The Great Divide (Peregrine x Laggy)

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  1. Princess Alyimda Hanisa dom Khalifeh Mosteghanemi was wet. And while there was nothing wrong with soaking in a warm pool with eddies of steam rising around her nude form, it was an entirely different matter to find herself suddenly awoken to a forceful smack to her cheek, her fine dress sopping wet and dripping freezing cold water. There was something hard digging into her back, and she could practically feel the dark mud seeping into her white linen.

    Her eyes fluttered open slowly, eyes magicked to be the palest blue surveying everything around her. It took her a moment to process what exactly it was that she was seeing. There was a man. And he was on top of her. She let out a sudden, violent shriek as everything from the past few minutes came suddenly flooding back to her, kicking wildly at her assailant before scrambling away from him.

    Alyimda had been informed by her uncle on the eve of her eighteenth birthday that the kingdom of Amador had sent a representative, at great personal risk, south across the Great River and into their own kingdom. The kingdom of Amador and her own Ghanemsahad Empire had been at war for hundreds of years, costing thousands of lives and constantly eating away at the desert kingdom's very limited resources. The king of Amador had a young son, a son that he apparently hoped to marry to the Princess of Ghanemsahad and so form an alliance between the two kingdoms, for mutual benefit. It had been Alyimda's duty to agree to the proposition, and she had been escorted out of the palace by a small retinue of soldiers less than a week later.

    Of course, none of them had been expected to be beset upon by rebels moments after crossing over the Great River. The loyal servant of her uncle had spirited away the princess in a carriage, leaving her guards to deal with the threat and prevent anyone from coming after them. Her uncle's servant had also provided a glamor at that time, concealing her dark skin and hair behind palest locks and complexion, so that any locals, unaware of the impending peace treaty between the two nations, would not attack her.

    Of course, Alyimda was not used to such rough travel, but she did her best not to complain. This was her duty as a princess, she needed to be prepared to do anything for the good of her people. But two days later and she had become remarkably uncomfortable. Her tent and roll had been lost in the attack, and while sleeping in the carriage was far preferable to the ground, it was not a place that was meant to hold a young lady indefinitely. Her uncle's servant did his best to care for her, but he was a man and she was a lady. There was only so much he could properly do. Perhaps that was part of the reason he was so quiet?

    As if her trip hadn't already been a disaster, she had found the carriage suddenly coming to a halt in the middle of a bridge. When Alyimda had poked her head out to see what exactly the servant thought he was doing, she had found herself confronted by a long sword, and the gruff and smelly man who was pointing it at her. He forced her, a lady of standing, out of the carriage, and had placed her by the edge of the bridge with her servant.

    Bless his heart, the man had tried to save her, even if he hadn't been particularly clever about it. He took one panicked look at the bandits, and promptly shoved her over the edge of the bridge! That might have been alright, except for the fact that the heavy dress she was wearing was not meant for swimming, and quickly dragged her under the water. She had fainted only moments later, for which she considered herself somewhat lucky. She did not want to think about what those nasty men would do to her uncle's loyal servant.

    It took her a moment to realize that the man she had rudely kicked upon her awakening was not one of the bandits who had set upon her back up at the bridge. In fact, judging by his rather damp boots, this man had most likely just pulled her out of the river. Alyimda quickly got to her feet, and hurried back over to the man. She kneeled down next to him, and placed her hand on his shoulder. "Good sir, I apologize most sincerely. Thank you for saving me from drowning. May I ask your name?"
  2. "Go to the river, they said. You'll find plenty of herbs and fish, they said. Herbs and fish my soaking..."
    The young man mumbled continuously to himself, never seeming to stop for anything more than a pained groan. People often said that work on a farm was back-breaking, but this was the first time he thought it would actually be true. Not because he lifted too much, and not because an angered farm animal had decided his spine looked particularly crushable that day. No, it was because he kept having to bend awkwardly to try and find anything that could have been of use.

    It wasn't often that there was nothing to do on the farm, but when there was, it was as dull as dishwater. They were even less common, now that there was a war and that an entire army needed feeding, but he had somehow ended up with one slap-bang in his lap. And while not having to work for just one day sounded like a good idea, he quickly learnt not to have good ideas that involved lazing around. A day with nothing to do on the farm, to his employer, did not men a day off. It meant foraging. Lots and lots of foraging.

    What the old man had failed to take into account was that there were no good forging spots in the area he'd been told to look in. It wasn't like the younger of the two was any expert on the subject, but he knew a dud when he saw it, and there wasn't a single thing in the area worth looking twice at. So, in light of this revelation, he let out an exasperated sigh, and sat down. It was here that he contemplated his life once again, depressing himself with the recurring realisation that he never chose the farm life - the farm life chose him.

    A blur of dress and a massive splash snapped him out of this trance, however. In the area he was in, the sight of anyone dressed in anything more expensive than a refurbished rug was rarer than teeth on a hen. So, to see someone falling off of a bridge in such attire was something for him to behold. To the extent that he didn't even note why she was falling off of the bridge. He just sat there watching, entranced by the experience. Even when she hit the water, he was still utterly confused and intrigued by the entire spectacle.

    His sense kicked in moments later, however, and he dashed over to her, hoping that she hadn't yet sunk too far for him. Granted, the river wasn't exactly the deepest thing in the world, but the currents would be too much for him if he had to dive, carry her, and then swim back to the surface. He was, however, too slow to catch her immediately - the current was indeed proving to be too much. However, by some sort of diving blessing or sheer luck, he managed to catch up with her, and still had enough energy left to dive in after her.

    After rescuing the stranger, he got her onto dry(ish) land. It was at this point that most people would exercise common sense, and use some rudimentary form of first-aid. This young man was not most people.

    "Come on... Wake up..."
    He slapped her. Not hard, but he hoped it would get her attention. Once, twice, three times he hit her, and was about to strike her a fourth time. before he could, however, a flailing kick to his sternum and to his ribcage rendered him momentarily disabled. he let out a sharp cry of pain, and backed up, hoping that nobody would notice if he pushed her back in. He didn't think to think if she was panicking or not - he'd just been kicked in the chest. He wanted payback, if nothing else.

    But the more he thought about it, the more he realised that he could exploit the situation. This was obviously somebody of noble descent. No peasant looked as clean as she likely did before she took a dip. Nobody he knew owned clothing as high-class as hers. He figured that, if he played his cards right, there could be some sort of reward in it for him. So, doing his best to hide the fact that his chest was still sore, he introduced himself.
    "It's quite alright, ma'am. I merely did as anybody would do. May I, Richard Browning, ask whom I have the pleasure of addressing?"
    His words sounded a little forced, given that he was used to a less formal way of speaking, but he at least felt he got the point across.
    #2 Laggy Lagiacrus, Oct 24, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2014
  3. "Richard?" The foreign name sat strange in her mouth, but she quickly rubbed the confusion from her face, and forced her tongue to fold more naturally around the name.

    "Richard," she repeated, dipping into a low curtsy. The move did not come across as polished as it might have in court, for the combination of the wet skirts and uneven ground made her lose a certain touch of elegance. But she was still a princess, even wet and in the mud, and she would not allow that to deter her from the formalities. "It is an honor to meet you."

    She rose from her deep curtsy before casting a critical look at her savior. He was dressed like a peasant, and she could even see something that looked very much like dirt staining his clothes. Of course, she reminded herself, that could just as easily have come from his rescue of her. She could still feel the mud from the river coating her back, and it was starting to dry and crust. She must look a real sight. What right did she have to judge him, after he had saved her from what must be certain death?

    Distracting herself from her rather unnecessary line of thinking, Alyimda redirected her attention to the young man's question. "I am," she replied, immediately adopting the slightly haughty air that her mother had drummed into her just for the purpose of such introductions. Her eyes were forward and bold, her posture perfect. "The lady Alyi..." she trailed off immediately, suddenly and violently reminded of precisely where she was. In all likelihood, this man had lost family, most certainly friends, in the war against her kingdom. His hatred of her people would run deep by this point, it was practically bred into everyone. While the glamor protected her from him recognizing her by sight, her name would be the most obvious of giveaways. Her eyes dropped, and a red blush stained her porcelain cheeks. "Ali," she repeated, all the airs she had placed upon herself gone.

    Desperate to change the subject, Alyimda quickly redirected the conversation into safe waters. If there is one thing the court had tough her, it was that everyone liked to speak about themselves. "May I ask what you are doing by this river, Sir?"
  4. Though he tried to at least act like a dignified gentleman, Richard was - at heart - a young man who liked pretty girls. And, soaked dress caked in dirt and her little mishap aside, she still looked prettier than most of the girls where he lived. Maybe it was because she actually took care of herself. Maybe it was the way she held herself. Either way, she had caught his interest, and he was entranced by her just standing there. Nigh-crippling pain in at least two parts of his upper torso notwithstanding.

    Then it struck Richard - he looked ridiculously filthy. Granted, he would have looked worse if he'd been spending the day sprinkling cow muck over the turnip fields, but he still looked like somebody had dragged him head-first through a field. And he was trying to impress somebody who was likely used to people being so clean when they addressed her, that you could smell the fragrance they'd slathered on themselves a mile away. Richard could also be smelled a mile away, but for all the wrong reasons.

    "Ali, hm? That's not a name I've heard that often."
    Richard did not suspect anything, however - the name did not sound foreign enough, after all. he just assumed it was just a name that rich people gave to their children. She could have told him that she was named after a vegetable, and he wouldn't have suspected anything as long as her name sounded even vaguely native.

    Then, suddenly, the topic of the conversation switched to him. Caught off-guard, Richard stuttered momentarily, and panicked while trying tot hink of what to say.
    "Say something good, say something good..."
    "I was... erm... Gathering herbs. I'm a knight, you see. A very good one, in fact. I was just getting rid of some bears and wolves in the area, so I decided to brush up on my botany. A comprehensive knowledge of herbs can go a long way, you know."
    While he sounded a little unsure of himself, Richard had just dragged somebody out of a river, woken them by slapping them, and had been kicked for his efforts. Anyone that would stop and think for a moment wouldn't think he'd sound perfectly normal afterwards.
    #4 Laggy Lagiacrus, Oct 26, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2014
  5. A knight?

    Alyimda's face remained studiously blank, but inside she was nearly crying with relief. She had been avoiding thoughts of how exactly she was going to get to the capital, what with her Uncle's attendant undoubtedly lost to bandits, and herself stranded in the middle of the woods with no idea which direction she needed to go, and no idea how to keep herself safe, even if she did know which way she needed to go. But the world must truly be smiling on her, or perhaps it simply desired to stop the spill of blood just as much as she did. Who would have guessed that she would be blessed to have a knight such as this pull her out of the river? And, from the sound of his words, not just a knight, but a ferocious fighter and studious learner. Now she would not be lost, stranded, and destined to be attacked by bandits or eaten by some wild animal. She would be able to complete her duty, marry the prince of Amador, and save her people from the needless bloodshed of this war.

    All she needed was for this knight to escort her. And, as a knight of his standing, he was obligated to assist her in her hour of need.

    But Alyimda could not help a critical examination of the knight before her. She was, after all, putting her life into his hands. Images of the Paladins of her own home country flashed through her mind, with shining, heavy armor, and fine, curved swords strapped to their waist. They would always stand at attention for her, backs straight and faces rigid. Somehow, she could not bring herself to match the difference between her paladins and this scraggly knight before her. She knew there were differences between her own country and this land, but if the knights wore no armor and carried no weapons, how could they have lasted so long against her own people?

    She had no desire to embarrass her rescuer, especially not when she was going to need to ask for his aid within the foreseeable future, but the question weighted heavily on her mind. Was this knight truly skilled enough to protect her? "Sir knight," she asked hesitantly. "May I ask why you wear no armor and carry no sword?"
    #5 Peregrine, Oct 26, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
  6. Were it not for his sudden influx in willpower, a sheepish look of desperation would have plastered itself across Richard's face. That was the problem with lies - spinning more and more of them would only get the liar tangled. But Richard had managed to do himself in by just telling one. In the few seconds he had to reason with Ali, before she began to suspect anything, he wracked his brains for anything that sounded even slightly convincing. He wasn't a liar by nature, and he certainly hadn't wanted to learn the art, so this was proving to be quite the task.

    "I assure you, I have no need of weapons."
    "...Go on..."
    "I have the strength of five men, and I am as durable as ten. My stamina is nigh-infinite, and my technique is unrivalled. Why, the very use of weaponry or armour would just hinder me - to limit my mobility or fighting options with such things would be a waste."
    Though he was certain that anybody with half a brain would be able to poke more holes in his explanation than a rain of arrows would to a bedsheet, the way he had said it in could likely convince those who didn't bother to think too heard about it.

    Eager to change the subject (and avoid having to deal with Ali's questions), Richard shifted the focus of the conversation.
    "So, would you mind if I asked just how you managed to end up like this? I saw you fall from the bridge, but other than that, I couldn't see much else."
    Though he was indeed trying to shift the focus of the conversation, he was actually genuinely interested in the chain of events that had led up her taking an unwanted swim.
    #6 Laggy Lagiacrus, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2014
  7. A small, almost entirely concealed "O" of surprise formed on Alyimda's lips, and her scrutiny of the knight before her nearly doubled. She was not so rude as to stare outright, but the thoughts in her head began to swirl in a circle. He did not look like a knight, but who was she to judge someone based on appearances? She was glamoured, her appearance meant to deceive and protect. Although her's was made to protect her, perhaps Sir Richard's was designed to protect those who might otherwise dare to attack him, and find themselves sorely beaten, or even accidentally killed, afterwords.

    All the same, she could never imagine one of her paladins wandering out into open combat with no armor and no swords. Could the difference between their fighters truly be so great? But, although it was in the opposite direction, the reasoning of her previous comparison between knights and paladins stood sound. The war dragged on because neither country could get the upper hand. Neither side's fighters could be, cumulatively, superior to the other. That meant this man must be the exception to the standard. He could, quite possibly, be the greatest knight in the land.

    Truly, what luck, to find herself standing before this man. She had to convince him of the gravity of her situation, there was simply no alternative. Alyimda's lip quivered endearingly, and she lowered her lashes, hiding palest blue eyes. Her mother's soul would raise a sandstorm like no other if she could see the way her daughter was about to plead, beg, and guile her way into an escort, but Alyimda reminded herself that there was no reason to be ashamed. A princess turned any situation to her advantage, and sometimes that simply required more unorthodox methods.

    "Ah, Sir," she cried sorrowfully. "It truly is a tale of greatest woe. I was being escorted to the capital at the request of the King himself, in order to bind our family and his together through my marriage to his son and heir. But, not twenty paces beyond the edge of my home, we were beset by a squadron of enemy soldiers. My Uncle's brave retainer fled with me while my escort held off the soldiers, at great personal risk. How I pray they managed to survive the fight.

    "My uncle's retainer and I traveled onwards, desperate to reach our destination, but we were once more besieged by ill fortune. A group of highly uncouth brigands surrounded my carriage, and forced me out into the street. My uncle's retainer, tried to save me from the monsters by throwing me over the side of the bridge. Unfortunately, the river's current was so great that I was swept away. Doubtless I would have been carried all the way back to the Great River were it not for your timely rescue, Sir."

    Here she paused, lifting her lashes and gazing up at the knight becomingly. "Please, Sir. I do not wish to ask more from you than I have already done, but I cannot travel alone to the Capital. I do not know where I am, and there is no telling what dangers might find me, were I to try. But if a knight as skilled and brave as you were to accompany me, I am sure that I would reach the capital unharmed.

    "Please, Sir, you can't say no."
  8. "Crap."
    She was right. Richard couldn't say no. He was just an ordinary man, susceptible to the looks a beautiful - albeit, rather muddy - maiden gave to him. He did his best to try and look away discreetly, but there was no hiding the fact that he was enamoured with her.
    In the few moments he took to weigh up the decision, a multitude of thoughts flashed through his mind. Most of them were things he had been told about the capital, and why going there for anything but business would be a terrible decision.

    Pickpockets and muggers at every turn, he was told. Trust nobody in the city, and keep one hand on your coin at all times. Don't ever look somebody in the eye, but keep yours to the shadows. And if somebody threatens to kill you if you don't hand over what they ask for, you do it.
    And it was no use hoping the law would be enforced. The officials were just as corrupt as the people in the backallies, if not more so. Bribes, greed, laziness, every sin under the sun could be committed by them, and nobody would touch them because of the gold they carried.

    Some said that the streets were paved with gold. What they said after coming back was that the streets were actually paved with all kinds of filth, some of which was likely human waste. The smell, appropriately, was atrocious. A proper drainage system was also apparently out of the question. Which basically meant that anyone with real power and money was too busy pleasing themselves to help the people.
    It was safe to say that he was not looking forward to getting her there. He'd agree to do it - he was, after all, entranced by her. He didn't have to like it though.

    "Fear not, young lady." He said, with much bravado. "I, Sir Richard, shall guide you to the palace itself. I shall make sure that this marriage of yours will go without any further interruptions, and that those responsible for the attack are brought to justice."
    Richard was naive when it came to nobility. That much was true. But he knew when a story didn't add up, so he was fairly certain that he would be able to catch her out if she lied to him. of course, this was only his opinion. In reality, he was no more adept at spotting lies than a hen would be at commanding an army.
    #8 Laggy Lagiacrus, Oct 30, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2014
  9. A small, almost unnoticeable, sigh of relief slipped from between Alyimda's lips, before she once more turned grateful, magicked blue eyes to her savior. "Thank you, Sir Richard," she whispered, voice weak with relief. "Blessings upon you."

    Her eyes turned slowly to the forest around her, and she felt a brief pang of homesickness within her heart. She had never been to the Northern Kingdom before, and although carefully tended trees grew within her palace at home, the forest seemed to want to press the life out of her. She was so used to the open spaces of her own kingdom, where the bright blue sky seemed to stretch on towards infinity and it was possible to gaze as far as the eyes could see in every direction, that she could not help but feel malice from the forest. To her, it seemed that every shadow must be hiding some threat. She could not articulate how much Sir Richard's presence meant to her.

    It was only then that she noticed, at some point in her ride down the river, the current had swept away her shoes, leaving her standing barefooted. She was soaked to the bone in cold water, wearing a ruined dress that was not only muddy but torn at the hem, barefooted, without a carriage or a horse, nor any form of supplies. "Sir Richard," she asked, somewhat hesitantly, "How exactly are we going to get to the capital?" As surprising and blessed as this knight was, it was doubtful that he was going to be able to conjure a carriage and supplies from midair.
  10. Richard couldn't properly answer that question. He'd ventured into the forest a few times, but never deep enough to know how to navigate it. It had always been to gather some supplies, or to go hunting. he wasn't even good at hunting, he usually just brought back some fish he'd managed to capture in the most rudimentary of traps. However, he couldn't turn back now. He'd made a boast, and he would be forced to stick to it, lest he make a fool of himself. While most people would not be dense enough to go into a forest without knowing their way around it, Richard was. And that was terrible.

    And then, a moment of what he thought was sheer genius occurred. It wouldn't solve the problem of him not knowing how to get through the forest, but it would at least buy him some time to figure something out. If all went according to plan, of course.
    "Have no fear, fair maiden," he said, in the grandest voice he could muster, "For I shall both guard you, and guide you. I am certain we will make it there on time. However..."
    Richard surveyed Ali, his hand on his chin. "We must have you changed out of those clothes, and you need shoes. Though I am more than capable of fending off a few bandits, your attire could attract unwanted attention. If your mission is as urgent as you say, we cannot afford to waste time fighting. And I assume you do not need to have the need for footwear explained."

    Richard turned in the direction of the farm he lived on - if he was lucky, the head farmer would be spending the day down at the tavern. Which meant he could take all he wanted, and not have to look back.
    "Come, my lady. I know of a farmstead where the farmer has supplies and clothing he would be willing to give to us. Do not worry about him, he will be properly compensated."
    With that, Richard set off - slowly, though, to allow Ali to keep pace.
  11. They set off into the forest, moving at a pace a snail would have admired. Alyimda moved as delicately as a glass figure, watching where she put her feet with an attentiveness that would have done a cat proud. All the same, Alyimda flinched every time she stepped, feeling her bare feet digging into something soft, cold, sharp, gooey, or some combination thereof. She was barely able to keep the disgust from marring her face, but she kept herself determined and focused. She was a princess of Ghanemsahad, and she would not complain, and she certainly would not ask this knight to carry her. No matter how many strange, foreign, wet things wriggled their way between her toes.

    For a little while they traveled in silence, making hardly any progress, and Alyimda found her attention slowly but inevitably turning from the precise task of foot-placement to the mystery of the strange knight walking beside her. He was a riddle she just couldn’t solve. Everything about him seemed contradictory. On the one hand, he had gallantly jumped into the river to save her, and spoke like someone familiar with court. On the other hand, he wore clothes that would hardly be considered suitable for a peasant, and apparently he had wandered into the woods with not only neither sword nor armor, but also without any source of food, clean water, method of shelter for the night, or a means of quickly getting out again should his kingdom recall him for duty.

    Was he truly such a great and powerful individual that he truly needed none of these things? She had seen the greatest of sorcerers in her court, capable of astonishing feats, but even they could not save themselves from the slow death that waited in the wilderness if they ventured far from the city without supplies. Briefly her fingers touched the glamour charm around her neck, feeling the intricate pattern carved into it. He was clearly no sorcerer, for he carried neither parchment nor any items for spellcasting. How had he come to be such a great and powerful individual.

    There was no way she was ever going to be able to find out by speculation. Did she dare ask? “Sir Richard,” she said hesitantly, not wanting to interrupt or seem rude, but being unable to keep her questions to herself. “I have never heard of a man capable of doing what it is you are able to do. How were you able to accomplish this, and at such a young age too.”
  12. While Alyimda was moving deftly forward in a manner most agile, Richard didn't seem to care that much at all. And he didn't - he had stepped in far worse things in shoes that had had a lot more holes in them. It wasn't something he was proud of, but a bit of mud or some soggy leaves weren't nearly enough for him to even regard what was underfoot. He was fairly certain that there was a worm or two wriggling between his toes on more than one occasion, but he shrugged it off. It wasn't like it particularly mattered.

    Every so often, Richard turned to look at his new acquaintance, to check if she was keeping up with him. And, he had to admit, he found her disgust at the ground quite amusing. It wasn't outright hilarious, but a noble being put into a tight spot like this wasn't something he saw every day. And he wanted to savour it. While he did briefly consider assisting her, in order to score some rapport with her, Richard decided against it. She was to be accompanied to the castle, and no further. As lovely as she was, he was beginning to see the money and fame as the more attractive reward for his hard work.

    The problem lay in actually keeping up the act. With any luck, the biggest threat they'd come across would be a few woodland creatures - ones that would rather not get into a fight, hopefully. He had no idea how he would fend off a bear with only his bare hands. He was strong, yes, but not strong enough to achieve something on the level of besting an animal that could break a man in a single blow. The though of ending up as a gory stain on the floor made him shudder a little, but not noticeably so - he couldn't make such a poor impression in front of his charge, after all.

    "How was I able?" He repeated. Once again, he took on a tone of voice usually reserved for sailors telling tales of 'sea-beasts bigger than the ship itself.' "Training and experience. I know you must have expected more, but the old methods are often the best, you see. I'm just better at using them. Why, every morning I lift twice the weight of myself in armour - with weights tied to my arms, no less. For months, I will venture out into the wilderness, using only my wits and my brawn to survive. I have lived on raw meat and leaves for just as long. I have learnt to catch fish with no spear or rod, and I have wrestled healthy deer to the ground by myself. The world is a harsh mistress - one must be strong enough to trump it."
  13. Alyimda listened to his tale of training heroics with eyes as wide as a child listening to tales of dragons. Her brain tried to process these tales of which he spoke, but somehow shied away from the actual details. She had spent every morning waking up in a bed large enough to hold four of herself, waited on hand and foot by attentive and kind servants, never wanting for anything. Her meals were finely prepared and brought when she asked. While she did exercise in order to keep herself in good health for the duties of ruling a kingdom, she was well versed in the etiquette of dance and camel riding, she had never been put through any form of rigorous physical training.

    No, Alyimda did not fully comprehend what Richard's boasts would mean outside of a storybook world where the greatest warriors in the land would fight tooth and nail to prove their strengths to the royal family. All she could feel was sheer relief, knowing that somehow the greatest knight in the land had come to her rescue, and he was going to save her from death most foul and allow her to complete her noble mission and save her kingdom from further bloodshed.

    "You must be a man of great self control, to willingly put yourself through such hardship," Alyimda eventually replied, picking her words with great care. "I know of... no one who has done such things. It must have been destiny that brought us together. Me, in great need, and you, the only person capable of offering me certain protection."

    They were silent for a little while longer. By this point Alyimda had lost almost all feeling in her toes. The water of the river had not been warm by any measure,could not even be called lukewarm, and now the cold mud and various other forest detritus had leeched all remaining heat from her toes. She stumbled on the uneven ground, barely catching herself in time to save from another unwelcome contact with the ground, and wiggled her toes, wincing slightly in pain at the cold tingle that ran up her legs.

    "Please, Sir Richard, do we have much further to go?"
  14. "Self-control is only one thing, ma'am." He replied. He tried to keep his voice as deadly serious as possible, as if he actually were a professional soldier recounting tales of his past. "There is a lot more to it than just that. You must be strong. You must be vigilant. You must have the stomach for it all. There is not a single detail that can be overlooked when you're fighting against nature itself."
    Richard's little speech was little more than hollow words used to conceal his own inadequacy for this sort of thing, but the princess seemed incredibly naive - a little thing like that would probably be believed by her as well, so he thought.

    By sheer coincidence, as soon as Alyimda asked how much farther their destination would be, the farm became visible in the distance. It seemed to be little more than a few minutes away. A pain to walk to, that was undoubtedly true. But it was likely that they would still be able to make it without any trouble.
    "Not much further, I assure you. If you look over there, you will see the place I was talking to you about. Now then, let us make haste - every moment we spend here is a moment this war drags on."

    Fortunately for the both of them, the remainder of the way was a dirt path. There would be stones, and the ground would be hard, but it was at least dry and consistent. A far more comfortable way to walk, in Richard's opinion.
    Alyimda did seem to be far more than just uncomfortable, though. He would be lying if he said that he didn't feel just a little guilty. In light of this, Richard turned, and faced her.
    "My lady, I must ask you - would you like for me to assist you? You do not seem to be in the best of conditions. You have every right to ask for assistance after your ordeal, you know.
  15. Alyimda felt a blush stain her cheeks as she pictured being carried anywhere by a strange man, barefoot and in a wet dress that clung uncomfortably to every line of her body. What would her mother say, peace be to her? Then again, what would she say about any of this? The situation had already pushed Alyimda so far beyond any lines of propriety that there was no more going back. Would one more really make a difference?

    Eventually she decided that, yes, one more would make a difference. “I thank you, Sir richard, but I must maintain what little dignity i have in this already humiliating situation. The path seems to be smoothing out up ahead, and I should be able to move a little faster.”

    All the same, even on the relatively smooth dirt path that led into the farmyard, Alyimda could feel the rocks digging into the soft bottoms of her feet, and it took all of her willpower not to wince. She was certain that the bottoms of her feet were already bruising, and she knew that walking, shoes or not, was going to be unbearable tomorrow. All the same, she gritted her teeth, lifted her head, and marched onwards.

    The farmyard, like most things that Alyimda had seen when in this country, was strange beyond measure. Growing places in her country were always carefully maintained and contained, to ensure that not a drop of precious moisture escaped into the desert, but here things moved rampant. Animals wandered at whim, leaving puddles and piles behind as they pleased. She could see crops growing, out under the open sky, just behind a farmhouse made of wood. Alyimda stared for a moment, before remembering that she had just passed through a forest, which was filled to the brim with wood. It was not the luxury material, fit only for fine dining and decorative statues and furniture, that it was in her country. She was supposed to be playing the role of a duchess of this land, and no one of high standing would ever gape. She would gape at nothing, no matter how astonishing.

    “Shall we find the farmmaster, and requisition the supplies from him or her?” Alyimda asked, forcibly turning her attention back to Sir Richard and away from all of the strangeness of the farm.
  16. Richard was rather indifferent to Alyimda's reaction to his proposal. As strange as he found it that she refused his offer of help, it was no skin off his nose - she was the one walking without shoes, after all, and he wasn't about to give up his. Walking was uncomfortable for him even when he was in them - he couldn't imagine having to trudge along the path without them. He couldn't ignore Alyimda's reactions, though. But, even then, he was indifferent. There was nothing he could do for her if she didn't accept his offer.

    Richard hated the sight of the farm - mostly for the memories it evoked, however. He could bear the stench the animals left behind - that was something he found easy to get used to. He could take the labour he had to undertake in order to earn enough coin to get by on - that was just life. He just hated the farm master. Someone seemed to have forgotten to tell him that there was a difference between discipline, and just punishing someone for the sake of punishing them. He was the kind of boss that you took worse jobs just to avoid.

    Richard waved his hand dismissively in response to Alyimda's question.
    "I'm sure it'll be fine if we leave a note. We have an agreement, of sorts."
    That agreement was that Richard would be slapped six ways to Sunday if he so much as thought about touching anything that belonged to the farm master, but he figured that he was going to be long gone before the old codger found out.
    "Now, I hope you understand, but even if we did have clothing befitting someone of your status, wearing it would be incredibly impractical for the journey ahead." Richard mentioned, as he unlocked the door. "I'll make sure to do my best to dress you in something nice, however. If you want to warm up, the coals should still be hot in the fireplace. See if you can't get a fire going."
  17. Alyimda moved into the house slowly, stepping lightly on tender feet. She allowed herself the brief luxury of running her hand along the door, reveling in the texture of the old wood. She had a door made out of wood in her palace, and it was a finely carved thing, but this entire house was made out of it. Alyimda was starting to wonder exactly how much longer she would be able to maintain the pretense of being a lady of the north. This place was so different from everything she knew, and although she had received some training in the ways of this kingdom, for the most part she knew nothing but they had once been allies, so long ago that even the oldest living people had never known someone that had been alive in the time of peace, and they were now at war.

    Alyimda moved carefully over to the smoldering fire, her eyes darting about, looking for the bricks that her people burned. But after she had searched every surface and found none of the smelly but slow-burning things did she realize that people here had no need of bricks. They burned wood to keep the fire going. She picked up a log, running her fingers along the grain once, before boldly tossing it into the fireplace. It sparked and hissed at her, and she nearly flinched, but luckily the heat of the coals was enough to start a small tongue of flame flickering over the wood. She let out a quiet sigh of relief. She barely knew how to stoke a fire in her own palace, let alone one that burned off of wood.

    All the same, she brought her hands close to the heat, shivering slightly as the warmth touched her damp dress, and carefully pressed her hand over the hidden amulet around her neck that maintained the illusion of her pale skin and fair hair. All she had wanted was to reach the capital and marry the prince of this land, therefore finally finding an end to this atrocious war. As blessed as she knew she was to have met Sir Richard, she would gladly trade away this fortuitous meeting to be back with her uncle’s steward, almost to the capital. Who knew how much longer the journey was going to take now.
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