“Exile?”  Aylan could hardly believe what he had just heard.  Two soldiers stood before him, both bearing the sigil of House Rothowar. Each was well armed, he noticed. 

           “Your father has decreed it, prince.  You should come with us; we will escort you to your carriage.”  The soldier to his left spoke, a thin man with sunken brown eyes.  He bowed slightly and flourished his tattered red cape in a manner that Aylan thought a bit acrimonious.  The other soldier was a bit larger, with a thick black beard and a crooked nose. Neither one of these fools seems even the slightest bit trustworthy, he thought. What good company my father surrounds himself with. 

           “Aye, if ye come with us we’ll see ye safe and sound to Delinash.  Ye’ll stay with your brothers in old Morgot Keep until the king decides what to do with ye.”  The second guard spoke with a heavy Turothian accent, Aylan noticed. 

            “I thought the Turothians sat this one out, my friend,” Aylan quipped slyly.  “Good to see a few thought my father’s rebellion a worthy cause.”

            The Turothian fidgeted a bit nervously but smiled at the prince.  “I been serving in the Underwood most my life, good prince, thank ye.  I cannot speak for me countrymen.”

            “Of course you have, good sir.  Now if the both of you would kindly escort me to my father before this… carriage, I would greatly appreciate it.”

            “I’m afraid we can’t do that, Prince Aylan.”  The first soldier smiled apologetically.  “He specifically asked not to see you.”

            “Said ye’d done enough talkin’, he did,” the black bearded man laughed, then shut his mouth after catching a stern look from his counterpart. By the gods, do I really have to be carried away by these two idiots?  Their armor looks as if they picked up leftover mismatched pieces from the battlefield, Aylan thought.

            “You’d best pack a bag and come with us, Prince Aylan.  We are leaving forthwith.” The thin soldier motioned at Aylan as if to hurry him.

            Aylan sighed and retrieved his dyed red leather backpack from a hook on his wall and stuffed it with traveling clothes.  He really was in no state of mind to prepare for a long journey.  The fool guards had roused him from a heavy sleep, the best he’d gotten in a few weeks.  For once he had dreamed of nothing all night, which was quite a blessing.  He often dreamed of Jonbryl and Kiana.  When he didn’t dream of them, he would see random images that seemed to make no sense or have any relation.  He kept seeing a small black lizard crawling underneath Goldshore Castle, amongst other things.

            It had been four days since he had railed at his father, and he had been isolated ever since.  He still knew nothing of the city or even the castle’s inner workings.  He didn’t even know if there were new servants, but he guessed it did not particularly matter.  It seemed he’d be spending some time in Delinash with young James and Bannen Jr., his younger brothers.  That didn’t matter either, he decided. I need a purpose, he thought. Maybe after some time I’ll be able to understand what my father did, and I can rule after him.  This could still end well.  But for now I’ll rot in Delinash until I’m summoned.

           “We should be going, my prince,” said the skinny guard with more than a hint of impatience.  “If we leave early we should be able to make Shyldon by nightfall and stay safely at an inn.”

            “Shyldon is half a day’s journey by carriage,” Aylan replied, more than a little annoyed.  “But I’m done anyway.”  He slung his red backpack over his right shoulder and strode out of his quarters.

            Once again Aylan found himself walking through Goldshore Castle with an escort.  “Shouldn’t we stop for a bite to eat?” Aylan asked as they walked by the kitchen.  Breakfast smelled wonderful.  He could smell the fresh eggs and ham all throughout the hallway.

            “We’ve got food stocked in the carriage,” replied the skinny guard, never breaking stride.

            “Already dropped the prince title, have you?  Did my father strip me of that as well?”

            “I’m sorry.  We’ve got food stocked in the carriage, my prince.”  The skinny man’s voice rang with obvious sarcasm.  Aylan honestly didn’t care much for titles anyway, but he was getting a good reading on this man’s character, or lack thereof.

            Aylan did not speak again for fear of losing his temper, and allowed himself to be herded into the awaiting carriage.  It was of a fair size, black and well stocked.  It seemed a bit too well stocked for a journey to Delinash, Aylan noticed.  Delinash was but a few days ride, and there was enough supplies on board this carriage to last a party of five two weeks.  Aylan resigned himself to the trip despite his doubts, however.  It would be good to get away from Goldshore Castle and Ysthera.  As they pulled away another carriage arrived at the castle, this one a very dark green.   Aylan thought he heard his own escort greet them, but thought nothing of it.

            The carriage had two rows of seats, each facing each other.  Aylan sat alone on the black leather seats, as the two soldiers who had retrieved him sat at the front together, steering the two horse vehicle in turns.  Aylan peered through the window closest to him, trying to get a good look at the city as they rode through.  The city seemed normal enough near the castle, but the farther they drove the more Aylan could see how bad the siege had ravaged the city.  Makeshift graves marked by no more than a stick and a white flag dotted yards, growing more frequent the closer they got to the city gates. 

            Aylan sat back in his seat, pulling himself away from the window.  It would definitely be good to get away.

The End

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