Follow The Heart
« Chapter 1 »
When the blade finally struck, it nicked the back of Shamone’s hand. “You are not paying attention Your Highness,” Ilengor scolded with a wag of his finger.
Shamone licked away a drop of blood. “That’s because I’m tired.”
“Oh I’m sorry Your Highness, how remiss of me to forget that when your enemy sees you are tiring he will of course wait until you have recovered before continuing the battle.”
Shamone pulled a face as Ilengor swung his sword down. Blocking, Shamone punctuated her words as she countered his attack. “I know-but then this-is not-a real-fight.”
Kicking Shamone’s legs from under her, Ilengor pressed his sword to her throat. “No, but if it were you would now be dead Your Highness.”
“That was unfair,” Shamone complained. “You distracted me.”
“So you think your enemy will fight honourably and play by the rules do you?” Before Shamone could answer, Ilengor shook his head. Helping her to her feet, he lectured, “Your Highness, you must pick your fights wisely. Have an awareness of your surroundings and above all, expect the unexpected.”
“But I can do this,” Shamone insisted. “I just need more time to practise that’s all.”
Ilengor smiled. “Ah finally, realisation dawns.”
“You’re making fun of me.”
“Not at all Your Highness, now, I think that’s enough practise for one evening.”
Escorting Shamone back down Snake Mountain, Ilengor halted. “I think you should head back to the castle before anyone notices that you are missing. Now scram Your Highness.”
Bowing to Ilengor, Shamone returned her swords to him for safekeeping. “Oh, thank Mageena for the food and tell her that I will try and visit tomorrow.”
“Go!” Ilengor shouted. “Be gone.”
Laughing, Shamone ran down the road and back home to Greytor Castle.
Princess Shamone was the only child of Princess Opia and Prince Tylox. She was young yet wise for her sixteen years. She was of slim build and stood five foot seven with a mane of rich long black hair that fell about her shoulders like strands of midnight silk. Shamone, like her parents, always walked with an air of confidence because her position in life demanded it so. For the most part Shamone appeared regal, but she did have a mischievous side, one that often surfaced at inopportune moments. She had a dry sense of humour and laughed the most when arrogant people got their comeuppance. She loved nothing more than to see the high and mighty take a tumble from grace.
Although Shamone was a princess, she loved nothing more than mixing with the people of her kingdom. To her, everyone was equal. She would oftentimes mercilessly tease anyone she believed to be stuffy, arrogant or boorish.
Now it had to be said that Shamone’s parents did not entirely approve of their daughter’s lapse in royal etiquette, but Shamone did not care. Life was too short and she aimed to live it as she saw fit, even if that brought her into conflict with her parents and other dignitaries at her castle.
Only her personal tutor and guardian, a graceful and elegant lady of mature age called Mageena tempered Shamone’s antics. Shamone was very fond of her tutor and considered her one of her closest friends. It was Mageena who encouraged someone to have an empathy for the poor of her kingdom, since not everyone was as blessed as she was to live in a castle surrounded by servants.
In fact, Mageena was the only person Shamone took any notice of for she was constantly intrigued by Mageena’s wisdom and knowledge.
Shamone would often visit Mageena at her cottage a short distance from her castle, where she would spend hours listening to her tales of the people she knew and how they always strived to overcome adversity with courage and honour. Mageena would teach Shamone that in your darkest hour you must fight for what you truly believe in. Mageena had also instilled in Shamone how lucky she was to have the power to help others, and so over the years Shamone had grown very fond of Mageena and Mageena’s husband Ilengor.
Mageena’s husband was a retired officer of Prince Tylox’s army. Ilengor had spent many years teaching young soldiers the art of ‘Shenshu.’ Shenshu was an old Hyperion word meaning, ‘The Art of Two Swords.’
The art of Shenshu fascinated Shamone and she would often watch Ilengor practising on top of Snake Mountain, a short distance from their cottage. It was while watching Ilengor one day that Shamone noted that Shenshu looked more like a dance than the art of fighting, and when Ilengor was not looking she would often mimic his moves.
Eventually there came a day when Shamone plucked up enough courage to ask Ilengor to teach her Shenshu.
At first Ilengor had flatly refused explaining that her father and mother would be mortified if they found out she could wield a sword. However, Shamone had other ideas and in a desperate bid to talk Ilengor around, she had enlisted Mageena to help convince Ilengor to change his mind.
Shamone had argued that in such troubled times it was only wise to have such a skill at her disposal. To Shamone’s surprise, Mageena agreed and it wasn’t long before they both persuaded Ilengor to become Shamone’s teacher and so most nights, Shamone would escape to Mageena’s cottage to learn the art of two swords in secret. Shamone soon found out however that Ilengor was a hard taskmaster and that at times the art of Shenshu required more concentration than she initially possessed, nevertheless Shamone was determined to learn and learn well.
When Shamone ran up to the main doors of the castle, Sabian, one of her father’s younger personal aides, greeted her. Giving him little if no recognition, she made her way quickly up the flight of steps.
Unwilling to be ignored, Sabian deliberately blocked her path.
Shamone glared up at Sabian. “I’m in no mood for your petty quips quibbles or ramblings Sabian now move or I’ll move you myself.”
Unaffected by her threats, Sabian mocked, “Now you’ve gone and hurt my feelings Your Highness.”
“Good,” Shamone huffed as she tried to step around him.
Halting Shamone again, Sabian noticed the small cut on the back of her hand. Curious, he asked, “How did you come by your injury Your Highness?”
She had misjudged an attack from Ilengor’s sword. Frowning, she lied, “It’s just a nick, done while picking roses in the castle gardens.”
“Punishment for seeking to steal their blossom some might say,” Sabian mocked and pointing to her empty hands, he observed, “And I see that these roses are invisible, how interesting.”
It was Sabian’s sarcasm that Shamone hated the most. Idiot, fool. “If they were invisible Sabian how could I pick them?”
Sabian was more than a match for Shamone’s sharp tongue and giving her a knowing look, he replied, “My question exactly.”
“If you must know I gave them to Mageena, as a present.”
Sabian knew that Mageena had a garden full of roses. There was no reason to take her a bunch from the castle gardens and with that in mind, he rebuffed, “Interesting. Well, it has not gone unnoticed that you are spending more time at your tutor’s cottage these days than at home. Is there a specific reason for this?”
“Yes, I take her roses,” Shamone snapped back with equal sarcasm. Tired of being questioned, she insisted, “And if there was a specific reason for my visits to Mageena you’d be the last person I’d tell.”
Refusing to move, Sabian warned, “Then I’ll just assume that you are up to no good. Why else would you be so fascinated with the castle grounds so late in the evening?”
Shamone was eager to escape Sabian’s company before he pried into her visit any deeper. “I live here Sabian. Why else do you think I’d be out walking in my own grounds?”
“Answering a question with a question, I’ve always thought that a very good way of avoiding the topic at hand.”
Annoyed by Sabian’s refusal to step aside, Shamone snarled, “Exactly what job title did my father bestow on you Sabian?”
With an arrogant air, Sabian peered down his nose. “You know very well that I am one of your father’s personal aides and as such it is my job to look out for his best interests. Even if that means keeping a close eye on his family members.”
“So in simple terms you are one of my father’s spies?” Shamone retaliated, and not waiting for a reply, she added, “That being the case I’ll be sure to inform him that your time needs filling with more pressing issues.”
Shamone had finally managed to ruffle Sabian’s feathers. “My job Your Highness requires that I know what’s going on in this castle at all times as well you know.”
“So in other words you have no job title above royal eavesdropper?”
“Call it what you will but I’m here to do a job, and until such a time as that changes I will continue to aid your father in whatever capacity is required of me.”
“Well presently I require you to move,” Shamone said as she brushed him aside and entered the castle.
“I will find out what you are up to Your Highness, be assured of that,” Sabian called after her.
Shamone halted in mid-stride. “Do not threaten me Sabian or it will be the last thing you do before I have you thrown from this castle.”
“A task you will find harder than you think. Especially as I have important information that will win your father’s favour.” Turning, Sabian then disappeared into the castle grounds.
Sabian vowed that now, more than ever, he was determined to find out why Shamone was visiting her tutor so much. It would be an interesting challenge, a battle of wits that he was more than capable of pursuing.
Prince Tylox had a reliable spy in Sabian. His uncle, the Magistrate of Trudoan, had put him forward for the job as junior aide. He was young wily and extremely ambitious. Shamone didn’t know how but he always seemed to land on his feet when it came to keeping on the right side of her father. Moreover, as a dutiful spy, Sabian was about to inform Prince Tylox that Shamone was acquiring a sympathy for the poor of his kingdom, and for this, he would place the blame firmly at her tutor Mageena’s feet.
Standing before a large log fire in his council chambers, Prince Tylox questioned why he thought Shamone’s long-term tutor was a bad influence on her.
With a secret smile, Sabian turn to face Prince Tylox. “I have reason to believe Sire that Mageena is filling your daughter’s head with fancy ideas about helping the poor of your kingdom.”
Frowning, Prince Tylox paced before the fire. “In what capacity?”
Seeing his chance to stir up trouble, Sabian conspired, “Well Sire, I’ve noticed that Shamone has been visiting her tutor most evenings and sometimes until late at night. It’s rumoured that she’s been mixing with, well, let’s just say less fortunate people than herself. If that wasn’t bad enough Sire, I’ve heard that at certain times of the day Mageena has been secretly showing Shamone around the city. Mageena also encourages Her Highness to wear the disguise of a vagabond so as not to be recognised.”
“What!” Prince Tylox bellowed as his fist banged on the table before him. “Are you telling me that my daughter, a princess no less, has been out in the city dressed as a vagabond?”
Sabian nodded in mock sympathy. “It pains me to tell you this Sire for I know what lengths you and your wife have gone to to make a lady out of her, but yes, I fear these rumours are true.”
Glaring across the table prince, Tylox questioned, “And how long has this been going on?”
“I think it’s only a recent hobby Sire but if you wish I could have them followed,” Sabian offered. “At least then you would be sure of the facts Sire.”
Now visibly annoyed at Sabian’s findings, Prince Tylox demanded, “Is there anything else I should know about?”
Fighting a victory smile, Sabian replied, “Nothing I can yet prove Sire but should that change you will be the first to know.”
“Then do it. Have them followed and if your findings prove right, heads will roll!”
Thanks to Sabian, Prince Tylox was now in a less than agreeable mood and as such, he left the council chambers cursing as an impending headache pounded in his temples.
There was now a glint in Sabian’s eye. He couldn’t believe how easy it had been to set Shamone up for a fall. Mageena, he mused, was just another pawn in his plan to destroy Shamone’s world. Leaving the council chambers, he plotted her fall from grace.
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