This is geared for a younger audience. Set in mid-evil times, a young prince and princess fall in love, only to have their newfound love tested in ways they didn't expect.
Bastian Nash raced down the stairs of Albans Keep, anxious to meet up with his father, Wolfram Nash, King of Madeoc. He wore a light, loose fitting shirt tucked neatly into the waistband of his pants. He was his father’s oldest child, the Crown Prince of Madeoc, and now that he was seventeen, his father sought out his thoughts and ideas on matters of state. Today, they were going to travel to Rutters, on the seacoast, to supervise a new type of ship that was being built.
Madeoc was a prosperous county on the northern coast of Merope, the eastern continent. His father had a strong reputation for being a warlord, but there had been peace for over twenty years. Still, no one dared to cross Wolfram Nash. He was highly protective of that which he considered his.
Bastian smiled as he leapt from the bottom step into the hall. Life was good. Madeoc was thriving. Just last week, his father had negotiated a successful trade agreement with a neighboring country, Bremen, and Bastian was at his side, to watch and learn. He clutched the silver hilt of his familiar sword tucked into its holder as it rattled against his thigh. Taking long strides, he walked through the cool hall on his way to meet his father at the stables, his long, tawny hair flowing behind him.
As he past the wide entrance to the Great Hall, a shaft of sunlight fell upon his parents’ portrait, lighting it up, giving him pause to stop.
His father, Wolfram, was young when this painted, his harsh expression a direct contrast to his mother’s soft smile. Wolfram was of Danish descent, and in the last war Madeoc saw, the Danes from Nykobyg were the winners. Crowned king at that time, Wolfram took the defeated king’s daughter, Annaliese Stratham, as his bride. He looked at his mother, her blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight as it fell on her side of the portrait. When it was painted, she was barely older than he was now. He could tell just by their expressions that they were not in love at the time, however they had found love over the course of their marriage.
He turned his hand sharply at the sound of his sister’s voice.
“Helga? What are you doing here?” he asked. She was tall for a girl. They shared the same long, wavy hair, but she was two years younger than him.
“Alice and I are going to meet Mama in the sewing room. She’s starting a new project today – a tapestry. I think she wants to give it to Papa on their anniversary.”
Bastian smiled. “Can you believe it has been twenty years that they’ve been married?”
“I hope when I get married, my marriage is like theirs,” she announced.
“Long?” Bastian chuckled.
“Well, Helga, Papa has yet to arrange any of our marriages. Who do you think he’d get for you? There are few princes out there who could meet your high standards,” he said teasingly.
“I’ll have you know an emissary from Fenwick arrived early this morning. It is rumored he’s here with an offer of marriage,” she replied, arching her neck.
“Ha! What do you know? King Aric probably wants to buy more ships from Papa!”
“Prince Oram is your age, Bastian, ready for marriage,” Helga replied, crossing her arms. Bastian could tell she was getting a little frustrated with him.
“You’re far too headstrong and opinionated to make Oram a good wife,” he proclaimed.
She scrunched up her nose and he realized he might have actually hurt her feelings. “I’m sorry, Helga,” he added. Oram was a good, young man. He enjoyed Oram’s company whenever they attended the King’s Conferences.
“Well, perhaps Father is considering Oram’s sister, Lettice for you,” Helga said, sticking out her chin.
Bastian shivered and made a face. Lettice did not appeal to him. For one, she talked too fast, and far too much about meaningless topics that bored him. “I’d rather marry Edana of Somerland.”
“Ha! Her father would never allow it! He does not care for the wolves of Madeoc as he calls us. Besides, she’s too shy for the likes of you.”
Bastian pursed his lips, getting bored of sparing with his sister. Marriage was the last thing on his mind anyway, although he knew it was time for his parents to consider it for both him and Helga. Still, he’d manage to catch a glimpse here or there of Edana at the King’s Conferences. She was very pretty with her long, dark raven curls and her far away brown eyes, but her father, Amery Rambert, was always at her side and rarely ever let her out of her sight. She had a reputation of being cold and aloof, but Bastian suspected there was more to her, especially when he managed to catch a rare peek of her alone, without her father. At least she didn’t ramble on incessantly like Lettice.
“Well, Helga,” he said finally, “I’ll be interested to see what the Fenwick emissary wants. Until then, I suggest you go find Mama and I’ll go join Papa.”
“Fine. Are you going to Rutters today?”
“Perhaps Father will tell you if it is for me…” she mussed out loud.
“If he does, I’ll let you know when I get back.”
“Now go find Mama,” he said, playfully tugging on the sleeve of her dress.
She pursed her lips and walked off. “Good day, Bastian.”
“Good day, Helga,” he replied, spinning around and trotting toward the carved, wooden door at the end of the hall. His sister had a good heart.
He walked through the door and smiled as the sun warmed his face. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The leaves were beginning to really fill out the maple and oak trees, signaling the start of summer. The air was a little humid. Bastian knew it would really get hot as the sun rose higher in the sky.
He crooked his head, only to discover his father standing at the entrance to the horse stables. He was lean and also wearing a light layer of clothes in anticipation of the growing heat. Bastian favored him in looks, only his hair was peppered with gray around the temples and his eyes hinted at small wrinkles.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Father,” said Bastian, falling in step beside him. “Helga stopped me in the hall.”
“She said an emissary from Fenwick arrived this morning?”
“He did. It is nothing that concerns her,” Wolfram replied as they walked into the stables. The scent of fresh hay tickled Bastian’s nose. He spied his groom putting the saddle on his horse, Aries.
“What does it concern, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’ll let you know when I’m ready, Bastian,” said Wolfram, taking the reigns of his horse, Loki. “Thank you, Geoffrey.”
“Well, I am looking forward to our trip to Rutters,” said Bastian. It was an hour on horseback, two by coach.
“I don’t want to be gone long, Bastian. I just want this to be a quick check of the progress being made. It’s important they built it right, to the specifications I asked for. I intend this ship to be Aric’s flagship.”
“Oh?” Bastian questioned. Just what was his father implying? He knew the two kings were friends, but this was a very serious gift, if he intended it to be a gift.
Wolfram looked directly at him. “Your mother wants us back in time for dinner since we have a visitor.”
Bastian could tell his father wanted to avoid the topic of conversation. “Well, Helga says they are working on a tapestry?” He led his horse out of the stables and put his boot in the stirrup, mounting his horse.
“Aye. All I know is that she intends it to be an anniversary gift,” said Wolfram, also getting on his steed. A hot breeze wafted past him and Bastian felt a bead of sweat run down his temple.
“What do you plan for her?”
“I’ll know it when I find it, Bastian. It’s hot,” said Wolfram, wiping his brow.
“Rutters will be cool,” said Bastian, as their horses began a mild trot.
“Aye, it will. Did you know the Goshen River flows out into the coast at Rutters?”
“I didn’t realize,” Bastian replied. Goshen ran past their capital, Albans, where they lived. “Doesn’t it form the border with Somerland?”
Wolfram grunted at the mention of Somerland. “It does. Your mother and I followed it one day. It starts as a lake in a hill just over the border, then flows into a meadow, which is on Madeoc’s side, of course. It’s always cool in that meadow. That summer your mother and I shared many picnic lunches there.”
“It sounds nice,” said Bastian, imagining it.
His father clenched his jaw, yet held Bastian’s attention with his amber-magnet eyes. “I…I fell in love with your mother there.”
Bastian was a little surprised by his father’s admission. Love was nothing he liked to wax poetic over, still, there was no hiding how Wolfram felt about his wife. He did love her, even if he didn’t say it often.
“No, but I would like to take her back there one day,” his father admitted.
Bastian nodded his head, pleased his father had shared something so personal with him. He could tell his parents’ upcoming anniversary was important to him, too.
They reached the outskirts of the Keep’s land and took off, riding their horses hard in the direction of the seacoast.