Abden Kal had served my Father for years before I was born. His city was one of the Northern towns decimated by st Stashii war of 1123. Though he was only a few years older than me he was more wise and knowledgeable than most of my tutors. T’Shone law forbids anyone to touch Royal Flesh apart from Court appointed Apothmages. When I was 11 I fell from my horse and Abden, catching me and tending to my wounds would have been put to death had I not intervened. My Father was at first furious but later bestowed the order of the star to Abden for saving my life.
When I was almost 19 I led a party of Nobles into Carringtown Wood to hunt Pascht. I asked that Abden be my Arrowman. My Father King Reiking agreed, I think that he may have like Abden. Felt of him as a son. It was high Summer and for the first day we brought down Hares, Partridges and Baeur Beasts.The first two we cooked with root vegetables but the Baeurmeat is a poison to man so we used it as lure. Although the sun was long behind the peak of Mount Vasealieii, it was still hot and still. the very air was over warmed. We had made a small fire to cook with and as the Nobles bowed themselves and bedded for the night only I and Abden remained. We had always spoken easily. he talked to me like I was a friend, never once treating me like a Royal. I admired him for that. As he spoke I notice the quick of his nails as he broke bread. The tension is his jaw as he chewed and the pale blue of his eye.
We talked until the second sun rose. I have never felt such peace. Abden has a way about him that conjures trust. As the rest of the Nobles began to awaken and cook breakfast I asked their leave. I spoke only briefly to Abden, he was reluctant to talk in front of others. I said that I had decided to trek down to Borrow Lake and scout a trail. Abden grabbed his bow and followed at my side. Away from the others he was his usual self, with a quick wit and many humorous stories. Though we caught or trapped nothing that day, it was a fond memory.
Today is my 21st year. There are to be celebrations throughout our Kingdom. I am told the Pyromages have a display that will turn day into night and the kitchens have been working nonstop for the feast. The first Sun has only finished rising when a rough hand grabs my shoulder. It is Abden. Twenty Cadre of Stashii warriors invaded Kilenden Town, less than a mile from the capital. His sword is drawn. I am naked, for I cannot abide to wear anything in bed, yet it does not seem to bother him. I grab my leather britches and a loose cotton shirt and my bandolier. I ask of my Father and Porticia my Step Mother. Abden knows nothing. As we pass through the kitchens, the staff throw themselves to the floor at the sight of me. I tell them to run to their homes but they do not move. That is when we smell the smoke. “Move!” I shout and dragged from some reverie they run to the doors. Crossbolts take down those that reach the courtyard first. That is when I see the first Stashii. I say a silent pray to the Goddess as my hand finds the first dagger in my bandolier. The knife hits him in the throat and he falls.”Your Highness!” Abden has hold of my arm and is trying to drag me to the open door. We run watching each other to the stables. my horse lem is already saddled and ready to run. There is a white Mountain Pascht saddled and ready next to him. Only Royals may ride horses. I pause for a a moment and wonder why Abden had a Pascht already fitted to ride. A crossbolt slams into the wood frame next to me and I jump onto Lem’s back, Abden looses an arrow through the table doors and we ride South into Hartmarsh.
There is a mighty orange glow to the East which can only be Hartton burning. I pray that at least some escaped.
I am heartsick and wary for my Father. I ask Abden to sing to me but he says he has no songs in him. He smiles that smile and says that I should tell him a tale. I must know many being so well educated. I laugh despite my mood and tell him the tale of the Foxling King and how his wife was saved from death by Death’s own Daughter.
We ride for a few miles in silence but I must make water and though I am no coward I want Abden to wait for me.
As I am tying my britches, Abden is right beside me. “Your Highness,” His voice is quiet and he brushes the hair out of my eyes. “I would die for you.”
I cannot think of a single word to say. I have never spoken a word of this. Abden is tall and well muscled and handsome. When he speaks to me I feel there is nothing else in the world. His skin smells sweet, like fruit, like the end of summer. His lips are too red and too fine. I want to kiss him and tell him how I have loved him for as long as I can remember. So desperate is my need, my love for him I do not notice the Outrider. It is only when Abden falls into me and knocks me to the ground do I realise he has been struck. The crossbow shaft is in between his shoulderblades. I draw the second dagger from my bandolier and throw into the face of this bastard. “Please don’t leave me.” Even as I say the words I know how pointless they are. The Stashii Outrider is already dead before he falls. My knife through his eye. I take some small comfort in that. “My Lord. My Love” Abden ‘s hand is in my hair. “I am sorry I never told…” I kiss his lips even as they grow cold. The first boltshaft shatters two ribs and punctured my lung, The second is buried deep in my neck. I didn’t feel the third or fourth. I was maybe already dead.