1. AN HONORABLE BIRTHDAY
“Dani! Slow down!” Camilla, the beautiful fifteen year old princess of Halthran said while galloping on a royal mustang.
Ahead of her ran Danilan Halthran, the middle sister at nineteen.
“If I slow I lose my horse, Camilla!” Danilan explained.
“If you slow you lose Lilly’s horse you mean,” Camilla said.
“Right. Which is why I better catch up to it, don’t you think?” Danilan said and found a burst of speed. She raced ahead to the mustang, running her right hand along its back. After a second of running even with it she powered ahead slightly and grabbed the mane with her hand, pulling herself on the steed. The horse bucked at having a rider but Danilan wrestled it into submission and made it trot to her sister.
“That was awesome!” Camilla gushed.
“That was rather good, wasn’t it?” Danilan laughed, catching her breath.
“We’re not going to tell Lilly about this are we?” Camilla said.
“No, we are most definitely not,” Danilan replied as the two of them took off for the palace located three miles away. “We’re just going to return these horses to the stable and go wash for dinner. I hear Honorable Ringwald has ordered three cows killed for tonight.”
“I hear the best wine from North Xandra was brought in as well,” Camilla said.
“Not that you’ll get any of it, Camilla,” Danilan said while laughing.
“You won’t either, Mother forbade it,” Camilla shouted.
“But Father didn’t,” Danilan winked.
“You!” Camilla yelled while kicking her mustang. Soon she was a hundred yards in front of Danilan, who was struggling to keep within sight of her little sister.
“Slow down, Camilla, it’s dangerous out here!” Danilan shouted.
“Dangerous? We’re a mile from the palace!”
“There’s game out here! This is a hunting trail!” Danilan shouted again.
“It is not, Dani! Oh my God, Dani!” Camilla shrieked. Ice jolted into Danilan’s blood as she kicked her steed as hard as she could, barreling towards her sister. Chasing her younger sister, Danilan could see, was a massive cougar. Danilan grabbed the handle of the knife she kept at the small of her back and flung it forward with a skilled hand. An ear-splitting screech echoed through the valley and the animal fell. Camilla rode past Danilan and then turned to follow her. Danilan stopped her horse and dismounted. She walked up to the cougar and knelt beside it. The knife had entered at his neck, its handle was now stained with blood. Carefully, she wiped the blade off and sheathed it.
“Are you alright?”
Camilla nodded at her sister’s fierce gaze, their identical green eyes locking. Before Danilan could rein in her temper she stood and grabbed her little sister by her shirt and shook her violently.
“Don’t ever scare me like that again! I told you not to ride off, Camilla! Do you think I tell you things for my health? Do you think I like hearing myself speak? What if I hadn’t been here?” By this point Danilan’s sun-kissed skin was blotchy red and tears were coming, unbidden, from her eyes. She wrapped Camilla into a hug that nearly crushed the terrified fifteen year old.
“I’m sorry, Dani,” Camilla said, muffled by her sister’s embrace. Danilan pulled back and stared at her sister. She was gorgeous, the perfect combination of their parents. Ellilian was the image of their mother and Danilan of their father but Camilla had gotten it right. Danilan squeezed her eyes shut when she imagined what her sister would’ve looked like after the cougar was done.
“Ride on to the college. Tell them that there was a cougar on the loose and that I borrowed Lilly’s horse to hunt it down.”
“Okay,” Camilla mounted her horse in one fluid motion and wiped her eyes.
Danilan sat down on the grass, mentally kicking herself. Yes, she had kept her sister from sure death but a true leader would not have allowed one so young to be out on the game trails in the first place. Had the Royal Guard taught her nothing? You always protect those weaker than you!
But this isn’t my land, Danilan thought. I cannot keep Camilla from doing a thing in this country, especially not on the night of Honorable Ringwald’s birthday. Danilan nodded and forgot her shame at nearly losing a sister. Soon however, she was wishing that her other sister would just shut up.
“You stole my mustang!”
“I did no such thing!” Danilan yelled in the stables as Elillian rubbed her horse down.
“You took our fifteen year old sister with you to kill a cougar? Please, Danilan, I know you better than that! You and Camilla were playing around and racing and a cougar attacked Camilla, correct?” Elillian said, her blue eyes locking with Danilan’s green eyes.
“No wonder you’re on leadership council,” Danilan said.
“Well, you two are rather predictable,” Elillian said while walking over towards her sister in the stable. “I don’t understand you, Danilan. You’re the strongest athlete this planet has seen, and you’re the quickest study the military has. And yet you take our sister out into a death trap!”
“It was an accident, Lilly. I nearly killed her myself after it was done,” Danilan growled, allowing her temper to rise again. Elillian caught her tone and relaxed.
“Alright. I know you would never intentionally lead her to danger… Sorry.”
“Accepted. Now, can we please go inside and get ready for this party? I’m starved and I haven’t had a night off since I joined up.”
“Of course… How is life in the Royal Guard anyway?”
“Busy… Some new developments have come up so they have us training double…” Danilan stopped talking and rubbed the horse’s mane absently.
“Wouldn’t have anything to do with the new inhabitants on the next planet, would it?”
Danilan’s head snapped around in shock.
“Relax, I’m on the Leadership Council remember?”
Danilan turned back around and trembled. Their parents had come here for freedom and had nearly died for it in the Great Battle. Now she was shaking over the fact that the same enemies were a planet away. Ellilian read her sister’s thoughts and touched her shoulder.
“The World Order will not soon forget their major offensive weapons being decimated. Nor having one thousand of their soldiers killed in an hour,” Elillian said. “You worry about nothing. Now let’s go get washed for the celebration.”