Part 4 - Breakfast
Elian woke up with the first rays of light. Looking out the window he could anticipate a glorious Summer-like day.
Since they had arrived at dusk he hadn’t had the chance to truly appreciate the small Kingdom of Everlyn. Now, basking in the morning light, the city beyond the palace walls seemed to glow, its small houses all painted in white.
He looked for something to wear amongst the many and rich pieces of clothing that filled his wardrobe, and combed his black hair where silver streaks glistened lightly. Then he went to Denar’s room and tried to drag the Knight out of his bed, which, as he had learned from previous experiences, was never an easy task.
“Come on, Denar! Don’t want to be late for breakfast!”
“Hum … we can have it in the kitchen …” the Knight answered, still half asleep, refusing to open his eyes, and Elian laughed.
“We’re not in Mithir! Wake up!”
Denar opened his eyes and, after glaring threateningly at his Prince, turned the other way in hopes of going back to sleep.
“Denar! Wake up!” Elian insisted, pulling his blankets and smiled mischievously. “Wake up! That’s an order!”
The Knight took a deep breath, showing just how unhappy and unwilling he really was about fulfilling that order, and finally rose to his feet. However, once wide awake, the promise of a rich and delicious breakfast made him get ready in record time.
A Royal Guard awaited them outside the door to their chambers. Elian observed him discreetly. Sure he was armed, he noticed. But wearing those rich and heavy clothes, where precious gemstones glistened against the dark blue fabric, he would never be able to stand his ground in a fight.
As soon as he saw them the Guard bowed deeply.
“Your Majesty asked me to escort you to the dining hall,” he informed them.
“Your Majesty is too kind,” Elian replied and they both followed the Guard across bright corridors where the daylight poured in from numerous high windows.
In the dining hall a row of servants awaited the arrival of the Royal Family and an extremely well dress butler showed them to their seats at the long table.
Denar looked happily at the various dishes that, just as he’d imagined, looked delicious and were enough to feed twenty hungry Knights.
“See …? We’re the firsts here!” he whispered in a reprimand. “You could have let me sleep a bit more! Now I have to sit here, looking at all this food but unable to touch it because we have to wait! Elian! This is torture!”
Not long after their arrival a tall woman entered the room, a woman Elian could swear he knew. Following her was a young girl of golden hair and eyes the color of liquid honey. His heart raced filled with questions and anxiety. Bows and curtsies were exchanged and Elian observed the girl curiously. She wore a simple blue dress and her hair, of a dark golden color, fell straight down her back. He wondered about her name but none of the had introduced themselves, leaving him in silence as he was afraid to take the initiative and be considered impolite.
After a few more moments arrived a tall, sturdy man. ‘Guest of the house’, as he introduced himself, it was clear by his physical appearance that he had endured long years of training with a sword. He had shoulder-length brown hair, which he wore carefully tied at the back of his head, and brown eyes, severe and hard, maybe due to a harsh past now long forgotten. Nevertheless Elian could tell just by looking at him that he’d never be a warm or gentle person.
Excusing herself, the girl in the blue dress left the room and Elian couldn’t help follow her with his gaze as she left. Was she the girl he had come to find? Looking questioningly at Denar he was faced with his serious and alert expression. Almost as if he was a bodyguard, ready to jump in his defense at any moment. Elian smiled at him, trying to relax him a little, and they waited again.
A few moments later the girl came back leading another young woman. They laughed and spoke softly with one another but, as soon as they entered the room, all laughing immediately ceased. And yet his heart beat louder than ever as his eyes followed the girl who had just arrived; dressed in a white dress, golden eyes as large as those of a doe.
The Lady that had also been waiting bowed lightly towards the girl, although Elian could have sworn that her expression had been one of veiled threat. However if he had seen right, she ignored it completely.
The older man rose to his feet, approaching her and, bowing his head, politely took her hand and kissed it softly.
The girl smiled, a courtly smile certainly, but a clearly forced one.
“Lord Heric …” she whispered and then looked at her guests.
Elian smiled discretely as he recognized her without a doubt. Those were the eyes from his childhood and he instantly recalled his chance meeting, the night before.
“My Lady,” the older woman started, turning towards them. “May I introduce you your guests. The Knight Sir Denon Darian, messenger from Leips.”
Elian rose to his feet and lightly bowed his head, making Heric choke in outrage. A mere messenger that wouldn’t bow properly when facing the Crown Princess! He wished Allana would feel insulted by the obvious lack of respect so that he could punish that insolent brat accordingly! But the girl didn’t say a word. Quite the opposite. Somehow she seemed amused by his impertinence. And besides, there he was, the same face … the same dark eyes that had haunted her all night.
Denar also rose, approaching her as he took notice of the sudden heavy atmosphere, and bowed deeply.
“The Knight Sir Denar Etien.” The woman informed, recovering her ability to speak. “Her Highness Princess Allana Sirian,” she told them and Allana smiled once more, that obviously fake smile, raising her head so that her voice would sound in a tone worthy of a Crown Princess.
“I bid you welcome. I don’t know if you have already been properly introduced …” she told them in a formal tone, turning towards the woman beside her. “Lady Dana Cindar, Governess of House Sirian. Lady Selina, my lady in waiting,” she said indicating the girl that had arrived with her and who bowed respectfully before both guests.
“And Lord Heric Sáwiel, Adviser of the Royal Family,” she concluded and both Knights greeted the man who gave them a cold, almost menacing look. “I regret to inform you that Her Majesty won’t be joining us today, for which I ask for your understanding. And unfortunately the same applies to me. I do wish you all a pleasant meal.”
“But my Lady!”
Allana faced the angry expression that had taken over Dana’s face and replied with smile. There was nothing she could do to stop her, not there, in the presence of those strangers. And the thought alone was enough to fill her with glee.
“Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine,” she replied with a mocking smile and simply left the room.
Elian watched her leave and it was as if the sun that filled the windows had suddenly grown dimmer. On the other hand Dana’s and Heric’s expressions showed more than mere sadness for the Princess’s absence.
“So tell me, Sir Denon. Where exactly did you come from?”
Elian faced Heric, waking from his thoughts, and looked over at Denar in search of some help.
“Oh, we originally came from Leips,” the Knight replied.
“And where are you headed?”
“Mádon?! Isn’t that too close to the Armies of the North?”
“Exactly so, my Lord.”
“On your way here, did you pass through Mithir?” Elian looked at Dana who had made that question and nodded.
“Are they also getting ready for war?”
“Yes … I’m afraid so, since this war is unavoidable,” he told her, the words flowing out of his mouth before he was aware of what he was saying. “I’m terribly sorry, but if you’ll excuse me I would like to check on our mounts after yesterday’s long ride,” he added and Dana nodded, looking surprised by the sudden change of subject. Elian, however, took immediate advantage of that subtle gesture, rising to his feet and leaving the room.
Heric looked at him with an unfriendly expression and was about to follow him when Denar interrupted him, forcing him to stay where he was.
“And you, my Lord? You told us you were also a guest, right? Where did you originally came from?”
Heric glared at him, clearly annoyed but, faced with the polite smile of the Knight, he didn’t have any other choice but to answer his question … and all the following ones. If there was ever a person good at entangling people in conversation that was Denar.