Hooves thudded over the ground as two horses sped across the cobbled streets of the capitol city, Eltzlo. The city was the grand jewel of the planet Oddacariis, as it was a central hub of trading, royalty, rich merchants and tourists.
"Sorry!" Armeo yelled at scattering people in his path. "Coming through!"
"You don't think you'll stay in front for long, do you?" His brother yelled at him from behind. They were both racing through the streets on palace stallions. Red dust flew up as Armeo accidentally knocked over a barrel of spice. "My apologies!" He called over his shoulder at the seller, who was waving his hands angrily.
"Keep racing like that and you could possibly end up riding party ponies for birthdays," Silas caught up to him and gave him a challenging glare.
"Oh-ho!" Armeo grinned and bent lower. "Let's see how you prance, princess!"
They galloped on at a feverish pace, past bright tents and stalls. Soon they were out of the Market and into the shopping district. Brick buildings replaced canvas and signs hung airily, displaying what the shop held inside with a lofty logo.
"And here's where you fall into place," Silas smiled confidently and kicked his horse ahead of Armeo's.
"What?" Armeo reigned in his horse as Silas' moved into their path abruptly. "Whoa!"
His horse reared and gave Armeo time to see Silas far ahead. "No fair," he whispered, and spurred his horse into a gallop. He caught up to his brother just as they reached the Palace gate. The castle soared high into the sky, gleaming pearly white with pointed towers and ivied balconies. Its smooth metal surface caught the sun perfectly as it clung to the cliff, over looking the lake below. Everyone in the city had given the Palace a nickname, so it was regulary dubbed the White Ivy, due to its natural hold on the cliff face.
Silas' dark brown horse was already inside the courtyard as Armeo slowed to a stop inside. He took his horse around a circle to calm it as he approached his brother. Silas swung out of the saddle and turned just as another man his age stepped out from the shadows of the stable. He had a book in his hand, but Armeo would of recognized him even without his trademark item.
"You two were racing again?" The man asked. Silas handed the horse reigns to a palace guard. They were now flooding into the courtyard, closing the gate.
"Father's not going to be happy."
"Oh, give it a rest, Aram," Armeo grinned at his brother and leaned on his saddle horn. "We have orders to carry out, things to finish all the time. Today called for a little speed."
Silas didn't say anything as Aram scratched his head. He and Armeo were similar in features with a square jaw, indigo eyes and dark brown hair, streaked with honey brown. Silas, on the other hand, looked barely related. He had a sharp jaw and nose, with lighter blue eyes and completely blonde hair. He was also much more sturdier built.
"We'd better get inside." Aram turned with a small, sympathetic smile towards his brothers. "Get it over with."
"You two were completely reckless!"
Armeo flinched a little. Aram was right. The King was mad. He walked around the library with short, angry steps, hands behind his back. Silas stood beside him, arms folded neatly beside him and his chin up. His face was stony. Armeo knew what that meant.
"You caused chaos in the Market, you trashed the horses, and worse then all of that, you blatantly disobeyed my wishes." The king walked over to both princes. His eyes were brighter then usual. Armeo suddenly felt bad. Most days his father sighed and walked about the castle after meetings. This was the most responsive Armeo had seen him for a while. And it was all due to his disappointment in him.
"It was my fault," he stepped in when his father paused for breath. "I was the one with the idea to sneak out and go riding."
"This doesn't concern who is to blame!" Jerim yelled. "This is a lesson of responsibility for young princes. You especially--!" He turned to Silas, who didn't react. "You are next in line for the throne. You should know the consequences!"
"This behavior is unacceptable! Never again should I hear of you doing this!"
Father and son stared at each other for a few seconds. Then Jerim whipped around and left the room, closing the door with a bang.
Armeo tugged his collar and glanced nervously at the door. "That went over worse then I suspected." He looked to his side at Silas, hoping to let his now cloudy mood to pass. Instead, Silas only scowled and started to leave.
"Don't follow me."
Aram looked up worriedly at his brother. "Silas, it was only--"
Silas turned and pointed at Aram. "You don't get it do you? Father is right, I have a responsibility as the next Crown King!"
"But even the greatest Kings make mistakes," Aram tried to soothe him. "Don't you remember what the servants said about father when he was prince? He was just as bad as Armeo!"
Armeo walked casually around a table, its surface covered in books. He grabbed an apple from a bowl and bit into it. "Thanks, Aram."
"Not now," Silas shook his head slowly. "Not while Father is stricter then ever. Aram, he's dying. You can see it, we can all see it. He won't be forgiving in his last years." He straightened a little, and let his hand fall. "I have to be the best I can be," he whispered. "I have to prove myself."
Armeo stopped chewing a gulped. This was getting sensitive. They all knew Jerim had treated Silas horribly growing up, when all his life Silas did above and beyond what the other two accomplished. He would put all his heart into doing something perfectly to receive praise from their father, but every time Jerim regarded him as nothing more then a wanna-be. There were times when he treated his own son like a monster.
Armeo remembered the times he pointedly ignored Silas, talking only to Aram and Armeo. Or every argument at every meeting between the two because they never agreed on one point.
Silas ran a hand through his hair. "Sorry. I just...can't afford it anymore."
Aram closed his book as he and Armeo watched their brother's back as he walked out of the huge library.
"Well," Aram sighed, and looked at Armeo. "Leave him alone for a few hours."
Armeo jumped unto the table top and let his gangly legs swing. "If not all day."
His brother started picking up books to shelve them. "I hope this blows over quicker then last time."
Armeo took another bite out of his apple. "Me too. Hey, isn't there a meeting tomorrow?"
"Yes, about the wood trade in Kronsor," Aram glanced over his shoulder, and they shared a look with raised eyebrows.
Armeo hopped off the table and finished his apple. "Well, we'd better get him into a good mood before then."
"Don't follow him, Armeo."
"He's already beaten me once at something today!" He called roguishly over his shoulder. "Why not another?"
"You're not going to the arena are you?" Aram sighed, a pile of books fondled in one arm. Armeo gave him a sarcastic tilt of the head. "Where do you think he would go when he's upset?"
"Just be careful!"
Armeo closed the door, and grinned to himself. Being careful wasn't really his thing, but he left Aram alone to his books and his thoughts. A little sword fighting sounded good anyway. Even if his brother was the best on the planet.