Not a breeze stirred in the morning air as Hugo pounded on the locked stable door. The Fillindyl estate had been empty. Not a soul in the house and all the animals were gone. Somehow, they had all escaped. The legendary man had been found and was now on the run. Footsteps approached and then the door cracked open.
“Come in.” Domingo opened the door wider for Hugo, Lathier, and Darund. The four men hurried through the dimly lit stable to the shop.
“We must make haste.” Hugo leaned on the shop counter, looking each man in the eye. “There is only one place they could have gone in all of Tivonia. There is a city far from here that not very many know about. Its gates are heavily guarded. They may have escaped us this one time, but we will prevail. They cannot defeat us.”
“I will join you.” Domingo stood tall and returned Hugo’s stare. “That horse must be destroyed.”
The trees continued their dripping as Hugo and the three men arrived at the camp. The hunters were resting, waiting for their commander’s return. All the men stood to their feet as Hugo Ghalis stood in front of them.
“The elves and their cohorts have fled Glennwood. Yet they have only prolonged their demise. We will secure the devil horse, Dassais, and the young man and destroy them. Anyone who gets in our way will be killed. Mirathon is a strong city, but we are stronger! We are the Ghalis hunters!”
The hall was silent. Aneirin nervously followed behind his companions as they were led by the servant. In just a few minutes, they would meet the king and queen. The hallway echoed with their footsteps as they neared the tall, heavy doors of the Great Hall. The servant heaved open the doors and stepped inside. Aneirin’s heart thumped in anticipation. He was excited, but also nervous, to meet the rulers of Mirathon. Would they welcome him and his companions or would they reject the tale?
“My King and Queen of Mirathon, I present to you Eanor, Salomir, Jackob, and Aneirin.” The servant bowed and stepped aside to allow the Companions entrance into the Great Hall. Windows spanned the entire length of the room. Sunlight glittered off the marble flooring. Scarlet curtains like those in the study room graced the walls reaching up to the arched ceiling. The king and queen sat on dark mahogany thrones, decorated in gold and scarlet.
“Welcome to Mirathon.” The king addressed the whole group, yet his eyes locked on the young man in the center of the group. Aneirin dropped his eyes to the floor and bowed low.
“You four already have quite the reputation in Tivonia.” The queen’s voice was quiet and kind. Aneirin kept his eyes to the ground.
“You may stand.” The king tapped his scepter. “I have long heard of the legend of Dassais, the killer horse, and the young man who must train him, but I have yet to be convinced.” The king looked resolutely at the Companions, testing them. Eanor stepped forward.
“Thank you for allowing us entrance into your beautiful city, your majesties. We found Dassais in the mountains of Glennwood. We come asking for protection from the hunters who seek his life as well as the life of his young trainer.”
The king kept his eyes on Aneirin as he spoke. “Let him step forward. We have been anticipating his arrival.”
Aneirin stepped out from the middle of the Companions a few paces. He bowed low and stood facing the king.
“You weren’t so sure of yourself as you are now. You come from humble beginnings.” King Psoltan pointed out.
“I am just a farmer from Glennwood.” Aneirin replied.
“You are very bold to visit us here at Mirathon. What have you to say of yourself and your friends?” Queen Psoltan gestured to the three standing behind him.
“I am the young man in the legend. These are my companions. We have joined together on the quest to save Dassais. We come asking your protection as we train to defeat Ghalis and his hunters.”
“You may have it. Mirathon is at your disposal and we will help in whatever way we can to defeat Ghalis and his evil men.” The king and queen rose, their scarlet and gold robes draping around their feet. “You may join us in the Dining Hall for the midday meal. You may all go, except for Aneirin.”
Tables lined the center of the long room. Eanor, Salomir, and Jackob entered cautiously behind Mirathon’s lords. The tantalizing aromas of fresh bread, roasted meat, and ale filled the air. The three found their way to a corner of one of the tables.
“Why did they have to talk with Aneirin by themselves?” Jackob began piling his plate with food.
“Don’t question the king’s motives.” Eanor gently reprimanded. “He is a good king.”
Aneirin bowed low to the king and queen as they approached him.
“You may stand.” King Psoltan placed his hand on Aneirin’s shoulder. “You do not know who we are, do you?”
Aneirin shook his head. What is the king talking about?
“You have become quite the young man. We have Farmer Grae to thank for that.” Queen Psoltan had a kindly look in her eyes.
“Do you really mean…?” Aneirin could hardly believe it. He fiddled with the golden horse on his belt and compared it to the symbol on the scarlet drapery. “Are you… my parents?”
“When you entered the room, we saw you were wearing our baby’s belt. Who else could you be but our son?” The queen, his mother, laid her hand on his arm.
“I never knew if I’d ever meet you.” Aneirin trembled slightly. A thousand thoughts rushed through his mind. He remembered clutching that tattered sheet of paper and wondering if he would ever meet his parents or if they were dead. And here he was, standing in front of them. They were rulers of Mirathon, the greatest city in all Tivonia.
“Why did you not come find me when the crisis was over?” Aneirin queried.
“Wars broke out among the large cities for decades. It wasn’t safe for you to be here.” Queen Psoltan looked down at the floor and then back up at Aneirin. “Our enemies were seeking your life. The wars just ended last year.”
“You must understand that we were just protecting you. And now look at you. You’re a strong young man.” The king’s voice held an ocean of emotions.
“Thank you for protecting me…” Aneirin hesitated, “But why didn’t you come find me after the wars? I was afraid you were dead!”
“We were afraid of the same thing, my son.” King Psoltan gently gripped Aneirin’s shoulder. “We had made a promise to Farmer Grae that should you live to your twentieth birthday, we would come get you. Yet, here you are. You have found us first. I am very sorry for not seeking you out after the wars were over. I hope you can forgive us.”
“Yes, I forgive you. I know you were just trying to do what was right.” Aneirin put his hand on his father’s arm. His mother wrapped her arm around his waist and hugged him.
“We are so glad to have you back.” Queen Psoltan gently wiped away a stray tear from her face. King Psoltan joined the hug briefly and then stood back at arm’s length.
“We have a lot to discuss. But first, we must join our guests for dinner and announce the return of the prince of Mirathon.”
Aneirin stood in the hallway with his parents as the servant announced the presence of King and Queen Psoltan. Butterflies tickled his stomach. The king and queen were going to protect him and Dassais and they were his parents. He could hardly contain his excitement. The Dining Hall was crowded when King and Queen Psoltan and Aneirin entered the room. Most of the tables were full, except for the royal table at the head of the room. The room stilled.
“Welcome nobles and guests. Today is a day to celebrate!” King Psoltan commanded the attention of the room. He placed an arm around Aneirin’s shoulders, guiding him up next to him. “I’m proud to have the safe return of our son, Prince Aneirin, heir to the throne of Mirathon!”
The room erupted in deafening applause. Aneirin scanned the crowd, searching for his friends. Salomir, Eanor, and Jackob sat close to the royal table. As the applause died down, everyone returned to eating. Aneirin and his parents sat at the royal table. The surface of the table was laden with mounds of bread and meat. Mugs of ale were already placed at each seat. Aneirin made eye contact with his Companions. They would speak later that afternoon. First, he had to meet with his parents.
The afternoon sun glistened on the marble flooring in the Great Hall. Aneirin and King and Queen Psoltan stood together by one of the windows.
“We are looking forward to getting to know you better. We have so much lost time to make up for.” The queen turned to look through the pane of glass. Aneirin turned a looked out as well. The castle gates were just a short way from the large structure, the city of Mirathon spread out below them.
“We must have a feast and invite the whole city.” The king gestured grandly out the window. “The official ceremony to celebrate the crown prince of Mirathon.”
“I want that too, but I must fulfill my quest with Dassais. The hunters are out there, probably closer than we think they are.” Aneirin turned back to look his mother in the eye.
“I agree with you, son.” His father, King Psoltan stood resolute. “I meant every word I said to you and your companions when you first arrived. Your mother and I will do our best to protect you and help you. We believe these hunters are evil. Their reputation precedes them. Our resources are at your disposal. But we will have the ceremony tomorrow. I will have the heralds send out the invitations tonight.”
“Thank you, my king, and father.” Aneirin grasped King Psoltan’s hand as the queen wrapped her arm around his waist. The three moved to the settees at the side of the large room.
“Please tell us about your life growing up with Farmer Grae.” Queen Psoltan leaned towards Aneirin with an eager look in her eyes. A warmth filled him. Time passed quickly as he related his life to these strangers, who were also his family. The king and queen also shared pieces of knowledge with Aneirin about courtly life. They talked about the Decades War that had separated them. Soon, it was time for Aneirin to find his companions.
“I can’t believe you’re a Prince!” Jackob stared incredulously at Aneirin as he entered the room. He joined his three Companions in the study room. Aneirin smiled at his life-long friend. He couldn’t believe it either.
“We must prepare for the hunters.” He stood near the bookshelves along the west wall.
“I will meet with the king and queen to make necessary arrangements and plan how to best defeat Ghalis.” Eanor spoke with confidence. “We will defend this city and Dassais from that evil man.”
Men and servants hurried around the castle the whole morning and afternoon the next day. Aneirin found time to visit Dassais at the stable in the city during the afternoon. The cobblestone streets were crowded and muddy from all the rain. People were hurrying about their business faster than usual it seemed. Aneirin reached the door to the stable and slipped inside. The darkness inside was only lit by small lanterns at either end of the aisle. He moved quickly and found Dassais towards the back of the stable. The black animal nickered. Aneirin ran a hand over the horse’s ebony coat.
“I have neglected you recently.” Aneirin spoke to Dassais. “Soon, you get to live in a fancy royal stable.” Dassais rubbed his head against his arm. He could hardly believe that he got to stay in a fancy royal castle as the crown prince of Mirathon. Aneirin gave Dassais one last rub on the nose, and then left the stable. He quickly made his way back to the castle. The entire city was hastily preparing for the ceremony that evening.
Tall candles reached halfway to the arched ceiling in the Great Hall. The people of Mirathon crowded into the large room. Aneirin knelt in front of the steps to the thrones, his back to the crowd. The king and queen stood facing him.
“We are gathered here to celebrate our son and his return.” The king stepped forward. A servant to the side handed him a golden crown with horses inlaid in the sides. Aneirin felt the gentle weight as his father placed the symbol on his head.
“Are you willing to uphold the values of this city, to defend it with your life, and serve as king someday when called upon?” King Psoltan recited the ceremonial words.
“Yes. I promise to fulfill my duties as the crown prince of Mirathon.” Aneirin replied.
“Rise.” The king commanded. Aneirin stood to his feet. His father looked him in the eyes as he draped a gold and scarlet robe around his shoulders with a gold horse clasp. Then he took him by the shoulders and turned him around.
“I present to you, Aneirin Psoltan, Crown Prince of Mirathon.”
The crowd bowed as Aneirin headed towards the door of the Great Hall. King and Queen Psoltan followed and the recessional commenced. The people all made their way towards the Dining Hall for the royal feast.
The next few days were full of activities. Aneirin and his companions started preparations for training. Dassais pranced around in his new stall at the royal stable and galloped in the large paddock. Aneirin trained hard. Eanor met with the king and queen to make plans for the arrival of Hugo Ghalis and his men. Salomir trained Jackob and Aneirin how to fight. The moonlight pooled on the floor as Aneirin laid in his bed. They had trained hard and the Ghalis hunters were going to arrive soon. Anticipation sank in his stomach like a heavy rock of dread.
The waning sunlight glinted through the leaves of the trees. The waving grass spread out before them. Hugo Ghalis and his hunters left the Tivonian forest and started the gallop across the plain. They would camp a short distance from the city for the night. The attack on Mirathon would commence at dawn.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on October 19, 2019:
Thanks, Tori. It's been busy this week, but I'll get around to it. Thanks for letting me know!
Tori Leumas (author) on October 17, 2019:
Chapter 8 is up.
Tori Leumas (author) on October 12, 2019:
Thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying Dassais. This is going to be a full book, so there will be a lot more to come.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on October 12, 2019:
Oh, Boy! Things are heating up. Aneirin, a price, I would never have thought. I love the phrase, "an ocean of emotions." So very colorful!