Dear readers, tonight with me is a prince of the Bright Solara, a graduate of the academy experienced with everything from swordsmanship to strategy. He’s here to tell us about his life — including dealing with raiders in the sandy deserts of his future kingdom.
Many thanks to our crown heir, Prince Ravel, for taking time out of his many appointments to speak with us today. How fares Bloodstone Keep, my Prince?
The honor is mine. The Keep is currently at rest whilst we await the arrival of new students for the Academy which always brings fresh tutors and a spate of Council meetings for our visiting Housemen. Of course, it doesn’t quite compare to the end-of-year celebrations. One can still walk the halls of the Keep without being hailed at every turn.
You’ve spent your entire life in the palace of Bloodstone Keep. How would you describe life as a prince under our great King Khaled’s reign?
Challenging, but I eagerly await the next challenge. The life of a prince isn’t all fine wine and art. From birth, my father has ensured that I am constantly learning and seeking to learn. I attended my first Council meeting at the age of five to understand the duties ahead of me. My father believes that one may only learn by doing, and that is something I push for; to get hands-on experience of aiding our kingdom. My father hasn’t always agreed with my methods! Safety comes first for a Solaran prince, but now that I have become a man, he’s willing to accept my role as a doer, not just a thinker. A king who can only philosophize and not act is no good for our people.
Quite so. You’re soon to graduate the Solaran Academy. What is life like in the Academy?
The Academy is the greatest of our educational institutions. I myself was named after its founder. I am honored to train under great men, and also beside the future Housemen and leaders of our kingdom. Our Masters don’t shy from pushing us hard and forging us into the best men we can be, and I’m not just speaking or our grueling physical routine! Yes, we learn the fighting arts and mounted combat, but a sharp mind is as valuable as a sharp blade. One day I will need to defend Sandair from her enemies, and so I take my military strategy and history lessons seriously. I’d encourage any man to pick up a book and learn how our great kingdom became so prosperous, and what we can all do to protect it.
That is most wise. What great Housemen have you been tutored under?
Our Academy is blessed with excellent tutors from the Great Houses. I have received personal tuition from the legendary Sword of Solus, and I believe he will be teaching others at the Academy this year, which will be a great boon to our new students. I’ve often wished for the Protector of the Path to teach, but he’s not ready for retirement yet. A pity.
Tell us about the other Housemen that you train with in the Academy. I believe you’re close with Zavar Xanbond and Cyrus Fellbond?
The Academy hosts students from near every House. Zavar is my cousin and dear friend who has trained by my side since we were children. His House patrol the border between our kingdom and the foreigners of the north, and I regularly hear reports from him and his House of raiding parties attacking our people. House Xanbond have held the line, which Zavar will inherit. They are a credit to our kingdom and I am honored to work with them in Sandair’s defense.
Cyrus Fellbond is the heir to House Fellbond, and it is their mines and steel which have armed our guards and kept Sandair safe. From what I have witnessed, Cyrus is an accomplished warrior. I see a great future for him and his House.
You’re close with House Sarabond. Are the rumors of your betrothal true? The maidens will be devastated.
Ah, I’m afraid our marriage has been arranged for some time! Whilst there are many lovely candidates from across the Houses, my father agrees that a union between the two greatest families would be most prosperous for our kingdom. The bond between Bright Solara and House Sarabond has been planned for generations, and now it is finally possible.
I have met the Lady Sarabond a handful of times, and she is most lovely. I’m afraid I am an honorable man and have kept myself pure to honor my future wife and queen.
You recently passed your helbond and became a man in the eyes of the kingdom. Can you tell us what happened during your helbond? They say it is a test of bravery.
Indeed it is. Raiders attacked caravans on the plains just outside of the city. I volunteered to hunt with our Sword of Solus and bring justice. My father wasn’t keen on allowing me to fight armed men, but I convinced him I was man enough for the challenge.
I was accompanied by Zavar and Cyrus, and with our esteemed Sword of Solus, we rode across the plains and tracked the raiders to a series of burning caravans. Their occupants were simple merchants trying to make a living, and their lives had been cut short. Nothing angers me more than seeing an innocent man lose his life to those who cannot follow the law and our Code of Honor.
We tracked the raiders to nearby woods, but the raiders had us surrounded and outnumbered. One of them was a Fire Walker and threatened to burn us all. I didn’t hesitate. I knew a Fire Walker could destroy the woods with a snap of their fingers, but through my teachings I also knew they can’t summon their flame whilst injured, so I cut him down before he could use his power. My companions and the Sword of Solus made short work of the remaining raiders, and I’m pleased they’ll be no longer terrorizing merchants on the road.
Wow, what an adventure! You’ve just returned home from another adventure in the southern desert. How was your journey?
Also challenging. It is tradition for a Solaran prince to journey through the desert and receive their helbond blessing, and I was honored to visit many southern Houses during my pilgrimage. I was in good company with the Protector of the Path by my side. He knows the desert and their lawless tribes better than anyone and ensured our caravan was kept safe from them and raider threats.
The desert was a far greater challenge than I expected and I am awed of the people who have settled it and made it their home. Of course, I’m still finding sand in boots even weeks after returning, but that’s what they say! The sands travel with you.
We heard there was some danger when you visited the town of Khalbad. The report said you were attacked by a Fire Walker?
Yes, a most unfortunate incident. House Khalbond generously agreed to host us on our return. However, during our stay a Fire Walker thief attacked a local merchant, a butcher, and burned his face, leaving him with scars for life. Naturally I offered to help House Khalbond find this monster. Our great Code of Honor is clear on what must be done to protect our people from Fire Walkers, and a rogue Fire Walker is a threat to all good men.
I caught the thief; a scrap of a girl, but it was a trap, and she led another Fire Walker to me and my men. With help from the Protector of the Path, we were able to subdue one of the Fire Walkers. I performed my duty as per the law and personally executed him. The thief sadly escaped, but I assure you I sent my own men and House Khalbond searching for her. We believe she died traversing the desert, but what matters is that justice is done, and the people of Khalbad are safe.
Forgive me for asking, my Prince, but there was another incident during your helbond ceremony where the younger Prince Rais was injured by a Fire Walker. What happened?
It is… difficult to talk about, yet I must. The people must know the truth. My coming of age ceremony should have been a joyous occasion with my family and those who support me, and it was tainted by a monster. A Fire Walker was on hand to conduct the ceremony and he launched a vicious attack aimed at me. My instincts forced me to dive out of the way, but my poor brother was caught in the Fire Walker’s flames.
The Sword of Solus was on hand and cut the monster down, but I will never forget my brother’s screams and the scent of his flesh as it cooked. And I will never forgive myself for failing to protect him.
Make no mistake, it was a calculated attack by a Fire Walker, and they must be punished.
A truly horrendous attack, my Prince. What are your thoughts regarding Fire Walkers?
They are the monsters of every child’s nightmares, and with good reason. There is nothing natural about their ability to summon fire from their own flesh. I have seen their devastating powers with my own eyes, and I alone have reason to fear them.
Our Code of Honor states that those possessing blood fire must be locked away for the protection of our people, but as I saw during my helbond ceremony, this is not enough. There needs to be greater sanctions against the Fire Walkers, greater protections for our people, and when I become king, I swear to you, Fire Walkers will not be allowed to harm again.
There are rumors that King Khaled will be stepping down after this tournament. Do you feel ready to take his crown?
I have never been more ready to take my rightful place. I honor my father and the peace he has brought to our great kingdom, but he grows tired and deserves rest. It is time for fresh blood. Sandair deserves a bountiful future free from foreign tyranny and the fire-breathing monsters they fear.
How do you feel about the other kingdoms? Our neighbors to the north and west?
Sandair has always been allies with the Neu Bosan of the western isles, and I hope to continue the traditions set by my father. Peace with the northern Hartnords could bring fresh trade, but we’ve often warred because of their fear of Fire Walkers. If we can deal with the Fire Walker threat and secure our borders, I believe we would be in a strong position to negotiate trade.
Of course, Sandair will always come first, and I will not negotiate any deal that would be at her detriment. I believe in the strength of Sandarian arms, and if the Hartnords continue to test us, I and the rest of our people will show what that strength means.
What future do you see for Sandair, and what would you like to achieve for your reign?
I see a bright, prosperous future for our great kingdom, one where every man has the coin to eat and no child will fear Fire Walkers stalking the streets.
As for my reign, I wish to be known as a king who isn’t content to sit on a throne. I am a man of action, and I will do whatever it takes to protect my people and grow our kingdom.
You must be looking forward to the annual tournament. Are you well trained?
After facing against Fire Walkers, I feel I am ready for anything. The Sword of Solus has offered to continue training me, and with Zavar Xanbond and Cyrus Fellbond training alongside me, I’ve never felt fitter. This year’s tournament promises to be an explosive festival. I urge you all to reserve your seats!
What scares you as a man, and as a future king?
Before my helbond, I would have said I fear growing old and useless! But now, after facing the monsters of every nightmare, I am convinced that Fire Walkers are the greatest threat to our people. As king, I must protect my people from threats abroad and at home.
My final question; can you share a secret with us, my Prince?
I’m afraid I am a man of few secrets, for I value the truth and cannot abide thieves, cheats, cowards, or liars. My father raised me to serve our Code of Honor, and I have learned great wisdom from men such as our Sword of Solus and our Protector of the Path.
But I will tell you my sword’s name. It is every man’s great honor to earn their sword and name it. I named my blade “Justice” for the promise I will deliver to our kingdom.
Trudie Skies is a British young adult fantasy author who has published her debut novel Sand Dancer with Uproar Books. She enjoys stories about young heroines finding their own path in life.
You can find Prince Ravel on the pages of Sand Dancer.
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