Chapter Five: part one

Prince Eloran stood gazing over the guests, trying not to fidget. He didn’t want to be here, not without Anan. If she were here, he could talk to her. At the moment, there were five women nearby, all giggling and trying to get his attention. In the past, he would have walked over, looked at one and whisked her onto the dance floor. At the end of the evening, the woman would have found herself in his bed.

Tonight, he ignored them. He wanted Anan. As she was not here, he kept to himself. He nodded to his brothers and other men in the room, but no one came to talk to him. It was his own fault.

From a young age, Prince Eloran avoided serious talk. He was the youngest of six children, all sons. His father’s other children were given land to oversee and other important positions when they were ready.

When King Falk approached Eloran on his sixteenth birthday, Eloran declined a title and position, stating he wanted more time to think about what he wanted from life. The King indulged his youngest and gave him more time.

On his birthday for the next four years, King Falk asked Eloran if he wanted more responsibility. Eloran always asked for more time. This year, on his twentieth birthday, the King asked kindly if he would ever want to do anything. Eloran shrugged.

It wasn’t as if he did nothing. Eloran visited his brothers and brought messages from the King and to the King from his sons. He went to his brothers mainly to visit, but brought information if it were needed. As he did not cause too much trouble, the King was reluctant to force him to do anything. Now that he had met Anan, Eloran felt extremely lucky that he held no official position. It meant he might visit her any time he wished.

“Eloran.”

He looked to his right as his brother Michael clapped him on the shoulder. Michael was the second oldest. He held the title of Earl of Lothling, which was a province in the southern part of Grenlacks.

“Brother. How are you?”

“Good. You’re not dancing. My wife remarked on this. Her sister is here tonight if you have no one in mind.”

Eloran looked to Kristen, who stood some steps away with other women. He gave a small bow and the woman curtsied. “Thank you. Though I find Kristen’s sister to be an attractive woman, I want to be alone tonight.”

Michael peered down at his brother. “Completely alone or just without a woman?”

He smiled. “Without a woman.”

“That is rather odd. You always find a woman.”

Eloran shrugged. “I have found a woman, Earl. She’s just not here.”

Michael looked surprised. In the past, if there was a woman Eloran wanted, she always ended up at celebrations, whether or not she was invited. “Why not?”

The young Prince sighed. “That’s complicated.”

The Earl of Lothling stared at his brother for a moment. Though they were brothers, they were not that close. Michael always leaned more toward the politics of the kingdom. He and Eloran never had much to say to each other, even as children. Eloran always kept things uncomplicated and light. Michael didn’t know what was going on with his brother.

Eloran saw the confusion on his older brother’s face and smiled. “All will be revealed in time, Earl. If you would like, I can explain tomorrow over a meal. I would prefer not to be too public about things at this moment.”

Michael nodded. “All right, then. Have lunch with me tomorrow.”

“Yes, Earl.” He gave a slight bow.

“Why in the world are you calling your own brother by his title?” Came a loud booming voice.

The brothers looked over and saw Leo. Fourth son of King Falk, he was nevertheless the largest. With dark hair and dark eyes, there were rumors Finaran blood ran through his veins, namely troll. Having seen a real troll, Eloran knew that was not true. Leo’s mother Irene, had been taller than King Falk, and large with muscles. Pic dwarfed them both.

Eloran smiled to Leo. “You never seem to care if I addressed you by your title, Sheriff. The Earl of Lothling prefers the recognition.”

Leo slapped the youngest Prince on the back. “That is true, but you have never before today decided to actually listen to his preference. Why the change?”

The Earl gave Eloran a strange look. “He’s right. That makes two things that have changed about you.”

It was Leo’s turn to look confused. “What was the first?”

“He doesn’t want to be with any woman here and has not invited the woman he wants to the ball.”

Leo’s eyes grew large, then he laughed. “You’re not yourself! The woman you want must be very special!”

Eloran blushed slightly and then laughed and shook his head as Seth and Randolph found their way to the others. Seth was the first to speak.

“Usually you all find your way to my side. What is it that keeps you amused this time?” He kidded. Though the brothers did seem to gravitate around their eldest brother, the Crown Prince didn’t mind if his brothers found somewhere else to be.

Leo spoke for Eloran. “Young Eloran has a woman in his heart and she’s important enough that he didn’t think it prudent to sneak her in for the celebration!”

The men all laughed. Randolph looked at Eloran with a keen eye. “He’s not getting upset.”

The others turned to Randolph for an explanation, but Leo seemed to understand. “You’re right, by gods! If we had chided him like this before, he would have gotten upset and left.” He leaned in closer to his brother. “You must let us meet her.”

“I will. In time.” Eloran’s voice was quiet, but perhaps only in comparison to Leo’s.

“You must tell us about her then!” Randolph was just as loud, and was almost as big as his brother Leo. They shared the same mother.

Eloran looked to his brothers, and wondered if he should tell them about Anan. Only Laurence held reservations about the Finarans, but he didn’t want any of his brothers to talk about her to Laurence. He sighed. He didn’t want to keep this secret.

“I want to tell you, but I refuse to tell you here. I’m having lunch with Michael tomorrow. Why don’t we all meet then and I can tell you all about her?”

The brothers made loud victorious noises and agreed to meet for lunch the next day.

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