The sun's receding rays filtered their way through the numerous boughs of the trees. The forest was settling down for the night; birds flew back to their perches, ground creatures returned to their holes or hollows. But the fading day did not catch the attention of two in the wood. A small songbird was flying to the safety of a high branch and happened to catch a glimpse of the pair below. As a matter of fact, they were Glimpses. And wonder of all wonders to the small mind of the bird, they were mirror images of each other. The little singer cocked his head at them and flew up to a higher branch. The Glimpses stood on either side of a great tree. The look of youth still clung to their faces, but a held a maturity nonetheless. Each had light brown hair pulled tightly back, and intelligent blue eyes. Both had a bow with an arrow strung and ready to spring forward. A target was attached to another tree a great distance in front of them. The Glimpse on the left side of the great trunk nodded his head forward.
"Alright. First shaft to the center wins. And Nock, try not to split the target this time." The Glimpse to the right huffed mockingly.
"Come now, Bolt. You know that was not my fault, but the efficiency of the Blackwood shaft. But that is beside the point. Ready?"
"Ready," replied Bolt. "On the count of three. One...two...three!" The words were barely out of his mouth before the two arrows shot forward and struck with a thwok into the target. The twins ran forward to examine their handiwork and determine the winner. But when they got there, they found two arrows stuck into the trunk of the tree, and the target...or what was left of it, in two jagged pieces on the ground. Bolt looked slowly from the shattered wooden target at his feet to the face of his brother and raised an eyebrow. Nock guiltily half smiled and shrugged. Bolt shook his head and pulled the arrows from the tree.
"Now that you have obliterated 5 targets in the space of 3 hours, I say we call it a day. There's a lot left to do before we go." The grin on Nock's face faded. He looked around at the great trees of his homeland of Yewland and sighed. "I wish we had a little more time. Tomorrow seems far too soon," he said quietly. Bolt looked into his brother's eyes, expecting to hear more.
"Don't mistake me, I feel it a great honor to be invited to Alleble. Not everyone is chosen to train for a place among the Elder Guard. But it is hard leaving the land of one's birth and childhood to journey to a new place, not knowing if we are ever to see our home again." A sudden sadness washed over Bolt's face that puzzled Nock. True, leaving Yewland was a bittersweet experience for both of them, but there was a hint of another emotion that Nock couldn't identify hidden beneath the sadness.
"Yes," said Bolt. "It will be difficult leaving behind our home and...our friends." Nock caught the slight hesitation in his brother's voice. Bolt noticed Nock eyeing him and his expression perked up. "But think of it this way." Bolt put an arm around the shoulder of his twin. "An exciting new place and lifestyle to explore. New people to meet and friends to make. And above all else, we will everyday be in the presence of our King. We go to protect and serve Him, and to do His will." Nock smiled.
"You are right. He is the reason we leave, and what a reason it is! How do you always know what to say and when to say it?"
"It is a gift," Bolt said with a sly grin. "Now, let's be off."
"Agreed," replied Nock. "We don't want to be late for our own farewell banquet. Queen Illaria was very kind to hold it, was she not?" Again, that queer look in Bolt's eyes.
"Yes," he said almost absently. "She was."
"Come then!" Nock yelled heading off into the woods at a sprint. Bolt quickly followed and they disappeared into the forest.
"Honored guests and friends," the Queen's voice silenced the many voices around the dining hall of the Castle of Yewland. The large table was set with a variety of foods and dishes only found in that land, and every guest had as much Golden Tear as they could drink. Nock sat at her left, Bolt to her right. Illaria stood and held her glass of the precious drink high. "Tonight we come here to honor and farewell two of Yewland's most valiant, who have been called to the kingdom of our allies in Alleble to become new members of the elite group known as the Elder Guard. Though we are saddened by your leaving us, we are honored to have two so worthy as you rise to such prominence. May you be victorious in battle, and win great glory. And may you not forget the land of your home." She then lifted her glass high. All stood and did the same. "Honor and love," she called out.
"Peace and glory, go with you," replied all the voices in the hall. Then every glass was sipped and all were seated again. Only the Queen remained standing.
She nodded to an attendant at the side of the room and he came forward, bearing an item under a velvet sheet. When the cover was pulled away, all at the table gasped. The Royal Chalice was the whisper that ran down the table and back again. The Royal Chalice was created for the first ruler of Yewland. Designs of many interwoven vines and trees traced across it, and dotted about these were Moonblossoms and Golden Tear flowers. It was truly a beautiful vessel. A ruler presenting a common Glimpse with a drink from that Chalice was considered the highest honor in all of Yewland. The twins looked wide eyed at each other in unison, then back to the Queen. Illaria filled the Chalice with Golden Tear and then held it aloft.
"To Nock and Bolt, who have been two of my most loyal subjects, faithful servants, and greatest friends." Nock noticed the same odd expression Bolt had shown just barely light on the Queen's face before it fled. Together the twins stood and inclined their heads, once again in unison, to Illaria. She passed the Chalice to Bolt first, then to Nock. Then the cup was returned to the attendant.
"And now," said the Queen in a loud voice, "let the feast begin!"
It was dark by the time the farewell banquet ended. All the guests had left, but Queen Illaria had asked that Nock and Bolt stay behind. They now stood on a balcony overlooking the sleeping land of Yewland. The moon was barely visible through the trees, but it cast its misty glow down on the three. Illaria stood with her back to the twins, looking down at her kingdom below. Then she turned. And for a moment, Nock thought he caught the faintest glimmer of tears in her eyes. But when he looked again, they were gone. She took a deep breath and sighed.
"I truly am sorry to have you both leave Yewland. You will be sorely missed by many…including myself." She paused and cleared her throat, her eyes glinting green in the darkness. "So," she continued, "I wanted to give you something to remind you both that if you should ever return here, you will be welcomed back eagerly. And as a final token of my...appreciation…" She left the balcony and returned. With her she brought, resting upon a cushion, two silver circlets. One by one, she placed them upon the heads of the twins. Together they inclined their heads towards the Queen, a heavy silence settling on the scene. The three faces that looked at each other were filled with a deep sadness. Then in their usual fashion, the twins replied in unison.
"Thank you, my Queen. We are honored at your kindness." This time tears were definitely visible in the eyes of the Queen.
"Farewell," she half whispered.
"Farewell," the twins replied.
The two were just leaving the castle gates behind when Bolt suddenly stopped in his tracks.
"What is it?" Nock inquired. Even in the dark, Nock could see his brother looked more flushed than usual.
"I've forgotten something," he stammered. "You go on ahead. I shall catch up. Do not wait for me!"
And with that, Bolt turned and raced back towards the castle. Nock watched him go, saddened for his twin. The two had been good friends with the Queen since they had been very young, but Bolt had always been the closer of the pair. Nock sighed quietly and began walking back to their home alone, wondering what his brother could possibly have forgotten.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. Everything was a lively shade of green, and the woods were filled with unique sounds. Nock and Bolt drank it in and soaked it up. Two white dragons had been sent from Yewland Castle to aid them in their journey to Alleble. A good night's sleep had helped eased the pain of leaving their home, and the prospect of a new experience before them was very inviting. Nock slung his bow on his back; Bolt did the same. They loaded the few things they had decided to bring and mounted. They walked their dragons to the platform edge and had a last look at the land of Yewland, their home. With one command, the dragons took to the air and soared upward. Within moments they were above the tops of the trees, the wind rushing towards them, the forest rushing behind. It would be a change for sure, living in a cobblestoned city that they had never been to, but it would also be exciting to have to learn new things. Urging their steeds forward, an unspoken agreement passed between them. Accepting this new station in the city of the King would be a grand adventure indeed.