‘One day, my son, everything you can see from this tower and beyond will be yours to rule.’ Aiglos’ favourite place was the tower. From there he could see across the whole of Dol Minas in any direction, in the far distance he could see the Nameless Mountains, rising up from the eastern horizon, sharp black talons stabbing the sky. To the north, Aiglos could spy the Crown, the longest river in Illiad which stretched from the nameless mountains across the countryside through the Grey Mountains into the Leon Republic and the People’s Republic of Triton. To the south there were miles and miles of grass; a bed sheet of green set beneath the infinite blue sky.
Dol Minas was a city built on a scale that could only be suppressed by the red metropolis of Ath Severin on the western seaboard of the continent. It was built upon a huge green plain that had fallen eighty miles south of the crown river. The plain allowed the city to be shaped easily while, when Dol Minas was first being built, legend said that limestone had run short for a good many years in the south thereafter.
The behemoth of a city had seven sides and long white streets led directly from each gate to the vast forum which basked in the exact centre. The poor, whose number dwarfed that of any other demographic, lived in the eastern sectors of the city where the houses were smaller and the alleyways thinner to allow as many people to be crammed in as possible.
The royal palace was on the opposite side of the city with royal gardens that possessed every kind of flower in every kind of colour that could be found within the grasp of a citizen of Illiad. The palace had the huge hall to welcome visitors but behind it the building settled into the royal apartments while a courtyard sprouted up from the green gardens. Following up the stairs of the courtyard, following long battlements that took one up towards the palace roof, you could find the tower where Aiglos would often spend his early mornings and late evenings.
There was nothing like the sight of sunrise or sunset across Illiad. The sky turning a deep red as the first rays of sunshine burst into view from the peaks of the Nameless Mountains and when darkness began to return, as the rays of light drained into the Grey Mountains, it was some sight to see the waves of clouds line up across the sky before Aiglos.
‘I will be best king there ever was father. I am going to be the main event like no king was before.’ Aiglos had told his father when he was only six years old. King Morgant of Illiad laughed and told him that a good king was modest.
‘There is nothing to be sorry about Aiglos. You are six years old. By the time you are ready to become king then you will have learned what makes a good king and what a good king makes.’ King Morgant had a deep voice like every king should; the way he spoke inspired love and loyalty from all of his followers.
Ten years had passed since then and Aiglos had grown to become every bit the man his father had always wanted him to be. Aiglos had big arms and broad shoulders. His face was very serious for a boy his age with a prominent chin and nose. At that moment he was swiping at a straw-filled mannequin with a glint in those brown-green eyes. The thrill of the testosterone was visibly seeping through him as he stabbed through the puppet again and again. Sweat stains making the cloth below both armpits sag slightly while whiskers had begun to sprout around his high jawline. Aiglos practised in the yard every day with the master-at-arms, and could beat every courtier in a straight-up duel. Finally the rope holding the mannequin up gave way, sending the heaving dummy to the ground with a thump.
‘Very good your highness,’ Sizergh, the teacher hired from Dol Ares, congratulated Aiglos. ‘It usually takes you longer to break the rope.’
‘Was my father watching?’ Aiglos reached down to pick up the straw man, dragging him across the yard to lean against the wall.
‘His majesty is very busy Aiglos; Lord Lambeth MacLinnock is helping the king draw up the yearly tax rate for Haymarket.’ They were doing that yesterday as well. How long does it take to hammer out some contract?
‘I thought that the whole point of having advisors was so that they did all the work and the king could relax?’ Aiglos rubbed his face in a wet towel that had been brought out for the end of his session.
‘When you’re king of Illiad I’m sure you will have the same problems as your father Aiglos. The running of the kingdom comes first. I would have thought your lecturers would have taught you that.’ Sizergh grunted. He was a hard man, bred from generations of soldiers who had taught Aiglos how to play with his sword with much more ease than the long-suffering priests who saw the prince in the mornings with the intention of helping him to learn his letters and languages. Aiglos’ whipping boy still had the scars from the last time Aiglos had skipped class to focus on his swordplay.
‘When I’m king I’ll get to do what I want,’ said Aiglos.
‘When you’re king I’ll be out of a job.’ Sizergh laughed.
‘I’m sure his royal highness will be just as keen to batter dummies when he is king as he does now.’ The speaker was around the same age as Sizergh but, unlike the master-at-arms, still kept a full head of greying blond hair; the memorabilia from two decades of service to the crown. Der Cloyne, the bustling town of which he was the lord and master laid a couple of days ride north from Dol Minas, on the banks of the crown.
Der Cloyne had long been a footnote in the history of Illiad with its lords often being of humble blood and its struggles consisting of botched attempts to get a MacLinnock married into the royal family. Lambeth MacLinnock; the man who was stood opposite Prince Aiglos and Sizergh at that moment was the first MacLinnock for a long time to have proven more than competent to manage Der Cloyne.
‘Lord MacLinnock, I take it that you and my father are done for the day?’ Aiglos removed his towel for Lambeth and continued to go through his post-training exercises. Gripping his sword and polishing it carefully.
‘King Morgant sent me to apologise on his behalf for missing your lesson,’ Lambeth had a habit of pressing the tips of his fingers together in a triangle shape as he spoke, which Aiglos didn’t like.
‘It’s okay – I’m sure matters of the realm are more important,’ Aiglos said through gritted teeth.
‘Thank you,’ Lambeths lips smiled but Aiglos could see his eyes struggle to play along. The Lord of Der Cloyne turned and walked swiftly away.
‘He doesn’t like me,’ Aiglos inspected his blade.
‘Of course he doesn’t like you. He’s an academic and you’re a warrior, academics have been jealous of warriors since time began and Lord MacLinnock is no different. You’d be surprised at how much time he spends with your younger brother.’
‘Jonah can barely lift a bastard sword with both arms; all of the lecturers love him much more than they tried to care about me. However, it doesn’t matter either way. I will be king after my father dies.’
‘Of course you will,’ Sizergh spat into the gravel, ‘I better be going now Aiglos – I will see you same time tomorrow.’ He bowed his head and marched out the same way Lambeth had.
Aiglos raised an eyebrow about his teacher’s abrupt exit but thought nothing of it. Instead opting to return his sword to its scabbard at his waist and carrying it back to his chambers.
My father could at least have had the decency to apologise himself; instead of sending his lap dog. Aiglos thought as he slid his sword into the rack by his bed. At sixteen, he was pretty much a man and couldn’t understand why some of the courtiers still treated him like he was half that age. I could cut them to shreds if I wanted to. When I’m king they’ll have to respect me like they respect father, or they can be replaced. Aiglos was looking forward to being king. King Morgant hadn’t even let him get married yet. A long line of lords had paraded their daughters before the king and the prince in the hope of seeing their grandson become king of Illiad. Some of the girls had been ugly, Aiglos admitted. Though there were a lot of pretty ones as well. My father had turned them all away though; he wants me to be king but doesn’t want me to be king. If only he could make up his mind.