This could be the last time he walked and laughed in the halls of his ancestors and along the streets of his people. “It is now or never,” he muttered to himself, forcing his feet forward as he walked the long gauntlet past his people, in the tradition of ancient times.
The lining of the road was a usual occurrence for when the banner of the hold and its warriors rolled out but, today, the calling of a new horde was something which hadn’t happened for thousands of years so all were out to witness it. Teo 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 nor the name of my people,” Teo replied. “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!” Teo smiled, striding over to her with as much levity as possible “My sister, look at you!” Teo 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, like you always have.” Teo smiled down at the young girl as he slowly untangled his sister 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. “Brother,” Teo reached out, gripping his brother’s outreached arm in a tight warrior’s grip, like they always had. “Don’t get yourself killed out there. 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, a few of the warriors around chuckled at his young brother’s 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 number.” The spring of tears emerged in the corners of his young brother’s eyes and as Teo looked around he could see them replicated in Lady Sophia’s. 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, despite his heart feeling as if it were to be pulled from him Will I ever see my family again? thought Teo as he questioned his judgment to do this. “My son, my eldest, you’ve already displayed so much honour to make a father truly proud.” added his father.