Part 3 - Departure
The lively party went on, promising to go on all through the night. Elipson had excused herself and left to return to her duties. Denar too, had left to take care of the last details concerning their trip. And thus Elian had been left alone, surrounded by all those richly dressed, boring noblemen.
He noticed the two young women walking towards him and instinctively jumped to his feet, practically fleeing the room, allowing himself to take a deep breath far away from all that commotion.
With a smile, that came to him as soon as he realized what he had done, he headed towards the kitchen, where men and women worked tirelessly to make sure nothing was amiss in the great hall.
“Adira? Do you have any more of those anise cookies?” he asked out loud, looking for the plump woman amongst all those white caps. He found her near the main stove as she turned around to look at him with an expression of clear disbelief in her face.
“Young Master?!” she asked, leaving whatever she was doing to trot towards him with an angry expression. “What are you doing here? You should be upstairs!” she scolded him and Elian sighed, taking the same wooden chair he’d occupied that morning.
“Come on, Adira … it’s too boring! Elipson and Denar had to leave, and those annoying ladies were almost on top of me again,” he answered with a soft smile.
“Young Master, one of those annoying young ladies may very well be your future wife!”
Elian laughed, amused, and leaned his head on one hand.
“I think I’d rather drown to death …!”
“By the Gods, please don’t ever say something like that again! Not even joking!” she scolded him again, and Elian laughed.
“I’ll be leaving soon. But before I do …”
Adira took a deep breath, knowing she could never win against him, and wiped her hands on the white apron tied around her round waist.
“Alright, alright. Your cookies, I know. Just a moment and I’ll get you a plate,” she conceded, turning around.
“Oh, don’t worry! I can get them myself. Just tell me where they are …” Elian added, noticing of the hustle and bustle around him.
“And since when does Your Highness touches one of my precious cupboards? Will you please sit still?” the woman asked him, walking away with airs of importance, and Elian couldn’t help smile as he watched her go about her business. “Hey! Girl! Be careful with that tray!” she demanded as she passed by one of the young helpers and Elian followed her plump figure as she shouted orders here and there. To him, Adira was like a second mother and that kitchen had always been his personal sanctuary; a place where he knew he could run to whenever he needed a little peace and quiet, away from his duties.
Not long after she came back with a plate filled with his favorite cookies and Elian didn’t hesitate, stealing one.
“But tell me, Young Master. Where are you traveling to?” she asked as he happily stuffed his mouth and Elian shrugged.
“Don’t know for sure.”
“But are you going alone?” she asked again, sounding worried, and Elian gave her a smile.
“No. Denar is coming with me.”
“Hum, well, that’s good then. Master Denar is rather good with his sword and I’m sure he’ll be a great help. He’s a good lad.”
“I guess so. Anyway, we’ll be traveling together and we’ll be back by tomorrow or the day after.”
“Oh, I’ll pack some of these cookies then, so you can take them with you on the road. What do you say?”
Elian smiled and stole another cookie before she could take the plate away.
“I’d be eternally grateful.”
Though against his will, but all too well aware of his duties, after a few remarks from Adira, Elian returned to the great hall. To his relief, not long after his return, the guests, their bellies filled and faces flushed by all the wine they’d drank, started to take their leave.
Nevertheless he still had to endure another session of smiles, congratulations, handshakes and bows, not to mention all the passionate looks and kisses from the young noble ladies that had attended his party. Another cloying fraction of time that seemed to extend for all eternity.
However, even though time seemed to pass slower than usual, the great hall was eventually empty. Elian sighed in relief and approached his parents that seemed exhausted. He said his goodbyes, tenderly kissing Mara’s face, and went back to his quarters. After changing his clothes back to his everyday uniform - the same all the other Knights wore - he left in search of Denar, who awaited him ready to depart.
He could hardly believe when he finally straddle his horse. The dusk was upon them but, even so, he smiled happily. I’ll be fulfilling my promise now. After this, my word will be free. Everything depends on you, little one … My whole destiny depends on who you really are!
And, signaling Denar, they both started their journey, crossing the palace walls, through the crowded streets of the city and beyond the city walls, leaving Mithir and taking the North road, towards Everlyn.