Chapter IIApparently my condition from that fight was worse than it looked and the regiment had to stay in camp a few more days than usual. This turn of events led them to miss the Great Hunt and as such the men were displeased, as far as I knew most blamed me for that turn of events. The rumors were that I was fragile and an incapable warrior. Not a good rumor about the one that someday is supposed to lead this men and decide their lives.
The Great Hunt was an annual event held two days before Hunters' Feast, which in turn was a few days before spring's first official day. The Great Hunt was a memorable event that only brought more glory and honor to a man if picked to be part of the hunting party. As the name explains, it was a hunt led by the King and large party of handpicked men to hunt game and bring it on the tables of Wolfhold for the Hunters' Feast. The Feast was to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring, it also commemorated those who ensured that food was put on the table no matter the harsh conditions. In a warrior-type of culture that we had, it was completely expected that such event would be marked with the killing of game. My problem was that the Great Hunt was exaggerating. It brought too much food that the garbage afterwards was predominantly composed of leftovers. I was glad I had missed it and would've been happier if my sister had battered me more so that I could not even be able to attend Hunters' Feast.
I was immediately brought to my daily routine of being a prince after the healer judged I was fit enough. It included mainly sparring with others and much less on desk studies such as reading and writing. Reading was my favorite part of my routine, it first involved a boring lesson from Wolfhold's scholar - Master Kelthyne but then would give us scrolls and books of his choice for us to study in solitude. Unfortunately, tonight was Hunters' Feast and I would not be having any other lessons than fighting. I wished it was the other way around.
After lying on my bed for much more than needed while contemplating the recent events, I stood up and extinguished the fire in my hearth before leaving the chamber. Luckily there were no maids ready to 'pamper' me, they would be busy for Hunters' Feast. As much as I knew my mother though, they would be tending to my preparation for the feast tonight. Her Imperial ways never faded even after all those years living here amongst the Free Men.
Speaking of the devil, I almost crashed into her on the steep stairs that led down towards the courtyard. My mother - Queen Leyiren - was dressed in a typical Imperial eccentric gown but with a hint of the Free Men's simplicity in clothing. My mother's Imperial way of life never seemed to falter. I guess Imperials were even more stubborn than Free Men.
"Maromir! You've overslept!" Her joy at seeing me was immediately replaced by her stern motherly tone. "The sun's already at its zenith."
"I know, mother. I still haven't lost my sight, you know." I said sarcastically to which she grimaced. She never liked me being sarcastic with her although she possesed the most sarcastic and sharp tongue throughout all the known lands.
"How is your head? Does it still hurt?" She approached me and started shuffling through the bandages that went around my head.
"It will heal." I told her solemnly, remembering my showdown with my sister and anger surged within my veins. "Where's Aethela, I have-"
"Are you stupid, boy? Are you daft?" My mother interrupted me sharply. Pain and anger mixed in her tone "Drawing a sword on your sister ?! That childish showdown you two had has already created a mix of discontent amongst some men. You'd be smart enough to evade your father until tonight when he's mood has bettered as well!"
I remained silent, my face was a mix of anger and shame. Gazing at her face, realizing how much I looked like her. If it wasn't the blue eyes of my father that I had inherited, I would've been complete male version of my mother.
"What else should I have done?? Let her humiliate me infront of the soldiers?" I asked plainly.
"You do not draw your sword on the blood of your blood, child." She lectured me silently and sighed. "Go now to your lesson, I still have to decide on what I am wearing tonight."
With that she left me to proceed outside in the courtyard of Wolfhold.
Outside it was bustling with activity, the gates were wide open letting endless columns of all sorts of people inside to gather for the Hunters' Feast. Amongst the mixed smell of everything from the smoke of the forge to the scent of sweet wine merchants brought, I could smell the coming of spring. Winter would soon be over. Overcrowded towns and villages would soon enjoy calmness when farmers and animal herders would leave to their huts in the wild.
I walked through the crowd towards where Winterhold's garrison practiced. Various people who were able to notice me struck their hearts and nodded back acknowledging them. I was in no mood of festivities, let alone manners. The battle yard, as it was called, was overcrowded with soldiers from other clans observing the skills at combat that their comrades from Wolfhold demonstrated. For soldiers, these massive gatherings like Hunters' Feast gave them the opportunity to their strength with each other. Sometimes one's pride was overwhelming and fist fights would occur.
"Attention! Prince Maromir!" Someone who noticed my arrival yelled through the ranks. The weapons clashing to where men were sparring halted and the crowd surrounding the battle yard moved so to create a corridor for me to pass through. All the men immediately showed respect and I passed through nodding. Was all this publicity necessary ?
I nodded once again so everyone could resume their activites and my eyes fell upon my mentor - Rally Master Haer Deathwalker. And his last name was not for show. Deathwalker was not a type of name that belonged to people that did not belong to a clan, neither was it the name of a clan. In Free Men tradition, orphans do not have last names until they achieve something of worth that names them or are described eventually by a characteristic they posses. Haer Deathwalker was named for the uncountable times he has been in the jaws of death but come out victorious. A man with bad temper that would've expressed it in the form of a powerful slap on my backhead was it not for the crowd of warriors that did not belong to Wolfhold. Despite of his reckless and furious nature the man did not lack wits. I exhaled a breath of relief, my head still ached from the encounter with my sister.
"You've arrived just in time for your lessons, my Prince." Haer spoke simply, no hint of sarcasm or displeasure. He was good in hiding the meaning behind his words, surprisngly for such a direct man as him. I completely understood what he meant and knew he was very displeased. Haer was a strict proponent of discipline. Something more of an Imperial trait rather a Free Men's. His physical characteristics were those of a complete Free Man.