The notice posts long before the sun rises. And as the townspeople awake with the day, the buzz around the impending event hangs heavy in the air. Whispers between young girls in the streets. Bets between the tailor and the shoemaker. Young boys practicing in hopes that one day, it will be their chance.
In the background of the village, the goliath castle rises into the heavens, casting an impenetrable shadow on the surrounding hills. For the first time since the King ascended the throne, a woman in the Royal Line has come of age.
"Father!" The child shouts, pointing towards the notice. "Read it to me!"
The father clears his throat and begins to recite the text.
"Notice! King Carlisle of Denali will host a Grand Tournament, in honor of his dear niece, Lady Tanya, tomorrow at noon. The winner of the joust, and henceforth, the tournament, shall receive Lady Tanya's hand in marriage."
The child's eyes widen, drifting far off into a world of swordfights, horses, and royalty. "One day, I'm going to be a knight!"
The little one's father smiles, like any father would. "I'm sure you shall, my dear." He knows the bitter truth. His child will probably amount to nothing more than a blacksmith, an outcast blacksmith at that, the same as he. But he can not speak the truth. Not to the child with his wife's eyes. The light of his life. Because even in these dark times, he wants to believe that a poor child from the village can someday rise to the King's court.
Ten Years Later...
"Edward? Where are you off to?" My father calls. His crown rests on his head, slightly lopsided. Just as it has since the day I was born.
"Into the village. Mother requested some fresh vegetables from the market," I say.
Father sighs. "She has servants for that."
"But I will gladly go." I smile. "If you allow, my King." He hates when I do this. Which is why I find myself doing it so often.
"You have not asked my permission since you were eleven years old." Father says, fighting a grin. He tells me I remind him of himself long ago. Before the weight of the kingdom fell upon his shoulders.
"Shall I see you tonight at dinner?" I ask.
Father waves me off and goes back to his reading. Most would think a king would read nothing but philosophers and historians. My father reads fairy tales like he believes they still come true.
I retreat to the stables for my horse and start into town with my small party of guards. One of the pitfalls of living as a royal. No privacy. No time to be alone. Sometimes I yearn for a moment to breathe. Just some space to be free.
The journey to town does not last long, only occupying a small part of my morning. Mother and Father do not venture into town much, but I enjoy it immensely. The castle has never quite felt like home to me, with its stone walls and drafty, musty air. Everyone is so concerned with being proper and unfeeling. Down here in the village, I feel life. Even if it's only the breadmaker putting out his latest kitchen disaster, it's more emotion than I find up there.
The townspeople used to find it strange that I spent so much time with them, talking with them and experiencing what they see everyday. Over the past few years, that fascination has turned to a genuine friendship. Sometimes I wish I could drag Father here more often to connect with his people. He's a fine King and a fine Father, but he doesn't know them like I do.
"Prince Edward, what can I help you find today?" The woman behind the vegetable stand smiles behind her vibrant rows of food.
"Tomatoes, please. Thank you, Miriam." I peruse the rest of her produce as she packages up my order.
Something across the square catches my attention, my ear really. The bang bang of a hammer against metal. Methodical. Timed. Deliberate.
I glance towards the Blacksmith's shed. Jacob, the old Blacksmith's son, must be working on a new project. I have visited him several times for gifts intended for my father. He does great work. Just like his father did before he died.
"Excuse me, Miriam. I will return shortly." I nod and start towards the shed to see what he's working on, my guards following closely behind.
Large pieces of metal hang down, covering him from the shoulders up as he pounds away on what looks like some type of shield.
"Working hard?" I say, smiling. He doesn't hear me over the sound of his work. "I say, working hard?" I yell, stepping around the metal pieces. I'm greeted with long dark hair tied back, pulled away from a decidedly feminine face. Not Jacob.
The woman stops her work and steps back, dark smudges on her face.
"Oh!" I say. "I'm sorry. I thought you were Jacob."
She eyes me up and down before offering her hand, which is something I'm not used to. Usually people are terrified to touch me.
"I'm his sister. Isabella."
"Sister?" I've known Jacob for over a year now and he's never mentioned a sister.
"I've been staying with family for the last two years. Just recently returned to town." She nods. Two years. Just about when Jacob told me their father passed. "And you are?"
One of the guards behind me laughs.
"Nice to meet you, Edward." She seems unimpressed and for once appears to have no idea who I am. It's quite refreshing.
"You as well, Isabella. Please tell Jacob I stopped by."
"I shall." She turns back to her work and I to Miriam, who is waiting for me with my order. The guards pay her double what she asks.
"Thank you for your generosity, Sire," Miriam says. A group of men emerges beside me carrying large fabric banners, displaying bright colors that made my heart nearly leap from my chest. "Those can go up now, boys."
"What are those for?" I ask.
"Festival of the Moon tonight." Miriam smiles and goes back to her work.
After I return to the castle, I visit with Mother out in the gardens and tend to a chess match with one of the cooks. As night falls, I grow restless. My thoughts wander to the village, to the girl with the long brown hair, to the bright banners. And instead of reading the book beside my bed for the hundredth time, I make a decision. I'm in the mood for a festival.
A/N: Welcome to Born of Ash and Fire, everyone! Thank you for joining me :)
Sincere thank you to ImHereToReview, especially for her help with coming up with a title. I'd be lost without you!
Updates will come once a week. There may be a lack of updates during the last week and a half of July, due to a hectic work schedule I know I will have during that time. If anything comes up that will prevent me from updating, I will be sure to let everyone know via FB (Mandy Leigh) and/or Twitter (MandyLeigh010). I will do my best to stick to the schedule, but I ask for patience and understanding if something does come up. Life has a way of throwing a few curve balls every now and then.
Characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer, I just make them do what I want. Obviously this story is set in the past, and while I try to make it as realistic as possible, I also reserve the right to use creative license for the sake of the story.
Thank you again for reading and I'd love to hear your thoughts on where you think we're headed from here :)