This is from the first book in a fantasy trilogy.
A Whisper from the Past
Barely able to see, Navon took the stairs two at a time. The hot tears of shame and rejection burned his cheeks as he tried to distance himself from the looks of sympathy on the faces of everyone in the Great Hall. Why? Why had his father done that to him? Was he really such a disappointment?
The sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs alerted him to the eminent arrival of his older brother, Altair. He ran into his room and wiped the tears from his face. No one was going to stop him now that he had made his decision to leave.
His brother walked in and stood there for a moment, watching him pack, before he spoke, “Are you sure you want to do this, Navon?”
“No, but what choice do I have Altair? You heard Father at dinner tonight. He laid out all of his hopes and plans for everyone in this family except me. He never mentioned my name or even looked in my direction. You could see from everyone’s faces that they understood what was happening. I no longer have any hope for a future as part of this family.”
The youngest of the Baron’s children, Navon had been given a small room on the upper floor of the Keep. A giant oak, rooted in the center of his room would have been as nothing compared to the presence of his brother. He wished that Altair would just leave him alone with his misery but his brother’s concern also gave him comfort. He had always been there when Navon needed a shoulder to cry on and never laughed at his fears of being different.
As Navon stood in front of his small wardrobe, his light blond hair fell forward to conceal the tears that threatened to flow again. Altair approached him from behind and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Do you know how eagles learn to fly, little brother?”
Unable to speak, Navon shook his head.
“The chicks spend months standing on the edge of their nest just flapping their wings. It builds up their muscles. Then one day, the parents will push a fledgling out of the nest. He will either learn to fly or fall to the ground where he will die. I think Father just gave you that push.”
When he didn’t respond, Altair turned his brother around and with a finger under Navon’s chin, raised his head, wanting, needing to look him in the eyes. “You have no idea how much I envy you, little brother. The rest of us will always be chained to this Keep or at least to our little corner of the country. Do you remember all those fantastic tales of the world that traveling Bard regaled us with at last summer’s festival? You are free to travel and experience those faraway places for yourself, while we are prisoners here to our duties and responsibilities. From the day you were born, we have all felt that you were someone special and that someday you would have to leave us.”
Altair reluctantly released his little brother and quickly moved towards the door. Once there, he turned back with as fierce a look as Navon had ever seen on his brother’s face. “Learn to fly Navon. Never forget that you are a Roddel. If you are ever in need, send word to me and I will come regardless of what Father says.”
Unable to concentrate on his packing after Altair left, Navon sat on the edge of his bed trying to make sense out of what his brother had said. A knock at his door jarred him out of his thoughts. Wondering who it might be, he heard a soft voice outside calling.
“Navon. May I come in?”
By the Eyes! It was his mother, the last person he expected. She had never come up to his room before, so why now? He swung open the door to his room and answered with a bow. “Of course you may come in Lady Mother.”
All the excuses for why he was packing that sprang into his head melted away as he watched his mother calmly survey the room, holding a plain wooden box in her hand. The box was like nothing he had ever seen before. The edges had darkened with time and the simple design spoke of an age long past.
“I knew this day would come, my son. That is why I am here. I have something that has been in my family for many generations. I became the bearer of this box on the day my mother passed from this world. It is a thing of power,” she said and opened the box, removing a triangular amulet that contained three luminescent eyes and was attached to a small gold chain. “Once you put this around your neck, the amulet should disappear and only you will be able to remove it.”
“Why are you giving this to me?” he asked, unable to keep the hurt and frustration from his voice. “You have many more sons and daughters who are more deserving of this than I.”
“Navon, no one in living memory has worn this. Tradition says that the bearer of the box will know who is to wear the amulet or who to pass the box on to for the next generation. The moment you were born, I knew you were the one to wear it and that I was not to give it to you until you were ready to leave. Please put it on, my son. It is yours.”
With trembling fingers he reached for the amulet. The loop in the chain appeared to be too small to slip over his head. The chain began to glow and Navon felt a tingling travel up his arms and into his chest. The glow quickly faded and the chain separated, revealing a tiny clasp. At a gasp from his mother, he raised his eyes and stared in awe as the box disappeared in a flash of light. He reached behind his neck with the ends of the chain where they snapped together to become a solid loop once again. From the look of wonder in his mother’s eyes, he knew the amulet was no longer visible. Unnerved by the touch of the chain, he froze as a voice in his head whispered, “Go north.”
* * *
Far to the north, in a castle hidden deep within the Mountains of Mists, the Ancient One raised his head and smiled. Far to the south-west, on the Isle of Dahlian, the Stagwood Marshe trembled as Scorpios clenched his scarred fists in a fit of rage. The slave who had been serving him burst into flames until reduced to a small dusting of ash on the floor.
* * *
In the morning, wearing a comfortable pair of leather pants and vest over a light green shirt with a touch of lace at the cuffs and neck, Navon gathered his things and went down to the kitchen. It was early enough that he should be able to avoid everyone in the family. Now that he had made his decision, he was eager to be on his way. He asked the cook to wrap up some sausages in bread that he could eat while he traveled, then noticed the furtive looks of the kitchen staff. So, it appeared that his father’s words, or more accurately his lack of words on Navon’s behalf, had reached the rest of the Keep. The cook’s words as he handed him the sausage rolls were unexpected, “May the Eyes of the Deluti watch over you wherever you go, m’lord.”
The guard at the outer gate barely acknowledged him as he trudged through using his un-strung bow as a walking staff. Sword and knife were hung from his belt, a quiver of arrows over one shoulder and his pack and bedroll tied to his back. The pack was only large enough to hold a few of his prized possessions, some clothes and his herb pouch. The old healer at the Keep had taught Navon everything he knew about healing lore, so the pouch should come in handy.
Defending himself wouldn’t be a problem even though he would never achieve the brute strength of his brothers. The Keep’s arms-master judged that Navon had the quickest hands of any swordsman he’d ever taught and his skill with a bow was un-matched by anyone in the Keep. He might only be fifteen summers, but imagined this was what it must feel like to be a man. Raising his face to the warmth of the morning sun, he strode away from the Keep with a spring in his step. You were right, big brother. It is time for me to fly.
* * *
A solitary figure stood on the ramparts of the Keep long after Navon had faded from view. Forgive me my son, for what I had to do. Your path in this life was set the day you were born and I fervently hope I was able to prepare you for it. You will always be my special son. Turning away, Baron Rodgier d’Roddel disappeared into the Keep, his beard glistening with tears that no one would see.