The princes shadows, p.21
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       The Prince's Shadows, p.21

           Seoran Worg
 
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  “Where did you get the book?” I ask softly.

  “Do you like it?” he asks back, not answering my question.

  “Yes, sort of. Where did you get it?” I ask once again.

  “We seized it from the robbers. I think you might like it,” he says.

  “Yes, I do. Thank you,” I say softly, “Goodnight,” I add.

  “Goodnight,” he says, echoing mine.

  ***

  The morning light is slipping through the tent’s fabric wakes me up. Looking around, I see that Ryn isn’t here, he went out already. I should go out too. I force my lazy bone to sit. I brush and braid my hair in haste.

  “Ava, may I come in?” Ram shouts from outside the tent.

  But before I answer him, he is already in.

  “Today, Lord Ryn, ask me to be your squire,” he says grinning. “He says you’re bad at sword fight. And I will teach you,” he adds proudly.

  I can’t help but grinning back. I am not sure ‘bad’ is the exact word Ryn says to him.

  We go out from the tent and start parrying in nearby open field. And I notice that his movement is so different from Master Hyun. It less sophisticated but it fast and hard to predict.

  My body is drenched with sweat when we stop to take a rest. The sun is high in the blue sky, and the sea wind blowing hard.

  Ram gives me a flask of water as we sit next to each other.

  “You’re not that bad for a girl, Coz.”

  I smile at that, “Thanks,” I say.

  He is grinning back.

  “Do you happy being here? Don’t you want to go inside the Walls?” I ask him cautiously.

  “I am here all my life. Not sure if I want to go there. Are girls there nice, Coz? Girls here are snobby. I hate them.”

  “You’re too young to think about girl,” I say playfully.

  “I’ll be twelve in four months,” he says hotly.

  Yes, I child still. But I keep my mouth shut.

  “And I am not sure I will see my fifteen name day,” he says in sad smile, “We die young here,” he adds.

  “This hidden prince, have you seen him before?”

  “Why ask? No, of course I haven’t. Only the elders know who he is,” he seems in deep thought, “Your husband knows who he is, I think,” he adds.

  “I know,” I answer softly.

  He looks at me in narrowed eyes, “He doesn’t trust you, I see,” he grins again, “My mother always says don’t trust a Worg. That’s why I never trust her so are my father and brothers,” he says with mirth.

  “Why is that?”

  “Back stabber, she says. Your folk killed my uncle. Their own leader,” his face turn somber, “Isn’t that why the usurper spare your life?”

  I shake my head and say, “I don’t know,” But I suddenly remember what my father said.

  …But I got nothing, only a bloody ring…

  “Do all your folk here hate the Worg from inside the Walls?” I ask him curiously.

  “Yes, my mother hates you all,” he says calmly, “Not I of course, since I think you are nice. And it’s easier to hate monsters we don’t know,” he smiles apologetic.

  ***

  The sun is half way down in the horizon when I get back to our tent. I feel so tired. I wash my face and body as best as I can. Then, I pick the Westerlander book again. But it is another book that keeps coming to my mind, Lady Zara’s journal.

  Should I tell Ryn about it?

  I am waiting for him, but until midnight, he still not back yet. I think he is avoiding me.

  But why?

  I close the book and blow off the glass candle.

  Lying in the bed, I am thinking about things that happen here. Those rebels seem like human to me now, the real ones who have their worry and loved ones. Ram is right, it is easier to hate monsters I don’t know.

  Ryn, where are you?

  I need to talk with him but I feel drowsy and tired. I feel my eyelids slowly dipping. And slumber crawling, overcomes my body.

  I feel a soft touch on my shoulder, shaking me lightly.

  “Ava, wake up,” Ryn says softly.

  I open my eyes. It is still dark outside.

  “We will go now,” he announces.

  “Where?” I rasp and still feel disoriented.

  “East.”

  Chapter 17

  After dawn breaks, we left in hurry. Only with small bag we set out to the south, following the sea shore’s road. We go with two other, a man and woman. The young man is about Ryn’s age. He has light brown eyes and high cheekbone. His companion is around my age, she has slender built and wide sensual mouth. I know that they are lover.

  After around twenty miles past the bay, we turn and ride to the east up to the high green hill. Beyond the hill a dense pine forest welcome us. On the side of small stream, we stop for brief luncheon.

  I see the girl, Elsa, often steal glance to our direction. Shortly after we finish our lunch, another party comes. There are five of them, bringing a big cart pulled by two strong horses.

  Ryn leaves me under the big tree to attend them along with the other man, Oland is his name. I sit alongside with Elsa. She is idly playing with rocks, tossing and catching it again.

  “You can’t fool me, little lady,” she drawls, still playing with her rocks.

  “Pardon?” I ask.

  “Are you really his wife?” She asks with annoying smile in her lips, and then she puts down the rocks. “You still have innocence looks about you, no?” she accuses me, staring me straight in the eyes.

  “I don’t care what you…”

  “It’s not only me who doubting you,” she looks at Ryn, lust is clear in her eyes, “He looks like a man that needs a lot loving,” she smiles richly, “If you don’t care about him. I’ll gladly take your place.”

  Oh Gods, I hate this girl.

  But before I can answer her, Ryn and Oland are coming back to us so I keep my mouth shut.

  She stands up and say, “It seems we have to part way, my lord,” she smiles sweetly to Ryn. “My lady,” she adds to me, still smiling.

  I see the way she looks at Ryn so many times in the palace. It is the same looks servants or some court ladies give to comely soldiers who take their fancy.

  I nod curtly to her, refusing to answer her smile. These people are too bold for my taste. She has a husband besides yet she doesn’t care a whit.

  They mount their horse, and then depart with the new comers, riding the horses slowly with the cart back to the west. But of course, it is not before Elsa looks back at Ryn’s with another invitation.

  “Are you ready?” Ryn asks me breaking the silent.

  “Who is that girl?” I ask him.

  He looks at me puzzled, “Elsa, isn’t she? I thought you already know who she is.”

  “And Oland? Isn’t he her husband?”

  Ryn smiles a little, “Yes, by their standard, he is I suppose,” he says softly.

  “Like I am yours?”

  “Yes, I think,” he says apologetic. “We can fix that later, is that why you’re angry?” he adds.

  “Angry? I am not angry,” I say as calm as I can.

  He is silent for a moment and looks at me closely, “Did Elsa say improper thing to you?” he asks carefully.

  “No,” I say curtly.

  He looks at me in disbelief, “If you say so, my lady. Let’s go now,” he walks to his horse. And reluctantly, I follow him.

  We ride fast to the east. I like it better now. I feel free again without people watch my every move. I hope Ryn will more open to me now.

  Before dusk, we pass a small village. Ryn slows down his horse. I follow his suit. The villagers already finished their day work at the rice field. Only small children are still loitering around with their kites. They seem happy without any care of what happen in the world. I see ghost smile in Ryn’s lips. But we just ride pass and out the village.

  Around one mile past the village, he leads his horse
out of the clay road. And reins it near a big redwood and dismounts.

  At the open field nearby, we will sleep tonight. I take horse blankets from the saddle bag and arrange it for our mattress while Ryn make a fire from dried branches he has gathered from nearby forest.

  We sit around the fire and open our provision; in silent we eat our salted beef. At first it is difficult to bite down these hard and unsavory foods but I am starting to get accustomed now.

  After days staying near the sea and hear unbroken waves sound, I welcome the silent here. The only sounds are the gusting wind and clacking sound from the burning branches.

  “Where we are going?” I ask him between bites.

  “Nowhere in particular. Just throwing some false trails for the empress’ men. Are you afraid?”

  “Yes, I am,” I say honestly.

  “Let me take you to the city then.”

  “No, please don’t,” I plead.

  “It’s not late for you, Ava.”

  It feels foreign hearing my name from his voice.

  “Will you go with me?”

  “I can’t, you know it.”

  Why? I want to ask, but I let it pass.

  “Do you have any family?” out of sudden I ask.

  “I have.”

  This answer is unexpected so I ask, “Where are they now?”

  “Up there,” he points to the north, “In that mountain.”

  Is it the palace he meant?

  “Palace?” I ask confused. Then the realization hit me, “Princess Larra you mean?”

  He smiles softly, “How is she now?”

  I can’t say to him that his beloved princess and I is not in best term so I say, “Her wound is healed if that what you worried about.”

  He looks at me oddly and seems amused.

  “Your real family, I mean, do you have any?”

  “No one that I know of.”

  “Where did you come from? Who are your parents?” I blurt out.

  “That village, the one we just passed. There is where I was raised.”

  It shocks me. I look at his sad eyes, and I know that it is the truth.

  “For long time, I didn’t remember where it is. I was just small boy, no older than six years of age, when the empress’ men took me.”

  “And your parents?”

  “Died is more likely. I don’t even remember what they looks like.”

  I know it is Oracle duty to find disciple. And it is ever so uncommon to find one from low born or peasant. But throughout hundreds years, many had beat the odd before, and Ryn wasn’t the first.

  But is he really a peasant? I think he is a bastard born. Yes, it is more likely.

  “You were a small child back then, of course you don’t.”

  He says no more after that.

  “Do you know what your name mean?”

  “My name?” he asks puzzled.

  “Yes, it’s from ‘Sun’ and ‘Morning’ character. It means new hope,” I smile weakly.

  He smiles back but it is a sad smile, “Is that so? How odd. How do you know such a thing?”

  “Ryn in hieroglyph is written like that. Yours is name of emperors.”

  “Emperors? I never hear the emperor by name of Ryn. He must be unpopular or die young,” he smiles now, teasing me.

  “Sadly yes, Ryn the first was murderer by his own wife. And the second died tumbling from stair when he was drunk.”

  “Really? Now, I know why they name me Ryn,” he chuckles, “And how about yours?”

  “It’s ‘Blue’ and ‘Rose’,” I say weakly.

  “For unrequited love,” he says, “I know that,” he smiles weakly.

  “You know? Really? How so?”

  “Larra used to feed me those silly stories,” he says softly.

  Of course, the princess.

  “So, you know the stories of two mountains?”

  It is story about a God that fall in love with a mere woman, Edna is her name. It was love that lasted a life time but it is just like minutes or seconds for Sagha, the Mountain God. When she died, he turned her into a mountain so they can together always.

  The mountain is the dwelling place of the mountain clan in the east. It is said that atop that mountain, there are wild blue roses growing between its frozen rocks.

  “Yes, of course I know,” he says weakly, “It’s late. Sleep, Ava.”

  We sleep under the stars. The air is dank and warm. It is summer night. I made my bed near a big rock while he sleeps far away, near the fire but I still can see him, his sleeping profile. It is sad to have no one, at least I have a father, many cousins and friends. I imagine him as a grubby child playing kite along those rice fields. No, not a grubby child, he must be a beautiful child back then too.

  ***

  Next day, we rise along the morning sun, and immediately, ride to the southeast. The trees are sparse as we going to the east. Rocky hill replace the thick woodland. Just beyond the big rocky hill we arrive at board Marigolds field. The flowers are in golden yellow color. Seeing its beauty, I slow down a bit.

  And now, I am left far behind. Ryn reins his horse after he notices. Hastily, I pace my horse until we are abreast again.

  “Sorry,” I say.

  “It’s okay let ride slower.”

  Just shortly after dark, we arrive at another crossroad inn. He tells me to hide my collar so I put a scarf around my neck. We rent a small room and stay there while eating our dinner, far from prying eyes.

  “Give me your hand,” he says softly, “Your bracelet,” he adds.

  “Oh,” I give him my hand, “Is that mean we can use our energy now?”

  He nods. “That’s the purpose of this journey, throwing false trail for the Oracles,” he says.

  “Actually, I mean to tell you about Lady Zara’s journal,” I say hastily.

  “Lady Zara?” he finishes with my hand and put it on the table.

  “She was a Hallowed, she wrote a journal.”

  “And?”

  “Do you think it’s possible for me to control element?”

  He seems puzzled.

  “From what she wrote, it seems that she could.”

  He says nothing, seems weighting the possibility.

  “Do you think it’s possible?” I ask again

  “I am not sure. Where do you find this book?”

  “In palace library. You know, I have so many times to waste there.”

  He raises his eyebrow, clearly amused.

  “She lived more than four hundred years ago,” I pause and look at his aloof face, “Oh, forget it if you don’t think so.”

  “It might possible. I am not sure but we can try sometime. What this book says?”

  “She just wrote about many battles she went to. But it seems she control the element herself rather than just gave her energy.”

  He nods. “It might worth a try,” he says finally.

  Then, he stands up and says, “I’ll go downstairs to check the news. I think it’s better if you stay here.”

  He walks out, and for a moment I listen to his retreating footsteps until I cannot hear more.

  The night is growing late so I take off my outer garment, preparing to sleep. Immediately, I lie on the only bed in this room, feeling so tired. I feel my bones are ready to crumble and my muscles are stiff.

  It feels so nice lying on soft bed once again. Ryn has been gone for hours but still not coming back. What is he doing there? Does he wait until I sleep before coming back here? Maybe he does just that these last few days.

  My mind wander, thinking back at what Elsa said yesterday.

  …He looks like a man that needs a lot of loving…

  But it isn’t me he wants. If he does want me, what should I do? Should I just let him? It is easy, for he just looks like Prince Lex. And I am in love with him, am I not?

  Maybe I should just let him do whatever he wants. I feel myself blushing thinking about it.

  The sound of creaking of th
e opening door interrupts my wandering thought.

  Ryn strides inside. “There are robbers around here,” he says.

  “What will we do?” I ask weakly, still hiding under the blanket.

  “What else? Catch them of course.”

  Ryn says if he has to use his energy to draw empress’ attention. It is better to use it for better cause. And I agree with him.

  He looks awkwardly at our sleeping arrangement. He takes another blanket from the cupboard. I think it is unfair if I alone take the bed. I know how tired it is traipsing across the country on horseback.

  “We can share the bed,” I say.

  He raises his eyebrow.

  “It’s big bed. I know you’re tired. We both tired. It’s unfair if only I take the bed alone.”

  “I do thank you. But no,” he says in exhausted tone.

  “We are friend. Why not?”

  He has exasperated look about him.

  “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

  “No, should I?”

  “Fine then,” he says.

  I move to another side of the bed. He soon comes to the bed after blow off the candle.

  I dare not peeking at him. My muscle is stiff for lack of movement in few minutes past.

  Is he already sleeping now?

  “You can take a breath now,” he says clearly annoyed.

  I startled a bit. Do I really hold my breath?

  “I’ll sleep on the floor,” he says again and starts to wake.

  I catch his arm before he gets up from the bed. My heart is racing madly. Yes, he is right I should take a deep breath.

  “I am okay. It’s only little uncomfortable. But I am okay. Let’s just sleep.”

  He is laughing now, “As you wish, my lady,” he says in mirth and adds, “It seems Prince Lex haven’t teach you much.”

  I feel insulted, “What do you mean?” I ask sharply.

  “Oh, sorry, my lady.” But he doesn’t sound sorry at all.

  “No, you’re not,” I say hotly. I want to strangle him. “What do you know about the prince and me?”

  “I know he desire you. Isn’t that why he always send me outside the palace?”

  “He did what?”

  He lets out a loud sigh and says, “Forget it, just sleep tight. Good night.” He turns his back on me.

  Oh, no you don’t. I am tired of him says something and stops at the middle.

  I turn him around, “What do you mean?”

  He grabs me and I tumble down to his chest. I see his face in the moonlight.

  “Do you really don’t know?” He gives soft peck to my lips, then draw back. I feel his soft breath in my face and his racing heart under my palm. He gives me another, our lips meet and he kisses me gently. I kiss him back hesitantly at first. I feel my heart beating faster and faster.

 
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