Chapter 12: Earthly Dreams
June 14, 2007
1076 words. Done!
She waited impatiently for the sun to go down. There were still a few more hours left, but the sun’s heat was dissipating fast. Most of her retinue still slept though, and she let them sleep, controlling her impatience. In this heat, rushing out could bring severe injuries and exhaustion on her retinue and their steeds, and she did not want to risk that. She yearned to see her twin again though. They met each other only once a year, and rarely got to spend more than a few hours together. Their respective duties and responsibilities as Heirs did that. Now, with the added mantle of Priestess hanging on both of them, it threatened to take away even their few precious hours together.
She shifted, feeling the silk stole slip down, exposing the top of her bare shoulders. Unconsciously, she pulled the stole tighter around her, covering her shoulders again. She thought she had felt the whisper of a cool breeze, which should have been impossible in this room. It was not just the heat, but the dryness in the air. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. Jumping at shadows was a behaviour unbecoming of a Priestess, much less a Princess. Even as she held herself close and tried to think of comforting thoughts, the worry came back to gnaw at her.
She shook her head, the beads in her hair clinking as they hit each other. It was no use worrying about what was happening back in her mother’s Kingdom. She would have to trust that her mother knew what she was talking about when she had sent her daughter to this family meeting, the first one she would have missed since her mother had assumed the throne when she was just a year or so old. Her twin they had sent with her father to be his heir, and she had followed in her mother’s footsteps. Her father was a stern man, but kind to his subjects. Her sister was more of their mother’s daughter though, with a fiery temper and passion to match. She preferred not to confront, but rather work behind the scenes.
Someone knocked on the door. Turning, she called the person in.
The steeds ate up a goodly distance. These were not the usual forest mounts, but rather wild beasts that grew at the edges of the desert. They had stamina and the ability to go for long periods without water, though this only applied if they were not being run every day. As it were, most were captured when they were adults so they were used to running without water for long intervals. Steeds were also exchanged at each way station, so they would not be exhausted. Despite this though, death of steeds were still quite common. A steed that lasted more than five years was prized, and most were often sold to nobles on both sides of the desert.
She pushed at the one she rode, the one they called Fly, urging him to run. He was a good serviceable steed with a fanciful name. As he picked up speed, she put her hand at his neck, as though urging him on silently. At the rate they were travelling they would probably reach the meeting point early, but she was looking forward to catching her twin. Her twin would be there early. They normally acted as scouts for their parents, a role unchanged even when her mother was not around. She had argued and won the smaller but more experienced and seasoned warriors, including those with political tactfulness. Her father and her sister were reasonable but their advisors were not. At least not very often.
As the last glimmers of the sun set, they caught sight of another way station. They had set out as soon as the sun’s tip had settled below the horizon, and it was still warm. Still, the journey had been bearable. The steeds made good speed and this close to the interior the distance between the way stations were getting closer and closer. Someone let out a war cry as the station came into sight. Sands burst into people as they were attacked, making most of their steeds scream in terror. Her own, Fly, seemed to take it into his head to get her out of there, a sentiment shared by her bodyguards.
Steel whistled as swords were pulled from their scabbards and spears were unsheathed. With a loud cry, most of her bodyguards ran straight into the ambush, while two of them pulled her away. Fly was ahead of them though, already jumping over one of the foot soldiers attacking them and making straight for the way station. She tried to regain control of her steed, but it was having none of it. Pressing herself against the horse, she took a quick look back. The two guards saluted her, the woman with a cheeky grin, the other with a grave nod. Seeing their Princess off, they turned back to the task at hand; helping their comrades.
She faced forward, and to her surprise, the steed flew past the way station. Although she tried to get him to stop, her feet had been caught by the stirrups, and she could not seem to find the strength to pull him back. She squinted her eyes against the speed they were holding, and then as the wind’s breath became sharper to her ears, she realised that he was actually running faster than before. She did not dare to open her eyes. The wind biting into her face was cool though; night had fallen.
Suddenly, she felt him slowing down. Opening her eyes, she could see the stars shining brightly in the sky, and by the looks of it, they had been travelling for some time. Around her was the meeting place. The rocks were arranged in a triangular pattern, and she was in the centre. Getting off the steed, she felt her body move of its accord. She stood at the very centre of the triangle and looked up at the twin moves. Fly left her; she could hear him trotting away. Reaching up, she undid her cloak and let it fall, revealing a thin, almost see-through garment that clung to her body. She raised a tanned hand up to the sky, reaching out to the moons with her palms facing upwards.
Then she began to sing.