Chapter 1: A DECISION AND A NOTE
Princess Erin stormed out from the royal court, and headed towards her bedchamber. Her long, green dress fluttered behind her as she walked. Her face was red with anger, and there was a hint of tears on her eyes. Her fast pace made her bumped to several servants who were busy doing their chores, and almost knocking down several plates of food brought by the cook who was heading towards the dining hall. He can't be serious! She thought. How dare he make decisions without my agreement!
Her lady-in-waiting was in her room when she slammed the door of her bedchamber open. She was chatting with a servant who was cleaning the windowsills, and they were shocked when she heard the door. Both her lady-in-waiting and the servant were surprised to see the anger on Erin's face, and the servant cowered behind the lady-in-waiting in fear that they had made something that angered the princess.
"Out," Erin commanded. Hearing that the both of them immediately complied, and the servant quickly took the bucket of water and almost ran outside. The lady-in-waiting slowly closed the door behind her, leaving Erin alone in the bedchamber. Brisk winds blew in from the opened door of the balcony of the room, and the drapes at the door danced with the winds. She felt a little cold, but she ignored about it. Erin roughly took her circlet off and threw it to the direction of her dressing table, but it missed its mark and fell to the floor. She didn't even bother to pick it up. Instead, she threw herself to her bed and started crying. Her soft sobs could be heard even from outside her bedchamber. Her tears fell from her cheeks and wetted the pillows, and her eyes were swollen red with tears.
A little while ago, sometime after breakfast, her father summoned her to the royal court. Although she was unsure as to why her father had commanded her to, but she knew that on that day, several knights were to be awarded by the king on their bravery in the previous year's war with the neighboring kingdom. Erin hoped to draw some attention from the young knights, and because of that reason, she spent almost an hour just to choose what to wear. In the end, she had chosen one of her best gown to wear for that occasion, a green silk gown that glimmered under the sun. It was adorned with small jewels along the sleeves and at the front of the dress, and was sewn with crystal dusts along its folds and seams to give it a sparkling effect if reflected under the light. The dress was made for her for her nineteenth birthday, but she never had the chance to wear it because of the war when the neighboring kingdom tried to invade their land. It was made especially for her as it fit her sparkling green eyes and her fair, smooth skin. Her lush lips and sweet smile only enhanced her beauty when she entered the royal court. Now, she didn't even care even a bit about all that.
She was mad with him. Mad with her father, the king. How dare he do that to me! She thought again, still sobbing. I don't want to spend my life with that…that…beast!
The king had humiliated her in front of everyone in the court. He had announced that Princess Erin was to be married with Lord Byron, his most trusty and long-served advisor. Erin was shocked by the announcement that she almost fainted at that time, for Lord Byron was one of the worst person she had ever known in her life. And he was as old as her father! Everyone in the royal court was shocked with the announcement, and murmurs were from the members of the royal court. Erin knew from hearing 'servant talks' that Lord Byron was very mean and disrespectful to everyone but the king. He was also the type of person who would blame others for his faults, and would even lie, cheat, and perhaps kill if he could, to obtain what he desired. Lord Byron was also known to have the habit of scolding and beating his servants for no apparent reason. Almost everyone in the royal court knew about his dirty lives that he had kept safe from the king all these times. But no one ever dared to tell the king about it, not since he gained a respectable position in the court, and later becoming his most trusted advisor.
Erin knew that he talked his way into marrying her, since she could clearly saw the sly smile on his face when the king made the announcement. She also knew that he was only interested in her body because he only took notice of her after she started showing a change in her physical appearance. And since she was the only child, marrying Erin would make him the next ruler of the kingdom. Her face was flushed red with anger at that time, and the desire to scream and shout at her father for making such decisions swelled in her heart. But she maintained her grace and reminded herself that she was with the audience of the whole royal court, so she quickly stood up from the throne beside her father – it was her late mother's throne, and had been empty since her death – and walked out from the court. The guards holding the door tried to stop her at the king's commands, but she pushed them away, and since the guards didn't want to hurt her (although they would want to hold her to their hearts desire, given a different situation) they let her go.
The wind blew harder and it made Erin shiver. Slowly she got up from her bed and walked towards the balcony to close the door. She didn't even care to wipe her tears away. She was just about to close the window when a falcon suddenly flew in and landed at the dressing table. She was shocked at first, and made no intention to go near it. But when she saw that the falcon had no intention to hurt her, she slowly walked towards it. Falcons were a majestic creature of the skies, but the one that flew into her room had an air of nobility around it. Its feathers were nicely groomed; either the bird was of royal properties, or the owner had gone to great lengths just to maintain it. Erin wondered why a falcon would suddenly fly into her room, but upon closer inspection, she saw that there was a piece of paper tied to one of its legs. At first she hesitated to take it off the falcon's legs, but reasoning that perhaps it was trained to send messages, she slowly untied the piece of paper.
As soon as she finished untying the piece of paper from its legs and took it to her hands, the falcon flapped its wings and flew toward the balcony where it came in before. As quick as it came, it was gone. It startled Erin, but she regained composure a moment later. She wiped the tears from her eyes with her fingers, and with the paper in hand she sat at the corner of her bed. Slowly, she opened the piece of paper. There was no hint of the sender or any seals on it – just a plain, normal paper nicely rolled and tied with a red string. Erin untied the string, and then opened it. What she saw was a note – no, a phrase – written in the most graceful way she had never seen before. It read:
~ * ~
Two weeks had it been since Princess Erin received that note. She had wondered for more; waiting patiently inside her bedchamber in the evenings when she had no class taught by the castle wizard, or whenever she sat idly inside her room with a book that she took out from the library. She had hoped for more, hoping that she would learn about the mysterious person who sent her the note. The note read as if she had known the person before. But try as she might, she couldn't remember anyone owning such a magnificent falcon, and all her years of reading and gazing through the letters that had reached the castle she never remember anyone who could write that graceful. Two weeks she waited, but sill no sign of the falcon. Erin soon grew bored of waiting. The first note that she had received was kept between the pages of one of the literature books that she had in her personal study, a room connected to her bedchamber. It was soon forgotten as Erin busied herself with other chores.
Still, her father's words bore into her mind, and the memories of the king making the announcement still filled heart with anger. For that reason, she tried her best to avoid seeing any members of the court. Some of the members of the court who were close to her, Lady Katherine for example, tried to talk to her whenever she passed by her, but Erin refused to say anything to her. She even locked herself in her room when Lady Katherine came to her bedchamber. Lady Katherine was a close friend to her, being only several years apart and was still unmarried, but Erin's rage and embarrassment took over her that she refused to even say a word to Lady Katherine.
Soon Erin skipped meals with her father, but whenever she was forced to because of royal visits she spoke no word to him nor made any eye contact with him. Lord Byron, being the king's advisor, was always with him during meals and was always looking at her lecherously. At first, she could endure it, but in the end, she skipped them entirely. Erin commanded one of the servants to bring her meals to her room, and each time she asked her lady-in-waiting to open the door to make sure that nobody followed the servant. Erin even began to miss her classes with the castle wizard, especially when she heard rumors that he helped Lord Byron to mix a potion to control the king.
The king was concerned with her condition – hiding away from reality wouldn't help, he told her one day when he had the chance to meet her. But Erin only fumed at him, and when the king knocked at the door of her bedchamber, she didn't even answer. Soon he had only his servants' words saying that the princess was still all right. After a few failed attempts to talk to her, he gave up and left her alone, hoping that she would come to her senses soon. He and Lord Byron had several talks about the marriage in which Lord Byron was so interested to participate in. The king was also looking forward for it. He was slowly reaching the peak of his years, and it would be soon that death could claim him. He trusted Lord Byron, and knew that his kingdom would be safe in his hands. Lord Byron had a faint trace of royal blood in him, so it would be okay for him to have the crown. After all, all these times his advices had made the kingdom prosper, so the king couldn't see what was wrong in giving all the task of a king to him after his death. After all, he thought, Erin didn't have anyone special in her heart now, so it would be okay for Lord Byron to marry her.