The First Time
Viator Passage is a road well-traveled. The clay is hot under the sun, giving way to the pressure of horses and their riders. Shrubbery lines the road, dotted with raspberries and wild fruits. Village children scamper from their homes to watch as traders and nobles and mystery men ride past; they hoot and holler and offer up water in exchange for a coin in shrill, young voices.
Iustatia is a safe haven of a kingdom. Not the fathers of the children nor their fathers nor theirs remember war. Only millennia of peace and tranquility.
Henry travels Viator often, his mates and guards riding behind him, and his sword gleaming at his side. The people on the bordering villages race to meet him; to offer fresh water, or food for the horses, or a place to loge.
Everyone wants the honor of helping the prince.
But Henry rarely stops in his travels. They are for show, nothing more. To ensure his people have a face to associate with the young prince’s name. Which is why, on a hot, sticky and fateful afternoon, the riding party mutters in confusion when Henry raises a hand, halting their passage.
The young prince swings down from his horse and strides forward, crimson cape billowing behind him. He has seen a dark shape on the road ahead – lying still, unmoving. He isn’t quite sure why, but something about it calls to him.
“What is it, sire?”
Henry approaches and kneels in the dirt. Suddenly, the lump twitches, revealing a face concealed by dark hair.
“It appears to be a girl.” There are no footsteps, no impressions in the clay to indicate she had been left alone by people or horses. Henry reaches out, brushing the hair from her face. She is young, like him.
He rises, brushing debris from his trousers. “We can’t very well leave her here. Fallow, mount her on the back of your horse, would you? We’ll bring her back home with us.”
And the party retreats from that day’s ride, the assured prince leading the way, and the girl lying soundlessly beside him. Unaware, they are, of the shift in time and destiny and fate taking place.