Prince Solo adjusted the straps on his horse. Galileo was nearby laying in his side and cleaning the feathers on his wings. The courtyard outside of the palace was empty except for he and the horses.
He had gathered four, of course. One for him, and three for the Rebels.
There was no horse faster than that of a Regalt. Elves were known for breeding them and while most had been taken gathered together before they had gone into hiding, there were still some left behind. Men had taken them and bred them in combination with the common breed. It was more than likely that now there were no pure bred Regalts left except in the Elven Realm.
Solo stroked the side of the horse's neck gently, and then turned around to face his companion.
The great beast looked up, his expression dubious.
Solo laughed. "Come here," he coaxed, taking a few steps towards him.
Galileo got up and sauntered over to him, nudging the Prince's chest with his beak. Solo smiled and stroked his friend's feathers affectionately.
"You ready to go on an adventure, boy?"
Galileo raised his head to look at him, his golden eyes strong and steady.
From behind him, he heard the quiet steps that could only be his parents. Galileo seemed to notice too, and nudged Solo's chest before retreating back to his previous position.
Prince Solo turned around just as his mother spoke.
"Are you planning on taking him with you?"
Solo shrugged, smiling, despite himself. "I'd rather he stay here, out of harm's way. But he's so stubborn I don't think he'd stay behind even if I chained him to the castle walls."
His mother smiled, mimicking Solo's in almost every way. "He's very fond of you, though it's always been that way."
"Much to his dismay, I'm sure."
Lord Erion walked over to one of the horses, testing the straps. "Do you have everything that you need?"
"Yes," Solo assured him. "I've packed enough supplies to be able to survive for at least two weeks."
The Elven Lord nodded, looking back up at his son. "Promise us that you will be safe."
Solo's smile faded at the sight of fear in his father's eyes.
"I will," he promised, and Lady Vera came and took his hand, the same fear in hers as well.
Almost immediately, the quietness of the moment was interrupted by a few visitors. Aero was leading the three Rebels into the courtyard, his expression the same as always. The three boys appeared to be whispering to each other.
Quickly, Solo grabbed a large bag and went over to the Rebels.
"Weston," he greeted, giving him a nod.
"I am Prince Solo," he told the others.
"I'm Kane," the larger boy said, sticking out his hand and. Solo took it, noting that his grip was strong. His skin was pale, though his cheeks were splotched with red.
"I'm Cassius," the smaller Rebel then said, also sticking out his hand. His skin was dark and his eyes a golden brown.
"It's nice to meet you both," he told them, and then set the large bag down at their feet. "Now, do any of you have a weapon of choice?"
The three Rebels grinned at one another as Solo began to unload the contents. Kane stepped forward and retrieved a spear. The staff portion was made from Voodoo Tree, the strongest wood in all of Calaria. The end was made of steel and serrated on both sides.
"That's a strong spear," Solo commented, watching as Kane inspected it with a smile. "Have you any experience with spear-work?"
He nodded. "My family, it's our weapon of choice. All of my brothers use it."
Weston chose next. Solo watched as he surveyed each weapon, his eyes always going back to a single sword. The one he seemed to be taken with was made of a silver so light in color that it was almost white. The hilt was a darker gray and made of steel.
"That's a fine sword," Solo told him, picking it up and presenting it to him. "The hilt is Raygorian steel, the strongest steel in Hilarum."
"And the blade?" Weston inquired, taking it from his hands.
Solo smiled crookedly. "Elvish, of course. It's light in color and in weight, a signature look of ours. The hilt is just melted down Raygorian steel. Only a few pieces of it are left in our world."
"The War Swords," Cassius interjected.
Solo nodded. "Yes."
"I've heard rumors," Cassius started, his eyebrows pinched together. "Do they Elves have their own War Sword as well?"
The Prince smiled at his question. "Yes. Though I'm afraid that it has been without use for some time now."
The Rebels glanced at one another in surprise and Solo motioned for Cassius to come over. "You're Eastern, aren't you? A Highlander?"
The young Rebel nodded proudly. "Yes, I am. How could you tell?"
"The high cheek bones, dark skin. You have a distinct look," Solo observed. "Or, so I've read. But, I think I have just the thing for you." He went rummaged over the weapons until he found exactly what he was looking for.
The Prince lifted a bow that was completely white, carved in intricate details. Cassius took it hesitantly, his eyes wide in wonder. "It's made of Dragon bone," Solo told him.
The Prince nodded in assurance at the young Rebel. "Yes. And here are the arrows." He lifted the carrier by the strap, made entirely of steel. Inside were dozens of arrows, each one adorned by white feathers. "The arrows are made with Voodoo wood and the feathers are White Phoenix. It is nearly impossible for them to sail any direction but straight."
Cassius shook his head in disbelief. "Thank you."
Suddenly there came a ruckus from the entrance of the courtyard. Vickon sprinted into view and barreled into the legs of his mother.
"Vickon," Lady Vera scolded, lifting his face to look at her.
Britta and Vaya came waltzing in shortly after him. They appeared to be arguing but that wasn't an unusual occurrence.
While the rest of the Damir's conversed with one another, Lord Erion acting as the mediator for his two daughters and Lady Vera trying to console little Vickon, Solo packed up the weapons and showed the Rebels to their horses.
Once they were ready, the band of Rebels and the Elven Prince stood expectantly before the Lord and Lady who were still attending to their children.
A few moments went by and Prince Solo coughed loudly, turning the attention of his entire family.
"You look ridiculous," Vaya confessed, folding her arms over her chest and raising an eyebrow.
"Oh, hush," Britta complained. "You're just mad you can't go along."
Vaya made a face at her sister as Lady Vera and Lord Erion took a few steps toward the unlikely band. They smiled at Solo and the Rebels, Lady Vera placing both of her hands on her sons face.
"Be safe," she told him.
Solo grinned playfully. "Always, mother."
The Elven Lady pulled him into a tight embrace before whispering in his ear. "Make your people proud."
The Prince nodded at his mother's words, feeling a great amount of pride rise up in his heart.
His father pulled him into a silent embrace as well, his eyes sad and heavy with worry. They had been that way for a very long time.
The Lord and Lady Elves bade goodbye to the two other Rebels before they turned their attention to Weston.
"You will always be welcome here," Lord Erion said, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"I plan on returning," he told them. "There are still so many things, so many--"
"We know," Lady Vera interrupted, her eyes sad all the same. "One day soon, you will find the answers that you have been looking for."
After securing the goodbyes with his parents, Solo turned to his siblings. Vickon gave him a silent, and rather painful, hug to the legs.
"I'll see you when you're older," Solo told him, ruffling his hair. "Keep terrorizing the nannies, it's what you do best."
Vickon grinned largely before turning back to their mother.
Britta stepped toward her younger brother expectantly, her eyebrows pinched together in slight concern. "You have to promise you'll be safe."
"And you have to promise that you'll tell Mum and Dad the truth about Gerad," Solo half-whispered.
Britta's eyes widened and color rushed to her cheeks. She punched his arm instinctively and rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Just promise that you won't do anything stupid. I know how you like to draw attention to yourself."
Solo raised an eyebrow. "I love you too."
Britta shrugged in defeat and pulled him into a hug. "Be safe, little brother," she whispered into his cheek.
After Britta pulled away, the only one left was Vaya. She was still standing there stubbornly, arms crossed, a defiant expression that Solo knew well still etched across her face.
"Well," he began, bending down to her level. "This is it."
"I don't understand why you have to go," she grumbled, avoiding eye contact with him.
"I have to," Solo told her, willing her to look at him. "Someone has to do this. The future of our people depends on it, depends on me. I have to be the one to go."
"No you don't," she replied, still unable to look up at him. "You have to stay here with me. I depend on you. What about me?"
Solo could see the tears welling up in her eyes and his heart was breaking. He knew that this would be his toughest goodbye.
"You're strong," he assured her, lifting her chin up with his thumb. "You're smart, and you're brave. You don't need anyone to be that. You're just like me."
At this, Vaya smiled, her tear-filled eyes finally meeting his.
"And don't forget, I'm still coming back. So, what would you like? I promise that I'll bring you something back from my journey. Anything you like. What'll it be?"
Vaya said nothing, just jumped up into a big hug, wrapping her arms around his neck. Solo stood and held her there, squeezing his little sister tightly.
"You," she said through tiny sobs. "You're all I want to come back."
Eventually, Lady Vera pried her away from Solo's arms and his whole family stood back. He took in one last sight of them, telling himself that it would be easy not to miss them.
The band all mounted their horses, adjusting themselves and securing their supplies until there was nothing else keeping them in the Hidden City. With one final wave, they made their way through the streets of the Elven Realm and back out into Greenthorne Forest, now completely on their own.