"I'm looking for Vyron," Mouse said as the door to the barracks opened, revealing a Knight that Mouse knew very well.
"I'm afraid he's not here, Mouse," Sir Torden laughed. "He's on patrol duty this morning."
"Can you let him know that I came to see him?" Mouse asked with a sigh, saddened that her plans for the day had been delayed, as she regarded the older man before her.
Like other older Knights, Sir Torden Grande was physically fit for his age. Mouse could see the outline of his toned body beneath his white tunic. He was rather tall, a good thing to be as he was in charge of all of the Knights in the barracks. He was a tough, hard Commander when he had to be, but he was also a sweet, gentle, caring man. His long silver hair was currently tied back to keep it out of his face, something he often did when he was fighting. He had a broad face that showed no signs of wrinkles and a grin that gave one confidence. He had a large, but not unsightly, nose that was slightly bent due to it being broken many times throughout his life. His body was as broad and as muscular as any of the younger Knights that he mentored.
"I can do that," he smiled, his bright blue eyes twinkling mischievously. "I'll let him know that his fair Lady stopped by!"
"Torden!" Mouse gasped at his comment, giving him a light, playful shove. Sir Torden was a long time friend of hers and was almost like a much, MUCH older brother, one that often liked to tease her.
He was one of the very few people who knew about her and Arya's secret trainings with weapons. He had caught them once on the Training Field, but instead of scolding them, he told them about a more secluded place that they could practice and even gave them some fighting tips. He was the one who taught Mouse about the hidden blades and how to hide them on her body.
"Why don't you go for a ride while you wait for him?" Torden suggested, crossing his arms as he leaned against the door frame. "No sense in wasting such a beautiful day waiting for someone to return when you don't even know how long they will be gone." Mouse sighed as she looked up at the bright, shining sun, blinking at the intensity of its glare.
"I think that that is the best idea I've ever head you say," she teased, looking back at him.
"Oh, so you mean that the little trick I showed you was a crappy idea?" he asked, smirking as he motioned towards her sleeves where she kept her hidden blades. She subconsciously hid her arms behind her back, uncomfortable with the fact that he could point out exactly where her blades were.
"Oh, you know what I meant!" she exclaimed, rolling her eyes.
"Do I?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with laughter.
"And on that note, I shall take my leave," she announced, turning to leave. "See ya later, Torden! Don't forget to tell Vyron!"
"I won't," his laughing voice followed her as she left. Taking up on his suggestion, Mouse quickly made her way to the Stables.
"Declan!" she called out as she entered the cool stable. An overwhelming smell of fresh hay filled her nose, making her sneeze.
"Bless you," a voice from behind her said. Mouse spun around and found the source of the voice. A young man about her own age stood in one of the stalls, brushing a tall, pure black stallion that Mouse recognized as Prince Marcus' horse, Mercural. Sweat glistened on the tall beast's body.
"The High Prince just returned from a ride," the man commented, noticing her stare. "You're lucky. You just missed him... He's not in a good mood," he explained as Mouse tilted her head questioningly at him.
"Is he ever?" she asked, making him laugh.
"No, I guess not," he smiled, coming out of the stall. "Well, what can I do for you today, Mouse?"
Mouse regarded the young man that had come to stand before her. He was tall and thin, not very muscular, but not at all weak either. His black hair had small pieces of straw stuck in it and as he brushed it out of his face, Mouse was able to see his striking, bright blue eyes. He was rather handsome, for a stable hand, but even if Mouse had been interested in him (which she was not), he was not interested in her. She knew that his heart belonged to another, to one of the young Court Ladies, a girl by the name of Arosalitta. The poor boy had fallen in love with someone way above his class.
For women, it was all about status, so there would be no way that a Court Lady would allow herself to be courted by a lowly stable boy. For men it was different as they didn't have to worry about losing their status, whereas women did. That was why her relationship with Vyron was more acceptable than any possible relationship that Declan could have with Lady Arosalitta.
But I guess that really anything is possible when it comes to love, she thought to herself before answering his question.
"I was hoping to go for a ride if Starfire was available," she told him, naming her favourite horse. The white mare was basically Mouse's own horse, as Arya had wanted to give it to her as a birthday present one year, but Lord Penton had not allowed it, stating that it was improper for a Queen to be giving her servants gifts. So instead, Mouse had been saving a little bit from each of her pays each month so that she could buy Starfire herself, making the horse officially hers. She only needed to save a little bit more until that dream became a reality.
Everyone in the Palace knew that Starfire practically was Mouse's already as she was the only one that the mare would allowed to ride her, with the exception of small children. The mare was too kind-hearted to buck the younger children off of her back, so whenever Mouse wasn't riding her she would often be used to give children rides.
"Nope, she's in her stall, just waiting to be taken out," he smiled, turning away from her with a flick of his hand, motioning for her to follow him. Her led her past many rows of stalls until he reached the far end of the stables where Starfire was kept. Mouse smiled as she looked upon "her" horse.
The mare was almost completely white, with the exception of the black stockings around her hoofs and the black mark on her forehead. The shape looked like a star that was blazing, which was why Mouse had given her the name Starfire. That, and because she could run as fast as a shooting star... well maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but Starfire could run really fast. She was one of the fastest horses in the Kingdom. Some people believed that she was from the secluded eastern Kingdom, Falia. The desert-filled Kingdom was known for its love of breeding fast horses, horse racing being the official sport of the Kingdom. That and its pure white sand from its many deserts.
The two Kingdom's did not interact much with each other as Falia was separated from its brethren Kingdoms by the tall mountains that lined all of its borders. The only way to get to the eastern Kingdom was to travel through the mountains or to travel by sea. Its dark-skinned ruler, King Vajnar, was a peaceful man and often sent gifts of peace and good fortune through his traveling merchants to Arya, a kindness which she had returned. Some people believed that Starfire had been one such gift and that she had been untamable until a young servant tried riding it and became the only one to ever be successful in doing so. And that servant had been Mouse.
The moment that she had first seen the beautiful horse, she had fallen in love with it. She had stood for days leaning against the fence as she watched countless trainers fail to tame the wild beast. Finally one day, when the trainers were taking a lunch break, she had slipped under the fence and slowly approached the animal. Its ears had twitched cautiously at her approach, taking a couple of steps back away from her, then suddenly the creature charged at her. Mouse did not move. She did not dive out of the way like the trainers all did. She just stood her ground, staring the beast straight in the eyes as it quickly drew closer and closer to her. She could hear the returning trainers yelling at her to get out of the way, but she just ignored them. Instead, all she did was raise her hand and say, "Stop."
The horse had suddenly slowed, stopping right before her outstretched hand. The creature sniffed her hand cautiously before brushing it aside with her nose and coming to stand right before Mouse. It lower its head so that they were face to face, staring her dead in the eye. But Mouse was not scared. Instead all she did was slightly tilt her head and smile.
"And what's your name, my friend?" she had asked it. The horse had blinked at her, as if she had understood and was confused, shaking its mane as if to shake off its confusion.
"May I?" she had asked again, bringing her hand up to the great beast. It had stared at her hand for a second, then looked at her again. Suddenly, it nuzzled her hand.
"What a good girl you are!" she had laughed, stroking it gently. "Such a good girl, Starfire."
The nickering of her horse brought her back to present day. She smiled as Starfire reached out to nuzzle her.
"Hello, girl!" she smiled, stroking the mark on her forehead gently. "You ready to ride?" The mare whinnied in response as if to say, "took you long enough to get here!" Mouse laughed as she quickly helped Declan saddle the horse, swinging up into it with the ease of hours of practice.
"Thanks!" she called over her shoulder as she galloped out of the stable. They quickly flew down the pathway, stopping only once as they had to wait for the guards to open the gate for them to leave, before they continued their flight. As they raced out into the open meadow behind the Palace, Mouse let Starfire take the reins, the sense of freedom filling both of them. The wind whipped through her hair as they galloped through the tall grass. Mouse felt as if they were just one creature soaring over the hills, galloping freely and taking orders from no one. This was one of her favourite feelings in the world, right next to being kissed by Vyron. She smiled as she thought about him, her happiness spreading from her body to her horse's as it nickered gleefully before breaking out into full speed.
Seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to hours. Before she knew it, the sun was high in the sky, its position, as well as her grumbling stomach, making Mouse realized that it must be noontime. She unwillingly made Starfire turn around and head back to the Palace, sad that their time together had to end for the day, but happy that she was going to see her Vyron soon.
And then I can finally tell him how I feel, she smiled as she galloped back onto the Palace grounds. As she neared the Stables, she noticed a small, anxious figure running towards her. As it drew closer, Mouse realized that it was Elsa.
"Good day, Elsa!" she called out with a smile, waving to her friend. When the girl did not reply, Mouse became worried, urging Starfire faster towards the younger girl. As she drew closer, she could see the panicked expression on the girl's face. She finally drew to a stop beside her, sliding off of her horse to land before her.
"Elsa, what's wrong?" she asked, deeply concerned, lightly touching the girl's upper arms and looking her deep in the eyes. "What happened?"
"Vyron... training field..." Elsa managed to sputter between gasps for air. It was clear that she had run hard and fast to find Mouse.
"What about him?" Mouse asked, panick rising in herself. "Is he okay?"
Elsa looked at her, her eyes wide, her breathing heavy as if she could not get enough air into her lungs. What she said next made Mouse turn around and bolt towards the Training Field: