Thick round tears streamed down my face as I ran down the corridor. My father had scolded me again. He had found me out with Meilin.

Meilin was Father's graced gardener. She was a kind old woman, with beautiful eyes. One, a pale yellow, like the moon in the night sky, the other, a pink as pale as the soft, candy colored birds that flitted around her gardens. She was graced with the ability to coax any plant into growing no matter how unsuitable the area or season, and much faster than they should grow. I remember my 5th winter, when, over the coldest time of that year, Meilin had planted, grown, and harvested fruit from a strawberry bush, all over the course of a week. I had tasted the berries, as sweet as if it had been the middle of summer, sweeter maybe.

We had been out in the gardens near her quarters, and she was teaching me about the various herbs and their medicinal properties. Which herbs could keep wounds from festering, the herbs that would ease fever. The seven kingdoms were not particularly advanced medically, but all Meilin knew she taught me.

Father had seen, and Father hates when I speak with the servants. He always says to me:

"That sort of behavior is bellow the prince of the Middluns, Raffin."

He had stopped on his way back to his quarters and grabbed me by the ear, pulling me along with him. All the way telling me of how disgraceful it was, associating with Meilin.

When we arrived at his quarters, he had slammed the door behind us and looked at me in that terrible, disapproving way he has. He didn't look angry, Father never looked angry when he did this. Or maybe he did. I don't really know, for the most part, I keep my eyes closed. I knew what was coming, I squeezed my eyes shut as the first blow stung across my cheek. Tears slid down my cheeks, but I did not cry out. I refused to cry out.

I had grown accustomed to this. Whenever I did anything that father deemed "disgraceful" he would hit me. Father would accept nothing that he believed to stain my status as prince. He believed he was preparing me to be king. This had begun for me at the age of seven. Now, at the age of sixteen, I've spent nine years learning to block it out.

There were never many blows, today it was four. The range was usually anywhere from three to seven though. Occasionally, he would kick me to the ground and kick me in the stomach instead. I would always pick myself up, wipe the still falling tears from my face, and press the bundle of ice that he offered me to my face to keep the marks from showing. This time was no different.

Afterward, as always, father dismissed me to my chambers. When I exited his rooms, I stopped trying to stem my tears. I ran down the corridor until I stopped, breathless and crying, in my rooms. I paused. Sitting on the table in the middle of my sitting rooms, was a small, flat brown box. Around it was wrapped a dark blue ribbon attached with a small piece of paper.

Raffin,

I do so apologize that you got into trouble by my fault. Your visits warm this old woman's heart and it hurts me to know that they are at your expense. I've been working on this since your first visit. It took me a bit, and I know it's not very complete, but I hope you'll enjoy it.

-Meilin

Curious, I carefully undid the ribbon and pulled back the flaps of the box. Inside sat the most wonderful gift I had ever received.

In the box sat a large book, the cover a pale green. On the cover, written in Meilin's hand in a shining blue-violet ink,

Marvelous Medicines:

A field guide to the known medicines

of the seven kingdoms.

Another note adorned the inside cover of the book.

Raffin,

I have recorded all that I know of medicine into this book, I know that there are many blank pages, but those, Raffin, are for the discoveries I'm sure that you'll make.

-Meilin

It was beautiful. The book consisted of two-page spreads. The first, holding a dried and pressed sample of an herb or plant, the second filled with all of the knowledge Meilin had of the plant's uses. I opened the book and read the heading of a random page.

Common Safflower: Native to Nander, Wester, Sunder, and the Middluns

Known uses:

Treating Fever

Treating Coughs

Relief of Chest Pain

My smile must have stretched across my entire face as I read.

Oh Meilin. Thank you!


I must have read for hours, for when I was startled by my sitting room doors bursting open, I registered that the sun now hung low in the sky. How could I not have noticed?

I glanced at the figure sprawled on the sofa to my right. I poked said figure with the corner of Meilin's book, and it growled at me. I laughed.

"Rough day cousin?" I asked jokingly. Katsa lifted her face from the sofa to glare at me. Had I not known her, the glare she wore would've been comical on her thirteen year old face.

"Your father wants me to attend the dinner tonight." she spat at me. The disgust in her voice evident. "that nursery maid, Helda, insists on dressing me." she flopped back down onto the sofa and I had to lean my head down to catch her words. "I so hate wearing dresses Raff..." I laughed again, this earned me the pleasure of having a sofa cushion knock me in the face.

A soft knock came from the still open door frame of my sitting room. There stood Helda, the offending garment in hand.

I laughed again, this time, Katsa shoved me off of the sofa.


The dinner was standard. Many visiting lords and ladies of the Middluns attended. What was clearly Father showing off his "lady-killer" to intimidate his nobles masked thinly as a routine gathering. I spent the time as I usually do, pushing food around on my plate, not saying anything, afraid of giving father another reason to bring me to his chambers. I touched my cheek and winced, the ice had prevented a bruise from showing, but the pain was there. I didn't look at him once throughout the meal.


The next morning, I was ecstatic. A steward had come to me early in the morning to inform me that my father would be traveling to the northern borders. A northern lord had been unable to pay his taxes to Randa, and as punishment, Father would be traveling to the lords estate with Katsa. Father had recently taken to using her to punish his lords and other citizens who displeased him. As the practice was new, Father would travel with Katsa to ensure that she could do what he asked of her.

While my heart ached at the thought of Katsa having to do something she so hated, I could not stifle the involuntary flicker of happiness at days, possibly weeks, with respite from my father's abuses. My first thought was to go to Meilin and ask her to teach me to plant my own herbs in pots on my windowsill, a lesson we had been planning on having before I had been punished by Randa, but then I remembered her saying something about visiting family in the city.

I turned to my nightstand to glance at Meilin's book. I had yet to read much of it, and I so desperately wanted to do something. I resolved to take the book to the libraries and spend the day reading.

Randa's Library was quite expansive, it was something he enjoyed showing off to visiting nobles, though less so when he discovered the intimidation that came from instead showing off his niece to the court. The Library spanned two floors, each as large as the great courtyard. The second floor consisted of a large balcony rimming the walls, looking down on the first floor below. The librarian was a good friend of Meilin, and Meilin supplied the library with many beautiful hanging plants.

I sat myself down in the back corner of the library, my usual spot, and opened Meilin's book. As I read, I couldn't help noticing one of the boys who worked in the library staring at me. He was sturdily built, tan-skinned, with a shaggy mop of black hair. He looked to be around my age, maybe seventeen. I hadn't seen him before, and I assumed the stare was a part of the unwanted attention I received as prince. I focused harder on the book, but I could feel the boy staring at me. I flipped to Meilin's table of contents and read off the names of plants to distract myself.

Açai, Alfalfa, Aloe, Arnica, Barberry, Bilberry, Bitter Leaf, Bitter Orange, Bl-

"Blue Safflower?" a voice said next to my ear. I fell from my chair in surprise. I felt my head smack against a bookshelf and opened my eyes to find myself staring at the ceiling. The boys face came into view above me. Worry apparent in his pale green eyes. It was the boy who had starred at me earlier.

"Oh! Prince Raffin!" the boy exclaimed. "I'm so sorry. He fumbled, unsure what to do, eventually deciding to offer me his hand. I accepted it, and he pulled me from the ground in one motion. Strong. He brushed nonexistent dust off of my trousers, obviously flustered. He reached attempt to fix my most likely messy hair, and his hands came away red. His eyes grew to the size of saucers.

"Lord Prince! Your bleeding." I turned to look where I had fallen to see the bloody smears where my head had been. "Are you okay? Can you walk?" walking wasn't sounding like a promising plan, as the simple motion of turning my head back to the boy made me dizzy.

The boy must have decided without my answering that I couldn't walk, as in one swift motion, he held me in both of his arms, and proceeded to run out of the library. Too shocked by the last 30 seconds to react, I didn't protest.


As I sat in the infirmary, now a bit past noon , the healer wrapping clean white bandages around my newly washed yellow hair,the boy from the library stood silently against the wall opposite me. Head downcast in what was most likely part shame, and part embarrassment from what must have been an absurd spectacle to residents of the castle. The librarian's assistant sprinting down the corridors with the prince held awkwardly in his arms.

When the healer was finished, he advised me to try not to fall asleep for a bit. He then instructed the boy to take me to my chambers.

I was well enough to walk now, and I walked quietly with the boy down the various corridors. The boy refused to look at me, always looking at the floor, or the various hangings.

"May I know your name?" I asked the boy, deciding that this walk would be far too long if neither of us spoke. My chambers were on the opposite end of the castle from the infirmary.

"Bann, Lord Prince." he replied stiffly. His attention focused on a hanging of a tree with long spiraling roots.

"You may call me by my name, Bann." I replied. That was a hasty decision. Father would have a fit. I despise when people use my title, but Father always says that the use of my title is proof of my superiority...perhaps that's why I dislike it.

"Raffin." he said cautiously. As if he couldn't believe that my name wasn't "Lord Prince"


Bann had gotten more comfortable speaking to me as we walked. We were nearer to my chambers now. I asked a question that it had not occurred to me to ask before now.

"Bann." I said. "Why were you staring at me in the library?" Bann blushed three shades of red.

"I apologize Lo-...Raffin." he said. "but...i was very interested in the book that you'd had with you. I'd never seen it in the library before..." he said trailing off, embarrassed.

"It isn't from the libraries." I said. "Meilin, the gardener, wrote it." I looked down at the book in my hands. Despite the head wound, the think I was worried most about was getting blood on the precious item. "You're interested in medicine?"

Bann's face lit up with excitement. "Oh yes!" he exclaimed. Bann went on to talk about various plants that he had knowledge of. We had a lengthy conversation about the fever reducing qualities of mixing powdered safflower seeds with certain ground roots. The conversations went on and on and on. I had never found a person with whom I could share this interest before. I could feel my elation rising with each word spoken, and I could see Bann's excitement in his eyes as he spoke.

The conversations ended up lasting well past our walk to my chambers. I invited him in, with the smallest pause possible in our current debate over alternative uses of peppermint leaves. We spoke the remainder of the afternoon and well into the night. It occurs to me now that we didn't have anything to eat that night, and I don't really care either. I was too absorbed in the conversation. To absorbed in the fact that I felt I could add a new name to that painfully small list of people I could call...

Friend


Sooooooo, I don't know if that was any good. This is my first story and I really don't think it's too great. But I love the Graceling series, and there weren't enough stories about Raffin and Bann. Sooooo review?