Chapter One. Missing Princess

Wind Singer snorted angrily at her rider as she neared the town of Horse Vale, home to the biggest library in the land of Farésun. She didn't like how the young girl traveled aimlessly from place to place with only memories as a map.

"I know you don't like it, but there's something familiar about this place," the girl told her.

Wind Singer seemed to sigh as her ambivalent rider led her into the town. It was getting dark and most of the people still out were thieves, drunkards, prostitutes, rangers, and the occasional drunken guard.

Once the young woman was inside the town, she dismounted and tried to find a place to stay for the night. She would go to the library tomorrow. She found the Twelve Roses tavern near the heart of the town, and after handing Wind Singer over to the stable boy, she went inside.

The tavern was dark and filled with strange men from far away places. After dropping off what little gear she had in her room, the girl went back downstairs to the common room. She sat down at a table by herself and ordered a light meal.

As she waited for her meal to arrive, she noticed a young man about her age looking at her from across the room. He was skinny and tall with long legs. His eyes were hidden by the hood of his tattered, gray cloak, but the girl could tell, from the part of his face she could see, that he was tougher than he looked. His face was sun tanned and weather beaten, as were his hands.

He was dressed in dirt stained gray leggings, mud caked brown boots, and light leather armor that appeared to have seen many a battle. At his waist was a large steel sword with a dark green stone atop the hilt. The scabbard was black and entwined with silver and gold. It seemed to be the only weapon he carried, but the young woman knew not to assume this was true. He, like her, probably had several concealed weapons.

Something inside this girl told her she had met this person before, but she couldn't remember where or how. For reasons she could not explain, she knew he had magical powers.

Her meal finally arrived, and she ate it quickly. The young man watched her the entire time. Annoyed, the girl got up and went over to him.

"Why do you keep staring at me?!" She demanded angrily.

The young man threw back his hood and looked at the young lady with piercing, cold blue eyes. His long, tangled blond hair hung loosely about his shoulders as he surveyed her in a somewhat teasing way.

"Hawke?" He asked in a deep, mature sort of voice.

She stared at him blankly. "What? Who are you?'

"I'm Brandon the All Knowing Battle Mage, m'lady." He said with a gesture of respect.

Something in the girl's mind flickered for a moment, but went out before she could figure out what it was. "Don't call me that!" She spat.

"Sorry. I forgot you hated that title."

"I have no idea who you are or what you're doing here," she said pointedly.

Brandon's teasing look changed to one of deep concern, and he gestured for the girl to sit in the seat across from him. Thinking she may get some answers, she sat.

"Do you remember who you are?" He asked.

"I am Hawke," the girl replied, a sharp edge to her voice, "since I still don't know who you are, that is all you need to know right now."

"We used to go out together." He said, trying to see if the confused young woman could remember him.

She nearly fell out of her chair. "What!"

"I was your boyfriend when you were thirteen, but we broke up and decided to be friends instead."

Suddenly she did remember. The young man before her left her when he turned fourteen to train with the battle mages; it seemed he had passed the rigorous training.

"Oh," Hawke muttered coldly, "I remember you. How have you been?"

"I've been around," he replied, giving her an annoyingly sly grin, "what about you?"

"Wandering mostly. I've been trying to find out who I am and why I'm here. I have a profound sense that I've forgotten something important."

Brandon gave Hawke another one of his annoying looks. "And you came here to get answers, right?"

"Yes. I get these-" Hawke stopped and looked down at the table.

"What?"

"Never mind. It's stupid."

"I'm a skinny, nerdy battle mage. It can't be any more silly than that."

"I get these callings," she said, dropping her voice to a whisper, "I can't explain it really. It's just as if I know where I can get answers, but I don't know how I know."

"Hmm…" he looked like he was thinking about something.

"Is there anything else you know about me that you could tell me?" Hawke asked hopefully.

"Well . . .you used to be a princess—"

Hawke just about had a heart attack. "I'm a princess?!"

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"Yes, but how can I be a princess? I certainly don't look like one." She pointed out, indicating her boyish attire.

"No, you never really did look like a princess. You liked adventure and danger. You know, swords and bows and stuff like that. No one could make you princess looking without getting seriously hurt. So, your parents gave up making you lady like and let you train in manly arts. You were quite good at it too."

"Still am actually."

"I can see that. Now, what else can I tell you? Oh yes , you were reported missing about two years ago."

This time Hawke fell out of her chair. "Missing?!" She exclaimed from her sprawled position on the floor.

Brandon pulled a scroll out of his cloak and handed it to Hawke as she got up off the floor. The young lady snatched it out of his hand and unrolled it.

"Notice! Six thousand crowns will be granted to anyone who can find the Princess Hawke and return her to King Feray and Queen Merclin. She was last seen taking her black mare Wind Singer for a ride on April 12, 1402."

The young princess sat down in her chair, dazed by all that she had just found out. "I don't even remember that date." She said, nearly in tears.

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," trying to hold back tears, she sighed and tried to figure out what to do next, "I guess I should go find my parents."

"You can't do that."

"Why not?"

"They're dead."

"Since when?"

"They killed themselves a little over a year ago when everyone assumed you were dead. I'm really sorry."

"Let me get this straight," Hawke couldn't believe what she was hearing, "I'm a warrior princess, daughter of King Feray and Queen Merclin. I used to go out with you when I was thirteen, but you left me. Two years ago I was reported missing, and when I wasn't found a year later my parents killed themselves, correct?"

"Yes. And that's just about all I know. You see, all of your friends, myself included, thought you were dead too. It was quite a shock seeing you here."

Just then the common room became quiet as a tall young lady with long, wavy brown hair and brown eyes entered the tavern. She wore a set of light green leggings, tall, pointed black boots and a red and gold tunic over a white shirt. Over her shoulder she carried a lute, but strapped to her gold leaf belt was a silver sword with a purple stone set in the very center of the hilt.

Before Hawke could say anything, the young lady turned and looked right at her. Hawke couldn't tell in the dim light, but she swore the guest looked very surprised to see her. After saying something to the tavern keeper, she headed over to the two of them.

"Hello Brandon," she said, making a quick bow before turning to Hawke, "Hawke? Is it really you?"

"Yes. Who are you?"

"Don't be silly. Surely you remember me?" She said, sitting in a chair beside the princess.

"I'm serious. I don't remember you."

"Brandon, tell me she's joking."

Brandon shook his head. "No. She really doesn't remember anything except her name. I had to tell her about her going missing."

"Oh. Well then. I'm Lilly the Warrior Bard."

"Warrior Bard?"

"Yes. I sing and dance to do magic spells, but I can fight too."

"I see…."

Brandon whispered something to Lilly. She nodded and looked at Hawke.

"We used to go riding together, remember? We liked to make cookies too. You broke an egg on the table once. Silly you, surely you remember that."

Hawke stared intently at the bard for a few minutes, then a fond smile spread across her lips.

"I remember you now. But why do I have a feeling that this is not the last introduction tonight?" She said, glancing at the door.

"Because you're an Elf, silly," Lilly said.

Hawke laughed; Lilly was always teasing her like that. Just then another person walked into the tavern. Hawke had an odd feeling that these people were travelling together.

There was something different about this young lady. She was somewhat smaller than the rest of them and a bit skinner too. She had long, wavy auburn hair and green eyes. Her skin was pale and, she had a kind, helpful look about her.

She was dressed in a flowing icy blue gown that was cut into flowing points around the bottom. Sewn into the gown were thousands of silver threads that caught the light when she moved. On her feet were a matching pair of slippers. Covering this elegant costume was a long, flowing white cloak that seemed to glow from some unknown source. After a few words to the tavern keeper, she came over to the table.

"Hello Brandon, Lilly," she said in a soft, melodic voice, "I had a little trouble getting here, but now that I'm here—" She stopped and stared opened mouthed at the confused, mysterious girl.

"Hawke?"

Hawke blinked at her in surprise. "Raishel? Thank goodness I remember you!" She said, forgetting to keep her voice down.

After telling the princess to keep her voice down, Raishel gave Hawke a bone-crushing hug. When she finally released her, Raishel looked about ready to burst into tears. "I thought-we thought-you were dead!" She cried, taking a seat beside Brandon.

"How many of you guys are there?" Hawke wanted to know.

They all exchanged glances. "Five not counting you," Lilly said.

"So there's two more of you?"

"Yes. Bobbi and Lirilisa," Brandon said, ticking them off on his long fingers.

"Lirilisa could probably tell you everything you would ever want to know about your family history, along with many other facts." Raishel said.

Brandon smiled at her. Hawke glanced at them, one eyebrow raised in amused interest.

"No more introductions tonight," the princess said, yawning widely, "I've been traveling all day. We'll talk more tomorrow, ok?"

Hawke's "new" friends nodded. After saying good night to everyone, she went to her room and climbed into bed. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.