Hey guys, its me Essence! This is a new story that I've been working on for two years now. Its become such an addictive hobby that the characters also seem real to me. (Hmm...that sounds kinda weird...). anyway, this story line is the pride and joy of my writing life. For any of you that are wondering, i do own it, so don't steal it. It may not be that good. (cut me some slack, I'm like 13!) but bare with me. This story is inspired by one of the greatest writers that ever lived! Yep, JRR Tolkien! I'm so obsessed with Lord of the Rings its kinda scary (when you can speak a made-up language you have reason to worry.) ;-) REVIEW PLEASE! Tell me if you like it, hate it, or anything!



by Essence of Hope

Rated: T (for violence)

Summary: In a war-torn land, the Crowned Prince quickly realizes that there are fouler things than death that mar his kingdom: Things that cannot be fought by sword nor bow...

Chapter One

A Calling of Fate

She kissed him softly, desiring nothing more than his touch, but he hardly responded to the display of affection. His mind was elsewhere, drifting as of as only it was wont to do under such stressing conditions. The woman who'd kissed him pulled back, concern marring her fair features. Her eye searched him over, checking for any injury he might've kept hidden.

"I'm uninjured, Anye," the man insisted. For now, he thought darkly afterwards. Anye looked skeptical as she didn't believe him. He'd proven multiple times that he was prone to find some kind of trouble.

"You are distracted, Amirroan," Anye pointed out. The High Prince of Lestelia shifted and Anye moved away from him, still wondering if she'd somehow aggravated an injury. He rolled his eyes good-naturedly, knowing her exact thoughts. There was no point in arguing with her now. If she insisted that something was wrong with him, then something was wrong with.

The two sat in the royal family's private parlor. The usual voices from outside the door did not sound, but the ring of commands was heard from beyond the door. The sounds of swords sliding into their sheaths made it clear that Corveca, Capital of Lestelia, was preparing for battle. That thought alone disturbed the prince, yet there was something else edging at his mind; whispering to him in a chilling voice. He did his best to push the voice away, but it would only return to him, louder than before. Eventually, Amirroan had given up even trying; it had started two days ago.

He leaned in and kissed her briefly before rising. "I'm quite aware, my love," he said as he made his way over to the counter where a tray of food sat untouched. Anye could only guess how long it'd been sitting there. The prince went straight for the bottle of wine that also sat on the tray, albeit that was not left untouched. The maiden could tell that he'd already had some, and more likely than not, shared a drink with the younger prince.

Amirroan brought the newly poured cup of wine to his lips when he felt Anye's slender hand curl around his own and pull the glass away. The prince sighed as though he'd expected as much. If he knew anything about the woman that he loved, it was the fact that if something was wrong, she would find out. End of discussion.

"Roan, tell me what's wrong. Please?" the woman pleaded; lapsing into the voice she knew the prince couldn't refuse. Roan shook his head and walked back to the couch, plopping down unceremoniously. He loved the private parlor, but lately he'd found not comfort in it, meaning that it wasn't rightly serving its purpose. He absolutely had to force himself not to look Anye in the eyes. He was a prince, and very few people could bend his will, but one look in Anye's stormy gray eyes and she could have him at her heels.

"You would not be happy with me if I told you," Roan warned as much for her benefit as for his own.

"I would not be happy if you kept secrets from me. I thought I was supposed to know you better than anyone," Anye crossed her arms and insisted. She was prepared to be as stubborn as humanly possible when the situation called.

"You're not my wife as of yet," Roan pointed out with the beginnings of a smile edging onto his face as if he were imagining. He couldn't help but think of the plans he had made since he'd first gotten to know Anye. It had not been love at first sight, but close enough.

Anye herself smiled. Yet. The word rang in her ears like music. Though they were not yet sworn together, both of them had come to realize that their lies and fates would be intertwined. Yet. That only meant she'd have to wait. Waiting was more than bearable.

"But if I am to be, then you might as well start practicing by telling me what's bothering you so. You've gotten this distant look in your eye that I can't explain. Even your brother and sister can see it. I'm surprised they haven't approached you about the same thing. Honestly, my Lord, you're not so hard to read as you think."

"So what would you say, hypothetically speaking of course, if I told you that every time I look at you I'm suddenly filled with dread; a foreboding shadow that enters my mind without my control?"

Anye stood stunned for a few moments, not even knowing how to respond, but the knowledge that she filled the prince with dread was like a blow to her heart. She unsuccessful tried to keep a hurt look from her eyes. She pushed stray hairs for her face and behind her eyes as she'd made a habit of.

"Roan, I…maybe I should go," she managed. Roan shot up and grabbed her arm just as she walked for the door. The following kiss would have been far more enjoyable if the feeling of dread would have left his heart, it didn't, but instead it grew the closer he got to the maiden.

"It's not that, my love, it's something different," he tried to explain. "I feel like something terrible, even fateful is going to happen. Not because of you, but concerning you. Perhaps it's not so much a dread as a warning."

"A warning for what?" Anye ventured, truly hoping that she wouldn't get a clear answer. In all of the tales of old, people who had these feelings were normally right; to the extent where things always go horribly wrong.

"I cannot tell you more; there's no more for me to tell. I just…have a feeling; one that I can't shake. But what I do know is that it pertains to this bloody battle on the horizon. Can't you feel it? It's like the very air is waiting to be disturbed. It's like fate is simply waiting to turn things for the worse. The feeling started three days ago, and I haven't been able to rid myself of it sense."

And then a smooth horn was heard for outside. The note was one and long; a scouting party had returned with news of the approaching enemy. Anye cringed, not knowing exactly what the horn blast meant. Roan couldn't help but find her position amusing. He'd practically learn all of Lestelia's horn signals when he'd learned his own name. Anye glared at him, wondering why he laughed.

"You worry so much, my love! It's simply a scouting parties' return. No call of the enemy sounds so fair."

Anye eyes dropped. "And so you must leave now?"

Roan nodded solemnly, dreading the moment just as much as she did. Always were their moments of goodbye depressing. I will make it so that there are no more goodbyes.

The picked up his sword from where he'd laid it again one of the tables and secured it to his belt. The transition from prince to warrior was never an easy one. Sometime he hated his own blade as much as those he cut down with it.

Roan and Anye stood in a loving embrace for few minutes before the prince withdrew. The feeling of dread had nearly overwhelmed him in those moments, but he wouldn't mention it for the maiden's sake.

"Be safe," she wished him well. Roan smiled and headed for the door, leaving a saddened woman behind him. But before he left, he felt some other urge pull at his mind. He turned back and took a highly adorned dagger from his belt.

"I want you to hold onto this. If worse comes to worse I…I don't want you unarmed."

Anye took it tentatively and held it in wonder. The hilt was studded in star-shaped diamonds, more than she could count. Drawn from its sheath, the blade was of obsidian. It was obviously made for show, but it would serve the role as a weapon if necessary. But beneath its beauty was a past as dark as the obsidian of the blade. Anye felt a chill run down her spine as she ran a more or less steady hand down the knife.

"I would never have you hold a blade if it were my choice, but times are trying. Keep it close, where you can reach it in a moment's notice," Roan instructed her. Anye nodded absently, her mind wondering who put so much beauty into a weapon.

"Oh, and please, don't lose it. Its worth is in more than diamonds."

"There is a secret of this blade that you're not telling me."

"Aye, there is. It's not something I enjoy remembering, but I force myself to. It would not do to forget," Roan sighed wistfully, remembering full-well the first time he'd ever held the dagger.

"What does this blade mean to you, my love?" Anye asked, looking him straight in the eye they way she knew he could not refuse. Roan sighed and answered hesitantly.

"That is the blade that was used to murder my mother."

Anye tried to force the prince to take it back, declaring that she couldn't possibly hold onto it, much less use it. The look of pure astonishment on her face would have made Roan laugh if he were not so serious.

"I won't take it back. Giving it to you feels right, my love. It's the first thing that has felt right in a long time."

"Then…then I'll take it for your sake," she yielded. "But I won't have need of it. When you return to me, I'll be waiting right here, unscathed."

Roan smiled and did one last thing before he left. He place in her hands his golden ring, the one he'd been presented with on his eighteenth year. Anye stared at it wordlessly before throwing herself into the prince's embrace once more.

"It is my promise," he whispered. And he was gone.

Nealios, Prince of Lestelia, was tired. Nay, not tired, fatigued. He could even remember the last time he'd lain in his bed. Even the thought made him more tired. His throat ached from calling out orders, his legs were stiff from sitting atop Dacris, his horse, all day, and his mind couldn't focus. All in all, he was a mess.

He was normally strong and fearsome, but constant preparation for battle could bring down the strongest of men. His orders started to contradict each other and he found his eyes closing at the oddest of times, yet still he was not ready to go and rest. There was too much to do, too many people to direct, barriers to finish, archers to ready, swords to—

"Neal!" a voice shouted. The prince jerked up in the saddle causing Dacris to rear on his hind legs. Neal was hard pressed not to fall off and embarrass himself in front of Corveca's warriors. By either skill as a rider or pure lucky, more likely the latter, he managed to stay put.

Just as he turned to glare daggers at the person who had called his name, Roan rode into the scene, grinning wildly. Even his mount, Arion, seemed to be on the verge of smiling.

"Brother!" Roan said, aware that all of the attention from the warriors was on him. "Your riding is excellent today! Have you been practicing?"

Snickers rose from the men. Away a ways, Treilom, General of Lestelia, stood with arms crossed, highly amused. The two princes were often times so like that they clashed. Treilom knew them both well, for he had helped to raise them when their mother had passed.

"Why yes, dear Amirroan, very diligently in fact. Yet I don't have to practice for a moment to best your skills." The men smiled openly, waiting for a witty comeback from the eldest prince.

Roan held his hands up as if in defeat. "Fine, alright, have it your way. But do not go crying to Father when Arion puts Dacris to shame." Arion reared and tossed his mane in pride while Dacris looked just as murderous as a horse could.

"Is that a challenge?" Neal growled. The men cheered, greatly entertained by their two princes. Treilom had no doubt that wagers were about to be placed.

"Perhaps," Roan returned with a sly smile.

"A challenge for another time, but a challenge indeed!" the general exclaimed, stepping into the ringed that the men had formed around Roan and Neal. The crowd mumbled and dispersed, leaving to princes grinning at each other as if they knew secret know one else could guess. Treilom shook his head.

"A small amount of maturity from you two would go a long way," he chastised them. They both put a hand to their chest and put on a shocked expression in unison.

"We?" they cried, their eyes full of mock-bewilderment. Treilom rolled his eyes.

"Anyway, welcome, Amirroan. Your brother has done much in your, err, absence. The scouting parties have returned and I have a report to hear. Will you be coming?"

Neal was cut off from answering by his brother. "Nay, General. We have just a few things to do before the battle back at the palace."

"No we don't," Neal protested with a curious look at Roan.

"Yes, we do," Roan urged. Neal looked indecisive and Roan sighed. "We'll be back, Treilom. Follow me, brother."

Roan rode off and Neal shrugged, happy to leave the scene of the upcoming siege if only for a little while.

Dacris dutifully followed Arion up the slopes of the city. The homes and buildings that they passed were currently being evacuated, and the people who resided in them moved up to higher levels of the city for the battle. There was fear on the faces of the children that they passed and on the faces of the mother's that led them. Both princes felt the weight of royal that instant; they knew that it was their job to keep these people, their people from harm, no matter what the cost. It would be a price worth paying to see the smile of a little girl when her father's returns from battle. War was a province only for the strong hearted; they wondered not for the first time why such responsibilities fell to their shoulders.

The palace yards were crowded with noble men and their families. Neal felt a familiar fire inside when he laid eyes on them. Why were they allowed to stay so safe when other men, more hard working men, had to sacrifice their lives? They sat around in their robes whiles other milled about in heavy armor, marching off to what was often impending doom. It was unfair to say the least.

Just as the palace gates came near, Roan swerve off to the left into a well-worn path. Neal's curiosity peaked and he rode on, fatigue for the moment forgotten. Roan could sense his brother's curiosity and sped up, eager reach their destination.

It wasn't until two minutes later that Roan slowed to a halt. He slid off of his saddle and Neal shadowed him, now more confused than curious. They were on the outskirts of the training grounds. The fields went for a few acres and were covered in lush grass. Even then there were warriors and young men sparring, shooting, and training on their own. The sight wasn't exactly comforting, but neither was it unusual.

"Come on, Neal, we don't have all day!" Roan called back from where he was already twenty paces ahead. The youngest prince shook himself out of his trance and followed behind. He rested his left hand on the hilt of his swords, feeling the need to draw it. He sensed no danger, but he'd been ambushed on the training grounds before; it was a memory that refused to leave him alone. He'd learned that 'twas better to be safe than sorry, or more accurately, assassinated.

Roan was neigh on bubbling over with excitement. The upcoming battle was only a shadow on his brilliant joy. He was hard pressed not to shout his news to everyone in eye shot, but no, he wanted Neal, his little brother, to be the first to know. And he would tell him in the only place that would do. The smile on his face widened at the thought of Neal's reaction. They were almost there!

Finally, the two brothers come into a small glade, devoid of any people other than the princes. In the middle of the glade stood a giant oak, towering over the brothers like a mighty mountain. Its branches were full and wide, spreading out as leafy wings. From the inside, the wind could hardly be felt, that's how full the tree had become over its long life.

"Come, Neal, to the top!" Roan said joyfully, already hoisting himself onto the lowest branches. Neal found that he was not far behind, swinging easily into the cover of the foliage. They laughed as memories flooded their minds. The tree was once their own fortress; they stowed away in its branches when they were but boys, desperate to escape a day's training. The tree used to become their very own palace, and they ruled the land from way up high. No matter what the oak became, it had always been more than a tree.

Roan and Neal climbed with sure feet. The path that they used to get up was so familiar, even if they hadn't used it sense they were boys. Neal made a rather daring leap and catch onto a branch three feet out of the reach of his arm. He swung himself over and onto the limb with a triumphant laugh, the smile on his face reluctant to leave.

They reached the top after their non-stop climb, and the view they were met with took their breath away. Stretched out before them was Corveca like few had ever seen it before. From so high up in the oak, everything was visible, from the palace to the walls.

"It's been far too long…" Neal whispered. Roan nodded from where he leaned against the tree trunk, enjoying the view.

"Aye, it has. I intend to show my children this tree one day, just like father showed us," the Crowned Prince mused.

"I have a feeling Anye wouldn't approve of their being up here. Remember that one time that you fell…" Neal teased and Roan grimaced, remembering full-well the incident. Dislocated vertebrae were not walks in the meadow, and neither were multiple weeks in bed.

"Oh, once we're married she'll change her mind," Roan assured.

"Ah. And does your fair maiden know of your plans?"

Roan rolled his wrist as though he were testing its motion before flexing his fingers experimentally. Neal look went from questioning to astonished when he finally noticed the truth. The ring that had adorned his brother's hand for five years was gone, leaving his left hand uncharacteristically bare. Neal would have tackled him right then and there if they were two hundred feet above the ground with nothing to break the fall but unforgiving branches.

"Roan, you…you're…"

"Betrothed!" Roan finally shouted, releasing everything he'd been holding back with a wild smile. The word was so satisfying that he felt nothing in the world could go astray.

"How…when, Roan, this is great!" Neal finally managed, flashing a bright smile of his own. A sister-in-law didn't sound so bad…

"Not a half-hour ago in the parlor," Roan announced coolly, feeling on top of the world in more ways than one. "I plan to tell everyone after the battle, and marry before the spring is through. What a celebration I'll make it!"

Neal's face suddenly dropped as the full extent of what he was hearing set in. His brother was getting married; what did that mean for him?

"What's wrong, Neal? Why are you so somber all of a sudden?"

"You're going to be married. Soon you'll sire my nieces and nephews. What does that mean for us? Is the adventure over?" Neal worried, and then cursed himself for voicing his concerns. He promised himself that he would not burden Roan with such worries when this day came.

Roan understood Neal's concerns as only an older brother could. "You're my brother, Neal. The adventures of brotherhood never end."

After a period of silence Roan moved to his descent. "Come, we've still much to do. And, I'd kind of like to be the one to tell Rayna." Neal chuckled softly, wondering what their little sister's face would look like. It was sure to be an entertaining moment.

Just as they reached the ground and started back, a blaring horn sounded. The note was deep and rough like the scraping of a sword against its sheath. Roan and Neal shared a knowing glance.

"Perhaps the battle will not last for long…" Roan's voice faded away. Neal gave a mirthless laugh.

"Something tells me that scouting party brought bad news," the younger said darkly before they both broke into a run. With luck, the battle would be over soon and wedding plans would soon be made.

Fate was not so kind.

Well? Reviews! I love 'em! Sorry about the grammar. Its really hard to edit actually...Just so you know, the next chapter is already written. All you have to do to read it is review...