The story so far:
The wedding was a grand affair. The cook had worked himself to death and managed to earn everyone’s praise. Miranda had skulked around during the wedding, watching her sister’s beaming face and envying the simplicity of her sibling’s life.
She herself on the other hand, had more problems than any free soul should have. The dragon had probably already digested and egested her betrothed, yet her father insisted on a search. She packed her weapons and her clothing reluctantly for the trip.
Two parties assembled on the day that she was to leave. The first was a happy one, full of flowers and pretty ladies, the group that would be with her sister and her husband on their journey to her new home. The second was Miranda’s, full of weapons and drab men in armor, hating their jobs and not wanting to escort a princess to look for her fiancé’s corpse.
Miranda waved goodbye to her sister and climbed into her own carriage with misery. Her parents waved and wished her luck. With luck, she would find a few bones and chain mail and hurry back.
But Miranda wasn’t a very lucky person. If she had been a luckier person, King Kyran never would have agreed to the marriage. If she had been a luckier person, the dragon would have devoured her betrothed right then and there. If she had been a luckier person, her father would have raised her sister.
But she wasn’t a lucky person, and so King Kyran had survived his attack from the dragon. It had picked him up and carried him to its nest, a most uncomfortable experience. The nest was a carefully balanced structure, at the summit of a tall mountain that was above even the clouds.
The weather was frigid, and the metal armor did nothing to help against the cold. He shivered and leaned back, and accidentally cracked an egg. Green pus oozed out of the thin white shell, and he was soon enveloped in it. The dragon had flown off for a mere second and when it came back, was furious at the loss of its offspring.
It reared its head back and let loose a flame of blue that heated up the mountain like a desert. King Kyran cringed and leaned further back, falling out of the nest. He rolled down the side of the mountain and reached the edge of a precipice, and he tried in vain to stop his roll. But with his very round shape it was impossible.
He rolled over the side of the cliff and fell with a thud onto the stony ground six feet below. He waddled underneath the cliff, taking shelter from the keen eyes of the dragon and the cold of the mountain.
Finally, after he was assured that the dragon was gone in search of another poor being to take as its meal, he ventured out into the forest. He climbed down the side of the mountain, a remarkable feat for a thirty year old man of three hundred pounds. Finally, when he could see a layer of trees, he lost his grip and fell.
The leaves and intertwined twigs of the trees broke his fall to some extent, but he hit his head on a nasty main branch going down. His head was bleeding, and he lost consciousness in the wonderful hiding place of the undergrowth, not to be discovered until the next morning.
When he was discovered, it was by a young woman from the village nearby who had come searching for kindling. Berta Longhorn was the only daughter of the late carpenter of the town, and made her living by tailoring dresses for the women of the village, and lived alone, performing the duties of both the man and the woman of the house. It had made her less sentimental than most, and yet more understanding than all.
Berta was a pretty young woman. If she had had any dowry she would have been married years before she found King Kyran on that day. Her light brown hair fell in light ringlets to her waist, sometimes touching her pink cheeks, but she always kept it in a tight roll. She was tall and well muscled, the effect of hard work and lifting loads of wood and heavy cloth. Although she would never achieve that emaciated fairy look that so many women strived for, she had a ruddy beauty all her own.
When she first found King Kyran, he was a pitiable sight. His blond hair, which had been gelled into a perfect style just the day before, stuck against his forehead with sweat and blood. The chain armor was broken in places, and he had scratches all over his body from the time spent with the dragon. His whole entire body was covered in the goo from the dragon’s egg.
Berta pondered only for a moment before deciding that she would help him. She ran back to the village and called the blacksmith and the innkeeper, the two biggest men in the village to help carry the wounded man back.
Once he was in her house, she called the local doctor and let him do his work. I mentioned before that Berta was not a sentimental person, and she wasn’t any different for the case of the king. She just spotted the heavy gold chain that hung around his neck and correctly guessed him to be someone important, and more importantly, someone rich.
When King Kyran finally regained his consciousness, his first question was, “Where am I?”
Berta, who had been tending a soup, came rushing over and answered, “You’re in my house in the town of Old Marsh, on Isle Loret.”
“Alright. Now, who am I?”
Berta’s eyes went wide with shock. She ran to the doctor’s house and called him over, interrupting his breakfast but insisting that it was urgent. The doctor, like any good doctor would, rushed over to her house with her and examined the clueless patient.
“Don’t fret, Berta. The conk to the head has resulted in him forgetting his past. Most likely it is temporary.”
“So he doesn’t remember anything?” Berta asked.
Berta considered turning the wounded man out of her house, knowing that the three hundred pound man would have no use in the village. He would just be a burden to her, and eyed him warily. H would take up a lot of food.
After the doctor left, she turned back to the man and said, “Look man, I have made sure that you are still alive and well. I don’t have the money to support someone like you, so I’ll give you two days worth of food and you can go and try to find out who you are.”
King Kyran had lost his ego along with his memory. He grew frightened at the thought of being alone in the big bad island. He pleaded, “Please miss, don’t turn me out now! I’ll do anything for a roof and some food!”
Those few words changed Berta’s mind. She had felt the same after her father’s death and worked in the blacksmith’s house until she could stand on her own two feet. And as she understood of his situation, Berta agreed to let him stay in exchange for him helping her.
So, the King Kyran who had once spent his days lying about on his chaise and making decisions, worked long hours delivering dresses and fetching kindling. He, who used to eat delicacies at every meal, now ate homemade bread with relish.
He was happy and satisfied with his simple life in the village of Old Marsh. Miranda, on the other hand, hated her life at that time. Her journey was boring, unbearably, unbelievably, intolerably boring. And her companions were less conversational than the horses that they rode on.
She had an escort consisting of two dozen soldiers. Most of them were young, and showed promise in training. This was their test, to show their worth. And it was a long and arduous journey to become a high-ranking officer in the army. There was stiff competition. Each of the soldiers followed military decorum to the tee, trying to outdo one another.
The result of this was that everyone was miserable, the princess was bored, and the whole party looked more like a funeral procession than one going on a search. Of all the soldiers there was no one more ambitious, more determined, more purposive than Benjamin Benchley.
Ben was raised in a less than supporting atmosphere. His mother was a seamstress in the slums of the capital city, and he grew up among the crowded areas and deteriorating structures that were the symbols of poverty. Nonetheless, he worked hard and joined the army, hoping for adventure, fortune, and if possible, fame.
And when he had received his first assignment, he beamed with pride and imagined how it would be. He would save the beautiful princess from the dragon, and the rest would be history. When he met his comrades that morning, the morning they started, he was sorely disappointed.
There were ten other men in the group just like him, and perhaps some were better. The beautiful princess behaved more like a prince, and carried more weapons than all of the soldiers put together.
The very morning that King Kyran had hit his head on the branch, Miranda and her party reached the coast of Velagera.
Seeing that the coast was clear, literally, she stepped out of the carriage and stretched. Ben watched her like a hawk, suspicious of anything she did. He had seen her training with her weapons and knew that she was a free soul, hated being cooped up in the carriage for days on end.
Her braid was loosely woven, and a few strands of hair hung about her face. She paused stretching for a moment to observe Benjamin. He was tall and lightly muscular, his height was an advantage over the other soldiers. His brown hair was cut even shorter than the army allowed. His blue-gray eyes constantly surveyed the environment. No matter what he was doing, one of his hands was always poised, ready to withdraw his sword at any moment.
Ben ignored her and stared straight ahead, wondering when the other soldiers would return.
“Would you like to spar?” the princess asked. Ben tried to hide a smile, although she was trained she was tiny and little more than bones. He didn’t want to break her arms by accident and so he shook her head.
Miranda was a bit insulted, she could beat all her teachers without any effort back at the castle. Even when she promised herself that she would let them win, her competitive side would take over and victory would be hers. The boy in front of her was a good fighter, she could see that. There were little scars on his hands from handling blades too often and the very way that he stood by the carriage seemed to say he was alert.
“Would you like to talk?” she asked.
“About what, your highness?”
“Your training, perhaps,” she suggested. “I’m not familiar with the fitness regimen for the soldiers.”
“I don’t follow the fitness regimen prescribed by the army, it’s too slack,” Ben answered. “I spend two hours a day lifting weights and running.”
Miranda was hardly impressed. But the manner in which he answered her was not filled with any pride, just frankness. She appreciated his candid nature, something that reminded her of her father.
“I do the same when I’m at the castle,” she commented. “But I don’t lift weights, I just train with my weapons.”
Ben didn’t expect her to train as he did, he had thought that she simply was a spoiled princess rebelling against tradition for the sake of rebellion and attention. But she really, truly seemed to like fighting. And he couldn’t help but admire her for that.
So while King Kyran was a changed man working for his daily bread, his betrothed was a travelling woman who formed a special friendship with one of her soldiers, and no one could tell if it would become something more.