Astelbania Chronicles: Chapter 1 - Surprise.

Gregor Hardister led  his two horse drawn cart up the cobblestone road to Devensheer noting the warmth in the air, finally.

"We may actually see the sun today, my dear," he spoke to his daughter, "It's rained far too much for my liking this summer,"  He smiled and guided the cart North towards the gates, "We must remember to see Master Elym, first thing.  He'll want his lamb for tonight's stew, i'd wager, not to mention our barrel of hops for his brew." he regarded his daughter cheerfully, "the finest in Devensheer for certain," he chuckled.

"Mhm," Falina nodded, but looked straight forward, her eyes fleeting through the surrounding forest; distracted. 

"What is it?" he asked.  Her head snapped back, and her large eyes looked on him curiously.

"Hmm? Pardon, papa?  Oh.." she waved an absent hand, "daydream is all, father,"

Gregor did not believe her.  He shook his head and moaned, "Mm No.. No, I've seen such a look upon your mother's face before.  She'd get that look," he waved a finger at Falina, "That look that spoke: There is something not right in the world.  She had a second sight that woman, I'm sure of it!" he nodded his head positively.

"It is nothing, father, I swear.  No one could have second sight, father, but those who dwell in the Westbridge towers." Falina tee-heed with a finger before her mouth cutefully, "And we are far from the Wizards in Westbridge, luckily!" she closed.

"Your mother was aught but a wizard, Falina.  I say, merely, that she had the gift of observation.  She saw things that others were blind to.  And you are much like your Ma, I think!"  Gregor believe in that, and he would tell you with hard conviction.

"HALT!" came the call, as the Goldenbane standard was visibly hoisted over the onrushing caravan, coming this way.

"What in the name of.." Gregor muttered, pulling his cart far over the side of the road to allow the knights to pass.  The sight of them was magnificant really.

There were eight of them, mounted upon large war-horses, armored in Plate, helm-visor raised, with piercing eyes pearing ahead and at the collection of merchants which travelled the highway.  The breasts of their armour were golden-brass, pounded eloquently in the roaring lion mark of the Goldenbane house.  Their swords were housed in golden sheaths, their posture was regal, noble and frightening all at once.

"What do they want, father?" Falina wondered.
"I haven't a clue, my daughter, but..." Gregor spied the mounted men, and swore he recognized a face.  "There, the man with the golden crest upon his helm.. see him?"

Falina squinted a peak, "Who is he,"
"I believe he's the Prince himself.  Eylan Goldenbane."
"What?!"
"What was that you were saying about Princes and Princesses, Daughter?" Gregor made a pointed stare at his offspring... "You have your mother's foresight, as I've said..  Mind your father's words... you distrust me too much, I think,"

"I shall never, again, father," they share a grin as the Knights neared their cart.  Falina stood upon the seat to get a better look.  It was not everyday a young girl got to see nobles and knights and such. 

"Your Highness," shouted one of the knight - his eyes were blue and pretty, Falina thought.  And he pointed directly at her.  Well.. not at her... could he have?? She looked behind her. Perhaps someone had sneaked around their cart.  With a quick glance; no, there was no one there.  Unconsciously, her hand came over her chest, her finger pointing together, "Me?"

"Falina, step down here," Gregor reached for her nervously.  What could they possibly want.  Falina stared forward in shock, really.  "Falina, mind your father now!" Gregor iterated, and she snapped a look back at her father and sat by his side. 

The knights gathered around Gregor Hardister's cart, and the rest of merchants parked along the High-Road looked upon him with guarded curiosity. 

"What had he done?" and "Who had he swindled?" were marked questions within their eyes.  When you were a merchant for 30-odd years, you learned to understand words said in faces that had not spoken.

The young knight with a golden crest upon his helm arrived, his face gentle, his eyes intelligent and learned. 
Gregor bowed deeply in his driver's seat, and he slapped at Falina to do the same.

"You know who I am?" The crested knight spoke.
"Of course, Your Highness.  I am honored to, even, be in your presence,"  Gregor jumped down off of his cart, and bowed even lower.

The knight dismounted his warhorse, and took him by the shoulders, "Stand tall, merchant.  Out here, we are all men,"

"But, my prince," Gregor stammered.
"Please.." nodded the prince of Devensheer, "If you insist upon titles, "My Lord" will suffice, besides that - you may call me by my name,"

"IT is bad luck to call a prince by his given name, My Lord," Gregor quaked despite himself.  He'd never been in the presence of royalty.

"You are Gregor Hardister, yes?" The prince asked.
"One and the same, My Lord.  We do good business in Devensheer.  I only sell the best of my wares and we pay our taxes, on that i can assure you, My Lord,"

The prince was clearly bemused, "Peace, Master Gregor.  We accuse you of nothing." his attention was turned to Falina, "Is this your daughter?"

"It is, My Lord.  Though she is common folk like me, she is fair and is of the age where she can make a good wife; tho' I must admit to brandishing my bow on a few occations.  I am a protective father."

Prince Eylan Goldenbane laughed, "Of course you are, Master Gregor.  Your daughter is fair; beautiful even,"

Falina blushed, and she cursed herself for showing any sign at all of her embarrassment -- and how smitten she was of the prince; the man was not only handsome, he was beautiful.  There was a glow about him.

"Falina is it?" The prince came to her side looking up as she stood in the passenger seat of the cart.

"Well," Gregor verbally pushed her, "Get down when a prince address you, girl!

Her heart skipped a beat, and her eyes widened as she realized her blatent lack of decorum.  "I am sorry, Prince... My Lord... Your Beautiful Highness... I mean... "  She hated herself at that moment; stammering like an addled schoolgirl - afixed upon the beauty of JUST a man.... JUST A MAN???? He was the bloody prince!

Her hands were cold as the prince took her hand to help her down and he sized her with his eyes, removing his helm.  Curled chestnut locks fell out from beneath the cap, and he held it as he beheld her.

"I've been instructed by The King to escort you to the castle, Falina Hardister."

Her breath caught in her chest to the point where it hurt to breath.  Tears filled her eyes, and she did not even know why. 

Princes do not just appear from nowhere to whisk common girls off on a horse to become princesses.

 

The End

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