The Prince’s Friend

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A little snippet from my novel that is always in the making but never finished. XD It’s an introduction to some characters you’ve never met before…


Prince Edward had one true friend, which was more than many could hope for. William was not of noble blood, but his great-great-grandfather was a great soldier, a hero, and because of him the Cornwell family was always welcome at Court.
William had a lot to be proud of, but Edward never heard him brag. He did not care much for his heroic ancestor. He learned how to fight, of course, because he didn’t seem to have another choice. He was a skilled swordsman and rider from an early age and was now a member of the royal guard. Still, he never became a knight, which was a disappointment to his parents. It was not the kind of life he wanted to live. He knew that noble causes were just causes, without the misleading epithet.

“Tell me about your great-great-grandfather!” Edward would ask him. “Tell me how he fought and what a great hero he was!”

“Why are you so interested in those stories?” William seemed almost angry when Edward insisted.

“Of course I’m interested! Was he very brave? How big was his sword? Did he slay many enemies?” Edward was always impatient and was not used to his wishes being unanswered. He loved the stories about heroic knights and powerful warriors, and considered them a source of greatest inspiration. He wanted to be like them and never feel fear.

“I don’t want to talk about that. It’s boring. And half of it is made up anyway”, William responded with a frown on his face.

“Oh, no! It’s all real! I don’t understand how you are not intrigued by it. People say there were even dragons involved!” Edward looked very immature next to his friend.

William was not convinced that the story about dragons was true, even though his father was among those who claimed that at the very and of the battle, dragons really appeared and many soldiers were drowned in their breath of fire.

“You must be very proud of him”, said Edward calmly once he was aware that William would not answer him.

“Why would I be proud? Those were his actions, not mine”, William hissed through his teeth.

“But he is your ancestor. And he killed so many enemies”, Edward could not understand his friend’s reaction. He did not want to fight and he regretted starting this conversation. He would, however, repeat the same mistake many times again.

“You keep repeating that word – enemy. But were the people my presumably heroic ancestor killed really his enemies? Did they really do him any harm? I think they weren’t guilty of anything. They were only doing what they were told. And so was my great-great-grandfather. They listened to the orders, and I don’t think there is anything heroic about that”, William sulked.

Edward thought about his friend’s words. He was impressed how smart William was. He could never see things the way his friend did. Still, Edward was not convinced that William was right.
At the time this conversation took place, the boys were fourteen years old and they have already developed their personalities and attitudes. Edward was easily influenced by others, not because he was stupid, but because he was insecure. He listened to other people and found them more eloquent and wiser than himself. There was no harm in listening to others, he thought. It would help him become a better king one day. It would enable him to make his own decisions. When he thought about himself, Edward always pictured a little boy who still had a lot to learn. One day, he would also be wise, but not yet, not just yet…

The Tournament

On the first day of the tournament, there were no fights. It was the day when several short contests took place, and even the common people were allowed to participate in some of them. The most prestigious of the contests was archery, and many noblemen came with their finest bows and arrows to show their skills.

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I’ve been neglecting my blog AND my novel lately… So, now, I’m going to share a small part of my novel on my blog in order to make some progress on both sides. How sneaky of me!


 

On the first day of the tournament, there were no fights. It was the day when several short contests took place, and even the common people were allowed to participate in some of them. The most prestigious of the contests was archery, and many noblemen came with their finest bows and arrows to show their skills. The winner was a certain Sir Adlard, who hit the target time and time again with enviable precision.

The gallery where the king and queen were seated was raised on a platform higher than the rest of the auditorium, covered with a luxurious green curtain and decorated in golden reliefs. On each side of the gallery were the seats reserved for those chosen by the king and queen to be in their company. On the right side sat the Norrington family, as many times before, and on the left the Count of Ashire and his daughter, for the first time ever. It was also Evelyn’s first time attending the tournament. She sat next to Prince Edward, and she shared her impressions with him, asking him what the rules of each competition were.

The second day was the day of single combat. Evelyn did not find it as attractive, even though it was a competition for those of the higher rank and a more important one. It was not allowed to keep harming the opponent once he was down, but there was still a lot of blood on the ground, and many knights suffered serious injuries. Once again, Sir Adlard proved to be the best competitor.

On the third day, Edward’s seat was empty. Evelyn was greeted by William Cornwell.

“His Highness has told me to be in your service today, Lady Evelyn, since he won’t be able to spend time with you. He’s already preparing for the tournament.”

“I thank you for that. It is nice to meet you again, Sir William”, she bowed lightly.

“I’m not a knight, my lady”, he said.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I was certain you were a knight. You look like one.”

“And how do knights look like, my lady?” his response confused her a little.

“Well I guess they look like you”, she chuckled.

William had never found a lady to be so sincerely charming. She nodded to him and took a seat next to her father. William was to remain close to them, and he stood next to Evelyn as her protector, still like a statue.

The trumpets announced the beginning of the tournament. Knights shined in strong armours, with bright shields and long spears. Soon, they would climb on their horses, take their places, one on each side of the terrain. They would then run towards each other and try to hit the opponent with the spear and push him from the horse. Evelyn was still unable to see Edward. The price would surely not appear among the first contestants, since he was the one everyone thought would win.

The first clash was over quickly. One of the knights managed to push the other from the horse in the first try. The defeated knight fell to the ground, with only his pride hurt.

It was the other round which made Evelyn feel uneasy. A knight’s spear struck his opponent dangerously, but he managed to remain on his horse. The knights ran towards each other again, but the injured knight could hardy hold his spear and he suffered another blow. Still, he did not withdraw. The third strike was too much for him, however, and he fell from his horse. He remained on the ground.

“Oh, no! He’s not dead, is he?” Evelyn asked but no one could give her a reply.

The fallen knight’s squire approached his master and slowly removed his helmet. There was blood on the knight’s face. The squire tried to wake him up, but the knight remained unresponsive. He was taken from the terrain so that the tournament could be continued.

“I don’t think he’s dead. I think I saw him breathing”, her father responded.

“That only means he is not dead yet”, William said, obviously displeased with the entire tournament. “But he might as well recover completely. It’s hard to tell.”

“Why does His Higness participate in the tournament?” Evelyn asked, scared for Edward’s well-being. “He doesn’t have to.”

“He just really likes it”, William smiled. “You shouldn’t worry, my lady. His Highness knows what he’s doing. He was never badly hurt.”

The time for the prince to compete came before Evelyn was ready for it. Several knights were injured, and her fear only grew. Edward rode into the terrain confidently. He was the only one who had a pearl white horse. The emblem of the royal family was carved into his shield.

Evelyn wanted to close her eyes, but she thought it would be disrespectful. She could hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears.

The knights clashed, and Edward’s opponent fell to the ground. The prince raised his spear in victory. Evelyn could breathe again.

As the tournament progressed, it was obvious that the best competitors were the prince and Sir Adlard. In the end, it all came to the two of them. Sir Adlard was on his auburn horse, upright and motionless. His face was hidden behind the helmet, and he seemed almost as an inhuman, mythical apparition. The prince’s white horse took its place on the opposite side of the terrain, equally tranquil, as if nothing was about to happen. Evelyn watched Edward as his fingers gripped the heavy spear and lifted it parallel to the horse’s body, just above the tip of its ears. She then turned to see Sir Adlard, who took the same pose.

The sound of the trumpet never sounded so threatening. Evelyn knew that she should not be doubting the Prince’s skills, but she had seen him insecure at times, close to falling from the horse. Sir Adlard defeated all of his opponents with such ease that she could not banish the feeling of immense danger approaching.

Prince Edward and Sir Adlard rushed towards each other so swiftly that Evelyn had barely the time to think about what was happening. She didn’t close her eyes. She focused on the centre of the terrain. Metal spears clashed, producing a loud, piercing clang followed by deep echo. Nothing happened. Both competitors were on their horses, riding slowly to the opposite side of the terrain. They had to face one another again.

The other clash resonated in a deeper, more sombre echo. Edward’s spear scraped the ground, but he managed to keep it in his hand. He was hit hard. While Sir Adlard rode back to his place, the Prince just stood there, on the middle of the terrain, holding his hand to his chest. Evelyn could see a dent in Edward’s armour. She wondered how badly he was hurt, but all she could do was sit and wait. She wasn’t sure if she was glad that Edward gathered all his strength and approached his position. She just wanted everything to end, end before tragedy strikes.

The two competitors ran towards each other for the third time. Evelyn wanted to look away but she couldn’t. There was no echo this time, and the clash was followed by a loud thud. The auburn horse reared, but it didn’t move from where it stood. The white horse kept running forward, disobeying the commands of its rider, and then suddenly stopped. Edward almost lost his balance. He held onto the horse with only one hand, while the other throbbed in pain as he tried not to drop the spear. This was in vain, and the spear fell to the ground. The only thing Edward could do was to look back to see what had happened to his opponent. The white horse soon regained its calm and turned obediently towards the centre of the terrain. Next to his horse’s hooves, lay Sir Adlard.

“His Highness, Prince Edward, is the champion!” the words sounded otherworldly.

Edward took off his helmet and raised his hand in victory. It was his time to be proud. He proved to everyone that he was worthy of becoming the king. He felt he was ready for it.

He looked after Evelyn. She raised from her seat and applauded. He wasn’t aware just how happy she was that the tournament was over, and how much she feared for his well-being. But he saw that she was smiling. Her face was shining with happiness.

It was the queen’s duty to bestow the champion’s coronal on the winners head. Edward rode to the royal gallery and greeted his mother with a wide smile. He bowed lightly and she put the coronal on his head. He raised his eyes and looked for hers. His mother was proud and smiling. He then looked at his father, a bit fearful. The king nodded, as if Edward only did what was expected of him, which made the future king feel like a young prince again. But he quickly gathered his thoughts. He was a champion and he should act like one! It was his time to rejoice.

Edward trotted around the terrain, noticing that Sir Adlard managed to raise and was slowly limping towards the crowd. He didn’t seem very proud now, and it made Edward feel great and powerful. After he did a full circle and greeted the entire audience, Edward was once again next to the royal gallery. His eyes met Evelyn’s. He was now close enough to see that they had teared up. He approached her and she came to greet him. They were aware that entire audience was staring at them, but it didn’t matter. Edward took off his coronal and put it on Evelyn’s black hair. The audience fell silent.

“You look like a fairy”, he smiled. “This is not just my victory. It is ours.”

William smiled at his friend’s words. He had never seen Edward act like that, never had he paid so much attention to a lady before. Maybe Edward’s decision to marry Lady Evelyn was not so crazy after all. He still felt it was rash, but he allowed himself believe that maybe they really were meant for each other.

Edward kept his gaze for a while, and Evelyn looked back at him. He then rode back to the terrain, saluting to the audience time and time again. They loved him. They worshipped him. He did it!

A Person I Admire (Alexandra’s perspective)

The city of Cyron is all we have. We do not know if more cities exist somewhere out there, beyond the safe borders. I hope they do. But just because it is sad to be confined to only one city, it does not mean that we should not feel lucky.

Cyron gives us everything we need. We have our homes, food, schools, libraries and parks. We have our lives. Many people died in the Great War, but our ancestors survived and built this city from nothingness. No one who remembers the War is alive anymore, but only to think about them makes me grateful to be alive.

One of them was Alexander Reming, my great-great-great-grandfather. He was a great scientist who used all of his knowledge to enable this city to grow. I was named after him and I am proud to bear his name. He used his knowledge to do good, and I hope someday I will be able to do something similar. He is the reason my family is even today in charge of West Cyron, while the Thorne family is in charge of East Cyron. I just hope neither of these families will forget what brought us here. It is their turn to do good for the city, and Alexander Reming is a person who could inspire them. That is why I chose him as a person I admire.

I found this old school composition of mine in a drawer in my room, entitled A Person I Admire. I don’t remember putting it there, but I remember reading it proudly to my brother, Theo, many years ago. He wasn’t impressed. I told him my teacher said it was the best composition in class, but Theo responded that I shouldn’t compare myself to others but to try to surpass myself.

Theo was always too much of a perfectionist for his own good, but he meant well. Underneath the serious countenance, he was warm and fragile. That’s why I’m so worried about him these days. He seems his old, responsible self, but I know him well enough to sense when something’s wrong. He’s been working for father at the Ministry, although they don’t get along, which just one of the things that makes me suspicious. And I know he’s worried about me. He always wants to protect me. Especially now when father decided that I should marry his colleague’s son. Theo went crazy when he heard it.

“I went to school with that guy, and I know what and idiot he is!” he shouted at father. “He was a bully then and he is a bully now! I will not allow Alex to marry him!”

Even my mother protested: “You can’t arrange a marriage for our daughter! Besides, she’s just turned eighteen!”

Father didn’t change his mind, he only agreed to postpone the marriage a little bit. I know this is just another of father’s plans to make sure I remain his picture perfect daughter, but I also know he will not give up on it. He could’ve just named me Laura to fit the Petrarchan ideal he wanted to create of me. All the innocent, sweet girls in literature are named Laura. The universe is obviously on his side, since I even look the part – tiny, big-eyed, pale, and blonde. Well, my mother is tiny and blond as well, so I guess I never stood a chance. I even suspect that was the reason my father married her.

I admit, my father’s decision scares me to death, but I don’t want to talk about it to Theo anymore. He looks so stressed even without me complaining. And I know he still hasn’t gotten over Celestine. He still loves her, but he won’t admit it. When did my brother and I stop talking? When was this abyss created between us? And how am I supposed to explain to him that I am falling in love with Ryder Thorne, Celestine’s cousin, the rockstar? Well, star may be an overstatement, but his band is getting more popular each day. At first sight, Ryder and I are the complete opposites, but we actually like all the same things. I express myself through writing and always have a book at hand; Ryder expresses himself through music and always walks around with headphones in his ears. When asked about a favourite colour, we both answer – black. I like it because I find it silent and beautifully dark; Ryder likes it because he finds it expressive and loud. And we both love words. Sung or read, words can say so much, if they are used right.

Do I love him? I think I do. But what do I know? I’m eighteen but I’ve spent most of my life trapped in this beautiful, safe and insanely cold house. I’ve never been in love before.

No, I will not play the role of the “unhappy little princess”! Tropes are boring and I’m sick of rules. Real people surpass any definition. I will find a solution for my unfortunate situation. I will not obey my father this time. I want to become the person the young me would admire.


I think this should’ve actually been the first story in the series, because it explains the setting. Anyway, you can read the previous one HERE. I also decided to name the series East and West. Hope you’ll like them 🙂

Evelyn

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I haven’t posted a new short story for a while, and that’s because I’ve been working on my novel. So, I thought I should share with you the first chapter. It may not be the best one, and it might eventually be changed a little bit, but I found it was the most suitable one to publish. Everybody, meet one of the main characters, Evelyn!


The window was open, but light draught barely entered the room. It was warm, even though the sun was approaching its descent under the horizon. Everything was quiet, except for the crickets, chirping somewhere in the distance. Evelyn was reading, cosy in the sofa on the side of the bed, enveloped by the long sleeves of her gown. A grey cat curled next to her feet and slept peacefully. She allowed the book pages to take her to distant worlds she could never know and to make her life interesting and full of surprises since, in reality, it was nothing like that. She connected with the characters easily, felt all of their emotions, lived through all of their adventures, worried when they faced adversities. Once she would start reading, it was hard for Evelyn to let go of her book and it hardly left her arms, but at the same time she hated reaching the final words and saying goodbye to what for a while felt like a real part of her life. That was why she liked to write. She wrote poems to bare her soul and stories to live through.

Not everyone could understand her unusual needs, and therefore nobody knew about them, except for her father. But he didn’t understand either. Evelyn’s mother did, while she was alive, before Evelyn was left alone with the strict manners of her father. Her mother knew what it meant not to be free.

The Baron of Ashire was not a bad man. He was just a man of his time. He frowned each time he saw Evelyn with a book, let alone an inked feather in her hands. He used to say that it would be better if she’d never learned to decipher the words from those accursed black symbols. Literacy was not on the list of his priorities. It angered him that Evelyn was not interested in the normal things. He felt embarrassed. In his own way, he wanted what was best for his daughter, which meant that he was determined to make her embody his clear vision of a proper lady. After all, that was what was expected of her – to fit in. The baron knew that society looked askance at deviations.

He was now mostly worried by her disregard of the very thought of marriage. Her youth would not last her much longer and her beauty would soon fade away. The baron was a respectable man, but he was not uncommonly wealthy. Evelyn’s beauty was what he put his hopes on. And now, to the baron’s great fortune, she was given an opportunity to shine and make something of herself. He would not allow anything to go wrong.

“Always with a book in your hands”, his deep voice was saturnine and strict, even though he wasn’t particularly disgruntled. He just wanted her to know how important today was.

“Father”, Evelyn raised from her sofa and instinctively adjusted her gown. Father wanted her to at all times look presentable.

She waited for the onslaught of remarks, but they remained unsaid, as if father thought he would make a better impression if he kept her in suspense. And maybe he wasn’t angry at all. When he wanted them to, his words were sharp glass debris, at times cutting her deeply, and sometimes just scraping her skin, but always hurting all the same. The silence suddenly became heavy and dense, and the droning noise made by crickets seemed much louder.

“You know you should be getting ready. We were invited to the royal ball! This is not some nonsense like your books! I even got you a dress”, the Baron of Ashire finally started with his deprecation.

“I’ll be ready father, there’s still enough time”, Evelyn said humbly, allowing her voice to take just a mildly brash note.

“Other girls would appreciate this honour…” mumbled the baron as he left his daughter’s room, showing thus his disappointment.

The room was now quiet again, and the chirping from the outside became unbearably loud, as if the crickets were sensing the approach of some kind of mysterious danger, and were now screaming their warnings in despair. Evelyn was gripped by a sense of unrest. She closed the window to muffle the horrible voices, with a swift but somewhat clumsy movement, as if she needed to defend herself. The window, however, could not save Evelyn from everything. She had to get ready for the ball if she didn’t want to suffer through another discussion with her father. His words always found a way to make her feel worthless, but it was a sentiment she was now used to. Inside of her, insurgency started to grow. Why can her father order her around whenever it pleases him? Why can’t she be the tailor of her own life? She hated posh balls and being surrounded by stately noblemen. At times, she was saddened by her deep loneliness, but she took comfort in the company of her cuddly cat, named Daisy. Father didn’t like the cat. He couldn’t understand the purpose of that creature in his home. Several times he tried to kick her out in the street, but Evelyn fought fiercely for Daisy to stay, until he finally gave up. What Evelyn didn’t realize was that her father’s attitude towards Daisy changed on the day her mother died. The baron knew he couldn’t comfort his daughter, but he tried at least not to hurt her even more. He never shared these thoughts with her.

Evelyn did not want to hurt her father either. She wondered whether she was the one who was wrong, the one with a problem. She could never fit the strict social frames, not even when she tried to, while everybody else did it with ease. When she thought about her life, she would always come to the conclusion that there was no reason for her to complain. She was born in a wealthy, respectable family which was the golden key that opened all doors. Many are less fortunate and have to make painful sacrifices only to survive. She was given all she needed, served on a silver platter. She resented being spoon-fed, but she couldn’t help it. Sometimes, she felt like she was being held under the water and slowly drowned, trying hard to fight for breath. It happened mostly when she was surrounded by a crowd of people. People never suited her and after some time and many acquaintances made, she knew it was no use trying. Yes, she certainly had a problem. And it wasn’t even caused by the fact that she was only ever surrounded by the nobility. She fit nowhere, as she found out on a walk with her parents which went all wrong.

Little Evelyn sometimes got so enthralled by the images which appeared in her head that she would forget to pay attention to the surrounding reality. It took her a long time to learn to keep her lack of attention under control. She would get involved in a flurry of strange thought, creating in her head a world of her own, filled with somewhat silly characters. They knew her secret desires and were always willing to talk about the book she was reading. Sometimes she told them she wanted to change the ending. Evelyn always found the endings particularly interesting since she never knew how to finish her own stories. She didn’t want to destroy the lives of the characters she’d created and loved dearly. Even the bad ones had a story to tell. But at the same time, she never liked when serious books ended like children’s tales. Evelyn felt like there are no truly happy endings in life. Even after the last page, life goes on. No one speaks of what comes next. What happens to the princess after she marries her prince? The rest of their lives won’t necessarily be happy. After all, the real end of everybody’s story is death, and death is such a horrible thing to write about. In the end, Evelyn’s stories were always left unfinished.

Since she was a child, Evelyn feared the future. For her, however, the future was not something unpredictable. She knew exactly what was expected of her, which seemed to her more horrible than vagueness. Her life would not be like one from a book. She would have to marry whomever her father found as an appropriate suitor. She would bear his children. He would not appreciate her unusual nature or her books. Her cat would die and he would not allow a new one. She would be lost in bleak monotony. Evelyn was aware that she could not avoid this future easily, but she was determined to hold tight to any possible straw of escape and do her best to at least postpone the inevitable.

Lost in such, or similar thoughts, young Evelyn lost her parents during the famous walk – or they lost her. She started to look around in panic, searching, but she couldn’t see them. Terrified, Evelyn looked at every face which passed her. Grey, bleak expressions made her even more scared. And then, there were the falsely smiling ones which resembled theatre masks. These were even more frightening.

Evelyn walked in an undetermined direction, just to keep moving and to create an illusion of getting towards someone or something that could help her. From the corner of her eye she noticed a pair of children. She wouldn’t normally turn to face them, but she was intrigued by their gleeful shouting. The girl was probably around Evelyn’s age, wearing a dingy brown dress which reached the ground in frowsy drapes. Her hair was down, disorderly but free. The boy was a bit younger than the girl, and even more covered in dust. They didn’t mind playing in the dirty street, trampled by countless shoes. They didn’t worry about their clothes or the almost black fingernails. And as unpresentable as they were, Evelyn found them beautiful in their freedom and childish disregard.

The girl noticed Evelyn staring and directed her piercing gaze at Evelyn’s eyes. Evelyn looked down, as if she hoped it would make her invisible.

“What are you looking at?” shouted the girl at Evelyn.

“Nothing… I’m just… Looking for someone”, Evelyn found it hard to articulate the words.

“You can’t play with us”, the boy said. “You are one of those in nice dresses. You can’t get dirty. My mom says those like you don’t ever play.”

Evelyn had to admit the boy was right. It seemed as if he felt a bit sorry for her, and even the girl didn’t look hostile anymore.

“Do you even know how to play?” the girl asked.

Evelyn did not know how to respond. She was scared. Those children were so different from her. As much as she wanted to talk to them, the words got stuck in her throat and she couldn’t speak. She looked at them in awe. They were elusive deities and she was just a weak little girl. In the end, she did the only thing she could to save herself. She ran.

Soon afterwards, she met her mother’s caring arms. Evelyn was safe, but quite sad. She knew she would never be able be herself around other people. She was born into a world of nobility in which the social norms determined how you should behave and what you should think. Maybe that was why she was so scared of those children. Maybe the social rules she so disliked suited her after all. Evelyn was trapped between the two worlds, not belonging to any of them.

Evelyn could hear the crickets through the closed window glass. She sighed deeply and closed her book.