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For today, I thought I'd share another piece of my old writing. This comes from a novel I actually have completed, when I was in high school writing on the computer I used for school (those were the days!). In this piece my writing has improved, but it definitely isn't what it is today (I still cringed). I leave this piece unedited for your enjoyment and/or amusement. This is the first chapter of "Gold Hidden in the Dust."
- There are 56 pages. About 30,400 words. Page 56 appears to be simply "The End" in a big, fancy font.
- 16 chapters.
- This is a high fantasy.
- I don't quite recall the plot, but I think it's an allegory, of sorts.
A Mere Stableboy
The war had ended two years ago, but the city of Tanlina, the capital of the Tani kingdom, was still struggling to rebuild itself to its former glory. Many of the houses had been destroyed, and others had fallen in roofs, smashed windows, or burned walls. The inhabitants were slowly making their way back to the capital. The palace wasn't too badly harmed. It's recovery went rapidly. King Alexander turned his attention to his city only when he was assured that his wife and only child, a daughter, were protected.
Elisse, the seventeen year-old princess, was the pride and joy of her parents. She had inherited her father's blonde-brown hair (only hers grew to her waist), she had bright blue eyes, which looked bright even in darkness. Elisse spent part of her day in her lessons. She played the harp often in the evenings, and during the afternoon her father would help her with archery, soon she became so good at it he had to bring it archers who knew more about the ability than himself.
When the war had ended, the king had brought back several prisoners. Elisse had a kind and tender heart, which made her prone to the desire to befriend any servant, which made her very popular among everyone. When the prisoners had been put to work, Elisse had tried to befriend them, too. Only a few, however, accepted her offer of friendship. Her father approved of this, so long as his daughter kept in mind her own position.
One of the prisoners, a young man, had been put to work in the stables, taking care of the horses, leading the prepared animals to their waiting riders, and so on. Elisse, naturally, had tried to befriend him, too, but the young man neither accepted nor rejected it. He just didn't seem to care. During the first few days after the war, Elisse noticed a tone of grief, or maybe injured pride whenever he spoke. In any case, the young man was shy, he didn't talk much, and he just did as he was told. But that didn't stop the princess from trying.
One night, Elisse heard hooves on the stones of the courtyard. She ran to her window and looked out, a rider dressed in black slowed his equally black horse. Soldiers approached him. The rider calmly dismounted, speaking as he did so. Elisse watched, being careful to keep herself hidden. The rider was led inside, the horse was led to the stables. Elisse, curious, hurried out of her bedroom and down the steps. She turned quickly, almost colliding into the rider she had just seen.
"I beg pardon, my lady!" The rider said in alarm, steadying her. "Are you hurt?"
"N-no, I'm fine," Elisse said shakily.
"Forgive me, miss," the rider said, "I should have been more careful."
"No, no, I was the one who wasn't being careful," Elisse looked up at him, his cloak's hood was up, so she couldn't see much of his face. "I should be the one apologizing."
"Well, we may as well call it even," the rider smiled, "May I be so bold to guess that you are the young princess I have heard so very much about?"
"I don't know," Elisse smiled, "What have you heard?"
"That she has a very kind heart," the rider replied softly, "And her eyes are so bright they can be seen even in darkness."
"Well," Elisse put her hands behind her back and walked past him, then stopped. "I might be. What else have you heard?"
"Her father is a king of great patience," the rider said, smiling at her playfulness. "And that he has won many a great war."
"Well," Elisse suddenly spun around, her hair flying off her shoulders, and a smile on her face, "I guess I am."
"As I thought," the rider bowed, "It is an honor to have met you, my lady. Allow me to introduce myself," the rider pulled away his hood, revealing light brown eyes and almost black hair, "I am Phillip, a common messenger."
"I am Elisse," Elisse curtsied, "It is a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Likewise," Phillip bowed again. He looked up as Elisse's mother, Kaitlynn, came down the steps.
"What are you doing, Elisse?" She asked, looking surprised, "Who is this young man?"
"I am Phillip, ma'am," Phillip bowed low again, "Only a common messenger, I come bearing a message to the king."
"The king will see you shortly," Kaitlynn replied, "Elisse, run along back to your room and get to bed. It is late."
"Yes, ma'am," Elisse obeyed, she turned and smiled politely at Phillip, "Farewell, Phillip."
"Good night, my lady," Phillip nodded respectfully. Kaitlynn watched her daughter go, then looked back at Phillip.
"If I have caused any offense, your Highness, I beg a thousand apologies," Phillip said quickly.
"No offense has been caused, Phillip," Kaitlynn replied reassuringly, "My daughter is naturally very friendly. I apologize if she bored you."
"Not at all," Phillip shook his head. "She's a very charming girl." Both turned as the king appeared. "Your Highness," Phillip bowed again, "I bring a message."
"So I've been told," Alexander replied, "Well, what is it?" After Phillip had given his message, the king's face darkened, Kaitlynn looked pale. Phillip was sent away. The messenger bowed once more and went back outside. Aaron brought his horse to him.
"Thank you," Phillip said, taking the reins. He gave Aaron a silver coin.
"Keep it," Phillip smiled and mounted his horse, "Every stableboy deserves something after looking after another man's horse, even for only a minute or so." Phillip looked back at the palace, "But if you could do me a favor, I'd appreciate it."
"Of course, sir."
"Look after the princess," Phillip said, turning his horse, "Just make sure she's kept safe."
"Of, of course," Aaron looked confused.
"Farewell, my boy," Phillip nodded to him, then rode off, his horse going as fast as it could go.
The next morning Elisse was summoned to her parent's rooms. When she entered, her parents looked very worried.
"What's wrong?" Elisse asked, running to her mother.
"Your father has been given a warning," Kaitlynn said, "From a far-off kingdom. The warning didn't say much, but it's enough to know that we've been threatened."
"I'm not taking any chances," Alexander said, "I will double the guards. I will not be threatened into submission of a man who lives so far away no one has ever heard of him." Alexander looked angry. "Elisse, when you take your morning rides, you will be escorted."
"Yes, sir," Elisse nodded. She watched her father worriedly. He looked stressed and upset.
Afterward, Elisse hurried out to the stables. Aaron led her horse to her. Another servant came out leading another horse as Aaron helped Elisse mount the majestic creature.
"You are to escort the princess," The older servant said, handing the reins to Aaron. "King Alexander wishes his daughter to be protected. I trust you will not act foolishly."
"Have no fear," was all Aaron said as he mounted the horse. He mounted swiftly, but beautifully. Elisse turned her horse and rode off. Aaron followed behind.
"Oh, I love the spring," Elisse sighed, "The flowers are just beginning to bloom, the bees are busy. Baby animals are everywhere, the trees sprout new leaves. Even though it rains so much, the rain adds a pleasant fresh smell afterward."
"That it does," Aaron murmured. Elisse turned to look at him.
"What's your favorite season?" She asked. The question apparently caught him off guard, for he said nothing right away.
"....Autumn," he said at last. "The trees are beautiful at that time, like jewels of gold. The air is cool, yet not cold. The fields of hay are gold, to match the trees."
"Your words paint a gorgeous picture," Elisse smiled, "You'd be a marvelous storyteller."
"I'm no good at stories, I'm afraid," Aaron replied quietly. "But I've heard rumors that the queen is a master at the art."
"I think so," Elisse responded, "Her stories are like paintings, yet they seem so real I often think I'm part of it." Elisse turned again to look at Aaron. "Have you heard any of her stories?"
"No, miss," Aaron replied, turning his horse as it strayed. "Only rumors."
"You should," Elisse urged her horse into the trot, Aaron followed suit. "I'll ask my mother sometime if you can join us."
"That's very kind of you," Aaron murmured, lowering his gaze. Elisse stopped her horse. Aaron, startled, stopped also, having to back up a bit.
"You don't need to be shy," Elisse said gently, "I'm sure my mother would love to have you join us. It's not everyday we get to have a stableboy join us." Aaron said nothing. When they returned, Aaron quietly took the horses back to the stables. Suddenly, one of the horses spooked as another came out around the corner. Aaron lost hold of its reins, and the horse turned and fled. Directly toward Elisse.
"Princess!" Aaron let go of the second horse and ran to the runaway creature. Elisse turned to move, but tripped over her skirt and fell. The horse had almost gained on her when Aaron caught its reins and halted it.
"Whoa, easy, easy," Aaron soothed, firmly gripping the reins, keeping the horse on all fours. "You're alright, easy now." Aaron looked at Elisse. "Are you alright, my lady?"
"I'm fine," Elisse gasped, she turned her head as her father and other guards came running out.
"Elisse!" Alexander helped his daughter to her feet. He held her close while the panicked horse shook its head at the sudden movements. "What is the meaning of this?" Alexander looked at the servants who had gathered. "Someone tell me what happened!"
"The horse spooked, my king," the servant that had led the third horse explained, "I had come round the corner here, and the horse started." Alexander looked at Aaron.
"You saved my daughter," Alexander said, "I am indebted to you."
"It's alright, sir," Aaron said quietly, "There's no need. Anyone would have done the same."
"But nevertheless, you were the one who saved my daughter," Alexander nodded to him. "And I thank you."
"So do I," Elisse looked at him, a small smile on her face. Aaron nodded and turned away leading the horse to the stables, keeping its head low. He took up the other horse's reins and led the two animals inside. Alexander led his daughter inside just as a rider on the white horse galloped up, the rider's clothes were very regal, the colors were of red and brown and gold. The rider dismounted, tossing the reins to a nearby servant.
"Your Majesty," the rider bowed low, his cape blew in the breeze a little, "I have come to seek your daughter's hand." Elisse stiffened. Aaron halted and turned, looking at the newcomer. The rider went on, "The tales of her beauty and charm have been irresistible. I could not wait any longer. I have traveled far and fast, to claim her as my own."
"My daughter?" Alexander looked at Elisse. "She is still young yet, but we will see what may be arranged. I assume you, judging by your colors, are the prince of the Foromar kingdom?"
"His Highness assumes rightly," the young man responded respectfully. "I am pleased to hear that I will not be sent away."
"Do not be so quick to think as such," Alexander replied, "I will only give my daughter's hand if she herself wishes it, and if she loves the man who professes his love for her."
"But of course," the prince bowed again, "I fully respect her lady's wishes."
"Good," Alexander nodded, "Now, come inside. You have ridden far, and you must be tired."
"I am," the prince followed Alexander and Elisse inside. Aaron watched them go, then turned and walked into the stables.
The prince, who's name was Emille, was not to Elisse's liking at all. Only two days afer he had arrived, Elisse, to her horror, saw him treat the servants very poorly. Elisse stepped in whenever she could, and the prince would back off, but that didn't stop him from doing it again. And to Elisse's annoyance, he didn't seem to be taking the hint that she was extremely displeased with his behavior.
She rarely saw Aaron now, except when she was on her rides, but Emille always rode with her. He treated Aaron as a mere stableboy, while Elisse tried to invite him to join their conversation when she could.
"Don't bother, my lady," Emille said at last, casting a contemptuous glance at Aaron, who rode behind them. "Servants and stableboys wouldn't know a thing about the conversations of those of higher ranking." Elisse was fairly fuming with anger, but she couldn't think of anything to say that would keep herself from yelling at him. Aaron said nothing, but his expression was one of deep hurt, like a knife that goes deep into its target.
When they returned, Aaron took the three horses to the stables. He hadn't gone a single step before Emille's horse whinnied suddenly and backed up. Aaron turned quickly and tried to calm it, but accidentally stumbled over the horse next to it, running into the snow-white horse, causing it to shy away.
"Be careful will you?!" Emille turned angrily, he slapped Aaron in his anger. Elisse had had enough. She stepped between the men, glaring up at Emille.
"I don't know what your problem is," Elisse began angrily, "But that is not how we treat our servants. I will not tolerate it, not ever."
"I beg your pardon, princess," Emille looked flustered, "You must understand, he is only a stableboy, servants who should learn to do their tasks to the utmost perfection need, correction, when they fail to meet the mark."
"That may be," Elisse snapped, "But I think that treating them like you have because of an accident is not correction. It was an accident, he did not deserve to be hit. If I see you treating any of our servants like that again, you may be sure that I will not let it go unseen by my father. I will be telling him of this."
"My lady, please-" Emille started, but Elisse was already walking away. Emille ran to catch up to her. "Princess, please, hear me out." Emille ran in front of her, causing her to stop. "I am not used to your ways here, but rest assured, I will take to heart what you have told me. I promise you." Elisse said nothing, she merely pushed him aside and walked to the palace. Emille looked at Aaron, who lowered his gaze and led the horses away.
Elisse told her father what had happened. Alexander was outraged, he summoned Emille to him immediately.
"While I understand that you may have different views on this matter, Emille," Alexander said when the young man approached. "I will not have you treat my servants in such a fashion, not while you are here."
"Yes, your Highness," Emille nodded, "I will be more careful, and restrain my old habits."
"Good," Alexander nodded, "Now go."