Prince Solo Damir sat on the edge of a large fountain somewhere on the outskirts of the Hidden City. His hand was balled into a fist, positioned perfectly beneath his angular chin. The water from the fountain splashed down the side of the inner wall of the city and into a large basin.
He had finished preparing and arranging for the journey faster than he thought it would. Aero was a big help, but Solo could see in his eyes that he longed to go with them. After the horses were selected and the provisions were made up, there was not much left to do until they departed.
Solo wished that he had met the other Rebels he'd be travelling with, but he supposed that that would take care of itself.
The sounds of the water bouncing around in the fountain echoed behind him, soothing his mind.
Since being informed of his journey, he'd played it through his mind a million times. Dragon Gorge didn't worry him at all. In fact, he grinned to himself when he thought of seeing his old friends at the gorge. Dragon Riders were notoriously fearless as they were sure of themselves. Solo liked to think that he was very much like that.
Suddenly, and out of nowhere, a shadow cast itself over Solo's head, forcing his gaze to travel upwards.
In a flash of speed and feathers, Galileo, Solo's faithful Griffin, landed at his feet. The great beast smelled of the wind, and his eyes twinkled in delight. Solo let him stretch his wings around the city as much as he could, though he wished he could see him fly outside the city walls.
"Well hello there, sir. Enjoy your flight?"
Galileo shook his feather and walked over to the fountain, dipping his long beak into the waters.
The Prince stood, stretching and eyeing his reflection down in the waters.
Just then, he heard a shout behind him. A few of his siblings came walking down towards him, a rather upset Nanny following them close behind.
Solo smiled at his siblings as they met up with him.
Vaya, the next oldest after him, greeted him with a large smile that mimicked his own.
"Solo, is it true? Are you really leading a bunch of Rebels through the gorge and into the north?"
Her eyes were wide, awestruck with wonder. The Prince laughed at his sister, scooping Vickon up into his hands. His youngest brother squirmed out of his grasp, walking undeterred towards Galileo. He was always the silent but determined type.
Solo nodded modestly in response, playing it off with a smile on his lips. "Yes, all true, I'm afraid. It's just going to be you, Vickon and Britta here with Mom and Dad. With Ewan and Rhett out patrolling the forest, you're all that's left."
Vaya grimaced, rolling her eyes. "Britta's the worst."
Solo laughed at Vaya's attitude towards their eldest sister. "Oh, come on. She's just a little testy these days because she's not married yet."
Vaya made a face, looking undoubtedly back at him. "Yeah right! She sends away every suitor Mom and Dad bring in for her. I don't think she even wants to get married."
Solo shrugged. "So she's picky. That is not such a bad trait. In fact, it's one that I hope you inherit when you come of the age to get married.
He watched as his little sister scrunched her face in disgust, just like he knew she would. "Please. I'm never getting married."
The Prince pouted his lips, shaking his head. "No, of course not. But would you promise me that if you do, you won't forget about me?"
Vaya laughed, wrapping her arms around her his waist and pressing her head against his stomach. "I promise."
"What are you two talking about?"
The both of them looked up at Britta as she walked their way. She was the second oldest of the Damir children, younger than Ewan but older than Solo and Rhett. She had always been serious, even as a child, but maintained a sort of fire in her eyes.
"Just how much you're all going to miss me when I depart later today for the journey," Solo answered, gesturing to Vaya and then Vickon, who was grabbing onto Galileo's back leg, as he so often did. The poor Nanny was trying to pry his little hands from the great animal, but to no avail.
Britta raised an eyebrow and folded her arms. "I see that you're taking it seriously, then."
"Oh, you know me," he mused, his signature devilish grin about him. "I always take things seriously." He winked at Vaya who giggled, squeezing him into another hug.
Britta furrowed her eyebrows and frowned. "I'm serious, Solo."
Before he could respond, Vaya sighed loudly, openly rolling her eyes. "I'll go help the Nanny."
"This isn't the time for jokes, little brother. I hope that you really are taking this assignment with the proper gravity," Britta said, her look still disapproving.
Solo rolled his eyes and sucked in a breath as a response. "You know that I am. I don't know why you continue to badger me about things like this."
"This is different and you know it," she challenged, her eyes sharp.
The Prince sighed at his beautiful older sister. "How's the wedding planning?"
Britta flinched at his words, her posture now defensive. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Why don't you just tell Mom and Dad that you're in love with the castle guard?"
Britta's mouth dropped open in shock. "I don't know what-- Gerad is--"
Solo smiled largely, folding his arms at his older sister. "Oh, so it's Gerad, is it?"
He watched as a rush of color flashed to her cheeks, that fiery look he knew so well starting to show in her eyes.
Now that he had her taken aback, Solo dropped his hands. "Look, I am taking this seriously, I promise. But there's more to this than you know."
Britta's expression softened and she tucked a piece of loose hair behind one ear. "I know. Mom and Dad didn't tell me much, but I assumed from their demeanor that this was important."
Solo nodded assuredly. "It is."
She tucked a piece of her long hair behind her ear before continuing, looking over at their younger siblings. "I suppose I should be mad that they didn't tell me what is going on. I am their eldest daughter after all."
Solo knew that she wasn't mad at all. She just always wanted to take on the responsibility of any matter that she could. Britta liked structure and being in the know. It didn't anger her as much as it annoyed her.
"I know. And if I could tell you, I would. But the situation runs deep."
Britta seemed to take in his words slowly. "Well. At least you are taking it seriously."
Solo grinned, just as Vaya came waltzing back over towards them, gripping a disappointed Vickon by the arm.
"Are you done being so crass?" Vaya asked Britta, a certain amount of disdain in her voice.
Solo laughed openly at her words, while Britta was not as amused.
"We'll leave you to your thoughts," she told him, ignoring their younger sister's words. "Come on," she ushered towards Vaya and Vickon.
Vickon followed immediately, still sulking as his Nanny rushed behind them. Vaya followed Britta as well, but begrudgingly. She looked back at Solo, her eyebrows furrowed in displeasure at having to leave him.
She was so much like him. He would miss her when he was gone.
Solo gave her a wink as she continued to walk away towards the castle, inspiring a smile on her pristine young face.
Once they were gone, Solo returned to his thoughts. He wanted to tell Britta about Weston, about everything... But he knew that it was impossible. This secret would eventually weigh on him, especially since he knew more than his parents had been willing to share to Weston himself.
Solo shook his head, standing and strolling over towards Galileo who was still cleaning his feathers. His face was so regal, so magnificent. Galileo was his 43rd birthday present, one that he wasn't entirely expecting. With Ewan and Rhett gone to patrol the woods, he'd needed a companion. There were certainly enough Shifting Cats that roamed the streets, making bonds with many of the Elves as well as the soldiers. He'd had a few in his lifetime. But Galileo was different. His disposition was stubborn and proud, as was Solo's from time to time. But the two of them adored each other. The Prince knew that he would always be there for him.
Solo ran his hand over Galileo's smooth feathers, entertaining many thoughts. He had been waiting for a task like this from his parents for quite some time. This would be his chance to prove his worth as a Damir. Ewan and Rhett proved theirs during their service and patrols, but Solo found himself never too taken with that job. He longed to be elsewhere, to do something great outside of this life. He would love to be outside of the walls, sure. But even the forest felt like a prison too.
This journey made him anxious. He longed to see what lied outside of his world, what the rest of Calaria had to offer him. His ancestors once claimed the right over a portion of Calarian land. He wanted to see what that was like. He needed to see it for himself.
No one, especially his parents, took him seriously. His mother often gave him the benefit of the doubt, as she was a better judge of character. But maybe this journey would allow him to prove his competence as a Damir, son of Lord Erion and Lady Vera Damir. This was his one shot of proving to everyone who he truly was.
This was his chance.