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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chapter 1

            Many centuries past, in a flourishing land of green known as Berkshire, there were two glorious kingdoms. Out of the two, the foremost had been known as Tavin and the other as Raila. The two kingdoms had always been adjacent, Tavin to the south, and Raila to the north. Forests and valleys filled the lands with colors and beauty; then people striving for glory. Tavin was the kingly state, with all citizens depending on the heads on which bared crowns. Littered with Lords, dukes and more of the like, Castles and battlefront lined the outskirts and the capital. But visualize not the lands of your age, with dead buildings and rusting ruins, Tavin was alive. Purple and gold banners cascaded down the ramparts, while children played games in the streets, squealing in delight and peace.
            Raila, as her brother, was a kingdom of old, with disappointingly less luster. Their castles were draped in tradition and pride, not colors of joy. Not a single bolt of ribbon or fabric was allowed to detract from the elegance of the architecture, built centuries ago. Hanging gardens were not present (but if they were, Railans would execute with such tact that it would be glorious for the world to behold) but rather watch posts on every other home. Railans lived in expectation of the worst and combated that same fear with reason. Rather than run, the children would rest inside for risk of injury and enjoy a game of the minds, rather than heart.
             As kingdoms of renown, both rulings were joined in fellowship and chivalry since their conception from virgin lands. But, while both kingdoms were peaceful, they were rarely generous. The avarice of the dominions crippled both Raila and Tavin when the river Berk showed its significance.  Vital trade routes, used by Railans and Tavinians alike, stumbled along the banks of the waters. Being a heavily trodden path, a Railian began to tax travelers when entering the north section of the Berk pathway. An uproar of royalty and plebian cries lit the torch for conquest.  Merchants and traders viciously fought for dominion of the sacred and envied boulevard.  Both kingdoms, not wanting to be shown apathetic, greedily claimed the way as their own.  The fire sparked in the hearts of Tavin and Raila blew into pernicious flame, eating away at their alliance and their people. For months upon years, Tavinians would beg for the defeat of the Railan dogs that had “ravaged” their sweet land. The brutish debate continued on for 40 years but Berk was not the only debacle for the Crown of Tavin.
            The King (as he has always been known) was known as a man of stature. His brownish hair graciously leaked from below his crown and down his shoulders. His face seemed gentle and wise with every creeping wrinkle growing, telling stories of battles and victories of laud. His royal clothing was honorable as gold and silver tapestry with purple and crimson stripes covering him just as his castle was dressed. He was royalty, none could make an error, and his presence was eloquent as his words. As much honor as he bestowed, he also had lived years that had brought him that wisdom.
             Sadly, The King was at a loss for he had two insurmountable problems. First, the kingdom of Raila was gradually gaining momentum in the war effort against Tavin. Secondly, his wife, as beautiful and renowned as she was, had not bore him a son. His sole descendant was his daughter, Celestria.
            Rumors spread about the King’s dilemma and thousands of captivated young men called and pleaded to become Celestria’s prince. But as wise as her father was, Celestria was stubborn and sure that her savior was not among these men.
            “As a child, there was one I know; one that played games of mirth with me and was my true friend. He was the most handsome and gentle boy for I remember him this length of time. I saw him in my dreams nightly and thought of him through the day till my mind could relent no longer.” Celestria confessed. “Father, I will marry no other than my beloved.”
            The first words she spoke that fateful night confirmed what the King has pondered.
            The king sighed, “There is a knight for you my dear, only one in fact. Years ago, my astrologers came to me with startling news. The men spoke of a new star that had appeared in the South and traveling toward the royal stars to join them. They said this is speaking of a new prince to come, to join with you and Tavin in love and prosperity. I immediately searched for the knight of which you speak out of all the kingdom of Tavin. There was one that could be for whom your heart has been longing. He was a commoner and citizen of Thandor, only about eighteen miles north of here.
            “A commoner?” she replied.
            “Yes,” he explained. “I want only the best for my daughter and only one man in the entire country would ever do for her. He has to have the potential to be the most honorable for you and Tavin despite his fate.”
            “Is he the one I have seen while I dream?” She inquired.
            “I sent my men to his home to seek him out, and concluded he was never there. I have even put a reward to ten thousand gold pieces to the person who could find him, to no avail. I doubt Merlin himself could find him. But I am sure one day he will reveal himself and make a wonderful prince for you, my dear. The skies speak it as truth.” He reassured.
            “I can only hope,” she whispered with tears rising in her throat.
           
            Celestria’s maidservant, Elizabeth was walking through the illustrious granite hallway when she saw her princess staggering past. The young princess was obvious distraught and was weeping.
            “What’s wrong, Madam?”
            “My heart is burdened, Elizabeth. I am burdened that this great castle, her walls, her gates, her lands and waters will one day disappear. I am burdened with the hope of a kingdom that is false till I meet who is to save this land. And he is a apparition, a vapor to be grasped!” 
            “What is this of which you talk, my lady? What would bring our great kingdom to an end? Tavin is strong and your father is responsible. Raise your countenance, child.” she replied.
            “My father is flesh and bones and both grow old and brittle. He needs a prince to lead this kingdom when he has long passed away.”
            “I hate to propose the unsaid, but why not you? Your passion for this earth is ringing through this ground and many a queen hath not the love you have for Tavin.” Elizabeth suggested.
            “I cannot lead this nation in war, I have no experience of it. I would surely doom Tavin and myself in the wake. I need the man who can lead our nation to victory one day.” She sighed in disappointment.
            “Well, madam I do know of one who could search for this knight, wherever he may be.”
            “What is his name, friend?” she asked desperately back.
            “They call him Salvoran. He is an experienced woodsman and loyal to Tavin. Many say he has traveled much of Berkshire a hundred times over and knows of many tales. He led the last expedition to find the last Knight of Tavin with his companion of three. He and his companions Grimstone and Khuros are said to be in the city of Burch.” Elizabeth confessed.
            “The crossing between Tavin and Raila?” she replied.
            “Aye, it is. A neutral city for many years.”
            “I’ve heard it is a blessed village.”
            “Splendid, we will have no worries returning there.”
            “You’ve been there before?” Celestria gasped.
             “This is truth. It is quite enthralling to live as a Queen should.”
            “I don’t know, Elizabeth, what would father say if we left unannounced? What if the worst was to occur?  What if we were to be captured or killed?” she wondered.
            “Celestria, you will never be fit to rule this country without your faith blooming into action. I believe we will live to see the morning light and perhaps we can find the man you seek.” She replied.         “And how do we go about leaving the castle? Father has done a notorious job for sealing the castle to prevent runaway princesses.” she whispered.
            “There is a Friar named Demetri who carries ale from the city to the Tavern in Burch. He is worth our trust.” She explained. “We can travel with him.”
           
            Weeks later, two darkly clothed women snuck through the corridors of the inner castle and into the courtyard, leading out the gates and into the city. As Elizabeth had previously said, the Friar was carrying his ale to the Tavern in Burch. Celestria cringed at the thought of being surrounded with cheap spirits and strangers. Despite her notions, both carefully maneuvered into the wagon and tripped, creating a loud thud.
             “What foul treachery should make my wagon shake?” He ponders. “Why oh King, should the ground suddenly shake? Have I lost thy favor? Or hath the earth grumble as I carry its fruit? I speak against it, for I bring joy to my kinsmen with the finest Ale ever tasted in Berkshire, and even the King could find much favor in it.” He proudly proclaimed with a smirk.
             Demetri was quite large in body but simple in mind, which kept him musing aloud as his wagon left the city. The road was dark and nothing was heard for all citizens of right mind were dreaming of sweet Tavinian things. It was late in the evening, and not even the birds would sing at such an hour for they too dream. The two women became uncomfortable within the confines of the wagon. Celestria was not used to lower class accommodations so she adjusted herself around to become comfortable. Patience was not a dear friend so she pushed her way to the side, knocking over a large barrel. It tumbled raucously out of the side of the wagon and in the silence, a large thud was heard once more.
            “What is the meaning of this?” he asked. “Oh my, the ale! The ale has brought life to many who partake in it and it has brought them life. I can only assume my ale has come to life itself. What a glorious day that would be. Alas, it is but a dream and I sense strangers are the ones living.”
            “Oh curse it all, he’s heard us!” Elizabeth quietly scolded.
            The friar walked to the back of his wagon quite stealthy to find the two stowaways, struggling to cower behind another barrel before being spotted.
             “What have we here?” he stated. “Two stowaways on my humble wagon,” He paused. “And by the Tavinian stars, to whom do I owe this honor to see the most fair princess in all of Berkshire?” Demetri stated quite surprisingly.
            “How do you know of me and my stature?” she asked.
            “Dear child, I am a friar of the Most High King. I have spent many years in the scriptures of Tavin and know their ways.” he continued to explain. “I know who the King favors and it is an honor to have you aboard my lowly wagon.” He bowed as gracefully as he could muster with his robe synched around his waist and turned to Elizabeth. “As for you, woman, I could cower to know that you have returned to my wagon. After that business in back in….“
            “That isn’t necessary good friar!” she interrupted.
“Very well, I will curb my tongue for now.”  
            Celestria stared blankly at her ally, wondering what sort of trouble she had encountered with the Friar and pondering if this escapade was a ‘necessary good.’
             “Princess, you may ride with me in the front of the wagon. You shall meet my only worthy steed, Monte!” He almost shouted joyously. 
            The three continued their journey to Burch while the night remained but was not dark for the moon’s light. The plains of the farmers were painted by the stars glow as the three steadily trotted along the cobblestone road. The night was quiet as well, only the clapping of Monte’s feet and the chirping of the crickets were heard on this most intriguing of evenings.
            “Tell me young one, why are you riding to Burch so late in the night? There must be more convenient and comfortable ways of traveling for a princess such as you.” The cheery friar questioned noticing her slightly perturbed posture. 
            “Friar, you proclaim yourself as a keeper of history, therefore, tell me if you know of the new royal star of Tavin?” She replied.
            “Aye, I do my lady.”
            “But do you know of its significance?”
            “I know some say it prophesies a coming King, a warrior of most valor. Is this who you seek?”
            “I seek him with all of my heart and zeal.” The princess confessed, showing the determination of royalty despite her dark and ragged clothing.
            If that is the case, I do not know that he lives in Burch, many of the finest men of Tavin have searched for him in vain.” He continued. “If you continue to search, I propose you find the most notable of those men. He is called Salvoran.”
            “You know him?” she asked.
            “Well yes, he always doing something at the tavern. He never did find that knight so he spends his time relaxing at the tavern as a means of soothing his mind. He always finds someone to listen to stories about his adventures with his closest ally.”
            “Do you speak of Grimstone and Khuros? She asked.
            “No, no my dear, his companion died on his journey. He met that lot during his following travels.”
            “Oh, that’s upsetting, do you think he will take me to find this knight?”
            “I believe your vivid faith may just warm his heart once again.” Demetri smiled.
            “By the hills of Tavin, we’re here!”
           
            Demetri hopped off the vehicle to clumsily carry his barrels of goods into the tavern. Before the na├»ve eyes of Celestria stood a massive valley much different from when she had seen it as a child. The once clear and empty fields were now filled with houses and other places of business. Even the outskirts of the land was surrounded by stonewalls built for protecting this neutral ground.  
            “Here is the tavern. Oh, Elizabeth, you may come out now.” Demetri joked.
            “Why thank you oh gracious friar” she sarcastically replied.
            “Don’t enjoy too much ale, you’ll let your guard down again.” the Friar laughed and turned his attention to the young girl. “Celestria, though our paths may not cross again in my perception, remember this. Do not give up on your knight no matter how distant he seems. Gold is rarely found in the first day. Gems reveal themselves when you dig deep.”

Elizabeth and the newly assured princess said their goodbyes to the Friar and entered into the tavern.