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Chapter Two: part two

Eloran knelt before the King, his head bowed. “I am sorry, your highness. This will not happen again.”

“I was terrified Eloran. Your mother was, too. Why did you do this? Did you really think to find out anything about the Taren bandits?”

He kept looking at the ground. The King, Eloran and Klaes were in a private room. The King did not discipline his children in public. “I thought to find out more information, yes. I did not realize how foolish an endeavor it could be.”

“This is not the first time you’ve said this to me. How do I know you mean it this time?” King Falk looked both fed up and worried.

Eloran heard the worry and the disappointment in his father’s voice and looked up. He placed his hand over his heart. “On my honor, father. I will not do this again.”

The King looked surprised, but it quickly faded. This was the first time Eloran used that phrase. Usually, Eloran muttered an apology quickly, without much conviction. The king nodded. “All right. I believe you. Go see your mother. She was terribly worried.”

Eloran stood, bowed and left the room. King Falk turned to Klaes. His advisor spoke.

“His horse threw a shoe and forced him to stop. A Finaran found him. Her name is Anan. They spent some time together, but they did not sleep together.” He paused as the slightest of frowns creased his brow. It disappeared before the King could see it. “They seem taken with each other.”

A glint of recognition came to the King’s eyes. “Who is she? The name sounds familiar.”

“She is the youngest child of King Nassir of Finara. She is a fierce warrior, which is why she was appointed as the Guardian of the Gate.”

The King nodded in thought. “Did she place a spell on him?”

“No, she would not do that.”

“But he’s willing to change because of one visit with her?”

“Anan has a way with men, sire. They love her, sometimes after just a moment with her. She does not tease, she does not flirt, she exists and men want her.”

The King stared at his loyal advisor for some time before speaking. “You sound very sure of yourself.”

Klaes bowed. “I was her tutor, your highness, before I came here. She turned many heads, but not consciously.”

“Yours perhaps?”

The advisor continued to bow. “She was too young for me, sire.”

King Falk sighed heavily. “Is she dangerous?”

Klaes stood tall, a little offended by the implication. He put aside his displeasure at the thought of Anan with another man and answered the King truthfully. “Quite the contrary, sire. She would be a good match for your son. You have thought about a marriage between our two worlds. This would be to your advantage, and theirs.”

The King sighed heavily again. “Will they see each other again or was this a one time occurrence?”

“They both want to see each other again, but are not sure when that will happen.”

The King nodded. “As long as he does not run off without telling anyone, I am not opposed to it.”

Klaes bowed to the King. “Yes, your grace. Thank you.”

King Falk nodded and turned his thoughts to other matters.

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Chapter One: part one

Eloran stared at his horse’s hoof and cursed himself silently for not bringing tools to replace the lost horseshoe. He sighed heavily, ignoring the scent that threatened to calm him. There was too much to think about.

Taren, where his brother lived, was more than ten miles away. He could not expect his steed to carry him that far with one missing shoe over cobblestone roads. He sighed and continued to stare at the hoof, willing the shoe to reappear.

“Good afternoon.” A gentle voice spoke from behind him.

Eloran quickly straightened and turned toward the voice. There was a light gray horse a few feet away. The rider wore a gray cloak that matched the steed well. Her hood was up, hiding the color of her hair, but making her stunning blue eyes shine. He smiled and licked his lips, a sly glint in his eyes. She was rather beautiful.

“Hello.”

“Are you in need of assistance?”

He smiled wider. He liked her voice. It was soft, pleasant and promised kindness. “I am. My horse lost a shoe, and Taren is miles away. Do you happen to have a kit with you?”

She gave him a quizzical look. “I don’t usually carry one with me. Do you?”

“I…usually travel with more people. Someone always has a kit and extra shoes, in case of emergencies.” When the odd look did not leave her face, he gave an embarrassed smile. “Our blacksmith makes extra when we go on a long trip.”

She smiled and tried to keep the recognition off her face. “Ah. I see.” She looked him up and down then seemed to come to a decision. “There is a town closer than Taren.”

“There is?” He looked confused and happy at the same time.

“Yes, Gateway. Have you heard of it?”

An interested smile came to his full lips, bringing light to his hazel eyes. “I didn’t know we were close to Gateway. I’ve heard of it, but have never had the pleasure.”

She gave him a lovely smile. “Come with me. I’ll take you.”

He nodded, spellbound by her eyes.

She giggled when he did not move but continued to stare up at her. “You don’t have much on your horse, but you can move the saddlebags to my horse, then you can sit behind me. We’ll go slow, to allow your horse the time it needs.”

Eloran nodded. Of course he should move his things. He moved his light bag to her horse, as she moved her cloak to allow him access. He caught a glimpse of her light blue dress and closed his eyes to his thoughts. He shook his head to clear it and continued moving his saddlebag. Once it was moved, he grabbed the reins and frowned. Her hand appeared in front of him and he looked up.

“Give me the reins. Then you can mount behind me.”

A sly smile appeared on his face at the word mount. She was a beautiful woman, perhaps if he played his cards right, he would be in her bed tonight. He frowned as he handed her the reins.

“What is your name?”

She smiled. “Anan.” As he was traveling by himself and did not have any obvious indications of his title, she decided to pretend she didn’t know who he was. “And you are?”

“Eloran.”

He said it with confidence, and she wondered if he did or did not want her to know who he was. Though it was a common enough name, most knew the king’s youngest son carried the name. She smiled. “Beautiful name.”

The complement pleased him and made him stand taller. “Thank you.”

Anan smiled again and indicated the spot behind her. “Come Eloran. We should leave. It won’t take too long to travel to Gateway, but we need to go slow.”

He nodded and mounted on the back of her horse. He immediately slipped one arm around her waist and took his horse’s reins with the other. She allowed him to settle into a comfortable spot, then leaned against him. He sighed and tightened his arm around her. Anan did not comment, but signaled to her horse to walk.

Eloran sighed again and this time, allowed the scent of the forest, and of her hair, to brighten his mood. The forest smelled of pine and lilacs. Her hair smelled of roses. His arm tightened around her waist again and brought her a touch closer. Anan gave a small chuckled and leaned even further against him. She kept the horses moving, indicting to Eloran that they were not stopping, despite his desires.

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