26 January 2013 @ 10:52 pm
*NaNo Project* Part the Ninth - Section the Fifth - Cornwall - 960AD  
He was checking his horse's tack as I'm made a worse bow than usual. I certainly hadn't expected to run into him today. Did he know of my misson?

"Geoffrey," he nodded at me. "You're ready to go, I hope?"

I didn't understand at first, then realised the Prince was preparing to come with me!

Could he do that? The offer hadn't even been made to the Duke much less accepted.Would his presence not make everything quite awkward? After all, how exactly did one refuse a prince to his face?

Maybe that was the plan.

Of course, I was not able to ask Prince Uther any of these questions that were racing through my head. Although, I had to wonder if the Crown Prince knew about all this.

In my surprise at seeing the Prince I had completely forgotten about Gaius so almost jumped a mile when he came up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder.

When I realised it was him, I took his arm and moved a few feet away from Prince Uther before whispering. "He's coming too!"

Gaius gave a quick peek over my shoulder, pursing his lips in thought. "Is he now? That's interesting."

"Interesting?" I hissed back, quite perturbed. "I barely know how to converse with him during lessons! How am I supposed to act when I'm in his company for hours and hours?"

Gaius gave me an apologetic shrug. "I have no idea, but look, I'm sure it won't be that bad."

And I was sure Gaius had no idea what he was talking about, but by now Prince Uther had checked his tack to his sstisifaction and I was in no position to dally.

"You're still coming with me," I hissed as a groom headed our way.

"I'm what?" Gaius blinked and stared at me as if I were talking in a foreign language.

"You know more about dealing with royalty than I do, I need to follow your lead. Besides Linus will want those herbs."

Any objects Gaius might have had went out the window with that reminder and I requested two horses from the groom.

Prince Uther looked more than a little impatient by the time the groom returned with the two steads and Gaius and I hurriedly mounted our saddles - I ended up nearly falling off - so as not to keep him waiting any longer.

With that done, I looked at Gaius, who looked back at me, I had no idea what to do now.

Finally, Prince Uther spoke. "Well, let's go, Cornwall won't come to us, you know." And with that he turned his horse and began a slow trot down the main thoroughfare of the lower town to the main gates.

Grabbing our reins, Gaius and I followed and I wondered what, exactly, was in store for today.

The first problem presented itself swiftly, Prince Uther was an accomplished rider, Gaius was not and I was even less so. Soon the young prince had galloped nearly half a mile ahead of us.

When he finally noticed we weren't keeping up he came to a stop and wheeled his horse around to face us.

"Is that as fast as you can go?" He demanded, staring at us in disbelief.

"We're not what you would call good riders, Sire," Gaius answered for the both of us.

Prince Uther heaved a great sigh of annoyance as if this was the worst news possible, I wondered briefly if he was going to strike off on his own, but to my surprise he slowed down to our pace instead.

He was still young - a fact the King and his own father seemed to overlook - so I guessed that he'd rather not be alone.

As Gaius had promised the road west was very well tended and I eventually felt comfortable enough to run my horse at a brisk trot.

Gaius was also correct in statement that the town wasn't all that far away, in fact we reached it in around three quarters of an hour. My plan had been to take a break, have some lunch and so on, but the prince was clearly impatient and I certainly didn't have to guts to ask him if we might stopfor any length of time.

We did stop to water our horses and attend to any personal matters which at least gave Gaius enough time to pull me aside.

"Good luck, you'll certainly need it," he whispered, just to ensure we wouldn't be overheard. I can't say his comment filled me with confidence. "But Prince Uther likes you well enough so I'd say you're in a better position than most."

Considering I really didn't know what the position would be in any case, I remained concerned.

"The prince isn't much of a talker anyway, just stay in the saddle and he'll more than likely be happy."

I groaned and rubbed my forehead. "I can't believe I have to do this."
Gaius gave me a reassuring pat on the back. "Life works in mysterious ways, but I have faith you'll make it through."

I managed a small smile, thanked him for his words and noticing that the prince had all ready remounted his horse and was waiting

I remounted my horse as well, and with one last look over my shoulder at Gaius who gave a wave, we headed off along the road, and soon enough we were on our way.

The route was not directly west, as the road went around the White Mountains, the more adventerous could of course hazard the route, but I certainly wasn’t game. I think Prince Uther might have been, but he didn’t even bring up the point to me, which was a great relief, because I wouldn’t have been able to refuse.

I suppose there was one thing to be thankful for, the fact that it was summer, the weather was positively beautiful, the sun shining from a sky with only a few puffy white clouds to be seen here and there. There was a slight breeze in the air that prevented things from becoming too hot.

A few hours after leaving Ldgershall we broke for lunch, which was quite a relief because by that time my stomach was grumbling. We did not stop for long because Prince Uther seemed impatient to keep going, so while I would have been happy for a bit of a break, almost as soon as I’d finished chewing we were back on our mounts and on our way.

As Gaius had reminded me Prince Uther was not the talkative sort and I was more than happy to take in my surroundings and just enjoy it.

But eventually the prince spoke.

“Do you think Duke Dionotus will accept me as a novice?”

I looked over at him in some surprise, the prince had never actually asked my opinion before. I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond, I was so used to the idea of royalty never being questioned, I never thought I’d be asked a question by one of them.

I suppose in such a situation one had to answer honestly, so I did. “I have no idea, Sire, I don’t know Duke Dionotus.”

Prince Uther frowned. “You were the scribe at the meeting, you saw him more than I did, you must know something about his character.”

“Uh...” I hedged. “He negoiates well,” I finally remarked. “But really, your Highness, I spent all of that time concentrating on recording all the conversation. So I can’t give any description of character, I’m afraid.”

The prince frowned...it was more of a pout, really, it was almost amusing, but I made certain not to laugh, because...I wasn’t a complete fool.

“I hope he does,” Prince Uther said, almost more to himself than to me. “I want to train to be a knight, not be stuck in a dungeon or sent to Mora.”

That was the first I heard of him being sent away to Mora, a small isle kingdom that was just off the south coast of Camelot. I didn’t know that much about it, having had no reason to read about it. I imagined though it would be far more prefable than the dungeon, although surely he wouldn’t actually be kept there indefinitely.

We lapsed into silence once more and I wondered where exactly we were going to stop for the night. I had a rough map with me and I took it out to give it a look, frowning at the lack of any sort of roadside inn that seemed anywhere near where we were.

“You won’t find any inns to sleep in,” Prince Uther commented. “At least not until we get closer to Wyke.”

I squinted a bit and finally located Wyke, which was nestled just on the other side of the White Mountains. I quickly realised that at our rather sedate pace we wouldn’t be anywhere near there before the sun went down.

“What are we supposed to do then?” The thought worried me so much, I actually forgot myself.

Prince Uther was not offended, thankfully, instead he simply gave a shrug. “Sleep in the woods, of course.

“In the woods?” I repeated. On the ground? In the open air? With nothing decent to sleep on? I wouldn’t say I was a delicate flower, but I hadn’t slept in the woods since that horrible night after Maxim got lost forever in the Labrinyth of Gedref. It was an experience I certainly didn’t want to repeat, but I guess there wasn’t any choice though.

Eventually the sun dipped below the horizon and with it being a new moon there was very little light to see by and we came to a stop.

We really seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and I wondered how safe it was to sleep out here.

“There’s not...a lot of bandits out here, is there?” I looked over my shoulder at the slight sound of what seemed to be a twig snapping underfoot.

Uther was tying his horse to a tree and he looked over his shoulder at me and once again shrugged. “I’ve never been this far from Camelot Castle before.”

“You haven’t?” I was surprised, but I supposed the royal family didn’t really need to travel. But I would have thought that a royal tour around the kingdom would have been the sort of thing, and failing that the hunting expeditions would have taken him further than twenty miles from the castle. But apparently not.

“I don’t think they’d bother with us, we’re not anyone important after all,” the prince continued, a wry smile on his face.

Well, I suppose he had a point, it was not as if Prince Uther had his face on any coins or would even have been describedby visitors to the castle.

I was rather hungry, but unfortunately I hadn’t considered that there wouldn’t be an inn to stay in so I hadn’t saved any of my lunch. The purse of coins were heavy and for all that they were quite useless.

The Prince had wandered off while I was bemoaning my lack of food and I had a tense moment wondeirng where he was and if he had been kidnapped before realising he had gone to a nearby creek to fetch water for his horse. I realised that I too should tend to my horse, he had carried me all day without throwing me off and deserved some rest.

Once my horse was watered and following the prince’s lead fed him some grass and patted him down until he was neighing rather contently.

I wasn’t so content, however, aside from the food situation, which I could deal with, I suppose, I hadn’t brought a blanket not thinking that I’d have to sleep on the ground. However looking at my horse I realised there was another possibility, the blanket underneath the saddle. It would have been a brilliant idea, if not for one drawback, mainly that I had no idea how to take off and put a saddle on. I briefly wondered if the prince might have an idea, but that would have required him to do work...for me. So I quickly dismissed that idea.

I suppose we hadn’t picked that bad a spot, on a grassy spot that seemed relatively soft, but then I hadn’t spent a whole night sleeping on it at that point.

Prince Uther though had all ready settled own the ground and seemed to have drifted off to sleep all ready.

I sighed and went to my horse taking down my stachel and giving it an experimental squeeze decided it would make a very good pillow indeed.

So with high hopes I’d get a decent night’s sleep, I lay down upon the grass, positioned the stachel under my head and closed my eyes, hoping for the best...

I was quite tired after some eight hours in the saddle, so I actually fell asleep very quickly, unfortunately it did not last through the night. It couldn't have been more than a couple of hours before I suddenly snapped awake.

The world was quiet...very quiet, too quiet. I sat up quickly and looked around, my heart seemed to stop in my chest when I realised Prince Uther was no longer sleeping nearby. I scrambled to my feet and for the first time in my life actually wished I had a weapon.

It was more than likely that whoever took the prince was long gone by now, but all the same I looked around, squinting in the dim starlight before finally noticing a rather hefty branch on the ground, which I wasted no time in grabbing up.

I looked around, trying to take in my surroundings and wondering what exactly a warrior would do in this situation.

I noticed both our horses, still feathered and apparently asleep. I moved carefully across the grass to my one and took a look at his saddle, not only was the scroll still there so was the coin punch, which struck me as more than a little odd.

I was just about to decide whether I should mount my horse and head back to Camelot with news of the Prince's disappearance when there was the sound of twigs crunching underfoot.

With a shout I whirled around, brandishing my branch for all I was worth.

There was a flash of steel and then -

"Geoffrey! What the Hell are you doing?"

I dropped my stick in shock, Prince Uther! He hadn't been taken after all.

"I thought bandits had got you!"

"Bandits?" He looked at my gobsmacked. "I told you before we're not of any interest to them. Besides, I'm armed."

And so he was, a long and quite fururious looking dagger was pointed in my direction, at least until he resheathed it.

"You're too jumpy, you know that?" he shook his head at me as if lecturing a small child.

Feeling defensive I remarked. "I woke up and you were nowhere to be seen, what else was I supposed to think?"

"That I'd gone to take a piss? Do you really think bandits would have just taken me and not you? They'd have at least slit your throat."

I was more than a little surprised to hear the prince use such language, but I suppose that's what spending all of ones time with knights did to a child.

Prince Uther grinned and shook his head. "Don't worry about it, we'll be staying in an inn tomorrow night I can assure you."

Well, that was a relief, although it seemed a very long time away.

"Let's get back to sleep, it'll be dawn in a few hours and we need to get an early start."

Did we? Well, I couldn't really challenge the prince, so I resigned myself to the fact. I took my coin purse from the saddle and tucked it into my trousers however, since leaving it unprotected struck me as a rather stupid idea.

Resting my head back on my satchel, I sighed, closed my eyes and tried to forget the scare I'd just had.
 
 
Current Mood: nervous