[Poppins The Kingdoms of Lerian and Paturin have just come to a truce in settling a decade-long war that has ravaged both sides in death and destruction. Yet its peace comes at a high price, the King of Lerian must agree to marry off his daughter to the King of Paturin. A man more than twice her age, only then would the war be put aside and the two kingdoms could rebuild. It is a shaky alliance that could break at any small inconvenience and yet for the good of both people the princess is to be sent on the long journey by carriage and caravan towards Paturin, against her better judgment.
Yet she would not make it even out of Lerian's borders, Lerian deserters accost the carriage and kill the princess' guards, looting the royal caravan's supplies for the journey. They would have taken her hostage had she not jumped out to grab a freed horse and rode it as fast as it could go. She ran for her life. Riding through the woods the princess could not stop as the marauders were hot on her trail, it would take her beyond nightfall to finally lose the brigands. By the time she could finally rest it was deep into the cold night, filled with a freezing rain that chilled and soaked to the bone. In desperation she rode until she found a small cottage and took shelter in the barn behind it.
He is a knight dishonored and disinherited, living on the edge of civilization, an impoverished nobleman without claim to his ancestral lands and stripped of his wealth when he refused to rejoin in fighting the heavy war. Now he finds a strange woman in his barn that claims to be the princess of Lerian. She was entitled and bossy, demanding that the former knight escort her the rest of the way to Paturin to honor the peace treaty. However, it is a very arduous journey to Paturin, froth with danger of Paturin rogue ambushes, thieves and the lingering threat of Lerian deserters. Neither of them care for one another's company at first, but throughout the long trip the blind and bitter Fates placed the cup of love's sweet poison to unconsenting lips.
Yet the growing love cannot be, the fate of two kingdoms rest in Lerian and Paturin reconciling through matrimony, the two would-be lovers could never be together. Cursed by the Fates to yearn for what one cannot have, forbidden by the morals of the world, their bond must be broken. Among the shadows and perils of the journey two hearts will fight for true love and struggle to keep the weak peace between two countries rife with chaos.
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[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=95604 Sir Aedaric] - [http://rp.eliteskills.com/u.php?u=1001 Osiris]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=412237 Princess Veronica] - [http://rp.eliteskills.com/u.php?u=4897 Kshahidx]]
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[i 'Reasons for my solitude are for my own sanity, so I don't need to listen to the prattle of others like yourself who wouldn't even know the sacrifices of loyalty if it slapped them in the face.'] Aedaric thoughts came with their own venom as she haughtily demanded him to bite his tongue, yet he said nothing even as his wrathful glare could not be hidden when she mentioned his lost title had also made him lose his duty and loyalty. Why should he be loyal to someone who took everything from him? Maybe her anger was emboldened over what he had said but he hardly thought it mattered, he didn't feel any sort of respect for the crown and it showed, and he did have to catch himself from stubbornly rolling his eyes. He wasn't always like this. He was once regarded as noble and chivalrous, where men stood beside him with pride, spoke to him with honor and women blushed, batting their lashes with honeyed words. Thinking of this made him frown and lower his gaze, he used to be so much more. Was it so wrong of him to react this way? The King gave him no kindness, leniency or forgiveness over what happened-why should he do so for anyone else?
It wasn't like he was speaking lies when it came to the other kingdom, he [i knew] how Paturins dealt with Lerians and the Princess was a large target for being the King's daughter alone. He watched them butcher many women and children in the name of war and laughed as they did so, it could not be guaranteed the King himself would not grow tired of the woman and she'd meet the same fate. Yet, he countered his thoughts carefully, her life weighed heavy if a long, arduous war could be stopped by her hand in marriage, among other nuanced peace agreements. Perhaps Valian was simply that lonely, or the wretched old man just wanted to cause William even more strife at marrying off his daughter to a bitter rival. The choices a King must make for the sake of his people eluded Aedaric who found the treaty details despicable. A wedding would not heal the wounds brought by either side of the border.
The water from the flask was like a refreshing chill and he savored its coolness amid the sun's glare; Aedaric nodded his gratitude as it was passed between them, their fingers lightly brushing against each other and he could have swore he saw her dip her head from him. Maybe it was easier to say she just didn't want to look at him, yet he thought he saw a blush, however, he could not tell for certain. They chose to stop, or more specifically, she chose to stop and for now Aedaric could not disagree, pulling both the horses towards the lakeside for them to also get water and nibble at fresh grass. When she lowered to the water Aedaric could not help but stare, standing idly beside the horses as he watched her it was like a painting come to life. The blue of her dress, the warm tint of her complexion settled serene by the scenery and reflected in the water, as droplets of water lightly ran over her skin made her look beautifully tranquil, but the moment was fleeting and his trance was broken. How soft she looked...
[#a80700 "-Hardly. My travels typically took me to more... dangerous areas."] He had to swallow a lump in his throat as he tried to look distracted by the animals, what was this strange fascination now? A while earlier they were snapping at each other, but maybe it was only attributed to the fact that now neither of them were talking much, he could relax enough to note her beauty and his small attraction when he thought she was preoccupied. He rolled his shoulders as he stepped to the water, keeping his eyes to the ground as he untied the leather lacing at the top of his gambeson, opening it up as he followed suit in dousing himself with the lake's water, yet he did so with less finesse and care. Scooping up the water in both hands he did not hesitate to splash it over his face and hair, slicking brown locks back from his face and dropping handfuls of water below the front of his padded armor.
He was so hot he wanted to just dive right in and submerge himself beneath its calm serenity, the water was crisp and cold which felt heavenly as he rubbed some more along the back of his neck. Water dripped from the tip of his nose and chin, running in rivers down his face and neck as he drenched himself with a few more splashes of water. He then sat down on the bank when she asked him about his title, he was going to fire off a hot-headed response but her tone was neither confrontational nor vindictive which quickly defused him. He swayed slightly in a strangely awkward fashion, as if embarrassed, looking to her eyes then down to the ground as he rested his arms on top of his knees.
[#a80700 "I saw my fair share of fighting the war, lost many to its cause-seven years of service I gave before I finally came home to my family. I thought by then I was certainly due some respite, that I had earned time to rest, but then the King's herald came a-knocking, not even home two fortnights and they wanted me to sally forth to war again as if I hadn't been out there fighting at all..."] His eyes squinted against the sun, yet he was desperately trying to not feel the sting of tears that dared to pop up at even the slightest, lingering thought of his brother. Aedaric did not talk about him, figuring it was far better for her to believe he simply refused a call-to-arms than to mention his grief. [#a80700 "I refused. I was brought to the castle under armed guards like a criminal, I was called a traitor to the crown, my actions likened to treason."]
[#a80700 "I was told my dereliction of duty would cost our kingdom thousands of lives..."] Aedaric toyed with a few green blades of grass, maybe he was trying to hide his disappointment. [#a80700 "One man does not defend thousands alone, they would have died even if I was there to hold the line. [i 'A knight is to serve and if you will not serve then you are no longer a knight.'] He then took everything from me-noble lands, titles of renown and honors of merit; stripped away all I had built over those seven long years as if it was inconsequential and meaningless up until that point."]
[#a80700 "You may not think of him so, but war makes kind men turn to cruelty under duress. He was more angry at my refusal that others would follow my lead and rebuke the rest of the war, so he practically crucified me as a warning."] He wiped a bit of water away, giving a rueful grin, as the soft breeze continued to cool the air around them, drifting ripples along the lake's muddy banks. [#a80700 "Three years since in exiled isolation, and still hundreds of thousands died without a difference. -I watched thousands more die even when I was deployed to fighting Paturin on their own land, war has taken more than enough from everyone involved. I doubt the King discusses the body count of a decade-long war with his daughter..."]
[#a80700 "Has he ever discussed it with you-before this, or was it only when Valian mentioned you that your father talked of our war at all? I cannot imagine, sitting in the palace, war held much conversation while loyal men laid disemboweled and bleeding to death halfway around the known world."] His voice lowered, crumpling up his handfuls of grass as he tried his best to hold in his biting words, [#a80700 "Did he mention our struggles at all? Or like so many other nobles were you blinded by his charismatic words and dissuading gifts? -My parents were easily won over... enough so that my own father disowned me, I was dead to him since I refused to continue fighting."] How many times was his mother's silence bought in court by presents and false promises to keep her mouth shut over raising panic from the war? How many times was his father's wrath placated with filled coffers at losing his children along with his estate levies? Even worse, how many families would suffer the King's stubbornness, but were too poor to amount their voices be heard by anyone? War made men turn into monsters, and monsters into maniacs. Was she kept in the dark or did she also ignore the problems of war, simply because the palace was still safe?
Veronica made note of how rough his hands were, calloused and tat which represented a man that worked hard; a strong contrast to her soft and smooth ones. She made herself comfortable on the saddle, a huff of air pushing through her lips to get the rebellious strand of hair out of her face. With that, they began their journey. Now that she wasn’t riding for her life, Veronica felt like she could really enjoy the beauty of the forest land. Though, she was still just a little nervous that they would be caught. Her posture indicated that she was not new to riding a horse and even more so, of her noble status. Her back was straight, her hands relaxed on the rope as though she were taking a leisure stroll in her very backyard.
The first hour had been the worst. It was extremely awkward and with the heat, she wasn’t really that comfortable. Suddenly she was missing her caravan, the one she felt like was transporting her to prison. She tried not to think too terrible of the marriage. Maybe she could learn to like him if not love the King. She reached up to brush away a small droplet of sweat that had formed against her chest. How soon before she would have to change out of this? Surely, she would stand out amongst anyone they came across. Veronica thought maybe starting a conversation would make the time pass by quicker and she was curious about Aedaric. They couldn’t spend the whole trip in silence after all. Some part of her figured he was itching to say something, more than likely another smart comment or something else that would be negative toward her family. Had that been why he snuck glances at her like a curious cat?
As expected, the first words out of his mouth weren’t pleasant. “What do you mean? Every girl seeks her father in a man, I guess I’m just as close considering his age. I’m very thrilled,” she grumbled toward the end, her voice wrapped in sarcasm. Veronica often complained to her brother or sometimes the women who tended to her at the palace. Her mother hated it and she often got very little alone time with her father and especially so as of late considering the war that had plagued their kingdom. While Veronica had accepted the marriage, it did of course still make her unhappy. She tried to focus on the foliage then, the gradients of greens and the few flowers along the way. [I Suppose I’ll have to start a new garden,] she thought to herself.
“Valian’s.” Her father had told her not to worry of the details, to which Veronica had to practically pry the information out of her brother. Apparently they both had reached a standstill and it was Valian who had brought the proposal up. Her father of course refused immediately making the claims that Veronica was still too young and not ready for marriage. Though she imagined had it been someone her mother or father chose, he would not have argued. Besides, soon enough she was expected to give them grandchildren. She couldn’t stay unmarried in the palace for too long.
Veronica dug her black heels into the sides of the horse, causing it to stop. She looked toward Aedaric in shock, honestly surprised that he had the gall to speak to her the way he had. The sound she made was quite comical, a high pitched scoff in some sense.
“Bite your tongue! I am not a bargaining chip. My father cares greatly about me. I am doing what I believe is good for the people. Though as a man who lost his title, I’m sure duty and loyalty no longer remain within your vocabulary.” Her brows were furrowed then, Veronica rightfully angered. Didn’t he think it at all rude to say such an outlandish thing, not just to a princess, but a lady nonetheless. “I can see why you don’t keep company, or is it that you can’t keep them around for long?” She said as she started the horse once more.
Veronica was grateful that he went quiet one more, assuming that he perhaps decided to take her advice and keep his mouth shut should he say something else that was moronic. The air was just a tad cooler which she suspected was from the lake they were coming up on. Veronica was relieved as she wanted more than ever to wash away the sweat that had built up on her once pristine and clean skin. Just the thought of a splash of cool water made her shoulders sag in relief. They had been tensed since her interaction with Aedaric. It occurred to Veronica then how rarely she left the palace. Of course on occasions to address the court and on her birthday, maybe a special trip with her father, but for the most part her adventures started and ended within castle walls.
She watched as he pushed his hair back, momentarily distracted by the chiseled jawline. Seeing more of his face had only enforced the idea he was attractive which made his personality even more disappointing. She hadn’t realized she was staring and a bit out of it until his question interrupted her thoughts.
“What?” She said, her voice soft and nearly whispy. Veronica cleared her throat then, ducking to hide the tint of red on her cheeks. “Right, water flask,” she repeated, her words a bit choppy. “May I?” She asked, not wanting to come off rude which was strange considering how she had wanted badly to convey her superiority over him. Yet, Veronica had never been that terrible of a person. Not waiting for his response, she took a drink before moving her horse a bit closer to his. Veronica stretched her arm out to hand it over.
They soon came up on the lake, to which Veronica stopped her horse.
“I need to freshen up,” she said as she managed to slip off. She adjusted her dress, removing the cape she wore and folding it into a square. It was getting in the way and she felt would make better use as a towel of some sorts. He seemed to be a bit nicer, which she figured would’ve been smarter in the beginning as now every time he opened his mouth, she suspected there would be nothing nice to come out of it.
“I returned from a trip to Dangarnon before [I all of this],” she said as she waved her hands in the air. “A quite beautiful place.” She told him. “I don’t suspect you’ve been?” It was one of the few places that hadn’t been destroyed by the war. Her father often told her not to worry about those places, things would eventually get settled he promised. Though Veronica did wonder; what happened to the people that lived there or their families? She had made her way toward the lake, watching as the fish underneath swam from the presence of her hands as she dipped them in. She sighed out at the coolness, cupping a little of the water to press against her neck and chest. She used the cape to dab at the stray droplets dipping into the small space along the middle of her chest. She figured it best to get the question that plagued her so out of her mind now than later. It had nagged at Veronica since they left his home.
“Why was your title taken away? My father isn’t a cruel man, he wouldn’t do anything without reason.” The last sentence came off softer and she was very sincere in her statement.
Thankfully she hardly said anything for the most part of getting ready, Aedaric would not have been able to control his tongue if confronted, his bitterness still holding sway over him all these years. It was as if being able to talk to a member of the royal family opened up all those old wounds he never got to actually express. He sighed when she mentioned help, almost grumbling but he helped her anyways, begrudgingly assisting lifting her up onto the saddle. He mounted his own horse and they were able to leave, his eyes looking over the small cottage woefully as they trotted away from its tiny comforts and into the summer forest.
They rode beneath vibrant green canopies and weaved in between evergreens, hooves quietly bending blades of grass-the ground dotted with fragrant flowers, the sun showered them with fractured beams through the leaves. The emerald was almost overwhelming to the senses, the smell of pine and spruce tickled their noses. He led them southwest away from his home, knowing the northern province as much as anyone who dared to scratch out a living in the heavy woodlands. They'd follow the sun at its peak, keeping the bright light as it would descend to their right until they'd eventually meet the worn-out roads that littered the kingdom like dusty veins. Aedaric rode beside Veronica without many words for a rough and awkward hour, stealing glances at her periodically when he thought she was staring off into the trees. He had questions, but because of his poor reception and attitude he hardly thought she'd answer.
The greens, yellows and browns of the forest contrasted the deep blue of her gown, and he didn't expect she'd blend in very well throughout the journey. Still, the way the sun brushed against her warm skin and soft complexion kept him looking at her every so often; if she happened to look back at him he quickly averted his eyes to the treeline, or fiddled with something along the barding of his destrier-anything to make it look like he was preoccupied with other things. He supposed he stared only because he had never been this close to a princess before, refusing to think of it any more than a curiosity.
[#a80700 "I can't imagine you're too thrilled with the treaty's proposal..."] He spoke finally, breaking the silence save for the soft thud of the horses' hooves. [#a80700 "I travel to Belvane or Oren-Lor when I need supplies, people have been talking of the treaty for days now. I don't believe the marriage is something that many people will accept, there's far more bad-blood than a simple wedding can fix. Whose idea was it? Valian's? Your father's?"] Aedaric glanced her way again before scanning the surrounding woods, for now he didn't think they'd run into anyone-desperate men prowl the forests but usually stuck towards the roads to ambush caravans.
[#a80700 "Does it not bother you that your life means more as a bargaining chip than it does as his daughter? I have seen what Paturins have done to others..."] He trailed off, looking over his shoulder with another paranoid glance. [i 'Keep it together, old boy.'] He tried to reassure himself-the sun was shining, the weather was warm and he was just on a good old-fashioned horse ride, clear across the Kingdom. How long would they have to deal with each other's company was undetermined, though he did hope with good weather they'd make decent headway. Riding for a couple hours, developing a rhythm as they traveled; there were songbirds singing overhead, invisible beyond the foliage as their horses pushed through brush drizzled in dew and the previous rainfall of yesterday, Aedaric went quiet again for a little listening to the call of the birds.
The trees began to thin and break way to a clearing of a large lake, there were two islands in the middle, dotted with standing bushes and tall trees a flock of birds continued to fly patterns between the shoreline and the island nests. There was beauty here, Lerian was full of natural wonders yet the greed and revenge-filled hearts of man destroyed most of it over ten years of strife. Only the farthest reaches still held their charms, which was probably a large reason why Aedaric removed himself so far north, he had seen enough of war he no longer wished to be reminded of it every day when he looked out his window. Aedaric swept his brown hair behind an ear, tugging the reddened gambeson by his neck, the summer warmth was truly starting to get to him.
[#a80700 "Hand me the water flask would you?"] He was certainly trying to soothe himself, a dash of water would do wonders as the midday sun was practically cooking him alive. It was strange to think he ever built a tolerance for the raising temperature, or he ignored the weather during his service. It was something he'd have to rebuild, getting used to wearing the gambeson would be better than being ambushed without it on, so he chose to press forward. Luckily for the two of them the majority of their trotting ride was beneath the shade of the trees, yet the summer heat continued to rise as the shadows grew smaller along the forest floor. They slowly left the deep woods behind as they came to the lakeside, the gold of the sun reflected off the blue crystalline lake water, disturbed only by a few splashes from the fish beneath and the hunting birds who dipped low to pluck prey from the water.
[#a80700 "Have you traveled much, Princess?"] Perhaps his curiosity was to blame but he seemed to broach talking easier the longer they rode freely, unwinding with the fresh air he made another attempt at striking up a conversation.
Admittedly his snapping tone and demeanor overall had intimidated Veronica, though she tried hard not to show it. Even more so, she tried not to allow herself to be distracted by how handsome he was. Had he been maybe dressed a bit better and not living like a hermit in the middle of nowhere, she was sure he would have found a lovely wife by now. Even more so, she was positive that he would be in a more pleasant mood.
“Yes duty!” She placed her hands on her hips then, her lips a straight line and while she formulated her words, she did her best to listen to him. Perhaps it would give clue as to his nasty attitude. [I Lord Andimont], the name certainly sounded familiar; something she may have overheard while her father and brother walked the halls.
[I He’s an enemy; a fool with a cause to which no one would follow.] Of course Veronica would have no parts in that, to which she believed she was owed the pleasures of being treated decently.
“Well I would think a man of your kind should be able to handle it. Am I not correct?” Veronica knew that insulting him would get her nowhere, but leaning into his previous title might win him over. Whether a knight or some poor nobleman with nothing to his name but a small lot of land, she knew there had to lie some sense of loyalty still within him. That said Veronica wasn’t going to beg, that simply was not a choice for the princess. Though she was nervous that he truly would deny her this service. Then what would she do?
His moment of silence worried her and to hide her trembling hands, Veronica crossed her arms, one hand playing with the small diamond that dangled from her necklace. She tried and failed to contain the smirk that crossed her countenance at getting her way. Though he had to know that he was doing her more than a favor; a kindness to which he should be rewarded. Though getting rid of her as quick as possible seemed to be the only gain he sought.
“I will treat you with the same respect as you treat me.” Veronica commented. Though it was asking a lot of a royal such as herself to ignore everything she had been taught. She was friends with some of the commonfolk that worked in the palace, but the dynamic of their relationship had always been clear. Aedaric seemed to have no care in the world however to follow the rules of class.
He had agreed and that was all that mattered to her. Her hand rested on the horse that she had rode on. It seemed the man was kind enough to care for it at least which showed he wasn’t all bad. Of course considering how distant he was from civilization, Veronica wouldn’t be surprised if he was kinder toward animals rather than humans. She stepped back slightly when the other horse was presented before her. It was much larger, and by the muscles which flexed beneath his fur she knew it to be sturdy. Aedaric was already stalking off toward the house, but it seemed the horse was curious of her presence. She smiled, relieved to know that there was a chance to fix things and assure her duties would be fulfilled. Her hand reached out timidly to brush against the horse’s face, her smile growing as it leaned into her embrace.
“[I Well, at least you’re nice,]” she whispered.
Veronica soon made her way back into the home, the sound of dishes being moved about from a small opening leading her to believe that she was being served. In all honesty she had no idea what to say and feared this ride would be quite awkward as he wasn’t friendly and she believed not the talking type. At least in the caravan she had things to occupy herself with, a beautiful scenery to watch go by. With Aedaric she not only feared the lack of conversation and pure company but also still feared the idea of them being attacked along the way. She made her way around the home, being a bit nosey she supposed, but she was curious as to whether she could get more information on who he was: some sense of [I personality] if you will. There was very little though and she presumed most of it was lost when he was dishonored. It was a sad thought, but she knew her father would never do something so cruel without reason. Could she really think badly of him though, considering he was doing her a service by escorting her to Paturin?
She made her way back to the sitting area, taking a seat at the table. Veronica hadn’t noticed the aching in her stomach as hunger until the plate was presented in front of her. Veronica had looked down at the plate, more than likely food that had tapped into his own rations. She reached for her utensils, starting to eat before hearing the jarring sound of the chair being pulled back. She watched in shock as Aedaric sat, her mouth agape as she couldn’t even form a sentence; she was in disbelief. Still, she thought back to his conditions and while it certainly made her uncomfortable, she bit her tongue and instead focused on her breakfast. It seemed it would be less chance of them butting heads if they kept their thoughts to themselves. He had no longer any interest in the ways of the palace. Despite her royal title, she was not [I his] Princess.
Veronica had barely finished sopping up the rich yolk from her egg before a bag had been placed before her.
“I don’t pack,” she said. Though Aedaric was hearing nothing of it and she wondered then if he had this uncanny ability to tune her out. “Alright, fine.” She commented after he at least ended the command on a pleasant note. She wasn’t an idiot of course, anyone could pack a bag. Though looking at what they’d be surviving on the coming weeks, she couldn’t say she was much excited. This marriage was becoming more of a problem than she thought and yet it was meant to bring peace; how ironic. With everything put together, Veronica thought best she clean up somewhat. If her mother saw her in the conditions she was now, she was sure the woman would have gone mad. Blindly, she ran her fingers through her hair, pulling the curls into a bun so as to keep the hair out of her face. With the sun reaching its peak, it was bound to be much warmer and a gentle breeze against her exposed skin would do her good. She splashed some water from the basin on her face to rid of any dirt; she longed for a bath truly.
Once retuning from the former room, she noticed the door open and the bags already removed from the table. She could hear the soft snorting from the horses outside. Exiting, she did admire Aedaric from afar. He was strong, lifting the bags with an ease her smaller arms could never have. Seeing him in his attire, his sword attached at the hip, some part of her found that she was admiring him in a way she hadn’t before. Maybe it had to do with the fact that his mouth was shut and with his back turned, she didn’t have to face his look of judgement. Veronica snapped from her gazing then and couldn’t help the tint of red that bloomed at her cheeks for some reason. Though, she was not going to duck her head and allow him to see how uneasy she was in his presence. Though seeing him armed certainly made her feel safe.
Veronica headed toward her horse, she’d never ridden with such materials attached and so she seemed a bit clumsy when trying to saddle up. She turned toward Aedaric and as much as she hated to do so, she extended her hand.
“Some help would be nice,” she said. He’d tested her at the table, surely he didn’t think she would let him get away with that.
She had followed him to the barn, it wasn't what he was thought would happen but he should have known better, royalty had reputations and the words circulating the Princess were holding true in person. She had stepped up to him as if squaring off with him, Aedaric stopped brushing the palfrey to straighten up on his own side; this close he could see she was very pretty, alas it was too bad such fairness was attached to such shrill stubbornness.
[#a80700 "Duty? You lecture me about duty?"] She didn't even back down, he had to admire her spirit because many a woman would shy away from his biting tone. Even when she told him how the caravan was lost and what she needed to do, it did not make his irritated or paranoid feelings go away. [#a80700 "I assure you, Princess, my call to duty has long been fulfilled. I am the eldest son of Lord Andimont, and I have given a lot in service to the Kingdom, only to be stabbed in the back as my reward."] He shook his head in disbelief, his words were filled with his bitterness and distaste, still holding tightly to the anger that came from being dishonored.
[#a80700 "You expect me to just drop everything so you can go get married? Do you realize how far Paturin is? Surely you jest."] He turned away from Veronica for a moment, as if to look over the horse, his head dipped in contemplation. Even if he managed to take her only to Kellias, she'd have difficult crossing into Torsvain alone, the first city in Paturin. Kellias was a sister city in Lerian, both Kellias and Torsvain were connected by the large bridge spanning the width of Gorath's River that separated both countries. She would have quite the difficulty getting to cross the bridge as both countries were still rife with conflict, it'd be a miracle if both of them could make it across without being stopped along the way, let alone a woman wandering the world alone.
[#a80700 "I will take you to Paturin-the whole way, but I have one condition. Do not treat me like a palace servant. I do not serve you or your father, not anymore-and I am not a peasant for you to order around. That is my only requirement for my accompaniment. Agreed?"] He waited for her response as he finished up with the palfrey and moved on to his destrier, only when he opened the stall did the horse's full stature come into view. It was a large horse but its brown eyes were kind and it nickered to the palfrey in passing. Once he finished with both horses, he motioned back towards his modest cottage. [#a80700 "The rest of the farm I took care of this morning, let us go back inside for food, and then we'll pack the saddlebags for the journey. The sooner we get you there the sooner I can return to my solitude."]
His warhorse seemed to look at Veronica with curiosity, nudging her with its soft nose, Aedaric shook his head at the animal and trudged back to his house. He'd have to pack for a long journey, but only had enough carry bags for far less than half the trip-so that meant they'd have to swing by cities to restock frequently. If they could make it to Kellias without any brigands or deserters from either army, they'd be lucky. He also would have to pack double survival items for the Princess to use as well-blankets, bedroll, cooking and eating utensils. What a hassle...
Aedaric began making hot food the two of them as soon as he hit the kitchen, seeming to want to get this done and over with as quickly as possible, yet he knew from countless experiences that travel always started better if one ate warm food instead of snacking on tough, dried meat and cold fruits. The quicker the marriage happens, peace will be sealed for the moment and the war could be put behind them, right? Of all the places she could have ran, she chose his homestead, but then Aedaric reminded himself of the heavy storm in the night, it was quite possible she could not see where she was going under such rain barrage. If she spoke to him while he was cooking he didn't hear, it seemed he was lost in his own mind, his expression filled with concentration, mapping out the easiest route to get where they needed to go.
It'd be risky, but he thought as he gave Veronica a plate of hot eggs, a warm slab of beef and some bread in a basket, he didn't think she knew what kind of food they'd be living off of for... Gods, weeks, as the journey would be long. -It certainly wasn't palace food, still, the breakfast was rich considering the farm it came from. From a stone pitcher he poured them both milk and didn't think anything of sitting at the table with Veronica. It was his first test of his condition, when a royal ate everyone below their rank would stand and wait unless they were offered a seat which rarely happened. As he sat down he was testing whether or not she'd treat him like a servant and bark that he shouldn't sit until she was done eating. -That's what would normally happen...
Aedaric didn't make much eye contact, keeping his attention on his eggs lest he start a fight he didn't care to uphold. After breakfast he cleared and cleaned, not even expecting her to help-as if she would. He looked out the kitchen window, up towards the sky, they had time for him to pack and hitch the bags to the palfrey. Any early headway would be better for them, so he hastened when it came to packing, he wasn't going to let the lady just sit and watch him either, placing a bag on the table and motioning to where the food was stored.
[#a80700 "You will need to pack as much food as that bag can carry, please. I have salted and dried meats here, fruits in the baskets and a few pouches of grains."] He didn't give her time to answer, at least being courteous enough to say [i please], as he immediately left for the rest of his gear in the bedroom. Blankets were rolled and tied, bedrolls would be rolled and secured to the saddles, then he filled the other bags with would-be necessary camping materials. He tried to put thought into quick packing, he would not be able to give Veronica the level of luxury she was no doubt traveling with before but that really wasn't his concern. She'd have to learn to sleep on the ground like a foot-soldier or not at all, and days without sleep would make the ride even worse.
The last things he did before leaving was pull out his old equipment from the heavy chest at the end of his bed. He had them locked out of sight for years, burying them beneath linens and odd trinkets. He knelt beside the storage chest and pulled out his sword, dagger and unfolded the padded gambeson, brushing off the dust he quickly donned all three. When he got to putting the sheathed sword on his belt he hesitated, his hands were shaking, the last time he held this blade... He nearly severed his father's head with it-Aedaric had the blade cutting into the older man's neck as the younger Andimont fought and disarmed him at their estate. Aedaric shook his head to himself, he didn't want to think about it anymore, steeling his nerves he finished getting ready and returned back to the main room looking no longer as just a farmer. The former knight said nothing at first to the princess as he brought out the remainder of their supplies, thudding the heavy bags on the dining table.
[#a80700 "I'll bring out the horses, and we'll set off."] As he stepped outside and closed the door he leaned against the solid oak for a good minute, he could not believe what he was doing. Once he left this land he would lose his sanctuary, he had been driven out and disgraced, forced to move to the edges of the kingdom's northern border. Yet he already told Veronica he would take her to Paturin, she'd hardly make it to the nearest city with the way the land was so war-torn and broken. Not to mention Aedaric knew Paturin from years being in the King's service, without him she might get lost in unfamiliar territory. It took him longer than he wanted to ready both horses with their saddles, bridles and any other accessories needed. Aedaric made sure to overfeed the food troughs for both the chickens and the cattle, they could also just feed in the pasture, but he wanted it all to last as much as possible while he was gone. It was nearing midday now and he regretted his decision even more as the sun started to heat him up in the gambeson, having become unaccustomed to it in his exile. Finally he brought both horses to the front of the cottage and would hitch the saddle bags to the palfrey, it was easier for the palfrey to carry the load than the warhorse.
[#a80700 "Everything's ready, your highness."] His voice betrayed him in his uneasiness, he still hated this idea, but his moral compass would not allow him to stay behind. Curse his conscious...
“Signy?” Veronica questioned loudly. She closed her eyes and unable to keep her energy, she ended up sitting back on the bed. Her hand rubbed across her face before running through her hair. “I can’t believe this.” She knew she was expected to be in Paturin and if she didn’t show up on time, it could give the King room to doubt that her father was loyal to his word. Veronica opened her eyes to find the male holding out a cup of water. He was kind at least, but it was clear that she had disrupted whatever peace or solace he had living by his lonesome here in the middle of nowhere. Though, she could only assume he had no one as she suspected if he had a wife, she would’ve made herself known by now. She took the cup, taking a sip which turned into a gracious gulp. Veronica hadn’t realized until then how thirsty she was, nor how hungry.
It did help to clear her head and Veronica then thought about the attack on the carriage. Would it be smart to let this man know who she was? He hadn’t figured it as of yet as she suspected by now he would’ve been breaking his back to tend to her. Though he seemed more eager to be rid of her. Perhaps, using her royal title would be to her advantage. She was safe and that was only half of what mattered. Now, what was most important was getting to Paturin.
“Aedaric?” Veronica whispered under her breath, though it was a name that wasn’t quite familiar to her. She was sure that her brother would’ve recognized him if he had any relations to them or their father. Though, by the looks of the young man and his common clothing, Veronica couldn’t really see a man like him being allowed close to them. She placed the empty cup on the small table beside her before coming to a stand again. Veronica cleared her throat, standing just a bit taller; though, she wasn’t sure it imposed the feeling she wanted considering Aedaric was much taller than her. Still, she suspected that he would act accordingly once she declared who she was. “I’m Princess Veronica, daughter of King William of Lerian.” Veronica was surprised that his reception to her wasn’t as warm or welcoming. In fact, Veronica thought it safe to assume that he was not a fan of her or her family. Though, only a fool would openly admit something like that. His reaction toward her didn’t improve especially once she admitted what happened.
“My carriage was hijacked and my main guards slain. Had I stayed, I’m sure that I would have been their next target. I took a horse and well just rode off. I didn’t have anywhere specific in mind. My life was in danger!” It had only occurred to Veronica then htat her life could very well still be in danger. She didn’t know Aedaric. What if he had the same bad intentions as the men who had attacked the carriage? Not to mention, she still had to get to Paturin and it was something she knew she couldn’t do alone. She was vulnerable and while she tried not to show it, she was scared. She gripped her hands together, her thumb gently running over the over in an attempt to soothe her nerves.
“Horses?” Veronica snapped back in shock, her brows furrowing as the nervousness was being pushed out by a seed of frustration that bloomed within her. “Now wait just a second!” She said to his retreating figure. A lady was never to yell, but Veronica knew she had to get the male’s attention one way or another. She was confused by his actions. Anyone would go out of their way to serve her and here he was packing her a little lunch as though that was his only duty to her; the nerve! Though the house wasn’t that impressive nor large, it did shine some light onto the character of the gentleman that had all but saved her life. He could’ve simply left her in the barn or worse, taken her into the forest without a care and went back to his every day, lonesome life. Why he was reacting to her with such . . . [I disdain] made her curious. He had no reason to be so cocky considering what little he had.
Though Veronica’s stomach growled with hunger, she headed outside where she found Aedaric preparing her horse. She balled her hands into fists at her sides and her chin tipped upwards.
“You listen here! It is rude to walk away from me without being dismissed.” Veronica stood before him then, less of a gap of space between them then and she dared him to look her in the eyes. He was . . . suspicious; whether of her or his own dealings she was unsure. Though the way his blue eyes seemed to swim left and right, Veronica knew that he had feared trouble. “I’m to be married to the King of Paturin. I can’t just go out there alone! It is your duty to me and our kingdom to escort me there!” Veronica was by no means a quiet girl, respectful yes, but she made known she didn’t back down so easily unless it was her father. Which was why she often gave her mother a headache and her brother found her entertaining. “I am not taking no for an answer.”
Aedaric instinctively pulled back and held open his hands, as a universal sign for peace, when she jolted upright from waking, she studied him as sharply as he studied her. He knew her from somewhere, or at least he felt he knew her face but couldn't quite pinpoint a name.
[#a80700 "S-"] Aedaric almost introduced himself with his knight title, instead catching himself quick enough to save a strenuous introduction. His exile happened a few years ago, but it was a deeply ingrained habitual response to break. [#a80700 "Signy Province. You're in Signy."] Signy was technically still in Lerian, albeit one of its lesser known provinces that made up the northern portion of Lerian's borders. Lerian's northern territories were filled with heavy forests and woodlands, easily vast enough to get one lost. It was one of the last provinces claimed in the expansion of the kingdom before the war that lasted ten years, nestled in wild woodland. The man poured her some water from the pitcher at bedside and gingerly handed it to her to drink. [#a80700 "Should I not be asking you that question? My name's Aedaric."]
Aedaric looked her over as he straightened back up, again, she didn't seem injured in any way besides what would come from sleeping in a barn. He could not help the nagging thought that he knew her, perhaps stumbling upon her in his past, but could not place the memory. He grabbed the horse blanket from the bed near her, folding it over in his arms, the man kept looking towards the door as if impatiently waiting for something or maybe he just desired his solitude and wanted to get back to it.
[#a80700 "Look, I can feed you but..."] He was going to say [i 'but then you'd have to leave'], however he stopped midway letting it trail off; he wasn't used to visitors anymore, the common decency had waned in his exile yet that did not mean he could be callous. He didn't know who she was still, regardless of how familiar she seemed, and even though he could piece together she was not a vagrant, he still couldn't keep someone else here, not even for safe-keeping. Instead he switched to answer the most pressing question, [#a80700 "-Who are you?"]
Her delicate blue dress vastly depicted their gap of attire, the forlorn knight now only wore rough cotton-spun cloth, greatly inferior to the rich fabric adorning the maiden. The blue seemed to accentuate her darker toned skin, without a blemish or strain from a field-hand's work, a noble bloodline showed apparent especially with her straight posture when she stood. His dark eyebrows raised when she introduced herself as the [i Princess] of Lerian. It would explain his hazy association at knowing her face, as a knight of the realm Aedaric was only privileged to witness royalty from a distance; it wasn't as if he could just walk up to a royal and introduce himself unannounced.
Not since his disgrace at any rate. Would she have known his face, at a first glance? Could she know how he was cast out, even from his father's castle, when he had refused to rejoin the war? The nobles talked about him and his downfall frequently-just how much of it would be told to the royal family? Aedaric gave everything for the Lerian crown for most of his twenty-four years, he spent seven of the ten-year war fighting against Paturin, the war that took his younger brother... When he had heard of Aerin's passing the fight just left him, his brother was barely a man and he died for a King that didn't care.
Yet now what would he do, being face-to-face with the King's daughter, Aedaric could not deny the rolling anger that still threatened to burst out of him. It was not directly her fault but she was the closest thing he could blame for what happened, what was still happening. The effects of war's tragedy still ravaged the land, from the mining town of Oren-Lor to far beyond the reach of Torsvain the land was stained with the savagery of battle. The touch of death thankfully did not stretch clear to the capitals and the palace but that only continued to blind the nobility and royalty who chose to ignore the war's casualties with blind eyes. He had seen the dangerous aftermath of war, the very ground burnt and charred by the razing of villages and forests lost their leaves causing waves of wildfire spreading throughout both sides of the chaos.
[#a80700 "Where are your guards? Surely the King would not allow you to wander the kingdom on a palfrey alone. What are you doing so far North in the first place?"] As the lady told him of what went on his uneasiness and worry for his seclusion increased, if not discovered by the King's guard then perhaps they would be assaulted by those who attacked the caravan and guards. Then Aedaric started to think more rationally, these were no doubt deserted soldiers, the ones who sabotaged the princess' route. If he sent her back down the road they'd still get to her and then what happens to the rest of the world? Would war simply continue until there was nothing left between the two countries? [i 'Why do I suddenly care?'] The young man gave some sort of dismissive comment about tending to the horses as Aedaric attempted to leave the now-awkward situation. He couldn't keep a [i princess] here in his cottage, a woman of her rank would no doubt bring a myriad of unwanted attention and entourages. He knew a princess did not travel alone and the longer she stayed the longer his recluse lifestyle diminished. He looked towards the door again as if expecting guards to come rushing in ten-fold to save the princess but the wooden door remained closed and silent. [#a80700 "There's food in the kitchen, once you've eaten I'll saddle your horse and you can be once more on your way."]
Aedaric attempted to part ways as quickly and harmlessly as possible, he did not want people knowing where he shacked up, knowing the cruelty the populace had for someone who disobeyed direct orders. It was bad enough his own father disowned him, the king removed every title and scrap of land he had ever owned, not even the family crest was his to keep. Yet his father allowed him to leave the home with his weapons, small attachments of armor and his warhorse, as the man swore he'd rather die than leave without the destrier who he shared so many battles with. Aedaric ducked his way out of the small bedroom, hastily placing things to eat on the dining table, the oaken table cracked and worn down after three years of use, he had little to really provide a member of royalty-he had vegetables and fruits grown from his garden and small strips of dried meat he took from the surrounding forests around his home. Hardly the bountiful feasts a princess would be used to, yet as he laid out his meager offerings he could not help but feel a strike of shame at how little he could provide. Then came the anger that always seemed to follow, flashing behind his blue-green eyes, if he had not lost everything due to the King's decision he would [b never] be in this position. Besides, if she hated what he offered she could always leave and go back to whatever she ran from. Aedaric mentally chided himself, what would his mother think of his horrible hosting, surely his hospitality could be better...
Back outside he could not wait to go, he bit his tongue for as much as he could bear as the man went back to get the smaller palfrey ready for the lady. The barn was a sturdy structure thatched similarly to the cottage, the small pastures beside the back length of the barn housed two dairy cattle and a handful of flurried hens who were using the slow receding rain to have a buffet of worms and bugs coming out for food. From the far end of the barn one could see his modest quaint farm plots, square cut and filled with a brimming lush variety of herbs and vegetables. He may have been born a noble and trained in the art of war, but he at least learned how to take care of himself, even feeling a bit of pride at being able to successfully grow his own food, though that also meant the meals were of lesser spice and more earthy qualities.
Aedaric would ready the horse, brushing it down as his mind churned over ideas about the woman's mysterious arrival, after he replaced the horse blanket back upon the stall walls. He kept looking back to the doorway of the barn, he didn't know what he was expecting, a battalion of armed guards rushing the farm, a squad of scouts pelting them with arrows. The traumas of war were not easily forgotten to a survivor, and as he started to saddle the horse his paranoia kept him distracted. He had to remind himself that he was no longer bound to king or house, so whatever the princess decided to do from here was her own decision. In other words, not his problem... Or so he thought.
Matrimony. Certainly being wed was something that all young girls dreamed of. For Veronica it seemed slightly far off, though it had never been a thought that [I hadn’t] crossed her mind. Yes, she had one day believed she would soon walk the aisle to marry some nobleman of her mother’s choosing, to which she would more than likely have no interest in. Yet, the idea of being married off to the King of Paturin was never a thought that had crossed her mind. Nonetheless, in order for peace to finally wash over their kingdom and a bridge to be built, her hand was finally offered to that of King Valian, of Paturin. He wasn’t hideous by any means, but it left a nasty taste in her mouth to consider dating a man that could very well be her father. What would a relationship with a man as old as him be like? Certainly, she didn’t expect them to have anything in common.
When she had been told of the marriage proposal she was conflicted; she wanted to be of service to her people and yet the idea of marrying this man turned her stomach. It was evident she was upset by how she had stormed off. Why was it her brother allowed to go about his normal life, with many women floating in and out of his bed. Should he not wed? Of course the idea was silly as once the unfortunate passing of her father arrived, her brother was expected to take the throne. Still, it didn’t make the arranged marriage an easy thing to swallow. She laid amongst the soft grass, staring up at the sky. Her garden was the only place of peace she had. She had started it when she was but thirteen and tended to it herself, despite her mother’s disdain at her getting her hands dirty. Still, surrounded by her flowers, as she would look up at the sky, Veronica would feel this feeling in her chest; a sense of pushing and drawing as though she were releasing all of her troubles and being filled with nothing but the good.
It was there her father knew where to find her and as she always requested, no one was allowed, not even the guards. Though, they loomed outside of the brown gate. Her father took his seat on a large grey stone.
“You know I wouldn’t ask this of you if I didn’t have to,” her father said. She sat up then to meet his eyes; they were quite similar. Their skin a warm brown, prominent cheekbones and yet they still managed to evoke a sense of soft features. And of course, eyes a honey brown that glinted when in a good mood. She’d even gotten his curly black locks handed down to her. Veronica tucked a strand behind her ear, drawing her knees to her chest
“I know, it’s just – I didn’t think this day would come so soon.” Veronica hated the idea of leaving her home, of leaving her parents and as bad as it may sound [I especially] her father.
“Our kingdom will be grateful.”
[center [b [size30 _]]]
She agreed on going, but she didn’t say she would be entirely happy about it. Already the ride away from the castle had been a nightmare. The ride was not a short one and she dwelled on the discomfort of how long she’d be in the carriage. Fate seemed to have found that a funny thought as with a sharp halt the ride had come to a stop. Veronica was close to peering out the window when the door was roughly pulled open.
She screamed, startled by the sight of the burly man in soiled clothing standing with a bag ready to be filled.
“What are you doing?” She yelled, shocked. Veronica was instead pulled out and thrown onto the grown roughly.
“Take all that’s inside!” The other man yelled. Veronica sat up, rubbing the back of her head as she watched the carriage being ransacked. She was sure once the men had gotten all they wanted, they would come after her. She knew she had to be quick and while she could barely keep her wits together, she had managed to stumble toward the front of the carriage. She stood in horror at the sight of the dead guards, but knew she couldn’t linger.
[I “Hey!”] The other man announced. Veronica quickly wrapped her hand around the hook of the saddle, delicate and yet strong as she was no stranger to riding a horse. With a grunt she lifted herself atop and quickly broke free.
Despite being on horseback, she was scared for her life and while the tears flowed down her cheeks, Veronica made note to not stop until she felt safe, no matter where that was. The horse tired before her and just as they were coming across a farm that seemed to be quite out of the way from anywhere else. The distance was a solace though to her. She’d stumbled into the barn, terribly exhausted by then from the whole ordeal and eventually collapsed onto the bed of hay, falling asleep.
It was the jostle to her shoulder that woke her up. Veronica immediately jumped up, a gasp pushing pass pouty rose colored lips. She was still trying to get her head together, closing her eyes against the dizzy feeling. She was confused and her head ached quite a lot. What Veronica immediately recognized though was that she was no longer sleeping on the bed of hay, though she didn’t think her current surroundings were any better. She brushed the curls out of her face. Her hand instantly reaching up to her neck where her golden locket still laid. She sighed in relief, knowing that if the gift from her father was taken she would have been devastated.
“[I Where . . .],” she said softly under her breath before turning toward the very person who woke her up. “Who are you? Where am I?” Veronica felt [I exposed] for some reason and crossed her arms over her chest. She came to a stand in order to try to keep some sense of distance between them should she need to get away. The ocean blue dress she wore fell to her feet, a light blue cape settling behind her, stained with dirt at the ends. She realized then that the man obviously had no clue who she was, which was odd.
[i 'Rays of gold, brazen and blinding meshed with the lush green of the forest's canopies. The sound of flowing water over rocks turns his head, a crystal blue lake came into sight, surrounded by reeds and cattails that whistled a melodic tune when the wind blew past. The large oak trees he walked under soon gave way to willow trees, their boughs bent graciously downward, kissing the tops of the forest flowers; all sparkled with dew and heavy with fragrance. A warm, soft breeze brushed over the peaceful grove, the sun illuminating brilliance in the sky, pasted with sheer cerulean, basking in gold.
From the left, soft melodious music lifted through the eaves of the trees, floating upon the wind to bless his ears. Hypnotized, Aedaric wanders through the low-hanging branches to see the upturned and gnarled roots of the largest willow tree graced with the bottom folds of a dress. A woman, covered in a veil held a glinting, gold harp-her delicate fingers strummed lightly on the strings, the music accompanied by the whistling reeds. Her hands faltered as he approached, she goes to lift the veil over that hid her face from view and...
The dream shifted, gone was the peaceful glade replaced by a field of battle, the meadow was piled with bodies of men and horses slain, weapons littered and stabbed the ground like jagged teeth. Blood stained the grass, pooling in rivers between broken staves and splintered arrows. Aedaric found himself walking through the carnage seeing Lerian and Paturin banners without a bearer flutter tattered in the deathly wind. Massive flocks of crows and vultures came to pick at the corpses, drenching their beaks and talons in flesh and blood.
He walked over mounds of bodies, his presence scattering the scavengers in a flurry of wings and indignant squawking. Aedaric heard strained grunts from over a hill of corpses, following the sound he watched as a young soldier clawed at the bloodied grass, dragging himself along the ground. He knew that face, as the knight fell to his knees before the dying soldier he saw the face of his brother look up at him, smeared with dirt and blood his sibling reached out his hand as if to touch Aedaric, weakly calling for help in a hoarse and raspy voice.
"Help... [b HELP ME!]"]
The phantom scream for help made him jolt his eyes open, with a racing heart and panting breath Aedaric awakened, not to a field of death but laying on his side in his bed. It was still before the dawn as the morning was dark outside his windows, Aedaric had to take a moment to calm himself, the nightmare shaking him to his core. His simple dwelling was a welcomed sight than the traumatic stress of death and carnage, how swiftly his mind plagued his subconscious with distorted terrors and phantoms of dying loved ones. As he lived poorly now he had to rise early to get work done around the cottage, his lodgings were complete with a small garden, a barn for his horse and a few livestock by which he could sustain himself. He rose from his bed, running a hand through his dark brown hair as if to rouse him further until getting to his feet.
The former knight made for the water basin, splashing the cold water on his face to wash away the trauma of his past. He fell into his morning routine like usual trying to forget his dreams, hearing the constant drop of rain pounding the thatch roof and seeing the cold wind rustle the trees outside. Aedaric still moved slowly, feeling the ache from the constant farm work in his muscles. He cleaned the inside of the cottage before moving out to the barn as the first rays of sunlight broke the horizon. The knight watched the red and orange hues light up the sky as he ventured out into the cold rain, he was not prepared for what he'd find in the barn.
An unknown horse was standing near one of the stalls, nickering at his own destrier, it was a palfrey and one he knew he did not own. Aedaric looked from the horse to back outside the barn, where did this come from? It was still saddled and bridled, a royal insignia stamped upon its leather barding, he ran his fingers over the sign in confused curiosity. Searching the barn's interior he found a maiden laying asleep in an empty stall, a dragged horse blanket over her body to keep herself warm in the night. Immediately he was concerned, Aedaric was out of the way from everyone else for a reason, and he snuck around the barn trying to find if anyone else had come with the young lady.
When he didn't find anything else out of the ordinary he stood for a moment just thinking about what to do. He could wake her, but she might scream or run off, he could bring her into the house and be a hospitable host but then he had to move her which could also wake her and result in the former. He couldn't just [i leave] her in his barn he decided, she looked exhausted but didn't seem to be any worse for wear. He decided to tend to her horse while he figured out what he was going to do, undoing the saddle and bridle to give the horse some time to relax. Once that was done he finally made up his mind and would bring the lady inside, he didn't want her catching a cold.
Carefully raising her with the blanket included he was slightly surprised as she hardly weighed anything, she did not wake when he moved her, completely passed out from what he could only imagine was a rough night in the storm. Bringing her inside the cottage Aedaric placed her on his own poor bed, it was covered in furs and stuffed with wool but at least it was better than a hard stall ground. He then went about feeding, watering and taking care of the animals as he normally would, there was a slight worry that she could be a brigand and steal his belongings but as he scoffed at the idea, he didn't have much to steal anymore.
What was she going to do, run off with his cutlery, and without her horse? The horse was an interesting piece to this puzzle he was trying to solve, it was a good breed, strong and capable and seemed to be well trained. The royal crest stamped on the barding made him question the young woman's identity, was she a diplomat for Lerian? A noble ambassador or member of the court? It was far too expensive a horse and garment to be anything less than noble class. Merchants and farmers could never afford a palfrey of this caliber.
Which also brought up another question, what was she doing so far from the capital? Was she on the run? Did she get lost in the downpour? So many unanswered questions that kept his mind busy as he spent a couple hours working on his quaint little farm. It was late morning by the time he finished, wet with rain and boots covered in mud, the sun's rising lessened the rain and it would probably stop before noon as the sun chased the clouds away.
He poked his head into the tiny bedroom as if expecting the woman to disappear, she hardly moved and for some reason still slept. He had things to do the rest of the day, he couldn't have this girl just lazing about. Aedaric laid a hand on her shoulder and gave her a shake, ready to jump back if she woke swinging or screaming. Just who was she?
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