Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fan Fiction Contest 2013: The Assignment

 
 
“I have an assignment for you, Sir Eanrin.”
    The blind poet kneeled by Gorm-Uisce lake at the feet of his Master, the Prince of Farthestshore.  Eanrin’s Lord had made his presence known to the cat-man inside the Hall of Red and Green and the poet had sidled his way outside to say hello. In truth, he would always come at his Master’s call. The Prince of Farthestshore was the only one who could command Eanrin.
   “What may I do for you, my Prince? Walk the very Path of Death? Aid Oeric in searching out the hidden land of Arpiar? Help a lost mortal fulfill his prophesied destiny?”
The Prince smiled. “No. But this is an important mission. It will not be easy.”
Eanrin rose to speak to his Master. “Just tell me and I will go, my Lord.”
“I would like you to guard someone for me. She is a princess. Princess Una of Parumvir.”
   The cat-man’s eyebrows rose at this. “As in Parumvir in the Near world Parumvir?”
    “The same. “
    “Is she in danger, then?”
    “She is my Beloved.”
   That one sentence alone spoke more than a whole volume of one of Imraldera’s history accounts ever could. If this Princess Una was the one the Prince’s Father had chosen for Him to marry, then she was, indeed, in danger. She was in peril simply for being the Prince’s Beloved. The Prince was the mortal Enemy of the Dragon.  He had, after all, been the one who had chained Death-in-Life to the Goldstone. Once released from the Goldstone, Death-in-Life had made it his mission to exact revenge for what the Prince did. Revenge in the form of stealing the heart of his Beloved and burning it up within her.
   “I understand entirely, my Prince.”
   “You know what you must do then. Watch over her and make sure she does not cross the Bridge. You’re vigilance is of the utmost importance in this mission.”
   “Yes, yes, guard the girl until you come charging in to save the day and don’t let her cross the Bridge. I can assure you, Sire, that even the Black Dogs won’t be able to wrest her away from my protection. And if the girl chafes under my protective guardianship, I’ll let her know in no uncertain terms that even a princess doesn’t always get her way!
   “This brings me to my next instruction. You must not speak to Princess Una.”      
   The poet –cat’s eyebrows shot up into his golden hairline. But Eanrin heard understanding in his Lord’s words. The Prince knew how hard it would be for those instructions to be carried out. Iubdan’s Chief poet’s fame in history had come from the golden words that flowed forth from his smiling mouth. If there was anything the bard loved, it was hearing the sound of his own voice. This task could be more difficult than Sir Eanrin had first imagined.
   “My Prince, if it was something I said during the course of the last assignment you gave me, I assure you I will watch my words more carefully this time.“
   “You have said nothing wrong, Eanrin. This is not a punishment.”
   “But…but… surely the girl could benefit from my lyrical genius. I am the most celebrated poet in both the Near World and the Far. She could learn from my romantic expertise as well. I am fluent in the language of love due to my undying devotion to the fair Lady Gleamdren.”
“I have no doubt that you would only wish to benefit the princess. But you must remain a cat during your time in Parumvir and assume the role of a household pet. The people of the Near World are not used to talking animals, and a talking pet would draw too much attention to beings that need not be alerted.”
With a great sigh the cat replied “As you wish, my Prince.”
   Eanrin turned to go. But before he could take a step, the Prince called him once more, His voice full of compassion. “The time has not yet come for the Dragon’s doom. But he will find the princess. In the meantime, I will do everything I can for her and everything I can to aid you. You are not alone in this, Eanrin.”
   “Thank you, my Prince.” The world fell silent and Eanrin sensed that the Prince of Farthestshore had vanished.
   This was an assignment the cat was not looking forward to. In all the centuries of his involvement with mortals, Eanrin had always come and gone as he pleased. Pop in here. Check a disturbance in a gate there. Never had he had actually been inclined to stay in that stinking, mortal realm. Not only that, but to make matters worse he had to keep silent!
   His Prince had asked, though, and so Eanrin would follow through. But that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.
    Orfhlaith, King Iubdan’s mare, came trotting from behind Fionghuala Lynn.
   “Do you need a ride then, king’s poet?” said the horse in the language of horses. Eanrin grinned. “Well I certainly wasn’t going to swim across.” Eanrin hopped on and the mare and poet started across the lake.
   “Where do your adventures take you this time?” the horse asked.
“Parumvir in the Near World. I am to guard a mortal princess. It seems I can’t keep from getting mixed up in mortal affairs. Just because I have somewhat of a soft spot for them doesn’t mean I want to spend unprecedented amounts of time in their decaying world!”
   “Mortals are fragile creatures. You should feel honored that the Prince has entrusted you with such a delicate being’s protection.”
   “I would feel more honored if the Prince would just lock the girl up in a tower somewhere she wouldn’t be found. I could check in on her now and then and everyone involved would be the happier for it. Well, perhaps the princess wouldn’t be too happy. But her Prince would eventually come running in to save the day and she would forget all about her confinement soon enough. It would save me the trouble of chasing after her all the time and it would save my Lord the trouble of worrying about whether or not she’s in danger all the time.”
   Their journey across the lake ended and Eanrin dismounted. “I can’t say when I’ll be back. So cheery-bye for now, Orflaith!”
  “Until we meet again, Sir Eanrin.”
   Iubdan’s mare watched Eanrin cross over the borders of Rudiobus. Though the poet may not be happy about it, Orflaith knew that his assignment was not only meant for the girl’s protection and shaping of her destiny. The knight would find at the end of this mission that he had been changed for the better as well.
***
   Eanrin switched to his cat form when he smelled the water that told him he was close to the border of the Between. He didn’t expect to meet anyone just yet, but better to be on the cautious side. No one really entered the Woods because of the stigma surrounding it. It was an unwritten rule anymore that to go in Goldstone Wood was to invite danger.
   Today was apparently different. Today, there were two children in the Wood. One was splashing around in the stream loud enough to wake the dead. The other one clomped down to the bridge and sat down.
Eanrin would have liked to jump out and shove the one on the bridge back to the other side of the Wood where he or she belonged. Didn’t these children know how dangerous it was to be in this part of the forest? These two were obviously ignorant of the dangers of Goldstone Wood.
   “Well, it isn’t my job to babysit these hooligans!” Right now he had to find the Princess Una. She’d be safe in her home, Oriana Palace, stitching some tapestry or deep in study most likely.
   Guarding the princess really wouldn’t be the hardest assignment the knight had ever had. Keeping an eye on her would include a lot of laying on her lap, giving a good purr to invite a nice scratch on the ear. It wasn’t the worst mission he’d ever been sent on. He’d best make his way up Goldstone Hill-
   “Is this it, Una?”  It was a young boy’s voice.
   “Does that look like flowing gold?” The voice was that of a girl a little older than the boy. Odd that she should have the same name as Eanrin’s charge…
   Oh no! The cat’s ears went back and he started twitching his fluffy tail.
    She was the Princess Una!? How did she manage to get away from her nurse? Surely they wouldn’t let her run about like a wild child. It was a good thing Eanrin had come along when he did. Who knows what kind of peril the ignorant girl would have gotten into without his watchful guardianship. Obviously the knight would have no help from the Oriana’s servants during this assignment. None of them were apparently competent enough to watch over a young, mischievous girl.
   “Is this it, Una?” the boy asked a second time. He was Una’s brother, Crown Prince Felix. Eanrin could smell the overpowering scent of a life of privilege on him.
   “What do you think?” the princess replied.
   “Well, it’s flowing!”
   “Is it gold?”
   “Bah!”
   It was obvious to Eanrin that Princess Una was only making her brother look for the Flowing Gold of Rudiobus so she could snatch a few minutes to herself. He’d never find the Flowing Gold here.
   The cat’s sharp ears could hear the scratching of a pencil on paper and the rustle of a page being turned. She was writing. Perhaps journaling.
   The cat tucked his tail close. He relaxed a bit after his initial concern that the girl was going to take it into her head to go exploring in the Wood. All she was doing was sitting on the bridge writing. Surely there could not be much harm in that? Maybe she wouldn’t do anything too foolish after all.
   At the moment Felix was tormenting his sister by splashing water on her. I feel your pain, dear girl. Eanrin hated water. In fact, it was difficult to decide whether he hated water or dogs more.
   “What are you writing?” Prince Felix asked.
   “Nothing.”  Una’s voice held all the hostility of an older sister who felt that this question was in direct violation of her privacy that was her right by order of birth.
   “Are you composing verses?” The bard’s ears pricked up. Was she an aspiring poet? Perhaps she had heard of him and wanted to write just like him, although no one could ever ascend to his genius.
   Eanrin was interrupted out of his thoughts by a “Let me see!” from young Felix. There was a moment of silence, then the flipping of pages and then the recitation began.
I ask the silent sky
Tell me why
As I look so high
Into the leaf-laced sky

You do not reply
So I-“
Hearing enough of Una’s poetry, Felix burst into a high pitched falsetto and put in his own awful rhymes.
   The poet felt sick to his stomach. What a way to give a bad name to poetry. The girl was awful!
   Eanrin again questioned what his Prince had been thinking when he had told the poet that he couldn’t talk to the princess. The Lights Above only knew she needed all the help she get with her poetry. And who better to give lyrical help than the legendary Bard Eanrin himself? Orders were orders, though, and he would just have to endure her poor attempts at writing.
   Now that Eanrin had found the princess, the only thing left to do was to procure her trust and ensure a place in the royal family where he could keep careful guard over her. But how to introduce himself? He certainly wasn’t crossing the Old Bridge. And he would never dream of setting foot in the stream when there were two children perfectly capable of picking him up and ferrying him across. He had just had to get their attention…
“I’m going to cross over.” Princess Una announced. By crossing over she could only mean one thing. Whether by way of the bridge or across the stream, Una was threatening to cross to the other side of Goldstone Wood.  The side that faerie people called the Wood Between.
   But she wasn’t really going to do it. Of course Princess Una merely wanted to shock her brother by suggesting that she was going to do the most daring thing she could think of doing. When she had had enough of her fun, she would laugh and step back onto the other, safer side of the bridge.
   Instead of retreat, though, the knight heard the clunk of Una’s heels on the bridge as she advanced closer to where he was and then stopped. “Yes. I’m going to cross over.” Princess Una seemed to be trying to convince herself as much as her brother that she really was going to do cross the bridge. But this time he could smell her determination.
   No, no, no! Foolish girl, stay where you are
   Unfortunately, this was one of the very few times Eanrin had been wrong.
   “When?” Prince Felix asked. His sister didn’t answer right away. Eanrin heard the boy get up and stand beside her.

  
The Wood beckoned them into its shade. A breeze started up toward the direction of the brother and sister, as if to entice them over.
   The Wood Between was more alive than most mortals could guess. It loved to get its branches on anyone who was stupid enough to be swayed over by its sweet, mysterious song. That was how the Wood had its fun. It pulled mortals in, and some never came out again.
   “Now. I’ll go right now.” The princess whispered.
   Una took two more steps across the wooden planks.
Without thinking the cat let out the most unattractive racket he had ever let fly from his smiling lips in his long, immortal life. The girl gasped and Eanrin heard her jump back. Good. He had startled her. Now it was time to make his entrance. The knighted cat stepped out from the Wood.
   “Ha! Felix laughed. “You were scared of a kitty cat!”
   “Was not!” Eanrin sensed Una was still recovering from her surprise. But he also smelled that she was indignant that she had let herself act so scared in front of her little brother.
   Eanrin stepped slowly and carefully  to the edge of the stream. He could have gotten there much faster had he not been trying to play the role of the helpless, blind cat.
   “What’s wrong with it?” Princess Una asked.
Eanrin made his way to the stream and pretended to sniff out the water so he could get a drink. In fact, he knew perfectly well where the water was and he didn’t want to touch it. But the act would be what mortals considered “cute”, so he endured the cold liquid for a moment and then looked up.
   “Oh, the poor thing!” Una exclaimed. “The poor little cat! Do you see that, Felix?”
   The cat smiled a smug, cattish smile. He had the girl eating from the palm of his hand.
   “Poor little cat, my foot.” Felix said with a snort. “He’s ugly as a goblin. A regular monster.” 
    Eanrin’s smug look fell from his face. I’ll have you know that I have seen goblins, young prince. I don’t look anything like them! I’m a thousand times better looking.
   “She’s blind!” He heard Una make her way to the opposite edge of the stream. He looked toward her as he knew she was looking at him. He with his senses, she with her eyes.
   “Kitty-kitty-kitty!”

   You’re even more insane than I thought you were if you think I’m going to take one step into that muddy water, girl.
 
  Eanrin started grooming his paw. She would get the idea soon enough. He was in no hurry.
   “Felix! Felix get her for me”

Now we understand each other, princess.
  
“Why?” Felix replied.
   “She needs help!”
   “No, he doesn’t.”
   “She’s blind!”
   “Not my problem.”
   “Felix.” Huffed the princess.
   If the cat had eyes he would have rolled them. All three of them knew Prince Felix would eventually fetch him. Why did the boy have to be so difficult?
   “She’s the Flowing Gold, Felix. Don’t you see? The gold fur… the flowing, um, tail?”
   Eanrin’s fur really was a fine golden color. And yes, his tail did flow, didn’t it? But alas, fate had declared that Eanrin was not Rudiobus’ Flowing Gold. That title belonged to another.
   Nonetheless Felix splashed into the water and started across the stream. Eanrin raised his head and gave a sweet “Meeaa.” This, astoundingly, did nothing to soften the boy, who picked him up rather roughly and flung him over his shoulder.
   “He’s heavy.” Felix complained.
I’ll have you know, it’s all muscle.
   The cat dug his claws into Felix’ shoulder to make sure his displeasureat about how he was being thrown around was known. You could be more careful. You are carrying a legend!
  
“The Flowing Gold to save your fair kingdom, my lady.” Felix declared when he got back to other side and plunked Eanrin into Una’s arms. The knight started purring as soon as he reached the girl he was to guard. Partly to spite Felix, partly to make sure his place as adopted pet was secure.
   “We’ll take her home” Una said as she started back up Goldstone Hill. “I’ll brush her fur and give her a good meal-“
   “He doesn’t need a good meal. He’s heavy!”
   Mind your own business, boy!  A nice brushing sounded lovely. From the way the Princess talked, Eanrin could tell he was in a for a nice, comfortable life of pampering while he was in Parumvir.
   Eanrin smiled his cattish smile again. Wouldn’t Imraldera roll her eyes if she could see how he was being doted on right now!
Imraldera! How could the knight have forgotten to stop by the Haven on his way to the bridge and tell Imraldera where he was going like he always did? She worried about him when he was gone for long periods of time.
   Now when he got back, he would get the silent treatment with some carefully thought out, but nonetheless brusque and stand offish words mixed in.
   But the cat’s smug smile returned with a new thought. Let Imraldera wonder where he’d gone! She had ran off without telling him where she was going more than once in the past. What goes around comes around, as the saying goes.
  
His fellow knight wouldn’t stay mad for long, anyway. Imraldera would say what she needed to say, he would jump onto her lap and give a good purr, she would scratch his ears and then everything would go back to the way it had been.
   As the Princess Una and her brother made their way back to Oriana Palace, Eanrin realized he would be content to stay in the palace for a while. A warm bed to sleep in, a doting charge to pamper and pet him. Yes, perhaps this assignment wouldn’t be so bad after all.
 
 

THE END

 
If you would like to vote on this or any other Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction, email me at aestengl@gmail.com with the titles of your top three picks. Winners will be announced September 1st.
 
 

9 comments:

Rebeka B. said...

Hee hee, Eanrin's inner dialogue made me laugh--I especially loved his comment about it being all muscle! I thought you captured the characters perfectly, Rebecca! Awesome insight into the beginning of "Heartless"; loved seeing it through Eanrin's 'eyes'. Great job!

Rebecca Stanford said...

Thank you soo much, Rebeka! I am so relieved you liked it. :)

Molly said...

'One was splashing around in the stream loud enough to wake the dead.'
Ha ha ha! That one really got me. :D

Hannah said...

Ooooo, adorable! I love seeing Eanrin's perspective on this story. And like Beka, I love his inner dialogue. 'All muscle'! So much fun!

Anonymous said...

That was delightful! :)

Jenn said...

Oooh, I love it! I've always wondered what Eanrin might be thinking during that scene, and I think you captured it perfectly! I love Eanrin's "cheery-bye". :P

Meredith said...

What a precious and ingenuous way to show the events of Heartless' prologue from Eanrin's perspective! Simply wonderful, and, like the others have said, "its all muscle" made me laugh out loud. Great job.

S.F. Gorske said...

Very satisfactory! I could feel Eanrin's frustration at this assignment, but was pleased that he came around at the end. This made me smile! :)

Christy Shim said...

Hehe! Eanrin is right on character in this story! Love it!