Flight of the Eagle

Prologue

Bergen, King of Arnia, looked out at the once fertile lands of his country from his balcony; currently, the only abundant things in his land were warriors and blood. Battle cries echoed throughout the plains, and in the distance, soldiers – clothed in Arnia's blue and Abkhaz's black – clashed on a battlefield littered with bodies. To the king, the corpses looked like grotesque dolls, dressed in armor, weapons still clenched in a deadly grip that would never loosen again. From the castle, Arnia's flag, a golden eagle on a background of royal blue, fluttered in the breezes, slightly tattered.

The king's thoughts flitted to his enemy. Abkhaz, where are you? Why are you doing this to my people? We never harmed you.

The war had been the first war that Arnia had fought in over a century. The previous war had been with a savage, vicious tribe in southern Arnia who attacked the citizens of Arnia; Arnia had retaliated and emerged victorious.

Bergen was not sure if they would be conquerors this time. He pondered the thought as he again looked out into the expanses of the battlefield. His warriors were prevailing, but they were tiring, and Abkhaz's army still fought.

He ran a weary hand through his short hair, his young face lined with exhaustion. What will we do if we lose? What will happen? We're not going to win, not this time.

His conscience mocked him. It's all your fault, this mass slaughter. Why did you let it happen?

He stood at the balcony for countless minutes, his mind tormenting him with images of villages being burned, innocence lost as children, their hope for the future, were murdered. Fatigue clouded his eyes as he leant against the rail, holding it as if for support, as if he couldn't bear anymore, as if he'd given up on life. His eyes were wet with sorrow.

Everyone's looking to me for an answer; and this time, I don't have one.

Shuffling across the stone floor, Bergen looked around the room. To others, it was splendor they lusted after, and would pay – or kill – to have. Others only saw the glory, the power, never noticing the sacrifices, the hardships their monarch suffered through, uncomplaining, to aid his country.

He could not fault Abkhaz, and others, for desiring power, indeed, power was a drug, addicting and exhilarating. Bergen had to admit that he enjoyed the power he had, though he tried to use it for good rather than evil.

Looking in the mirror placed over his bedside table, he noted that, though he was in his middle thirties, his dark hair already had streaks of gray. His face, the one he knew so well, stared back at him, reflected in the polished metal, yet it was so different from the faces of his wife and son.

He looked down at the bowl placed on his bedside table with a tender smile. The chubby hand of a green-eyed child clung to the slim fingers of his wife. Both looked utterly happy. He'd paid the mage a fortune to create it, but memories – memories were so important.

My queen, my son, where are you? Did you escape? At his urging, his wife, taking their two-year old son with her, had left the castle, seeking shelter with a nearby lord.

You'll be safe there. He hoped so.

"Your Majesty," a mocking voice came from behind him. Bergen whirled around, his hands instinctively grasping the pommel of the sword strapped to his belt. Abkhaz stood behind him, dressed in dark splendor, a ruby ring glittering on his finger.

Contrary to the king's appearance, Abkhaz was in the best of health, his skin a healthy tan. The man was dressed completely in black, which flattered his looks, or so he thought. His dark hair, combed back neatly, was oily, and his sinister eyes glittered beneath bushy eyebrows.

Standing behind him were thirty warriors, armed to the teeth and ready for combat. Though they were no more than assassins and thieves, they were ruthless fighters and merciless murderers.

"You won't need that sword," the well-spoken man continued. "Just think, if we fight, one of my mercenaries here" he gestured towards the warriors behind him, "might accidentally kill you. We don't want that, do we?" He gave the king a contemptuous smile.

The king voiced the question he had reflected upon earlier. "Why are you doing this to my people? We never harmed you."

Abkhaz replied with an ominous sneer, "But you did."

The king looked at him. "How?"

The smile left Abkhaz's face. "You slaughtered my people."

The sudden sound of a distant voice calling interrupted their quick exchange of words. "Your Majesty! My lord Bergen! Where are you?"


"Bergen! Where are you?" Feladin of Arnia was a close friend of King Bergen. He searched frantically through the king's castle, calling for his comrade.

The two had met when they were young, and when Bergen had been crowned, he had made Feladin a duke, and bestowed land to Feladin along with the title. For this, the duke would be forever grateful; he now had a place to live and raise a family.

He continued searching through the castle, desperately, anxiously, for the king, his closest friend.


Abkhaz whispered a word, black fire glittering at his hands. The king eyes opened wide in agony, his mouth gaping in pain, though no sound escaped him. He would not give Abkhaz the pleasure of hearing his scream.

Abkhaz nodded to one of his mercenaries, who bound the man up easily. The group left as quietly as they had arrived, slinking through the castle with the grace of cats.

Thoughts of the king's wife and son entered Bergen's mind, flitting out just as quickly when a quick blow turned Bergen's world into murky darkness.


On the battlefield, the tide had turned. Rivers of blood flowed freely, the field littered with bodies, forgotten and discarded, dead, or left to die. Horses screamed in pain as they fell, their riders falling with them, crimson marring the blue of the uniforms. With a yell of triumph, more warriors – dressed in Abkhaz's black – leapt into the fray.

Unseasoned soldiers gazed at the field with horror. They hadn't imagined battle would be like this. One of them watched another fall, his horse slipping on the blood of both friend and foe, then turned away.

Bergen's general shouted, "Where's the king?" A corporal replied, his eyes scanning the battlefield, "I don't know, sir," before quickly attempting to block a blow from an enemy soldier. He was too late.


Music, golden, quavering notes that floated like dust in the breeze, went unnoticed by all but one, muffled as it was by the cries of agony from the battlefield.

He listened to the melody with a scowl, and a growing dread settled like a rock in the pit of his stomach.

Then he turned and left the castle, a wraith flitting out under the cover of shadow. Nobody noticed his departure.


A lone pair of eyes gleamed in satisfaction as it watched a golden eagle, barbed arrow jutting out of its feathers, its wing bent at an awkward angle, plummet from the sky.