Chapter Two: part one

A knock on the door woke her from her doze. Anan took a deep breath and looked toward the side of her house that faced Finara. She shook her head when she realized it came from the Grenlacks side. Anan stood and went to the door that led to the human world. She recited a spell, just in case, but did not release it. She held it as she opened the door.

Four guards stood in front of her door, all sporting the crest of the King of Grenlacks. Castle guards. To their left, there was an older man, with long white hair. He wore fine dark clothing and looked like a nobleman. Anan locked eyes with him and curtsied.

“Greetings, Klaes. How may I be of service?”

The old man smiled. “Anan, we are here for the Prince. He did not tell the King or Queen where he was going.”

She looked to the curtained area behind her. “He is still asleep. Come in, Klaes. Leave the guards outside, please.”

He nodded, walked past the guards and shut the door behind him. As Anan walked to the bed, she told Klaes what happened.

“I found him in the woods. His horse lost a shoe. He stated he was headed to Taren. Considering it was close to dusk, I brought him here to protect him.”

“Did you give him anything?”

As she drew back the privacy curtain she nodded. “I did. We ate rabbit stew, and I gave him a choice of tea. He chose the dreaming tea.”

Klaes nodded, but did not speak. He looked to the Prince, still sleeping on the bed. Anan went to the boy’s side, sat on the bed and reached out to caress hair out of his eyes. The gentle gesture spoke to Klaes. He clenched his jaw, but said nothing.

“Eloran?”

Though she spoke his name softly, he woke without further urging. The tea also aided in waking the sleeper. Eloran stared up at the beautiful woman above him and smiled foolishly.

“I dreamt of you last night.”

The smile made her heart beat faster. “What did you dream?”

He squinted as if remembering. “We were on the bank of a river, talking and eating, but I don’t remember what we were talking about. I then reached out and placed a flower behind your ear.”

He reached out and ran a hand through her hair, his fingers lingering at her ear.

“Prince Eloran, why didn’t you tell me that you left without your King’s knowledge?”

Eloran frowned. “What?”

Anan pointed to the door, where Klaes still stood quietly. Eloran cursed softly under his breath, then sat up. He nodded to his father’s advisor, but did not look happy.

Klaes bowed. “We have your horse outside, Prince. We will be leaving as soon as you are ready. Your father expects you by the end of the day.”

Anan still sat on the bed beside him. Her soft voice drew Eloran’s attention. “What were you doing, Eloran? You were headed to Taren without a guard. There are many bandits in those woods. You might have been hurt.”

“I was curious about the bandits. I wanted to find out more about them. I didn’t think there would be trouble. I didn’t plan on fighting them; I was going to give them what they wanted. They would never have known who I was.”

“You forgot to take your pin off before you left the castle. They would have seen it; captured you.”

“I could have gotten away. My steed is swift.” He seemed put off.

“There are rumors they use stolen Finaran magic. Can you protect yourself against that?” She stared him down until he averted his eyes.

“No, I cannot.” He looked up again when he felt her hand under his chin. They gazed at each other for a moment before she spoke.

“Leave this to the people who can protect you and who can help the best Prince. I would be upset to hear you were harmed.”

He nodded and licked his lips. She was so close. He started to lean in to kiss her, when Klaes cleared his throat. Eloran cleared his own throat and pulled away. He left the bed from the side away from Anan and pulled on his pants quickly. He wore only his tunic to bed. Once his pants were on, he sat on the edge of the bed to slip on his shoes. Satisfied the Prince would do nothing foolish, Klaes nodded.

“I will be waiting for you outside, your highness. Please do not take over long.”

Eloran nodded as Klaes left. Once dressed, Eloran found that Anan stood at the closed door with his bags. He walked to her and smiled. She reached out and touched his cheek.

“Perhaps we can have that picnic by the river soon.”

He placed his hand over hers. “I look forward to it.”

She laughed softly. “The next time you come this way, tell someone.”

“I will. Thank you, Anan.”

She handed him the bags and they stared at each other for a moment. Before he could do anything else, Anan opened the door and let him out. Eloran looked back once before leaving.

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