"Rogir... Rogir wait up!" The shrill piping voice of the small dark-haired girl made the little boy turn around, late afternoon sun illuminating his dark glossy curls. He stopped so the younger child could catch up.
The girl was five years old with long black hair, dark eyes and pale skin. By contrast the boy was 2 years older with dark brown curls, light brown eyes and skin that was tanned from so much time spent playing outside.
They were the children of two ancient and powerful bloodlines – Royal and Abhorsen. 5 year old Clariel was the Abhorsen-In-Waiting and 7 year old Rogir (his full ceremonial name was Rogirek) was the Crown Prince.
One day the little girl would be the binder of the Dead...the woman responsible for making sure the Dead did not walk in life. And the small boy who was now her closest friend would be the King. Of course neither had any real idea of the responsibility that would one day sit on their shoulders.
Clariel ran up behind Rogir, her long black braids flying out behind her and her light-blue, sliver-trimmed skirts rustling in the slight breeze.
"Hurry up Clare!" he said impatiently, crossing his arms over his deep crimson jacket. While Clariel had several splotches of mud on her white stockings and the hem of her dress Rogir had somehow managed to keep his dark brown breeches and leather boots spotless
She was still about a metre away when he turned around and continued to walk quickly down the cobbled street leading to the marketplace. It was such a rare occasion he got to leave the palace he wanted to make the most of it. Particularly as they had managed to lose the matronly woman who was supposed to be accompanying them.
They had been close for as long as either of them could remember. As Clariel's Father, The Abhorsen traveled all over the kingdom dealing with uprisings of the Dead it was convenient for him to leave her safe in Belisaere with the Royal family.
She would be even safer at Abhorsen's House... but at the Palace there were children her own age. Rogir had two sister's... one Clariel's age and one a year older. He also had a half brother called Torrigan who was 2 years younger than Clariel... the son of a obscure Northern noble the Queen had 'took up with' a year after her consorts death. The Queen was more than happy to have her when her Father was off traveling... she was practically part of the Royal Family now.
Surprising the little girl had bonded not with two princesses but with the Prince. The two of them had an adventurous spirit quite unlike the sweet and more mild-mannered princesses. The princesses never got in scrapes. Rogir often talked Clariel into doing something she shouldn't... and less often out of the blame afterwards.
The small girl was still lagging behind as the two children hurried up the small street. "Come on!" he said turning round. With a sigh of exasperation he went and grabbed her hand, tugging her with him as he half ran towards the marketplace.
The delicious smell of a range of different foods beckoned as they got near to the marketplace. Rogir kept hold of Clariel's hand as they entered the crowd of people thronging the marketplace, not wanting to get separated.
He tugged her over to where they were selling delicious small savory meat pies. "6 please" he piped handing over a silver coin. The smaller child beamed as she realized he was getting some for her too. She didn't have any coins and they smelled delicious. When he had his pies he handed half to Clariel and led her over to a bench where they could sit and eat them.
Just as they were licking their finger's he spied the matronly woman through the crowd. She cursed as the two children leapt up and darted laughing into the throng.
Clariel's tinkling laugh echoed as she spun around on the ice. For someone who had only recently turned 8 years old she wasn't bad at skating. Even Rogir had to admit that.
The girls long black hair whipped around her as she whirled gracefully and the wind threatened to snatch away her white scarf and woolly white hat.
Her laughter was infectious and he couldn't help laughing too as she took off, skating around the edge of the pond, her blades slicing through the sheen of water covering its frozen surface. She zoomed recklessly fast along the ice, her long black hair streaming behind her.
There was a loud crack as ice splintered and gave way under her feet. He saw her panicked expression for just a moment before she tumbled into the icy water, hitting it with a shriek of surprise and fright.
A second after her scream he was already at the hole in the ice... trying frantically to see her in the gloom. Suddenly he saw the end of her white scarf and he plunged his hand into the icy water, finding the collar of her bulky fur-lined coat.
Fear lent him the strength to yank her upwards and out of the water. She looked white as a sheet and her chest was hardly moving at all. For a moment he was terrified. Then she rolled over on to her front, coughing violently as copious amounts of pond water came of her nose and mouth.
"So cold..." she said as she sat up, teeth chattering. He could see her shivering. "Don't you ever scare me like that again!" he snapped at her. She nodded mutely.
With that he helped her get to her feet and let her lean on him as he took her back into the palace...casting Charter marks of warmth and comfort into her as they went.
"So... did you get anything good for your birthday?" came a familiar rich, masculine voice behind Clariel. She whipped around, a smile curving her lips.
Rogir was leaning against the door frame. With a slight trace of stubble on his cheek and his dark curls in disarray he looked as always scruffily handsome. The dark green shirt and black breeches he wore complemented his tan skin tone and dark curls.
"From Father I got a set of panpipes and a surcoat. From your Mother a book on the binding of Free Magic Elementals. From your brother a kite. From your sisters this dress" she said with a smile, gesturing to the pretty sky-blue dress she was wearing.
He smiled, drawing something out of his pocket. "Happy birthday" he said warmly.
She took the small royal-blue jewelery box from his calloused palm with considerable curiosity. Today she was 13, but Rogir had never got her jewelery for her birthday before. Usually his presents were along the lines of something she could eat (like a cake) or something useful (like a dagger or a book).
She opened it to reveal the most beautiful necklace she had ever seen. A delicate silver key studded with tiny blue stones hung on a slim silver chain. "Rogir... its beautiful!" she said, a smile spreading of her delicate, pretty features.
"You like it?" he said with a grin, the expression on his broad handsome face undeniably pleased. "I love it!" she said, dark eyes bright. It was so sweet of him to get her something so feminine, so ornamental...and at the same time inextricably linked with her heritage.
He plucked the necklace from the box and gestured for her to turn around. She did, oulling her long midnight-black hair away from her slender pale neck. He slipped the delicate chain around her neck and did up the clasp.
She turned back around, beaming at him. "Thankyou for the best present I've had today" she said sofly. "Don't mention it" he said casually, grinning from ear to ear.