Falina tried to swallow but found her throat dry as dust, her tongue seemed swollen and unusable, her heart beat so hard and fast she was sure that the prince could hear it. She stared, frozen into the princes eyes until she realized he was talking to her by virtue of his mouth moving. She flushed as she realized she had not heard a word he had said.
"P..P...Pardon, My Lord?" She said her embarassement heightened because her voice came out in a squeek.
This elicited a smile from the prince who patently repeated his question. "I asked if you were ready to go." He said.
"Go?!" Falina looked around frantically, her eyes searching for and finding her father, panic clear in her face and eyes.
Her father was no help. With a shooing of his hand he nodded to the prince.
"Go now, Daughter," He told her,"The king himself has summoned you."
Falina swallowed hard and found her legs were shaking. The king had sent none other than the prince to come and fetch her and why? The question scared her even more and she steeled herself not to quake right there in front of the royal heir to the throne. Her father was no help. No doubt he had been listening to too many of Teressa's stories himself and believed that His Royal Highness was here to wisk her off to some fairy tale ending (or begining) to her life.
Falina wasn't sure whether it which would be better. That he would or that he wouldn't. All of the reasons that the King might want to see her flashed to her mind and none of them had 'happily ever after' written on them.
All of this took only seconds for her mind to go through. Then, with a lift of her chin and a visible effort to steady herself, she gave a short nod to the Prince, realized that that was inappropriate and gave a stilted courtsey instead.
"Of course, My Lord," She said pleased that, at the least, her voice was a little more steady than before.
With a wave of his hand, Prince Elyan summoned a horse and looked at her questioningly.
Falina nodded. "Since a child, My Lord."
He gave her a brilliant smile and held out a hand to help her up onto the mount and soon had her seated though Falina had wondered all through the ordeal if she would faint for the first time in her life. She could not believe she was being helped onto a royal mount by none other than the prince himself!
Glancing back at her father one last time and feeling a helplessness she had not felt since being a child at his knee, she followed the entourage as they began moving forward toward the palace.
Elan glanced her way and looked back himself, raising his hand in a salute to Gregor. "I promise she will come to no harm while under my care!" He called back to which her father seemed satisfied to mean she was in no danger.
Falina sighed and shook her head. She could have punched so many holes in that theory in just a few words but chose not to. Maybe it was best if she saw things her father's way for once and just let it be believing everything was going to be fine.
As if sensing her thoughts, Elyan turned to her, his eyes twinkling. "Do not worry," He told her, making sure their mounts rode side by side, his men surrounding them. "I always keep my promises."
She gave him a sharp look, opened her mouth to speak, closed it, thought about it a moment, shrugged and decided that it was against her nature not to speak her mind.
Trying to find a respectful and tactful way to express her thoughts, however, took effort.
"There are ways around promises," She told the prince with a bow of her head to show she meant no disrespect.
"Yes, there are," He agreed, his eyes lighting more as he sensed an intellect behind the words. "I have dealt with many men who use words to their advantage and who could wind themselves around meanings with ease. However, I have promised your safety and I mean to keep my word."
Falina nodded her head again and spoke carefully. "I believe you, My Lord," She said feeling her way around her own words. "But you promised my safety as long as I was under your care."
There was a twitch at the corners of the Prince's mouth. "Ahh," He said his own sharp mind following her path of logic. "And what happens once we get to the palace and, perhaps, you are handed over to another?"
She felt a flush to her face but did not back down. "You must admit that is a valid line of thought."
He nodded and rubbed his chin. "In truth I cannot guarantee your safety while out of my sight. Logically I would have to be within sight of you to protect you."
Falina looked at him with a raised eyebrow and Elyan laughed at the gesture not bothering to note the impropriety of it.
"Please be at ease, Lady Falina," He said with a slight bow in the saddle. "As far as I know no one at the palace wishes you're harm either. I cannot say I know the full reason my father, the King, has asked for your audience but I do know it is not to harm you. Besides," He returned the eyebrow raising gesture she had sent him earlier,"If you have done nothing than you need fear nothing, right?"
Falina shook her head. "My Lord, please, I am a simple commoner but even I know that the world does not work that way. I am not naive enough to believe that innocence is always cause for justice or that evil is always cause for punishment. Though we hope that it works that way there are too many times that it does not."
The Prince nodded and looked forward to where they had reached the Palace gates. The stopped, waiting for those gates to be opened, his reply paused as well.
As they begin to enter the royal palace grounds, he said,"Though I would wish to contridict you I, in truth, cannot, My Lady."
Falina sighed. "I respect your honesty, My Lord and, please, though I appreciate the curtesy, I beg you not to give me a title I do not own."
Prince Elyan looked startled at her statement and a bit puzzled. "You are Falina Hardister, yes?"
"Aye, My Lord," She said with a slight bow of her head,"A common woman born to a local farmer."
"And your mother was Genevive D'veln?"
"I am told that D'veln was her given name before she married my father, yes."
The prince cocked his head at her, his eyebrow again raised. "Ahh," He said with a nod,"I see. I believe there is much to talk about, Lady Falina, much indeed."
With that Falina heard the gates close behind them with a loud clang of finality.