Thanks you Lily for Beta Reading!
Chapter One – The Journey Begins
Elisa tossed her hair over her shoulder, scowling as she rode sidesaddle on her dappled mare. Her long flowing dress draped over the horse, as she shifted uncomfortably. It was hot, and riding sidesaddle was extremely uncomfortable. She made up her mind that as soon as they were out of sight from the town, she would hike up her skirt and ride properly.
Daelan, her new personal guard, rode in front of her, glancing back every now and then to check on her. He was quite handsome in his human form. Although, she had to confess that she had never seen him changed into his wolf form, because it was forbidden inside the city walls. The werewolves had sent several of their young men to work as palace and city guards in a statement of goodwill. Given that they were particularly strong with an excellent sense of smell and hearing, they offered invaluable protection.
She already knew how valuable Daelan was to the preservation of her life. She had been attacked just last week by assassins from outside the borders. Daelan had pushed her to the ground, as an onslaught of arrows rained into the wall behind where she'd been standing. Elisa was good with her throwing knifes and fair with a bow and arrow, but she knew very well that without Daelan's sensitive hearing, she would have been skewered that day. She shuddered.
"You alright, Princess?" One of the two back guards, who were also from Daelan's pack, called to her.
"Yes, I'm fine. I just need to stop for a moment." She said, sounding irritated. She pulled the mare to a stop, and then in a very unladylike display, shuffled her skirt around and threw one of her legs to the other side of her horse. She settled her skirt, and kicked her horse back into a walk, "That's better."
The two guards snickered at her from behind, until Daelan shot them a withering glance. Elisa did not bother looking back; she simply kept her head high and continued forward. Their insolence was beneath her; she didn't have to acknowledge such rude behavior.
As it was, she resented being sent on this mission. The king, her dear old Pa, had thought it best suited her safety to send her away. Since they needed better relations with the werewolf packs, she was the royal envoy sent to make everything seem peachy keen. It wasn't. Werewolves were outrageously discriminated against, feared, and mistreated whenever it was allowed. She was only eighteen, and not nearly a skilled enough ambassador for such an important mission. Yet here she was, riding off into the forest with three werewolves. She was going to their home to learn about them, and how to avoid future misunderstandings. By misunderstandings, she knew, everyone meant learn how to keep them from attacking her people.
She could answer that already, without ever having set foot into a werewolf village. She smiled to herself, imagining making her report to her father and his council. All they asked was to be treated equally by the law, to be able to be hired for any job or to marry anyone they please without fear of imprisonment. They wanted us to stop overlooking the raids on their villages and all the other mistreatment they received. That would go over well with the old bigots. Perhaps she was well suited for this diplomatic mission, anyone else might be so horribly rude that they got themselves killed.
"Daelan, will you spar with me tonight? I want to brush up on my fighting skills with everything that's been going on…" She asked after several minutes of silence. Her old guard, Michael, had taught her how to throw knives and shoot a bow and arrow. He had begun sword training with her when her father had reassigned him to her old brother and given her Daelan. It wasn't that she disliked Daelan, but she missed Michael. He had been like a father figure to her.
Daelan grunted, "Are you allowed to do that?"
She bristled, "Wouldn't you rather I know how to defend myself should it come to a fight instead of just being dead weight you have to protect? Besides, I can throw daggers better than any of the men in the palace guard. I need to practice the sword…"
He was silent for a moment. He was always so quiet, it sometimes unnerved her. "Yeah okay, I suppose I could try to teach you a few things."
Jerk, she thought, maybe I'll teach you a few things. She was now looking forward to making camp for the night. She knew he was underestimating her, probably because she was a girl and a princess. She'd show him.
They rode the rest of the way in silence. After what seemed like days, but was only hours, Daelan pulled up in a clearing that had a small stream running through it, "We will camp here tonight."
Elisa sighed and slipped out of the saddle stiffly; it had been months since she'd been on such a long ride and she winced feeling very sore in her bottom. She began tending to her own horse, even though she knew she didn't have to. Somehow, she felt like she would earn more respect from the wolves if she did things for herself. Besides, she didn't mind. She may have been a spoiled princess in their eyes, but she had never really been coddled excessively. She rarely saw her parents, and her nannies and guards had all thought that she should learn to be self-sufficient, not like her old brother Arro, the crown prince. She didn't think he had ever done a thing for himself in his entire life.