The True Heir II

-

The following is a segment of Josh’s novel, The True Heir, which he has been working on throughout his degree. 

Part 1 is available here. 

II.               Elayna

My horse lessons were usually behind the palace, in one of the horse paddocks away from the gardens. Today, however, I am meeting mistress Estelle near the front gates. There are many Kingsguard there, all armed with muskets and rapiers (though a few held spears).

Estelle Horumakavas towers over them all, her bright red hair afire in the sunlight and she is dressed in her usual riding clothes: brown pants, a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt open at the neck and thigh-high leather riding boots. Strapped to her left side is her clan longsword.

As I approached, I could see her violet eyes locked onto mine.

I walk over to the group and curtsy to my teacher who bows back in the orcish style, from the waist, her right arm over her left crossed on her chest. Signifying no threat to the other party.

‘Greetings, Elayna chief-daughter, Estelle wishes to take you to the open country to teach you canter-at-speed.’

I can barely contain the excitement. I’d waited months for today, and even better, Lucas wasn’t around to constantly remind me how good he was at riding just by his maddening ability to look good doing anything.

‘It will be my honour, Estelle-teacher, I have been looking forward to this.’ Her toothy grin fills me with joy. A smile is rare for her and I lap up any honour she bestows on me.

‘FORM UP!’

The Kingsguard snap to attention immediately and formed a square around us as we mounted up.

Estelle’s desert pony is almost as large as my horse, but then, it needs to be to support her. Orcs tend towards being larger and broader than humans, and the majority have tusks, though Estelle’s are much smaller than the larger tusks found on her male counterparts.

‘Estelle noticed you are particularly happy today, chief-daughter, is it a riding lesson? Or “riding” lesson?’

‘Estelle!’ I gasp and almost fall flat on my face. Several of the nearby soldiers, of whom some are women, struggle to hide their laughter behind fake coughs, smile and elbow each other while nodding in my direction.

Shame blossoms to my cheeks and my face flushes with heat.

I leap up into the saddle.

‘Oh-ho! Estelle is impressed chief-daughter Elayna can jump so high.’ Estelle lets out a bark of laughter that is more infectious than I like and before I know it, I am chuckling myself too.

Leaving the front gates in such a way makes many people turn their heads to watch me in awe. Unfortunately, my gallop for freedom is not as I hope, for the Rue du Palais is thronged with Third-day afternoon market and thousands of people. Reigning Shasta in, she slowed to a trot, stopping completely before I bowl over a young man and his family.

‘Thank’ee milady! Sorry for halting your mad rush, milady!’ the father says, bowing repeatedly.

‘It is of no consequence,’ I reply, cursing my lack of foresight, ‘Though do be careful, next time I might not be able to stop.’

‘Of course, milady, thank’ee milady.’ I watch their retreating backs in silence as they hurry into the crowd, the children smiling and waving at me.

Hearing a shout from behind, I turn, ‘Make way for the princess! Make way for princess Elayna!’

The crowd parts immediately.

Estelle reigns in beside me, several moments before the sprinting Kingsguard catch up to reform around us, some struggling to keep their breath.

‘Quite the chase you gave them, chief-daughter. Estelle would have thought you gone by now.’

‘Naturally, I had to wait for my guards to catch up, these soldiers train all the time to be useful, and I have to leave them behind to have any fun around here.’

Estelle is the only one who reacts, laughing with her great, loud laugh that tends to cause people to look over in alarm.

‘Elayna chief-daughter has sense of humour! How fortuitous.’

I narrow my gaze at Estelle. There are times where I know she is playing, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell.

I take a gamble.

‘Well, Estelle-teacher, when one has to deal with you, one learns.’ I smile and she laughs again, causing several passing commoners to glance up at my fearsome horse-master.

Good, so she is in that kind of mood today.

Our guardians easily part the crowd for us, but it is a long time before we reach Main Street and I take the time to observe the kind of people who live in Remora, capital of the Kingdom of Rem. Around us, people of nearly every race converse in loud, raucous discourse. Large, burly, grey-skinned orcs brush up against short-but no less burly-dwarves while tall, bronzed elves and the Drau, their paler, dark haired cousins, haggle over clothes, jewels, and food.

Humans, by far the majority, move about in brightly coloured clothes. At many stalls in the markets, short, weedy, green-skinned goblins with high pitched nasally voices ply their wares and screech at passers-by. 

Several large, scaly trolls wander around speaking slowly and carefully. The trolls have many different shades of scale colour combined with a large forehead, long nose, and overly long arms that make them the subject of many terror stories.

I search diligently, however, I can only see a few of the brown-skinned hobgoblins; larger, more militaristic, disciplined cousins of the goblin race, and two of them are in my retinue of guards.

‘Estelle-teacher, my father says that before my great-grandmother’s reign, her brother, King Arremande, believed that only humans should live in the kingdom. Is that true? I couldn’t imagine the kind of place he wanted to live in now.’

‘Estelle not so sure about that time, was very long ago, Elayna chief-daughter. Perhaps best to ask court shaman Pharagood about such time. Estelle hears many rumours that the human shaman live back then.’

‘Really? I knew Philius was old but I never thought he was that old.’ I try to remember what the ancient wizard looks like now and can dimly recall a beard, long robes, and dark eyes.

Nothing concrete unfortunately.

That could be almost any of the wizards at the Wizard-Geld.

‘Enough of that anyway, time to learn to gallop horses.’ Estelle kicks her desert pony onto Main street away from the crowds to pick up the pace.

I urge Shasta into a canter, and we make good time through the brightly coloured crowd who quickly step to the sides of the wide, cobbled street to the shouts of: ‘Make way! Royal procession coming through!’

Our trip down Main Street is uneventful, and we pass through the Merchant Gate and into the Merchant Quarter. There the crowds thin considerably as it is the morning and many Remorans are either working or preparing to start work. Leaving the city via the East-Gate, we emerge into the countryside to a brilliant blue sky and a horizon of green grass surrounding large farming estates.

‘Come chief-daughter, show Estelle how you ride!’ my teacher shouts, kicking her pony into a gallop. I follow by digging my heels into Shasta and she explodes down the compacted dirt road.

I cannot help but laugh as I overtake her when Shasta picks up her paces and flies toward the horizon. My dark hair streams out behind me and my blue dress, the colour of the sky, whips around as she picks up speed. I hold onto the saddle with my legs and stand up, feeling the wind on my skin. The air surging past, goosebumps shivering all over.

Joshua Smith-Monaghan
Archive

Share this article

Recent posts

Popular categories

Leave a Reply

Recent comments