I Ernil Ar I Káno
by Kurohane Shizumi

--Path 1--

Today was supposed to be my nineteenth birthday. However, the Second Káno, Ardan, had announced about a week ago that he would be retiring. That sucked. I liked Ardan. He was like a grandfather to me. I was happy, though, that he had taught me how to fight for the required year. You can't travel if you can't fight, my father would say. And, of course, it was my duty to go to the different cities and factions and 'travel' for my queendom. I really am not as bitter as I sound, though. I don't know if I could lead a country. And all Lótë ever does is study.

But getting back to today. They decided to have two ceremonies: my birthday party and the coronation ceremony to the new Káno. Lótë says his name is Faroth. "He's so handsome and young, Erion!" she squeals right in my ear. Apparently, he comes from the upper kingdom, Talath. My father found him and asked him if he'd like to serve for him. Faroth was an orphan and took a liking to my father. Needless to say, he said yes. Rumor has it that my father treats Faroth like a second son. I wouldn't know. I've never actually met him. So when he came here, my father trained him himself. When Ardan said he was retiring, my father thought of no one else.

I sighed. I was walking down a long hallway in our palace. A yell sounded my name."Erion!!!" a girl called. I turned. "Hmm? Lótë?"

"What are you doing? The ceremony's about to start! Come on!" she grabbed at my arm and tugged me along roughly. For a girl now four years younger than me, she was strong.

----

The Great Hall was grand and very much underway of the start of the ceremony. Ardan was standing next to my seat, which was next to my father. Aran Dolen. He stood almost seven feet —the tallest man in the Thildín palace— and was handsome. He had a model face with kind brown eyes and golden brown hair. He wore his Káno uniform, which was mostly black with sliver trimming and our Queendom's symbol in gold, with a sword at his side. He would swear in Faroth with it.

I walked up to Ardan.

"Elerio, Ardan."

"Elerio, Ernil."

"You don't have to use my title. You've known me since birth."

Ardan laughed a grandfatherly laugh. "That I have, Erion. You, nineteen; it's a little hard to believe."

I laughed. "I don't feel nineteen."

Ardan nodded. He understood.

Then there came a silence between us. I didn't know what to say. Have a nice life? See you around? I thought the first was a little harsh and the second I knew would not happen. This was goodbye.

Just then, blares of trumpets were sounded outside the Hall. I looked to my father who had nodded at me. I nodded to Ardan and took my place. Next to my father on his right was my mother and next to her was my sister. On my sister's right was Vàna, her guard. Mellon, my own, was shuffling next to Ardan now and I smiled at her. She nodded back and looked forward as the Great Hall doors were opened. People filed in and filled the seats. They all were cheering. My family and I smiled.

Once everyone was settled, my mother rose.

"Elerio, everyone!" her voice was strong and clear. Her silver hair had been done into an intricate style and her outfit was white with gold trimmings. Everyone cheered and settled. "Today is a big day for Thildín! My son, Erion, Ernil of Thildín, turns nineteen years today. And, as custom demands, we award him the Second Káno as his traveling guard in accordance to his yearlong training."

More cheering. "However," she continued, "Ardan, the Second Káno of Thildín, has decided to step down, and in his place," a silence dripping with anticipation, "Faroth of Talath!"

The crowd was still silent as my mother held out her right hand to the Great Hall's doors. They opened and clanking was heard as this Faroth walked. His sword was carried on his back and he was in his new Káno uniform already. Like me, he had shoulder length hair except black that came in whiffs. He was not smiling but he did not look sad. He was merely... concentrated, I realized.

When he reached the podium we were seated at, he descended on one knee and crossed one arm over his chest, his fist over his heart, his eyes closed. He did not move. My father, however, rose to his full height and silenced the crowd I did not even hear. But I listened then, to my father's clear deep voice.

"I, Dolen, Aran of Thildín, first Káno to Varda, Tári of Thildín," here he drew his sword, "I swear thee, Faroth of Talath," the flat side touched Faroth's right shoulder, "into the Thildín Palace," he touched his left shoulder, "as Second Káno of Thildín!" and the sword touched his head. Faroth did not move until my father's sword had been sheathed. He stood and when his eyes opened I saw that they were a bright ice blue. Fierce. My father spoke once more.

"Faroth of Talath, do you swear you're allegiance to Tári Varda and swear to protect Ernil Erion as Second Káno?"

For a moment, I thought he wouldn't speak. But then... then came the richest voice in the whole room. It was like the softest silk in the palace. And when he spoke my name I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck as if someone had blown in my ear unexpectedly.

"I will guard Thildín and Ernil Erion, to the death."

And my father smiled. I almost forgot to stand and go to him. I stood in front of Faroth and bowed, my eyes closing, my silver hair falling from behind my ears and covering my face. Faroth returned the bow with a lower one and the crowd cheered like mad.

And that was it... the coronation ceremony anyways. Now my 'party' began. It was simply a nobility dinner. I was required to greet and speak with everyone. I went off to do my 'duty'. Mellon was at my side.

I had known Mellon from the time I could remember. She was two years older than I, and more like an older sister than anything. I had always looked up to her. You see: every royal family member must be assigned a guard. My father, Dolen, looked after my mother, Varda, as her personal guard. He went everywhere she did. If she left the castle, my father accompanied her. Inside the city, apprentice knights accompanied us the children. The heir, who was Lótë, never left the city. So my mother had my father, First Káno of Thildín, and Lótë needed no extra guard. I, however, required a second guard. I was required to be the direct errand boy or representative of Thildín and that meant leaving the city. Since I could not have the First, the Second Káno was to be mine. There were Five Káno meaning five different Units. There were two sword units —one was a cavalry unit and one was an infantry unit, one staff or spear unit —included healers and offence, one was an archery unit, and the last was the dragon or wyvern riders —they also possessed magic which healed. My father was the Káno of the cavalry unit. I never remember which unit was what. I was supposed to have the second strongest man —that meant the Second Káno: Faroth of Talath. Or was that Thildín now?

Mellon braced my arm lightly and I turned to look at her questioningly.

"Where did Hir Faroth go?" she said, her head tilted to the side. She had her plum hair tied up in the back, it was a little longer than mine, and her bangs tilted with her. I shrugged at her question.

She whined. "Erion!"

I never required anyone to call me Ernil. I hated formalities. I laughed.

"What? I'm not his keeper and its not like we're married. Why should I care? And shouldn't you call him 'Káno Faroth' now?"

Mellon shook her head. "You're so mean! I wanted you to introduce me!"

I sighed again. Girls. "Lótë was talking the same way."

Mellon laughed. Then her mirth halted. "Oh. There's Híril Elena. She's from Deloth, right? Or was it Palan?"

"No, its Deloth. Oh, she's coming this way."

Elena was and had always been a bit of a pain to me. She always... I don't know... flirted with me.

"Ernil Erion!" she called singsong like, "Happy Birthday!"

That peeved me. Out of everyone, only Mellon and Lótë had said 'Happy Birthday' to me. And then Elena did, one whom I did not like in the least. I replied respectfully, "Oh. Delola le, Híril Elena."

"Oh Elena is just fine. You don't need formalities, Ernil."

I nodded but didn't agree. Elena then informed me on trivial matters and I moved on. By the time the 'party' had ended I didn't want to talk to my mother about what people said I just wanted to go to bed. However, when you're a prince, there's no sleep for the weary. I went to the Audience Chamber and greeted my mother. She had retired over an hour ago and my father with her. But she, of course, stayed up for my report. I gave it to her quickly and Mellon escorted me to my room, her's was right next to mine.

Then, all of sudden, he was there. Faroth. What a strong name. Faroth was walking in the opposite direction as us down the corridor. We stopped, as did he. He bowed to me with no need to bow to Mellon. She was under his rank. I nodded to him and Mellon elbowed me in the side.

I stammered as I spoke. "Uhh... Káno Faroth..." I began.

He blinked and stayed. Again came that silk voice speaking my name and the chills. "Yes, Ernil Erion?"

"Uhh..." I started with again, who could think straight with that voice?

"This," I continued, "is Mellon. She's my Palace guard."

He nodded at her and she bowed to him.

"It's very nice to meet you, Káno Faroth. I hope that one day I can become a Káno or a Kánath."

Faroth seemed to consider his words before he said, "If you try and you desire it enough, you will succeed."

It was the most I heard him say all evening. Actually, I realized I hadn't seen much of him at all.

"Ernil," he said, wakening me from my daze, "I was actually heading to your room."

I blushed. H-Heading to my room?

"W-What for, Káno?" I asked.

"Aran Dolen told me we should go over tomorrow's schedule."

"Schedule?"

He nodded. "We are suppose to 'get to know one another' as he put it. We ship out next week, after all, on your first journey."

"Right," I said a little sourly.

Mellon turned to me. "If you don't mind, I'm going to bed. Is that okay, Er—Ernil?"

I nodded and almost laughed. In front of a superior she had to call me Ernil but she almost slipped in front of the man she not only looked up to but also the man she probably liked.

----

He opened the door for me, like a maid, and let me in. We talked for a few minutes about times and then he got up to leave.

"Delola le, Ernil Erion," Faroth said.

"Le creso, Káno Faroth," I replied, "Namárië."

"Namárië."