A land of forests. Here the term humanity is purely relative. A young boy who would be king in his land grows up alongside the daughter of a barbarian king who caused a revolution.

Cren was a man of power. A prince who gave away his throne for his craft, he became a high mage at the age of 22; one of only 10 in the lands of Moor. He had always been a precocious child and in his short turn on this earth has accomplished more than people triple his age could do in a lifetime. He was intelligent, charming when he could be bothered, and a man who was trifled with only at great peril. But as strong as he was, as smart as he was, there was one thing that was simply out of his reach.

The love of his best friend.

He had been sent as a child to the court of the barbarian wolf king, Rannon. It was customary in his land that the heir apparent take his royal schooling from a monarch whose style differed drastically from that of the Eastlander kingdom. Who better then for a drastic difference than the leader of the wolf people? He had united the races against human violation and created a small empire. The dragons respected him, the humans feared him. He was an enigma sudden sprung from the depths of the forest with a mission and a sword.

At the time he was sent, Cren had been only 6 and the famed Eastlander pride ran through his veins like a poison. Crenorien Sorya I'Aryas heir to the throne of Eastland, or your highness, as he refused any address that was less than formal, dreaded the years to come among these savages. For 6 years he would learn from their king. For 6 years he would be subjected to the most rudimentary of social niceties. He imagined at the time that he would be faced with little more than a hole in the ground peopled by a disturbing amount of unwashed cretins who shat wherever they stood. For a week and a day Cren imagined what it would be like among the wolf people and each image was more ghastly than the last.

For a week and a day Cren rode with a small escort of soldiers to the lands of Rannon. He had not yet hit puberty so his wings had yet to grow even vestiges. If that hadn't been the case, they would have simply flown. What took a week and a day by horse would have taken three days if they had flown. But eventually the small party stopped. Instead of ravaged hole that led to Cren's version of hell, there was nothing but a large meadow.

"What is the meaning of this, soldier?" Cren demanded.

"Your highness, this is the palace of his majesty King Rannon," said the guard as he reigned in his horse and pointed at nothing. "Can you honestly not see it?"

"No, cretin how can I see what isn't there?" Cren looked around the meadow, and then something in the air shifted. There stood a palace. It had once been a grand construct, or at least Cren thought so at the time. But now it was choked in vines; Vines and trees so woven together that the walls were more wood than stone. Cren gaped at this foreign thing as they approached the castle gates. Unlike the palace, the gates were free of any kind of growth and two men stood at attention before them. They were dressed in dark green and silver double-breasted doublets that bore the insignia of a roaring red dragon over where their hearts would have been if they had them. Their heads were bare of any helmets and their long black hair fell in braids down their backs. Each was a wolf person, or wolven and bore the weird melding of wolf and human features that was typical of their kind. The two sentinels wore several silver bangles upon their black tails from what Cren could tell. Each small piece of jewelry glinted in the early morning sun. At the approach of Cren and his entourage, they banged their halberds in unison and bowed at the waist.

"Greetings, your majesty, the king has been be detained by a prior engagement. We are to escort your party within the compound and give you anything you may need."

Cren was slightly taken aback but the head of his guard took charge. They were whisked into the compound and their horses were taken away to the stables. Cren looked around the courtyard and was surprised to find civilized people staring back at him. A few of the people watched him curiously, but even more went about their business. It appeared as if a market or fair was taking place that day. All kinds of people shouted their wares, not just the wolven.  He did see many wolven but they were vastly different than he had imagined. The may have been hairy and at times, appeared more wolf than human, but they were civilized.

They bought and bartered, worked at trades such as blacksmithing, and even played instruments in the streets. Not a single one went without clothing, although the ideas of dress varied from a ragged pair of trousers to the fine and elaborate dress of nobles. Cren was surprised by how similar this market was the ones back home in the Eastland. Speaking of his people, he even saw a few of them here among the rabble. They strode with black bat-like wings folded snugly to their backs. Some were dressed in the style of his kingdom, tight daget vests of varying colors, loose pants tucked into cuffs and foot wraps, but others wore the odd vestments of the mash of other races presented there at the barbarian king's palace.

As it turned out, the palace was set within a large complex. The market they had passed through was happening near the defensive walls. There were a few dwellings on the grounds as well but not enough to house the flood of people Cren had seen down below. The palace itself was situated on a large hill that grew at a steady pace. As they walked, Cren's cloth wrapped feet began to ache. Was it not a monarch's duty to greet visiting royalty as a first priority? Why, what could possibly have stopped that dratted creature from coming to the gates himself? Eventually, after what seemed to the young boy an eternity they reached the palace proper. He had not been wrong about it once being an amazing piece of architecture, now the palace bore a natural beauty to it's formerly precise edges and towers. In his heart, Cren felt a sense of child-like wonder. Here was the place where he would stay for 6 years; here was the place that was to be his home until the day his father would finally let him return home.

The two guards led them up the long avenue that led to a drawbridge. Cren had never seen such a thing before so the slow crank of the bridge being lowered for them to cross was fascinating. The palace courtyard was deserted. Not even a servant on an errand could be seen as they made their way to a grand pair of double doors on the other side. They stood at least 5 men tall and were interlaced with masterfully made vines. Unlike their natural counterparts, the vines that covered the doors were made from emeralds and silver.

"Heavens, is this savage king really that wealthy?" Cren demanded of the guard walking at his shoulder. The guard winced at the undiplomatic question, his eyes flicking nervously towards their wolven escort.

"Yes your majesty, the Wolf King's domain is one of the wealthiest there is."

Cren mulled that over as they entered the doors. Surely he couldn't be that rich? How wealthy was wealthy, after all? The boy thought and thought but always came back to the same solution. Maybe, his kingdom wasn't the only great kingdom. This kingdom actually seemed to be on fairly even terms with the powers of Eastland. It was then that the first chink was taken out of the young prince's pride and he felt a vauge inkling of what being humbled by someone was like. Against his will, he began to feel a grudging respect for this strange monarch whose face he had yet to even see.

The End

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