The red-haired man relaxed and made his query. “Lord… excuse me… Master Wizard, all my friends call me Red. I wanted to know why your office and laboratory are located so far below the castle.”
“It’s quite simple, Red. We’re located here between the dungeons and the treasury for a specific reason. This lowly location serves to remind us of our position. We want to remember our purpose and not place others beneath us.
“We are servants of the kingdom of Avendis and our loyalty lies with King Yadin first and foremost. All we do will benefit this great kingdom. It is, in fact, my ultimate goal to bring the entire planet of Namorganda to a place of servitude. We must set the example for all others to follow.”
The young man’s gray eyes looked at Merik in open-mouthed wonder. “Master Wizard, I am humbled by your answer. Never have I heard a man speak such as you. I’ll strive to make you proud; I promise you won’t be sorry for choosing me as one of your twelve.”
Merik nodded at him solemnly. “I know you won’t fail me. I knew that when I read your hair. In fact, none of you standing here will fail me. I’ve foreseen, through the very Source flowing within each of you, that this group will help bring about worldwide change. My ‘Divine Dozen’ I shall call you, because neither your names nor your deeds will be forgotten or erased from history.”
Another apprentice held a hand up. Nearly twice the age of Red, she maintained the beauty of a younger woman. Her raven black hair sparkled almost as brightly as her bronze-colored eyes. However, the old and faded dress she wore spoke of her poverty quite clearly.
“You call us your Divine Dozen, yet there are only eleven apprentices here. Where’s the twelfth?”
“That’s an astute observation…” Merik looked down at the parchment with the list of names, “Angelica isn’t it?” The woman nodded.
“Angelica, the twelfth will be here shortly to join us. I’ve sent him on an errand; he’s bringing some special herbs of healing. We’ll need them for our blood pact.”
Angelica frowned and asked, “What are you talking about? You never mentioned anything about a blood agreement?”
Red spoke up indignantly. “Who are we to question this great, moral wizard? Let me be the first to offer my blood in service to the kingdom.” The young man stepped forward.
Merik drew his ivory-handled dagger from his belt and held it up. “Son, I admire your trust, and in honor of your request, you shall be first. However, everyone here needs to know the reasons for my actions. To the Divine Dozen, nothing will be hidden.
“The blood pact is performed primarily for two reasons. The most important of these is that the mixing of our blood will allow me to protect you. I’ll know if you’re ever lost or in danger. Because of this, I can safeguard you from serious harm and even death. Secondly, the blood agreement is a wizard’s sign of unity; it symbolizes your dedication to me, each other and to Avendis as well.”
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