The excerpt is rough and unedited. I just didn't have time. Hopefully it's not too terrible. ^_^
Prince Valiant flinched. The bark of the tree next to him exploded, the splinters embedding into his exposed skin. That his pursuers weren't trying to actually kill him was little comfort as he gasped for breath and pushed off the tree he sheltered behind and ran as fast as he could. His energy was flagging but if he pushed himself a little harder he might be able to make the field where more of his men waited with the gliders.
The babe he clutched to his chest hadn't made a sound since Prince Valiant had picked him up. Had the child died, making this escape through the forest unnecessary? His keen hearing saved him once again as he ducked and spun left. The stunner blast missing him. Had all of his bodyguards fallen to the Elffin ones of Nella? He heard those behind him but he couldn't risk stopping and checking to see if they were there of if the Nella people had succeeded in removing them.
He couldn't believe he was running through the Jade Forest from his wife's people. The Elffin ones were a peaceful race. The marriage between his people, the Chandarians who represented the Pantherine and the Felinean races, and the Elffin ones of Nella who represented the Edrijan country, was an age old tradition that began with a peace treaty. Prince Valiant wasn't in love with Talia of Nella, Keeper of the Jade Forest, but he'd been fond of her and valued her friendship. That she became pregnant within the first year of their nuptials was considered a good sign from the Gods. On the eve of the birth of their child, they'd left the capital of Wuxbury and traveled to Talia's homeland so the babe would be born near the forest.
All had gone well, or so Prince Valiant thought, until the babe was born and Talia's attendants fled the room wailing in sorrow. He'd been waiting in the hallway outside the chambers, anxiously waiting for word of his first born when Talia's attendants burst for the room and brushed by him in their haste to leave. Heart squeezing in his chest, he rushed into the birthing chamber, sure the child had passed through the veil only to discover the boy alive, whole and seemingly hail.
"No, Valiant. Don't touch him." Talia choked, her hand held up beseechingly. She was propped up on a mound of pillows in the bed, her face lined and drawn, ravaged by grief, and her cheeks painted with her silver tears.
He glanced back into the bassinet, and the boy's unusual gaze caught and held his. His unnaturally gray eyes were encircled by a brilliant red ring matching the crimson color of his already thick mane. Other than the boy's coloring, pointed ears, and the slightly tilted angle of his Elffin shaped eyes, the babe had Pantherine features. Retractable claws, ridges down the bridge of his nose, and a long slender tail was evidence of Valiant's side of the family.
Valiant sensed the power of an alpha with his son, which pleased him mightily. But he also felt something else stir in the boy. Eyes widening, he glance back up to Talia, the pride he felt was evident in his voice when he said, "He has magic."
Talia cried harder.
"I don't understand." There was nothing wrong with the child that he could sense, why was Talia and her household filled with sorrow?
"He is Feyborn." Talia's voice broke and she choked on a sob.
He remembered Taila speaking of the treasured Feyborn, coddled and spoiled, given everything they wanted until the child chose to become a druid or ranger. Occupations of great importance to the Efflin ones because they were the healers, the ones who brokered peace and settled disputes.
"This is a good thing," Prince Valiant argued. "Why are you upset?"
Talia shook her head. "He was also born drow. Feyborn are always drow females, never drown males. All the males know is violence and war and blood. He—it—is an abomination. Father will fetch the druid and she will take it away."
Talia's words shocked him to the core. Chandarians were a warrior people. No, they didn't conquer and kill blindly, but were chosen to police the races of the galaxy. Fighting was what they did, who they were, and to hear the disgust in Talia's voice as she described their child wounded him—and started the flame of anger that burned through his veins.
His voice held a dangerous edge when he asked her, "How can you say that? You are married to a Chandarian knight. There is no equal to our battle prowess. How can you think to murder a child for carrying the qualities of his father?"
His bodyguards had crowed into the room and their growls of displeasure and offense caused Talia to pale. "No, Valiant, please. You don't understand. Feyborn are touched by magic at birth. They are in tune with all life but when it touches a male drow, the gift is warped. No good comes from any Feyborn male. Allow my father to handle it. Walk away Valiant because you don't understand our ways. Nothing you say can change his fate." Talia moved slowly across the bed, attempting to stand but she fell back, moaning in pain.
Drow males did tend to keep to themselves and often suffered from wanderlust and had more alpha qualities than any of the Elffin race, but Valiant didn't understand why Talia was concerned. He glanced back down to babe. They hadn't deemed him worthy enough to clean completely but his dusky skin was evident. Elffin drow bore the skin of a dark gray to that of the deepest black. Valiant's own skin was deep gray therefor the tone of his son's surely came from Valiant, and if not, he still didn't see a cause for the Elffin ones to commit infanticide.
"Have you forgotten that his is blood of my blood? I get a say, Talia, whether you like it or not." He swaddled the babe as his mother had taught him and cradled the child in his arms, against Talia's pleas to leave him be. The boy watched him with wide eyes and Valiant couldn't help but to think that his son's hair was the color of blood. He forced the thought away, refusing to allow Talia's belief to infect him.
She made a wounded noise when he moved to the doorway carrying the child. "No, you cannot take him."
He didn't meet her gaze for she lacked the honor he once thought she had. He'd thought he knew her, and although he didn't love her, he had believed they were friends. How could he not have known she would persecute an innocent?
"Feyborn males were responsible for the Scarab War. The destruction they caused, the lives that were lost, all can be laid at their feet." Talia said quickly, as if she were desperate for him to stay.
The Scarab War was some five hundred years before, and yes the magic used by the different factions took many lives before the Chandarian's could step in and put a stop to the fighting. "I know my history well, Talia, and I know that drow females were just as responsible for the devastation that was wrought. If this is how all Elffin ones treat their Feyborn males then perhaps your king should be made aware."
Valiant strode out of the room, ignoring Talia's pleas to come back. He didn't have much time because he squandered so much talking to Talia when he should've been fleeing to where his hovercraft awaited. He ran, his bodyguards forming a shield behind him. The Elffin ones didn't condone violence, usually. That they used stunners told him they only wished to stop him. If they did then the child would surely die and he couldn't allow that.
So he ran through the Jade Forest to where the road stopped and his hover craft waited. He wanted to get up in the trees, the panther in him would make better time there if he wasn't carrying a burden, no matter how small. Not that it mattered. He was in the Elffin one's territory where they were more familiar with these woods. Instead, he relied on his speed and reflexes to keep him ahead of his pursuers.
Never had he been so relieved to see a flash of tail in the bows ahead. Jumping over a downed tree, Prince Valiant veered in that direction, barely missed being hit a half dozen times. He dared not glance up otherwise giveaway his brethren to his pursuers. The startled yelps and angry yowls was the only indication that some of those who chased him had been stopped or at least temporarily delayed.
Breaking through the trees into the clearing where all of the vehicles sat, those who'd been left to watch the hovercrafts jumped to their feet and raced to meet him. The captain in charge barked out orders and half the males ran past Prince Valiant to assist his bodyguards. He prayed none had been accidentally injured. He heard the cursing of a few of his fighters. They were only allowed to carry stunners in Elffin territory and they had no idea what danger awaited them in the jungle.
"Who pursues you?" the captain asked, his sharp gaze scanning the tree line behind Valiant.
"Talia's people," he gasped out, slowing to a trot. "They wanted to kill my son."
The knights crowded around him, firm hands on his arms and shoulders as he was hustled into the back of a hovercraft. Four guards followed him into the vehicle before the shield was engaged and the driver turned around, heading back toward the capitol. He wasn't surprised by their hisses or warning growls. Children were cherished and protected. So few were being born in the last hundred years and no one could pinpoint why.
By degrees, Valiant relaxed. He turned to stare out the back. The remaining guards and knights exited the Jade Forest at a lazy run, none of the Elffin ones following. Satisfied they were fairly safe, he returned to his seat and lay the babe in his lap. Gently he unwrapped the blanket swaddling the infant. One of the guards retrieved container of cleanwipes and Valiant slowly did what Talia's attendants had not and cleared away the remains of the afterbirth. Bright eyes stared up at him and Valiant sucked in a breath at how beautiful his son was. When the guards leaned in to have a look, he lifted his son for all to see, amazed the child hadn't cried at all.
For the life of him, Valiant didn't understand how Talia or her people thought they could harm his heir. He would relay to his father, their king, how the Elffin ones treated Feyborn drow males. They would put a stop to the insanity, and if need be, find worthy Chandarian families to take in children.
"What will you call him, Your Highness?"
Valiant's smile broadened as he said, "I will name him Sunder for he is beautiful."
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