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The long road’s clay surface shimmered under the horned moon, lighting a dim path before those that would dare track it by night. The party of three moved ponderously slow, the pace due to the toll the long road seemed to play on those who traveled it rather than any unprofessed apprehensions of where the party was headed. All three were covered head to toe in thick, padded garments made for the cold winters of the northern Vint. Armor sat beneath their blue surcoats, the sigil of House Maneiron barely visible under the layers. Their cloaks were a deep blue, shrouded with shimmering silver, and spotted with the mud and dust of travel. Fur of various beasts once thought of as ferocious draped their shoulders, giving the illusion of warmth in the frosted night air.

Traveling the long road was weary work, and exhaustion was writ upon their faces. The lead of the party slowed to a trot before ultimately stopping, a mailed gauntlet raised in the air signaled the halt. The three sat there in the moonlight for a long moment, eyes cautious, ears perked.

“What did we see?” questioned one of the men. He was a short, billowy man with a gruff three day beard and dark black hair tossed in a mess upon his scalp.

The leader looked around drearily, withholding any answers he may have possessed. He was Sir Fenley Harres, King Maneiron’s Captain of the Guard, no doubt one of the most feared men in the entire empire. His head was covered by sandy blond hair, lightly touched with a gray that was slightly whiter than most that fell over his ears and to his shoulders—though none of that was visible under his steel helmet and mailed hood. His helmet was a gaudy thing, shined to a polish and studded with the sheers and dents of countless battles. The helmet succeeded in shading a face that was as easy to look at as any, if only a few years past its prime. The knight was broad chested, stood six and six with ease, and was thought to be unmatched with a broadsword in his hand. His armor was far superior than that of his companions. His was plate, cream white with golden inlays on the edges of his shoulders, and topped with great golden eagles on each side that clasped his large blue and silver cape in their talons.

“This forest has eyes.” Fear twined the third man’s words as he reined his horse in efforts to keep it lined with the road. “I dare wish we had more than just the three of us.”

“There is nothing to fear in this forest that does not fear us equally.” Sir Fenley said through a clenched jaw. “Knights fret not on the movements of the deer and birds, Mandel, my fool of a squire.”

The man called Mandel—who was not really a man, with only fifteen namedays under his belt—was too busy scanning the trees around him to notice the shot at his pride. He barely noticed the figure standing dead center of the road not forty paces in front of them.

“…what in the name of Alador?” Mandel said under his breath, little more than a whisper.

The leader turned his horse forward and peered ahead curiously. “Who goes there?” he bellowed at the unknown figure, but there was no reply. The figure simply stood ahead of them, silent, unmoving.

“Sir?” the short one asked, seeking orders.

With a nod of his head, Sir Fenley and his companions moved forward, slowly surrounding the figure. A man, no doubt, dressed in a dirt and mud stained wool garb with rips and tears all over it. His head hung towards the ground, clumps of matted brown hair fell over his face and neck.

“Speak, peasant.” The knight looked upon the filthy man with stern eyes, eyes that had seen many men just moments before their deaths. With a look from Sir Fenley, Mandel dropped off of his horse and moved slowly around the man, his eyes never leaving the soiled figure.

“Lift his head. I would look upon this wretch’s face before we run him through.”

The statement drew a smile from the mounted knight to his left, who was not a trueborn noble, but dubbed by Lord Maryll Harres himself just a year before the old lord took ill. Mandel stepped assuredly up to the man, but the slightest tremble was visible in his hands, and the whites of his eyes betrayed any sense of courage he was attempting to display. Moving quickly, Mandel grabbed a handful of the man’s hair with his iron paws and ripped his head back.

The Lost Prince (The Shadowdancer Chronicles, Book One)Where stories live. Discover now