Monday, December 03, 2007

Love is Higher than the Faet

Part Two of the Courtship of Princess Gelachien

Prince Audie went home to the kingdom of Slojia after Princess Gelachien of Ontia refused to let him court her. When he arrived at the castle his father, King Trordar could see right away that Gelachien had sent him away. Trordar was very very angry.

He had lost the Battle of the Whombae River to Gelachien and was forced to sign the Treaty of the Great Bridge. A few years later he lost Southern Slojia to Prince Lang’s father who made himself King Lagan I. After that he lost the western shore of the Thirae River to Feren’s father, King Ferris I. This last insult was too much for Trordar and he decided to take revenge.

Trordar called for his generals and started to make plans to attack Ontia. Audie spoke up and reminded him that the Treaty of the Great Bridge did not allow him to attack Ontia.

“We must get revenge against this Princess!” Trordar roared. “She’s not even a real princess; they just made her princess to make me lose Ontia.” He slammed his great fist on the table and sat down to think.

“West Iurnia! That’s it. If it’s Prince Feren that she wants then we will make his kingdom pay. Make plans to invade West Iurnia.”

Meanwhile, Princess Gelachien waited for a reply from Feren. She had invited him to a picnic so that she could tell him that she was sorry for testing him and to try to start courting him. She would walk back and forth on top of the walls of her castle in the capital city of Liitownyn. Sometimes she would walk with her wizard, Shorfly or sometimes with the Prime Minister, Melbur.

One cloudy day she was walking with Melbur. The ocean breeze blew her long dark hair in her eyes and she wiped it away.

“Why hasn’t he answered me Melbur?” She asked the old Prime Minister.

“I don’t know highness. I know you angered him with your test, but I would have thought that he would have calmed down by now. Maybe he isn’t the kind of man you want after all if he gets this angry and doesn’t forgive.”

“Maybe your right Melbur, but if he isn’t the one then who? Audie, Trev, Lang?”

“Well you did say that you liked the way Trev played piano.”

“Yes and he did tell such funny stories, but he was so short.”

“And you said that he was greedy.”

“Yes, but maybe he wouldn’t be so bad. He could buy me nice jewelry.” She laughed a little and spun around. Maybe Prince Trev wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe she could send him an invitation.

Just then Shorfly ran up the stairs and called to them. “Your highness, I have just received word that the army of Slojia and King Trordar is on the march.”

“Trordar is going to attack Ontia? Why?” Gelachien asked.

“No, Princess. He is attacking West Iurnia. He means to make Prince Feren pay for being chosen by you.”

“Oh dear. That’s why Feren hasn’t replied to my invitation. How strong is the army of Slojia?”

Melbur said, “They’re very strong. They’re much stronger than anything King Ferris can put together.”

“Then we must help them.” Gelachien said.

“But how princess?” Shorfly asked. “We can’t attack Slojia because of the Treaty of the Great Bridge. We can’t get to West Iurnia without crossing Slojia.”

“Yes we can. We could sail south past Slojia and Southern Slojia, but then we would have to sail again north into Oolpao Bay. No one has ever sailed that far without putting in to shore at some point. Surely they would see our ships and wait for us at any port we might try to put into.” Melbur said.

“There is another way.” Gelachien said. “We can go over the mountains.”

“Go over the Ianduid Mountains? But that would mean that we would have to either go over Mount Faet or go around north of it. That would mean going into Urth land. That is far too dangerous.” Shorfly said.

“But it is possible.” Gelachien smiled.

“Yes, it’s possible, but it would take too long. We could never march our army over the mountains and get to West Iurnia in time to help.” Melbur said.

“We’ll only take the cavalry. Assemble the troops; we’ll leave first thing in the morning.” She ran to the steps with her dress flowing behind her.

In the morning Princess Gelachien rode out in front of her cavalry on a great white horse in shiny steel armor encrusted with pink quartz, emeralds and diamonds.

“I have sent a message by crow to King Ferris and Prince Feren that you are coming to help.” Shorfly said when he walked up to see them off.

“Good.” Gelachien said.

“If you don’t mind my saying so highness, that is very fancy armor you are wearing. Don’t you think it’s a bit much?”

Gelachien smiled. “The jewels can be removed. If we run into any Urts maybe we can pay them off.” She laughed, threw a cloak over her armor and was off.

The horse soldiers of Ontia were not very many, but they were very good. They rode west from Liitownyn on good roads leading off to the mountains rising in front of the new sun.

They rode all day through fields of wheat and corn. By nightfall they just reached the foothills of the Ianduid mountain range. They made camp and slept a good night under a star-filled sky. They woke before dawn and ate their breakfast cold in the saddle.

The second day brought them up into the forests that covered the mountains like a blanket. It was quiet and cool under the trees while the sun dappled down. The road was steep but well marked. They made good time and rode until after dark.

Quietly they made camp, putting up tents and starting fires. Their supper was light and quick. Before going to bed Gelachien met with her General, Skor over a map.

“General Skor, we are here, right?” The princess pointed to a place on the map. The General came around the table and looked closely.

“Yes. Tomorrow we will turn southeast and follow the ridge. Does your highness wish to pass Mount Oeng on the North or South side?”

“We must pass to the north. If we passed to the south we would be too close to Slojia.”

“As you wish highness. I know a good road just here.” He showed her on the map.

“Good. We must go as fast as we can. We can’t waste any time.”

General Skor said nothing.

“What is bothering you General?” Gelachien asked.

“How will we get around Mount Faet? Both the North Slope and the south slope are impossible to pass. The only road goes far to the south and right into Slojia. We could try to find a road to the north, but that would take us into Urth. Who knows what trouble we will find there and how long it will take?”

Gelachien placed her hand on his thick strong hand. “We will find a way General. We must.”

The meeting ended and they all went to sleep. They woke in the morning before sunrise again. They again ate a cold breakfast as they rode their horses along the ridge of the mountains.

High up on the mountain ridge they were in pine forests that rose thick and green all around them. They smell was strong and sweet.

Just before the sun set on them again they caught their first sight of the great mountain Faet. It looked like just a small white cone above the green pines. General Skor rode up beside the princess.

“Tomorrow we will reach the mountain.” He said. “Do you have a plan highness?”

“If we can’t go around it we will have to go over it.” She said with her eyes up and her lips tight.

“Over it highness? Do you have magic that you are not telling me about?” He asked.

“We will see tomorrow General. I will not let a mountain stand in my way.” She looked him straight in the eye and he could ask her no more questions.

They made camp. It was so late that they didn’t have time to cook dinner. They ate it cold. Everyone felt that time was running away from them. They were all eager to reach West Iurnia, but no one was as eager as Gelachien herself. She sat up all night in her tent. She barely slept.

They left as soon as it was light. They kept traveling through pine forests. Sometimes they would go over the top of a smaller mountain and the peak would be bare of trees. The grassy spots on the tops of the mountains were called balds. Whenever they rode into one they could see Mount Faet growing ahead of them. The closer they got the taller steeper and rockier it got. It looked like it would fill up the sky and they would never get around it.

Princess Gelachien never looked up at it. She rode hard, looking always ahead at the road. Everyone was afraid to talk to her and she rode in silence.

Before night fell they came to a fork in the road. To their right was a wide, clear path. It led down into Slojia and around the mountain. To the left was a thin, over-grown path barely wide enough for one horse to pass. It led into Urth and presumably around the mountain. To the side of that trail was a worn sign that showed a skull and bones warning travelers. Not one of the troopers knew of anyone who had traveled the northern path. They had never even heard of anyone using that path.

There was no path that led right up to the mountain. Princess Gelachien looked over the trees at the giant mountain right in front of them. They all looked up also. They could see the wind whipping snow off the rocky peak. They could hear the wind screaming and rocks falling in the wind. They could feel the cold air falling from the great height and they could smell the snow.

The trees were thinner here. Gelachien took a deep breath and spurred her horse straight on. She weaved her way past a few trees before General Skor caught her.

“Your highness. Perhaps we should wait and try in the morning. It is late and we wont be able to get very far tonight anyway.”

“We must move on General. Prince Feren needs us.”

“Yes highness, but perhaps we can send scouts ahead to find the best path. The troops are tired and need a hot meal tonight. We make every effort in the morning, but please let them rest tonight.” He placed his large hand on hers. She sighed again and nodded.

General Skor took volunteers to send forward to be scouts. The rest set up camp and made a small supper. Gelachien went to her tent and stared at the map.

Later the General brought her a plate of stew and told her that they scouts had come back with news that there was no way over the mountain. She ignored the food. “General, there must be a way over this mountain.”

“There is a saying highness. ‘The Faet is cloaked in white because she is a bride who has never known the touch of a man.’”

Gelachien smiled. “That is a good warning that comes a little late to help us get to Feren.”

“Well, the warning is late because I only learned it recently. One of our troopers told me and he told me something else about this mountain. She isn’t really a mountain.”

“Isn’t really a mountain? What do you mean?”

“She is a wizardess bride whose groom left her at the altar.”

“No. She was enchanted?”

“Yes. The story is that she fell in love with a great hunter named Noki here in the mountains. He loved her as well, but he didn’t want to leave his forests and mountains. She swore that she would stay with him in his mountains if he would agree to marry her. He did agree and they were to be married here among the pines, but at the last minute he became frightened and leapt into the sky. He became the star Noki that we can see right above the peak of the mountain. Faet became very angry and very sad. She had sworn to live in his mountains so here she had to stay. She became the mountain and is ever after reaching for the star so she can at last be with her love.”

“That is very sad. Does it help us?” Gelachien asked.

“I don’t know.” The General said. The princess smiled at him.

“Thank you. Maybe that will help me think of something. Good night General.”

He left her in her tent alone. He slept little that night and in the morning, before the sun rose, he went to look for her in her tent. She was not there.

Quickly he got his horse and began to ride, but before he got too deep into the woods he met the princess riding back toward camp.

“Are you alright your highness?” He asked her.

“Yes. I was just leaving a wedding present for the bride.” She smiled and showed her armor to him. All of the jewels had been removed.

“Do you think she will accept your present and let us pass?” He asked as they rode back.

“I hope so. Get the men ready incase she does.”

They packed up as quickly as they could. Midway through packing a deep, low rumbling began.

“What’s that?” Some of the men asked, but no one knew for sure.

It grew louder and soon the ground was shaking like an earthquake. The birds flew off and the animals ran. The horses were scared and had to be held by the men. The trees shook and snow slipped down off the mountain. When the quake stopped they all looked up and what they saw surprised and pleased them.

The mountain looked like it was leaning to the left and there on the right was a clear flat path for them to follow.

“She has decided to let us pass!” The General shouted. “Quickly now, we must ride.”

They threw what was left of their gear in their bags and rode faster than they ever had before.

The path was broad enough for them all to ride shoulder to shoulder. They left no one behind. When they were halfway across they heard the rumbling again.

“It’s starting again!”

“She’s shifting back!”

“Ride, ride as fast as you can!” They shouted and they did. They all rode as fast as they could. By the time the mountain shifted back to the way she was standing before they had all made it clear to the other side.

They waited on the path on the other side of Mount Faet to let their horses rest.

“Well, you did it highness. Now we will surely make it to West Iurnia in time.”

“Well, Faet understands love.” Gelachien sighed and waved to the mountain. “We ride again as soon as the horses are rested.”

And they did.

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