I stepped outside onto the porch, breathing deeply, trying to inhale the many odours that floated on the dry air: horse, hay, and the crisp smell of the morning.
It had been raining throughout the night, and I could see that the grass had already turned greener, reacting to the rain. The fields sparkled as dew drops on the grass reflected the sunlight, shimmering. Even though I lived in outback New South Wales, we were surprisingly lucky with our rainfall. Despite Australia being in the midst of a decade long drought, we were lucky to not be a part of it.
Couldn't say the same for the neighbours though, weirdly enough.
I spotted dad in the training circle, trotting a filly around using a lunging rein. I headed over to him, admiring the powerful strides of the young horse. It was trotting out well, confidently, and only pricked her ears as I drew closer.
"She going well?" I asked, leaning on the steel railing, making sure to do nothing to startle the young horse.
"She's doing alright, seeing how young she is. She should be ready to put a saddle on soon." He waved the lunging whip in front of the horse, making calming noises until she slowed down to a brisk walk. He glanced over to me. "Jim's taken the day off; do you mind moving some cattle?"
Jim was one of dad's assistants. Dad ran a massive Hereford cattle and Thoroughbred horse stud, and so had numerous men and women on the farm to help out.
His back was turned to me as I answered.
"Why not someone else?"
Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind at all. It got me out of sitting around in the house all day, watching bad TV show marathons and moaning about not having a job yet. But dad didn't normally ask me to do something like this by myself.
"Do you want me to get someone else to do it?" I shook my head quickly, then replied with a negative when I realised he couldn't see me. "No? Exactly. I need you to move the ones from the Back Paddock to the Eucalypt Paddock. I'd head out now before it gets too hot. I heard on the weather forecast that it's going to be a stinker today. Oh, I almost forgot – good morning Sera."
I grinned. "Morning to you too. See you in a while."
I headed back into the house to put on jeans and grab a cap before making my way to my horse, Gypsy's, paddock. The mare's show name was Freckled Martyr's Little Gypsy, so I'm sure you understand why I just call her Gypsy. She was a beautiful dapple-grey mare with a calm temperament. She was no young thing at eighteen years old, but she wasn't all that old either.
After saddling her up I whistled for the two Kelpies, Jip and Pete. Jip was brown while Pete was black, but other than the colour they were identical. Same height, same face, same markings… you get the point.
The Back Paddock was, naturally, at the very back of the property. Thus the name. It usually took over an hour to get there on horseback, and only twenty minutes on the quad bike. Even though it would've been much quicker to just get the quad out, I preferred riding Gypsy. Plus, I hadn't ridden her in a while and she was getting fat from doing nothing but eating the lush grass all day.
The Eucalypt Paddock was somewhat closer to the house, and named after the massive eucalyptus tree that grew smack bang in the middle of the field.
I nudged Gypsy into a steady trot, headed out into the laneway, and started on the long ride.
Sweat was steadily running down my back by the time I entered the Back Paddock. My Akubra shaded my face from the sun and I had a long-sleeved flannel on, but I could feel the fair skin on my hands burning – I really needed to remember sun cream.
The cows, being the lovely and kind animals they are, were spread out and lounging under a few trees at the back of the paddock. I groaned and decided to take a quick break before starting the rounding up.
On the bright side, they were better than sheep. If even one of them decided to turn and run, the rest would soon follow. They were extremely stupid. Can you tell I can't stand the animal? I was just happy I had the two dogs with me to help.
Springing off Gypsy, I led her over to the river for a quick drink, before tying the reins up onto the saddle and letting her munch on the grass freely. I knew she wouldn't wander far, even if she were startled.
Kneeling next to the river, I splashed water on my face, groaning in pleasure as the cool water hit my heated face. I sprinkled some more water on my neck and wrists, to cool myself down further. I let myself roll back on my heels until I was sitting on my bottom on the river rocks, and enjoyed the relief the shade of the trees brought.
"Ah, the simple pleasures of life," I murmured to myself, stretching my arms over my head and then propping myself up on them. I closed my eyes as I began to cool down.
After about five minutes, I felt the little bit of sun on my face become shadow, and I opened my eyes, expecting to see a cloud covering the sky.
Instead of seeing a cloud, it was a silhouette of a person.
Fear rushed through me as instinct kicked in – I screamed and jumped away, falling into the river. Luckily, it was shallow, but I'd still managed to wet my whole lower body. I sprung upright, ignoring the water filling my boots as I held my hands up in front of me.
"Who the hell are you, you big… rude… person?" was the first thing that I blurted out.
Standing in front of me was a man. He looked meticulously groomed in jeans and a t-shirt, so he couldn't be some homeless weirdo that had somehow managed to wander out to the middle of nowhere. But seriously, there were no creases at all. Did he spend two hours a day ironing one set of clothes to perfection?
He also couldn't be one of the neighbours, because I would recognise him. We didn't have many neighbours – only two – and I knew basically all their relatives by sight. I couldn't have just forgotten his face because… seriously, how could you miss someone that perfect? He had jet-black hair that fell into golden eyes—
"Since when did people have yellow eyes?" I screeched, my mind reeling from shock. But hell yeah he was stunning. No, beautiful would be more fitting a word. But he seemed so indifferent to everything around him, like there was a great mask barring his inner emotions.
And how had he managed to creep up on me without me noticing him?
"You are on private property! You are trespassing! I'm going to call the police!"
Well, I would've if my satellite phone and UHF weren't in the saddlebags, tied to Gypsy's saddle.
He did nothing but hold out a hand to me, and I could see his weird eyes dancing with amusement. Hold up, wasn't his face just a mask? And why wasn't he leaving?
Right. He wanted to help me out of the river. Like hell I was going to accept that hand! I gingerly hopped to the shore, ignoring the shaking of my hands and always keeping an eye on him. I started backing away from him, ringing out my shirt as much as possible and not even bothering with my jeans. He still hadn't spoken a word.
"Who. Are. You? Do. You. Understand. English?" I asked slowly.
There was a pause, then,
"I am known as Aeron, Crown Prince of Leninus, Heir Apparent to the Sapphire Throne, Lord Mage of the Magic Order, and Captain of the Diamond Contingent of the Army," he pronounced. He had a deep and husky voice, and I swear he said all that in one sentence.
And then he bowed his head regally.
I just stared at him as he watched me, waiting for my reaction. When I did nothing but gape at him, he continued.
"You, Seraphina Blake, will be my Queen. We will return to Leninus immediately. Come." He gestured to me.
I burst out laughing, holding my stomach while gales of laughter spilt from my mouth. I didn't even notice the fact that he somehow knew my name.
"Are you—retarded? I think—you've—read too—too many fantasy books! Man! You—are one whacked—up individ—ual! Do you really—think I'd—believe that? Are you—high?" I stammered out between peals of laughter.
Once I'd marginally recovered, I listened to his answer.
"What is retarded and whacked? I don't understand," he said, looking at me curiously. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm just dandy, thanks Ronnie. It's you I'm concerned about!"
"Who is Ronnie? And what is dandy?" he asked, pronouncing the word carefully and with slight disdain.
"Wow, are you a tourist?" That would explain a lot, like the uptight attitude, lack of an accent, and not understanding anything. Not to mention the pristine clothes. Nothing stays that clean on a farm out here. "Dandy is Aussie slang for great. Now seriously. Have you escaped from a mental hospital? I didn't know there was one near."
Well, the closest big town was less than an hour away, and that was Gloucester. Last I heard, Gloucester hadn't built any whack shacks.
"Slang? No future wife of mine will talk slang. You will desist this instant," he said tightly. His face was like marble, perfect and cold.
My eyes instantly narrowed, and I felt anger and frustration building up inside me. I don't consider myself a very temperamental person; I think I wasted a majority of my anger when I was little. I was a pretty angry child, but at almost twenty-one, I was much more level headed.
"Future wife of yours?" I sputtered incredulously. "I'm not yours! Where do you get off thinking you can speak to me like this? I don't even know you! Furthermore, I can speak as much slang as I want!" His eyes narrowed as I began spouting off random bits of slang that I didn't really know the meaning of myself. "Yakka! G'day! Fair dinkum! Howzat! She'll be right!"
He began glaring at me outright now. I just stuck my chin out and smirked, before walking up to him and putting my finger in his face.
"You better get off my property."
I moved to walk past him to get on Gypsy and high-tail it out of there, but his hand shot out and grabbed my arm.
"What makes you doubt me?" he asked quietly, his eyes intense.
I shrugged off his hand, but stayed where I was. His intense eyes made me fidget with my hands, shifting from foot to foot.
Finally, I huffed and decided to entertain this madman.
"I have never heard of Leneny—"
"Whatever. I have never heard of it, or anything else that you stated so grandly," I said dryly. I leant in close, as if disclosing a secret to him. I whispered, "And, sorry to say, there's no such thing as magic."
"Yes there is. Leninus is in a completely different world; another plane if you like."
"Prove it." I smirked again. This guy had no chance.
He held his hand out, palm upturned. I glanced at his face and saw his eyes go completely white. I blinked and looked again, but they were that lovely amber colour again. I shook my head. Must've been a trick of the light. I shifted my gaze to his hand, and stumbled back a step, almost ending up in the river once again.
Cupped in his hand was what looked like a globe of fire. It didn't touch his palm, just hovered there. As I stared at it, it began to change colours, turning every colour of the rainbow. I gawked at it.
It was absolutely mesmerising, and I found my hand rising of its own accord to touch it.
Abruptly, the globe disappeared. I continued ogling at his hand.
"Do you believe me now?"
His self-satisfied voice shook me out of my stupor and I glared at him.
"No! That was just a trick of light! Magicians nowadays can do anything. Let me have a look at your hand."
I didn't wait for his consent, just grabbed his hand and studied it, looking for something, anything. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but I was sure it wasn't real.
"I don't know how you did it, but I know that magic isn't real." Despite the firmness of my words, my voice quavered and shivers ran down my spine.
"Fine. Ask me to do anything using magic, and I will do it."
I thought long and hard. What could I make him do that would show he didn't have magic? What had I always wanted to see or do?
"Make me fly," I pronounced proudly. Ha! I'd like to see him get out of this one. "And not on a plane, buddy," I added.
He just smiled, his golden eyes lighting up.
Before I knew it, he was hugging me. What the hell? This guy's definitely psy—
My feet left the ground.
A/N: (23/06/2012) So I've starting editing this to make it read a lot better. If you don't understand anything that's happening/the slang, feel free to ask! I'm generally very prompt with replies. I would really appreciate it if you didn't mind giving me some feedback about it – if you like the changes or not, and what else you think could still be improved upon. Thanks!
IMPORTANT: As I edit, I'm changing Eyrie to Vae, Warlord to Mage, and putting Aeron's POV into third person.
Filly: young female horse.
Hereford: breed of cow that is red and white.
Thoroughbred: breed of horse, usually used in races.
Kelpie: Breed of dog.
Dapple grey: a colour of horse, usually white and grey with black legs. As in, the horse goes from white, to grey, to black. Very pretty but hard to describe.
G'day: basically hello
Also, if anyone has read Key To The Kingdom, one of my other stories, you'll know that HQ is set in the same world as KTTK: Leninus. This story is like a sequel to it, though you don't need to read KTTK to understand HQ.
Both worlds, Leninus and Earth, have progressed a lot, though not in the same way. Earth has become a lot more modernized (from the 14th century to the 21st). and Leninus has become more advanced and discovered new enemies.