Sneak Peek: Palace of the Three Crosses

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King Eyvindur and his daughter, Princess Maeve, flew on dragonback
over the city of Wryzburg. He enjoyed this peaceful time spent with his
daughter, a respite from his duties of office. He looked at her riding
Myrria with the wind blowing through her long hair. A green scarf
wrapped around her head, hiding her pointed Kningrad ears, accented
Maeve’s yellow dress. The daffodil-colored dress complimented her
brown hair and the sparkle in her blue eyes. Eyvindur contemplated the
beauty his daughter had grown into. The bright afternoon sun added
depth to her brilliant azure eyes and her pearly white skin. She was so
much like his mother with all the typical Kningrad traits. It was sad in a
way because she inherited so few of Queen Fiona’s traits, but that was the
will of Asha.
As they got closer to the palace, he thought of the happy times spent
with Theodric and Lilia and then later with the twins and Maeve. They
had been such happy children, but times and war changed everything. If
only they hadn’t lost Waldrom to Sidramah all those years ago. It
accomplished nothing by dwelling on these past memories. Now was the
time to focus on the future.
* * * *
It seemed ages since she rode a dragon. She enjoyed flying. However,
with Joachim’s kidnapping and the subsequent war, her father wanted her
safely hidden from Waldrom and the evil surrounding him.
Kningrad children were encouraged to fly, almost before they could
walk, and dragons were cooperative creatures. There were few dragons,
and most of them were bonded as Myrria was to Joachim, but they still
cooperated with all two-legged beings. Unless someone tried to enslave
them as Waldrom had.
Maeve felt Myrria’s excitement and shared it. Both were keenly aware
of all that Joachim experienced in the past months, but they loved him and
couldn’t wait to be with him once again, especially Maeve. She had missed
him so much, and now he was coming back, safe and sound. At least she
hoped that was so.
They had received a message from Rupert. The twins were returning to
Wryzburg, and many things needed to be done before that happened.
Besides the state funeral for King Theodric, there were coronations and a
joining to be prepared for.
The decision hadn’t yet been made regarding which twin Maeve would
be joined with, and while she prayed for Joachim, she feared it would be
Brandan. Unfortunately, her opinion mattered little. The Council of Adepts
and her father, King Eyvindur, would make the final decision. For now,
she would think about other things, like the reunion and planning the state
affairs, things she could control.
Too soon, she and King Eyvindur returned to the Palace of Twelve
Pillars. The princess knew her mother anxiously waited for their return.
The queen didn’t like to ride dragonback, so any time Maeve and her father
went out, Fiona would wait behind for them. Maeve shuddered at the
activities Mother planned for the rest of the afternoon. She was doomed to
hours of preparation for the return of the princes and training in the ways of
being a queen. The high nobles and her mother must be satisfied with her
comportment. She had been raised in the royal household of Freiburg,
which was very different from Wryzburg. Freiburg, the imperial city of
Imherp and the Kningrad, was a small coastal town, hidden by the Anna
Mountains. The Kningrad were quiet, peaceful people who kept to
themselves. It was not that they didn’t like humans; they simply felt more
comfortable with their own species.
As soon as she dismounted, Queen Fiona descended on her. “My
dear, you shouldn’t be flying about; it is bad for your complexion, and
your hair is in total disarray. You are a sight. It is a good thing the princes
are not arriving today. Come, hurry to your rooms, and let’s make you
presentable.”
“Mother, there is no need to fuss. As you so succinctly stated, the
princes aren’t arriving for a few days. Let us go to my rooms so I may
change out of my riding clothes, and we will see what needs to be done to
get things in order around here.” Maeve strode purposefully toward the
palace with her short, pudgy mother huffing and puffing behind her trying
to keep up.
Some found it hard to believe Fiona and Maeve were related. Most
Kningrad were tall and svelte like Maeve and her father. But like every
race, human, Mantion, and Kningrad alike, there are exceptions to the
norm, and Fiona was one of those exceptions. She shared familial ties
with Croifan, and his family tree consisted of height and weightchallenged
Kningrad. This fact didn’t make them less capable of doing
what they were meant to do; it simply made them different.
Fiona was a good queen. She ensured all would run smoothly behind
the palace walls. She thrived on those kinds of activities. King Eyvindur
had shown great wisdom when he chose Fiona for his wife and queen.
Maeve, on the other hand, preferred the business end of things. She
wanted to be a part of all the planning and running of the kingdom. In all
ways, Maeve resembled her father more than her mother. At times, this
gave Queen Fiona fits, but she realized that a Queen of Crato needed to
be more like Eyvindur. So Fiona did her best to train her determined
daughter in the ways of running a palace. Although she feared it would
probably fall to a servant or a high noble lady to perform these particular
queenly duties. Maeve would probably be off planning some strategy or
winning the allegiance of important noble men.
The two women walked down the hallway after Maeve had changed
and freshened her appearance. “My dear, have you checked to make sure
Cook is preparing all the boys’ favorite foods, and have the flowers in the
private quarters been arranged? Oh, and has a thorough cleaning been done
of all the rooms? It would not do to have the princes come home to a dirty
palace after all these months of living in tents out in the wilderness.”
Maeve sighed deeply. “Mother, I am sure cleanliness is the furthest
thing from the princes’ minds. Oh, do try to remember not to call them
boys; they are no longer boys but men.”
“Oh dear, to me they will always be boys, just as you will always be
my little girl. Did you see to the room arrangement for the visiting
nobles? It would not do to put Governor Yukio too close to anyone. They
say he smells funny, although I don’t know why. He seems to me to be a
perfectly nice gentleman, even if he is governor of the prison island of
Hyogo. Nice people do live there you know. Some of them might even
be relatives.”
“Yes, Mother, I’m sure he is perfectly nice, as are the others on the
island, excluding the prisoners.”
“Yes, yes, of course he is. What were we talking about? Oh, yes, the
flowers.”
As they continued on, Maeve spied her father walking down the hall
toward them. “Mother, I see Father. He and I have some important things
to discuss. Can we talk about this later?”
“Oh, yes, of course, you run along. I will take care of everything.”
* * * *
When Eyvindur reached them, he bent over to kiss his wife and then
straightened and kissed Maeve. “How are my two favorite girls doing?”
“Fine, my love, but I must run. I have a million things to do, and
Maeve, as sweet as she is, doesn’t have a head for this stuff. I will see you
tonight at dinner.” Fiona scurried off.
With raised eyebrows, Eyvindur looked at his daughter. “Have you
been giving your mother paroxysms again?”
The princess giggled. “You know Mother, all about clean rooms and
flowers on the tables, and who should be in the room next to Governor
Yukio. Stuff she is much better equipped to handle than I am. Now tell
me, when is Joachim getting here?”
“Last I heard, he should be here within the week, along with
Brandan.” Eyvindur smiled with a twinkle in his eye. Maeve knew he
realized how much she cared for Joachim and how much she disliked
Brandan. Soon a decision would be made, and she would have to marry
one of them. She ground her teeth. It had better be Joa they chose for her.
* * * *
Brandan and Joachim galloped across the poppy fields of the Sall
Mary Plains. Neither experienced this much freedom and pleasure in
many months. Joachim watched Brandan in secret as they journeyed.
Croifan shared his concerns with Joachim regarding Brandan’s recovery,
but Joachim didn’t fully comprehend them. There were times when Joa
saw a glimmer of evil in Brandan; but overall, his brother seemed relaxed
and happy. They stopped in villages along the way, and the people came
out to greet them, excited to see the princes. The wounds to the land were
starting to heal, and people were able to plant some crops. Though they
weren’t able to plant in the usual amounts, there would be enough to get
them through the winter with careful planning. Next spring, they would
be able to plant as they usually did.
As they rode along the northern coast, the twins took time for some
well-deserved rest and relaxation. They enjoyed the exotic foods in the
coastal cities and took advantage of the sun and surf. Finally the moment
they had anticipated…their arrival in Wyrzburg.
Croifan sent word to Rupert when they entered the city. King
Eyvindur and his family had arrived a few weeks earlier to prepare for the
princes’ appearance with a large welcoming parade and outdoor festival.
Rupert knew of the plan and did his best to prepare the twins. Still, they
were shocked as they rode through the city and received the adulation of
Crato and Mahorg’s citizenry.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this,” Joachim commented as the
people reached out to touch him as passed. “I think I would have been
happier with a much quieter entrance.”
“No, you’re wrong.” Brandan laughed at his brother. “This is the way
things should be. I could get used to this.”
“You always did like the attention, but not me.”
“Quit whining, try to loosen up a bit and enjoy it. You never know
how long it may last.” Brandan nudged his horse to a canter. “Come on, I
smell some of Cook’s pidgekin. I haven’t eaten that in ages. Some good
food in my belly sounds better than more of Croifan’s cooking any day.”
Joachim urged his horse to a canter. “Croifan’s cooking isn’t so bad,
but I agree, some of Cook’s food sounds good.”
As they reached the palace gates, the crowd thickened, and the
princes’ entourage could hardly proceed. The horses moved at a stopand-go
pace as people thronged closer.
Joachim’s horse shied when squealing children ran out in front of it.
The horse reared and came down on the foot of a straggling child. The
girl screamed. Her frantic mother ran headlong into the street, scaring the
child and the horse even more. The horse reared a second time, unseating
Joachim. The horse bolted through the gates, riderless. Joachim stood up,
dusted himself off, and approached the child and mother. “Are you two
all right? Are you hurt?”
The child sobbed as her mother tried to assess injuries. Joachim
waved to Lukan, one of Theodric’s personal guards, who had
accompanied them on the journey. “Run to the palace and get a healer.”
He guided the mother and child through the gate and sat them on a bench
beside the path.
Brandan turned his horse to see what was going on. “Joachim, what
are you doing with that peasant? Come on, I’m hungry.” He trotted his
horse over to the bench.
“This child may have gotten hurt by my horse. I want to make sure
she’s all right. I sent Lukan to find a healer.”
“We don’t have time for this. Let someone else tend to them.”
“I’ll wait here for the healer. You go on ahead and don’t eat all of the
pidgekin stew.”
Brandan nudged his horse forward and rode on to the palace.
The child stopped sobbing. Joachim stroked the girl’s hair. “Where
does it hurt?”
The girl pointed to her foot with one hand while sucking the thumb of
the other. The frazzled mother looked at Joachim. “Sire, I am so sorry.
There’s no need for you to stay. Meggie and I will be on our way.” She
stood to leave.
The prince put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “No, I’m sorry. I
should control my horse better. You sit here. Look, the healer has
arrived.”
The healer bent down and looked at Meggie’s foot. “There seems to
be no damage, just a bit of a fright. Did the big horse scare you?”
Meggie sniffled and nodded. Joachim looked up and saw Maeve
running down the path toward him. He stood. “Healer, would you see
them home safely and make sure they get anything they need.”
“Yes, Sire.”
“Your Highness, that isn’t necessary. Meggie and I are fine and can
see to ourselves. We don’t want to be no trouble to you.”
“It’s no trouble; the healer will take care of you.” Joachim nodded to
the healer and turned as Maeve reached them and threw her arms around
him.
Suddenly, as if remembering where they were, she stepped back, and
bowed. “Your Highness, I heard your horse threw you and was
concerned for your safety. I hope everything is all right?”
Laughing, Joachim embraced Maeve. “I’m fine, a little shaken but
none the worse for wear. It is this young lady you should be concerned
about.” He pointed to Meggie and her mother.
The princess bent down. “Are you all right?”
The mother stood and did a quick curtsy. Meggie nodded before they
left with the healer.
Maeve and Joachim joined arms and walked toward the palace.
“Well, that wasn’t quite the greeting I planned, but now that it’s over,
welcome home. Let’s get you to your quarters, so you can freshen up and
then meet me at the festival.”
“That sounds wonderful, and I thank you for the welcome. It’s so
good to see you and to have a private moment in the midst of all this
madness. Did someone manage to catch my horse before he scared
another child?”
“Yes, I believe Lukan rode out right after he found the healer. All is
quiet now.”
“And Brandan, what happened to him?”
“Oh, he is rambling around the palace giving orders and making his
usual ruckus.”
Joachim laughed. “It appears as if all is back to normal.”