For a young orphan, raised in a monastery, the world is very black and white. But when the King is murdered and his birthright is revealed, will the young Prince have the strength to take back his father's throne?
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Third Prince is the story of a young Prince who was raised as an orphan in a monastery never knowing his royal lineage. When his family is murdered, the Prince is thrust into a world that isn't as black and white as he has always believed. To claim his rightful place on his Father's throne, he must face the dangers of political ambition and a kingdom gripped by the realities of war. With the help of his father's most trusted advisors, the prince must discover if he has what it takes to be King.
Outside the tower where queen Mirahain lay gripped by the rigors of child birth, the wind was howling a lonely tune. Mirahain herself was howling occasionally, as the contractions grew more intense and more frequent. In a small room, down a dimly lit corridor, sat the High King of Belanda, Realm of the West. He was a large man, with weathered skin and thick, brown hair that covered his head and cheeks and chin. He sat before a fire, kindled more to gaze upon than to warm the room. In fact, King Belhain was fond of the cold, and often wore summer trappings all through winter. Between the chilly temperature of the room, the hypnotic light from the fire, and the howls from without and within the castle, no one was comfortable. This was Graeson Tower, the place where royalty was born. It was a single tower, four sided, built on a cliff that stood over the sea. There were no battlements, no moat, just the tower. And no one could remember how long it had stood, nor how long kings and queens had been born there.
Inside the room with King Belhain were two men, one was tall and thick through the chest, the other was smaller, slimmer and stooped just slightly. The tall man wore a tight fitting leather vest and breeches. He had black boots with fur spilling out of the tops and his arms were bare except for his left forearm which was wrapped in long leather strap. He stood leaning against the wall and watching the door. The other man was wrapped in a plain brown cloak. His hair and beard were streaked with gray, and he leaned on a tall wooden staff. His gaze was fixed on the fire.
No one spoke in the room, there was little to be said. King Belhain had two sons, his legacy was insured. The only anxiousness this night was for a healthy child and a safe delivery. The king’s nurse claimed the child would come in spring, but it was barely midwinter, and the pains had begun two days ago. The journey to Graeson Tower had been short, but now the minutes shuffled slowly. The nurse had said they should wait as long as possible to have the child, but Belhain knew better. He believed the body of his wife knew best, and now was the time. Still, there was something in the air, like a current of cold water running through a warm creek in the summer sun. Everyone knew something was wrong. The man in the gray cloak had spoken of omens, but the king had rebuked him. There would be no talk in his presence of the old ways, of superstitions, of religions that had once been the central beliefs of the Western Realm. Belhain believed in the Way of the One God, to him all else was blasphemy.
Then, without warning, there was a third cry rising above the wind outside and the sounds of labor from the queen's apartment. It was a strong cry, and it brought a twinkle to the eyes of the king, and a smile to the face of the warrior. It wasn’t long until a knock was heard at the wooden door and Belhain nodded to the man watching it.
Outside was a small girl, no more than fifteen years old, she bowed low before the king and waited for him to acknowledge her.
“Well, what is it?” He asked kindly.
The girl never looked up. “Boy,” she replied.
“Another boy, you are blessed by the One God,” said the warrior.
“Is he healthy?” rasped the man in the cloak.
The girl did not speak, she did not look up.
“Well,” inquired the king, “is there something wrong?”
“He is healthy, my lord, but he is marked.”
The girl’s voice trembled as she spoke. The smile disappeared from the face of the warrior. A hiss, barely audible, escaped from the cloaked man. The King’s face hardened, but did not change. He waved a hand at the girl and she backed out of the room.
“Lord, I must go and see this child,” said the man with the staff.
“Why? A mark means nothing.”
Then another knock at the door. The warrior moved to the door, his right hand drawing a curved dagger from a sheath hidden at his waist.
Outside was a woman, her hair was long and gray and her hands were wringing a dirty clothe between them. It was the king’s nurse, the one who had taken care of him as a child and the only person the king trusted with his own children. She had delivered all the King's children.
“Sire, there are two,” she said softly.
“One is a boy, he is marked. The second is a girl. They are both small but healthy.”
“Where is the mark?” asked the king.
“It is over the child’s heart.”
Another hiss escaped the cloaked man before the king could reply.
“It means nothing, Tooles!” he shouted. “Marks, stars, animals, the weather, they are all meaningless. Our choices make us who we are.”
“And what is your choice for this child?” said Tooles, his voice as grating as metal on stone. “Will he eat at your table? Will you be able to hide the fact that he is marked? Will you-”
“Enough!” said the king.
An awkward silence fell over the room. No one moved except Tooles, whose hands fumbled under his cloak. Finally, the nurse spoke again.
“I am having the third Prince cleaned, then I shall send him to you. You should see him before you make a decision.”
The nurse backed out of the room and the warrior closed the door after her. The king stood and reached for the ceiling, stretching the stiff muscles in his back and arms. So there had been something in the air after all. As much as King Belhain hated to admit it there were things he couldn’t explain away. In fact that wasn’t the problem, after all, the One God could never fully be understood. The problem lay with the perceptions of others. What would people think of a birth mark, especially on the boy’s heart? Tooles would certainly make the worst of it. Others, like Fairan, the king’s personal guard, would overlook it completely in time. Still, he had to make a decision. The third Prince would undoubtedly effect his entire family, perhaps even the kingdom. The king prayed for wisdom as they waited for the baby.
It wasn’t long before a third knock on the door was heard and the young girl was back. She held a bundle in her arms that whimpered softly. The king held out his large hands and took the baby. Fairan and Tooles stepped in closely to see the child. Belhain unwrapped the soft birthing clothes and beckoned for light. The young girl lifted a torch from its place at the wall and held it close to the baby. The mark covered the boy’s left breast and was a dark red color.
Tooles gasped as he saw it, “Lord, it is the falcon.”
The king looked intensely at the birthmark. It did indeed look like a perched falcon, it’s wings enfolding it like royal robes.
“It is unquestionable that this child shall rule Belanda.” said Tooles.
“Shut your mouth!” snarled the king. “There is only one way that will happen and I will not allow it. He is a prince but only a third prince. His brothers shall not die prematurely just so that this one may rule.”
“Lord,” said Fairan, “What is your wish for this boy?”
“No one knows of him but the six of us here.” replied the High King. “Fairan, you must take him to the monastery at Aquista, in the mountains of Keldar. There he shall live his days in meditation and reflection of the One God. We shall announce only the birth of his sister. And we shall record his birth, and his fate, only in the Royal Chronicles.”
“And his name, my lord?” croaked Tooles.
“He shall be Elkain, but you are to call him Kain when you take him to the brothers at Aquista.”
“I understand,” said the guard.
“Girl, take this one back to his mother and tell her I shall be in shortly.” ordered the King. “Fairan, be ready to leave in one hour.”
Kain opened his eyes. He had been sleeping under the shade of an enormous tree. The weather was uncommonly warm for the Keldar mountain region. From where Kain lay, he could see the stone walls of the Monastery that had been his home for the last 26 years, rising above the ridge. He had hiked out to this spot for a bit of reading, which was really an excuse to stretch his legs and use the muscles that were never used as he spent day after day in the scriptorium hand copying the manuscripts that were brought to the Monastery from all over Belanda. Today he had gotten away, but there was a strange sound, an odd rumbling. In fact, he felt the sound more than heard it, but he was still groggy from his nap and it took a moment for him recognize what he was hearing. Horses, and from the sound of it they were in a hurry.
Kain got to his feet and brushed off the grass that was clinging to him. He felt anxious, exposed, but he wasn’t sure why. He had never really felt fear before, not like this. There had been fear of punishment as he grew up, but never this unknown, life threatening kind of fear, and he wondered at the sensation. He felt his skin begin to tingle as the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood up. He shook the feeling off, he had no reason to fear anyone or anything. He was a monk, a scribe. He had read of raiders, of thieves who maimed and killed others for money and valuables, but he had no money, nothing of value except the book he carried.
All further thought and fear vanished as the sight of two riders appeared over the ridge. One was the High Prefect of Kain’s order, the other was dressed in armor and carried a flag with a dark red falcon on a gold background. Kain held back the smile that appeared as he watched the High Prefect bouncing along on the back of the horse. The monastery kept no horses, preferring to travel on foot. Something must be happening for the High Prefect to ride with this stranger.
As the two men approached they reined in their horses. The High Prefect quickly dismounted, and said, “Ah, Kain, there you are. I had no idea this ridge was so far away. But no matter, we have important news and this is as good a place as any for you to hear it.”
The man in armor stayed on his horse, but removed his helmet. His hair was grey, what was left of it anyway. He had strong, sharp features, especially a scar that ran across his left check, from ear to nose.
“This is General Fairan, of the king’s personal guard,” continued the High Prefect. “In fact, the General was one of the King’s closest advisers. He has news that you need to hear.”
Kain looked from the High Prefect to the soldier and waited.
“This may be difficult for you to hear, but you must,” Fairan said, his voice was deep but soft. “Many years ago, I brought you here, to this Monastery. It was your father’s wish that you live out your days here in peace. Unfortunately, that cannot be.”
Kain frowned at this but said nothing.
“Your name is not Kain, but Elkain. You are a prince of Belanda. You had two older brothers, but they and your father, High King Belhain, were murdered.”
At this last statement the old soldier’s voice broke. His face was as hard as stone, but his eyes watered as he spoke of his king, “They were on pilgrimage to the church in Hollist, and were attacked. You and your sister are all that is left of the royal family. You because no one knows you exist, and your sister, because she is part of the plan Derrick of Westfold has for becoming king of Belanda.”
Kain wasn’t sure what to think. He had always been told that his family had dedicated him to the service of the One God, but he knew nothing of them. He certainly had never been told he was a prince.
“I don’t… I mean… I think you have the wrong person,” said Kain.
“I have met General Fairan only once before,” said the High Prefect. “I cared for his horse while he met with the High Prefect Alton, years ago. I never knew his name, or why he came, but he did bring you here.”
“I can prove that you are the Third Prince.” stated the warrior. “You have a mark on your left breast. It looks rather like a falcon.”
“That doesn’t prove anything. If you brought me here as a baby then you would know I have that mark.”
“Your birth was recorded in the royal chronicles. You shall come with me to the Royal City, and there we shall prove your birthright. And you shall be made king.”
“This is the craziest thing I have ever heard. I’m not leaving Aquista. I’m no king.”
“Your father thought that you would respond this way. He wrote this shortly after you were born, in case our worst fears came true. I will leave you with your priest to read it, then we must set out for Royal City.” Fairan wheeled his mount around and trotted some distance away.
“Prefect Mantos, is this some kind of a joke?”
“I am not sure what it is, but I do remember the General bringing you here. We were all told that your family had dedicated you to God, but that was all we ever knew. The General came with a letter from the King’s councilor Vestpin Tooles, verifying what you have just heard. It has the royal seal and I am afraid I have no choice but to send you with him.”
Kain looked at the High Prefect with astonishment. “But if I leave I can never return, or have you forgotten the statutes of our order?”
“I have not forgotten. Nor have I forgotten that we are to obey the High King, and I cannot find any reason to doubt that General Fairan is a legitimate member of King Belhain’s council. Now if what he says is true, and the High King has been killed along with his sons, who is to rule us? Belanda will almost certainly be divided by civil war. Perhaps this is the hand of God?”
Kain was boiling with emotions. He was so unsure of what to do he looked at the only thing available, the letter Fairan had given him. It was a stiff parchment, sealed with wax, then bound by purple ribbon and stamped with the High King’s seal.
Kain turned it over and over in his hands.
“You should read it,” said the High Prefect.
Kain broke the seals and unfolded the parchment.
Please forgive me for keeping your birthright a secret. The rigors of ruling the Western Realm have not been easy. We have made great progress in shinning the light of the One God in Belanda, but there are many, including our enemies, who still hold to the old ways. You were born with a mark, many still believe such physical signs come from the spiritual realms. Your mark being what it was, I feared for the life of your brothers, although I have prayed often for strength and forgiveness. Likewise, I feared the implication that our enemies would make about the mark being a curse, or weakness, thereby thrusting us into unnecessary violence. And so I sent you to my old friend Alton, High Prefect of the order of Aquista, in the hopes that you could live out your life in peace and reflection of the goodness of the One God. But as you are now reading this letter, it is certain that I am dead, and your brothers also. I ask two things, one that you will attempt to understand my actions, I did what I did out of love for you and for our family. Second, that you will be strong in the character that comes with your royal blood, and put the needs of the kingdom above your own. I need not remind you that the One God is always with you, but your mother’s thoughts and love, as well as mine, were ever on you as well.
Belhain, High King of Belanda,
Realm of the West
Kain handed the letter to the Prefect Mantos and after the older man had read it, they looked at each other.
“I don’t know what to say?” stammered the High Prefect.
“Nor do I, but I guess I will go with Fairan. If nothing else, I must find out who my parents really were. I’ll never be happy until I do.”
“I understand. We will all be in prayer for you.”
“Thanks.” Kain said as he waved to General Fairan.
The warrior again brought his horse under the shade of the tree near the High Prefect and Kain.
“I’ll go,” Kain said.
“Good, we leave at once.”