The Pendant

A fantasy novel of a young prince whose troubled by a dark sorcerer's presence in the grey mountains. His father, King Aranide, together with King Meros and Queen Lina have already defeated this sorcerer and his dark army and forced him into exile. His return after many years only results in battle and false allegiances, it's up to the Prince to end all war once and for all.

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3. A Royal Resurrection

With the departure of the prophecy tellers, the sunlight began to bleed through before the whole roof of trees gave way and the light filled the forest. They continued their journey but Julius could see Aralus was shaken up by what he had just heard, his mind seemed to be wondering and he hadn’t spoken a word throughout the journey. Julius also noticed that Aralus hadn’t taken his hand of the sword yet and that his grip was tight. Julius saw fit not to make conversation with the Prince or attempt to take his mind of things as the Prince usually thought everything through.  The journey was silent was swift and they could now see the castle city of Hera was easily seen with the flag of Heralus waving on the roofs. The Prince told Julius to raise the flag of Moralan as they closed in on the city to avoid any hassle from the guards or even getting an arrow their skulls.  The castle was protected by a moat and even after the moat it was a sloping narrow pathway that leads you to the main gates. Aralus could see the archers and guards looking down on him from the roof of the castle, once they realised who he was they all bowed as he entered through the gates. The courtyard was not much different to the one his castle but it seemed Queen Lina was having a fountain built in hers. The walls of the castle stood high and mighty and the sun rays poured on to the roofs and left the Prince and Julius in the shades. Queen Lina herself had come out into the courtyard to welcome Aralus and Julius and she greeted them both with a hug after they bowed. Queen Lina was a beautiful woman with a skin so white and cheeks as red as her lips. Her dark hair fell down the back of her silk dress. Her hair was longer than the Prince’s sword, and her beauty could disarm a man no matter how evil. She was said to be the fairest woman of all three lands but her capabilities would resemble that of a kings. She stood as tall and as mighty as the castle walls she lived in; she was trained in the art of combat and was known to beat many men. She was however, a gracious queen whose intentions were known to be purer than the blood of a unicorn. 

“Prince Aralus! Julius! Please do come in, you must eat and rest! You look like you’ve been sleeping in the stables for the past couple of days!” The Queen seemed to be filled with genuine joy at seeing Aralus and Julius, her smile stretched across her face as she shepherded the two men inside. She had told her servants to prepare hot baths for them and to ready for them clean garments to change in to. The halls of the castle were very spacious and clean. Rugs and animal fur had covered the stone floors and the walls, like the castle at Landron, had several paintings hung from them.

“I tried to make the castle feel much more homely by hanging paintings from the walls; I got the idea from your father’s castle Aralus. I must say it’s worked a treat and the atmosphere inside feels much more comfortable,” the Queen explained.

“The rugs and fur are also lovely; you do have an exquisite collection of rugs. I particularly fancy the one you brought for us on your last visit,” the Prince replied as he examined the hallways he was lead through.

 The Queen turned back and smiled at Aralus, her beauty seemed endless and he found it difficult to not smile back. The queen had escorted them to the royal chambers and showed them their rooms where she explained that they would have breakfast after the Prince and Julius had cleaned up.

“Your Majesty, we have an important message we carry,” the Prince began to explain before he was abruptly interrupted by the Queen.

“We will speak of all matters at breakfast, for now, hot baths are prepared for you and clean robes. So clean yourselves, change and then come down to eat,” the Queen explained.

The Prince nodded at the Queen’s request and she left them to get on with their baths. The chambers were unusually large for guest rooms but then again the castle itself was very outsized. The Prince and Julius proceeded with their baths and then changed into the clean robes they were given. They were then shown downstairs to the dining hall where the Queen was awaiting and the food already placed on the tables. The Queen pointed to the two seats closest to hers at the head of the table and Aralus and Julius sat at them.

“Eat, young Prince and Julius,” the Queen warmly said. Both men tucked in to their meals and filled their empty stomachs. Their journey had taken longer than they anticipated and they hadn’t packed any food at all. The Prince then remembered of the message he was carrying and lay down the chicken leg he was biting on.

“Your Majesty, my father has sent me here with a message for you. I assure you he wouldn’t have sent it with such short notice if he didn’t have important matters to speak of,” the Prince began as he removed the rolled parchment from his belt bag and handed it to the curious Queen. She read the message and looked up at the Prince calculating.

“Assuming from the state of which you came here, you must have spent the night in travel which means this banquet is now only three nights away. Also, since your father hasn’t put my name directly, I assume you must also visit King Meros before this banquet. Am I right?” The Queen looked upon the Prince with an inquiring look about her; she sensed there was something urgent King Aranide had to speak of.

“Yes My Queen, you assume right. I do not have much time to carry this message to King Meros if I am to spend the night in your royal chambers. I must travel in a very short while Your Highness, but I have only a few favours to ask of you. I’ll require a guide to lead us through your lands to the borders of Meros and also food and equipment to pack. I understand we will never make it to Meros before nightfall and so I intend to stay the night within the borders of Heralus.”

“A wise Prince you are, consider it granted, but first you must finish your food if I am to let you leave my castle,” the Queen joked. Aralus and Julius continued to eat the plentiful food which was placed in front of them. Meanwhile the Queen picked up the parchment with the message and read over it again. There was worry written all over her face as she looked on to the writing but also the Prince sensed that she wasn’t worried for the right reasons. However, he paid no attention to what he felt and realised that he would have to eat hastily in order to get far with their travels. Julius looked up at the Prince and nodded as a signal to get moving. Aralus picked up the towel and cleaned his hands and mouth as did Julius. The Queen looked up at the two men as they stood up and then grinned as she looked back down again at the empty plates. She called for two men the Prince had never seen and told them to pack their things and escort the Prince and Julius to the border of Heralus and no further.  The Queen stood up and stopped the Prince just before he turned around and left the hall.

“Be careful Aralus, I hope to see you at the banquet in three night’s time,” the Queen softly said as she sat back down.

The Prince nodded as he turned and left the hall with Julius by his side. He told the servants that he would be waiting in the stables with the horses for the men the Queen had assigned to them. Julius could tell that the Prince was thinking again and the Prince could tell Julius knew something he didn’t. Nevertheless, the Prince decided to avoid speaking of anything until they were alone beyond the borders of Heralus and Julius understood this without Aralus saying anything to him at all. The stable was a simple and organised one, with the horses having plenty of space to roam in their own compartment and enough hay for them to rest comfortably. The Queen’s horses were well tended to and healthy especially the one she raised personally as a mule. The Queen was known to be a lover of nature, and so she had her own garden in the castle of which she looked after herself daily. The Prince envied Lina’s love for the greenery; he could only imagine it would make her feel at peace whenever she dwelled in the forest or in her garden.  The stables were spacious and simply built, the compartments for the horses were thoroughly cushioned with a bed of hay and they seemed large enough to prevent the horses feeling secluded. The Queen’s horses were very well tended to and seemed to be healthier than the ones he owned, especially the one the Queen rode on her royal journeys. It was a simple but elegant white mare with toned muscles and neatly combed forelock and tail. It sat in its compartment which was very much larger than the rest. Aralus had a whole stable for his and Julius’ horse and yet the Queen’s still seemed happier in its compartment. At that moment Julius had heard footsteps approaching and looked over towards the Prince as so to alert him. It was the two men the Queen had assigned to guide the Prince and Julius to the borders. They were two built men with wrinkles slumping over their familiar faces. They seemed to be peaceful men however, men who were loyal and obedient to their Queen. They stood tall and proud in their Herusian armour and robes and wielded what seemed to be royal swords. Aralus knew that these men would come in handy in their travels, seeing as though they would have to go on the outskirts of Heralus in order to save time and ride direct. Their knowledge of the forests and lands would ensure they saved as much time as possible and also kept safe from areas of danger that they weren’t aware of, if any.

“Sire, I am Valon and this Anon, we are the brothers Queen Lina has assigned to you and we are at your service as she has requested,” the older of the two revealed as the other led out two horses from their compartments.

The Prince simply nodded as a symbol of his gratitude and climbed on his horse. Julius followed the Prince’s lead as they got off to a slow trot, inviting the two brothers to overtake and lead them out. The brothers then climbed on to their ready horses and overtook Aralus and Julius as they headed towards the densely armoured gate. The watchmen had already had open the gates and the four men rode out and down the descending pathway and into the roads. The two brothers had then taken a sharp turn and rather led the Prince towards the distant forests instead. Aralus had always preferred to travel away from the roads and villages as it always ended in crowds and a great deal of fuss. The Queen’s love for nature had reflected on the scenery of her kingdom as the men had closed in on the forest. The grassy plains were a ripe green and the flowers had blossomed through the thick grass. The men had shortly closed in on the forest as the pace set by the brothers was particularly quick and the capability of their horses shortly became evident. The forest had a very bushy overhead the tree trunks were as brown as the soil they grew in. The deer had freely wandered the forest and the butterflies reflected the sun’s rays of their stunningly decorated wings. The squirrels had probingly sat at the bottom of the tree trunks observing the unusual company that had entered their homes at such speed. Aralus understood their meal at the Queen’s castle had delayed their journey heavily and that they would struggle to make it through to the border before the sun set. He decided to stop for a break as he knew his horse would struggle to keep up with the pace of the brothers’. Even as the Prince and Julius had given their horses water and fed them the apples that fell from the forest trees, there was an eerie silence between the four men.  Aralus had gotten back on his horse which hinted to the two brothers that they were ready to resume and so they continued to lead them through the trees. The forest seemed to have no end in near sight and Aralus could only hope to see its end after ducking and diving through each set of trees. The sun’s position could just about be seen through the thick canopy and it was at a much lower point than when they had entered the forest. There was minimal light poking through and so it was difficult to judge time whilst riding through the trees. Valon and Anon had picked up the pace again and the Prince compliantly followed as did Julius. Even through the lack of exposure Aralus could tell they didn’t travel fast enough as the light had significantly decreased and had begun to consider the possibility of having to set up camp within the forest. The end of the trees was now visible but so was the sun rapidly sinking into the horizon and the four men shared concerned looks as they glanced over at one another. Valon had now slowed down and consequently led the others to do the same as he also accepted that they would have to remain in the forest for the night. Aralus didn’t dare continue as he understood that he would have either have to set up camp in the open grassland after the forest or spend the night at an inn close to the border but within Nesada and neither were even fit for a fool.  The four men had decided to camp within a ring of trees and each went about a specific duty. Valon and Anon were both blatantly experienced in camping travels as Valon easily set up a perfect fire within a few minutes and Anon had begun to cook up a stew with the little equipment he pulled out of his sack. Julius was tending to the four horses as he tied them to the trees and Aralus was responsible for fixing a few sheets at the foot of trees for the four men to sleep on. Once everyone had completed their self-induced duties, they had all sat down in assembly around the fire and ate the stew that was already dished and prepared for them by Anon. The sound of clattering metal and chewing had filled the tense silence that had filled the air a short while ago. Valon aggressively cleared his throat as he lowered his container to the ground. The rest of the men enquiringly looked up at him as they awaited his speech.

“Now the thing is Prince Aralus,” Valon accusingly begun. “You ride from Moralan to Heralus and then to Nesada to deliver a message within three days and also to invite the King Meros and Queen Lina to a banquet with such short notice. But here’s the best part, you do so personally. Now I can’t help but believe that there’s something wrong and that you’re keeping me and my brother in the dark about it.”

The Prince smiled pitifully throughout Valon’s speech as he waited for him to conclude.

“Of what you are meant to know, your Queen will be the decider,” the Prince wittily replied.

Valon flew from his seat as the rage swept through his body and Aralus shortly followed with his hand on the hilt of his sword. “What you tell my sister you will tell me!” Valon boomed.

The Prince had sharply turned over to Julius who shared the same stunned face as he did. However, Anon stared at Valon with a frustrated face as he was astonished at his brother’s foolishness in disclosing what he had just mentioned. With that, Valon stormed off into the forest and a tension built between the remaining three. Aralus marched off towards his sheets and was closely followed by Julius who Anon on his own to feast in his frustration. Despite not being of royal blood or a politician for King Aranide, Julius was fully aware of most politics in the three lands and understood just as much as Aralus did. The Prince and Julius had gotten under their sheets and lay there in wondering silence. The heated whispering between the two brothers could be heard in the distance but still Aralus and Julius chose to pay it no attention. They decided it would wisest to avoid any conversation until they could understand what was going on and with that the two men slept, cautiously. 

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