Chapter 1 of The Reluctant Princess:

"Dreams And Schemes"

The two early morning suns of Valen-Horth shone brightly on the white washed houses of Icona, a semi-nomadic kingdom on this small earth-like planet. Fifteen year old Princess Morah sat at the heavy black dining table tapping her graceful bare feet on the cool marble floor. She supervised the packing of an enormous picnic basket in celebration of her cousin Tuknah’s 19th birthday. Morah had seldom been included in any type of family outing, and she fidgeted with anticipation.

King Viduar stepped through the open archway, straightening his luxurious, Arabian style robe as he moved. The thin, dark, 5’10" man in his late 40’s, sneered at his only child with same disdain he’d always displayed.

Many years before Viduar had been so sure that his child would be the fair-haired Braven, long foretold ruler of the entire planet, that he proclaimed his only child to be heir to his throne before the child was even born. Not only was he humiliated by Morah’s gender, but he also blamed her for the pregnancy related death of her mother, Lexinara. Lexinara was a beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess of the Emeran people, the fair-skinned race of Northern Valen-Horth.

To make matters even worse, Morah had curly reddish-blonde hair and dazzling aqua colored eyes in a world where absolutely no one else shared these features. Incredible beauty that she was, Morah suffered constant ridicule for her appearance.

Morah also possessed a peculiar ability to communicate with animals. Though this ability kept her from being overwhelmed by loneliness, it also gave rise to a myth among the uneducated masses that she was a witch, a myth spitefully encouraged by her vindictive father.

So began another day of Morah’s life with the king. This time, however, she was determined to remain unscathed by his terse remarks.

He snapped at her, “Put your hair up, Morah! Nobody wants that long red mess in their food, and wear your veil. You are so backward.”

She rolled her eyes with a flippant air, “Yes, Father, whatever you say.” He slapped her.

“You use a proper tone when you talk to me, and don’t you dare cry!”

“I won’t give you the satisfaction. Since you’ve never been satisfied with anything else I’ve done, why should there be an exception, even for tears?” He hit her again.

“You’re 15. You should have been promised in marriage a year ago and have a husband by now. No one wants you!”

“Why would they? You’ve told them all that I’m crazy. Besides, if being married means being constantly insulted and abused by a man, I don’t want one.”

“You should be ashamed! You know what I think? I don’t think you’re woman enough to get a man.”

“Thank you, Father. If you’ll excuse me, I think the tailor has my cape ready.”

The heavily bearded king plopped down at the table and clenched his teeth. Viduar flicked lint from his thick embroidered robe and adjusted his jeweled turban. His deep brown eyes were filled with disgust. Just then a porter approached him. The porter bowed low; then rose to whisper in Viduar’s ear.

“Your Majesty, Phalin Dahr is here.”

Viduar sighed, “Show him in.”

The world renowned Phalin Dahr was a roving holy man and seer. Even those who did not believe in his prophetic powers were fascinated by his wisdom and demeanor. He traveled freely among all the peoples of Valen-Horth, a world approximately one-fifth the size of

Earth. Though he possessed a quiet humble nature, his long white hair and steely gray eyes made him noticeable in any crowd. He was one of the very few people who spoke all three of the major languages of Valen-Horth fluently. He secretly shared this knowledge with Morah and was her one and only two-legged friend.

Normally Phalin Dahr kept his repulsion for Viduar’s treatment of Morah to himself and spoke to the king of pleasant curiosities. Typically, he brought Viduar small, but unusual, gifts such as rare birds or plants, or semiprecious stones. Today, however, his eyes were cold and his face solemn. Viduar stared at him.

“Sit down. Why so sad a face, old man? Have you no interesting news for me?”

“It has been a long time since I’ve had a future dream, but what I have just seen before me is evidence that dream will come true.”

“A vision of the future? Well now, that is news. Tell me; what did you see?”

“I saw much that I can not share, but a stern warning I have seen and heard for you.”

Viduar’s eyes narrowed. No longer amused, he barked at his guest, “Out with it, man! I am not a child to be toyed with. Say clearly what you mean to say.” The old man straightened himself as he spoke with quiet dignity.

“The man who divides his house shall inherit the wind, and he shall be judged with the same judgment he has placed on others. If you do not change your heart, your heart will destroy you.”

“How dare you correct me! I treat all men in my family with great respect.”

“But not the heir to your throne.”

“You have no daughter. How can you begin to advise me?”

“I only tell you what I have seen; if you divide your house, you will inherit the wind.”

“Morah will never reign after me! That pathetic cow is not worthy of the privilege!”

“You gave your word.”

“I will find a way around it! If I see you again, I’ll kill you! Now get out!”

“The wind begins to stir. Look for it; for it will surely come and come quickly.”

“Get out! Get out!”

Sweat beaded on Viduar’s brow. His younger brother, Daldarr, a heavier version of himself, and his handsome nephew, Tuknah, strolled through the open archway as the old man scurried away. Tuknah grinned.

“Hey, what’s wrong with the strange little man? He looked like somebody just died.”

“Somebody will if he dares to speak to me in that tone again. He usually amuses me, but not today.”

Daldarr eyed Viduar curiously, “What did he say?”

“He thinks he can see to the future.”

Daldarr snickered, “The future, huh? I think he’s getting senile. I’m not sure you should let him visit with Morah so much. He’s probably the reason she’s so unruly.”

“Actually she’s calmer when he’s around, but I don’t know how much longer that will last.”

“Uncle, why don’t you let me marry Morah? She’ll still be queen. It’s not like you wouldn’t be keeping your word, but I’d have the real power. That’s what we all want anyway.”

“No! You’re too closely related.”

“Yes, but she’s half Emeran. Certainly that would make a difference.”

“No! Don’t ask again. You’ll have my throne soon enough. Believe me; you don’t want her in the bargain.”

“I don’t?”

“No, she’s crazy. She goes out at night and stares at the moon and stars. Your children would grow up talking to the trees.”

“Well, I just thought it would be easier than having to get rid of her some other way, but it makes no difference to me. Of course, no one can race horses like she does.”

Daldarr spoke up, “A female who races horses, now that’s a fine criteria for a wife.”

Tuknah shrugged his shoulders, “Whatever you say, but she’s still a beauty.”

“Nonsense, nephew, are you as crazy as she is?”

“No, nor as blind as the king.”

“You listen to me. If you so much as look her way, I promise you, you will never be king. Do you understand me?”

“I understand. If she displeases you so, why don’t you just let her run away? Some Phildorian is sure to find her. She won’t die. Why keep torturing yourself? Why keep hurting her?”

“You are not king yet! Do you dare to tell me what to do?”

“No, Your Majesty, not I.”

Daldarr preened the corners of his thick mustache. “Of course, if you made it easy for her to be kidnapped by marauders, you wouldn’t have to plan much, and you’d have nothing to explain. As clumsy as she is, she’s had enough grooming that some fine gentleman will be deceived by her fiery red hair.”

“I guess you’re right. I hate to even think about the Phildorians. They have superior weapons. They also have more than their share of bandits and thieves and warriors.”

“Uncle, why would they want to threaten us? We’ve been at peace with them for centuries.”

“They’re desperate for wives. Of course, if they’d agree to my terms I’d give them all the women they want.”

“What terms, brother?”

“Surrender all their lands and all their weapons for the women.”

“Would even my brother have nerve enough to suggest such a thing?”

“Yes, though I’d never give them what they want. But we’ll get what we want from them yet, even their women. Never fear.”

Time would tell.


Copyright ©2005 River Songs. All rights reserved.