The Jade Pendant
« Chapter 1 »
Spears of light pierced the high canopy of trees as Princess Shamone chased the most beautiful butterfly she had ever seen. It had dappled wings of violet, pink and edged with iridescent silver. Mesmerised by its delicate dance, she continued the chase until it landed on a large purple rhododendron bush.
Slowing her pace, Shamone halted a few feet away. Not wishing to disturb the butterfly’s rest, she crept closer and closer until she gazed at its magnificent beauty. To get a better look Shamone leaned forward but her shallow breath disturbed the butterfly’s peace and it danced away on the breeze.
Its sudden flight through the trees seemed chaotic yet it always avoided colliding with trees and plants, unlike Shamone who tumbled down a steep embankment and toward a river. To halt her descent Shamone grabbed a small shrub and sliding to safety she hopped onto a rock. Cursing, she dusted herself down.
“Are you okay over there?” An unfamiliar voice called out.
Across the river there was a young man collecting a pail of water. Feeling foolish at her ungainly trip down the embankment, Shamone replied, “Er, yes thank you.”
The stranger smiled. “I think you have a friend.”
Shamone cupped a hand behind her ear. “I have a what?”
Pointing, the young man replied, “On your shoulder.”
Sitting on Shamone’s shoulder was the butterfly she had chased through the forest. Laughing, she teased it onto her finger. Raising it to eye level, she said, “I think you have a sense of humour my little friend.”
The butterfly fluttered its wings then flew effortlessly onto a shallow breeze. Transfixed by its spiralling flight, Shamone waved farewell as it vanished into a ray of golden sunlight.
Turning, Shamone motioned to speak but the young man had vanished. Shaking her head, she scrambled up the embankment to head back through the forest toward her home, Greytor Castle.
Greytor Castle sat on top of an outcropping of cliffs that fell into the Bay of Hyperion. A large forest surrounded the castle and in this castle lived Princess Shamone, only daughter to Prince Tylox and Princess Opia.
Shamone’s parents were two of the most ruthless people to have ever ruled the kingdom of Hyperion. They cared only for wealth, status and nothing for the people of their land. Shamone was different, Mageena her previous tutor and guardian, together with Ilengor, Mageena’s husband, had taught Shamone to care about everyone, rich or poor.
Ilengor had now retired from his position as head soldier to Prince Tylox and was now enjoying a peaceful retirement with his wife. To Shamone’s displeasure, Mageena was no longer her tutor, she was replace by two younger tutors, a husband and wife team called Ilion and Herla. It was Sabian, Prince Tylox’s junior aide who had orchestrated Mageena’s sudden demotion. Sabian had plotted Mageena’s downfall by convincing Prince Tylox and his wife that Mageena undermined Shamone’s loyalty to them, claiming she did this by teaching Shamone that everyone in Hyperion was equal, they were not.
Sabian, in his usual scheming way, had argued that Shamone wanted to ease the suffering that the poor of her kingdom endured, courtesy of her mother and father’s greed. Traitors at Greytor Castle suffered dire consequences. There would be no mercy, not even if that traitor was their own kin.
Although Mageena had retired from her position as guardian, it did not stop Shamone from visiting Mageena for Shamone was strong willed. Shamone had vowed to keep in touch with Ilengor and Mageena because she saw them as her strongest allies. And if she had anything to do with it, they would stay that way, even if that meant going against everything that her parents believed in, money, power and position in life.
Part of Sabian’s job was to keep an eye on Shamone. He had orders to make sure she did not get into mischief or compromise her parent’s status in life; they were after all the rulers of a large kingdom. Sabian relished his job of junior aide because he saw it as a way to rise through the ranks. Sabian had set his sights on becoming Prince Tylox’s senior aide, even if it meant proving Shamone was a traitor to her own family.
Back at the forest, Shamone emerged onto a dirt track close to the perimeter of her castle. She noticed three of her father’s guards walking toward her. Ducking behind a large tree, she prayed the guards had not seen her. She had crept out of the castle grounds without permission and should now be in the library studying with her tutors. When they’d left the room to greet dinner guests, Shamone had escaped for a walk in the forest.
Peering from behind the tree again, Shamone hid in horror for the guards were almost level with her. When they stopped, Shamone peeked around the tree to see a rider galloping toward them and she cursed.
The rider was Sabian. Halting his horse, he asked, “Well, have you found her yet?”
Stepping forward, a guard replied, “No sir.”
“Well keep looking; we know she’s out here somewhere. Princess Opia wants that ring and heads will roll if she does not get it.”
Shamone looked puzzled. What ring? She didn’t have a ring that her mother wanted. Moving closer, Shamone eavesdropped in on their conversation.
Sabian dropped out of his saddle, explaining, “Our sources say she is in this area somewhere, so keep a sharp eye out.”
“Is she alone, sir?”
“No, it would appear she’s found an old ally, so retrieving the ring will be a little trickier than we thought. Oh, and one other thing, remember that her partner in crime is not the fool we last took him for,” Sabian warned.
Ring, Shamone thought, I don’t have a ring and who do they think I’ve run off with? Who is this mysterious man who is not the fool they last took him for?
When Sabian climbed back in his saddle, a guard questioned, “Sir, if we have to use force to get the ring back what should we do?”
“Use whatever means necessary, whatever it takes,” Sabian insisted. “Now keep searching and do not forget to report back in an hour if you cannot find her.”
Still puzzled, Shamone moved around the tree to get a better vantage point but in doing so, she stepped on a small branch and as the snap echoed around the forest, Sabian and his guards whirled around.
Troll dung! Shamone cursed. Desperate to escape back through the forest Shamone froze. There was no way she could do it without being seen. If she moved from the tree, then Sabian and his guards would see her. Her only chance now was to wait for them to leave, but to Shamone’s horror, she heard a guard moving toward her.
Glancing up at the lofty branches of the tree, she decided that there was nothing for it; she would have to climb into it and hope that its dense foliage would hide her. With little time to waste Shamone grabbed a branch. Hauling herself up she scrambled as high as she could before spying the guard below. Freezing on-the-spot Shamone held her breath for even the slightest movement would cause leaves to fall and if that happened, the guard would look up.
Through the mass of foliage, Shamone could see Sabian moving his horse to the edge of the forest, and as the guard circled the base of her tree Sabian demanded, “Well, have you found anything?”
The guard shook his head. “No, maybe it was just a deer.”
Heading down the dirt track, Sabian shouted, “Then stop messing around and search the forest, the ring must be found before the next full moon.”
The guard joined the others and once out of sight, Shamone climbed down from the tree. Landing in the soft bracken, she dusted herself down then headed back to the castle. More intrigued than ever, Shamone swore to find out why everyone was so eager to get their hands on this so-called ring. Question was, who had the ring? And why was it so important to retrieve it before the next full moon? If she wanted answers to her questions, then she needed to speak with Mageena.
To Shamone’s amusement, her boring day had now unearthed a few surprises. Shamone loved nothing more than getting her teeth into a new mystery, and if it spoilt Sabian’s plans of getting a promotion then all the better. Grinning, she changed her plans. Taking a detour, Shamone headed toward Mageena’s cottage. Once there, she entered via the kitchen at the back. Once in the kitchen, she called out to Mageena.
“I’m in here Your Highness,” Mageena answered.
Shamone thought it odd that Mageena referred to her as Your Highness when nor4mally she called her Shamone. Bursting into Mageena’s main living room, Shamone declared, “You will not believe it but I have an intriguing mystery for you Mageena.”
Mageena was sitting by the fire but before Shamone could blurt out the story about the ring, she noticed Sabian sitting opposite Mageena.
Scowling, Shamone asked, “What are you doing here?”
Rising to his feet, Sabian took hold of Shamone’s arm. “Waiting for you Your Highness. If I’m not mistaken you are supposed to be in the library studying are you not?”
“Yes but I find I would rather be here.”
Sabian led Shamone to the door. “Well sadly we all have places we’d rather be Your Highness.”
“Then go I’m not stopping you,” Shamone quipped.
“How generous of you Your Highness however, but I’m afraid that you are going back with me so you can do more important things like say, oh I don’t know, catch up on your studies, perhaps.”
“I’d rather stay here and catch up on gossip,” Shamone said as she tried to tug her arm free.
Stepping outside, Sabian mocked, “Well so far Your Highness the gossips say that if you do not pay attention to your royal duties, which include your studies, you will be locked in your room permanently.”
Annoyed, Shamone objected, “What, so now I can’t even go for a walk without being treated like a prisoner?”
“You can go for as many walks as you like Your Highness, just not outside the castle grounds and not without an escort. And before you accuse me of conspiring against you, just remember that I do not make the rules, I enforce them.”
Shamone glared at Sabian.
Unfortunately for Shamone, Sabian had not finished with his lecture. “Might I suggest that the next time you get the sudden urge to wander off, you don’t. Instead, take an escort with you to be on the safe side.”
“But that’s just the point. I don’t want to take an escort with me. What’s the fun in that?” Sabian motioned to speak but frustrated, Shamone threw her arms in the air, arguing, “I don’t know why you all don’t just lock me up it amounts to the same thing.”
Unmoved by Shamone’s outburst, he nudged her down the path, saying, “If only life was that simple Your Highness I could retire a happy man.”
From the roadside Shamone waved Mageena a farewell and Mageena waved back.
Handing Shamone the reins to her horse, Sabian suggested, “Let’s go Your Highness, I have more important things to do and playing cat and mouse with you isn’t one of them.”
Shamone made no reply; she would just wait for an opportunity to sneak back and speak to Mageena later. Maybe next time she would meet her in the City of Greytor. At least in the city she could blend into the crowds and hide from Sabian and his meddling guards.
“So, what is this intriguing mystery of yours?” Sabian asked.
“Nothing you’d be interested in.”
Sabian raised a dark brow. “Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?”
Shamone realised she had been lucky to notice Sabian before blurting out information about the ring. It always annoyed Sabian if she ignored his questions, so she did just that.
Determined to know what this mystery of Shamone’s was all about, Sabian prompted, “You didn’t answer my question.”
“I know,” Shamone replied as they neared the gates.
“Why not? Do you have something to hide?”
Shamone gave Sabian a knowing smile, she did it to annoy him. “Yes, but if I tell you, you might not like it.”
“Well, the intriguing mystery is how on earth you have stayed a junior aide to my father? Shouldn’t you have risen through the ranks by now? Oh, I keep forgetting, your incompetence keeps getting in the way of your promotions.”
Shamone was right, he did not like her answer. “Well when I do rise through the ranks, you’ll have the pleasure of knowing it was due to your overconfidence. You see sooner or later I’ll prove to your parents that deep down you’re just a traitor to them. You’ll slip up, you always do, and when that day comes I’ll be there to take advantage.”
Shamone gave Sabian an ice-cold stare. “Take care with your threats Sabian. You overestimate your influence with my parents.”
Sabian gave Shamone a knowing look. “As do you Your Highness.”
“Well right now I have more influence than you do.”
Dropping out of his saddle, Sabian warned, “For now, but all things change.”
Casting a sideways glance at Sabian, Shamone rebuffed, “Maybe you’re right, maybe the next change will be you losing your job to someone more competent.”
“Do you think your bravado and empty threats bother me Your Highness?”
Leading her horse into the stables, Shamone replied, “Well if they don’t they should for I mean every word I say. And it’s not bravado but a promise when I say I will see you sacked as my father’s junior aide. You see, I refuse to hide my distaste for your company.”
Securing his horse in a stall, Sabian quizzed, “And what about Herla and Ilion? It’s no secret you have a distaste for their company. Do your threats include them as well?”
“Now that would be telling.”
“Well don’t hold back Your Highness, you never have in the past.”
Shamone stepped closer to Sabian. “A little word of warning Sabian. Someone once warned me to take great care when devising a battle strategy. One should never engage in multiple fights as it does not pay to divide your attentions. One enemy, one battle, only then should you move your defences to the next confrontation.”
“No wonder Ilengor retired, he takes longer to explain his battle strategies than he does using them in a fight.” Sabian mocked. He knew if he insulted Ilengor, Shamone would become defensive.
Shamone knew what Sabian was doing. “For your information it wasn’t Ilengor who gave me the advice, it was my father.”
Trying a second goad, Sabian mocked, “But then your father can afford to make long-winded speeches, he’s not the one on the battlefield. That’s why he employs people like Ilengor. I mean why die yourself when there is an eager fool waiting to do it on your behalf.”
“Then I guess Ilengor’s not the eager fool you take him for,” Shamone countered. “He survived all of my father’s campaigns unscathed did he not?”
“Easy to achieve when you sit on a hilltop safe from the main battle.”
“That’s rich coming from a junior aide who goes nowhere without guards to fight his battles for him.”
“That’s what guards are for,” Sabian countered. “And you know full well I never backed down from a fight. In fact I quite relish a battle, be it with words or a sword it makes no difference.”
Shamone’s temper was rising. Interrupting her, Sabian continued, “At least I don’t wear a disguise to sneak up on my enemies, Your Highness. At least I confront my enemies face to face. How else will they know who took the trouble to defeat them?”
“Well that’s not entirely true is it Sabian? If I recall you stabbed my guardian in the back while I was out on a royal errand,” Shamone goaded.
“Still bearing a grudge over that are we?” Sabian said with a smug smile. “Well, some would argue that it was a well-executed plan, it worked did it not?”
“Yes, but then the price of winning a battle can often bring consequences not of the victors liking. You see lust for power does not always bring rewards, sometimes it becomes a curse,” Shamone warned.
“Still mulling on your petty thirst for revenge Your Highness? Still, what else have you got to do in your rich spoilt little world?”
“Oh I have plenty to think about Sabian, and not only that but with my connections and power I’m sure I’ll use my time wisely.”
Exiting the stables, Sabian rebuffed, “Then we’re not so different after all Your Highness.”
Shamone followed Sabian. “That’s where you’re wrong Sabian.”
Sabian grinned. “About what Your Highness, my lust for power or your lust for revenge?”
Speeding up, Shamone strolled past him. “If we’re not so different from you’d already know the answer to that?” Veering away, Shamone headed back to her room leaving Sabian to curse under his breath.
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