A small feast takes place among the members of the Order of Lions to welcome and honor their newest member. As expected, As expected, John Walthorn doesn’t come. But Sir Keenan, despite of his dislike and envy towards Robert, comes and eats with his comrades-in-arms.
Time goes sof ast there with all the merry-making, talks, music, and the rare yet entertaining act of Sir Vincent dancing –like a wiggling bull – more like a joke than a performance.
The talk are mostly about Robert’s adventures as a monster hunter, including his feats in Enia’s Sanctum and his heroic act, rescuing Sir Zigurd from the gallows in Vochaux. Wine and good foods are plenty, but the knights manage to keep things civil and nice as their reputation requires.
Robert is a bit drunk when he goes out from the party room and walks towards his temporary room in the palace. He tries very hard to keep himself focus and walk straight when a voice calls, whispering.
“Robert...! Ssh! Robert!”
“Who’s there?” Robert gets half as alert as usual.
“Come behind the wall and you’ll know!”
Had it not a familiar woman’s voice, Robert would probably draw his saber and attack her that very instant.
But, as he moves behind the wall and sees the whisperer’s face, Rob’s heart beats violently like a sudden thunder. The face moves closer. The whisperer removes her cloak and there, the golden, long hair and the divinely beautiful face that belongs to the Princess of Lore, Her Royal Highness Eloise Galford. Daughter of Gerrard Galford, King George XIV of Lore and the late Queen Elena. How can Robert forget those rosy lips he kissed so lovingly years ago? How can he forget the one he loves, although she had deceived him so? The one who made Robert bleed, be accused, repeatedly resisted all temptations to fall with another woman? How can he forget the day he left Marlham Palace, with Eloise screaming his name in tears?
Actually, no matter how hard he tries to forget Eloise, it keeps coming back to him. Not Carolyn, not even the beautiful and powerful Pope Xylen could change his heart.
Or maybe, his reluctance to build a relationship with another woman is because of the bitter fact of his past, that all people who were close to him suffered tragic fates: his family, Tisha, Old Duke Walthorn, and maybe trouble has already befallen his hunting party.
Robert is snapped from his thoughts. Flabbergasted, he stutters.
“Ah? Oh, please, pardon me, Your Highness.”
Eloise frowns, “How come you still call me ‘Your Highness’ after all we’ve been through? Do you forget about us? About our vows?”
“Nay, my Princess. Never have I forgotten about that. My love for you never wavers. It even strengthened my heart to resist temptation. Your love really saved my life,” says Robert softly. “But, as you’re already know, I’m just a knight, a servant, and you are way up in high places. At this rate, I might rise to dukedom when I’m fifty or so. Our union is impossible.
The Princess snaps impatiently, “I can’t believe you said that, Robert, after all those years of our separation. After all your experience, your adventures...
...You should’ve known, that in the histories and tales of old, there are occasions when kings, queens and sovereigns wed their daughters off to common men because of their heroic deeds. You must do the same, be a hero. And the chance of doing it here, as you’re in service for the King.”
Robert, however, doesn’t show any sign of surprise as he replies, “Maybe you’re right. But as you can see, I’m no hero. I’m just a pardoned criminal, accused as the chief villain. I was lucky enough to avoid death sentence, and all people of Lore will be in great trouble for keeping the most dangerous man in Aurelia from justice’s hands. Instead of saving them as a hero, I’ll be a true villain by endangering their lives. So, the hero stuff, it won’t happen. Not in my lifetime.”
“Are you always this pessimistic?” says Eloise. “Time will turn the tides, Rob, and you’ll make changes, drastic changes if you strive to it. You’ll be a hero one day. The Hero of Lore. My hero. Certainly. It’s all about the wheel of fortune. You were in the bottom of the wheel before, but your star begins to rise now, and someday, who knows, you will reach the top of the wheel, a star in the highest sky.
Just go for that, Robert. As for me, I’ll be here for you, always.”
Robert lets out his last concern, “Let me remind you, Your Highness. You are of age now, and sooner or later you will be married to a prince. So, my time for being a hero is short. Looks like my only chance is to hunt down the real Heir of Vordac, and Rael’charon can give me a way to remove the biggest threat of Lore once and for all, thus...”
“Oh, say no more, Robert...” Saying that, with a sudden move Eloise darts close to Robert and kisses his lips. A perfect kiss, like they once made in the Royal Orchard of Marlham that night. Let love overflowing through the pure yet forbidden connection of mutual attraction. Let it flow. And flow.
Robert can’t contain himself any longer. The tremendous force of pure love broke his defenses, melting his frozen heart yet again. He embraces Eloise tighter, sinking into the pool of overflowing romance.
... Not realizing that someone is watching them from a distance. The wise yet crafty elf, Rael’charon, thinking that he watched enough, turns back and walks away, looking here and there to make sure the perimeter is secure, thinking.
Your star is rising, Robert, and your reunion with Eloise completes the whole thing. But your time, your chance is shorter than you think, Robert. Much shorter, I fear...
NOW THAT'S THE REAL END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN