"Princess!" a guard shouted as he came running up, making both Lin and Thresh jump. Immediately the two pulled away; Thresh glaring at the guard while Lin looked flushed and confused, unsure of what had just happened. "The King was worried you had ran away," the guard explained, giving both the Princess and stable boy a disapproving look.
Lin scowled, "Of course now he worries when I go missing."
"The King would like you to return to your bed chamber and rest before leaving tomorrow," the guard told her curtly.
“It is not even time for dinner!” Lin protested, her hands balling into tight fists.
“Princess, I think it would be wise for you to obey your father’s wishes as you should,” the guard said sternly. Though Lin might be royalty, she was still a girl, and an elderly guard like this one undoubtedly held little respect for her.
“I’m coming with her,” Thresh said with strong determination.
“I highly doubt a stable boy should –“
“He’s going to escort me. That’s what I wish and I believe it would be wise for you to obey me,” Lin’s eyes narrowed as she dared the guard to challenge her. Her body was tensed and itching to throw a punch.
“As her highness wishes,” the guard said through clenched teeth. As the three headed back into the castle, Thresh reached for Lin’s hand. But the moment that had held them so close had passed and Lin was unsure what to think of all of it. When his hand touched hers, Lin pulled back, pretending to mess with her hair. Half of Lin wanted to drag Thresh back into her bedroom, but another half told her it was a mistake. What use was it to transform their relationship into something complicated the night before she left her kingdom when it was likely she may never come back? Besides, just being with Thresh was enough to set her father off. It was only proper for Lin to have female friends, lest word get out that Lin was dating and losing her purity. Any contact with the opposite sex could quickly taint a woman’s reputation. Of course, like many of the rules in this kingdom, this was a double standard. No one chastised men for hanging around girls – if anything it was encouraged.
But her father wouldn’t be able to ground her now, would he? Lin had the urge to grab Thresh, right in the middle of the hall for everyone to see. The only thing holding her back was the stable boy’s feelings. It would be cruel to kiss him under these circumstances. No, it was better to leave off as just friends.
“You’ll have to say farewell to your pet,” growled the guard as they reached the door to Lin’s room. “I’m sure a curtsy will do.”
Lin shot him a look of fury and was about to retort, but thought better. Instead she smiled kindly at the older man. “I’m sure it would,” she replied, turning back to face Thresh. Without hesitation, she threw her arms around him in the biggest hug she could give. Thresh wrapped his warm arms about the Princess- the dirt on his arms and clothing rubbing off on her dress. Burying her face into his chest, Lin closed her eyes and embraced his warmth, inhaling his scent of the forest and dirt. Under her cheek, Lin felt Thresh’s heartbeat pounding within his sturdy chest.
Opening her eyes again, Lin saw the guard looking on in disgust. Winking at him, Lin refocused her attention on Thresh and pulled away to look up into his green eyes. “Farewell Thresh.”
“Farewell Princess.” Stepping back, Thresh took one of Lin’s hands. Bowing low, he gently kissed the top of her fair hand, nails painted a sky blue to match her eyes. Standing straight once more, Thresh offered a sad smile. There was nothing more to be said, yet not enough had been said. Lin struggled to think of something to say, something to do to keep him longer. But the moment had gone, and Thresh was now walking away.
“Your friends will be here later with your dinner,” the guard said as he opened the door for Lin, his eyes disapproving as always.
“Well that makes everything better, doesn’t it?” Lin snapped. Before the guard could respond she slammed the door in his face. Instead of feeling victorious, however, Lin only felt loneliness. Her vast room made her feel small, the stone under her feet felt cold despite the fireplace burning nearby. Even the large bearskin rug brought little warmth as she began to walk around her room. Though she had spent her whole childhood in the room, it was rather empty.
The only personal touches were the minor portraits on the wall of her parents, sister, and friends. None were of Thresh – only the people her father approved of. Lin settled on a small portrait of herself and her younger sister, Summer. Usually the two of them go travelling in the spring together, but this year the younger girl had gone on her own with several of her friends. Lin would have joined, but it was harder to hunt when constantly under the watchful eye of their guardians. It would be weird not having her around. Like Lin, Summer had long, blonde hair; however while Lin’s was wavy, her younger sisters hair curled naturally into golden columns. They had the same, sky blue eyes, but while Lin’s face was an oval, Summer’s was more round, more innocent.
Shaking her head, Lin looked around the room for a distraction. Spotting the clothes she had torn out of the drawers earlier, the Princess walked over to refold them. Normally her maids would have done it, but she needed something to do. Besides, it’s not like she could take them with her – once she reached the other kingdom, Lin would only be able to wear Darsinian clothing as was tradition when Princess entered another kingdom. A large lump in her throat kept rising as thoughts of leaving dripped through her mind. Being locked up only made things worse- the room at first seemed too big, but now it felt as though the walls were closing in on her. Even after having a maid draw a warmth bath for her, Lin found it hard to relax. She had scrubbed down with a minty soap that contained soothing enchantments that calmed her nerves, but nothing could bring her up from the depression sinking in.
Several loud knocks pounded at the door when the sun was close to setting. Too impatient to wait for Lin to open the door, three girls stumbled in. Two of which – the brunettes Lonna and Diane- ran straight to Lin as they sobbed.
“We know not what we shall do once you leave!” cried Lonna, shoving her flat face into the sleeve of Lin’s dress. Diane was on the other side, looking up at her with small, piggish eyes and sniffling. Oddly enough, the first thought that came to the Princess’s mind was how astonishing it was Diane could breathe. She was heavier than the other girls and often wore dresses with the corset drawn back too tight in an attempt to look just as thin. Not that she really needed to- plenty of the boys she passed were too transfixed on the low cut portion of her dress.
“It will be such a shame to see you go,” said a bored Alanna, feigning sadness. Alanna was her father’s favorite, but Lin had a hard time standing the red- haired girl. Few red heads managed to look pretty, but Alanna somehow pulled it off- and she knew it. She also knew the King preferred her over Lin, and that everyone thought she would have made a far more proper Princess. There was never a moment when Alanna didn’t appear more ladylike- she even kept up with the latest fashions and wore the most elaborate, expensive dresses. The one she wore now was of a bright yellow silk, lined with frilly fabrics and the material about her wrists lined with small diamonds.
“Alanna I don’t know how I will bear being away from you,” Lin replied smiling, her voice sweet with sarcasm. The other two girls had finally stopped sobbing as food began to arrive. Platters of chicken, venison, fruits, and vegetables were brought in, many of the dishes still steaming. A rather large, plain wooden table had been placed in Lin’s room for nights like these- when her father arranged little sleep overs. Despite the pit in her stomach, Lin knew she had to eat at some point. Diane was the first to sit down and dig in, while the last to join them was Alanna, taking her time to walk with proper posture and sit daintily in her chair. With a wave of her hand, Alanna dismissed the staff as if they personally served her as opposed to Lin.
“Do you think he’s handsome?” Lonna asked as she popped a grape in her mouth, grinning with excitement even as he chewed. Lin’s face twisted in disgust,
“I doubt it – I don’t even know his age. Besides, Darsai is a kingdom of barbarians.” In an attempt to eat, Lin tried nibbling on an apple slice.
“No need to work on manners now,” Alanna’s giggle was high pitched and always sounded to Lin like sharp knives clashing together. “Just tear into everything with your teeth like you usually do- I doubt the Darsinians eat any differently.”
“I hear they offer human sacrifices to the Dark Gods,” Diane said before Lin could even retort. The larger girl’s mouth was still full of food as she kept talking, her eyes widening with each word. “And for their meals, everyone eats their meat raw!”
“I’ve heard that the men dress rather barbaric and hardly wear clothing,” Lonna giggled mischievously. “Just last night I was able to sneak out with Adam, and let me tell you- a man’s body is nothing one can get enough of,” she smiled promiscuously, waiting for someone to ask her what happened.
“And I’m sure he will enjoy your body just as much once you’re 6 months pregnant with his child,” Alanna said coolly. “That is, if he even admits to have anything to do with you.” Lonna averted her eyes and returned to her food, suddenly full of shame. Her luck with boys had never been so great- it seemed every month there was a new one she’d been visiting with.
“And just how are things with you and Alec?” Lin asked innocently, but couldn’t help smirking at Alanna’s glare. Thresh and Alec often hunted together, so Lin knew more of Alanna’s relationship than she let on. While part of her felt bad for Alanna, Lin couldn’t help feeling like the snobby girl deserved to be dumped.
“I believe that is none of your business, but if you must know I have decided to move onto men who are worth something,” Alanna replied curtly.
“But he’s the son of a rather rich noble, isn’t he?” Diane asked, oblivious to Alanna’s frustration.
“Obviously he’s no one great if he can’t find anyone but a mere stable boy to talk to.” Alanna looked dead into Lin’s eyes as she said this. Lin rarely spoke of Thresh, but it was common knowledge how much she treasured her friendship with him.
“Or maybe you aren’t so great if he decided a maid was more fitting to love than you!” Lin exclaimed, her hands gripping the edge of the table. Alanna looked fit to explode.
“Who told you that?” she hissed through clenched teeth, her green eyes bright with rage.
“He left you for a maid?” Lonna gasped. “But you’re the daughter of the richest Duke ar-”
“As if you can judge, you floozy!” Alanna screeched, standing up violently. “Enjoy your life in Darsai your highness,” Alanna sneered. “I’m sure you’ll love living in filth, serving under your old fiancé and bearing his children.” Snatching up her dress, Alanna stormed out of the room.