. “Why does she do that? I’m not a child anymore.” Taking one more look at the ancient writing, he turned back toward home.

Stay. He hesitated, considered turning around, but the feel of the book in his hands pushed him forward. “I’ll be back,” he muttered under his breath to no one.

Each day he returned, more determined to decipher the puzzle. Each day the urge to stay longer tugged at him. He stopped returning home some nights and when he finally did, only to see his mother glaring at him, he slammed the book on the table, irritated that he had to check in with the lady of the house. Was he not now lord of House Aderon?

As time wore on, he grew more distant and his discontent grew stronger while his body grew weaker. He spent most of his time in the chamber of the ancient symbols rarely stopping to eat or sleep, and his skin grew pale from lack of sunshine. He functioned on instinct, urged on by a will stronger than his own.

Finally, unsure if he could continue, Blaidd entered the cave at near exhaustion, but still he sat and prepared for studying. This time as he opened the ancient tome, the words made themselves known to him. He chanted a spell in a hollow, distant voice that came from somewhere beyond him, though the words spilled out of his mouth. A chilling wind whipped through the cave and blew the pages of the book until they rested on a page with a picture of a burning effigy.

“Yes,” Blaidd whispered, as he stared at the glowing cave wall. Darkness crept in as his head slumped down onto his chest.


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