The princess waited with her guards. She always felt tiny under their shadows. Sure, she was just a child, only ten years of age, but these soldiers surrounding her, those vowed to protect her with their lives, were always the mightiest, most stalwart, most valiant men in the kingdom. They were colossal compared to others.
Princess Imorih fidgeted in her seat and brushed her silken skirt flat. She ached to rise; to run and jump and tumble and exercise her idle limbs. But such fun activities would ruin her black, decorated braids and mess up the colors her mother had painted around her big, brown eyes. Her father’s command had been to sit and wait. Did they not understand what youthful torture it was to be forced merely to bide the time? Adults took far too long to accomplish any task. Simple tasks.
“Daimen, how much longer?” The little girl whined.
Her most faithful, personal guard answered at her side, the words falling from above her head. “Not long, princess. Your parents will be here shortly.”
“I thought they were just going to get the boy and come back.”
“Yes, princess. Prince Ammoran will be in their company when they return, along with his parents, King and Queen of Lokslen.”
A long, audible sigh filled the quiet room. Princess Imorih waited, staring straight ahead, then sighed aloud again. Daimen’s deep voice counseled her from above.
“Patience, princess. It is a quality you must master as future ruler of Naralda.”
She crooked her neck to look up at her prime guard; her constant companion. “Will you be with me when I’m to marry this Prince Ammoran and together rule Naralda and Lokslen?”
A face much darker than her own grinned down. “I shall be with you for as many years as the Gods grant me breath in this life.”
The child smiled upward with approval, then lowered her brown eyes to stare at the doors clear across the spacious room. She sighed again when more silent minutes passed and they failed to open.
When voices carried from outside the walls, the princess sat up straight and expectant. She felt at the delicate crown on her head, kept in place by tight braids.
It was annoying when Daimen and three other soldiers formed a living wall in front of her, blocking her view. She was eager to see the boy. She stretched her neck this way and that way to try and find a breech to peek through, but there were none that effectively allowed her any vision. A conversation hit her ears. The voices grew louder as many footsteps tapped across the floor, approaching.
“Imorih is a wise young lady, excelling in studies of language and history. She has a talent for the arts as well, but we try to focus her attention on skills of more use to her position. Her young personality is quite pleasant and mature for her age; observant, curious, thoughtful, and obedient. I believe our children are well-matched.” Imorih recognized her father speaking praises of her.
“I’m pleased to hear such good acclaim, King Eeroh. I don’t doubt that all you’ve said is true, but we are eager to meet the young princess ourselves. I shall decide then if this union is to proceed.”
Imorih endured a long moment of silence. All footsteps came to a halt before her father’s tone turned formal.
“King Amulik, Queen Biezzel, and Prince brothers of our neighboring kingdom, may I present our daughter, future Queen of Naralda, Princess Imorih.”
The soldiers blocking her view stepped aside revealing two sets of parents; her own and those ruling Lokslen. But it was the two boys that caught her immediate attention. She shifted her eyes from one to the other, regarding them with great interest.
Identical in height, both were well dressed, clad in colorful silken shirts, pants, vests and coats. Both had black hair; natural waves cut in longer layers. Both had skin as tanned as cajja wood with the same black freckles. They shared similar brown eyes, coral lips, angular jaws, sharp noses, sturdy build, and perfect posture. All three children stared at one another. One boy looked to his brother, then back at the princess sitting up on her high seat.
It was the regal King of Lokslen who approached the princess first, addressing her kindly.
“Princess Imorih. It is a pleasure to finally meet you. I am King Amulik.”
“I know,” she replied. Her focus remained on both boys standing a few feet back, her expression still one of interest.
Her eyes shifted to the King whose peppered brows were perked.
“Yes, your majesty. I was told all about you and your family. You wear the scar from your desert battle with the giant poda spiders.”
The king touched the claw mark on his face that ran from nose to ear. “Then you must know of my extraordinary wife.” He gestured to an exotic woman with dark features like her boys.
“Queen Biezzel,” Imorih said, “The daughter of the famous warlord who died battling a real dragon in order to save his family. An unheard of occurrence.” Imorih offered a reverenced bow.
“And my sons?” the king asked.
“Prince Ammoran and Prince Tavien. Brothers and best friends.”
The king nodded, impressed. “You have paid attention to your tutors. That is good.” The king turned his head to cast an approving look at her father, then dropped his gaze on his sons. When he returned his attention to the princess, a tiny smirk played with his lips.
“I wonder if you could tell me which of these boys is my oldest.”
“Prince Ammoran,” she said without any hesitation.
“Of course,” the king agreed, “But, can you tell me which one he is?”
Never having met these princes before, and given their near identical appearances, it seemed an impossible task to make a distinction. Imorih’s gaze remained on the king’s sons as she answered.
The king grinned at her youthful confidence. “Then please, do tell me. Which is Prince Ammoran?”
Her eyes zeroed in on the boy she was certain her parents had chosen for her future husband. “The one on my left.”
The boy on her right looked to his brother. King Amulik gaped, astonished. Her parents smiled wide. Imoriah knew she was correct, but she’d already been certain.
King Amulik was anxious to hear her reasoning. “And how did you know which was heir to my throne, princess?”
“When your sons first looked at me, Prince Tavien turned to his brother. A ruler never looks to another for assurances. At least not in public. It communicates insecurity to others, or so I’ve been taught. That look told me immediately which of your sons was Prince Ammoran, future King of Lokslen and perhaps Naralda.”
“Amazing,” the king breathed. He faced Imorih’s parents. “Observant and wise. Just as you said.”
The pairing was agreed to.
In the garden between the castle walls both families visited, giving the young prince and princess opportunity to get to know each other. The parents sat at a shaded table, drinking, while watching their children interact. Guards stood like posts interspersed along the perimeter; silent sentinels. Imorih led Ammoran and Tavien to her favorite spot, a wide yard of green grass bordered by a long, unbroken fence of high shrubbery. It was space to run and play. The three stood beneath the shade of a giant begonsta tree and talked.
“Do you like me?” the princess boldly asked the boy pledged to be her future husband.
“I don’t know you,” he replied honestly.
She asked his brother. “Do you like me, Tavien?”
Before answering, the lad again looked to his older sibling. Tavien shrugged one shoulder. “I guess so. You seem nice enough, for a girl.”
Imorih’s brows slanted, uncertain if his comment was complimentary or not. She went back to questioning Ammoran. She pointed out her first noticed observation.
“You’re a lot older than I am.”
“I am,” he agreed, “I’m thirteen, almost fourteen. A man already.”
The princess looked at Tavien.
“My brother’s twelve,” Ammoran said.
“You’re both men now?” she asked.
The boys exchanged amused grins. “Yes.”
“That doesn’t make you smarter than me,” the princess informed them.
Ammoran offered no response.
Imorih scrutinized him more closely. “Do you really want to marry me?” she asked. Another bold question. Her face lacked any real expression other than curiosity.
He grinned crookedly. “Well, not today.” Tavien snickered lowly.
“But someday?” she asked, pressing for a real answer.
“I’ll marry you someday.” The way he stared at her, unblinking and confident, it was assuring for the young girl. Still she had to ask...
“What if you decide you don’t like me? Will you marry me then?”
He squared his shoulders with his answer, a sign of loyalty to the oath sworn by his father. “I will marry you, princess, once we’re both old enough. We’ll rule Lokslen and Naralda together. Our kingdoms will be united and our people will be friends.”
“What if they don’t like each other?” she asked.
Tavien snickered again and Imorih cast him a look of annoyance.
Ammoran had an answer. “They will like each other, because we’ll be their example.”
“Yes, princess.” Ammoran smiled wide before announcing, “I’ve decided that I do like you.”
Imorih smiled for the first time, a happy expression. “You do? Really?”
A blush darkened her tan skin.
Prince Ammoran had his own question for his future bride. “Do you like me?”
Her painted eyes scrunched as she thought. “Have you ever played Kaban Nites?”
The prince nodded. “I have.”
“Are you any good at it?”
“I am,” he said before bragging, “I’m the very best runner there is!”
Imorih beamed. “Then I think I shall like you very much,” she declared. Taking his hand in hers, she led him out on the field of grass. “Let’s play!”
That day, the two became good friends, and something deep inside assured both their hearts that this friendship would never ever fail them.
Copyright 2012 Richelle E. Goodrich