8.18.2010

Illusory Excerpt

Here is the exerpt of Illusory I promised :) I'm not so sure I like the title anymore, so if anybody has suggestions go ahead and comment.
   “A daughter of Kings proudly approaches, and how high she holds her head!”
    Madelene his bright green eyes with her cold blue ones and smiled, though with little friendliness. “Keen eyes you have, Master Prince.”
    He returned the smile then bowed his head slightly. “Nay, Lady, it is apparent by the way you carry yourself. No daughter of a farmer would walk as such.”
    Her smile widened slightly at his description and she eyed him carefully, learning what she could of him in this first meeting. He was courteous, she decided, and he certainly passed as a prince, but there was something about him that she couldn’t place her finger on. She put that thought in the back of her mind for the present, vowing to herself that she would find out what it was. “Well, Master Prince,” she said, “I suppose we should start at once.”
    He held her steady gaze with some amusement in his eyes. “Of course, Lady.”
    Madelene’s eyes narrowed minutely, then she turned back to her escorts. “Make ready to depart at once,” she commanded. There was many a “Yes, my Lady,” and “At once, my Lady,” and the horses were made ready and hers brought to her. She mounted her handsome chestnut horse then looked to see if the prince was ready. Much to her surprise and annoyance, the prince was already waiting for her at the start of the road. She turned her grimace into a smile that many would think charming, but it didn’t fool him. He grinned. “Shall we ride, Lady?” he said on top of barely controlled laughter. She did her best not to sneer at him. “We shall, Lord.”
    The spurred their horses and they shot forward, leaving their escorts and guards to follow behind them in the dust. While they rode, they did not speak. Madelene stole many glances at the strange prince riding beside her, trying to figure out what was different about him. He was not one to easily subject to another’s will, as she had found out, nor was he easily deceived. She almost resented him for it, but then remembered that this Lord was to be her husband, and thought it a good trait. He was not daunted by her, as most men were, but neither did he dislike her, which she thought odd. There was almost nobody who really liked her, except her father and her maid Rosella. Most thought her cruel and cold. She did not think herself cruel. Cold and proud was how she liked to hear herself described, but she was not cruel.
    They rode until the sun sank behind the horizon. When they could only just make out their hands in front of their faces, one of the escorts called them to a halt. They set up camp just off the road in a little grove of trees. When the tents were pitched and a roaring fire was blazing in the center of the camp, Madelene sought out Prince Maynard.
    She found him sitting by the fire on an old fallen tree whittling a block of wood. “Master Prince,” she said, coming up silently behind him. “Yes, Lady?” he said, continuing his whittling.
    “I wish to speak with you.”
    Maynard’s lips twitched upward at the corners. “Indeed, Lady. Come sit beside me and we shall talk,” he replied, patting the tree beside him. Madelene looked down at it with distaste. Maynard, sensing her hesitation, laughed silently. “It’s quite clean, Lady.”
    She glared at the back of his head for a moment then reluctantly sat herself on the log, with her head still held high. He looked up from his block of wood to see her and smiled. “Must you always hold your neck so stiff, Lady Madelene? It looks tiresome.”
    She glared at him again and he concealed a grin. When she didn’t relax he went on. “What do you wish to speak about?” he asked politely.
    Madelene glowered at him for a second longer then cleared her face of expression. “I wish to learn more of you,” she answered.
    He raised an eyebrow. “Do you really, Lady? I gathered that you already knew much of me, or guessed much.”
    She inspected his face for a moment before a small smile touched her lips. This prince didn’t miss much. “Indeed, Master Prince, there is much I have guessed about you, and it seems to be true, but I wish to know you better.”
    “Do you really?” he repeated softly.
    “I do.”
     He went back to his whittling. “Ask your questions, then,” he said, his voice back to normal.
    She paused for a moment, taken aback by his abrupt mood change. “What are you making,” she asked finally.
    The prince laughed. “That does not seem like the type of question one would ask to know someone.”
    “Well?”
    “I am making a seabird.” He held it up to the light of the fire and Madelene observed a carved wing and part of a head. She examined it closely. “You work quickly,” she observed. He shrugged. “My father is faster than me.”
    She looked closely at him now. “I didn’t know King Ebelard was a craftsman.”
    Maynard laughed. “Having a hobby such as carving does not make you a craftsman,” he said. “He carves little ships and animals to take his mind off things.”
    Madelene nodded. “My father calls councils for no reason other than to talk to take his mind off things,” she said. “It drives the noblemen quite mad.”
    He laughed again. “I would imagine so. What of your mother?” he asked.
    “My mother… I don’t know much of what my mother does. She doesn’t talk to me.”
    The prince looked at her in confusion. “Why not?”
    She looked away from the crackling flames and met his eyes. “She doesn’t like my presence,” she said. “Not many do.”
    He looked into her eyes and saw a faint sadness there. “Why would anybody not wish to be with such a lady as you?” he asked.
    She smiled slightly at his flattery, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “People whisper behind my back and think that I cannot hear them. They say I have cruel eyes, and that no good can come of a woman with cruel eyes. I’m sure they think I’ve murdered children in their beds.”
    Maynard frowned. “I do not think your eyes are cruel. You hide yourself behind a mask of coldness, am I right?”
    Madelene frowned slightly and a small crease appeared in her forehead, but she didn’t answer. Finally she looked away. Maynard stood up and dusted his trousers off. “Well Lady Madelene, I suppose I should get some sleep.”
    She nodded. “Goodnight, Prince Maynard.”
    He paused in his retreat and said, “Call me Bastion, please,”
    She smiled. “Goodnight, Bastion.”
    “Goodnight, Lady.”

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