"Why do we wait here?"
"We wait for her passing."
"Whose, my prince?"
"My future wife, your future queen."
"You’ve seen her before?"
"No, but she will be marked."
"I don’t know, but I will see it."
In the hiss and patter of the rain, she came down the path, regal, if soaked, her head down, but her eyes open; the rain was an incidental thing, not worthy of her notice.
The mark he sought was in her eyes, one gray, one green, and he would not, in fact, have seen it at all, had she not looked directly at him, unsurprised, and unalarmed.
And unimpressed with him…
She gave them both a wave in passing, and continued on, her arms folded, her back hunched as the rain increased.
Her clothes were for the road, brown breeches, white tunic with a brown leather vest,and stout boots that crunched the dirt beneath the plane of road she trod, but she had nothing to shelter her from the angels’ tears.
Her long black hair done in thin braids, strung with turquoise beads, swung to the rhythm of her steps.
"Is she the one?"
"It is she."
"Then you must go to the road to meet her…why do you hesitate?"
"I don’t know—Ahhh!
"Sorry, my prince; you seemed to need a little help."
"Pushing me into the mud is not help, you fool."
"I sought to push you into her path."
"Well, given the state of my clothes, I suppose I must at least have the rain wash the dirt off."
"I’m sorry, my prince; and yet you smile?"
"At the thought of your punishment, yes."
She heard his footsteps, stopped, and turned.
“You follow at your peril, young sir.”
“Pity, for I mean you none, young madam.”
“Then why do you watch from the shelter of rocks, and now shadow me?”
“Is the path not open to all; is it yours?”
“No, but you must know that a woman traveling alone is a tempting bait to some.”
He laughed, and her brow furrowed.
“You laugh at me?”
“Trust me, girl, the way you’re dressed, you tempt no one.”
Her mirthless smile took his smirk away.
“And from the state of your clothing, sir, it would appear the rain is much needed in your life, as no woman would have you to wash them. Enjoy it.”
She turned to go.
“I will not warn you again.”
“Who says I’m following you? Perhaps I’m walking somewhere else.”
“Then drop back to where I can’t see you.”
“I will not.”
She turned to face him.
They stood, staring defiantly at one another.
She huffed, and turned and walked away.
She spun and ran at him; caught off guard, he went to move from her path and slipped.
She straddled him, one hand in his hair, the other with the blade on his throat.
“You’re going to kill me for walking behind you? Do I have a weapon? Is this a fair fight?”
She looked at him a long moment.
“Get off me. I mean you no harm.”
She let him go, and stood up, and he tripped her.
“That’s for tackling me.”
“Language, young lady.”
Her eyes widened at his audacity, and she slashed at his leg, but it was clumsy and slow, and he sidestepped it, then fell on her, pinning her knife hand.
“Language, young lady,” he said again, softer, smiling, and kissed her.
She thrashed under him, but he weighed too much, and a small thrill of panic at what he might do flashed through her, except he wasn’t doing it.
His lips were still on hers, and it was beginning to feel not unpleasant, and she wondered at that, even as she fought against him.
He broke the kiss.
He kissed her again, and the word was lost to her.
His fingers intertwined with her those of her knife hand, and when she shifted under him again, it wasn’t entirely in resistance.
How did he…how did I…?
She gave up thinking.
He broke the kiss, but she pulled him back down to it.
“My prince…please. This is unseemly.”
He broke the kiss again, and glared over his shoulder at his servant.
“I’m going to enjoy killing you, Wit.”
“I’m going to enjoy helping you,” the girl said.
“Is…this…the one, my prince?”
He stood, helped the girl to her feet; they were both drenched and dirty, and she bent to pick up her knife, and sheathed it, glaring at the little man that served the stranger who kissed her...
Her thoughts were juggling her emotions, and she breathed deeper to calm them both.
“She’s not a horse, Wit. She’s…”
He looked at her, and she at him, a question in her own eyes, offering no help.
He sighed. “She’s your future queen.”
Her sudden laughter startled them both.
“His what? Wait, he called you…his prince. You’re a prince?”
“I am,” he said, somewhat bruised by the lack of recognition. “Who are you?”
“Aside from being the girl you attacked, I’m Rin, from Issik. And you?”
“I’m Prince Cavik, from Isil.”
Her eyes widened, her face reddened, and her jaw went slack for a moment, and then she recovered herself.
She took a step back, and took the knee. “Prince Cavik…I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Please, Rin, don’t do that…please get up.”
She stood, but kept her head down.
“I…I will be on my way, Prince Cavik.”
“Surely Wit and I can escort you?”
“It’s…best… if you don’t.”
He stepped closer, and she took another half step back, still not meeting his eyes.
“Rin, what’s the matter?”
“Prince Cavik…,” she looked at him, shook her head, then back down again.
“I’m…I’m the one who…leads…,” and she lifted her eyes to his, and took a deep breath, resigning herself to the truth, “ the rebellion against your family.”
© Alfred W. Smith Jr. 2015