“In the distance behind the two women, the castle of Kalangos rose over the meadows and fields. This was a rich country, full of fertile soil to grow crops in, and precious stones to be mined out of the ground. There was never a point in history that Kalangos had to go without anything. There was always enough food here since the king left most of the crops grown to the people.
However before the kingdom of Kalangos there were many wars. Many warlords conquered as much of the countryside as they could within their short lives. Many people died, and many suffered. This place was a very bad place to be at that time. This all ended when the stag came and bore its gifts upon one warlord.
This man was the first king of Kalangos, he was known as Callen the Great, and he is the one who united the people of this land together as one kingdom. The white stag had come and made peace out of war, growth out of spilt blood, and the stag bestowed the crown of the people onto this man. For once this land was no a place of evil and pain.
But that was many centuries ago. No one lived who was born before that time, and thus no one truly knew what had happened. No one knew who the stag was, nor did they know his connection with Callen. Many details had been lost over the ages, but what did remain were ruins like the ones that Rebekah and Hanne now stood in front of.
There was once a tower here by the river. The foundation could still be made out among the overgrown grass. Stones were lined up on the ground in a line where the tower had fallen over, too old to stand tall any longer. This made the Princess sad; this tower had once stood as a sentinel above the land. Many people had visited it before it fell in a storm the same year that she had been born. It was sad. The stones lay on the ground, cold as death.
Rebekah walked over to one of these stones, and slid her hand over the hard surface. This was perfect. She sat down on top of it, pushing with her legs to climb up. Then she took her small journal out of her small satchel, as well as a pen and ink, and began writing.
Hanne followed close behind. “I don’t understand.” She exclaimed. “Why can’t you just write in the safety of the castle? Why did we have to come all the way out here to sit on some stones?”
Rebekah smiled as she looked up from her writing. “I’m sure you already know the answer to that.”
“Do I?” Hanne looked dumbfounded. She was the handmaiden to a princess who didn’t understand her own safety, who thought herself above the kingdom. Thoughts raced through her mind as she tried to decipher what had just been said.
When Rebekah saw the expression painted across the young girls face she giggled. “Of course you do. There is no way you wouldn’t understand.” She said happily. “If I stayed in the castle all the time, then all my poems would be similar. I need to feel new things, see the land of this kingdom, and then I do everything I can to display everything I have noticed into a poem. My poems will stay here in the kingdom to help future generations understand how the kingdom looked now.”
“You want to feel new things, including pain.” Hanne said under her breath, and then aloud she said. “Yes I guess I understand. The people of the future may not understand how we lived, your poems will surely help with that.” Hanne sat quietly, watching the water in the Salg river flow white and fast. This fort had once been a pivotal location due to how once it could allow people to see across the vast waters. Now Hanne could barely see halfway across through the dense fog.
She sighed deeply, not knowing what to say. Words did not come for her as they did for Rebekah. The princess sat with a pen in her hand, writing viciously. Hanne wondered how anyone could think of words as fast as Rebekah, and still have enough time to string them together forming stanzas and soliloquy. She was already a great poet of the kingdom, even though she had fewer years than those who entered the University. There were many who had taken to calling her the Poet Princess, and when she succeeded her father she would be called the Poet Queen of Kalangos.
Hanne shook her head at the thought. Rebekah was an amazing poet, a fast learner, stronger than many of the soldiers in the army, and better with both a blade and bow, but she was still flawed. Even though the world saw her as a perfect person she wasn’t. This fort was near the river, and therefore the border of Crumhoff. This was where many people from the neighbouring kingdom became bandits scouring the landscape for anything of value. Normally they would go after gold and jewels, and even food, but this time there was a greater prize waiting for them.
The princess was here, and Hanne feared for her, but Hanne was also jealous. The princess had come here to write without worrying about the dangers. This place was more dangerous than anywhere they had been already. Here they could both die, and the princess didn’t worry one bit. Hanne wished that she could say the same.
“Princess, why come here? Why not come somewhere where you aren’t in danger?” Hanne asked curiously. “Why aren’t you concerned about your own life?”
“Oh Hanne.” Rebekah smiled brightly when she looked up from her journal. Her hand stilled like a painting. Her eyes stared the young girl down, but not out of hatred, but out of intrigue of how someone could be so fearful. “You know that I can take bandits. I have my saviour right here,” she placed her hand on the hilt of her sword, “for if I get into any trouble. There is absolutely no reason to worry.”
“But I’ll still worry.” Mumbled Hanne. “There is nothing you can do that can make me not worry for your life.”
“I understand. But while we’re here, we can at least have some fun.” The princess smiled deviously as she blew the ink in her journal dry so that she could place it in her satchel. She got off of the rock, finished with her work, and went walking into the circle of stones where the foundation of the tower once stood. “Have you ever imagined how one must have felt when they looked across the river?”
Hanne ran over to join her. “No.”
“Well behold, this is all that remains of those memories, forever lost. An overgrown circle of stones, each cut to perfection, a large gap to act as a door. This is all that remains of the memories that people once had when staring across the vast Salg River. This is all that remains of the awe.”
“But aren’t some of the people who saw these things still alive?” Hanne said. “This tower didn’t fall that long ago. In fact it fell within the lifetime of your father.”
“Yes but the tower was unsafe back then. The floors were rotting, the stairs were broken, and already there were cracks showing in the walls. This tower was unsafe, and my father did all that he could to save it, but it was no use. It’s not always the best thing to spend so much effort on stopping the inevitable from happening, and so the tower fell.” Rebekah smiled again. “No let’s eat the food that I brought.”
Rebekah went to the horses, and took the basket that was hanging on one of their saddles. She removed a couple of carrots, and fed them to the horses before carrying it over to the circle of stones. She removed a large cloth from the basket, and began struggling to have it spread out on top of the stones and grass.
“Help me. Will you?” she exclaimed.
“You know you don’t need to ask me, princess.” Hanne replied as she took one side of the cloth. Together they lay it on the ground creating a clean surface for them to eat. Rebekah began taking dishes out of the basket, and putting them down. She then took the food out. Bread in a bag, jam in a jar, this food was nothing fancy, but it was what they had to eat.
When they finished Rebekah took a slice of chocolate cake out of the basket. Hanne stared hungrily, wanting some for herself. She took another out and placed it in front of Hanne. She rejoiced silently.
“I see that you have been raiding the kitchens again.” Scoffed Hanne.
“I did, but what of it. There is no one in the entire kingdom who would object to me taking a little extra food. And even if there was there would be nothing they could do about it.”
“I agree.” Hanne exclaimed, “but it just doesn’t seem right to me.”
“It wouldn’t.” the princess agreed. “You have never had what I’ve had. You will never be a princess.”
“Princess, I think we should go back to the palace now.” She stood up, and began placing all the dishes into the basket, and then she began balling up the cloth they had been sitting on. There was something about her handmaiden doing this that made Rebekah feel uneasy. It could have been the way she move her hands, or how they shook like a wet dog. It could have even been the young girls face. Her eyes wide with fear, but thinned into slits to hide the fact. Her mouth quivering in nervousness.
“I’m sorry Hanne.” She suddenly blurted. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s okay princess.” Hanne’s eyes were cast on the ground, hidden by the shadow of the sun behind her. It was sinking rapidly. “It happens.” She took the basket and walked with a brisk pace towards the horses without looking back.
The princess didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t often when people were disappointed in her, and she didn’t like it. She frowned, trying to think of a way to make this right, but she couldn’t think of anything. Her mind was highly tuned to creating strings of words that carried emotion and memories, but it wasn’t skilled at interacting with people, and she hated that part of herself. She just didn’t think when she spoke, and didn’t think when she went to this place.
She shook her head; she needed to get a hold of herself. She was the princess, there was nothing anyone could say or do which would change that about her. She laughed under her breath, quietly so that Hanne would not hear. How could she have been so foolish? She was the princess, she could make it up to the young woman. She was the princess, no one would object.
She walked to the horses slowly, with a slight bounce in her step. She would go home. She would tell her father of the poems she had written, and she may even read a couple of them to him. She smiled when she thought about how proud her father would be of her, knowing that his heir was brave enough to write while mortal danger hung in the air. Her mind left Hanne, and she walked faster towards the horses.
She reached her horse, and began untying it from a nearby tree. The horse was white, white like the stag which had given her ancestor the crown all those centuries before. Not a speck of black or brown botched the horse, only its eyes were not white as snow. It’s eyes stared at her with the kindness she had expected. This was a horse that had been bred to be ridden by royalty, a horse bred for perfection. She patted it on the head, whispering the name she had given it quietly. This was Blanche, the horse of Rebekah.
She began climbing the animal, but stopped when she felt a prickle at the back of her neck. This is when she realized that Hanne wasn’t with her horse at a nearby tree. Her handmaiden was nowhere to be found. The princess swallowed hard with worry, her hands began to sweat as they held each other in a reassuring grasp. She rubbed her hands together to try to get her mind off of the problem at hand, but she found that she couldn’t. The words burned in her mind like an unwritten poem.
Hanne was missing. Hanne was missing. Rebekah tied the horse back to the nearby tree, and went in search of her. The sun hung low in the sky, but there was still enough time for the two of them to ride back before sunset. Hanne was missing. The grass was dry under her feet. The hilt of her sword burned under her hand. Hanne was missing, and the princess didn’t know what to do.
She searched for a while before she found the body of the young girl. Her hand fell from her hilt as she ran to see if she was alive. Her fingers felt the hollow of her neck. She counted the beats of the heart. One, two, the heart beat slowly in the way that it did at rest. Hanne was alive, and she was relieved. She decided then that she would sit there until her handmaiden woke up.
She lifted the head of the unconscious girl, and placed in on her lap. She began stroking her hair in was that wasn’t befitting a princess. She had caused this, she did. Her eyes were hot with the tears that they held back. She had caused Hanne to go off by herself, and be hurt by something. She must have fainted, but when Rebekah took one of her hands away from Hanne’s head, she found it sticky with blood.
Someone had hit her, someone had attacked her. The princess looked the way she had come, in the direction that she had left the horses. What she saw made her stand up slowly. Her mouth quivered in shock. This wasn’t a normal attack; this wasn’t a simple bandit raid. This was something much more for what she saw there was definitely not normal.
A trail of six pairs of footprints surrounded a shallow rut in the ground where the grass had been pressed down. The grass was pressed down in the direction of Hanne’s body. The footprints went in various directions after that, each into the small forest that surrounded the road here.
She jumped up and drew her swords. She shivered as her blade sliced through the air, whistling as it went. She looked around with fury. She was angry. She knew that she had been led here, but she didn’t know why. She didn’t like it when she didn’t know. She waited for those who lay it wait to come out into the open. She spun in a circle, keeping her eyes on the forest in all directions.
Then without thinking she took her journal out, and ripped a poem out. It was one of the poems that she had written that day at the fallen tower. She knelt down, and tucked it in Hanne’s satchel. She knew that the girl would be left alone. What these scoundrels wanted was a Princess, and there was a chance that they would get one that day. She also knew that Hanne would wake up without her there, and that she would need to be reassured before she went to tell the king of what had occurred.
Both her hands held her sword as the first of seven men came into the open. He held his sword as well, but not as tightly as she did. She could feel her knuckles turning white as she stared at this man. He was cloaked in black, his feet were spread apart to give him the best field of motion to both attack and defend any on coming strikes. Rebekah couldn’t see his eyes under his hood, but she could see his mouth, and it curled up into a cruel smirk. His hands rested on his sword as though he was about to attack.
But he didn’t, instead the other men came out of the forest. They were hooded as well, in long black cloaks. They were just like the man who had come out first, except none of them drew their blades. They stood there, surrounding her like a pack of wolves. She imagined their mouths watering at the thought of a meal, of them smiling with toothy grins. But she knew that they were just human.
A laugh broke out among one of the men as he stepped forward. He walked to where the first man still had his sword out. His stride was calm, not a single hint of fear came my way from him, or from any of the other men but the one we walked towards. I saw his sword quiver as the other man came to stand between me and him.
In a matter of seconds this man used one hand to knock the sword from his ally’s hands, and used the other one to slap him hard across his face. The hood fell away and I could see his face. His eyes were blue like pools of water, and his hair was blond like none other around here. He stared at his assailant in defiance and fear. His sword fell quickly from his hand. He made no motion to pick it back up.
“I said no swords.” Scolded the man who had attacked the blue-eyed one in a language that Rebekah knew well, it was the harsh language of the north. “Do I have to punish you, Hans?”
The princess still stood there with the sword in their hands. They were from Crumhoff, so what. That was where many of the bandits that roamed the countryside came from. The north was in a drought, and thus many farmers could not get enough to feed themselves. She worried about them, but she knew that there was nothing she could do about it.
The blue-eyed man, Hans, held his right hand up in a salute, his fingers nearly reaching his eyes, his palm facing me. Her eyes widened. In the same northern language he answered with a gruff voice. “No Sir.”
The man standing before him nodded his head. “Good.” He exclaimed. “just don’t let it happen again.”
Rebekah let her sword quiver slightly, knowing that all the men in that circle were watching her every moment. She suddenly knew what was happening. The blue-eyed man had a scar on his right palm. The scar was long, spanning the entire width of his hand, and appeared to be stained black with dye. She knew that no dye was used in the making of the scar, she knew what the scar meant.
It was a sign of danger; it was a sign of a power that even she couldn’t defeat with a sword. This man was part of an order of warriors from the north, from the kingdom of Crumhoff. He wasn’t just a bandit, neither of these men were. This man was a warrior who would do anything to get what his king wanted what his kingdom needed.
This man was a scarred one. Her sword quivered as though she were a young boy just learning how to use a blade to fight, her eyes flashed nervousness at the men, and she knew that they had seen this. She smiled inside at the skill that she expressed in acting. Inside she was calm and composed, outside she appeared fearful and nervous.
One of the men walked up to her without removing his hood and stood there for a minute without talking. When he did talk it was in a quiet voice. “Princess, do you understand what I’m saying?”
It was a simple question, one that she could easily answer, but she didn’t. She stayed silent, and hid the signs of her understanding. When all the scarred ones saw how she didn’t react to what he said they laughed.
“I thought that even the women of Kalangos were educated.” One man laughed.
“She’s the crown princess, yet she doesn’t know our language? How stupid can she be?” another one sneered.
Rebekah shrunk down, knowing that this was what the scarred ones expected when she heard their laughter. They called her stupid; they called her a whore in their language. They wouldn’t silence their name-calling, or their laughter, and she cast her eyes. She was laughing inside without it showing. They truly hadn’t caught on to what she was doing which meant that they hadn’t heard stories about her, they knew nothing about her.
“Silence!” said another man in a booming voice. Immediately everyone went quiet, watching him as he spoke. “This adds complications to our plan, is there anyone on this team that can speak the language of Kalangos?””
This is from one of my earlier projects that didn’t involve Ingrew at all. In fact this story is set in a different world from both our own and the world that I have created. This makes this story unique because though I have written stories based in non-Earth and non-Ingrew worlds those have all been only short story length. If I finished this it would have been novel length and I may have written a sequel. I may finish it in the future though I don’t know when. I want to at least get a good start on Ingrew before I develop a different world.