Many years ago, a man watched his children romp and cavort within the safety of the kingdom’s walls, blinded by the tension between his progenies that would ruin his beloved city. In his eyes, each of his five boys possessed the skills and attributes necessary to become great men. And his only daughter, the apple of his eyes, enchanted all who crossed her path. His children were saints and that was all he saw as they tumbled and chortled gleefully. The blatant disregard of the tension amongst the children could be forgiven if perpetrated by a commoner of Aramore, but not by their ruler, the great King Horvath. For him it meant eventual destruction.

For many years, the king’s ignorance persisted, until the boys interests shifted from dirt to the ways of the world. His eldest child and only daughter, Freia, was the king’s favorite. Like a fool, Horvath made no attempt to conceal his preference and showered Freia with gifts.

Beloved by her father and envied by her younger brothers, she received attention from everyone. But, she wasn’t concerned with gifts or attention. Freia yearned to assist the people, but her motivation stemmed from the want to marry a good man, though she did not realize the selfish root herself. She spent hour after hour in the bowels of the kingdom, helping the poor in any way she could. Most often, she conjured food to feed them as they stared in awe. Every day, she mustered the strength to help them, even as her heart broke for their suffering. Many days, she would return to her grand home and plead with her father for him to help the impoverished. Every time, she wept as her father insisted that he did everything he could, but the commoners enforced the divide.

“One day when you are queen, you’ll understand,” King Horvath told his daughter.

The response always plunged Freia into a state of despair.

In an attempt to quell the heartache his daughter experienced, Horvath brought many suitors to entertain his daughter. The number of men that came never fell into short supply. Freia embodied Aramore’s sense of physical beauty. The men came, seeking her hand in marriage as they showered her with gifts. Gifts that Freia frequently tossed to the side describing them as common and ill suited.

“She doesn’t appreciate anything she’s given,” Evorin said. His blue eyes narrowed as he slammed the door behind his final brother to enter the room. Evorin had grown weary of Freia’s almighty attitude. He knew how shallow she truly was and it sickened him to think others fell for her petty performance.

“Yes, father panders to her every need,” Josen said. He paced back and forth rubbing his hands together. He flit his eyes from brother to brother. Josen’s stocky build didn’t save him from the abuse of his brothers. Thus following their lead spared him bruises. Yet, Josen may have been the strongest of them all, but his confidence lacked. He relied on the assistance of his father. At the time, his father focused more on Freia than him.

“All she wishes to do is aid the poor. It’s a noble cause, but she fails to change the infrastructure that impoverishes them,” Paranas said.  His brothers stared at him with disdain. Paranas closed his violet eyes. When he opened them, his brothers no longer stared at him and he let out a tense breath he didn’t know he had been holding. People throughout the kingdom envied Paranas’s innocent logic. If Freia never existed, he would have been the favored child and the brothers knew that.

“Yet, she’ll inherit the throne and drive Aramore into the ground,” Rodath said. The venom from his words was palpable. He cared little for Freia and even less for their father. His sights were set on the throne and ruling over Aramore. As the eldest son, he felt the right to the throne. To him, a female shouldn’t inherit it, as a kingdom needed a king not a queen.

“I don’t believe we have any choice,” Vastan said. He was the youngest of the brothers, but the most headstrong. As a child, his brash nature was often called out and he found himself punished more times than he could count. Yet, he knew how to rally his brothers. “We must act now. We must save Aramore from its fate.”

And with that, the brothers agreed. Though some more reluctant than others, they would participate in a heinous act. Josen and Paranas should have walked away right then. If they ratted on their brothers, Aramore may still be the great kingdom it was then, rather than lying in ruins.

Rodath arranged for one of the finest men in all of Aramore to meet with Freia, but he needed to convince her to go. She was a stubborn girl and it took him more days than he wished to convince her to agree.

“Why is it so important to you that I go out with this man?” she asked him.

“He’s a champion and a leader. Exactly the kind of man my sister should marry. The kind of man worth of sitting beside you at the throne,” Rodath proclaimed. His irritation with the situation had made him weary.

“That’s not the kind of man I wish to marry and sit beside me on the throne. I want someone generous and kind,” she said and began to leave.

Rodath scowled, but wiped it from his face as he caught up to his sister. “But he is. He donates food to the upper east quadrant of the city.” This comment made his sister stop. It was his moment to strike and he did so with a trap Freia could not evade, even if she knew it was there. “And you do wish for the approval of your brothers for the man that you’ll marry?”

“I’ll meet him tomorrow at noon in the glades behind the castle.”

Rodath rushed to tell his brothers the news. He was hardly surprised when Paranas and Josen disproved of their plan once more. The brothers thought of them as weak and that was why they made them prove their allegiance.

As the sun rose high in the sky, the brothers watched Freia move into the glades in one of her nicest dresses. She settled on the ground on a blanket the brothers had laid out for her earlier. The brothers shoved Paranas out of their hiding spot, as Freia looked around suspiciously.

“What is going on Paranas? Do you know where my suitor is?” she asked.

Paranas nearly backed out of the plan. He loved his sister far too much, despite her flaws. He wanted to hug her and tell her to run. A plan that would have panned out better for all involved, but Vastan had threatened to ostracize him.

Then she spoke and sealed her own fate. “How am I ever going to trust Rodath again? This isn’t the first time he’s set me up and his suitor fell through. Sometimes you boys…”

She never finished. Paranas placed his hands on Freia and she slowly began to crumble to the ground. Tears streamed down Paranas’s face as his fingers tightened around her neck. She gasped for air that would never reach her lungs. She lay still on the ground, unable to breathe the air around her, but not yet dead. The tears clouded Paranas’s vision as he heard a squish. Wiping his eyes, Josen leaned over Freia with a knife stuck in her chest.

The other brothers cheered in the background as Paranas helped Josen up. The brothers walked off as their crime ate away at them. They spoke in hushed tones about turning themselves in, but they feared their father’s wrath. They didn’t realize no action could change their fate any longer.

The other brothers rushed behind them with their sister’s body, transporting her into their home. Servants rushed to their side in a panic. The princess lay dead before them and they were clueless of what to do. In all the commotion, Horvath walked in to scold them for all the fuss as he worked. Upon witnessing the corpse of his beloved daughter, he fell to his knees. He stroked her hair and rested his hands on her cheeks, now stricken with a deathly pallor. His baby was gone.

Horvath turned to his sons. Between the anguish on Paranas and Josen’s faces and the thinly veiled indifference on Vastan’s, King Horvath knew. His own sons had slain his dear daughter, for nothing more than a chance at the throne. Horvath knew if they were capable of sororicide, they would not hesitate to kill him. Under his care, his sons had grown cold and he couldn’t bare the sight of them.

“You did this to your sister,” Horvath said as he approached his sons. His eyes flared with anger as he jabbed his finger into each one of their chests. “You’re not welcome in the walls of Aramore. Retrieve what you can carry and leave this kingdom and do not dare return.”

The brothers walked off disappointed in their failure. Horvath bounded up to the highest point of the castle, overlooking the kingdom.

“Amplio loqui,” the king said and he stood proudly over his people. “Today is a sad day,” he said. His voice echoed into every crevice of the kingdom. “Princess Freia has been murdered. My daughter, who wanted nothing more than to serve the people of Aramore, was slain by her own brothers. They’ll pay for their crime through banishment, while the people of Aramore move forward.”

The brothers vacated the city and before long separated from each other. Their guilt was too strong and they began to turn on each other. In an effort to stay as far from each other as possible, they each settled in their own region of the world. Rodath retreated to the mountains, Evorin inhabited the open plains, and Josen to beaches by the water. While, Paranas let his guilt consume him and designated himself to the deserts, where life struggled. But Vastan still held an urge to reclaim the throne and he settled in the forest near Aramore to watch over the kingdom, readying himself for the moment to strike.

A great weight hung over Aramore for years as they mourned the Princess’s death. Even after the official mourning ended, the people never rebounded as they missed the small gifts the princess had afforded them. The king had another son with his wife, but even that didn’t allow the paranoia to vanish. The king made certain Bernen grew to be an upstanding citizen and Aramore began to rebound from their grief.

On Bernen’s seventeenth birthday, he roamed the boarders of Aramore and encountered a feeble, hungry man. Being the kind soul he was, Bernen invited the man back to his home for dinner. Bernen cleaned him up and gave him food, and then spoke to him for hours about the world outside Aramore.

It wasn’t until dinner, when the man sat beside Bernen and Horvath looked up at the visitor in surprise.

“What’re you doing here? You were banished nearly twenty years ago,” Horvath shouted at Evorin. The years had been kind to Horvath, but his age couldn’t be denied. He couldn’t remove his son on his own.

Bernen stared confused by his father. “Is that true? Are you one of the betrayers?”

The name infuriated the normally calm Evorin and his rage nearly rivaled that of Vastan’s. But he controlled his temper after he let out a heavy sigh.

“Yes, I am Evorin. Your brother, but I’m not a betrayer anymore than our father. Who never loved us, then cast us out with no remorse. It was wrong and I have spent many years contemplating my part in Freia’s death. I’ve longed to change the events of that day. I wish now, only to return home. To once more be with my family.”

“You may return, but Bernen shall inherit the throne,” Horvath said.

“That’s ludicrous.”

“Those are the terms.”

Evorin stood and walked across the room in two steps. He raised his hands toward his father and shut his eyes. “Mutilo,” he shouted.

Horvath jumped out of the way of his son’s attack. A trickle of blood ran down Horvath’s face from a large gash. Horvath snarled and signaled two men just outside the door.

“Guards, remove Evorin, permanently.”

That moment marked the final time Horvath would interact with Evorin, but it was far from the last time Evorin would enter Aramore. During Evorin’s hasty removal from the city, he struck out at the guards and slayed two civilians in his retreat.

Fear rooted itself into the hearts of Aramore citizens, but even more so into the heart of Horvath. His sons were returning and spite had consumed them and twisted them into men far worse than they were at the time of their exile. He knew that one by one his sons would make their way to Aramore and try to weasel their way to the throne. They couldn’t be trusted and it pained Horvath to have raised such despicable children.

Time marched on and for nearly a year, he heard nothing from any of his sons. The people still lived in fear, but managed to continue their lives. It wasn’t until the snow began to melt that trouble arose in Aramore.

Screams erupted throughout the castle and the clattering of metal woke Horvath. He scurried out of his bed and threw on his robe. As the king exited his bedroom, Bernen slammed into his father. In his hand, he clutched a jewel-studded sword as if it possessed his life force.

“Father, Aramore is under attack.” He looked down at the sword. Parting with it was difficult, but his father deserved to use the royal sword. He thrust it into his father’s hand. “Lead us into victory.”

Bernen ran off to fetch his armor and grab another sword. His brothers launched the attack on the city. He knew, without setting foot on the front lines, it was their doing. The threats the castle had received from three of the brothers over the past half year were proof enough. Bernen regretted not sharing the threats with his father. Instead, he kept them to himself, hoping his brothers would see reason. He’d been foolish and now innocent citizens of Aramore were dying as flames flew over the walls of the city.

Horvath had already armored himself and briefed Aramore’s militia by the time Bernen returned to him. He pulled his son to the side of the small building. The militiamen milled about, their nerves high. In minutes, they would storm out of the decrepit building and fight a war Horvath doubted they could win.

Horvath stared into his son’s brown eyes. The king didn’t know it, but it would be the last time he stared into those caring eyes.

“Today we fight for everything we stand for. Your brothers will try to strike you down, but you need to be stronger, quicker, and smarter. We must protect Aramore.”

Bernen parted from his father and stood at the arched doorway. Fireballs flew through the air and landed on the homes sending them into flames. People ran through the cobbled streets screaming. The impending forces hadn’t made it inside the walls yet, but the people acted as though they had.

“Move out,” Horvath ordered.

The men marched and Bernen led the pack. The walls were only a short walk from the militia base. Bernen pointed for two men to crank down the gate. The gate hadn’t fully opened when the enemy attacked.

Militiamen darted forward with their swords. Bodies began to pile up at the front gates as the outside forces drove their way inside. Bernen slashed and hacked at the men, but there were far too many for the militia to handle. He backed up as a large man growled at him and swung his blade. The clatter of the two swords meeting was deafening. The large man gripped his sword two handed and pushed. Bernen’s legs buckled and Horvath screamed for his son.

But it was too late as the large man drove the sword into Bernen’s chest. He ripped through the metal armor like it was no more than cloth. Horvath dashed for his son, leaving his own fight, but the sight of his estranged sons halted him.

Evorin and Rodath fought before his eyes. Their greed consumed them to the point they not only despised their father, but each other. Horvath gasped as he watched Evorin stab Rodath through the neck. Rodath gasped and blood spurted from his neck as he fell to the ground. Horvath imagined the small boy in his arms, but now he was just another corpse littered on the streets of Aramore. Horvath cringed and turned away.

“Get up father, we need to talk,” Vastan said as he yanked at his father’s collar.

On his feet, Horvath noticed Rodath’s head resting apart from the body it once belonged to. He retched where he stood and Vastan slapped him.

Vastan walked Horvath to a nearby house. Fire had already taken its claim on the building, but it hadn’t burned down. Scattered debris filled every corner. He tossed his father into what was the living room. Blood stained the walls and all the accoutrements had been strewn in all directions.

“You ignored our attempts at peace, so this is what has been done to your city,” Vastan said as he paced in front of his father.

Horvath shook and clutched Bernen’s sword tighter.

“Relax old man. I won’t kill you. You can remain in the city, but I will be king. I am sure mother misses me. I forsee…”

The sword twisted easily inside Vastan. Horvath shuddered and let the sword go. His son crashed to the floor with the sword embedded in his body. Backing away from the body of his son, he exited the house.

“Amplio loqui,” the king said. “Vastan is dead. Leave Aramore forever and keep your lives. No more blood needs to be shed this day.”

The fighting halted. Horvath watched the men look around in confusion. Some of the outsiders attacked the militiamen, but militiamen struck down the opposition. Many men simply retreated to safety outside the city.

Horvath walked the streets slowly as he returned to the castle. The streets were destroyed and the people had lost faith. Many crept back to homes lost in the wreckage. Children cried as mothers cradled them, while their father’s limped home after a short, but grueling battle.

In no more than an hour, all of Aramore rested in ruins.

King Horvath did his best to console his people in the following days, but his own grief had become too much. The losses he suffered over the years had worn on him turning his hair white as snow.

One day, months after the attack, the king sat in his chambers contemplating the restoration of the city. The destroyed streets had only become worse in the days after the battle. The people lost faith in their king and rebelled openly in the streets. A city once the epitome of safety posed danger, even in the brightest hours of the day.

“King Horvath, there are two men outside the wall. They brought forces. We believe they are hostile, but they wish to speak to you,” one of his guards said.

The King grumbled. Despite the threat of danger in the streets, he rushed out of the castle. He took a deep breath savoring the fresh air of the outdoors. His guard stayed by his side all the way to the city gates. The guard motioned for the attendant to lower the gate as King Horvath waited to greet his guests.

Horvath’s expression soured as he recognized the faces of Paranas and Josen. The forces the guards spoke of were no more than a few men for each of his sons. They wore concerned faces as the rushed forward. Their eyes darted around the rubbled city streets. The city they once frolicked through as children now looked like a bomb exploded on them. They noticed few people moving about and even fewer looking healthy. The people of Aramore were fading.

“Father, we heard what’s happened,” Josen said. The man he once knew had grown feeble.

Josen reached out for Horvath, who jolted away from him and nearly fell. Paranas caught him before Horvath landed on a jagged rock.

“Unhand me, you murderer,” Horvath said.

He pulled himself from his son’s grip and scoffed.

Paranas took a step back. “What I did all those years ago was the greatest disgrace I’ve done. I don’t expect you to ever love me again, but I wish that you’ll come to forgive me.”

Josen placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder and moved him to the side. “We worry about you. Aramore is in ruins. It will fall. Come with us and spend your final days with your grandchildren.”

Horvath backed away from his sons. Though the offer was tempting, he knew his place. “Leave. I’m King Horvath of Aramore and if my city perishes, I’ll go with it.”

He turned his back on his sons and marched into his castle where he witnessed Aramore degrade. Care packages from his sons sustained for a time. The citizens either died or vacated and Horvath watched every moment. Until, he too died within the confines of Aramore.

Despite the efforts of many genius travelers — once the greatest city in all of Palaron — Aramore buried its secrets and disappeared from the world.