The mood in the castle gardens was suitably awkward for the two rulers-to-be. Neither Princess Aurora nor Prince Phillip had met each other until this moment and after exchanging basic courtesies, the two were now at a loss as to what to say to each other.
"So, Aurora," Phillip began, the teenager clearing his throat, "What, exactly do you like?"
"Pardon?" the ten-year-old blinked, looking up at her future husband.
"I meant, what do you like to do." he clarified. "Since we're betrothed, I assumed it might behoove us to get to know each other before we spend the rest of our lives together."
"Oh." Aurora blushed a bit before regaining her composure, "I've started to learn spinning. One of the maids is teaching me, but I've pricked my finger a lot."
He nodded, "I, see. I've, been learning horse riding."
"You have?" she turned to him, eyes sparkling with interest, "I've always wanted to be close to a horse, but none of them seem to like me." she looked down, saddened by this.
"Well, you just don't know how to talk to horses." Phillip asserted, crossing his arms as if it made perfect sense.
She looked back up at him and frowned. "Horses can't speak. Unless they're magic." She gasped loudly, eyes lighting up, "Or you're magic!" she said giddily.
Phillip took a step back in surprise, "No, I don't, think I am. I think Father would have told me if I was." he looked down at his hands regardless, flexing them, gloves creasing. Maybe he was?
"Then we're going to have a servant show us where the stables are." Aurora asserted with the most serious face a ten-year-old could muster.
Phillip stared at her for a moment, the only sound in the garden being the wind rustling through the trees, "You, don't know where the stables are?" he asked after a moment of trying to see if he understood her correctly.
Aurora shook her head, long golden hair whipping around her head in the process. "Mother says Princesses don't ride horses, it's not ladylike."
"Oh. Right." he tried to hide his blush to little avail, shrinking into himself.
"But you can, you're a Prince!" Aurora took his hand, "Come on! Let's go find someone to tell us where the stables are!"
Phillip suppressed a surprised yelp, putting a hand on his hat so it wouldn't fall off. She was surprisingly strong for a girl 4 years his junior.
Sure enough, they found someone who pointed them in the direction of the stables.
"I've never actually been here before." Aurora confessed, looking around the stables.
The stone and ceiling were dirty grey stone, same with many of the pillars that separates the horses, the actual stables made primarily of wood, some carving etched into them, along with names of the various horses. The ground itself was covered in mud, dirt, and straw.
Aurora took a deep breath, and immediately started coughing, "Oh goodness, the smell!" she croaked, doubling over to try and stop coughing.
"You get used to it." Phillip shrugged, but rubbed her back regardless.
"I don't think so." the Princess disagreed, straightening up.
"Is, there something wrong, Your Highnesses?" the stable master asked, hands clasped in front of him as he looked at the young duo.
Aurora's eyes lit up. She knew him! She'd seen her father talking to him when he wanted horses for a carriage ride.
Phillip shook his head with a placating smile, "Not at all, I just wanted to borrow a horse so I could show the Princess a few tricks."
"If I may be so bold, Prince Phillip," the man hesitated, "These horses are for grown knights, though perhaps I can show you to one of our ponies?" he offered.
Phillip scowled, an ugly heat rising in his chest, "You insult me, peasant?" he asked coldly.
"No! No of course not, sire, I meant no disrespect at all!" the man looked pale, rapidly shaking his hands to try to calm the Prince.
"Phillip," Aurora frowned softly.
"Then let me use one of the horses." he narrowed his eyes, "I have trained with my father, King Hubert and many horses in my time. I am not some naïve child to be coddled and-"
"Phillip." Aurora repeated, the ten-year-old's voice like steel.
The Prince turned to his fiancée; surprise written all over his features. "Yes?" he asked after a few moments.
"He was just trying to be nice. Mister Edgar is not a mean man. Say sorry." she insisted.
Phillip blinked twice, taken aback by the strength of the little girl's tone, but nodded, turning back to the man whose name he now knew. "I apologize, Mister Edgar." he lowered his head in contrition.
"I accept, Your Highness." the man smiled gently, touched that the Princess knew his name. "Shall I show you to the younger horses, Sire? So that you may impress the Princess." he offered.
Phillip hesitated, then nodded once again, "Please." he requested awkwardly, not used to asking people to do things, much less apologizing.
Aurora's frown vanished as a bright smile lit up her face, "Thank you, Phillip. Now, can, we find a horse and get out of here?" she requested with an awkward smile, "I think the smell is getting to me."
"Of course." Edgar bowed, "If you both would please follow me…"
The man took the two to an open area where the knights could practice horse riding and eventually brought along a pony for Phillip to ride.
Aurora's eyes went wide. "So pretty." she whispered. She walked forward, holding out her hand to try and touch it. "What's his name?"
"His name is Maximus, Your Highness." Edgar smiled at her, though his gaze quickly snapped towards the pony in question when it shook its head, "Easy, Maximus, easy." he soothed, gently stroking the side of the horse's neck.
"Maximus," Aurora whispered, eyes going wide. "It's a really pretty name."
"Aurora, be careful, ponies are still very strong." Phillip warned,
"I'll be fine." she dismissed his concerns, walking up to the pony.
"Whoa, Maximus," Edgar tightened his grip on the horse's reigns as the horse began to try and back away, "It's just Princess Aurora, there's nothing to be scared of."
Maximus didn't seem to feel like listening, jerking against Edgar's grip, neighing nervously, trying to back up from Aurora, much to Edgar's growing consternation.
"Maximus, let me play with you!" Aurora huffed, stamping a foot on the ground in frustration. "UGH!" she cried out, what little patience the ten-year-old had rapidly growing thin.
That seemed to be the last straw, Maximus neighing in fear and breaking free of Edgar's grasp, making the old man fall to the ground. He reared up on his hind hooves in terror, and came down, on Edgar.
"Edgar, no!" Aurora screamed out, closing her eyes, extending her arms as if that would do something.
That, was not the sound of hooves crushing bone.
Aurora opened her eyes, quivering, and went still as a statue. Edgar, was alive! Scared, but alive! There looked like there was a lime green bubble on top of him, Maximus' hooves having hit that, the pony now running back to the stables.
"A-Aurora?" Phillip asked in a tiny voice. "What, did you do?" he asked.
"Me? I-" she cut herself off, looking down at her hands. They were glowing the same lime green as the bubble that had saved Edgar's life. "Oh." she whispered and promptly fainted.