This is chapter 2 in my story which is geared for a young adult audience.
Edana always loved walking down the airy halls of Lothair Keep, her ancestral castle, in the summertime. The servants had raised the windows, not only allowing the bright sunshine in, but the sweet smells of lavender and lilacs as well. With time, she’d be Queen of this Keep, and of Somerland, but she vowed to always open the windows for this guilty pleasure, no matter how busy her life would become.
It was mid-morning, right before the lunch meal, and her father, the King of Somerland, had summoned Edana. She wondered what he wanted. Did it have to do with her birthday? It was two weeks away and she would be sixteen – of marriageable age. Not only that, her father had promised to show her more about the nature of ruling, and what it took to be a good monarch.
She always liked the smell of his study. A faint odor of her father’s musk hung in the air, and the leather bound books tickled her nose with their masculine scent. As she approached, she heard her mother’s voice and realized the door to her father’s study was cracked.
“Amery, she is your heir. You must start to show her the workings of the dais,” her mother said, frustration laced in her voice.
Edana’s curiosity got the better of her and she leaned back against the hard stone wall next to the study’s door, crossing her arms.
A loud sigh escaped her father’s lips. “I know, you’re right, Rosalind. I never thought it would be so different. I can’t teach her to fight with a sword, or…”
“Amery, Edana does not need to know how to weld a sword to be a strong ruler. She needs strong guidance, which you must provide now,” her mother insisted.
“I know,” her father’s voice drifted off and it grew silent. While he seemed to acknowledge her mother’s points, he was almost reluctant to deal with them.
Edana pursed her lips. She adored her father, but her mother seemed to make more sense. She was an only child, and both her parents were past child bearing age. Her father was in his mid-fifties, his once youthful looks were now tempered with slivers of gray in his hair and age spots dotted his skin.
“Rosalind, despite my best efforts, the Sons of Somerland could easily pose a problem for her,” her father finally said.
“Well, there was a good amount of dissention when you gave the Duchy of Parrin to the Strathams and not the Holleys,” Rosalind pointed out.
Edana cocked her head, unaware of such problems until now. She did know that giving Parrin to the Strathams honored an age old debt that was owed them from the Ramberts, her family. Not only that, from what her father told her, after the Strathams lost the war in Madeoc to King Wolfram, her father gave the Strathams refuge and a home – making the sole male Stratham survivor of the war, Norbert, Duke of Parrin.
“Martin Holley’s loyalty to me is unquestionable. Yes, he was disappointed, but he understood the reason behind my decision. He accepted it!” Amery defended.
“Then perhaps you could lessen the problem the Sons of Somerland pose by offering Edana’s hand in marriage to Martin’s eldest son, Robert. That might appease them,” her mother suggested.
Edana made a face, her lips curling downward at the idea. She knew Robert Holley. He was seventeen, and a young soldier in her father’s elite guard. He was good looking, but he had no personality. He made her flinch with the way he leered at her. No, when she thought of a suitor, Robert Holley did not come to mind.
“I do not trust young Holley like I do his father,” Amery announced. “Now, I’ve trained young Theodore Stratham, Norbert’s son, personally with a sword. He’s strong for his age and cunning with a blade. He would make a fine consort for our daughter.”
“May I remind you that the Strathams lost the war in Madeoc?” Rosalind snapped. “She will need a stronger consort than a Stratham who could be easily bullied.”
“I know Theodore is up to the task,” her father retorted.
Her mother sighed.
Edana scrunched up her nose. Her father had fostered Theodore since he was eleven. He was tall, yes, with tender blue eyes, but Edana thought of him more as a brother than a suitor. No, she wanted a man whose height complimented hers, who dared to let his hair flow past his shoulders. He’d have bronzed skin, be smart and daring, and no one could beat him with a sword. His bravery would be unparalleled. He would command her attention with just one glance, and she would be totally devoted to him. He would make her feel like the only woman in the world. It was a fantasy to find such a man considering her position, but one day she hoped it would come true - only ‘one day’ seemed fast approaching.
Finally deciding she had enough, she darted out from her place on the wall next to the door, and walked inside. Her mother demurely folded her hands as her father shuffled some books that were resting on his desk.
“You wanted to see me, Father?”
“Well, yes. I was hoping to do lunch with you and your mother. Your birthday will be here soon and we have much to talk about,” he paused, glaring at Rosalind. “I intend to announce your betrothment to young Theodore Stratham.”
Rosalind Rambert frowned.
“Yes, Father,” said Edana, her head dropping to look at the floor.
“Don’t you like Theodore, Edana? You study together…” her father said softly.
“He is like a brother to me,” Edana confessed.
A loud sigh escaped his lips. “Perhaps you can learn to love him deeper than a brother?”
“Perhaps,” she ventured.
“That’s a good girl, Edana,” her father replied.
Edana gave her parents a perfunctory smile. For once, she wanted to do something just for her – just to please herself. She was the Crown Princess of Somerland after all! Yes, that would be very nice – to make herself happy for once.
After lunch, Edana went to her room to switch into her riding clothes. Every week, on Middleday, she had a riding lesson. Her maid, Mae, was there to help.
“It’s getting’ hot now that’s summers here. Theses clothes are gonna’ make you sweat, My Lady,” said Mae, undoing the laces of her wool dress, as she eyed the riding dress on the bed.
Edana sighed. “You’re right, Mae. Don’t I have a lighter dress?”
“Yous do, but it’s not proper to wear.”
Edana chuckled. “Let me wear that one, Mae!”
“I’ll do no such thing!” Mae protested.
Edana scowled. “Mae, if I want to wear a lighter dress, I will. I am Somerland’s heir. I should be able to make some decisions for myself!”
“Your mother won’t approve,” Mae added, waving her hands in the air, as Edana slipped out of her morning dress, leaving only her undergarments on.
“My mother doesn’t take riding lessons with me, Mae. Now fetch me the light blue dress with the short sleeves,” she paused. “Please?”
Mae did as she was told and Edana put on the lighter dress.
“So did Mr. Buckham take you to the meadow yet?” Mae asked.
Mr. Buckham was her riding instructor. Edana whirled around, her curiosity aroused. “Meadow? What meadow?”
“It’s very pretty, it is. It’s about an hour on your mare at a gentle trot. You know the Goshen River? Flows down from the mountain, rushin’ and splashin’ through the valley then slows down to a gentle trickle through the meadow. There’s a small pool it makes there before it picks up its pace again and runs toward Madeoc,” Mae rambled. Edana couldn’t help but notice a sly memory dancing in her maid’s eyes.
“Tell me, Mae, you’ve been to this meadow before, haven’t you?”
Mae blushed. “Aye, My Lady.”
Edana giggled. “Did you meet a men? Tell me!”
“I’s did, but that’s all you need to know…”
Edana looked at her like she was hurt.
“He was from Madeoc. One of the king’s soldiers he was, who had relatives livin’ just over the border. Handsome lad,” Mae continued, now lacing up the stays in the back of Edana’s dress.
“Madeoc! The wolves!”
“Aye, the meadow’s in Somerland, but it’s on Madeoc’s border,” Mae explained.
Edana wiggled as Mae tied the final knot. Then she spun around to look at her maid. “You’re sure it’s in Somerland?”
“Positive,” Mae asserted.
A sly smile crossed Edana’s face. Wouldn’t it be nice to steal away some time for herself? To go there and read a book under a shady oak? Take a dip in the pool? Get away from the pressures of being the Crown Princess and just be Edana?
“Yes, My Lady?”
“Come Firthday, I want you to show me this meadow,” Edana announced.
“Me? I’m not a good rider,” she protested, waving her hands wildly in the air.
“You only have to show me once,” Edana insisted, turning to look out her bedroom window. The sun lit up her face.
“Aye, once is all I’ll show ye’, too!” Mae exclaimed.
Edana smiled. Yes, it would be nice to find a little peace and solitude before giving herself to her royal duties. No one but Mae need know about the meadow, and despite her maid’s protests, Mae would be loyal to her.