“Aria Deloria Matrilani?“
The voice echoed off the hills, a deep baritone that sent chills up Carolina’s spine as she walked towards the square.
“Who are you?”
Ganth’s voice sounded strained as he stood facing The Vale forest, staring at something none of the others could see.
A tall figure strode from the forest, an emerald green cloak obscuring his features from the villagers.
“Where is the Princess? What happened here?” the stranger demanded with that voice that seemed to shake the very earth.
Ganth shivered. “We have had enough strangers and loss in this town.” he sighed sadly. “Aria…” he whispered sadly, a tear rolling down his cheek.
“What?!” the voice was sharper now, Ganth felt like rocks were pressing on his chest as the cloaked man spoke. He suddenly felt warm pressuring hands on his arm as Carolina took hold of it.
“Aria vanished in a cloud of green flames.” her voice trembled. “The Iceman, I believe she called him. He was here.”
The stranger turned his head sharply. “The Iceman? Are you sure?”
“I am certain it was him.” Carolina began to cry. “My poor Aria, my poor child.”
The man whipped around to face Ganth and drew a sword from under his cloak. “You are Ganth, son of Sheno?”
Ganth paled and nodded slowly, trying to push Carolina behind him.
“Mercy!” Carolina threw herself in front of Ganth. “Don’t hurt him.” she pleaded.
“I will not hurt those the Queen chose to protect her only surviving daughter.” he paused and touched her shoulder gently. “You are indeed brave, I can see why she chose you.” he lifted the hood back from his face and Ganth gasped. “You are…”
“That is right.” the man ran his hand through his light brown locks and shook his head thoughtfully.
“Andar, Prince of Larathia.” he made a swooping bow and then stood to his full height.
“You will both kneel.” he commanded. “I have business with you both that must be dealt with.”
Both Carolina and Ganth knelt slowly before him, trembling a little. “Fear not my precious gem.” Ganth whispered to her as he took her hand in his. “I am here.”
Andar watched this exchange and felt a twinge in his chest, it was truly touching, even to someone like him.
He raised the sword and brought it down in a swift gentle movement, tapping both Carolina and Ganth on the shoulders.
“Rise Sir Ganth and Lady Carolina of Terra Vale. May your lives be long lived and full of joy.”
Bewildered the couple got to their feet and stared at each other.
Suddenly Carolina grabbed Andar’s arm. “Find her.” she whispered.
“What?” Andar stared at her with his hazel eyes and Carolina could have sworn she saw true kindness in them.
“She loves the mountains, she said they make her feel safe. He did not take her, she escaped in the flames. Find her. Protect her. Even though she is not blood, she is my daughter.”
Andar stared into the woman’s eyes and gave her the slightest of nods.
“Where did she vanish?”
Carolina walked to the centre of the square. “Right here.”
Andar muttered something and threw his hand out in the direction of the square. A glowing aura lit up the spot that Aria had disappeared.
“She is still alive, her magic trail still exists.” And before anyone could utter another word he walked into the green hue and vanished himself.