The Grey God (Prologue: The Schism, page 2 of 19)

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"You're out early," Darian said. "Another duel?"

"Indeed. I have matters to settle with a certain merchant's son," his brother said.

"How would you like to join my Guardians?" Darian asked.

"I'm not some lower born peasant."

"You're not. But you need something to keep you from challenging every merchant's son who insults your boots."

"He insulted my cloak!" the youth shot back. "You would put me in the Guardians, your own flesh and blood?"

"If it kept your hands off the women in court and the merchants' sons out of the Healer's ward, yes," Darian replied.

His young brother's face fell. "Father would not have done such a thing."

"Wrong, ikir. Your father would've put you in the Guardians long ago," Jule corrected him.

"You'd get to see the mortal world at last," Darian baited. "You've wanted to go since you were as tall as your sword."

"I guess. What would I do, Darian? I have the power that runs in our blood, but I don't have any of the natural skills the peasants have. Would they even want me among them?"

"Claire was one of them," Darian reminded him. "She speaks highly of the Guardians and just as highly of you. You would fit in very well."

"You're a great warrior, Damian," Jule added.

"According to the servants, Claire likes warriors," Damian said.

"Hold it, boy," Darian warned. "You know the rules. The most sacred vow a White God takes is to his family."

"I know. She's my family now, too," Damian said and rolled his eyes. "I liked it better when it was just us, Darian. Yesterday was the first day we've spent together since you mated with her months ago."

The White God heard the note of sadness. Darian dismounted and pulled out his sword.

"Our hunting trip was the first time in months, wasn't it?" He'd grudgingly gone on the hunting trip, not wanting to leave Claire behind by herself. She'd never been alone in the palace. "We used to spar every day, until a few months ago, when I took a mate."

"We haven't sparred since."

"Maybe we should start the tradition again."

"I'd like that, Darian," Damian said quietly. "You ignore everyone at court now. They say the Oracle put a spell on you."

"Since when do you care what they say?" Darian asked. He raised his sword and batted his brother's around as they spoke.

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