We ride hard, all day, though the average speed has slowed us down quite a bit. We have kept off the road but close by as I wish not to attract any attention. There are many men who are loyal to the former King, such as this woman before me, and they all truly wish to kill me. But for as many men who hate me, I have as many men who are loyal to me and stand behind me and my views of how to improve such a kingdom.
You see, the King before me had conservative views. He placed himself before the churches, was sure to kill some innocent men for not putting them through trial, and worst of all, he degraded women and children and even men in some cases. Being an attendant to his royal court and a descendant to his throne, I saw it fit for change. At the age of fifteen I became an attendant and ever since then, I brought together the Secret Council where I proposed the idea with a few confidents. I had been raised with excellent sword fighting skill, and was often told of my authoritve tone that couldn't be denied. The Secret Council grew as they saw me fit to be King and fit to make such changes. And now at twenty two years old, I am King of what I have worked so secretly hard to obtain.
One may indeed wonder why the true identity of the King before me was never shown, but it was because of the fear that his closest subject bore for him. They loved him not and feared that their lives would be endangered if they spoke one ill word of him.
Such behavior should be excused from innocent men of the country, but they fail to listen. When they do listen, they fail to believe and thus rebel against me, unbelieving that I am a good man. It is for such reasons that the villages around me have burned. Though I do not like it, Jillian assured me it was the only way for the people to listen. As much as I hate him being my advisor, in truth, I slightly agree with him.
I suppress an exhausted sigh as I think of all I had gone through to get where I am. But as I the sun sinks low in the sky, I know that we must stop for the night. I slow Elderado into a walk and edge him further into the woods. Since knowing the kingdom quite well from my endless studies, I know that we are no where near any existing villages, but rather a small series of lakes.
When we come to a small clearing, I stop and get off of the horse. I peer up at Meria Pracherd only to find her knuckles clenched to the brim of the saddle still and eyes squeezed shut. I pry her fingers from the saddle as her eyes fly open, looking wildly until they find mine. She lets out a sigh, as if reassured and then looks at the ground, as if unsure of how to get down. I reach my hands up to her small waist, which sends warmth into her cheeks as her hands latch onto my arms, and lift her off of the horse and onto the ground. As her feet hit the ground, she stumbles towards me, her cheeks warming even brighter as I help her straighten up.
Then, as she continues to surprise me, she take her hands off of my arms and places her own hands on top of mine and detaches my hands from her hips. She then stands straight and turns to look at the wooded area around us. Her lips press together as if trying to determine what to say.
I move away from him wordlessly, as I go to collect twigs and sticks that I can use to build a fire. My cheeks still burn from the warmth his touch had caused me to feel. His gentleness was almost too much to handle, for I have never been used to it.
I mean, it is true that I love, er, loved Riou with all of my heart, but he was never gentle with me in such a way. Riou's touch was the same as anyone's.. it was his voice that I fell in love with. His gentleness came in the tone with which he sometimes spoke. Riou was my protector, my comforter, but not my equal. Sometimes, I almost felt as if he were degrading my belief's or actions because I was a woman. I never could fully understand it until recently, when the rumor's of the new King had spread around. I remember overhearing Riou and my father talking of the matter, of how they agreed with the old King that women and children shouldn't have rights to anything. They spoke of how this new King planned to bring a more democratic reign to this country.
Naturally I chose to disregard their words, for my King was to kind, I was told, to ever harm another living soul. But it was with Riou's words to my father that I realized all of the times he had discouraged me from doing something that I loved or wished to do. It was also, two days after, that our village was attacked and burnt.
I clear my thoughts as they threaten to choke me and realize that I have so many twigs in my arms, that I cannot possibly carry any more. A shiver passes through my body at the memory and I make my way back to the small clearing. I see no sign of Percival anywhere but his horse is tied to a nearby tree so I know that he shouldn't be too far off.
I spend the next ten to twenty minutes building a nice small fire. I feed it twigs and watch it grow as the sun sets and the moon threatens to rise. I hear a rustling in the bushes nearby and turn, fully alert to the sound. I place my hand on the hilt of my dagger and slowly draw it out, ready to throw it at whatever beast it is that is coming my way. A twig snaps and I quickly take my dagger out fully as I am startled now.
I jump and almost throw my dagger at the figure that steps through the bushes but stop as I recognize who it is. I let out an exasperated sigh and slip my dagger back into it's sheath as Percy, with his raised brows, walks towards me, with two plump rabbit's in hand. He drops them near the fire, which is growing quite large now, and peers over at me with a small flicker of curiosity on his face. As he warms his fingers he asks me, "How did you learn to build such a warm fire?"
I shrug as I turn and kneel down, warming my own hands, "I was always the one to start the fires within my home. I've learned which types of wood will produce more heat over other types."
"So then, I do suppose you know how to cook?" he asks me mildly amused.
I nod numbly and reach for the rabbits, but to my surprise, he only hands me one of them as he takes the other for himself to gut.
We sit quietly and get the meat from the rabbits and use twigs to cook them over the fire. He wraps all remaining meat with salt as to preserve it, and puts it into a compartment attached to the horse's saddle.
He pulls two sleeping rolls and lays them out near the fire and then goes back to fetch the canteen's. When he comes back, he hands me a canteen and takes a stick from me to inspect the meat.
We eat quietly as the night air around us grows a little chilly.