It was a long half-day’s ride across the plains and solid stone before they reached the main palace of Dragon’s Bane. A structure of solid stone, covered in a light blanket of snow, shimmering like the sun. The busy town around it was full of locals and traders, and people just going about their lives. Children playing around, young adults helping their families move stuff about and the adults rushing around to keep their houses warm.
Unlike Clerincile, Dragon’s Bane received all of the colder air in the north where the main palace was, and thus received blankets of snow early in the season like this. The kingdom to the north, Ti’lon, just called The Northern Kingdom, received all the rest of the snow.
Near the edge of the palace, Zalair held his forehead. He could feel his spell of fatigue setting in, his vision starting to blur barely, and a fever coming to his head.
“Shit, not now…”
“We’re here, sire,” came the coachmen.
Zalair nodded, opening the carriage door. The guard, dressed in full armor with a spear held strictly vertically, bowed to him, “This way, please.”
“Sure…” Zalair said, looking down at his bare feet then at the snow. Gritting his teeth, he followed the guard up the large stairs, long horizontally and short vertically.
The guard led Zalair in through the wooden gates and down the cool smooth stone halls to the throne room. He slammed the end of his spear down upon entering, “His Royal Highness, Prince Zalair Kazuki.”
The King and Queen stood up. King Chevis was dressed in a warm kingly outfit of reds and white, and his accompanying queen – his only queen – was dressed in a matching outfit. Upon their heads sat very simple golden crowns, unlike in Clerincile, where King Yoh chooses not to wear his crown so his wives can’t bicker over who’ll wear the one to match.
“Welcome, Zalair~ I trust it was a smooth ride,” King Chevis asked, walking down and hugging the visiting prince in a bear-hug.
“Ooof!” Zalair gasped, “Y-Yes, quite.” Zalair pushed away to take a breath. He’d forgotten King Chevis was the kind to treat old friends like old friends, with bear-hugs, slaps on the back and a loud laugh.
There came that loud laugh, “Why, boy! Your feet are stark red! You mustn’t like the snow, eh?”
Zalair looked down to his toes, slightly fidgeting them, “Oh, no.” He looked back up with a smile, “It’s fine. Snow isn’t all that bad.”
“What’s a splendid outlook!” the Queen giggled. “So, please tell us the conditions of your visit.”
“I’m here to meet the heir…” Zalair said with a nod, “Da… Father said that you wanted me to marry your heir? I’d rather meet her first before I decide if that’s all right.”
Chevis laughed that loud laugh again, patting Zalair’s back hard twice. “Well, well! Lookie at that, Marianne! We’re wedding off our heir to this here find stubborn man with a golden heart!”
Zalair smiled a bit, not understanding.
The Queen nodded with him, “Yes, yes!”
“A far much better outlook than that spoiled brat from the north!” Chevis laughed, wrapped Zalair’s neck in a hug. He waved to a servant with his free hand, “You there, where’s the heir?”
“In the West Gardens I believe,” the servant nodded.
“Well, there you go, Zalair.”
“Sir.” Said another servant as he came in.
“What? Oh, yes, yes.” Chevis sniffed, “The meeting.” He turned to Zalair, “Pardon us, Zalair. We have to attend an important council. I trust you remember your way around? It’s only been thirteen years!” Then he let out another burly laugh.
Zalair nodded with him, “Yes, thank you, sir.”
“Such a formal kid!” Chevis laughed again, ruffling Zalair’s black hair as he let go. Then he and his queen went with the servant down the halls.
Zalair stared after them, “Well, he sure hasn’t changed…” Zalair pushed his hair back into place before heading down the opposite hall, heading toward the West Gardens.
As he came closer to the enclosed courtyard, he could make out a young man’s training shouts. Zalair peeked his head in, seeing a young man dressed in a thin layer of soldier’s clothing and a few pieces of armor, swinging about his sword at a wooden training dummy. The dummy, and the gardens, were covered in a thin layer of white snow.
The man’s black hair with rough spikes coming from everywhere, and his tan skin, made him look more like a soldier than royalty. But Zalair could tell who he was. He’d never mistake those deep ocean blue eyes housed in that face for anyone else.
The man let out a shout, swinging his sword down from above at the dummy and finished on his knees, the blade against the grass.
Zalair clapped, leaning against the stone entry, “Nice form. Though you were a bit heavy on your right.”
The man panted, looking at the prince, “Who are you?” He stood up, looking ready to fight.
Zalair chuckled, “Tell me your name, and I’ll tell you mine.”
“What?” The man glared, “You interfere in my training in my house and demand my name first? As the intruder, you should state your name first!”
“Ah, but as the host, shouldn’t you state your name?”
That his the man’s nerve of patience into ribbons. “Die!” And he came at Zalair.