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A rider less black mare rushing through the darkening forest captured his attention from where he levelled the crossbow at the clueless peryton. He might have ignored it though the feeling of dread spreading through his gut would not allow it. The faint flash of purple around the throat of the mare bouncing through his mind like a nest of angered hornets. He might have pushed the thought from his mind had it been any other colour. Any other shade of purple than the significant colour of her eyes. Moments passed while the young man debated what it might mean, what he should do however in the end, she won out. Leaving a furious King and clueless advisor the prince dropped his bow right there, on the mud trodden ground.
“Aurik,” his father called, annoyance clear in his voice, “The choice is now boy, your lover or your kingdom.”
“There is no choice father,” the prince muttered as he mounted his lovely brown stallion, “What is a kingdom with no heir?”
“This kingdom had a great heir,” his father replied sourly, “Unfortunately he passed away in a war to protect his kingdom and you were left in his place.”
In a former life, one before he had met the woman with violet eyes, the words of his father may have hurt. In a life before he had found her, perhaps they might even have scarred him into the kind of heir is father wanted of him. Instead the prince lifted his chin and offered his father the hint of a rebel smile. He would never replace his brother and thanks to her, he had no desire to try. With the passing of his mother and his brother, the king only had the prince as heir.
“Perhaps your daughter could take the throne,” Aurik muttered lowly, “The one mother knew not of.”
The prince did not wait to see what his father might say or do. He nudged the stallion gently, turning him back the way the mare had come and urged him to trot forward. The horse as if sensing his urgency sped from a trot to a gallop, racing through the trees so fast the world quickly began to blur. His heartbeat in his throat as he raced through the dusty path, fear gripping his lungs in a tight fist. He had never seen Pearl without her mistress, the sight of the mare without her rider sent his blood to ice. Had she fallen from the beast during a ride? He wondered though a feeling in his gut made him doubt the theory. His love was not a weak rider, she could out gallop him and his steed on a good day.
He cursed under his breath that he had allowed Pearl to disappear within the forest. He could have use her to find her mistress if he had not wasted time with his father. The sound of hoofbeats hitting the ground echoed in his ears in time with his heart. The flaring hope that he was overreacting sprinkling through his gut, she would laugh and scold him for his rash behaviour. He was often the rash one of the two, he wanted nothing more than to believe in the child’s dream of hope at that moment. The path forked out ahead of him, one leading to the secret place they would always meet and the other toward the kingdom she had been born into.
He considered for a moment, a brief heartbeat that perhaps she was back in her home. He had never been to her home; she had been too afraid they would be found out. Her fear had come true, his father had known all along. He huffed out a sigh, swallowing a curse as he nudged Falcon forward, toward their secret meeting place. He wondered just how secret it had been as the horse lurched forward, galloping through the rock ridden pathway overgrown with weeds. He had wanted to search for her in the kingdom of Solas but without at least a guard even he feared to show his face. If his father knew of his sneaking around, perhaps his betrothed did too.
Barely visible amongst the weeds and roots, a small cabin peeked out behind a hilltop. Violets and orchids looped over the windows and doorframe, a signal that she was within. The wooden beams holding the walls together bent with age, fraying from the storms and rain. He dismounted his steed with a frown, a bad feeling swirling within his gut. If she was within why had Pearl been sprinting through the forest, spooked and afraid? He grasped the reins of his horse, leading the beast around the back of the cabin. A sturdy looking oak tree grew just behind it with a thick rope wrapped around its base. The two often tied their horses to it while they were within. Stepping closer he noticed a small cut in the rope, like a blade had tried to slash through it.
Following the slices, he found a piece of reins hanging toward the ground. The same reins he had seen on Pearl a hundred times or more. Someone had cut the reins free intentionally, but why? What reason would someone have to strand his love here? He wondered as he tied his own horse to the tree. An order from his father to kill her was likely though he doubted it, his father was the kind to gloat. He stalked toward the front door slowly, eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary. The cabin looked like every other time he had ever been there, though the feeling in his gut was different. If she were here, he prayed that she was unharmed.
A prickle of his essence sprung to his fingertips as he edged open the cabin door. Power rolling through his veins from his core. He steeled himself against any sight he might find behind the door, but he could never have prepared for what he found. Gold, red and white. The colours would haunt him for all of eternity and into the afterlife. Golden tresses, a white wedding dress and blood, so much blood. In another time he might have found her lovely, stunning even. Her golden hair pinned up with a few pieces flowing around her oval face, highlighting her cream skin and pale green eyes. Lips, red as berries tilted upward in an insane smile. His eyes followed the train of her dress toward the pool of blood at her feet.
“Princess?” he prompted, stepping closer to her warily.