A Stranger in the Crowd


"She..." Carolina faltered.

“She is Princess Aria Deloria Matrilani. Sole surviving heir to the throne of the High Kings and Queens of the Lost City of Algebra.” a voice cut through the crowd like a knife, startling both Carolina and Mandar.

The crowd parted slightly leaving a young man, dressed from head to toe in black, free to walk through them to where Aria lay. His hair was a dark brown colour and his skin was lightly tanned, but it was his eyes that caught the attention of everyone. His eyes were of the deepest brown with thin circles of gold around the iris. One felt both relaxed and slightly intimidated if they looked into his eyes for more then a moment.

“And you are?”

Mandar took a protective stance over Carolina and Aria as Ganth pushed his way from the back of the crowd to stand beside his wife.

“I take it I missed your explanations?” he muttered to Carolina and she nodded. “Well now the truth is out, it’s out.” he shrugged. “I knew it would have to happen someday.” He seemed extremely laid back on the exterior, but inside Ganth's stomach was churning and he found himself cursing the Trickster for taking away his beloved Aria, the girl who he had come to treasure as though she was his own blood.

The young man was regarding the three adults with a strange look on his face. It seemed like a mixture of disbelief, contempt, and respect.

“You would protect her with your lives?” he cocked his head to the side as he spoke and not one person there failed to notice the ease at which his hand came to rest on the hilt of his sword.

“Even if she wasn’t the Princess, and she was only a farm girl, we would protect her.” Ganth growled and Carolina nodded, her hand flying to her belt to rest on the dagger she kept tucked away there.

“And you?” the stranger turned to Mandar and the older man drew himself up to his full height and rested his hammer across his shoulder.

“I protect those who are in need of my protection, be they princesses or paupers.” he replied deliberately.

“You have done well.” the man smiled suddenly, “But I think if the Princess wakes up, then she will know who I am, the magic in her blood is an old one, and until then, my name will remain unknown.”

"Then you can..." Ganth began, but the younger man cut him off.

"I will remain here until she awakes, you can try to move me, or her, but if you do so I will be forced to kill you. If she awakens and wishes to leave with me, through no influence of my own, anyone who tries to stop that, I will kill."

He paused before continuing.

"Alternatively, if nobody likes this option, I can just kill you all now and take the Princess by force."

Mandar grunted. He disliked this agreement but it could not be helped, he would not force someone to tell their name when they didn’t want to, and he was not one to cause unnecessary bloodshed.

What he would do though, was ensure that this stranger got nowhere near Aria until she woke up. Then, and only then, would the situation be reviewed.

The elders appointed Mandar to be first in charge of keeping watch as they struggled to rebuild the ruins of part of the village. Aria was not to be touched, except by Carolina or one of the village women, and she was not to be moved until she woke up.

Fortunately the man seemed happy with this, and Mandar sat down heavily between him and Aria as the crowd dissipated, Ganth leading Carolina away as he cast a disapproving glance towards the strange young man.

“So, do you play know how to play Dice?” Mandar ventured.

The End

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