• As the sun began to rise over the frost-covered plains and settlements that littered the countryside of Orlyn, a great fire roared to life in the bowels of the large kingdom. Heat started to spread along the metallic veins underneath the ground, and the country slowly began to stir and bubble.
    Within a large room, with floor carpeted and the walls lined with dark marble, had a single bed in which a boy of barely sixteen laid, still asleep. The light gently shone through the opened curtains of silk, prompting the young boy to awaken. A low grumble of discontent rose from his throat, but he proceeded to slip out of bed anyway. Short, neatly-trimmed black hair and eyes of a deep green looked around, half-open for the moment. His skin was lightly tanned, though covered by nightwear that rested along his toned body.
    Then, a man in a set of white robes strode in, hair of brown and stress lines set in deeply in his face. He stood still for a moment, studying the boy for a moment as he crossed his arms. "Good morning, Prince Hinge. I trust you've had a good night's sleep?" he asked the boy.
    "Mhm. I did, Tactamus. How are mother and father?" Hinge asked, opening his eyes a bit more and showing concern as he walked over to the divider, where his clothes were laid over the top.
    Tactamus quirked an eyebrow and turned towards the window. "They are fine, my prince. The king requests your presence in the throne room," he replied, raising his head to where the light shone brightest.
    Hinge slipped on the linen dress shirt and the black pants, smoothing them out before he attempted to pull on the sleek leather boots, where the initials "H.L." were place at the highest point of the tongue. In an attempt to hop into one, Hinge let out a yelp as he fell to the carpet, grunting in pain. But once he was able to get fully dressed, he walked out, smoothing his clothes as he frowned, hearing Tactamus' words. Being in the throne room meant he was going to be in the presence of his siblings, all eight of them.
    As was Lineage policy, the king and queen were to have as many children as possible, in the possibility that a tragedy might befall them. However, this created much additional, unneeded tension in the family, where the term "sibling rivalry" was very literal. Being the youngest of the Lineage, and with no particular strength or advantage, Hinge was the least likely to be considered to directly succeed his parents.
    "Okay. Tell father I'll be there shortly. Thank you Tactamus," Hinge said, nodding curtly to the servant. In response, Tactamus left hurriedly to deliver the news.
    Hinge sighed gently; it was a great responsibility to become the next king. He didn't mind the thought, however. In fact, it was his lifelong dream to follow in his father's footsteps. But the question of whether he could fulfill that promise and dream lingered in his mind: Hinge simply felt he wasn't ready yet.
    Pushing the thought out of his mind, Hinge left his room and walked down the hall, observing the servants subtle bows and changes in demeanor when he walked past them. The inherent and automatic respect he got from everyone was, frankly, unnerving. The sight of finely-done portraits distracted the boy; one of his parents, sitting side-by-side, hands intertwined lovingly. Then, next to them was the wider painting of their children. They sat and stood in two rows, some of them smiling, but most of their expressions were blank and stoic. Hinge sat in the front, bearing a bright grin on his face, eyes sparkling with astuteness. Standing behind him with long silver hair and deep blue eyes, hands on Hinge’s shoulders, was his older brother and role model, Xame. He also bore a cheerful smile on his face. But the right-most male of the group sent a chill down Hinge's spine.
    Demetrius' long, dark-red hair covered wide shoulders, and his confident stance was only more supported by the armor he wore. The narrowed chestnut eyes seemed to move past the canvas and gaze directly into Hinge's soul. He was the oldest and strongest, and thus the most probable candidate for the throne.
    I will not allow Demetrius to win. I cannot! he thought, tightening his stance and standing to his full height before he walked further down. This made him look reminiscent of a walking statue, however, and he relaxed his body somewhat.
    A few minutes later, Hinge stopped at the wide double-doors that led to the throne room. A pair of guards, outfitted in thick metal armor and equipped with long pikes that were rigid against their shoulders, pointing towards the high ceiling. Noticing Hinge, they bowed as much as their armor would allow, and pushed the doors open for him.
    The throne room was an expansive hall that stretched at least a few hundred feet, encased by circular walls with floor-length windows that let the sunlight in. A carpet made of blue damask that was continuously interwoven with the letter “L” as Hinge walked further on. At the other side of the room set two elaborate thrones, and in them sat the king and queen. Standing in a row in front of them were the actual Lineage, their children. As if on cue, Hinge’s siblings turned their heads and acknowledge him with a set of stiff nods. There seemed to be no actual love between any of them, but their parents seemed to not notice. He also quickly noticed that Xame was not present.
    Their father was an older man with gray hair and strong, calculating eyes. Swathed in materials of dark-blue satin, fine jewels stitched onto the fabric, and a thick cape was cinched onto his left shoulder, the letters “K . X . L .” embedded into the cloth. He wore no crown atop his head, though a band of gold was wrapped securely around his forehead to signify his status as the ruler of the country, ornamented with a large blue gem at the center of the brow. He rose his right hand to acknowledge his youngest son, and a small smile seemed to flicker upon his face, an expression that did not usually appear.
    “Hello, Hinge. I’m glad my children could be present,” he said, his voice rising to reach all of them. “After all, I am aware of the duties and training you are all bound to. Especially you, Demetrius.”
    At the other end of where Hinge stood, Demetrius noticed his father’s gaze and bowed slightly, placing his hand on the left side of his armored chest. The steel he wore was engraved with luxurious designs, some parts of the armor seemed to resembled vines, while others were similar to flames, as if the plates were originally used for separate armor. “It is always an honor and pleasure to see you, father,” he replied, then turned his gaze towards his mother. “And you, mother.”
    Unlike her husband, the queen was young in appearance, her hair still a bright gold and her skin smooth, and a dark dress to contrast against her blue eyes and pale flesh.
    The king chuckled lightly and resumed to scan the rest of his children before finally resting on Hinge once more, who felt the pulse in his body quicken with nervousness.
    “Hinge, am I to understand that you have not begun your classes in the magickal arts? You do know that it is imperative to complete it if you wish to be considered for ascendance, correct?” the king asked, adopting a serious expression as he patiently waited for an answer. The ascendance was the act of being chosen to rule after the passing or resignation of the king and queen, and along with it came many rules and qualifications that needed to be considered.
    The hesitance in Hinge’s response prompted a soft collection of giggles and snickers from his siblings, and blushed fiercely before he spoke, “Y-Yes, I do father. I’m just a bit unsure of where I should start,” Hinge said, rubbing the tips of his fingers together. He always felt another presence within his soul, but it never deemed itself ready to appear, no matter how hard Hinge had tried to summon it. The training in swordsmanship came quite easily to him, but this was a different matter entirely. It involved his very being.
    “Hm . . . I see. Well, we shall deal with it another time. For now, I have a request to make of the ones who have begun their training,” the king said, the tone in his voice drawing the attention of his children quickly, including Hinge. “Each of you - along with your mentors - must travel to a city, village, or town within Obe’ for one month, perhaps longer. Once there, it is important that you solve any and all problems that arise in that location. The locale will be decided based on the progression of your abilities. For instance,” he paused, looking at Demetrius once more, “Demetrius, you will venture towards the city of Kaldell, where the cold flames of the wyverns are located, and due to the severity and difficulty of Kaldell, you are permitted to take Farouk,” he continued.
    Hinge quickly recognized the name of Demetrius’ own dragon, a rare type within Obe’ that was able to produce great enough flames to melt even the strongest glaciers. A smirk flickered across Demetrius' face, obviously pleased with the results. Jealously boiled inside Hinge's chest, his fingers prickling hotly until a cool breeze passed over him.
    "Thank you father. I will be sure to make the Lineage proud," Demetrius said, and turned to leave, knowing that he was permitted to do so.
    As the king listed off the rest of the children, he paused again at Hinge, the expression upon his face incredulous, "What are you still doing here, my son?" he asked, and raised a hand to beckon Hinge forward.
    Each step seemed to take longer and longer as he neared the throne, avoiding eye contact with his mother before he reached the foot of the large chair, kneeling to the floor before he looked directly into his father's eyes, "I . . . I need something to do, father. Until my training starts," Hinge pleaded quietly, still aware that others were in the throne room.
    He was not surprised that his father became quiet, deep in thought as he placed his face in his hand. Several moments passed before the king decided to speak, drawing himself higher in his chair.
    "The Frozen Ruins need to be patrolled," his father said. "A squad will be leaving shortly, so I suggest you head to the armory and catch them before they leave."
    "Yes father. Thank you!" Hinge said excitedly, his face lighting up before he rose to his feet and walked from the throne hall at a brisk pace, the thought of adventure making adrenaline course through his veins as he envisioned the prospect of leaving Orlyn for the first time in a long while.