The Return of the Princess
The next two fortnights passed slowly without apparent event and the Sun Days of Elta Hetal began with the month of Toblen. Evidently, Eradrim did not follow the enemys army as he had told the prince and though he was seldom seen, he remained near the castle and assumed a mysterious air. Consequently he earned for himself a dark title and was avoided by the guards and watches. Among them rumors spread that he had been seen walking near the right towers every second night and other suspicious deeds.
The prince himself began a rapid recovery and spent most of his time alone in his chambers. He ate little and slept less and seemed to be in constant anxiety, yet physically he improved significantly. He constantly enquired after, news from the north and never seemed to receive a satisfactory answer and as the four weeks came to a close he became more and more restless.
At length, on the first night of the fifth week Jaylon sent a messenger to find Eradrim and entreat him to come. He confided to Galimir that he wished to ask after Raora, for she had been gone nearly a month, and though he disliked the thought of her affection toward himself, he also admired her courage and was concerned for her physical and emotional welfare. He was not ignorant of the fact that the Arakun had not seen her since their departure from Losia, but he believed that he would know when she would return. The rest of the night he remained awake, anxiously awaiting the return of his courier, who arrived at the twelfth hour with no success, having been unable to find the Arakun. The prince was discouraged, but in the early hours of the morning Eradrim came to him in the court gardens.
“Greetings, Jaylon,” Eradrim hailed him as he came toward the prince.
“And to you.” The prince rose slowly from his chair to greet the Arakun. After the usual courtesies Eradrim told him, “I have not followed the enemy into the mountains for, when I left thee, I found matters of greater importance to attend to.” Jaylon nodded. “Therefore I intend to leave in the fourth hour this morn.” The princes eyes lit up and Eradrim read the unasked desire.
“Nay,” he said, “Thou art yet weak and may not accompany me. But I will tell thee all upon my return.”
“So be it.” Jaylon replied submissively. He was going to bring up the subject of the princess, but his eye caught the gleam of metal in the field below, and he cried out, “Look yonder!” Eradrim turned his gaze to the direction the prince indicated, and they both walked to the wall. Below them, a company of horsemen slowly rode toward the gates. In the front two heralds announced their approach on silver horns and bore the silver and white banner of Losia. Behind them a company of twenty-five armed figures with gay-colored pennants flying from their spears approached. Following them was a slender young woman on a cream-colored mare. On either side of her rode two Arakun maidens, defined by their long silver tresses draped over their arms. Gay peals of laughter rang from the group of women and Jaylon understood that this was Raoras escort from Losia. Behind them again were twenty-five figures identical to the first company. But in front of the heralds an armed warrior mounted on a black horse was swiftly approaching the gates.
“There is the valiant maiden of Carasul,” said Eradrim, “coming from Losia with my kin.”
“They have indeed been gracious to her,” replied Jaylon.
“Wherefore should they not? She is a daughter of Kings.”
At that moment, the figure on the white horse noted Eradrim and Jaylon looking over the wall and cried out, ” Eradrim! Sire!” Eradrim looked down and hailed him, “What tidings?” The Arakun disappeared into the gate and Eradrim went down out of the garden to meet him. Jaylon followed him as he descended into the courtyard. The rider had dismounted and was speaking rapidly in uneasy tones, “Re enridan intrigil si ensihlu,” Eradrim replied with calm solemnity in the same tongue and turned back to the prince, “I must now depart from thee.” With no further explanations, he nodded farewell and walked away in the direction of the stables.
Moments later he returned mounted upon his white steed, and raced across the court and out through the gates followed by the messenger. Jaylon walked back up to the garden and looked out over the walls as they proceeded from the gate. He followed them with his eyes until they disappeared among the lower slopes of the mountains, and then descended to the outer gates to welcome Raora and her escort.
The heralds arrived first and took their places on either side of the gateway, followed by the advance guard, which moved to the right side of the court. Raora entered into the gates attended by the Arakun maidens and Jaylon went forth to meet them. He kissed her hand and helping her to dismount, escorted her to the entrance. She was clad in a thin, silver, remarkably soft gown made of some strange material, the like of which he had never seen. Her wounded shoulder seemed to have recovered considerably and she showed no sign of distress due to it. Raora instantly noticed his distorted stride and cried out, “You are wounded!”
“Yes,” the prince replied, “a slight battle scar. It is a little thing.” At that moment the king proceeded from the castle to greet his niece attended by a score of men-at-arms.
to be continued…
This rest of the tale can be read in book form as soon as it is published.