At age 16, Prince Ellis must prove he is worthy to be king if Allon has any hope of surviving the Dark Way.
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The kingdom of Allon was once a paradise, protected by the mighty, immortals Guardians of Jor'el. Legend tell of a traitor within their ranks, of a great battle and defeat, leaving the mortals vulernable to the Dark Way. But an anicent prophecy tells of a Promised Prince, who will take back Allon and pave the way for the return of the Guardians.
At age 16, Prince Ellis is forced to flee King Marcellus' mercanaries. With the help of two mysterious stranges he meets in the forest, he must prove himself worthy to be king if he is to save Allon. Along the way he will face trials that test his character, his wisdom, his courage and ultimately, his heart.
The Jor’ellian Fortress at Garwood was two miles from the province’s main town, buried deep in the Southern Forest. It was one of the more secluded of Allon’s religious sect, those who worshipped Jor’el. The construction was simple, weathered yellow stone framed by timbers. The main tower stood in the middle of the rear wall. The upper chamber of the tower was the headmaster’s private retreat for work and study with an assortment of books, maps, and parchments.
Master Ebenezer was near sixty years of age by the look of his thinning hair and relaxed features. He wore the blue and silver robes of his order and sat at the table writing, his brow wrinkled with concentration.
After signing his name, he placed the pen aside, and reached for the drying dust to sprinkle on the paper. After a moment, he gently blew off the dust and carefully folded the paper. On the seam he placed his seal in wax. When that was done, he laid hands on the parchment and offered up a silent prayer, lips moving, but no words spoken.
The door to the chamber burst open, startling Ebenezer. A man of middle years stood in the threshold wearing a brown and gold uniform with a feathered cap. “Jasper?”
“Latham’s men have been spotted heading this way. Sir Angus is preparing to flee with Ellis.”
“We will make what defense we can to give them time to escape.” Ebenezer shoved the parchment into Jasper’s hand. “Take this. Hide it in your boot or tunic, anywhere. Just keep it safe until you can give it to Angus.”
“What is it?” asked Jasper, tucking it in his boot.
“Angus will know when he sees it.”
Noise from outside drew their attention to the window. In the courtyard below they saw five soldiers in Latham’s black and purple uniforms shoving and threatening the four priests who stopped them from entering the Fortress’ main building.
“Quickly!” Ebenezer urged Jasper from the room.
Sir Angus of Garwood, lord of the Southern Forest, possessed strength and vigor equal to any man half his age of fifty-two. His gray leather doublet was gathered about the waist by a great leather belt. Black breeches were tucked into knee-high boots. An impressive dagger hung at his right hip, a two-edged sword in his hand.
In a rush, Angus ushered Ellis, a golden-haired, blue-eyed lad of sixteen, through the main hallway of the Fortress. Ellis was hastily dressed, his doublet opened and shirt only partially laced. He held a sheathed sword and buckle as they rushed into the farthest back room. On the wall, Angus reached for a sconce and pulled it. Instead of being ripped off the wall, it acted as a lever revealing a dark passageway behind the panel. He grabbed a nearby torch and motioned Ellis into the opening. Ellis tossed the sword buckle over his head and shoulders before hurrying into the darkness. Voices came from the corridor and Angus closed the passageway from the other side.
“It won’t take them long to find the lever.” Angus held the torch high to see their way through a damp, dark tunnel.
Worried, Ellis looked back over his shoulder. “Do we have to go far?”
“A couple a hundred plus yards, and then up a few steps to a hatch in the forest floor. There’s a shed nearby where I had Jasper move the horses for escape, only I never expected it this soon.” Angus nudged Ellis to keep moving.
The tunnel had several sharp turns, making it difficult to keep one eye out for pursuit and the other on where they were heading. Once Ellis smacked into the wall when he tried looking back passed Angus. Finally they reached the hatch.
Hearing the noise of pursuit, Angus struck the torch against the wall to extinguish the light.
“Go!” he snapped at Ellis, who scurried up the ladder.
It took some effort for Ellis to push the hatch open then scramble out. Angus was close behind and quickly turned to close the hatch. It slammed down on top of the lead soldier and Angus stood on the false forest floor to prevent the hatch from opening.
“Hurry! Find something heavy. I can’t hold it if he’s reinforced.” He grunted at an upward effort that threatened to erupt beneath his feet.
Ellis struggled to roll a good size log from a few feet away. Being only sixteen, he was strong but not fully developed in muscle. When the log was close enough, Angus grabbed Ellis and moved him on top of the hatch so he could deal with the log. The veins in Angus’ neck and shoulders strained when he lifted one end of the log over the hatch. It fell with a heavy thud just as an attempt was made from below to dislodge Ellis. Painful groans and cursing came from the tunnel.
“To the horses,” Angus ordered.
No need to saddle the horses, Jasper had done his job well with three horses ready to go.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Jasper?” asked Ellis with some anxiety. He was mounted and watching Angus vault into the saddle.
“He’ll join us when he can. Ride hard and fast, and don’t look back,” Angus said, but while Ellis did as instructed, he glanced back. “Jor’el keep you safe, Jasper.” He kicked his horse to hasten after Ellis.
They urged their mounts through the forest and onto the open road, heading northwest. The River Conn was five miles from the Fortress. Across the river was the Region of Sanctuary and safety.
Suddenly they heard a shout from behind. “Halt in the name of King Marcellus!” They saw three mounted soldiers had emerged from the wood pushing their horses in hot pursuit of them. “Bring them down!” the lead soldier ordered.
Two soldiers armed their crossbows. Before they could aim and fire, a sharp whistle was followed by an ear-piercing screech from above. A massive eagle dove at one of the soldiers. The force from the eagle’s talons sent him to the ground. The second soldier ignored the eagle’s attack and kept his course, loosing his shaft when Ellis’ horse was midway through a bend in road, giving him a clear shot.