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By:Jordan Silver

He never took his eyes from his prey as he drew his bow and arrow and notched it. Spurring his great steed on with the press of his knees, he galloped through the melee as his men covered him on all sides.

He knew he would have but one shot at this so he had to make it count. There was no thought in his head that he might fail, there was no room for that; he couldn’t afford it.

When he was in position, men fighting to get to him now that the king was dead, his men doing their best to keep him safe, he stood in his stirrups, steadied the well-trained horse beneath him and took aim.

His adversary did not see him until it was too late. The arrow sung through the air and made its mark through the eye of the opposing head of the Whitley clan, who had come to steal a kingdom not of his making. Julian watched until he fell from his steed, dead before he reached the ground.

The kill did nothing to ease the pain in his heart. He turned swiftly, sword drawn and slashed his way through all and any of the enemy who were close enough.

If he could he would ride all the way to the Whitley holdings and burn it to the ground with every last man, woman and child inside. Seeing their leader fallen from his horse, his enemy’s men scattered like the proverbial sheep and took flight.

“After them, leave none alive.” The new king rode into battle with his men’s cries of war behind him. He felt the strength of his father’s life. All that he had learned at the older man’s knee, all that he had seen his family endure, now gave him strength.

Something was born in him in the hours following. On the battlefield what innocence of youth he had left died and in its place was left a cold determined king.

Each time his sword arm grew tired all that was needed for him to go on was the sight of his sire’s blood seeping into the grass, his life leaving his eyes. How easy had it been to snuff out the life of one so great. He learned another valuable lesson that day. Life was a fickle bitch.

Chapter 2

The battle was fierce but handily won in the end. Young Julian looked on as his men looted what was left of the enemy. They were starved and cold, having spent these last months fighting to keep control of their land, their home.

“We go home.” One enemy had been vanquished, and now he goes to secure his throne. “Find my brother and sister and bring them to me.” He turned his steed around and headed back to the place where he had laid his dead father.

After procuring his father’s body the young king led the procession, his mind and heart full of the task he now faced. He kept his silence as his friends flanked him lost in their own sorrow. His sire had been a hard task master yes, but he had ever been fair and his subjects that held a true love and admiration for the ruler who had always looked out for their best interest first above his own, would feel the loss almost as much as he.

Julian wondered not for the first time what kind of king he would be. Would he be the man his sire had been, or would he follow the wrong counsel into darkness? He had some ideas about that, and the fact that those closest to his king had been the ones to betray him only solidified his resolve. He will keep his own counsel and not let others rule his kingdom through him.

There was bound to be a struggle, those who sought to line their own coffers through having the king’s ear will not be pleased. He didn’t give a fig about that. He will learn from his sire’s mistakes and not repeat them.

They rode on through the night, most of the men somber at the loss of the king who had done so much for his people. But some, especially the younger ones, were already looking forward to a new way of things. That is the way with things after all.

The older men spoke softly of their fallen king and his many exploits. The son felt his heart ease with the memories, at the way the men showed such reverence to his sire. He had truly been loved. Will he gain their love and respect on his own merit, or will he fall short in their eyes?

The burden of the throne was heavy on his shoulders as his mind tried to set order to the tasks ahead. He had only a few minutes of raw fear at what laid ahead. His only wish was, not to disappoint his sire. Not to fall short of all that the older man had expected of him.

The talk turned from the old king to his heir and what would be needed to see that his transition from prince to ruler went well. Everyone knew the young prince had been well liked for all that he sported and flitted away his days in joyful pursuits.

It was also known that he was a learned scholar, a rare thing for a monarch of the time; as well as being very adept, on the battlefield. The only place his mettle had not yet been tested was in matters of state.

But they foresaw no issue with his acceptance by the people. It was well that the boy had always had favor with his father’s subjects. That he had shown himself worthy and capable.