Three days later, about one third the population of Alceste, the Capital of Lore Kingdom gathers on the main road from the city wall to the palace gate. Men and women, old and young, children of all ages are standing since morning to witness this historical moment: A bonding between two great nations, Lore and Arcadia sealed with a royal marriage.
And more importantly, this marriage will mark the dawn of a new era of peace and coexistence, so the people in both nations will prosper. Never again will they be miserable by wars and trade boycotts.
However, that thought never crosses the Princess of Lore, Eloise Galford, the bride-to-be’s mind. Deep in despair, she only thinks about how her soulmate, Robert has broken her heart, letting her go for the sake of such idea. She can’t understand that the love of people can be more important than their love, can drive Robert into hitting her into two days’ unconsciousness.
She spent yesterday crying all night. She wants to hate Robert, but she can’t. She wants to commit suicide, but she changes her mind upon the fear of going to hell, a more terrible place than this world. She can’t do anything much anyway, with the Lady Knight Irene of Everglades watching her every move, every minute, all day and all night – even in the bathroom!
Now Eloise wears her wedding dress. The dress is magically elf-made, with materials from homeland Lore: the choicest white satin of perfect smoothness, studded with rare gems from the mines of Vaudevale Hills. King Jaime of Escudia also supplied some jewels with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and turquoises. All in all, the dress makes her more radiant than ever, adding to her great beauty surpassing her late mother Elena, the Emerald of Escudia.
Final touches are made on Eloise’s make-ups to conceal marks of crying under her eyes when suddenly a herald’s voice reverberates.
‘The Prince of Arcadia, Cristophe the White is approaching Alceste. All welcoming committee and wedding committee get ready! Estimated time of arrival: fifteen minutes!’
Soon hereafter, Eloise joins her father King George and her younger brother Edward in the throne hall. Even in here, she can hear crowd cheering to the Prince’s procession. Eloise looks uneasy, nervous and curious at the same time. She can’t wait to see what sort of man the Prince is.
Minute after minute she waits and at last a crier comes in, announcing Cristophe’s arrival in the palace. Eloise can’t focus on anything else. She just wants to see the groom.
Then, footsteps come. A man wearing a splendid, white full armor comes in. He’s red-haired, with a face somewhat boyish yet stunningly handsome.
The way he walks, the way he looks left and right and then straight at her... The air he bears – so divine, full of authority and power. Eloise feels safe at once, protected under the wings of an angel. Yet, the man smiles at her warmly and sincerely like he feels the same way towards her too.
‘The groom, Cristophe Jean de Galantine Deveraux, Second Prince of the Empire of Arcadia. The White Paladin, master of the Arsenal of Light, the Heir of Vadis!’
The titles and honors don’t mean much for Eloise. She just feels a strange closeness to this Cristophe. She just met him for the first time, yet she feels that she had known him for ages.
The next thing she hears is her father’s speech.
‘... Let the ceremony begin!’
In that stunning moment, Eloise forgets about Robert and her past love, completely. She now feels her feet guiding her down the throne stairs, and joins the White Prince in front of the Archbishop of Dunkeane, conductor of this holy matrimony.
She keeps her eyes fixed on Cristophe who looks back at her lovingly, holding her hands. Then he says, ‘I do.’
That voice is so sweet, melodious, and so familiar as though she has heard it a thousand times before. But then, a shout snaps her back to herself.
‘... Eloise? ELOISE?’
Eloise looks at the Archbishop and whispers, ‘Sorry, Father. Can you please repeat the oath?’
The Archbishop frowns a bit, and then regains his composure and recites, ‘Eloise Galford, do you accept this man, Cristophe Deveraux as your lawfully wedded husband, spending your lives together as one, in happiness and sadness, in good and bad, in plentiful of want, forever in Vadis’ grace until death do you part?’
Without hesitation, Eloise answers, ‘I do.’
‘Then I, with the power bestowed upon me by the Holy Church of Vadis and the Kingdom of Lore hereby declare Cristophe Deveraux of Arcadia and Eloise Galford of Lore man and wife.’
The crowd cheers, ‘Long live Prince Cristophe and Princess Eloise! Long live the King! Praises for Vadis, the Right Way, may forever he blesses Lore and Arcadia!’ and so on.
Eloise looks at the crowd. She knows some of them, the ones who took care of her since childhood. Some she knows because they work for her father, and the rest she doesn’t know at all. The knights of the Order of the Lions and several Champions of Vadis are here as well. Rael’charon, Eloise’s best friend and helper is the first to congratulate her. But, one friend is missing. Robert is not here. Of course, he’s in charge of security and will escort her to Arcadia, but he didn’t come even to congratulate her and her husband whom he said was once his disciple and partner. Eloise thinks.
He must’ve thought that his presence would distract me, blinding me from the new path that is open for me now. He knows that his path is closed and forcing into it would only kill us both. He knows when to move on and when to withdraw.
I now realize how great his love is for me, and the true meaning of love: Two ways of life tied as one, and both strive for mutual happiness and goodness to one another – a contrast to hate. If happiness can’t be reached, to avoid tragedy, before marriage one may choose to sever the ties so one won’t bring harm to his partner. To love don’t always mean to live together as one. Now I understand.
Thank you, Robert. You saved my life and made me see the light. May you find the happiness you seek for.
Eloise’s eyes stumble on Carolyn the Sorceress who is also looking around. She looks uneasy, like me... Maybe you don’t need to search very far, Robert...
‘Eloise, are you all right?’ Cristophe’s voice rings beside her. He is just finished signing the marriage contract and the peace treaty.
‘Never better,’ answers Eloise with her enchanting smile.
The prince smiles back, takes her hand and walks with her to the exit. He talks.
‘Oh, sorry, we are not properly introduced. I am Cristophe, and my friends call me Chris.’
‘I’m Eloise. May I call you Chris? In private, of course. Oh, yes. I don’t lilke people calling me Loise, Elly or anything like that.’
‘That can be arranged. So, tell me about yourself, Eloise... What do you think about living in the palace...?’
The two newly-weds keep on talking and waving to the crowd as they walk out from the palace. They even laugh, and enjoying every moment of it. As the royal carriage takes them in the parade, Chris and Eloise catch up about half-year worth of talks.
On the city gate, Robert sees the bride and groom passing by. They are so engaged in conversation that they don’t notice him joining in the back of the procession. He just rides his trusty steed Paeldagrin silently. No one but himself and Vadis knows what he actually feels.
The Airship Aurora, Acavela the red griffin, also the heroes: Kyflynn, Desmond, Agustina, Adler, Hernan, Eidos, Carolyn, Iris, Andreas and Dejan are all waiting in an open space just outside Alceste. Four knights from the Order of the Lions: Sir Eldric, Sir Alaric, Sir Wallace and Sir Harman also join the group as representatives from Lore with some troops as well.
Just then, the newly-weds arrive on the spot. Robert explains the travel plan to the contingent.
‘... From here we will fly with Aurora to Myrcalia. The best heroes, knights and soldiers will protect Prince Cristophe and Princess Eloise along the way from air raids by the Dark Forces. Your Highness, please come aboard.’
As Chris goes past Robert, he secretly whispers, ‘Glad to see you again, Sir Robert... Teacher.’
‘Glad to see you too, Your Highness. Now you’ve surpassed me. Congratulations on your marriage. Remember, as the Heir of Vadis you will bear great responsibilities from now on.’
With Grimlock in my hands, I shall hunt down the Heir of Vordac for you. This will be the last mission for me as a hunter, for I am now the soldier of Lore.’
‘Thank you for your help, teacher,’ says Chris.
Eloise is staring at Robert that moment, then she turns away to follow her husband, murmuring ‘Good bye’ under her breath.
The next thing she sees is the majestic griffin, Acavela. She is so fascinated by him that she walks towards him instead of the airship.
‘Magnificent, isn’t he? This is Acavela, my trusty steed and partner. Go on, take a bow. If he bows back, that means you and him are freinds,’ says Chris.
Eloise approaches Acavela and takes a bow. The griffin bows back at her.
‘Fancy a ride?’ Chris asks.
‘A ride? Me? On a griffin? Err... I don’t know...’
‘C’mon, it’ll be fun. Much more excitement than staying in the palace, like you said. If you want to, we’ll fly all the way to Myrcalia on griffinback.’
‘Really? Than I’m with you, Your Highness.’
Chris helps Eloise mount the griffin when Sir Harman comes and shouts, ‘Your Highness! Please board the airship! It’s not safe out there!’
Sir Robert Chandler immediately stops Sir Harman, saying,
‘Just let them be, Sir Harman. I trust Prince Cristophe will take her safely. This will help them getting along better.’
‘If you say so, Sir Robert. You know him best,’ Sir Harman answers with a bow and a salute, then walks to the airship.
Robert just stares at the two lovebirds riding a half-lion-half-bird together, up, up and away to the cloudy blue sky.
Eloise shrieks excitedly upon her first time sky-high, high-speed adventure. It terrifies her a bit, and she closes her eyes.
‘You’ll enjoy this better if you open your eyes and don’t look down,’ Chris tries to calm her down. ‘My first ride was worse, because I was in the middle of a fight versus a she-devil...’
He stops talking as Acavela takes his passengers through narrow cliffs, just above the river and zig-zagging through big, tall trees in the forests. Flying along with the birds, climbing and diving, making smart maneuvers better than a Pegasus (winged horse) can.
Indeed, it’s a dangerous ride. Chris’ firm hands keep Eloise from falling over, and he adds to her enjoyment with a lifetime worth of talks. They know more and more of each other. And their love grows minute after minute that passes.
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The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo) - *Official Author Website* *Order The Long Way Down HERE* *Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score* *Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of ...
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