That summer Gemaeve and I served our apprenticeship under Speaker La’Turge. Our assignments wore more rigorous than technical. We would spend long hours in the depths of the library hunting rare words of the Quatane. Words almost no one knew, and for good reason. Most of them, you could do without ever knowing and be fine. This is true about a great deal of words in the common tongue. Though like the common tongue, sometimes exotic words were nice to have. It was during these summer months, in which we developed impressive vocabularies in the Quatane.
It was also this summer that I grudgingly admitted to becoming close friends with Princess Gemaeve, who had begun insisting that I just call her Gem. Most of our other friends from the Church were gone over the summer, so we spent a lot of time together.
One benefit of our friendship was going riding with her. I’d never been riding, or anywhere near a horse before that summer. At first, she would ride around me with frustrating ease. My confidence grew quickly though, and eventually I kept up to her more or less.
It was the end of the eighth month of that year and the summer was coming to a close. Gem road ahead of me on her dapple grey mare. I rode a dark brown mare. She was sure footed and quick when she wanted to be. We road through the lightly forested area around Eliar River to northwest of Ruahden.
We had plenty of guards around us, but they did a pretty good job of remaining out of the way. Gem pulled on her reins, slowing her mare, allowing me to come up next to her. We came to a stop next to a brook that was a tributary to the river. She smiled at me and dismounted. I leaned forward on my pummel as she tied her reins to a tree.
“Gem, what are you doing?”
“I’m going into the brook.”
I sighed and dismounted. As I tied my mare’s reins to a tree, Gem removed her riding boots and rolled up her riding chaps, as she strode into the brook. I sat on its grassy edge.
“Aren’t you coming in?” she asked stepping into the water and its stony floor. At its deepest point, the water came up to just below her knees which were visible.
“I don’t want to get wet.” I said lying on my back.
“You’re a baby.”
“Nah, I’m just comfortable.”
I layed like that for a while, as she splashed around in the brook. I watched the rays of the sun peek through the trees. It was hot out, but in the shade it was just cool enough for the breeze to chill the sweat on my neck.
I heard Gem come out of the water. She sat down to my left her legs sprawled out away from me. She looked at me and I opened my eyes to look at her. Her dark hair was messy from riding, and lose strands caught the light forming a halo around her head. She smiled down at me.
“Do you have any plans?”
“For after you become a Speaker.”
“Not sure, maybe I’ll become a Blood Hunter, those strong in the Quatane are often urged to do so.”
“Only fools fight with Hemomancers.”
“Hari’s a Blood Hunter.” Speaker Saving had been accurate in her claim. Hari had returned briefly but was now off Blood Hunting again.
“And look at him now, he’s getting older. He should be here working with the Church, not wasting away hunting Hemomancers.”
“What he’s doing is important. We can’t allow Hemomancers to raid our border towns and cities.”
“That might be true, but you don’t have to be the one to do it.”
I looked up at her, giving her an odd look. “Maybe I want to do it.”
“Maybe I want to protect you,” she looked at me strangely. It made me uncomfortable so I looked back up at the sky through the trees.
“I can protect myself.”
“Against a Hemomancer?”
“I’d be trained to fight them. I haven’t been trained to fight anything yet.”
“Calin told me once, that blood hunters were fools. Fools the Realm relied on for protection, but fools all the same. He wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone he loved.” I hadn’t ever met Prince Calin at that point. However, I had become well versed in his quotes. Gem was a store of them.
“Best not fall in love with me then,” I said for a laugh. I laughed, but Gemaeve didn’t. “I’m sorry, that was graceless, I was just trying to be funny.”
“You’re still an ass.”
“I’m sorry, though, you’re the one who keeps inviting me to hang out with you.”
“You’re not a total ass”
“Thanks, I guess.”
She laughed. “Have you ever kissed a girl before?”
I thought the question was odd. “Umm… yes?”
“Who?” She asked curiously.
“Do I have to answer that?”
“Why was it recently?”
“I guess. Why does it matter?”
“Do I know her?”
“I doubt it.”
“Is it just one girl?”
“I’ve only really kissed one girl.”
“What does ‘really kissed’ mean?”
“Like really kissed… not like how children kiss. Like something more than just the peck on the lips you might give your sweet heart when you’re ten.”
“Did you have a sweet heart when you were ten?”
“When I was eight, I kissed this girl who lived in the same boarding house.”
“What about this other girl, how recently is recently?”
“Like two months ago…” I said hesitantly. I really wasn’t so sure.
“Two months ago!”
“Yeah? Who was she?” Gem asked.
“Um, well…” What was her name? I cursed the rum Kevin had given me, but it at least meant my ignorance wasn’t feigned.
“You don’t remember her name?” Gem said disbelieving.
“Alright, I had some rum to, and her and some friends had met up with Kevin an I in Market District. It was just for fun…”
“Demetrius, your ride for fun, you read for fun, you play games for fun, you don’t kiss for fun!”
“Plenty of people do,” I half mumbled.
“Dmitry,” she started before hesitating and looking away. “You can’t just be satisfied with a behavior because ‘plenty of people do,’ not you. Do you not think you don’t stand out? Sure, you came from being homeless, but you were never nothing.
“There are reasons for why Andre hates you. It’s because he was supposed to be you. All the pressure he’s under to be great, and the ease in which you accomplish what he and so many others cannot.”
It was in this moment I realized what and why I felt how I did for her. I had never though of Andres’ situation before. Not like she did. I let her insight sink in. It was both complementary and insulting. It was deserved.
In this moment, I allowed myself to consider what it would be like to kiss Gem. I quickly cast the thought aside. After our years at the Church were done, our lives would likely go separate ways. She’d just become a good friend from my past. It was a sad thought, but a realistic one.
I layed there for a while enjoying the sun and Gem’s presence. She eventually layed down and rested her head on my chest and laid her left arm across my stomach. I rested my hand on her waist. For some reason, this felt natural. She was a good friend and I cared for her – no harm could come from this.
We lay like this as we let the day went by. I must have drifted asleep to account for the time that passed. If undisturbed we may have spent the entire day curled up together by the brook. Unfortunately, that came to an end.
The sound of hoof beats brought to us to awareness. I heard a rider dismount. He was laughing. “I’d expect this from Bethany, but not you Gem, looks like my baby sister is growing up!”
Gem was up and she was standing in a moment. “Caliph?”
“Don’t worry I won’t tell father or mother, or Calin or Gwen either.” I was slower to my feet than Gemaeve. But I was still up in time to be greeted by Prince Caliph Roan. He held his hand out to me and I shook it. “Caliph Roan,” he said, smiling.
“Demetrius Skagora.” Caliph’s hair was longer than it had been during the induction ceremony, though he was still bright eyed and smiling. He wore fine leather riding clothes, with a long sword on his left hip, and a dagger on his right.
“Caliph, what are you doing here?” Gem said haughtily.
“Sorry sister didn’t mean to find you with your little friend. I was just around and decided I wanted to spend time with my baby sister, you do know the guards have most likely seen everything, right?”
“They won’t say anything, and anyways we didn’t do anything.”
“If Dad or Mom asks, they might… but if that’s the case then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about.” Caliph said shrugging. The smile never left his face.
“Aren’t you supposed to be visiting with Lord Houser Aven’s daughter?” Gem asked
Caliph shrugged. “Mother may be dead set on seeing me married, but father is too concerned with other things right now to be making arrangements.”
“Mom has the rights to make the arrangements.”
“Maybe, I didn’t care for the girl though…”
“You don’t like any of the girl’s mother suggests, but you frequent those Dockside Taverns!” Gem said harshly.
“Hey, no need to yell about my personal business,” Caliph said raising his hands defensively. “Anyways, do you have spies now to?”
“No, I just pay attention,” Gem said brushing past her brother.
“By Ruah, I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.” Caliph whispered to me before he strolled back to his massive black destrier.
I made my way back to my dark brown mare untied her then climbed onto her back. Gemaeve was on her dapple-grey mare soon after me and the three of us were riding through the trees. When we reached the open field Caliph let his Destrier have its head and the powerful beast tore ahead of us. I let my mare have her’s too and I was chasing after to him with Gemaeve on my heels. Our mares did a commendable job keeping pace with the slick beast. Our guard was already forming up around us when we reached the gate. It was well into the afternoon and the six bells I heard toll confirmed it.
We road through the Market district then Low Town and up into High Town. This was strange to me passing through the city with an escort of guards and in the company of a prince and princess. Most of the populace could only guess at who we were, since we flew no banners. Those in High Town would know exactly who Gem and Caliph were. They would probably assume I was some servant, sense even Caliph’s squire would be known. There was a stable in High Town where the Nobles and Royals would leave their horses. And that’s where Gemaeve and I were headed, Prince Caliph seemed to have a different destination in mind for his beast, and kept heading towards the Palace.
We were alone again as we led our horses into the stables. Gem refused the help of the stable boys preferring to take care of her horse herself, she insisted that I learn to do the same. So it was, we ended up alone in the stables in High Town. I was in my mares stall brushing her down when Gem entered.
“Hey,” I said, putting my brush to my side. She had a curious expression on her face, it sort of unnerved me. Her eye’s seemed bigger than normal. Pools of green and blue that seemed at that moment only meant for me. She didn’t say anything, which also unnerved me as she walked closer. Eventually, her face was just below mine her breath on my chest. I didn’t know what to do so I didn’t do anything. “Gem?”
She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed me. Not long, only for an instance, then she pulled away. My lips tingled from the contact.
“I’m sorry that wasn’t a real kiss… but…” She was back to being shy, her large eyes now glanced at everything that wasn’t me.
“See you tomorrow.” She said before she tuned to leave.
“Yeah…” I said watching her go. I took me a moment to remember what it was I’d been doing, where I was, even who I was… I decided I wasn’t up to the task at this moment and left the mare in the hands of the stable boys. I made my way back to the church trying to figure out what it was that had just occurred.
Tyler W Golec