Astelbania Chronicles: Goldenbane Castle.

The ride through the uptown vistas of Devensheer left Falina wide-eyed, all the while, the Nobles stepped aside curiously eyeing the ill-dressed commoner seated side-saddle upon Eylan Goldenbanes noble steed.

She sensed their questions; she saw their mistrust in their eyes.  She saw them whispering among themselves: Who is this girl they were wondering.  What could the Prince possibly see in her? THe notion that the Noblemen and Ladies even suspected an affair between she and the prince left Falina giddy to giggles.

The streets in the Upper-Mid-Town of Devensheer were immaculate.  There was no rufuse at the side of the cobble-curb.  There were no urchins hiding within the shadows of the service ways between the upscaled shops and markets.  In fact there was little evidence at all of any homeless, or underhanded activity at all.  Every corner was patroled by a knight in armor.  Each marketeer stood with his wares, confident that he was well guarded and protected. 

The townsfolk were well dressed in heavy cottons and expensive silks and leathers.  Their cloak hoods were lined with furs, and their hands decorated richly with precious stone and gold.

"My, my," Falina found herself saying.
Eylan Goldenbane nodded,
"Yes.. so many riches, but many find themselves wanting,"
"How could they possible want for anything, My Lord?" Falina couldn't believe it.
"Gold is not always the answer, My Lady," Eylan imparted.
"I'm sure it doesn't hurt, My Prince, if you don't mind my saying," the young girl answered.

"Perhaps... Here we are," The prince motioned a gauntleted hand towards the front steps of the Castle, as stewards and stable-hands rushed ahead to take the reins from the Knightmen.

"This way, milady,"  said one of the knights as she was helped down off of the Prince's mount.Nobles and ladies, as they walked past, bowed low to their Prince, and he returned their bow with grace and a smile, often-times shaking the hand of gentlemen, or accepting an innocent embrace from one of the swooning ladies.

As they entered the castle, Falina looked back at the prince, who removed his gauntlets and his gloves, running a hand through his tossed hair.  She shook her head and chuckled, suddenly finding herself again, now that she was less disarmed by the gorgeous prince.

"What is so funny?" the prince grin with her.
"It is just that..." Falina turned towards him, and pinched her lips together to stop herself, but faile miserably to hide the smile that peeked beneath,

"It is certainly not my place to say, Your Highness," she recognized his title within his palace.
"You are among friends, here Lady Falina, pray speak your mind," the prince smiled, curious.
"It is just..."
"Go on, please, do not leave me on the ledge of curiosity,"
"I cannot understand how you can stand to be doted over like that; women swooning over you like you're a piece of eye candy, and men who seek favor for a handshake,"  one of the knights looked sideways at her, but he was quick to stay at attention as he walked ahead of his prince.

"You have a unique perspective, Lady Falina, and an equally unique wit!" the prince laughed, 'It is all part of the post that i have been born in to, I am afraid.  I was taught at a young age that this was to be my legacy,"
"And you accept it without question, no doubt," Falina's lips pursed - and again, she received a sideways glance from the Knight Captain....

"You are to address him as Your Highness, milady," said the captain as he walked beside - a giant of a man.She swallowed hard, wide-eyed.  The man was a fearful sight, all with his armor, swords and knives upon his belt, and arms the size of tree-trunks."It is fine, Sir Brandyn," said the prince.

"If you say so, My Prince," there was mirth in the knight's eyes.She was led to a lift, where she stood in silence and marvelled at the Dwarven technology as it carried them up 10 stories high, overlooking the main marbled foyer.  The lift door opened, and she was escorted forward by Sir Brandyn, and the prince followed behind. 

A steward-boy rushed to the prince's side and bowed, "He has arrived, my lord," said the boy.
"Excellent, please have His Majesty the King meet us in his anti-chamber... we will be there shortly.
"'Thank you, my lord,' the boy bowed and ran off.

Falina sighed, and walked ahead.  She was the meet the King?  This was a dream.  She was sure of it.  She even pinched herself to make sure.  She hissed as the skin between her thumb and index finger stung.When the prince looked at her, she smiled sheepishly, "I'm still here," she reported.

"Indeed," Eylan Goldenbane was ever the graciously noble.

The anti-chamber was godly furnished; oaken chairs, and tables, candelabras made of gold and silver - and books everywhere.  The shelves ranged from floor to ceiling, spanning what looked like 100 feet long.  It smelled of roses, pine, books and candle-wax, with the hint of vanilla.  The carpets or lush, and intricately woven, and so exotic, she couldn't even fathom from which province or empire; Taj-Ye'an or Kezia even.

She marvelled so much over the contents of the room, that she had almost missed the tall man standing near the bookshelf spying at the titles there-upon. HE was covered from head to toe, in dark, black tunic and pants; and equally cloaked. 

"Falina, I present to you, Bahl Shadowfinger .. he is a friend of Devensheer,"  the prince said and she recoiled in horror, as she beheld the man's demonic face.

His eyes were a dark blue, and the pupils were ringed with red-fire.  The horns!! She could not get past the horns that jutted from his obsidian locks, which hung low to his shoulder.  Despite his handsome feature, and seeming elvish pointed ears, the site of him invoked a primal fear within her...

"Greetings, Lady Falina Hardister," the demon bowed.Seeing her horror, Prince Goldenbane rushed to her side, and touched her shoulder,
"Please, Falina, stay your fear... AS I said, he is a friend to Devensheer... he is in our employ." he said.

"He is a demon," Falina hissed.
It smiled, but shook its head, "I am tiefling,"

"What is that?" Falina cursed, "You lie - i've seen your likeness in books,"

"You read then?" the demon nodded, but had an inquisitive visage.
"Good," the creature turned, and thumbed through the titles upon the shelves, coming to one that met his approval.  He tossed it across the room and it landed at her feet. 

"My legacy, my lady," he smiled, "My family, since the beginning of the 3rd age, has served this dynasty,"

"You even have demons who serve you?" Falina shot at the prince.
Eylan Goldenbane shook his head,
"Bahl's mother was a loyal Devensheeran knight,"
"I am an accident of nature,"
"Why are you here???"
"I am here for you, milady!"
"You can't be serious!"  Falina picked up the book, but took another step back.

The door openned, and King Gerald Goldenbane entered; a bastion of nobility, crowned and awesome, "He is to be your protector, Lady Falina.  There is much to discuss,"The book fell to the floor again.

The End

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