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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, '11, 1:18 am
Chapter 4

It surprised me, how long it took for me to regain even a fraction of my former composure. To be perfectly honest, there was very little of myself to regain as I was not much to begin with; a collection of lost memories, hidden under a layer of derelict, ragged clothes.

What could it be in this woman that had affected me so? She was beautiful, that much left no doubt in me, but mere beauty would surely not be enough to spark such a keen interest. Was it so hard to admit how this encounter had affected me to a point where I had a hard time focusing?

I forced myself to remember each moment; to analyze all that had come to pass. The intriguing interaction with the young woman; the red haired intruder who had come to gather her away from me without so much as an acknowledgement of my own existence. More than anything, I focused on burning her image into my mind, so no memory loss would ever rob me of it.

I no longer believed that remaining here was my ideal course of action. I had to leave this place if I hoped to find out more and see her again. Then again, she had come here of her own will, perhaps she would do so again.

Obviously, staying here would not help me find out more about myself. Many questions remained but in retrospect, my short conversation with her did provide me with interesting trails to explore.

A newborn, she had said. Such a different perception, it made so much sense.

I heard steps once more. This time, my senses were keen and I observed, more focused than a predator. The steps were completely different. Metallic boots, the military stride of a man, there was not a shadow of a doubt.

The steps were coming my way; that much was certain. Soon, I saw the silhouette of a man, moving around a corner, coming toward me with determination. I instinctively stood up; I felt I had to face this new encounter on an equal level.

The man coming my way wore regal attire that immediately betrayed his importance. He was younger than myself by a few years but his eyes spoke of no innocence. What surprised me however, was how much he resembled this young woman who had sent me into this stream of introspection; he even wore the same gem over his forehead.

To this one fact, my surprise was obvious; I did not even try to hide it. He stopped and observed me for a few seconds. He soon addressed me, his voice was commanding but it did not show the smallest trace of arrogance. “Who are you?”

“I have no idea.” My voice was neutral but I immediately regretted my words. He surely would accept them as a challenge.

“Do not be coy with me, I bear you no ill will but I shall neither have my patience nor my authority taken so lightly.” Carefully chosen words; not a threat, not an order but their meaning was undeniable.

“My apologies if I sound disrespectful. I am grateful for the treatment I have so far received and I do take responsibility for the trouble I have caused at the inn. However, I must stand by my answer. I have no memories prior to these last few days where I woke up quite alone and lost in a cave, not three days away from this city.” A more calculated answer, there were no insults in my words yet, I made sure I did not wholly recognize his authority either.

His stance relaxed a bit. It is only then I noted how his right hand had been readied upon his sheathed sword. The man was discrete, ready and skilled. His right hand was now resting, empty. “My name is Adan, I am the crown prince of the kingdom of Landen.”

I simply nodded. This was a formal introduction and I had none to give in return, words would have been pointless.

“Your coming to this dungeon, albeit against your will I’m sure, has already created quite a few many waves.”

I feigned incomprehension and simply raised an eyebrow. Truly, I had no hard time deciphering his meaning.

“My twin sister, she is a very special woman.” His voice began to carefully explain.

“Indeed.” I practically interrupted him. I silently cursed my lack of self control, but this last phrase meant a whole new realm of possibilities for me and I felt thrilled to explore them.

Adan eyed me dubiously, no doubt seeking to pierce the fog obscuring my motives. “It usually takes weeks, sometimes months before she finally decides to answer when a new maid talks to her. She is very hard to reach yet; she spoke to you, a complete stranger.”

I silently acknowledged his words. I understood his concern, his sister’s behavior was not quite usual. It was therefore well advised for him to visit me and inquire. No doubt the red haired woman had reported what she heard. What had a woman of the royal family been doing in a dungeon? Many questions but none as important as to the simple curiosity I felt to know more about her. “I cannot explain this.” I slowly began. “She spent many long seconds observing me and… as I was about to … well, I do not even remember what I wanted to tell her exactly but, she spoke first. She chose this glimpse of a moment, right before I did.” I realized I was telling him much more than he needed to know, but the most basic of logic made me feel that if I wanted information, I also had to provide some in return.

“Are you telling me my sister spoke to you even before you did?” There was surprise in his voice. It was not anger; that much I knew. It sounded more like he was intrigued, dismayed perhaps. I made my choice; there was no point in keeping to myself in front of her own brother.

“That she did. She asked me peculiar questions and her interpretation of my answers was surprising, to say the least. It was as if she saw beyond my meaning. Your sister looks amazingly perceptive, Adan.”

As he weighted my words, I saw some meaning of incertitude on his face. “I am not used to having strangers, prisoners no less, address me by my name.”

“I am afraid it is how you introduced yourself. What would you prefer then?” My question was honest. There was no mockery in my voice.

“You might call me ‘my lord’ or simply ‘sire’. His words were a plain answer. His thoughts however, were clearly elsewhere.

“But you are not my lord.” I ventured slowly. “I am not of this country, for I am of none.” Once again I regretted my words but I could not help but feel how they were honest and heartfelt.

He did the last thing I would have expected and smiled wryly. “An honest man in a dungeon; who would have thought? There is a measure of straightforwardness in you I quite appreciate, though I would be grateful if you showed effort into respecting protocol. Very well then, you may call me by Lord Adan. This way, I allow you to keep a measure of dignity but proper manners are nonetheless kept. Though this leaves me at a disadvantage for I know not your own name, but nor do you from what you tell me. This is the least of our concern now. Your place is not in here, there is someone I wish you to meet. You are to come with me, I will tell you more as we go.”

He reached for a small control panel near the gate and pressed a few switches. The locking mechanism immediately released and, through the ceiling, the door retracted itself.

“You cannot be seen walking around in this attire; especially if you are to do so in my company. Let us get you some appropriate garments.” He motioned for me to follow him.

“I find this sudden trust most peculiar. Was I not there because I was guilty of a crime?” I chose not to stay behind but to walk beside him. He made no sign that it was bothering him.

“A common criminal tried to rob you in plain sight. About a dozen of my citizens testified to the guards, you genuinely tried to avoid battle. Until we could establish this for certain, it was best to keep you in here. You might have been a tad over the board in your self defense, but the day I bear ill will toward someone who chastises a thief has yet to come; especially if the thief doubles as a murdered. You did well in defending yourself and no innocents were injured. Think of this no more”

He allowed his words to sink in. So I was not considered a criminal after all. He soon went on. “I would have had the guards release you sooner or later, but as I said before, I want you to meet someone. If my sister so candidly talked to you, it means she trusts you to some extent and I have yet to see her judgment fail. I shall trust you as well, for now. Be certain to remember the circumstances in which we met if you wish to keep this trust.”

“As you wish.” I followed him to the stairs leading away from the dungeon. He was polite, careful and magnanimous but clearly not dupe. The man certainly deserved a proper measure of respect. One thing for certain: I was very much beginning to like this prince.
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