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A Royal Elf of Abalon

A Royal Elf of Abalon

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A Royal Elf of Abalon

Länge:
507 Seiten
7 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 7, 2015
ISBN:
9781310420481
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

The deep relationship between Amaria, the princess of Abalon and Marken, the chancellor’s son, comes to a halting stop after their kingdom is almost annihilated. However, death isn’t the only thing this battle brings. Elfs come to their rescue and, as a souvenir, take the princess home with them.
Blinded by fury, the overprotecting queen orders the extermination of the mighty elfs. Her captains know they can never win, so they are pleased when Amaria intervenes so desperately that she loses her mother. The unprepared princess is left to care for a kingdom that will demand her true love.
A Royal Elf of Abalon is the stand-alone continuation of Anna’s Elf series. Once again she has crafted an exciting new tale full of jealousy, betrayals, and death. A Royal Elf of Abalon is a masterpiece created in the genre of Tolkien that you’ll love to the end.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 7, 2015
ISBN:
9781310420481
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Anna was born in the extreme South along some famous beaches. She grew up with four other siblings being placed in the middle. Her mother died when she was six and she found a new mother in her husband’s mother and loves her dearly. She accredits her mother-in-law with teaching her many things in life. The green eyed, brown haired author moved north to marry her husband Rodney and has resided in Utah since then. Her husband, a native of Idaho, met her in her hometown. They fell in love and she came to Utah on Christmas Eve to be married two weeks later. They are the parents of three princes and a princess. Early on in her life she showed an affinity for sewing and took classes that rewarded her with the opportunities of doing costuming for the cast of four musicals, which she enjoyed immensely. She is fluent in both English and Spanish and understands some Portuguese. Some of Anna’s writing recognitions: She received the Editor’s Choice Award from the International Library of Poetry and had her article entitled A New American Mother published by Desert Saints Magazine. Her short story entitled Amerine—Fairy Princess wan an award in the Oquirrh chapter contest and was published by Kalkion Magazine. Other articles about family and relationship have been published frequently in the MOMS CLUB® of Salt Lake Valley-West. Her three books of the Silent Warrior Trilogy are published by Outskirts Press, Inc.


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A Royal Elf of Abalon - Anna del C. Dye

A Royal Elf of Abalon

Anna del C. Dye

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described here are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher.

A Royal Elf of Abalon

All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Anna del C. Dye

V2.0 — Second Edition

Cover Art by Lois Moore

Illustrations based on drawings by Tanis Fulger

This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

ISBN 13: 978-1497549296

ISBN 10: 1497549299

All Rights Reserved USA

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Other books by Anna del C. Dye:

The Silent Warrior Trilogy:

The Elf and the Princess

Trouble in the Elf City

Elfs in a Conquered Realm

Curse of the Elfs

And only available as an e-book:

Emerine’s Nightmare

Not Everything That Looks Royal Is…

The deep relationship between Amaria, the princess of Abalon and Marken, the chancellor’s son, comes to a halting stop after their kingdom is almost annihilated. However, death isn’t the only thing this battle brings. Elfs come to their rescue and, as a souvenir, take the princess home with them.

Blinded by fury, the overprotecting queen orders the extermination of the mighty elfs. Her captains know they can never win, so they are pleased when Amaria intervenes so desperately that she loses her mother. The unprepared princess is left to care for a kingdom that will demand her true love.

A Royal Elf of Abalon is the stand-alone continuation of Anna’s Elf series. Once again she has crafted an exciting new tale full of jealousy, betrayals, and death. A Royal Elf of Abalon is a masterpiece created in the genre of Tolkien that you’ll love to the end.

Dye's great story is full of all the things that make a book great: forbidden love, intrigue, secrets, wars, elves, orks … there is more than enough to grab any readers interest and hold it until the end.

— Cindy C. Bennett

… The author does a fantastic job keeping readers engaged. … Dye has developed strong, unique characters … high adventure, intrigue, and a secret, forbidden love. If you loved Lord of The Rings, Dye's books are sure to keep you reading late into the night. — Mandi Slack

Prologue

In the middle of a starless night, a caped figure moved carefully about a street of poor repute in the kingdom of Abalon. The woman knew of the trouble she would be in if someone recognized her. Yet her love and the urgency of her mistress’ request were uppermost in her mind, even overriding her own safety.

She couldn’t see a thing, not that there was much to see in a poor township like this one. However, the smell of rotten food and urine had assaulted her from the moment she first set foot there. She was lucky that no dogs had caught her smell yet. She needed to hurry and get away.

Arriving at the object of her quest, she sighed deeply. From the darkest corner of the shadows she looked both ways to make sure no one followed her, then she knocked.

Who theah? a raspy, sleepy voice sounded from behind the door.

My mistress sent me, she murmured through the thin planks that covered the entrance.

The latch was lifted and the door opened, assaulting her nose with a barrage of smells: sour, sweet, and others she didn’t care to name. With no sign of lighted candles, she couldn’t see the male occupant of the hovel.

Are you ready? she asked as she slid through the crack, to feel the heat of his filthy body close by.

Yes…. Did ya bring me tha money?

Here it is…. Half now—the rest when you are done.

She heard the jingle of the coins as he weighed them in the dark. A series of clinks let her know he had put them back in the bag one by one.

When she had come before to make the arrangements, she had studied the shack he called his home. A long table, stained by things that she didn’t want to know about, filled the middle of the room. A lone candleholder guarded one corner like a giant sentinel; a small window covered by a dirty rag the other. Two chairs made of dry branches sat at each side of the cot the man used for his bed.

Bring tha child in two days and I’ll wait here for ya. Give her this ta drink before ya leave yer house.

She nodded before she slipped out of his door, and then realized that in the dark he could not see her answer.

*****

Two nights later, close to midnight, a small wagon with three people in it was heard approaching the same dingy shack.

Carry her, the same woman from before instructed the man at her side. She hurried to the door and knocked three times.

Too slow for her taste, her companion put the reins on the seat and slid down to retrieve the child. In the back of the wagon lay a girl, perhaps not even halfway to ten. She didn’t make a sound as he scooped her in his strong arms and carried her to the door.

Hurry before someone sees us, the nervous woman murmured as the door opened from inside.

Put her on tha table, a raspy voice came from the left of the dark room.

Meanwhile, the woman looked both ways and closed the door behind her. For a small moment they were in complete darkness. Then a soft light came to their eyes and they began to discern a table where the child lay.

Good, she’s ’sleep, the occupant of the house said.

Why did you want her asleep? asked the man from the wagon.

Tha potion takes time ta work end it’s fasta if she’s ’sleep. Now I’m ready. Just in case, ya sit here end hold her arms. Keep her still.

What do you want me to do? asked the woman.

Gag her. We don’t want anyone ta hear her … end then hold her legs down.

The woman felt her face drain at the insinuation behind his words. With trembling hands she did what was asked of her.

Raspy voice moved the tall candleholder closer and lighted two more candles. The woman nodded to her companion and both tugged at their hoods to conceal their identity.

Is that necessary, softly growled her companion.

It’ll free ma hands ta work, the un-shaven man answered.

It was then that the man picked up a knife with one hand and then held the girl’s head firmly with the other.

The woman felt faint and closed her eyes, though her mind wouldn’t spare her the horrible vision.

With the raspy voice man’s pressure on the little girl’s head, she stirred. Surprised, the man holding her arms strove to keep her still as she tried to twist away from the hands pinning her down.

The man with the knife did not stop his job and scarcely paid attention to the resisting child. He must have known that her struggles would only last a short moment and that the pain he inflicted would cause her body to become quickly limp. As the child fainted, the woman silently cried.

Chapter One

A Troubled Land

I don’t understand, cried Josemy as he paced the floor of his friend Tayree’s house, causing the orange aroma that emanated from the tall mug he carried to perfume the air.

The soft-spoken elf, with caring honey-colored eyes, smoothed his long cinnamon-colored hair away from his face toward his ear.

She wrote that she would be here soon, he stopped to drive in this point to his companion. That was several years ago.

Many things could have happened to make her change her mind, soothed Tayree. They had had this conversation many times before, and nothing new had ever arisen from them. He understood his friend’s needs and just followed him with his violet eyes.

I have consulted all of those who were present on the last voyage from our motherland to our city. They do not remember a woman alone or traveling with her brothers.

Josemy placed his elbow on the threshold to rest his tired head as he fixed his eyes on nothingness. The beautiful purple-pink hues outside were chasing the day away in preparation for the shadows.

Then is it not safe to suppose that she is well, in the land of never-ending spring? replied his friend encouragingly.

Josemy looked as fit as the day he had meet him fifty three years ago, when they made the voyage together from their motherland.

I don’t know…. Something tells me that such is not the case with her. He turned suddenly to set his eyes upon his friend’s.

What could Tayree tell him that he had not already said?

There is a group of Lothian elfs going to visit Woodland…. Send a message with them, maybe she is there, he suggested from the comfortable chair he sat on.

I will go insane if I have to wait for their return, he confessed and sat heavily next to Tayree.

Why do you not accompany them? It will help to keep you busy and keep you from worrying me so.

Yes, I will do that…. I am sorry I have placed this heavy burden on your shoulders, my friend. I would have gone mad without you.

Go tell Almion that you will tag along; and, Josemy, my best wishes go with you.

*****

Some days later in the summer palace of Queen Amathis of the kingdom of Abalon, the captain of the royal guards hurriedly entered her sitting room.

My Queen, said Malon from one knee. Lady Lelanee was found in the poorest part of town this morning.

Is she all right? the queen asked, concern evident in her voice.

The captain lowered his eyes and answered. No, My Queen… she is dead.

Queen Amathis’ large hand went to her thick lips to quiet her cry.

The captain continued by telling her the gruesome details of two murders. By the time he finished, the queen quietly fell in a faint, causing no slight worry to the few courtiers who were present.

The two older chancellors, Patrin and Hemil, were handy when she awoke as they had just arrived from the capital.

She is coming to, Ivar, the royal healer, said and added an extra pillow to the daybed where she rested.

The queen’s black eyes fluttered open and her red mouth quivered for an instant.

Your Highness … My Queen, are you all right? Patrin asked. His round hand waved a wet rag inches from the queen’s face while his snowy temples moved with the rhythm of his words.

What … what happened to me? she asked. Her wine-scented breath tickled the older man’s small nose, which wrinkled in response.

They watched her hand pull her black hair away from her chubby tan face.

You fainted, My Lady, answered the healer. Patrin helped her to a sitting position while Ivar pressed a cup of medicinal tea to her lips.

She looked with unfocused eyes at the brown eyes of the thin healer with a long hooked nose.

I see … how long … was I unresponsive? she asked and sipped the peppermint flavored tea.

Just a small moment, My Lady, answered Patrin.

Our court healer is the best, My Lady, Hemil’s fleshy lips said. Ivar brought you back in a record time.

She looked at them as if she had noticed the two advisers for the first time.

Have you found any clues to the murders? she asked, completely focused now.

No one heard anything, My Queen, answered Hemil.

We don’t know what she was doing at that hovel, interjected Patrin.

What madness took her there? Amathis cried aloud.

Ivar hurriedly gave her more tea, in hopes of keeping her from fainting again.

The dead man was of no consequence, My Lady, rejoined the captain. There was no money found in the shack or on their bodies…. That section is poorest in the kingdom and only hooligans live there. If Lady Lelanee had any money on her person, we can’t attest to it.

So, you believe it was not a robbery?

The queen sat back in her red silk chair, the one she had slipped from when she fainted.

Yes, Our Queen…. Nothing was out of place and there was no sign of a struggle in the room. Both were found lying side by side.

You said that their necks were… cut, didn’t you? she asked the captain, her own hand caressing her throat.

Yes, My Queen. The knife belonged to the house where they were found. The man was known as a healer by the peasants in that village.

I want no leads to be left uninvestigated, Chancellors. I want to bring to justice whomever did this to my friend. They will pay dearly for killing her.

We understand, My Lady, Malon bowed.

We are so sorry, My Queen, Patrin added meekly. Lady Lelanee was a special woman—kind and loyal.

Yes, we grew up together and were very close, that is why I will not rest until her death is avenged.

*****

When the queen sent the captain away, with strict orders to continue his investigation, the two chancellors stayed behind.

My Lady, how long will you stay in the summer palace? Hemil asked after a long pause.

At least three weeks more, Hemil. Amaria has caught a nasty cold and Ivar ordered her to bed for a week.

Is she all right, Our Queen? asked Patrin.

She has a bad headache and her ears hurt … but I was assured that all she needs is rest and much needed sleep, so the healer is having her sleep it off.

We will be very glad when she is well, My Lady, Patrin replied.

We shall see you then, My Queen, and may the princess get well soon," Hemil bid her goodbye.

Keep me posted about the murders, she responded to their farewells.

By your command, My Queen, Patrin bowed once again.

Just a few moments later, the two chancellors climbed into the carriage that groaned as they got in.

I’m glad that the summer palace was built hours away from the city castle, said Patrin as he gave the ornate building one last look.

I know what you mean, answered Hemil as he wiped the sweat from his face. Or we would have no rest from our dear queen.

They bounced on the velvety carriage cushions on their way to the city that lay at least three hours away in good weather. The hoof-beats of the two horses muffled their conversation from the driver. The guards that escorted them were on horses surrounding the stagecoach, yet were far enough away to not hear them. The queen had ordered that not one of the courtiers should venture out, not even to the market, without a guard for protection after her lady-in-waiting disappeared.

Well, old friend, said Hemil and patted the other chancellor’s arm. Our kingdom is prosperous. Our queen is happy and we have not… accidentally killed any of our chancellors lately.

I often wondered what would happen when we ran out of chancellors and she wanted a new husband? confessed Patrin.

Yes, I dreaded the fact that you were next in line to her hand, Hemil told him.

It was lucky that Chancellor Alien, our last king, finally succeeded in giving her a child.

Too bad for him, though, said Hemil. He never found out before Amathis discovered him dead like the other eight poor souls that she married.

You do mean that he had an accident like her other husbands? corrected Patrin cautiously.

Of course–of course.

I was sure it was her fault that she couldn’t conceive, he confessed, not the poor fools she blamed for it.

I suppose we can’t blame her that after nineteen years of waiting she was too old to have a child, Hemil conceded.

She obsessed about it for many years…. How well I remember it.

I believe we all do, agreed Hemil. Those were uncertain times for our kingdom, and I am glad they are gone.

Another thing that changed with her daughter being born is that Amathis’ disposition has improved, smiled Patrin.

Lucky us, agreed Hemil.

Yes. Very lucky indeed, replied his friend.

*****

Back in the summer castle, the princess awoke shortly after her mother entered the room.

It hurts, Mommy, she sobbed.

I know, my baby, Queen Amathis soothed.

If My Queen will let me examine her to see what is wrong…

That isn’t necessary, Ivar. We know it’s her ears. You just do as you always do.

Yes, of course, My Queen. Yet, if I was sure, I could prescribe the right thing for her.

I have added a sleeping potion to her nourishment, as the queen ordered. This assures that she will fall asleep immediately after eating. The queen has always been protective of the child, yet I think she feels guilty for her suffering. I will never understand this woman, Ivan thought.

I don’t like to see my baby hurt, the queen’s lip quivered for a small moment, bringing him back to the scene. Here, you will be asleep as soon as you eat this, she told the princess as she gave her a spoonful of soup.

There is not much I can do for her, if I don’t know the exact cause of her hurt, My Queen. That potion will keep her asleep and while she sleeps, she will feel less pain and heal faster.

Maybe if we didn’t wake her for a week … it would work better for her, the queen pled, and he felt a twinge of pity.

I’m afraid that would kill her, My Queen, he responded while he made sure that the princess lay straight in her silky sheets.

Kill her … why?

At once the healer realized his error as the woman’s face turned a shade of white. He watched her cautiously as she sat again on the edge of the bed.

I meant that if she doesn’t eat, her body will starve to death.

I just don’t want to see her hurt anymore, the queen whispered.

I understand, My Lady. If it would help you more … I could feed her.

No! she cried. You will call me every time that she awakes.

Of course, My Lady. He bowed. I’ll let you know when the next mealtime is near, he said and left the child’s room.

*****

In the land of Lothia just a few weeks later, two friends encountered each other on their way to the great hall.

Josemy… you are back. Are you on your way to the council?

Yes, I heard our scouts discovered a threat to our lives.

I think that is absurd, exclaimed Tayree, with a thin smile. Mankind have lived there for a long time and never have we considered it dangerous, why now?

Do you not feel threatened by the discovery? Josemy asked.

The place has been there for a long time…. I remember stories of when it was founded … about three hundred years ago.

Yes, and they have never been a threat to us before, Josemy smiled. I suppose you are right.

By the way, did you find anything out about your daughter in Woodland?

No, nothing, murmured Josemy sadly. It is as if she had never existed.

Do you know for sure that she came? Tayree murmured.

No. I sent an inquiring parchment to my kindred in our motherland two months ago.

It takes a long time to communicate with our families there, Tayree agreed.

The elf vessel only comes once every five years, and then only when someone wants to come here. It will be a long time before I receive an answer, he murmured, and his eyes clouded once again.

I will hope everything is fine and she just changed her mind, replied Josemy.

I will too, my friend, responded Josemy. Yet the emptiness in my heart takes away my hopes.

The friends entered the great hall and found a place to sit together. Josemy focused on the magnificent building to keep his tears from falling down. The great hall had two intricate sets of metal stairs that joined the two floors. From the main floor, smaller rooms could be seen off of balconies two floors above. The domed ceiling, formed by the emptiness in the middle, was crossed by massive rafters where many oil lamps hung. He remembered well the construction of the ceiling and how many elfs it had taken to affix the rafters in their place. The tall stone walls were pierced only by elongated windows that adorned the structure and gave daylight to the interior.

We shall begin, exclaimed Almion. Sakone, will you give us the report?

Surely, he answered. The seasoned elf arose and looked about before he started. The kingdom of Abalon has grown strong in the past century. Their cities are scattered over the plains about their castle.

Are they of any threat to us? asked Zamine, going straight to the point like a good elf.

We infiltrated their cities and spied about them, continued Sakone.

Were you seen? wondered Almion.

No. We made sure to be unnoticed, he answered. As far as we could see and hear, they are not a threat to us as long as no other kingdom conquers them and if they stop throwing their garbage in the river.

What would happen if they were conquered? asked Phenton.

They are not close enough to create any danger to us, answered Juleny. Of course that would depend on who our… new neighbors were and if they have plans to come this way.

But, our problem is not the people who live there, continued Sakone. Our problem is what the people who live there do to the valley.

The underground water we have from the mountains that surround us is of great benefit and has been for many centuries, Almion reminded the gathering. If something were to happen to the water that comes from their city and crosses our forest, we could suffer greatly through the centuries.

What does that have to do with the mankind kingdom? asked Rezeny.

If they keep polluting the main stream, it will ruin the water that passes through our forest, answered Zamine.

Many of the trees in the forest could die, commented Phenton. If the animals get sick from the water and they are eaten by others, that would made them sick also and thus spread the malady for many miles.

Not only that, but if the bad water were to penetrate into the forest, it could poison the underground streams about us, added Zamine.

That is a real concern, concluded Rezeny. We need to take care of the resources we have now so that we may enjoy them later.

What you all mean is that if they were to ruin the water down there, we could suffer up here also, concluded Juleny.

If we were to teach them how to dispose of their garbage, Tayree thought aloud.

Yes, that would help, agreed Almion. But we do not go and offer our knowledge to mankind … it is different when they ask for our help.

So, are we not going to do anything? asked Josemy.

For now we will keep an eye on them. Then when the opportunity presents itself, we will teach them better ways to dispose of their garbage.

*****

In the palace garden in Abalon, seven years had passed. Two youngsters were climbing the forbidden tree. It was a tall and bushy tree, that some said was ancient, surrounded by a pool of green water. Stones were set to mark the paths of dirt that ran from the water’s edge toward the trail. It was a private place for the queen to unwind and relax, away from the mundane. It was pretty, yet simple, and the air was clear and sweet. It was enclosed by a wood trellis, covered with crawling vines and adorned with fragrant flowers. The only gate opened to the side of the queen’s own bedroom.

Come, Amaria. Give me your hand and I’ll pull you up, came the voice of the young man. He bent to reach for her as Amaria tried to climb to his branch.

No, I can do it all by myself, the maiden announced in a determined voice.

Have it your way…. But if you fall into the pond, we’ll be caught, and you know what that means.

Marken, you just want to scare me, she replied with a giggle as she pulled her dress out of the way.

At that moment, the princess’ foot slipped on a leaf as she tried to set it on a knot on the trunk. She panicked as she started to fall. However, she felt herself pulled upward by a hand that grabbed hers and yanked her to the safety of the next branch. For a moment she stayed still in the young man’s embrace until her legs felt rooted on his branch.

That was scary, she conceded and pulled away from his embrace. She paused to stare into the black eyes peering from the tan face of the youth.

Amaria, I would never let you fall, I promise.

I know, you are my best friend, she told him as she hugged the slim, yet strong, form of her friend.

A mischievous smile appeared on his lips. Any chance that I could be more than that? he asked and leaned forward to look at the soft honey-colored eyes staring back at him.

She cleared her light brown hair from her fair face to respond, What do you mean?

He looked toward the next step in their ascent before he replied. Nothing … I will ask you when you are older.

I am not a child, you know, she told him sternly and made a face at him, I’m almost as tall as you.

Well, let me see…. You are ten … aren’t you? he teased her unmercifully.

Before he could enjoy his teasing, however, she gave him a push and his foot slipped out from under him. He plunged backward onto the ground, crashing right next to the pool. His breath was loud for a second, and she knew he had hit hard. His body stayed there immobile and she blanched.

Mark, are you all right? she called.

Frozen for just a moment by the site of the unmoving body, she now swung from branch to branch to land at the edge of the pool. With the hem of her dress soiled and her heart in her throat, she knelt at his side. Mark, Marken. Talk to me. Are you all right?

She reached for his face to caress it. All of a sudden, she felt arms surrounding her and her body press close to his. What are you… she didn’t finish as she found herself being rolled across the lawn.

I scared you, didn’t I? responded the almost-deep voice of her friend.

You are horrible, she laughed with eyes bright, relieved that it was just a joke.

I am… Why, you were the one who pushed me to my death, he accused her.

He stopped tumbling her as she laughed freely. He settled on top and stared deeply in her eyes. His long, dark brown hair framed her face. He started to bend close to her, so close that she was able to feel the warmth of his breath on her lips.

I’m twelve and you know it, she giggled as his hair tickled her face. At that precise moment, he reached the tip of her nose with a soft kiss.

Yes, you are, My Princess, he told her, more somber than she had ever seen him. He stepped aside to help her up. I need to treat you like a lady.

Please don’t change…. Not ever, she whispered and hugged him fiercely.

I have to, my precious…. You are going to change, too, he explained.

No, I will not.

Listen, Amaria… You are a princess and one day you will be our queen.

Yes, I know that. My mother is always telling me so. But for now, and when we are alone, please don’t change with me.

I am old enough to know that that would be an impossible promise to keep, My Princess. It has been twelve years since I was introduced to you as a little baby girl. I wanted to be by your side since that moment. You were the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and I was permitted to grow up with you. He glanced at her by his side.

Thank you, she giggled.

You are right. You are almost of my height and even more pretty now. I love your long tussled hair and red lips … so red, he smiled as she reached for his hand.

We have been together always. Well, except that one summer when I was five years old. Mother took me to the country manor and you were left behind.

That was a very lonely summer…. I missed you so much, he continued reminiscing and gave her hand a soft squeeze.

Mother is going to be very upset with me when she sees me, she pulled up her muddy dress to show him.

Don’t worry. We’ll go through the back way to your room. Lilian will be there and she’ll help you change your wet clothes.

She, too, is my best friend, the princess smiled. If it wasn’t for her, my mother would have sent me to the dungeon long ago.

He laughed merrily. Lilian has covered for us plenty of times when the playing went a bit wrong. Here you are, My Lady. Marken smiled and bowed to her as they stopped under her window.

Suddenly, a head popped out of the window making both youths jump in fright.

My Lady, you’d better hurry. Your mother expects you in the sunroom immediately.

Oh, it was you, the princess sighed, staring at the cinnamon eyes of her fifteen-year-old lady-in-waiting. Don’t frighten me like that again.

I’m sorry, but it was I who was very frightened, she replied as her loose brown hair spilled over the windowsill. Your mother sent a page to get you, and I didn’t know what to tell the queen if you hadn’t just arrived.

Here, let me help you, Marken said and scooped the princess up to set her on the windowsill.

Lilian glanced at him and could not help noticing how athletic the seventeen-year-old boy, nearly a man, was. Of course this was not the first occasion she had admired him. The three of them were very close in age and had spent a lot of time together. All of a sudden she felt her cheeks burn and turned so as to not let them see it.

Thank you…. I will see you later, Amaria called softly, jumping inside her room.

Come, My Lady, we better hurry!

*****

The young man retraced his steps back to the tree by the pond and sat alone for a while, resting his back on the trellis and staring at the water. He was the only son of Polinor, one of the queen’s chancellors. He knew that his father was the only reason he was permitted to be near the royal princess.

He remembered a conversation from a few weeks before. Why does the queen forbid any young men around the princess, Father?

The queen waited for many years before she could have a child, Marken. She overprotects her and can’t bear to think of the time that Amaria will grow up and leave her. She believes that by keeping the princess alone, she won’t fall in love anytime soon. Besides, that only gives you a better chance at her hand, he smiled at his son.

As I am the only man she knows, I suppose that’s a good supposition, agreed Marken.

Any news on your efforts with her?

No, Father, as you said, she has been very protected and doesn’t know anything about love, nor does she understand my advances.

Well, all you can do is keep trying…. Remember that you don’t want to hurry her, just be there for when she is ready…. It will pay off at the end, you will see.

It was obvious his father wanted him to become Amaria’s husband. He liked that idea very much, for he had heard it since he was a child himself and had never given a thought to another possibility.

He also knew that he would be in a lot of trouble if the queen found out what he had taught the princess behind her back. Things like how to climb a tree by age five, whistle at six, skip rocks on the water by seven, ride a horse by eight, how to take care of a horse by nine, how to swim by ten, row a boat by eleven and how to play polo by twelve. All of these activities were very un-ladylike and most improper for the next queen. It was his way to rebel against the queen’s commands about her daughter.

Not only would the queen banish me from her daughter’s side, but she would also kill me if she knew I want to teach her how to kiss by fourteen … and marry her by her sixteenth birthday, he murmured out loud.

Yes, he was looking forward to that special moment when he could tell her how much he loved her. I wonder if my father would understand about the kiss. I’d better teach her how to dance first…while I wait for the right moment, he said.

After all, he needed to be careful if he was to be at her side when she was ready and not be banished.

*****

At the same time in Lothia, the beautiful city of the elfs, a couple was having a teaching moment with their son, who was fast approaching manhood. Not only that, their son’s fascination with the mankind city had left them no choice.

Kurzan, you know that women are to be respected and protected by us, their men, Phenton, his father, started the conversation.

Yes, Father, we have been taught that in school since… I cannot remember, he responded. Young Kurzan’s blue eyes where set upon his father.

Any moment soon you are going to notice a particular girl that seems more special than the rest.

Do all young men find their mates by seventeen, he asked.

Not necessarily, answered Renya, his mother. Some elfs are our age and have not found them yet.

Then there are those that do so when still children, Phenton continued. They have a hard time waiting for their nineteenth birthday to be married.

Tell me, how did you know Mother was the right girl for you?

The slim gold-haired man smiled and his green eyes did too. He took his wife’s hand and kissed it softly. All elfs have a special power—a sense that permits them to know without a doubt that they have found their mate.

Has anyone ever been wrong?

Not that we know of, answered Renya.

What happens if your mate is from another race?

We do not believe that has occurred, my son…. Yet there are a few tales in our history about elfs who have chosen a companion from mankind.

Mankind is a good race, Kurzan, assured Renya. But, they are very different from us.

In what ways? I, I would like to live with them and learn what they have to offer our world.

Phenton glanced at his wife and knew that she too had sensed the excitement in his voice.

I have been in their cities a few times…. Wars, usually with our common enemies, have given us a chance to know them, he said.

What are they like? Kurzan asked with glistening eyes.

They are brave, and even selfless, in defense of their freedom and of that which they hold dear…. Yet they are dirty, boisterous and lovers of a drink that clouds their minds.

"We are soft spoken and

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