57 AEA

The Prince's guard trotted through the deepening forest. The light became darker, with less plants on the floor to be replaced with browner grass and point of sparse vegetation. The branches grew higher allowing for columns of dark bark that made the forest floor more oppressive.

Slowly the land ascended so steeply that they had to back up on themselves to find easier ascents for their horses. This brought them along a recently traversed path where the grass was flattened and the undergrowth was thick, bushy and scratchy. It was the perfect place for an ambush.

"Be on your guard soldiers," the Prince muttered. The canopy was so dense now that there was little light and the shrubs grew much taller and darker. It was a morbid path.

There was a terrible shriek from the left and the shuffling of feet from the right. An arrow shot across to the left and another cry. Then an arrow came from the right that struck the Prince in the heart.

Several men leapt through the hedges, their clothes torn and their faces scratched beyond recognition. They overwhelmed the guard who had encircled the broken body of their prince. The men threw knives at the guard, seven fell and the final three fought valiantly with sword and shield. But the number of bandits was far too great and they struck out violently with clubs and axes.

Hunters appeared. The one remaining Guard dropped to the ground as a volley of arrows split the very wind and pierced the bandits hearts. All falling at once.

The Guard knelt over the Princes body and wept. Though a Captain he was, his heart felt heavy as he gazed into the glazed eyes.

The Leader of the Hunters came to the Princes side. Slowly the Prince turned his head.

"I wanted to be a great and loved King, but I have been robbed," he muttered, his voice growing slow and weary, "I wanted to create great cities and structures such as never have been seen in these lands, but I have been robbed," he coughed, and blood came to his mouth, "then that was not my destiny, but my death shall create a new destiny, I see it now, things will grow dark and doom will be in the heart of many... but in the end, all shall be as I have envisioned and... and I... I will be there to see it all... to see the glory of our people... before the end," his head fell limp and his eyes began to droop as the Hunter as he hoisted the Princes body from the floor and laid him on his chestnut mare.

"Your words mean much to me now, young Prince, I shall do what I can to ensure the safety of your people, all will remember your name for I shall fight in your honour, forgive my callous words before... I shall ensure the glory of your people."

With that the Prince gave one final smile and closed his eyes.

"Check the bodies," he called to the Guard, "we ride now for Caravhas, we ride through the night until we reach the Kings feet and thus we tell his short tale," the captain looked up at the Hunter.

"And then what?" he pulled himself onto his own mahogany shire horse, "such news shall be the end of the King, Prince Noghal was right, these will be dark days," he turned his head away in pain, "the King will blame this on his rivals, his anger will be deep and awesome and I fear there will be war as a result that even he shall not see the end of and then... then we will descend into an anarchy whose origin shall be forgotten until we are merely fighting for pride."

"Indeed, these future days seem dark indeed, but we must do what we can to council the King," the Hunter mounted his horse, "do not despair, as the Prince said, there is still Light in the end."

With that the pair rode into the gathering darkness.

The End

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