The Old Dragon of Third Battalion

Darken Rahl was a young man with a sword in his hand. Some said he was a demon with a blade.

He was certainly both more and less than human when wielding an Agiel.

He was not yet Lord Rahl, but soon, oh soon he would be, for he had plans, great plans for the kingdom. For himself.

For his father.

Once he was strong enough. Once victory was certain. Then he would strike. Then he would kill. Then he would be safe from the man who boasted that his second son would kill the first.

"Is there no man here who will face me?" Darken called out to the watching soldiers of the Dragon Corp. He twirled his sword in his hand, loosening the muscles of his wrist as his last opponent was dragged from the practice court.

The fallen soldier would live. He would perhaps be crippled, but he would live.

"That is enough, Darken," Egremont, his guard and mentor in the ways of swordplay called.

No. It wasn't enough. It was never enough. It wouldn't be enough until no man could face him and win, until it was only by Darken's whim any of his opponents survived.

"You!" Darken pointed with his blade, holding up two fingers of his left hand to beckon to the man.

The soldier paled, but put his hand on his weapon, taking a step forward.

Egremont held him back.

"That is enough, Darken," he said again, softly, reasonably, soothingly.

Darken did not want to be soothed.

"I say when it is enough, Egremont," he narrowed his eyes. "Do you dare defy your lord?"

"You are not Lord Rahl yet, my prince," was Egremont's reply.

A hush fell over the practice court.

Face turning purple in his rage, Darken assumed a ready stance, calling out in a voice that curdled blood, "Then you will face me, Egremont! And let it be a lesson to you!"

Now the practice court exploded in whispers, for General Egremont was known as the Eagle's Talon, the Old Dragon of Third Battalion, the greatest swordsman to ever raise a blade under the D'Haran banner.

He was old, but he was legend, and it was just as likely that he would win the bout.

With a soft, sorrowful look on his face, Egremont drew his blade. And waited.

And waited.

At last, unable to take the waiting, Darken charged with a fierce war cry.

Egremont sidestepped, but did not attack.

Embarrassed, Darken charged again, only to meet air once more.

They turned and turned in a dizzying dance, and still Egremont would not attack. Twice he was forced to parry Darken's blade, but whenever an opening arose for a decisive end to the fight, he let it pass by. Soon the dark prince was soaked in sweat, breathing hard, and the old general seemed like he was enjoying a brisk walk about the palace.

At last Darken lunged, and Egremont twisted, locking his leg around Darken's overextended knee and yanking, throwing the young prince to the ground in a puff of dust.

When the air cleared, Egremont offered his hand to the boy.

Darken Rahl stared up at it for a long moment.

And then he took it.