Read Sons of the Falcon (The Falcons Saga) Online
Authors: Court Ellyn
SONS OF THE FALCON
The Falcons Saga, Book 2
By Court Ellyn
Sons of the Falcon
© 2013 by Court Ellyn
Book design and cover design
by Court Ellyn
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be
reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including
storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and
This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s
imagination and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living
or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Elaran Glossary, Abridged
Maps and Elaran Glossary are available
to enhance your reading
the year 980 A.E., the last war between the Falcon
Kings ended. With the death of Shadryk III, his sister, the Princess Ki’eva, assumed
the regency of Fiera; in the fall, her nephew died.
Chronicle of Kings
lood trickled from Prince
Arryk’s nose and into his mouth. A familiar taste. A familiar shame. He ducked
a flying fist and wrapped his arms around his head. He should have seen it
coming, but he dared hope that his brother had changed.
Nathryk had arrived at Éndaran only
this morning. It was his first visit since becoming the ward of the Leanian
king. ‘Hostage,’ that’s what everyone at the castle preferred to call it. All
day long, he avoided his younger brothers, preferring instead to nap off his
journey and play with the hounds in the yard. Six Leanian guards accompanied
him wherever he went, even to the middens. Their orange surcoats blazed; their
shiny crested helms had not one speck of dust on them. Seeing them made Arryk
feel better. Even Nathryk dared not attack his brothers with those armed men
But as soon as their nanny tucked
the princes into bed and left them to their sweet dreams, Arryk felt his covers
flung back. A hand seized him by the arm and another by the hair and dragged
him to his feet. Nathryk’s fist pelted him in the face before he woke enough to
know what was happening. Arryk curled up in a ball, felt the blood drip free
and splatter his knees.
“You think I don’t know?” Nathryk
shrieked, looming over him. “You’re talking about me, all of you. The whole
time I’m at Graynor with that fat pig of a king. Tell me what you say! Tell me.
Tell me!” A fist landed in Arryk’s ribs with each ‘tell me.’ In truth, no one
at Éndaran mentioned Prince Nathryk. Maybe in passing whispers, but Arryk
wasn’t privy to them. He tried not to think about his older brother at all. “Do
you laugh at me? Do you? Tell me!”
The shouting woke Bhodryk. Though
only five, he bailed out of bed, nightshirt tangled around his legs, and fell
into Nathryk, fists swinging. “Stop it!” He didn’t care that his brother was
the Crown Prince. Bhodryk hit him anyway, though his blows were as effective as
a snowflake trying to quench a bonfire.
Nathryk shoved his youngest brother
aside and reared back a leg, but Arryk caught him by the ankle before the kick
landed in Bhodryk’s ribs. Nathryk tumbled to his knees, gasped and rolled over
to inspect patches of skin missing from each shin. He grit his teeth and lunged
into Arryk. The breath burst from his lungs and his tummy cramped up. He rolled
up tight, trying to breathe while Nathryk’s toes hammered him, ribs, thighs,
ribs, thighs. “What does Grandmother say about me? She’s
You don’t belong here. What does she say?”
“Highness!” A quick glimpse showed Nanny
standing on the threshold with a lamp. Her mouth hung open. Her empty hand
reached toward one prince, then another.
The barrage lifted. Arryk dragged
himself onto his knees, wiped the blood from his face with his sleeve. Nanny
had both arms around Nathryk’s chest, dragging him away. She was young and
strong, and though he kicked, her grip held tight.
“He made me fall,” Nathryk cried. “Let
me go, cunt! I’ll have your head. You can’t do this to me.”
, Highness,” Nanny
pleaded. “What would your grandmother say?”
Nathryk stopped flailing. When
Nanny set him on his feet, he rounded on her. “Don’t tell her. If you tell her
I’ll kill you in your sleep. You think I’m lying? Who the hell are you anyway?
Don’t you know
? Touch me again and you die.”
Nanny’s face paled to the color of
Nathryk glanced at his brothers,
snorted contemptuously. “I’m too old for the fucking nursery. Go set me up a
room of my own.”
“A-after you, Highness.” Scared as
she was, she refused to leave Nathryk alone with his brothers. For that, Arryk adored
her. He could never be so brave.
As soon as they left, Arryk ran to
the basin on the vanity and threw up. All over again. It was the same nightmare
all over again. He’d been so grateful when Father sent Nathryk away from
Brynduvh. The terror had stopped. “Only a fortnight,” he told himself. “He’ll
be here only a fortnight.” Two weeks in the fall, two in the spring, that’s all
the treaties allowed for Fiera’s Crown Prince to step foot on his own soil
until he was eighteen. Arryk could survive that. He just had to duck his head
and keep quiet.
How to convince Bhodryk to do the
same? The older Bhodryk got, the more fiery and stubborn he became. How long
could Arryk protect him from Nathryk’s blows?
He had promised his father. “Keep
him safe,” Father said the last time Arryk saw him. They were fleeing Brynduvh
because the Aralorris were coming, but Father stayed behind. He tried to look
brave, but Arryk could tell he was scared. And sad.
Nanny returned a short time later
carrying her little box of remedies, necessary accoutrements when raising two rambunctious
boys. She cleaned the dried blood from Arryk’s face. It had rolled into his ear
and his hair. He liked her better than all the other nannies he’d had. Nathryk
had run most of them off, or Father had found their ability to keep the peace
between his sons lacking and dismissed them. “I don’t think it’s broken,” she
said, pressing a cool damp cloth to his nose. “But you might have a black eye
in the morning. What was it about?”
Her eyebrows rose.
he’s like, but you didn’t believe me, did you?
didn’t do anything
and he said he’d kill you. He hates everybody.”
She swallowed hard and dug around
in her box. After a long stiff silence she said, “I believe you now. Here,
drink this, then lie down.” Arryk choked down a spoonful of bitter silverthorn
solution, then Nanny laid a compress of witch hazel and silverthorn powder on
his bruised ribs. “Bhodryk, are you hurt?”
He rocked in Nanny’s chair so hard
that his head bounced against the backrest. It felt like flying, he always said.
The rocking paused, and Bhodryk shook his head.
“Then into bed with you.” She
tucked them both in again, then made herself a pallet on the floor between
them. Arryk was so grateful he wanted to hug her. She finally understood that
there really were monsters in the closet.
he next day, Eritha, Lady
Éndaran decreed that the three princes were to spend their energy out of doors
before they drove her to madness. She was not a soft-spoken lady, nor was she
known for her gentleness or tenderness. She took enjoyment in ordering the
princes to sit up straight, mind their forks and napkins, study harder but
don’t read so much that their eyes suffered. Do this, do that, and nary a word
of praise. Bhodryk shrugged her off, but Arryk was terrified of her. He was
glad she refused to join the picnic. He could eat his cold chicken however he
Picnics were a regular occurrence
at Éndaran, and one of Arryk’s joys. The Great Fire Sea stretched to the
western horizon; endless poppy-strewn hills and neatly tended vineyards rolled
away south. Atop the cliffs the sky was so close that he felt he could jump up
and catch it. Having spent nearly all of his life inside the palace at
Brynduvh, open spaces like these made Arryk feel like a falcon on the wing.
But not today. Today, dread crouched
heavily on his shoulders. It didn’t let him take flight.
His nose throbbed whenever he
forgot about the bruises and raised a hand to itch it. And Nanny was right.
When he woke up this morning, he found a purple half-moon under his left eye. His
cheek was so swollen that he could see it without straining. At breakfast, Lady
Eritha asked him what happened. When her son, Lord Raed arrived at table, he
asked the same thing. So did his son and daughter. Arryk told them, “Sword
practice.” Not one of them was fooled, however. Though his lie sounded more convincing
each time he told it, their glances slid toward Nathryk.
A fortnight. They only had to put
up with Nathryk for a fortnight. And if possible, avoid him altogether. That’s
what Lady Eritha did. She shut herself in her chambers, descending for mealtimes
only, for decency’s sake, and she spared not one word for her own grandson.
Arryk darted ahead of Nanny and the
armed guards, but Nathryk’s complaints pursued him loud and clear. “Princes
don’t walk! How far must we go? We should’ve brought horses. If Captain Bartran
had come, he would’ve brought the hounds. A hunt is better than sitting around
staring at each other while we eat cold food.”
Nathryk was going to ruin the day
yet. Arryk was sure of it. But he kept his mouth shut. He wasn’t in the mood
for another bloody nose.
Three hundred feet below the
cliffs, the ocean thundered. Clouds of gulls and shullas wheeled, screaming.
Soon, they dampened Nathryk’s grumbling. Arryk kept running, hopping from one
stone to the next, arms out as if they were wings. The bruises on his thighs
throbbed with each step, but falcons ignored pain. The Tempest Peninsula curved
ahead, far out to sea, and on the edge of sight, the lighthouse on Tempest Rock
glinted like a hope for happiness. If he thought he could get away with it,
Arryk would keep running until he reached the lighthouse. Nathryk wouldn’t
follow him that far, not without a horse to carry him.
He wished his brother could spend
his fortnight at Brynduvh instead. Arryk hadn’t understood why Nathryk had to
come to Éndaran until Rance and Istra explained to him. It was part of the deal
with Aralorr and Leania, in exchange for peace. As a hostage, Nathryk ensured
that Fiera’s armies stayed on their side of the Bryna. Brynduvh was off limits
because the royal seat was well-fortified, and the Princess Regent might decide
to sequester her nephew rather than give him back into King Bano’en’s custody.
“Wait for me!” cried Bhodryk.
Arryk groaned but slowed down so his
little brother could catch up. He reached out a hand, but Bhodryk raced past,
aiming straight for the cliff’s edge, green eyes raised toward the wheeling
birds. “Stop!” Arryk cried, catching Bhodryk’s sleeve and hauling him back. “Dummy,
you have to look where you’re going.”
Bhodryk scowled as if caution were worse
than useless and tugged his arm free. “I want to see!” Last time, Istra had let
them crawl on their bellies until they could see over the cliff’s edge where
they watched the shullas diving for fish.
But not this time. “Highnesses, come
away from the cliff!” she called, beckoning sharply. A dignified fourteen, Istra
hung back with Nanny and the guards, carrying the basket of food. She was a
full-fledged squire and wore riding leathers and a dagger belt. In Arryk’s
opinion, the dagger didn’t suit her at all. She wasn’t like Éndaran’s other female
soldiers. Her bones were fine and her hair long and silk-shined and golden.
Only her hands proved that the dagger wasn’t for show. Calluses lined her
fingers; Arryk noticed that last week when Lady Eritha paired them up for
dancing lessons in the parlor. “Every prince must master the Imperial,” she
claimed. Bhodryk had giggled behind a pillow. Arryk blushed the entire time,
even though Istra had been all business and polite instruction. He had danced
with his Aunt Ki’eva once, with all the court watching; he hadn’t felt
embarrassed then, but quite smug. What was the difference?
Arryk blushed again as Istra
hurried toward them with the picnic basket bouncing against her leg. Bhodryk
crossed his arms and pouted. “Take my hand,” Istra insisted. “We’re almost
there.” The grassy hill crowned with wind-lashed trees rose ahead.
The party was catching up, so close
now that Arryk saw his older brother’s mouth tighten. Nathryk jogged to catch
up, shoved Istra aside, and said, “You don’t have to do what my cousin says,
Bhodryk. She’s not the bloody regent.”
Arryk grabbed Bhodryk’s hand and
tried to whisk him back into Nanny’s shadow, but Nathryk’s fingers clenched
down on his shoulder. Arryk whirled, fists doubled, but with everyone watching,
Nathryk drew back. “What’s
with you? Let him go. What are you, a
tyrant? He can do whatever he wants.”
“See?” Bhodryk declared, jerking
his hand free.
“You want to see the birds?”
Bhodryk nodded exuberantly and pointed
farther along the cliffs. “They have a nest over there. I’ll show you.”
“No!” Arryk cried, not liking the
grin that turned the corner of Nathryk’s mouth. “We should stay here with the
Nanny caught up. “I wish you would,
Highness,” she said in her firmest voice. “Let’s eat something.”
Nathryk ignored her as if she were
less than a puff of wind. “You’re pathetic, Arryk. If
heir, the Aralorris wouldn’t think twice about invading again.” He took
Bhodryk’s hand with uncustomary gentleness. “Show me the nest.” Bhodryk sprang
away. “And you’re not invited, coward,” Nathryk called over his shoulder. “Stay
here with the women.”
Arryk’s face heated. He wanted to
crumple into a heap and die when he saw that Istra had heard and was looking at
him. She lowered her eyes and put on a sympathetic smile. “Come, Highness. Will
you carry the basket? It’s getting awfully heavy.” She pressed at what appeared
to be a stitch in her side, even though the walk from the castle had been slow
Her effort failed to lift his
spirits, but he took the basket anyway. It
heavy; he had to carry it
with both hands, and the hill felt steeper than usual. Istra saw him struggling
and helped him carry half the weight, which humiliated him the more. A coward