The lining of the road out of the hold, the impressive safekeep of the northern empire, was a usual occurrence when the banner and its warriors rolled out, but the calling of a new horde was something which hadn’t happened for thousands of years, so today all were out to witness it and there was a carnival air to the morning. He could feel the anticipation of the people around him as he reached the gate, where his father, brother and mother stood, proud but yet sombre. His father stepped forward.
“Teo Lionsmayne, first Lord of the Horse, you are here today and claim no banner, no allegiance to any horde, and so you must walk as a nobody with no allegiance in the North. You are hereby stripped from my horde, stripped from my keep, and no person here or anywhere in the North will admit you entrance until you find a banner to ride under once more.” Teo felt his mouth drying as the final words boomed out, in a crescendo down the long street. He looked at his father.
“I understand; by the ancient laws of our creed, and by my honour I vow not to sully my own name or the name of my people,” he responded.
“Teo, don’t go!” A small, light voice pricked the stillness and seriousness of the occasion. Teo turned to his right, connecting his sharp blue eyes with the brilliant light blue eyes and beautiful features of his younger sister.
“Scarlet,” he smiled, striding over to her with as much levity as he could muster.
“My sister, look at you,” He felt his heart warm. He hadn’t been sure he would be able to see his sister before he left. “How does your training go?” he asked, trying to lighten the dark mood of the event around them.
Scarlet smiled a broad beaming smile and roughly hugged Teo around his chest, her thick black hair smelling of jasmine underneath his nose.
“Don’t go!” she pleaded. Her muffled voice reached out and pierced, like a dagger, through the thick folds of his coat. “I have to, Scarlet, trust me, there are things and creatures and horrors that you can’t even imagine, and I have to do this.” Scarlet’s bright eyes shone up from the folds of his coat, making Teo’s heart clench.
The knowledge that he may never see either of his siblings again was a painful thought. “Trust me, I will be back.” Teo smiled down at her as he slowly untangled the young girl from him, pushing her back gently to her tutor behind. He turned back to his father and mother, acutely aware of the muffled sobs of his sister behind him, to see his brother Jai smiling a wicked smile only a brother could understand.
Teo reached out, gripping his brother’s outreached arm in a tight warrior’s grip, as they always had.
“Don’t get yourself killed out there,” said Jai. “And I don’t want to hear that the first Horse Lord we’ve had for millennia died of thirst.” Jai’s laugh helped to alleviate the dark mood as a few of the warriors around chuckled at his remark too.
“I shall try not to, for your sake, brother!” Teo smiled back, closing his younger brother into a tight hug. “I would ride to your banner as soon as you unfurl it, you know that,” Jai whispered. “I know, Jai, I know. I wish you were older, I would gladly accept you as the first sword to my call – but, brother,” Teo paused as he extricated himself from his brother’s grasp.
“You will ride under your own banner. You may even command this horde one day. I would rather have you at my side as an equal.” Tears were visible in the corners of his young brother’s eyes. Teo looked around; he could see the same glisten of tears replicated in Lady Sophia’s eyes. His mother reached out and hugged Teo tight. “Look after yourself, my child, you do us proud,” she whispered. Teo forced himself to hold a neutral face, in spite of the feeling that his heart was to be pulled out from him. Will I ever see my family again? he thought, as he questioned his judgment in doing this.