Prelude:

Almost 6 years ago…

It was the lazy days of summer, when children would frolic in the fields until the stars and moon would give their light. The brothers romped about in the field at twilight, catching the sparkling wonders known as fireflies. Surrounded by gentle giants with their massive boughs, they were in the heart of the forest. There laid a circular clearing blanketed by ferns and moss where the fireflies on certain nights would come out to play. Troy, the youngest brother was merely ten at the time, with two years apart from Apollus; with Barbarius being the oldest at about 14. It was one of the last few blissful moments before Barbarius would no longer join them in their play.

"Barbarius!" his father called out to him. "Leave the fireflies alone for your brothers. You are too old to go chasing fireflies. You are going to leave your childishness behind you if you want to be king," he muttered gruffly.

"Very well father," he said rolling his eyes as he slowly kneeled down and placed the jar on the ground. He wistfully looked at them as he slowly backed away; slowly heading towards the dense foliage where his father waited. The two younger brothers found his jar and stared at it with wonder and envy.

"He has so many," Troy sighed.

"I wish I could take one," Apollus sighed. "Maybe I could borrow some of his."

Troy looked at the bugs all crammed in the jar as they crawled around each other or flew and hit the sides of the glass jar. With his small hands, he cautiously opened the lid, and then all at once they all tried to fly away at once. He was overwhelmed as the sparks brushed against his face as if they were angry for holding them captive, as the glowing sparks buzzed past him and up into the sky above.

"Close the lid!" Apollus shouted. Troy fumbled with the lid until it was closed again. By now most had escaped. In a last ditch attempt they tried to recapture them, but with little success. Before long they realized that Barbarius was gone and they needed to run along before they too were forgotten. Those were the times of innocence; a time of care-free bliss when laughter could be heard from the mouth of babes. A time of joy that could be seem…felt... heard...touched, and tasted with the all the senses that ran through them like water. Soon it would be left alone in the dark woods to be abandoned and forgotten, but only time would tell if they were forever forgotten.

To present…

Chapter 1: "Dark Rider"

"Troy, you want to race down the hill to the edge of the pasture grove," my friend Romeos said with a mischievous smile as we slowly rode our horses side by side. Everything always seemed to be a game to him; then again I was used to it by now. Although we were opposites, I had gotten closer to him than his twin brother Julius. One of the few things he was serious about was his goal to be admitted to the prestigious rhetoric school. That was where all the wealthy Roman and Greek fathers sent their sons when they would become men at 16 to become "well-versed" men. For me the world...well at least the island lay in front of me. However, I still answered to one person.

"I should be heading back, my father would kill me," I muttered.

"I can understand if you are scared of what your father would do. I am scared too," Romeos said jokingly. "Just do not think about it, we will get back before dark. Promise. Besides should not Apollus start coming back by now? Who knows maybe he could join us," he shrugged.

"I really do not think he would care. He has his own life and other responsibilities," I said as my eyes drifted to the expanse beyond.

"Like what?" Romeos quizzed.

"I will tell you when I beat you on the way down the hill," I laughed in his face as I pulled the reins and I was off down the slippery slope.

"Wait for me," Romeos called out. Before you knew it, we were both down the hill with neither one knowing what or who could await us there.-

I never felt as free as the exhilarating rush of cold air blew against my loose curls that lay cropped around my ears. I was riding Midnight, my new horse, across the dull browns and greens of the pastures that still lay damp from the cold rains. I could hear the swish of his hooves as he traveled to speeds that were unmatched. As the son of the king of Aegean, I felt invincible riding off alone as my friend Romeos departed for home.

"Faster, faster, faster boy," I shouted as he galloped towards the sunset. The radiant orange and pinkish sky that peeked through the massive clouds from the western skies filled me with wonder on that late winter morning. Here I was alone in the expanse of grassy pastures that would abruptly end where the cliffs sloped down to the sea. As the horse began to slow down, an eerie silence blanketed the cool air. Suddenly in the distance, I saw him. A person with a hooded black cloak riding a black horse appeared across the horizon. It was too far to see his face, which was shrouded in mystery from the hood of his cloak. Who is this? Is this Apollus or Romeos trying to pull a practical joke? I firmly pulled the reins to stop Midnight from venturing any further, as I waited to see if the dark rider and his horse would pass. They saw me and now they were slowly creeping closer.

"Who are you?" I called out. "There is no more need for practical jokes." An unsettling silence occurred as I realized it was not them.

"It is not safe, boy," I whispered in Midnight's ear. "It is time to go back home." As the horsemen galloped closer, I noticed a long sword in his sheath. He did not come in peace. It was growing dark outside and I was a ways from home. Fear set in as the cold breeze left me shivering in my cloak.

"Okay Midnight, we have to head back home, it is late!" The rider and his horse galloped faster, and faster, and faster!

"Go!" I shouted, yanking the reins with all my might. With a jerky start Midnight galloped, kicking up dust as he ran. The horse and his rider were closing in and I was left defenseless with no weapons on hand!

"What do you want from me?" I shouted. "I have done nothing!" Swish! His blade cut the air as he lunged at my head. I ducked low on the horse as I continued to pull on the reins to speed up.

"Go faster; faster!" I shouted in anguish. Midnight madly galloped towards home as I could see the gate quickly approaching. The wind was blowing hard against my face as I was in a chase of my life. The "dark rider" began to swing at my horse.

"Swing left," I shouted while yanking the reins. Midnight sharply tried to distance himself from the rider. As I looked back to see how much distance we had surpassed, I was almost face to face with the rider. There I saw his light grayish eyes peeking out the darkness of the hood. He had also swung left and if I was going to outsmart him I had to trick him. Silently, I steered the horse making a sharp right to the south gate.

Slash.

The horse went berserk. He slashed the tail of the horse as he came charging at our house at an angle. I panicked as the horse was romping about in pain violently. What about the gate?

"Someone open the gate please!" I screamed. Sweat dripped down my face as I struggled to hold on to the loose reins. A slave that was out in the field heard my cries and ran to the gate.

"Open the gate! Someone is chasing me! The horse…it is hurt… just please hurry!" As he ran to the gate, I realized he would not open it in time. At the last minute, I pulled the reins to signal him to jump. As the horse lifted in the air, and the gate door swung open, the back legs of the horse kicked against the gate. It was as if everything happened so quickly, as my life flashed before my eyes. The horse fell over and I finally lost my grip as I fell hard against the earth. And everything went black from there_