The most gracious nobles, lords, and honorable knights in the land flitted about the banquet halls. King Destin himself was in attendance. Soft moonlight shone on Elvaan ladies in elegant gowns. The entire scene seemed oddly surreal, like fragments of a romantic dream.
A man and a young lady had managed to separate themselves from this grandiose event and were relaxing under a giant tree near the mansion. The man was fit and handsome, with hair of silver, and the lady was young and beautiful, with silky hair tied up in a regal manner. Her evening dress dipped low in the back, showing off fair skin that radiated with an almost ethereal glow.
A bard's music could be heard drifting out from the banquet.
The maiden's reply to her escort came in a whisper.
"I understand why you brought me here. This tree, the full moon... It is just as it was that night... A long time has passed since I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance."
"Indeed, nearly ten years have passed."
After this brief exchange, the two returned to sit among the waiting nobles.
While such a scene may be fairly commonplace among the upper class at a royal banquet, this dashing Elvaan is not just any noble. He is Prince Trion, 24 years of age, and said to be the finest Royal Knight in San d'Oria. Furthermore, he is the most likely candidate to ascend the throne. A reliable eyewitness account of his brief meeting under the tree marked the first time the public was able to glimpse a part of Prince Trion's true private life.
The question is: Who was the lady with the prince? To which noble house does she belong?
The only clue I had to go on as a reporter was the fact that Prince Trion met the woman over ten years ago. However, there were several unmarried Elvaan ladies at the banquet. I knew that narrowing my information down would not be an easy task.
I was able to sneak into the Chateau d'Oraguille under the guise of collecting information for a story about the Sunbreeze Festival. As casually as possible, I asked several people near the prince if they knew about a woman he had met around ten years ago.
Rahal S Lebrart, Lord Knight of the Realm (age 31)
Rahal S Lebrart should know a great deal about Sir Trion, having acted as his retainer during the prince's childhood. This was how the interview went:
"Just what exactly are you trying to discover? And why would you think that I know anything about the prince? Even if I knew something, I would never betray his confidence!"
Unfortunately, all I was able to get out of him were curt replies and a few additional harrumphs.
Princess Claidie I D'Oraguille (age 19)
Next, I made my way to Prince Trion's younger sister, Princess Claidie, realizing she would be a prime interview candidate for information regarding childhood friends.
"You wish to inquire about my brother's childhood friend from ten years ago? Singling out one girl is a challenge indeed. From the time we were children, dear Trion and I have attended numerous balls and danced with countless nobles. Pardon? How is my brother's dancing, you ask? I am afraid I am not at liberty to comment. I would not dream of damaging my dear brother's reputation."
I think the message was clear: Prince Trion's talents lie specifically in the "dance" of battle.
Monarlais Borel M Halver (age 51)
It is the job of the king's right-hand man, Monarlais Halver, to search for a suitable partner for Prince Trion. He must know of any women in the prince's life.
"Actually, the prince was acquainted with my sister during childhood, just ten--or was it twenty?--years ago. You should speak to my sister! However, first you must make an appointment through me. I am sure that she will give you adequate material for your research. Oh, I suppose I shall go call her. Wait here a moment."
Of course, I wasn't going to sit around all day waiting.
Stepping out into the castle hallway, I happened upon Prince Pieuje. He was closer to Prince Trion than anyone else during childhood, so if anyone knew anything about the mysterious lady, it had to be Prince Pieuje.
"It is not difficult to guess your true intent in visiting the chateau. I suppose it does not really matter, though."
Prince Pieuje flashed me a knowing grin and said, "Please follow me, but do not make a sound." He led me to the Temple Knights' training grounds. I could hear the sound of clanging metal from just outside the door.
Prince Pieuje slowly opened the door. Prince Trion and a white-armored knight were fighting a duel under the light of the moon.
I could barely catch my breath as I watched the two wage a fierce battle. The knight was more than a match for the prince's masterful swordsmanship, deflecting his counterattacks with stunning grace. I felt as if I were watching the final round of a fencing tournament.
Then Prince Trion received a scathing blow to his left arm, and both combatants put down their weapons.
"That was a most excellent duel, Sir Trion."
The voice coming from inside that helmet was certainly that of a woman.
She removed her helmet, spilling luxurious red hair onto her white armor. She was none other than Curilla (age 25), general of the Temple Knights and the most renowned sword master in the kingdom.
So that was it. The ferocity of the battle suddenly made perfect sense. Prince Trion and Curilla competed in a tournament six years ago for the title of master swordsman.
The beautiful young lady at the banquet...was Curilla!
Pieuje gently closed the door as the shocking reality hit me.
"I suppose it is better that the truth be known than to have false information circulating. Your 'Sunbreeze Festival' interviews are over, my friend. We look forward to reading your tabloid gossip."
I later discovered that in his early years, Prince Trion was far too skilled with the sword to practice with the sons of nobles his age, and he often chose to duel instead with partners up to ten years older. However, physical differences such as height presented problems. When Curilla's incredible talent was discovered, she was invited to the castle for practice sessions, regardless of her lack of nobility.
I still must investigate all the enticing details about their experiences together, but even the simple fact that the two grew up as close friends is big news.
Perhaps someday their beautiful friendship will blossom into something more. Then again, maybe it already has…
And if that were to happen, they would certainly make the most spectacular couple in the history of San d'Oria.