The wailing notes of the bagpipes lingered in the air. Ivor, Crown Prince of Rivand gasped deep breaths. He grinned. “Did I pass?” He squeezed the words out.
The old man smiled. “You have. Shame you can’t pursue what could be a brilliant career as a master of music.”
Ivor bowed his head. His passion for music overshadowed the duty his birth order dictated. Alas, the spotlight wasn’t for him.
The bells of the town clock chimed ten times. Ivor scowled. “I’ll be late for my morning meeting with my twin.” He dashed from the music room and ran through the halls of the palace to the salle.
Moments later, he donned the protective gear and drew his sword from the sheath. Time to face his brother in another senseless match. He had no taste for the fighting life his twin savored.
The glee in his twin’s voice rasped Ivor’s nerves. He hated these forced encounters. As crown prince martial arts must be mastered so he could lead the troops of Rivand if the country came under attack by one of the neighboring princedoms.
He had learned the movements of the dance of the sword and had practiced until they had become automatic. Fighting was alien to his nature. He feared suffering an injury to hands able to play any instrument. He shuddered as other the possibilities arose. A head injury could destroy the melodies waiting to emerge. What if a lucky blow harmed his throat to make singing impossible?
Ivor scowled. Had they been switched during the hectic moments following their birth?
The shout accompanying
lunge pulled Ivor into the present. He tried to turn the duel into a real
fight. His brother’s blade neared his chest. Ivor froze. His sword flew through
Ivor nodded. “As usual.”
His body tensed. He stared toward the observation area overlooking the salle. Why was his father present during every defeat? He knelt with his head bowed.
“To my study now,” Prince Gregori shouted.
Ivor retrieved his sword and slid the blade into the sheath. His twin’s mocking laughter grated. Ivor’s hands clenched. He faced an angry tirade when all he wanted was to return to the music chamber and work on his latest composition, Lament for the Lost Princes.
The solstice was but three days away. On that date he would join the ranks of the vanished. Even now the moon moved toward full. Being lost seemed better than being the next ruler of Rivand.
He entered his father’s study and knelt at the feet of the ruling prince. He waited for the angry comments focusing on the qualities for his position as crown prince he lacked.
“Was there ever a time when you defeated
in a friendly match? You are Crown Prince. You must be first in all important
Ivor drew a shuddering breath. “What does how I perform matter? The solstice looms. The moon will be full. I will soon vanish like the other lost princes.”
Gregori scowled. “Your door will be guarded so there will be no chance you will leave. On the morning of the summer solstice you will marry. Your bride arrives tomorrow.” He lifted a stack of papers. “These will burn.”
Ivor recognized his compositions. “No!” Anger he couldn’t express tightened his throat. To speak would fire his father’s temper. Already his back burned with memories of floggings received for his failures to learn the skills needed by a crown prince. Acid rushed into his throat. He swallowed to keep from spewing.
“I rule here until I die. Then you will have your turn.” Prince Gregori shoved the papers into the fireplace and lit them with a glowing candle. “Tonight your instruments will burn. Rivand needs no music-performing fool as a ruler.”
Andros be your heir.
He’s better suited. Perhaps the midwife forgot which of us arrived first on the
day we were born.”
“Do not think to escape your duty. You are dismissed.”
Ivor bowed. “I hear.” He backed from the room. Rebellion stirred. How could he see the musical instruments that brought him pleasure be destroyed?
He scurried to the music chamber. His teacher stood with his hands to his head. “I couldn’t stop him.”
“I know. ‘Twas not your fault.” Ivor pulled the most valuable lutes, fiddles and lap harps from the shelves. He added a few reeds and brass horns to the collection. “Give these to your most promising students, the ones who can’t afford the best. My father plans to destroy them tonight.”
“To rule I must forsake music.” Ivor slid his favorite flute into the sheath with his sword, taking care not to scratch the silver on the gemmed hilt. “Go quickly.” He pushed a wheeled hand cart to the rear door.
The moment the teacher left Ivor opened the door into the hall. His twin pushed past him. “What have you done?”
“Gave some gifts to the worthy.”
“Father said all the instruments are to be destroyed.
Ivor glared. “Go tell him what I’ve done. Don’t fear. You will have my place.”
“What do you mean?”
“The lost princes. Remember the tales our nurse told us. They are true. Already I feel a need to leave the palace. I’ll be glad to be gone. Without music Rivand is no place for me.”