Greetings, dear Readers! As promised, today’s post is a section from the first chapter of SECOND SON. I hope you enjoy it!
Rhoyan stared longingly through the window at the bright blue sky. It was the first day of spring and the weather was far too nice to spend indoors. He wondered where Ky was, and whether his older brother would bother to show up for class. The seasons had come full cycle fifteen times since the second prince’s birth, making him little more than a child according to the ages of those who lived in Llycaelon.
“Now, Rhoyan, recite to me the names of the House of Arne and their meanings,” the master said firmly.
“The House of Arne,” Rhoyan began, pausing as Ky entered the room.
The master historian turned to fix his tardy pupil with a look of strict disapproval. Ky sat down in his seat and beamed up at the master brightly. The master sighed and shook his head. “What is your excuse this time?”
“Forgive me, Master Hobard, but Master Yevo made me stay at practice until I had hit the target perfectly ten times in a row.”
“A command you no doubt thoroughly enjoyed,” Master Hobard grumbled. “If you would pay half as much attention to your school studies as to your combat ones, you would go far my boy. Far.” The master looked at both boys fondly for a moment. “Now, back to the lesson, Rhoyan?”
The younger boy nodded dutifully and began again, “Arne means eagle, the bold predator bird that stands for courage and pride, Arne was the first of our line, who inherited the throne from his cousin after the War of Hawks eight hundred years ago…” Rhoyan continued on, reciting the names and major accomplishments of each of his ancestors until he reached his father, King Stiorne.
“Bravo my boy!” the master applauded. “You have certainly been working on your lessons, that much is apparent. Now, what did you learn about family?”
Rhoyan brightened, this was part of every lesson, and the part he enjoyed the most. Master Hobard called it “independent study,” which meant that the student was required to discover something about his topic outside the actual guidelines of the assignment.
“I learned that the House of Arne has never suffered the lack of an apparent heir. There has always been a son, ever since King Arne the First. Before him, the line was often questionable, because there wasn’t always a son born directly in the royal family. That’s why Arne the First came to the throne, he was the closest kin that King Etienne had.”
“Very good, Rhoyan, I am impressed you caught that. Now, Ky let us hear your report on the art and history of warfare.”
Rhoyan sat down, his brow furrowed. Usually Master Hobard asked follow-up questions to the independent study. Rhoyan had been ready with far more information. He had learned something about himself in the study of his family’s history, and he had wanted to share his discovery: he was the first second son to be born in his entire family’s history. It didn’t mean anything much, of course, but it was interesting and he had been curious as to whether or not his teacher was aware of the fact. Rhoyan was always trying to find some information in his independent studies that Master Hobard did not already know, a challenge he usually failed at, but the fun was in the trying. He was a little hurt, and puzzled over his teacher’s lack of interest. However, when Ky was done Master Hobard announced that he was canceling the rest of their lessons for the day, and the excitement of the unexpected early release from school pushed the disappointment straight out of Rhoyan’s head.
Master Hobard was an understanding teacher and he knew that any lesson he taught on such a day as this would just have to be re-taught later. And so the two boys were allowed to race out of the schoolroom and down into the kitchen much earlier than was normal.
“Free! Good feeling, eh little brother?”
Rhoyan nodded enthusiastically. “What are we going to do today, Ky?”
“I thought maybe we could get Lita to pack us lunch and then go down to the caves along the shore and see what adventures we might have. Then perhaps when we get back we could convince Master Yevo to give us an extra fencing lesson.”
Rhoyan nodded again, content to let his older brother be in charge. They raced to the kitchens in search of the Head Cook.
“Ah! Me boys!” she exclaimed as they dashed through the kitchen doors, “An’ what mischief will the two of ye be abo’t today?”
“Good afternoon, Lita,” Ky said, “we were wondering if you could pack lunch for two dangerous warriors who are going on an expedition.”
“‘Tis already done, dear prince,” Lita said. “Master Hobard warned me this mornin’ thet ya two ‘ould be squirrelly today.”
“Lita, you’re the best!” Ky said cheerfully, as she handed them two packs full of food.
Lita patted Rhoyan’s head kindly. “Run along now, an’ be careful!”
The kindly cook watched in motherly affection as the two boys raced out of the kitchen. “Ah, those two, eh?”
The castle sat at the top of a tall, jagged cliff that plunged
straight down into the water of the ocean, making it impossible to launch an attack from the sea. Any invaders would be forced to sail around to a harbor and then march inland, a disadvantage that had kept Llycaelon from ever falling to an enemy force from outside their borders. The cliffs below the castle contained an intricate maze of tunnels and caves, that Ky and Rhoyan had claimed for themselves as secret hideouts. The two boys had spent countless hours in the caves exploring and playing, and they knew the tunnels better than anyone. The maze of tunnels wound in every direction, some leading out into the forest beyond the courtyards and stables, some leading to the cliffs and opening in yawning caverns that overlooked the ocean, there were many different ways to get into the tunnels, some of the entrances were even inside the castle itself. The two princes had discovered an entrance in the armory, and they used this “secret” door often. They used it today, escaping into their private world.
They spent the rest of the morning playing warriors among the twisted paths and great caverns. By the time they began to get hungry both boys were covered in dust and looked as though they had been rolling in the dirt, which they probably had; rolling on the cave floors made it easier to hide, and added to the excitement of pretending to evade mythical beasts that were tracking them.
Following the tunnel out into one of the largest of the caves, which was set approximately halfway up the cliff face, they opened their packs of food. The brothers sat companionably together as they munched on their food, their legs dangling fifteen spans above the swirling water that foamed playfully up against the base of the cliff.
“I’m famished!” Rhoyan announced between bites.
Ky nodded; his mouth too full to voice his agreement.
“It’s hot!” Ky noticed aloud when he had swallowed.
Rhoyan grinned impishly. “We could go swimming.”
Ky looked doubtful, “I don’t know… Mother might get upset again.”
“She doesn’t have to know, and she didn’t exactly tell us not to.”
“She didn’t have to,” Ky said wryly. “And how do you propose explaining why we’re coming home all wet?”
Rhoyan shrugged nonchalantly. “I thought we could ask Master Yevo for an extra practice later, sort of before dinner.”
Ky’s eyes lit up. “And we’d have to clean up before we came inside anyway then, little brother, you’re inspired!”
Rhoyan flushed under the sudden praise and grew quiet. Ky finished his food and the two boys stripped off their shirts and boots, then they stood silently at the edge of the overhang, their stomachs fluttering more than either would ever acknowledge. They stared solemnly down at the breaking waves, pretending not to be afraid. The boys had done some careful rock climbing about a year ago and had discovered that the cliff face below their ledge was easy to scale. The water at the base of the cliff was deep and unbroken by any jutting rocks, perfect for two young princes who wished to be adventurous. However, even after many similar experiences, leaping out into open air and sailing down into the dark water that splashed and gurgled in loud waves far beneath them was still a daunting proposition.
Then, because he could stand it no longer, Rhoyan backed up, gave an ear-splitting yell and ran off the edge of the cliff, plunging through the air and into the water below. Ky could not help but follow suit and soon both boys were laughing and splashing in the cold and salty water. They played in the ocean and climbed the cliff and jumped into the water again and again, until the Dragon’s Eye was nearing the horizon, and then they climbed the cliff face one final time. They dripped all the way back through the tunnels, shivering and giggling and remembering out loud the feats of the day. They sat down at the end of the tunnels to put their boots back on and Rhoyan stared up at the sky, which was beginning to turn golden and purple.