The Shadowseeker - Victor Kloss

— Chapter One —

A New Commander

Date: 29th March 1603

“Spellshooters are not permitted in Prince Henry’s throne room.”

The guard felt the full force of Michael James Greenwood’s and Charlotte Rowe’s stares. To his credit, he didn’t flinch. Much.

Michael extended his hands, palms up. “Eric, how many times have you let me in fully armed when I was summoned by our last commander?”

Eric remained resolute. “The Queen is dead, Director. The prince has new rules.”

Eric’s crass remark almost earned him a black eye, but Michael swallowed his anger. The truth was, Eric, like everyone else at the Institute, was still reeling from the Queen’s death.

Everyone except the Queen’s son.

It had been only five days since she passed away, and Michael still half-expected Elizabeth to return from the dead. She had done it before.

“I’m sorry, Director Rowe, but your forreck is not allowed in either,” Eric said. He had gone quite pale and was looking fearfully at the animal standing next to Charlotte. It was the size of a large tiger, with jet black fur, except for a white stripe that zigzagged down its back and covered its tail. The forreck’s eyes were like two brilliant sapphires, and they stared right at Eric with the sort of zen-like calm that reminded Michael of a cat.

Charlotte raised an eyebrow. Though she was petite and almost doll-like in appearance with flawless skin and soft features, the steely determination in her large brown eyes and the five yellow diamonds floating above her shoulder made people stand up and take notice of the Director of Trade. Her hand stroked the forreck’s forehead, which came up to Charlotte’s shoulders.

“You wish to stop George from entering? That would not be wise. He may become angry if I leave him.”

Michael almost felt sorry for Eric. If he let the forreck in, he would face the wrath of Prince Henry. If he didn’t, he might face an angry forreck. As unpleasant as Prince Henry’s wrath was, Michael knew there was only ever going to be one outcome.

“You may pass,” Eric said, stepping aside, eyes still trained on the forreck.

“You’re too kind,” Michael said graciously, handing over his spellshooter with a mock bow.

Michael put his hand on the door but didn’t open it immediately. His good humour was momentarily replaced with a frown, and he turned towards Charlotte. “Be careful what you say when we go in. We could be in danger, especially if Prince Henry talks about you know what.”

“I will be on my guard,” Charlotte said.

Michael opened the door; Charlotte and George followed him in.

Prince Henry sat on a gilded chair in the centre of a spacious, exquisitely furnished room. The last time Michael had been in here, Queen Elizabeth had sat in the chair. It didn’t seem to suit the prince as well as it had the Queen; he sat awkwardly, his back so straight it was almost arched. Michael was again struck by how alike and yet different Henry was to his mother. He had the same curly auburn hair, hooked nose and peculiar gold tint in his eyes, but the calm, regal aura Elizabeth had was missing. Instead, his eyes seemed constantly narrowed, as if he suspected everyone and everything.

“Welcome, directors,” Henry said. His eyes went straight to the forreck and Michael saw the prince fail to mask a flicker of fear. “It seems I need a new guard, one that will obey my orders and not allow dangerous animals in my vicinity.”

“It is not Eric’s fault, Your Highness,” Charlotte said, with a small, but perfect curtsey. “It is safer for my forreck to remain with me.”

“I see.” The prince continued to regard the forreck, his lips pursed, fingers tapping the chair. “I believe it will soon be time to do something about forrecks. They are simply too dangerous to be roaming around.”

“They helped us win wars,” Charlotte said.

“Any animal that can best a dragon should be strictly controlled,” Henry continued, either not hearing Charlotte or simply ignoring her. “Yes, I will do something about that during my reign.”

Michael could sense Charlotte struggling to keep her temper. She made to reply, but Michael nudged her in the ribs.

“You summoned us, Your Highness?” Michael said, switching subjects.

Prince Henry finally looked away from the forreck. “Yes, I did. However, I was expecting all of you. Where are the other directors?”

“They will be here presently,” Michael said.

The prince nodded. “I would have called this meeting sooner, but I have been extremely busy since my mother passed away. As you know, my