Chapter Two

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She knew not when she had fallen asleep, though it felt as if she had not slept at all. Grest woke her with a kick to the ribs. It did not bother her much, for she was often greeted by the air being whisked from her lungs, leaving her wriggling for breath. She threw on her brown wool gown and moved to the kitchen to help prepare the morning meal. Selene felt like a ghost as she went about her duties. It was not until mid-morning that she noticed the frightened eyes of the other girls, and then she noticed the absence of Tira.

“Where is Tira?” She asked Marge as she scuffled by with a few loaves of bread.

Marge stopped and looked around cautiously. “She was visited by that man, the Butcher, last night, tis why old Grest is in a foul mood this morning. He is out a serving girl. Mopped her up from the floor is what I heard, though it seems near impossible to be true,” Marge said with a shrug.

She left Selene standing there, fear trembling through her body. It should have been me, she thought. It was true that she had not cared much for Tira, but she never wished for her to endure something like that. No one deserved the gracious company of the Butcher. Selene spent the rest of the morning trying to be invisible. She had yet to see Sir Veran, but it was possible he had not moved on down the long road. He had a large host riding with him and the stables were still full. So, as the day went on, she decided that the less visible she was the better.

The day moved by at a ponderous rate, making the mundane tasks seem even more so. In everything she did she found her eyes wandering, all the while praying that she did not see his face or those evil black eyes. It was nearly half-day when she finally saw him, and it felt as though her heart was going to beat out of her chest. The Butcher rode in from the east with a party of eight, deer and other smaller mammals hanging from the back of their mounts. If there was one thing the knights loved to do more than drink, it was hunt. But what prey did they enjoy the most? Selene knew that it was not always the animals of the forest.

She shrunk behind a barrel and watched as the knight dismounted and barked orders to his squires. He had removed his leather gloves and was yelling for wine when a young squire of another knight—whose name she could not remember—ran to him and immediately went to a knee. Sir Veran looked down at the squire, who was no more than a boy, and motioned for him to rise. The boy rose and began telling the Butcher a great something. It seemed most important because once he was done talking, Sir Veran bellowed towards the stable. He jumped back onto his horse and succeeded in rousing most of the village. Horses were brought, knights gathered, and the inn was vacated before Selene even knew what happened.

The stable hand, Kritt, was shoveling straw thick with manure out of the stable as she walked up. “What happened? Why did they all leave?”

Kritt looked up and smiled timidly. He had always liked her, she knew. “Something about him, the Prince, they sent out raiding parties to track him down.”

Stories of mystery and wonder filled her head at the mention of the Lost Prince. It was said that many years ago the Silent King had wed the most beautiful lady in the continent, Queen Somara of Panthos, in order to unite the two great kingdoms. Panthos was always an unruly nation of mixed religions and questionable laws. The Silent King meant for the people of the realm to believe that the marriage would bring peace, but the people knew the truth. There was thought to be no warriors more fierce than those from Panthos, and the Vint would do anything to avoid open war on Panthosi terms. The king tricked the Panthosi Queen and brought his host of thousands of men into the great city of Lilanth in the middle of the night. They slew countless thousands in the sleeping city. It took only a day for the Silent King to proclaim victory over the City of the Moon. The rest of his army had waited outside of the borders, and once the attack commenced, he raided every town in the small kingdom, killing and burning everything and everyone.

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