“So who exactly is this Prince Valman?” Haylie asked
“Well he rules over the city of Palistare, but he is not king: his father fell ill over a decade ago and he will not relinquish complete control over his lands to his son until he has passed on. So when you meet the prince he may not be, well let’s just say, he will need a lot of convincing to send his army away to war.
“Oh well he sounds charming!” She said sarcastically, “get it? Prince Charming!”
They rode long and hard to reach Palistare by the end of the day, and by the time they arrived both horses and riders were worn out and in need of a hearty meal and a good rest. The city gates loomed over them as they entered the city; they dismounted and led the horses up the main street towards the castle of Palistare. The streets were busy with life; people bustling around going about their daily lives, Haylie took in a deep breath and took in all the scents and sounds of the busy market. On the other side of the street Haylie noticed a young girl, her long blonde hair tied back off her face in braids, was being towed along by her mother around the grocery stalls. Haylie’s mind raced home to her family and her own mother and how she would drag her around the supermarket as a young girl, she was so lost in her daydream that she Didn't’t even notice Ringmore yelling at her attempting to prise Garrano’s rains from her hands so that he could leave both their horses in the stables outside the castle.
They made their way up the winding stone steps towards the huge oak doors at the foot of the castle; the doors were covered in swirly silver patterns like enormous trees, and laid in amongst the patterns were scenes of wolves howling at the moon.
“Palistare is also known as the land of the wolf lords” Ringmore informed Haylie when he saw the slightly puzzled look on her face. Ringmore pushed the heavy doors open wide to reveal a long dark hall lit by candles and glowing fires that lined the walls, filling the hall with a thick hot air that seemed welcoming and repulsive at the same time.
They strode into the large high ceilinged room and stopped in the center of the hall, all eyes around the room glaring at them as if they were on trial. Suddenly a door near the far end of the room crashed open and through it came a shouting man who seemed very angry with a small, frail old gentleman who was running after him.
“NO Petimie. I will not allow you to graze your cattle around my city, what will my farmers’ cattle eat if yours graze on the pastures surrounding MY city” He stopped yelling abruptly when his eyes met the visitors standing in his hall, “listen to me he whispered to the old man, “you take your business else where or I will have you removed from these lands do you understand?” The old man glanced over to Haylie and Ringmore then back to the Prince.
“Your father always found a way to make room for everyone”
“Well my father is not in charge so get out now before I have you removed” there was a moment when the old man and Prince Valman stared at each other, both weighing up their options and attempting to gain the power hanging in the balance, Finally the contest was broken by the old man who turned away towards the large oak doors, but before the man left he whispered to Valman,
“They’re not your lands yet Valman, and you are not the king” at which point he stormed along the hall and out through the doors, throwing them aside with some difficulty.
“I am sorry about that outburst, I was dealing with an unwanted visitor” Valman glanced over to Haylie, “but you are most welcome here” he picked up her hand and gently kissed the top of it. “Might I enquire as to your names, please?”
“I am Ringmore rider and this is my companion Haylie”
“And what brings such distinguished people to my fine city?”
“We need your help sire” Haylie answered nervously, her cheeks had gone a rosy pink after he had kissed her hand.
“My help, of course, what can I do for you both?” He asked, his eyes still on Haylie, staring dreamily into her emerald eyes.
“Well we have been sent here to convince you to gather your full military strength, march to Esiris with us and meet the great Morgantian army in battle, have I missed anything?” Ringmore stated demandingly.
“Let me stop you there. You come into my city and I have the courtesy to listen to what you have to say, you begin by telling me what to do, and you inform me that I am to send my army to war for you. Well I am telling you now Ringmore Rider, I am not willing to send my men to die for you and your lost cause; it would be like sending pigs to the slaughter house.” There was a long tense pause before Valman decided what to say next, “you may spend the night, but tomorrow I suggest you take your troubles elsewhere, I cannot get involved with Merdocks war against the rest of Lardinia”
“But you have to help us, you’re a part of this world to aren’t you?” Haylie said panicking
“Come Hay there’s nothing to be gained here” Ringmore said with a disappointed and disgusted look on his face which he directed menacingly at Valman.
That night while the rest of the castle was sleeping, Prince Valman went to his father’s room and sat by his bedside, the king had been in his grand four poster for more than twelve years, too sick to move, too ill to rule.
“Father, father I must speak with you urgently” Valman spoke softly to his frail father.
“What is it my son?” He replied wearily, awakening from a deep and dreamless sleep.
“I was approached today by two people today”
“Yes, well what did they want?”
“For me to send our army to war father, to march to Esiris and meet the Morgantian army in battle. But I will not send our men to a battle they can not win” the king held up his withering hand and the prince stopped speaking immediately. A look of anger and disappointment spread across the frail old man's face.
“My son, since you have held power over our lands you have done nothing, nothing to enhance Palistare’s friendships with our neighboring cities and you have done nothing about the hardships of others, you turn them away if their troubles cannot be fixed with a small handful of gold”
“But father I have kept our lands peaceful and every day has gone past unchanged as the day before it” He tried to explain
“Don not interrupt me boy. You may have kept things in order but at what cost to others? Palistare is the second largest city in all of Lardinia, and as such it is our obligation to aid those who need our help otherwise we are merely cut off from the rest of our world and not a part of it, which we are. Therefore it is our duty to our people and our world to rid all of us from this nightmare that haunts our steps”
“But father we would be sending thousands of men to their deaths”
“Son do you know why you have not inherited my throne?”
“Because you are still with us?” He said bitterly
“No” he said, “No it is because you are not yet worthy” the prince was angry at this statement and he moved to leave the room but his father beckoned him to sit back down. “If you are willing to work with these people, listen to them instead of telling them what to do, do as others wish you to do, be courageous, caring and considerate, then and only then, when you have learned how to listen and cooperate with others will you have earned my love and respect, then you will be worthy” the king closed his eyes and fell back into a deep sleep. Prince Valman on the other hand did not sleep a wink that night, even though the sky outside was peaceful, two halves of his mind were at war with each other; one willing him to help these people and eager to find out if Merdock's army could be defeated, and the other half telling him that this was insane and that he would be sending thousands of his men to their doom.
The next morning the Great Palace of the Elders was silhouetted against the rising sun as Elera appeared on the south western bank of the Ahromare River. The Palace of the Elders was home to the five wisest beings in all of Lardinia: The first of which was Redles, an immortal being with the strength and size of a bear and the heart of a lion who more than made up for his lack of knowledge with his size and strength; the second whose name was Salmont, was the finest craftsman to have lived, he was a mighty senator, who could hit a man with an arrow from two miles away; Merathwart was mysterious and cunning and he had wings like an eagle, no one knew where he came from only that he was not of this world; Adlem was a winged elf, from an ancient forest that had long since been destroyed by Merdock's evil, she was fabled for her ability to disappear into thin air and reappear miles and miles away. Finally there was Halem, Halem was a great and wise old eagle owl, who, legend has it was present during the creation of Lardinia itself, and is more ancient than the mountains that tower over the lands today.
Elera strolled across the bridge connecting the palace island to the banks of the river Ahromare, and onto the island, the palace’s great white tower loomed overhead; as she entered through the huge silver gates they swung open to allow her passage through. Inside everything was light and all around her was shimmering silver and bright, Elera was met at the gates by Redles who welcomed her to his magnificent home.
“What brings Enchantress Elera to our fine palace in such a troubled time?” Redles asked
“Oh I’m sorry for intruding like this Elder Redles, but I desperately need your help” Redles lead Elera up a huge winding staircase that hung from the walls, spiraling up the centre of the white tower to the very top, where they emerged into a large round room where she was greeted by the other elders.
“I am sorry to intrude on you your majesties, but you are the five wisest beings in all the land of Lardinia and you are the keepers of the great library, I request that you lead me to a section of the library that can tell me anything about the stretch of land between Morgant and the city of Esiris” she panted. The room was silent for a moment, and then Merathwart spoke, he was standing, leaning upon a large open window ledge, looking up at the skies.
“Why should we, the finest beings in this land, help an enchantress like yourself? And who said we would any way?”
“We did” all the elders pointed out at once.
“Why do you need the information though?” Merathwart complained.
“Listen feathers, Elera has done nothing but try and fight for freedom since evil began to walk these lands so I say we do something other than sit around here discussing the troubles of others as we have done for so many years, and help her in return for what she has done for the good of Lardinia” Adlem barked at Merathwart.
“Very well, but she still hasn't’t answered my question; why do you need the information? Merathwart pointed out.
“My friends are negotiating with Palistare to gather an army greater than any witnessed on these lands for three hundred years, so what I need is strategic information on the battle ground, or anything that will give us an advantage against Merdock”
"We'll see what we can do" Adlem answered thoughtfully.