The pretty mare trotted underneath her, and Nieneve smiled. She thought it hilarious that the mare had been gifted to her, when it's name was so insulting. Tee Koona, or Little Whore, was strong and fast but the people at the palace evidently did not expect her to know enough of the language to understand the name. Her brother had made her train in every language of the Kingdoms. It would only help with his plan he had said.
"You hold your seat well." Leopold mentioned at her side. "I had thought you were not an experience rider."
Nieneve gave him a look of innocent surprise to prevent the grimace she felt coming at his barely concealed innuendo.
"I had a horse, Puro, who I rode almost every day when I could at home."
"Was Puro a stallion or mare?" He grinned.
"A mare or course. My brother would not let me ride stallions; he told me they were unpredictable and driven by instinct."
Leopold smirked and Nieneve allowed herself to smile. She admitted to herself that she did enjoy word play with this man, even though he was entirely focussed on ruining everything through his base instinct. She thought back to when she had heard him, in his room, with a woman. Those sounds had disturbed her usually peaceful sleep, the moaning, they had become a reoccurring snake, slithering in to her mind in the dead of night. What, she wondered, caused people to make such a noise? Why was that natural? Did all women moan as that woman had moaned? Was it a good sign? Clearly, since the woman had uttered those words of pleasure...
"Are you warm my lady?" Leopold asked, breaking in to her thoughts. She glanced around and realised they were almost out of the city. She saw the gates ahead; they were opening on to the grass plain that covered the hilltop over the sea on which the castle sat. Leopold was staring at her intently.
"No my prince."
"Your cheeks are pink."
Her hand flew to them. Her thoughts must have been showing on her face. It was careless. She was slipping and her brother would be disapproving.
"I have not been able to ride properly since I arrived at the palace. Perhaps I am getting used to the exercise."
"Perhaps." He smiled as though he knew she lied.
"I wonder why your uncle brought such a small amount of guards with us? Surely the three of us together make for an easy target." She commented, leading the conversation away.
"My uncle has spies everywhere. There are more of them, trust me." He replied dryly. His dislike of this shone through obviously, and Nieneve used his distraction to move her horse slightly closer to his. When he returned his eyes to her he blinked at her slight change in position. She wondered whether he noticed, or whether it was merely the sun entering his eyes.
"Well then, I feel we are perfectly safe."
"You are safe with me Lady Nieneve." He smiled.
"Once we are married. Until then I fear my reputation is constantly at risk."
"Why on earth would you feel that? Have you been doing things that would put your reputation at risk?" He asked.
"Not at all." She replied. "I would never do anything that would put my reputation at risk. A woman's reputation is all she has, and when she loses it, what does she have left?"
"Love?" He replied, although she did not think he was speaking of her. He had a look in his eyes that seemed to have captured something in his mind... he was not fully concentrating. This would not do. She had to make him fall for her.
"But would the love of a prince for a woman whose reputation was called in to question continue?" She asked, as though she was nervous and putting her emotions on her sleeve. His attention jerked back to her.
"Lady Nieneve, a Prince can only marry a woman of good reputation. But I believe for a woman as beautiful as you, I would be willing to hide a multitude of sins. But you would have to tell me of them first."
"I have no sins to tell." Nieneve replied with an innocent smile and turned her attention to the path again. "Except perhaps a desire to gallop through these fields, instead of this slow walk. Would your uncle be terribly displeased?"
"Who cares?" Leopold grinned slyly. "Let's ride."
"Follow me." He laughed and slapped the flanks of his stallion so that it broke in to a run. She watched as his uncle, ahead of them, realised what was going on and yelled after this Prince. Nieneve felt a grin break her lips open as felt the desire to follow him overwhelm her. She slapped Tee Koona's flanks and followed, hearing Apophis shouting behind her now. Tee Koona galloped after the stallion, delighting in this freedom. The Prince slowed a little, looking back, and Nieneve caught up with him, laughing.
"Your uncle is unhappy."
"Let him be." He replied as he looked back at the group who were galloping after them. "Come, we can go to the sea." He turned his stallion and headed to where the cliffs dipped down to the sands and the pebbles of the beach. Nieneve had longed to visit the sea since her arrival, and wasted no time in chasing after him. It was not what she should have done, but she thought it best. The Prince would never love her if she constantly did as his uncle wished. He would see her as against him. She had to make him love her, for the sake of her brother's plan.
They rode down the hill and on to the sands. She broke a little ahead of him, laughing and smiling back at him. It was a dance, and she was leading this. Tee Koona let out a neigh of delight underneath her. She could hear the thunder of the guards' steeds behind her. She would have to slow soon, or else she would be in trouble. She slowed Tee Koona, and saw the Prince gallop past, realise what had happened, and turn his horse to face her.
"We should go back." She replied. "I shouldn't have... we should go back."
"Do something outside of what is proper for once." He encouraged.
"I can't. I couldn't."
"You do not love me." She replied, as though she had just realised this, and it hurt her. She let her lips droop as though saddened by the thought, and then turned Tee Koona to go back to the group, leaving the Prince behind. There. Something to get him thinking.