Chapter One

            Sitting in the garden was a young woman. Her gown was sumptous and colorful, her hair long and golden, and her eyes blue as a robin's egg. She looked like a perfect fairy-tale princess, he thought as he approached her. This thought was soon replaced by something along the lines of "Wench!" when, upon seeing him, she rose and fled, flinging a rock at his head as she went. Luckily for him her aim needed improvement.

            "I hope the marriage negotiations are going just as poorly." he groaned, and sat down on the bench she had just vacated.

            "Lydia, I have wonderful news for you!" beamed a tall, portly man as the golden haired young woman entered the small dining hall. "Lord Urthan and I have reached an agreement; you and Lord Trevin shall be married come autumn!" Her father stopped and awaited her reply, which was to turn and stalk silently out of the room.

            "Lydia, you must-"

            "No, father! I've told you countless times—I'm not going to be married! It was Stefen or no one, and you chose no one by sending him away. I refuse!" Lydia stamped her foot in her temper, which only promted a laugh from her father, Lord Owand.

            "Dearest, can't you forget that silly young boy and move on? Can't you do this to please me?" he pleaded. She shook her head forcefully.

            "No. I will not marry anyone but Stefen, whom you sent away. Bring him back to me and I'll gladly be married to him, but until then do not speak the words marriage or wedding in my presence." she finished, and stalked away, leaving her father to break the news of his daughter's disobediance to his guests.

            "I didn't want to marry her anyway, father. Let's accept Lord Owand's apologies and depart for home. We can leave tomorrow." said Trevin hopefully, already in the process of packing his things. His father sighed.

            "We can't leave—the arrangements are all made, and you've been terribly slighted! I cannot allow you to simply accept such an insult!" Urthan nearly shouted, his face turning red. Trevin grasped his father by the shoulders and spoke slowly to the angry man.

            "Father, I do not want to marry this girl, insult or no. She is so far an example of the worst breeding ever to be seen, rude, selfish, and disrespectful. I don't want someone like that to be my wife! We can attend the dinner Lord Owand has prepared for us tonight, and take our leave tomorrow. I can't wait to be home." he finished, running a hand through his brown hair. Urthan was staring at him as though he had lost his mind.

            The dinner that night was rather strained. Lydia refused to speak to Trevin or his father, and Trevin likewise refused to awknowledge Lydia. The two lords whose plans had gone sadly awry made several weak attempts at conversation, but they too soon fell silent, and ate the delicious food without tasting it, drowning in private sorrow and humiliation.

            The departure of Lord Urthan and his son the next morning was a relief to at least two people, however the event may have saddened their parents. Lydia breathed a sigh as she watched the carriage roll down the dirt road, and a tear slipped down her cheek as she remembered a similar scene, one in which she had wished for the carriage to turn around or take her away as well.

            In the swaying, creaking vehicle, Trevin stuck his head out the small window and looked back at the castle where he had spent a miserable two days, the shortest marriage negotiations he'd ever heard of. He saw Lydia, standing alone in the courtyard, gazing after them. For some reason the sight made him uncomfortable, and he pulled his head in and closed the shutters, feeling her gaze on them as they rattled away.

            For the next two weeks Lord Owand didn't exchange a single word with his daughter. She ate, slept, and walked in the gardens silently, her expression by turns both pensive and sad. Her father knew why, just as he knew it would pass in time. She had behaved this way only once before—after he sent away the guard Stefen, whom Lydia had improperly fancied herself in love with. Stefen was a handsome man, and well acustomed to having women adore him, too acustomed for Owand's liking. Once again he wondered if he should tell Lydia what he knew of the young man and the other occupant of his carriage that day, but once again his cowardice bested him. He would tell her another time, when the grief was not so intense.