Oct 21, 2018 9:05 PM
griffinmarsh
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Emma and Ivan in Chronicle
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"If you do that, maybe a sidesaddle?" Emmalina suggests tentatively. "I know I'm slowing us down, and I'm sorry. It's strange riding astride."

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"It'll depend what they have, but I can ask, sure."

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"I suppose horses are more common than side saddles."

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"Just a bit. And whether I can borrow one mostly depends on whether there's somewhere I can leave it where it'll wind up returned, and whoever returns it is less likely to ride sidesaddle."

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"No roaming bands of side saddle equestrians in Raxwell?"

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"Well, stranger things have happened, but I haven't heard of that one in particular."

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"Well, now I'm curious."

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"Oh, did I tell you about the time m'cousin turned me into a rabbit?"

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"Magic carpets and moonlight? I'm starting to think it made an impression."

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"Ah, I've used up all my best stories, I should start keeping closer track. Writing them down or something. Did I tell you how my best friend got into knight school early?"

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If he did, she's forgotten, so she just shakes her head. "Do tell?"

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"Usually they take you when you're fifteen. But there's an exception, you can get in at any age if you beat an instructor in a duel. Glynn decided that was too pedestrian and beat two of them."

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"...how?"

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"He's some kind of martial genius! Top of his class. Very sharp, knows all his stuff. Even kept on with archery, half of us drop that. And he can beat Milo at chess, occasionally, no mean feat."

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"I'll take your word for it, I don't know hardly anything about fighting. But he sounds impressive. How long have you been friends?"

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"Since he started! There's a mentorship thing and he was assigned to be my junior."

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"Oh, so for a while then. Do you still see him, now that you've finished school?"

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"Sure. He comes and hangs around and plays chess with Milo."

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The conversation carries from there, Jann happy to reminisce about his school days and Emmalina fascinated by the life he's describing. She doesn't have close friends the way he does, nor did she have any real peers growing up; she drinks in his stories with a sad, wistful envy. It all sounds so nice, his cousins and his friends and his school. She wishes there had been princess schools near Griffinmarsh. Even just a friend.

It takes them a day to get close enough to civilization that Jann can find someone who'll lend them a horse; after that they move considerably faster. The villages are loud and lively in a way the Griffinmarsh castle never was, and she doesn't quite know how to react. Everyone's very helpful and friendly, she'll give them that, even if she knows she's being quiet. No one seems to question Jann appearing with a rescued princess at his side. Emmalina wonders if he's rescued other princesses before, not just his cousin. The thought makes her feel small, and she doesn't ask.

The whole trip goes rather more easily than she expected. Jann's obviously traveled this way before, and he's organized and thoughtful, and if it weren't for her sore muscles she could almost forget that this is an escape, the end of a quest, rather than just a ride out in the country. She tries to think of it that way- just a fun excursion, nothing more. Not the glaring unknown that waits for her at the palace. She distracts herself by asking Jann more questions; it's a bit of a shock to realize that, late on the tail end of their third day, they're already at the castle.
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"Well, we certainly made excellent time," Jann comments. It's dark, but there's plenty of moonlight. "Here you go -" He helps her down off the horse, and then leads her and Morganite both past the gate guards, nodding to them as they shine a torch at him to identify him.

"Sir Jann and...?"

"And Princess Emmalina of Griffinmarsh," says Jann.

"Aha," says the inquisitive guard, winking. And the gate is opened and Jann hands Morganite off to a stable boy who is up late and then:

"I can put you in a guest room, it won't be a bit of trouble."
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"That would be- wonderful. Thank you." She looks around, eyes wide. "It's been so long since I've been in a castle. It's almost strange."

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"I'm told it's a bit confusing to anyone who doesn't know their way around, but I'll leave notes where notes need to be about you being my guest and anybody will give you directions," says Jann. "Tomorrow might be a little hectic what with, ah, my father, just to warn you."

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"Of course," Emmalina assures him. "Can't have our cave adventure going to waste, after all."

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"Yes. But I'm not waking anybody up about it tonight. He's not getting any more made of stone." Here is a guest room. "Unless Milo has someone over... no, here we are, good. Does this look all right, do you need anything?"

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Emmalina suppresses a mildly hysterical giggle. This is already so much, she can't picture possibly needing anything. But saying so would imply she didn't appreciate what Jann had done, surely, so she just shakes her head. "This is more than enough. Thank you." She pauses, unsure, and adds simply, "Good luck tomorrow."

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