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Two brothersprinces bothsat
high atop their great steeds at the edge of a sheer cliff, overlooking
league upon league of wild, emerald forest. The young men, each raven-haired,
bright-eyed, strong and sturdy, gazed quietly down upon the sprawling
land before them. All of it, and much that was beyond their vision, belonged
to their father, the king. They remained silent for many moments, and
their horsessnowy white stallions resplendently decorated in the
scarlet and gold standard of the kingdompawed nervously at the rocky
ground beneath their hooves, sensing the tension that hung heavy between
At last, the younger prince broke the long
"I still do not understand the necessity
of this, Eno," he said, turning away from the forest and gesturing
toward the hooded falcon that his brother held aloft on a thickly gloved
arm. The large, brown bird, despite its temporary blindness, stood tall
and proud. "It seems such a senseless waste."
Prince Eno faced his brother. In a calm
voice, he spoke: "Starclimber's time for freedom has come, Cale,"
he explained. "And our time for sport has ended. It is that simple."
The look on his face was stoic and determined;
mature beyond his twenty years. Prince Cale, howeverjunior to Eno
by three yearsappeared only frustrated.
"You have told me this already,"
he said, a slight pleading in his voice, "yet it leaves me perplexed
still. Why... after all this time and after all the glorious hunts we
three have shared together? Why now?"
Eno remained patient, empathetic to his
brother's confusion. "Cale, our father lies dying and the kingdom
under siege. Already fires burn to the north and east." He pointed
in the two directions, and Cale could see the unmistakable signs of smoke
filling the distant skies. "Sodbin and his evil horde approach even
now, leading the flames I speak of." He rested his free hand on the
silver hilt of the long broadsword hanging from his belt. "Our kingour
fatherwill perish soon; it is beyond human ability to stop that
grim truth. Only the gods have the powers necessary to change the course
of his death, and I fear Theyand fatherhave already made a
decision regarding the matter. The Almighty Ones call our father to Them,
and he listens."
He grew quiet once again, returning a sad
gaze to the land below. On his arm the falcon stretched its wings to their
full span, then rested them again upon its wide back. Eno continued to
"When our father leaves, I will become
king of this land, Cale, and you, my right hand. My general." He
stopped, giving Cale time to contemplate his words. He then resumed. "Yet,
we are young, you and I, and there are many who will believe our youth
to be a weakness in us, an opportunity to exploit. It will be so with
Cale grunted in agreement. He had heard
whispered talk amongst many of high rank within the castle, full of doubt
and fearconcern that the two youthful princes would be unable to
lead the kingdom as their father had. Like his brother, though, Cale had
no such worries; their father had taught them well. In time they would
prove their worth. This he fully understood.
"But," he protested, tightly
gripping the reins of his horse with both hands. "What has this to
do with Starclimber? Surely, even as king and general, we will desire
time for sport. A man cannot live without such moments, can he, and be
truly happy in life? King or peasant, there must be play."
"Yes, brother, there will be time
for such things. But that is not important now. Now is the time for warnot
folly." He looked back toward their squires, who dutifully remained
some twenty horse lengths away. "We must show we are willing to set
aside such idle amusements. To prove we are able to take hold of our royal
responsibilities. To lead our armies against Sodbin and his vile host."
He faced his young brother, meeting his eyes. "Know that this is
not an easy choice for me, Cale. Yet, it is a choice I know to be right.
Starclimber will be the message to all that we are ready. The time has
As he spoke, he began to loosen the hood
resting upon the falcon's head. Once undone, he carefully lifted it off.
He caught a flash of the great bird's yellow eyescold and knowing.
Then, without a thought, Eno jerked his arm quickly down then up.
"Be gone, Starclimber!" he shouted
to the falcon. "Be gone, and be free!"
The falcon immediately took to the air,
its huge wings flapping violently. For a moment, as it rose away from
the princes, it seemed confusedunsure of what was happening or of
what to do. This was no normal hunt. No, this was different. Strange.
With a shriek, the majestic creature turned
away from the brothers, toward the rolling forests beyond the cliff. The
princes watched as, with a fierce grace, it glided further into the distance,
until it was only a speck against the azure western skies.
And then it was gone.
After Starclimber had disappeared, Eno
peered at his brother's face and saw the look of disappointment that was
"Be not sorrowful, Cale," he
said, his tone comforting. "Instead, rejoice in our feathery companion's
much-deserved liberty. And, remember this." He moved his horse to
face the smoke-filled skies. "Sodbin expects us to wait for him,
defending our castle on the heels of our boots. He is wrong. We will take
this war to him, my brother. Our defense will be astride charging stallions,
not from fortified battlements and castle towers." He turned to look
upon his brother once again.
"Aye," he continued, his voice
harsher now. "The time for sport may be done, 'tis true. But the
hunt, my brother ... the hunt goes on."
He brought his horse around, nudging it
in the direction of the squires.
"Come, Cale," he said, not looking
back. "Our kingdom awaits."
And with that, the two brothersprinces
both, and suddenly much oldersilently rode toward their destiny.
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