Slash, spin, slide. Arslan panted as he attempted to lift his sword for another round of practice. That was the only advantage of being the King’s son here that he’d found. He was given real weapons to practice with, not just wooden sticks. That really was the only good thing; Nanny was gone and he didn’t know anyone his age at the castle. He’d tried when he first got here, but the only ones who’d been willing to play with him had been the slaves, and he wasn’t allowed to play with them for some reason. All he was allowed to do it felt like was boring stuff, like listening in on meetings the King was holding or attending lessons on history and politics. Arslan knew why he needed to know that stuff. He did want to be a good leader when he became King, but that wouldn’t happen for forever! The only interesting thing he was allowed to do was practice fighting.
Arslan thought he was getting better. The trainers didn’t correct him as much anymore, but he’d heard them comment earlier that he’d never be as good a fighter as his father since he had his mother’s willowy frame. He was going to prove them wrong in the future, but right now he could barely lift a real sword. It probably didn’t help either that he was always tired. He didn’t remember it being this hard to get to sleep before he moved into the castle. Here the sounds were different and Nanny wasn’t there to hush him back to sleep anymore when he woke up in the middle of the night (not that he needed her to, he was ten now). He was the crown prince now and Arslan knew that that meant he couldn’t stop practicing just because he was having trouble lifting the stupid sword.
Weeks and months continued to pass and it wasn’t until Arslan’s twelfth year that something changed.
Arslan had his favorites among the King, his father’s generals after watching them work with the King. Some Generals came and went, not being able to live up to the King’s demands. General Valphreze somehow was always able to fulfill the random demands the King gave though without offending him or appearing to strong and slowly became his second in command. He was Arslan’s favorite not because of his position, but for always having time to answer Arslan’s questions. Sometimes he would even slip him the occasional treat during long meetings. Then the King ordered General Valphreze to take Arslan under his wing and that he had two years to whip Arslan into shape, but if he failed ... The King didn’t need to go into detail. Arslan, as excited as he was to be serving General Valphreze, knew what the King’s unspoken threat meant and was determined to give the King no excuse to carry it out. He would go above and beyond what was required in everything. His first real mission wasn’t what he expected and didn’t make much sense to Arslan; he was to write down everything he remembered about his life before moving to the Castle. Arslan wrote down what he remembered and then went to turn it in to the General even though he didn’t really get the point of it. After turning in the paper Arslan attempted something with General Valphreze that he would never dare to attempt with the King for fear of being struck down. He asked a question.
“Why did you want me to write down what I remembered from before I became Crown Prince?”
General Valphreze paused and thought, staring at Arslan’s face for a bit before answering. “I need to know what you’re capable of before I can trust you with more complicated tasks. This was a good way to see how well you write and can put a report together.”
Arslan sighed. He’d watched General Valphreze for two years now and lived in the palace for the past four. He knew there was more to it than that. Still, a skill evaluation was needed and he could live with that partial answer. His life had changed in many ways after his assignment as General Valphreze’s servant. Now he spent his time following the General and helping when before he could only stand helpless and silent in the shadows. Arslan found himself blossoming under General Valphreze’s care and took great pride in the fact that he could anticipate the Generals requests before they were given. Rushing to and fro gathering materials and information for battle planning sessions, Arslan didn’t believe his life could get any better. And then Dariun was promoted to Baron Marshal and joined his Uncle occasionally at the Palace. Dariun was everything that Arslan wanted to be, handsome, popular, and more importantly respected by his uncle, General Valphreze. He was younger than the other Baron Marshals, but he’d proven himself protecting the border with Lusitania. Upon meeting his uncle’s new servant, the crown prince, he’d treated Arslan with respect and not reverence. He was even willing to help Arslan with his training if he was at the palace while the General was busy.
With fears about Lusitania attacking rising Arslan found himself working with Dariun more often. The General was often gone preparing the Palse army for war and Dariun had taken it upon himself to make sure that Arslan was prepared for his first time out on the battlefield. While Arslan knew all this practice was important and might even save his life, he was tired of practicing all the time. He couldn’t even get away at night, because even in his dreams he was moving and fighting. One night he woke up when he couldn’t find his sword and couldn’t go back to sleep until he’d inspected it to make sure that it was still in its place. Then came the day that all this work had been preparing him for, the king had called him into battle. He was fourteen years old and his first real battle would be an attack against the Lusitanian incursion into Palse.
The day didn’t start off well for Arslan. He had been charged with overlooking the plain where they would fight and the way it was covered in fog worried Arslan. It felt unnatural. Arslan commandeered a servant to take his worries to the King and then took a moment to gather his nerves. As crown prince he couldn’t risk falling apart on the field of war; he had to settle his nerves now. He would not, could not fail today. If he failed it would reflect badly on General Valphreze and Dariun and it would also mean his death. Either on the field of battle or at the hands of the King, his father, but it would come. The crown prince of Palse could not be a weakling. Nerves at the ready, he went.
Charging down the hill onto the plain Arslan soon found the battle swirling around him in chaos. The sound of swords meeting mixed in with cries of pain and death, combined with the fog disoriented Arslan and he swiftly found himself lost. Spying his goal in the distance Arslan set his horse in what he thought was the right direction and took off ignoring the bodies he was leaving behind. The next thing he knew he was freezing at the approach of a Lusitanian soldier. His training kicked in thankfully before he could be struck and his body knew what to do. Ducking down and hugging his horse resulted in the two soldiers attacking him striking and killing each other instead. Their blood fell on him as he rode through, but he could not stop to get clean.