A Step Toward The Throne

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  1. A Step Toward The Throne

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    Noire Airi Kellwynn

    Darrien Elklen


    Stroking the bay mare's nose, Noire looked at her grandparents with a smile. "I'll be fine," she told them gently as she pushed her hair back and pulled up her hood. They gave her a dubious look and her grandfather stepped forward, gripping her shoulders firmly, "what if someone captures you?" he asked, brows furrowed deeply with concern. She shook her head and smiled, shrugging his hands off "no one knows who I am. And the kingdom thinks I was killed when I was a baby," she reassured them. "I swear I will be fine. There's no need to worry, i'll send letter every so often," she promised, which earned the desired effect. They relaxed slightly, but gave her tight smiles. She was about to turn and mount the horse when they suddenly pulled her into a hug that didn't allow her to breathe. They let go a few moments later and she took a deep breath. She mounted the horse soon after and looked down at the elderly couple. "Stay safe," her grandmother told her as a tear slid down her cheek, "and visit when ever you want to," to which the young woman nodded, "will do. And you guys stay safe, too. Don't cause too much trouble just because i'm not here," she told them with a chuckle before she turned the horse and nudged it into a trot, away from the small farm house.

    That had been only a couple weeks ago when Noire had said farewell to her grandparents to go explore the world. Of course, they weren't truly her grandparents, atleast not by blood. Her father had sent her there when she was just an infant to avoid being slaughtered when the invasion from the neighbouring kingdom of Fawen came. The elderly couple had taken on the responsibility of raising the infant as their own child. So in all aspects, they were her grandparents, just not from birth. Her father had been Christopher Lucas Kellwynn. The previous king of Gaelin before he was murdered. So that made Noire the princess. The sole survivor of the royal family and the only rightful person to succeed the throne. She knew exactly who she was, her grandparents had never hidden it from her, but she wasn't sure what she thought of it. She couldn't see herself as a Queen, leading a whole kingdom. She loved the outside world too much. Loved exploring, adventures, learning everything she could of the world. Taking the throne wouldn't allow her to do any of that. But she knew the people needed her. Gaelin had pretty much fallen to ruin. It had been taken over by the Fawen, but they didn't care about anyone other than those with money.

    Sighing, she rode towards the town at a steady canter. Noire slowed after a few minutes when she was at the edge of town and dismounted from the mare. Running a hand over her short coat, she pulled up her hood soon after she slipped the reins over the horse's head. Looking around, she saw it was a fairly well off town. Quite a few stores around selling all different things and the houses at the other end of the town were bigger than the tiny houses of very poor towns. Tying the horse to a post, she stepped inside one of the stores that sold food. Crinkling her nose at the sight of oranges, she picked up two apples, a carrot and then bought some jerky with the little money she had. She needed to get more soon. And she had an idea of how she could get it, but she didn't really want to. Stepping out from the store, she gave the mare the carrot as she bit into an apple. She could sell the horse. she could get a good price on her.

    Shaking her head, Noire untied the mare and led her to the other end of town. She had nothing else to do here. May as well leave. The people wee happy enough and surprisingly she saw no orphans wandering around. Moving through town, she was soon stopped by a middle aged woman who commented on her horse. She was led to a stud farm on the edge of town, saying she bred her horses for nobles quite regularly and would like to add her mare to her breeding stock. Inspecting the place, she nodded, came up with a very good deal and handed the mare over. Well, she hadn't expected to sell her, but it was a good home and she got a great deal for her.

    Noire left town soon after, her pouch of coins in her knapsack. She shrugged slightly and shifted her bow and quiver of arrows on her back so they sat comfortably once again. She pulled her hood back and ran a hand through her silvery hair with a groan. "Where to now?" she questioned herself, not really sure where she was going to head from here. She was currently on a forest path, mindlessly following it. She had no destination in mind and to be honest, she had no idea how far away the next town was. Her blue eyes turned upwards and she looked up at the sky. It was shades of pink and orange as the sun started its descent. Stopping, she groaned and then looked around, feeling itch to practice her archery. She didn't want to run into anyone whilst she was practising, so she moved off the path, further into the trees. Finding a clearing, Noire grabbed her bow and an arrow. Notching the arrow, she aimed for a tree about 40 metres away give or take and loosed the arrow. It hit with a solid thunk, burying the arrowhead into the trunk. Nodding in satisfaction, she loosed a few more before grabbing them and repeating until the light had disappeared.

    The moon slowly rose in the sky, replacing the sun and she used the moon light off the half moon to find some decent logs and sticks before she cleared an area and lit a fire. Sitting on the ground, she laid back on the grass and stared at the sky. Pulling off her fingerless gloves, she raised her hands above her, staring at them, her gaze lingering on the small scar on the inside of her right hand, near her wrist. She traced it with her left index finger before she let them drop and she pushed herself to sit up again. Setting her gloves beside her, she unclasped her hooded cloak and folded it, setting it next to her as well. She wanted to keep moving, find the next town, but even she knew it wasn't safe travelling the forest paths at night. Bandits often ambushed lone people and stole everything, if not killing them. She was far enough away from the path that they wouldn't find her, but she was still nervous.​
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  2. It was already approaching dusk as Darrien reached the town he had been aiming for. Yet as he approached the edge he noticed that it had changed considerably since he had last been there. The houses had grown in size and there were more shops than he remembered. And he knew the first thing many towns did when they found good fortune was to hire on a sniffer permanently. The risk was too great now, he'd have to pass it by and continue with the supplies he had. As he was circling around the village he spotted a rather large horse farm. The reason for the town's growth became obvious very quickly. Likely someone had bought up some cheap land and got the interest of some Fawen nobles. He skirted around the horse farm as well, taking an even longer journey around the town.

    On the other side of the town he returned to the forest path as darkness was falling. He quickly pulled a map from his pack and marked the town with a red cross, a place to be visited rarely and carefully. He used the last of the light to take a look at the path before him. He was heading towards the edge of old Gaelin as he called it, the kingdom before they had been conquered. There were dozens if not hundreds of warriors scouring the lands of Gaelin for the princess. Everyone was sure that the king would have hidden her within the country so she could easily be retrieved when the time came. Darrien had his doubts.

    He believed the king had sent his daughter as far away as he could. The Fawen would be looking inside Gaelin for her to cut off the family line completely. She would only be safe in another land. He sometimes wondered if the king had sent her to Fawen to hide right under the noses of those who were hunting her. Wherever she had been hidden though, he didn't think she was there anymore. He had rumours in the towns he had visited, small, backwards little hamlets who rarely had travelers. They were eager to talk to someone and hear the news he brought about the larger happenings in the kingdom.

    What he had heard was a powerful man far to the west had taken a young girl for himself and was keeping her captive. In some tales he was a half-monster half-man hybrid, in others he was a powerful mage and some simply claimed him a ruthless warlord. But the centre of the story was the same in every village and he believed it. Having gathered all the information he felt he could about the rumour he was now ready to head that way and rescue the princess.

    Putting away the map he resumed his travel on the road. Not long after he did so it began to rain, starting off as a small pattering of drops before quickly building up into a shower. With a sigh he created an active magic field above his head. Whenever water entered the region it curved around what looked like an invisible shield and fell to the ground beside Darrien keeping him dry. It was a tiring spell though and he quickly ducked into the trees for their protection from the rain. It was about time he should rest anyway rather than moving on.

    He moved deep into the forest to avoid the bandits and started looking for a good place to rest. In the darkness he couldn't see the arrow damaged tree nearby.
  3. Noire watched in silence as rain clouds slowly made their way across the sky, grouping together and she knew they were in for some rain. Though they weren't dark enough for a Thunder storm, which made her thankful. Rain was completely fine in her books. The fire crackled nearby, providing a nice heat that kept her warm. Unfortunately about an hour later, the rain started. At first it was just a drizzle, however it soon became heavier and slowly smouldered her fire. Groaning in annoyance, she quickly picked up her belongings and moved beneath a tree, not wanting to get any wetter. As it was, her clothes were damp and her hair clung to her face and neck. She wrung it out, ridding the water for her hair before she used the end of her cloak to partially dry it. She soon clasped her cloak back up, pulling up the hood and slipping her fingerless gloves back on. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and she scanned the area. Tilting her head slightly, she listened for anything off key beyond the sound of the rain. But she couldn't hear much above the rain and scampering animals. So she instead scanned the trees, keeping a look out.

    Around fifteen minutes later, she saw a shadow about 20 metres to her right. She turned quickly, grabbing her bow and an arrow with practised speed and ease. She studied the shadow, making it out to be a person only moments later. And a man at that. Suddenly suspicious and nervous, Noire didn't take her chances. She quickly loosed the arrow and it thunked into the tree just behind the man, at the height of his head. Exactly where she had aimed. To try and intimidate. She notched another arrow, aiming it towards the man as the rain started to slow. "Who are you and what do you want?" she demanded. If she could see them properly, she probably wouldn't be so tense, but she had no idea whether this man was friend or foe. And she liked her chances more if she had an arrow aimed at his heart if he was an enemy than if she had waited for him to approach her.

    She stared at the man's outline, suddenly glad her hood was up and her cloak was on. He wouldn't have any idea if she had other weapons on her. Which hopefully made him wary to approach her if he was hostile. "Well?" she prompted after a few moments of silence, her impatient side already kicking in. She did not like waiting.
  4. Despite his hopes for the forest it appeared Darrien would be spending the night wet. Though the foliage blocked some of the rain it was nowhere near dense enough to block it all and no matter where he looked the ground was wet. Giving up on finding a dry spot he began looking for a dryish spot instead.

    He had been around warriors long enough to recognise the sound of an arrow in flight. As Noire's flew towards him he spotted its shadow in the air, heading right for his head as far as he could tell. On instinct he caused the amount of water around the arrow to rapidly increase until it effectively became a solid bubble. The water then shot inwards at high speed and the arrow and bubble exploded, sending droplets and wooden shards in every direction, too slow to do any damage. He didn't like being so overt in his actions but subtlety didn't stop arrows.

    As he heard a voice call out from a short distance away he increased the rain in between himself and the archer. While the effect of the spell on visibility was minimal, it made stopping any further arrows easier for him. Evidently the time he took to cast the spell was too long for the archer, who demanded he answer. He was confused by their intent, a bandit wouldn't bother asking who he was. Perhaps the first arrow had not been meant to kill but as a warning. If so he cursed himself for revealing his magic for no reason.

    "My name is Darrien." he called back, "I'm a traveling musician." While he would have preferred to introduce himself as a hunter for the king's daughter he didn't know if his foe was from Fawen. He had no wish to be the reason the invaders found out about the hunt. That reveal would have to wait for later when he had confirmed they were Galien. "Who are you?" he called back, keeping his eyes peeled for another arrow in flight. The archer themselves was little more than a shadowy figure next to a tree, he couldn't make out any features.
  5. Noire's blue eyes widened in surprise when her arrow had been caught in a bubble of water, stopping it effectively before it exploded, sending splinters of wood in every direction. The arrow head landing only a few metres from where she stood. She stared down at it in shock, unable to believe her eyes. A mage. She was in the presence of a mage. She had never personally met one before but her grandparents had told her all kinds of stories. From many many years ago when mages once helped people, to the stories from about 50 years ago, when mages started a large scale war between 5 kingdoms which lasted for close to 20 years before a truce was finally brought around through the kingdoms. Her grandparents often told her that mages were not to be trusted, as more were evil of heart than good. That many would prefer to harm someone than help them. Noire had never met a mage before, so she couldn't say from personal experience, but at that moment she decided to play by her grandparents' words. She shifted on her feet slightly, ready to run if she needed to.

    Darrien. That was what the man called himself. But he could be lying for all she knew. He went on to tell her he was a travelling musician and she scoffed. "A mage?" she stated, "a travelling musician? I somehow highly doubt that," she stared at the man, pulling the arrow tighter, not trusting this man at all now that he had lied to her. Her brows pulled in, frustrated before she glanced up momentarily as she felt the rain lighten. It didn't take long before it was a light, dreary drizzle. Good. half hour of rain was too much for Noire. Wet was annoying. It made it so no where was dry enough to sit.

    The man, Darrien, asked who she was and she tensed. She didn't really want to tell him, but he had given her a name, she could do the same. "Noire," she told him, "my name is Noire," after a few minutes, she slowly lowered her bow, but kept the arrow notched, but just pointed it at the ground instead of at the man. By what he had done earlier, her arrows wouldn't be able to touch him anyway. He could easily defeat her if he so desired. That made her feel nauseous, but it was the truth. She soon placed the arrow back in her quiver, though kept a hold of her bow. "What exactly are you doing in this part of the forest, Darrien? Especially at this time of night. Surely a mage wouldn't have to worry about bandits with your magic and everything," she inquired, though her tone still wasn't very friendly. It was cautious, untrusting and quite annoyed. Despite the earlier rain, she had enjoyed the quiet; the alone time. Now that was destroyed. He arched a single brow as she looked at the man.

    Now the rain was gone, or atleast mostly, she could see better. Though she could not make out any facial features, she could see his grey hair. Darker than her own silver white hair, but light enough to be seen. Noire reached up and tugged her hood further over her face, making sure he wouldn't be able to see her.
  6. As the archer scoffed at his profession Darrien restored the spell that kept the water off his head. Very slowly he reached into his back and withdrew his lute and held it in front of him so they could clearly see it. With a gentle smile on his face he gave the strings a small strum sending a nice note through the air. He was tempted to play a bit of a song to help prove his point but decided not to risk patronizing the archer. Hopefully the reveal of the instrument would be proof enough. "I do happen to be a mage as well." he said quietly, admitting what was already clear.

    He was a little disappointed the rain was dying off so quickly. He could conjure water out of thin air if needed but it was always easiest to manipulate what was already there. The good news was the ground was soaked through and if it came to a fight he could turn the ground she was on into liquid mud and make his escape. However she soon admitted her name and lowered the bow. It seemed she was just a traveler like him, spooked by the sudden presence of another human. When she placed the arrow back into her quiver he finally allowed himself to actually relax

    "Even a mage needs to sleep." he replied to her question, "There's not much I can do if a bandit sneaks up on me and cuts my throat while I'm dreaming." He could place a few spells on the ground around him as he slept, sinkholes and mud traps to catch a bandit, but as the ground naturally dried out it would render them all useless. It was always better to take the extra precaution. And of course there were always sniffers to worry about. The further he was from the beaten path the less likely one of them would stumble upon him and slit his throat as a bandit would.

    As the archer, he guessed they were female from their voice and name, tugged her hood further over her face he spotted the wet remains of a campfire behind her. "Perhaps we can help each other tonight. You won't be getting that fire lit again anytime soon with such wet wood. Or finding a dry place to sleep. And I'd rather not spend an hour finding wood for my own fire. I can dry the area if you'd allow me to share it?" She already knew he was a mage. And despite her initial attack he didn't think she'd slit his throat, though he'd still be cautious.
  7. Noire narrowed her eyes when he reached around to his back and she tensed, thinking he may be grabbing a weapon. But, instead, he held something out in front of it and she stared at it. It was indeed an instrument. A lute to be exact. The man strummed the strings once and a nice sound echoed in the forest. But when he openly admitted he was a mage, even though she had clearly seen his abilities, her gaze quickly flicked up to look at him in the darkness. She watched him for a long moment before he answered her inquiry, saying even mages needed to sleep. "I suppose so," she muttered, though she couldn't but realise his magic couldn't detect people approaching him then. She had no idea of what abilities mages had, only that they only had some sort of elemental power. This man, she would guess, was a water or rain mage.

    Noire had been about to turn and run before he had a chance to attack her when he spoke. She paused and listened and then glanced over at where her fire had been. But now just a wet pile of wood. she looked back at Darrien as he continued on, saying he could dry the area, if she would allow him to share it. She stayed quiet for a long moment, considering. Would he try to hurt her? She supposed he would've already done that if it were the case. But maybe he wanted to wait until she was asleep before stealing all her belongings? That was a definite possibility. But she was a light sleeper, so she would wake before he managed to get away. She hoped. But she did know that she didn't want to sleep on the wet ground and she definitely prefer having a fire to sleep near.

    Sighing heavily, she turned and made her way towards where the camp fire had been. "Alright then, you have a deal," she told him. She glanced back at him and then waved him over. Crouching near the wood, she waited for him to clear the area of water before she swiftly lit the fire. When she had first left her grandparents' farm, it had taken her ages to light a fire, but now, having to light one most nights, she had gotten quite skilful at it, she must admit. Sitting down on one side of the fire, making sure the mage was on the other side, she placed her bow and quiver beside herself before she pulled off her gloves again. Unclasping her cloak, the pulled it off and folded it, putting it in her knapsack along with her gloves. She ran a hand through her silvery white hair before looked over at the mage. "So what are you really doing? Being a musician wouldn't get you much seeing as all the wealthy places are protected by sniffers. Poor places wouldn't have much to give you. So what are you really doing?" she asked him finally, watching him carefully from across the fire.
  8. As the archer accepted his deal Darrien placed his lute back into his pack and followed her over to the fire. It had been a nervous wait as she made her decision and she had taken her time. At the campsite he quickly got to work. Starting with the campfire he pulled the water from the wood until it was as dry as tinder. He sent the ball of collected liquid flying into the forest to splash against some tree trunk. He quickly repeated the process with the ground though this time he sent the water further into the earth. It would feed the tree roots that were below and was also easier than pulling the water out of the ground. With a tired yawn he was soon done and sat down to enjoy the fire the archer lit.

    As she sat opposite him and began settling down for the night he did the same, dropping his pack and his spear onto the ground beside him. He then began undoing the clasps on his armour and removing it piece by piece. It provided good protection but required a good five to ten minutes to put on and take off every day. Underneath he was wearing some padded leather for comfort and ordinary linens beneath those. As the archer took off the cloak that had been hiding their face his suspicions that they were a female were proven correct. In addition he noticed she was was quite attractive.

    At that point she started inquiring about his true purpose being in the woods. At this point he was still halfway through taking off his armour and purposefully spoke in a tone that sounded half distracted. "Not everyone does the things they do for money. I grew up in the poor towns I play in, I know what life is like for them. I know how much difference a few good songs can make, turning a boring week into something exciting, especially for the children. And when a bad harvest is suddenly brought to life by an unexpected raincloud everyone benefits." As he pulled his breastplate off he stopped to smile warmly at his memories.

    But then he looked right at Noire, studying her face. He took note of her cheeks, the position of her eyes, where her mouth was in relation to her other features. And he came to the conclusion at the very least, she had been born to Gailen parents. It was very unlikely she was a Fawen agent. "But there's more to it then that." he continued, "It's time for Gailen to rise again. You have probably heard of the search for the old king and queen's daughter, the princess they hide away from the invaders. I'm one of the searchers looking for her, trying to bring her back so she can reclaim the throne and we can reclaim our independence."
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