It's been nearly a week since Lady Ella, as the court has come to call her, stepped foot in our fair castle. Despite the abundant time that she had spent with King Percy and even my dear sister, it seemed we still knew very little about her. As I listened to the kitchen servants discuss her, there was still only talk of her profound beauty and mystery. A few rumors circled that Percy had taken her as his mistress, but I knew it was merely the low class gossip.
Many times I had watched her, walking in the gardens, riding through the village, teaching my sister a small wonder of magic. But only twice had I been greeted by her. The day after her arrival, I found her in the stables speaking with my attendant. Cordially I greeted Ella, asking if she enjoyed her accomodations. When I tried to probe further, however, my brother strode up behind me, interrupting us by saying that he and the Lady were going out to see the countryside. Although I was focused primarily on Ella, I was also hurt to not be invited, as it was common for my brother and I to enjoy a ride through the fields to see the progress of our farmers.
On the second occasion of our meeting face to face, we literally collided coming around a corner. She seemed quite flustered and maybe angry as she took the hall towards her quarters, and I apologized profusely as I helped her up. This was our first physical contact, and I was amazed at how smooth and delicate her skin felt. Before I could say anything, however, she excused herself and continued quickly down the hall, dismissing her maid from her room and locking herself within. At first I wondered if my foolish brother had tried to dishonor her, but I learned later that he was out in another village trying to raise more taxes.
This morning when I awoke, the skies were weeping, and I sent word to my men that our sparring would wait until the following morning. It made me quite anxious to be shut up in the castle, but the land around the gates always became much too big of a problem during the rain to even think of going outside them. Instead I sought out my brother's advisor, determined to speak with him about the mistake of taxing the people. When I found him in the library, my brother was with him, looking very jovial and excited.
"Ah, Stephen, brother, we must have a chat!"
"Yes, Percy, I agree. We must talk about-" He cut off my serious speech by slapping my shoulder gruffly.
"Come, brother, have some ale. I have a wonderous idea! What thinks you if we take a small sojourn? I would like to visit our outermost territories, and we have a few land owners who are expecting the King's visit. We will take a fortnight for the journey- bring our servants, and of course Ella will come along as well."
"Brother! We cannot merely leave the castle without direction. Suppose something should happen, who will be here to protect the property?"
Percy scoffs at me, "Why, Father did it many times, and you know it! He frequently left, and depended on us to take care of the castle."
"Exactly, Percy!" I was getting quite worked up for reasons I didn't fully understand, "We are now the only ones to care for our family's legacy. If we depart for this journey, we do not leave behind any sons. Only the selfish, snivelling members of your court. What about that?"
At this point in our argument, Percy has begun to get heated and we both stopped, glaring at each other in disagreement. It occurred to me that we had never been so frequently in a combatant mood as these since our father had died. Before then we were equals, and brothers. The advisor took a step forward, surprising me with his sudden gain of courage.
"Prince Stephen, this journey is not one of sudden happence and whim. The truth is, your Father, rest his crown, entered into a marriage contract with the high land owner of this region, in order to become ruler of that land. I bore witness to the contract, made less than a month before your dear Father's passage into death. Our King, Percy, must honour the obligations his Father made and wed the fair Arianne of Pentsmont. It will be a testimony that your brother will rule with honour throughout his reign by keeping this marriage contract. It is imperative that we ride to Pentsmont and feast with Arianne's family."
During this speech, Percy had retreated to the mantle. Clearly he had known about this, and I was the only one is shock this morn. I also noticed a servant dart out of the room as the Advisor finished the speech, and sighed heavily with the thought that this news would now travel throughout the castle.
"Brother, do you plan to honour our Father's marriage arrangement? What is your purpose with this journey?"
King Percy sighed, "Yes, it is my intention to meet the Lady Adrianne and her family. We will discuss the arrangement at that time. Will you journey with us, brother? We can leave the Knights in guard of our precious castle. You will take Lady Ella as your dancing partner as I court the daughter of Pentsmont."
"Yes, Brother, I will accompany you."