"Raise him up." The command was curt and held no warmth.
"Look at me boy."
"My men were sent to find a Lerdenian of pure blood. Tell me, boy, are you Lerdenian?" The King reached down and grabbed hold of Nate's chin to force him to look all the way up into the man's eyes.
"Y...Yes, your Grace." Nate managed to force words through his dry mouth.
"Do you possess magic of one of the spheres?" Jesparian pressed as he let go of Nate's chin.
"I-I do. I share magics of nature's sphere." Nate's words were barely audible beyond the King and the two men behind him.
"Green then. Excellent." Jesparian began to pace back and forth in front of Nate. "Green, we have not found that before. Perhaps this time, a different sphere will work."
"Tell me of this Great Isle your people come from." The King demanded.
"I-I was but a boy when we left, y...your Grace." Nate stammered.
"Then tell me this, is it true that dragons fly freely upon your isle." Jesparian stared at the lad. "That your people revere them as if they were magical beings from the Gods. Is this true?"
"Yes, your Grace." Nate answered softly. "While they are hunted for their magics by those with greed for power, most still hold them in a place of reverence."
"Hunted for their magics, how?" Jesparian demanded.
"I …" Nate did not want to tell this man the gifts that the dragons left. His mother was one of those that still held dragons in reverence.
The King's backhand caught him off guard as much as being dragged back to his knees by the guard behind him. He could taste blood in his mouth and his eye immediately began to swell. The King's hand had been gloved with metal.
"You will answer every question I have immediately or I will just have my men go find your parents." The King's evil hiss reminded Nate of a snake. "Now, try again. Hunted how?"
"Their blood...," Nate whispered. "Not their living blood, but blood set in the ground at their deaths. They create stones called bloodstones. A mage can drain the magics from these stones to enhance his powers or... gain new ones." His heart pounded with fear and a pain shot through him as he saw the greed in Jesparian's eyes.
Jesparian grabbed Nate by the throat. "Tell me boy, how long must the blood bind in the ground before it can be used."
"I-I do not know." Nate closed his eyes for another blow.
"Can any mage pull these magics?"
The blow had not come. The King must have believed him. "No, only those with enough strength can empty a bloodstone. Neither my mother nor father was strong enough to do so. It is why we left the Isle. There is not much of a life for those that cannot use great magic."
"What of warlocks?" The King circled him like a cat circling prey.
"I do not know. I … I do not think there are warlocks on the Great Isle." Nate answered daring a look at the King. His hair was a dark red, left loose beneath an elaborate golden circlet. His eyes were a deep brown, barely discernible from their centers. What caught Nate the most was the malice that seemed to exude from the man. Those eyes seemed as if they bore no tenderness for anyone or anything.
Nate heard a man acknowledge the king then he heard steps walking away behind him.