Collin trudged up the winding slope, his men trailing behind. The sun once again shone brightly on AnteraSvell, marking the end of the phase of the second moon. He had only ever traveled through AnteraSvell once before, during the great Tuskin war, but he had never set foot on the inside of Ingri, the capital of Ingrua. Though Egrid had told him great tales of his city while they were in Belux, Collin had since wondered if those same tales had been romanticized and exaggerated by a homesick man.
As he rounded the last bend in the narrow mountain path the view opened up before him, and he looked at a great gate carved into the side of the mountain. The gate rose up thirty feet high, standing erect, and impressive. It had obviously been designed to inspire awe or fear in all who cast their gaze upon it, and Collin began to wonder if, rather, Egrid had downplayed the mighty city.
Keeter walked up to Collin, “What’s the plan?”
“I’m going straight to the council chambers. You take the men and get some well-earned rest.”
“And about that certain message?” Keeter spoke, casting a cautious, sideways glance at his captain.
“Not a word. The last thing I need to do is trouble Egrid with that.”
Keeter nodded, content to leave their conversation there. Collin’s mind flamed with frustration as his gut filled with a sour feeling. He had momentarily forgotten the events of six days prior and did not welcome the memories back. They were close now, a good thirty feet of open, level field separated them from the gate, and Collin looked up, wondering who had been sent to greet them if they even knew they were there. Then, as if in answer, a horn call sounded from the depths of the mountain, blaring out in a beautiful crescendo, announcing their arrival. Collin looked up, spotting a young girl standing at the top of the parapet looking down in the serene gaze of royalty at him. As he drew closer he recognized some of her features and realized she could only be one person—Egrid’s daughter.
“Would ya look at that lass?” Keeter gave Collin a devious smile.
“Yes, that would be Princess Amora, the King’s daughter, Keeter.” Collin gave his second in command a reproving look as he turned his head down sheepishly.
“Captain Daybreaker!” The girl called out from above, as the gates swung open. She descended the stairs to greet him, “It is so good to finally meet you. My father sends his regards and regrets that he could not be here to greet you in person. Unfortunately, he has been delayed in a council meeting.” Collin noticed a peculiar necklace, a pink stone inlaid in gold, on her neck, as she spoke, and it tickled a memory, but he couldn’t remember what.
Collin bowed low, wishing to impress the Princess by his conduct, and hoping to subdue any thoughts of an unkempt, wild sailor before they took to flame. He rose, clearing his throat, “Then you must be the famed Princess, Amora, the star of Ingrua? With one so beautiful as yourself, I could hardly be disappointed.” girls were all the same, quick to fall over the first half good looking man to pay them a compliment. Keeter gave him a humorous look, fully aware of what he was up to.
Amora smiled back at him as she nodded her head, clearly infatuated with him. Collin spoke again, determined to press his advantage, “The Barren of Winter spoke of you often when we worked together in Belux last summer.”
“Did you work closely with my father? I was unaware.” Collin frowned inwardly, wondering why Egrid had never mentioned him.
“Quite. We determined it would be best to keep the matter quiet, though now it seems like a pointless attempt. The only man who we feared would gain that knowledge already has.”
“Yes, well, my father would like you to join him, but I am sure you would prefer a bath and change of clothes first.” She looked up and down him, making Collin slightly uncomfortable.
Eager to return her gaze to a more proper place Collin forced something out, “If you would be so kind as to extend that offer to my men, I would be most grateful. But as for me, I fear the king will have to pardon my transgression for there is no time to delay.”
“Yes, I had supposed you would say that. Balfus?” Collin looked to her left and saw a well-groomed Paige step forward, “Would you kindly see Captain Daybreaker to the council chambers?”
Collin tossed an idea back and forth in his mind before decided to go for it, “Oh, and Princess Amora, please, call me Collin.”
“Very well, Collin, it was a pleasure to meet you.” She smiled at Collin, and he had the troubling notion she was humoring him.
“I shall look forward to seeing you again, Princess.” Collin bowed once more and then noticed her hand was raised a little. He wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by it, but he had seen Egrid do it once before to another woman upon greeting so he took her hand cautiously, lowering his lips and kissing the backside, gulping as he did so, entirely unsure if that was appropriate. Looking back up he saw the Princess blushing and was relieved she wasn’t at least scowling. Regardless, he knew it was high time to leave, and promptly turned, following the Paige.
(This is episode 5 in an ongoing miniseries. Click the link below to check out where this story begins.)