Xander, Prada: Down by the River

Down by the River
Summary: Feeling mopey about his sister's wedding, Xander goes off on his own and gets a shadow.
Date: 23 July 2013
Related: None
Xander Prada 

Summer 1323 — Summer Citadel

I remember the day well. It was the longest day of the year, the day where the Summer Citadel is the strongest. And it had seemed to be the case, the Corsairs had turned their attentions northward, and the rumors were that the Westmarks through their dark and devious tactics had caused the Corsairs no end of grief. It was a glorious day that my sister was to be wed. The sky was painted in the sky blues of the special summer, not a cloud or a shadow to be found. The hot eye of the sun made the bees drone lazily, and the grasshoppers even seemed to play along with the cheerful wedding music that had played throughout the day.

I could tell that my sister was not happy as she could and should have been that day, as she was placed into a marriage that bonded our family to the royals, but I was not allowed to speak on the matter, as I was still of the age of minority, even though Tamara had yet to reach her own age of majority and her husband seemed so.. old. She had told me a few days earlier as she prepared her mount that she had only captured at her budding a few months earlier that she would come to love the man and that for me, her marriage should be a blessing - after all, I would be able to find my own match. That mattered little to me at the time, I was losing my best friend. Tamara and I had been inseparable, and now she was to stay at the Summer Citadel, and I was to return to Estermarch without her. It made me sad to think about, which is why I had made my way away from the celebrations and had gone for that walk that afternoon. I wanted to be left alone to my thoughts. While my sister, parents and new brother-by-marriage were celebrating the newlyweds with the other noble families of the House Taniford, I wanted nothing more than to be alone.

I knew that my absence would not be noticed the merriment. While they drank of the Summer Ale and sampled the blackcurrant wine from other seasons to guarantee that they had kept their taste and temperaments correctly, espeically the elderberry wine of last autumn's pressings that I could get out and do my own explorations. My own budding was upon me, and while I had not pressed to go out into the wilds of Estermarch to seek my mount, I had hoped that the time of solitude in the Citadel woods would give me practice.

I did not realize I would have such a frustrating shadow, and how quickly that shadow would become part of my life.

— from the journal of Lord Sir Xander M. Lohstren

Sweat streaked down Xander's face leaving small trails in the dust that covered his skin. When it met with his eyes, it stung and caused him to wince. Surely his mother will be upset that he's dirtied his nice clothes that he had worn for the wedding and celebration after. But since he had left the Citadel grounds, he had noticed the tracks in the soft dirt. An unshoed horse. A gelding, Xander had guessed, perhaps no more than a couple of summers old. It was one thing to capture a horse in the wilds of Estermarch, after all, nobles of every Lohstren house did at the time they were at his age.

The woods had opened into a small stream, and he had followed the trail south from the Citadel. A clear blue stream cut through the land, and rocks jutted over the surface, rubbed smooth during centuries of spring floodings. As he climbed up one of the outcroppings, it was there that Xander had first spied his quarry. The horse was a beautiful chestnut color, with a white sploch in the middle of his front quarters and on his lower front legs. As Xander had guessed, the horse had to be no more than three summers old. While some young men wanted to capture an older horse to show off their prowess and strength, Xander wanted a creature that would grow with him, one that he could train to raise up so that they would function as one - it was what his mentor had suggested. The old knight that had started training Xander was stern, but his advice had always been sound and the stories he told of the battles he had participated in were great and brough Xander many memorable dreams, even if the man's voice was gravely and his attitude terse.

Bringing the horse to the Knight would prove to the old man that Xander was ready to learn jousting, he had decided. And this creature would be his pride and joy. As he crept over the rock to get closer to the creature. He was working out in his mind how he would approach the horse and capture it when the a young voice rang out behind him and the horse startled and bolted.

"You are never going to catch a horse that way." said the feminine voice. When Xander whirled, he scowled at the young girl that was standing behind him. She appeared to be close to his age, perhaps older or that was the intended affect of the bodice and corset that forced her into curves she had not yet developed. She was dressed in reds and black, a silver broach at her neck shaped like a wolf. Wide brown eyes and dark ebon hair flowed just over her shoulders to her shoulder blades. "That horse would have clearly kicked you in the teeth and you will never get a girl's attention with a kicked in face." She said in a sing-song fashion.

"Why did you follow me?" Xander said with a frown. He was equally upset with her startling the horse, and that she had managed to get so close to him without realizing. "And why aren't you back at the wedding? Weren't you playing with my cousins and your family?" he asked her skeptically. "And what do you know about capturing horses?"

The girl frowned back and stuck out her tongue. "You should ask a girl her name first before you start questioning her. But since you are so uncouth, I am Lady Prada Varghem of Wolveshire, and you are Lord Xander Lohstren. That was your sister that was getting married, and you're upset about it. It's fine. I understand that. I know that my brother will get married someday too. And I'll probably be upset about it too."

"Well, when that happens, hopefully noone will ruin your time when you head off to do your own thing like you have with me, Lady Prada." Xander said, barely able to keep his temper in check. "And you're timing could not have been worse, I was going to capture that horse easily." the young man said in defiance, but childishly stuck out his own tongue and blew a raspberry at Prada.

Prada hiked up her skirts to approach Xander. "Are you going to give me a hand up to sit with you?" she asked, refusing to leave the young Lord in the woods at the moment. "Or do they lack manners in your part of the Lohstren line?" she taunted.

Xander noticed the girl's creamy white calves and knees and lowered his hand to assist her up onto the rock to sit with her. "Why are you bothering me?" he asked finally, confusion coloring his voice as he looks towards the young Lady next to him.

"You're the only other person at that wedding that is close to my age that I'm not related to and not see every day. I love my dimples, but he was feeling ill, and my sister only wanted to talk about her doll collection. And your cousin Collette seems to be an odd one." Prada said as she sat down and fished a napkin out of her pocket and unfolded it. Inside, she had taken a piece of the wedding cake, a rich fruit cake with a cream frosting and offered a pinched off piece to Xander.

Accepting the piece of the cake, Xander chewed on it and glanced over at her. "Won't your parents get worried about you?"

"Won't yours?" Prada countered with a smirk as she took a generous bite out of her piece of cake and licked the frosting from her lips.

"My parents are more worried about my sister than me today." he replied with a shrug of his shoulders, as he opened his waterskin to take a draw off of it and offered it to Prada in return.

"Apparently I wore the wrong hat today." Prada said with a snort as she snagged the waterskin and took a long draw off of it. "I wore a hat for a wedding. I didn't realize I should have worn the pity party hat. Remind me when I see you next that I should wear it. It is a sad hat. Perfect for pity parties."

"I'm not having a pity party and I don't know if I want to see you again…" Xander started to respond when he paused. In the distance, he could hear the approach of a horse. But not from the approach of the wedding, instead this horse was coming up the stream. Xander's expression brightened immediately. For sure, it was the horse that he had pursued earlier and it was returning back to the young man - the Guardians had answered his prayers and he could finally show up this little so and so who sat here in her finery and mocked him so. "Now watch while I catch this… oh shit." he hissed, suddenly grabbing Prada's arm and pulled her down behind the rock they were sitting upon, much to the surprise of the young Lady who squawked in protest. "Silence." Xander hissed.

As he peered around the rock, Xander could see the horse and the figure sitting upon it. He was dressed in fur and leathers, the look of a barbarian or rather. "Corsair." Xander hissed beneath his breath. "What is he doing this far south?" he asked nooned in paticular as he watched the man on the horse.

"Corsair? I've never seen one." Prada said curiously, trying to peer around Xander to get a look at the figure sitting on the horse as the horse trotted in the river. As she looked towards the man she frowned. "He seems small for a Corsair." she pointed out. She started to say more, but her hat, which had been dislodged when she was pulled down by Xander, fell off and into the water and was caught in the current.

The two children looked at each other in horror as they pressed back against the rock, praying that the man on the horse would not notice the man on the horse would not notice the hat floating lazily in the water and caught in the current of the stream.

The splash of a pair of feet in the water confirmed their fears. The grunt of the Corsair was loud and sent a chill down their spines. "Sneak around." Xander whispered to Prada. "We'll try to get back to the wedding party and warn the others." he said quietly. As he pushed off the rock to get away, the grip of the Corsair's large hand on his shoulder caught the young Lord and his world flahed in bright red as the barbarian slammed Xander into the rock and the back of his head slammed into the smooth surface, making his world flash red and knocking him momentarily senseless.

Prada stared as Xander was knocked down and instead of fleeing, she ran to the young Lord's side. "You killed him!" she screamed at the man, her hand moving to press on Xander's chest. Feeling his heartbeat, she started to sigh in relief, but instead it was choked off as the man yanked Prada off of the young squire.

"He is not yet." the Corsair seethed, his breath wreaked of rotten food and wine and he stared at Prada. "You are not as old as you first appeared, but you will grow and learn."

"What are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere!" Prada protested, and the Corsair grabbed the girl by the back of her hair at her scalp and forced her to look at him. "If you wish your lover to live, you will come with me and be my bride." the man sneered down at the girl.

"He's not my l-lover!" Prada started to protest, still young enough to find the idea repulsive as her mind reeeled at the ideas on how to escape and praying to the Guardians to give her or Xander the strength to free them from this sudden turn of events. "You're insane! I won't marry you! I'll scream, I'll—"

"Noone will hear you. Scream away." the Corsair responded, sneering, as his crushing grip bruised her shoulders through the silken cloth of her dress. She forced her hands up and almost succeeded in pulling away, though it tore her sleeve from her left shoulder in the process. His grip reformed and tightened, pulling her closer than before. "If you continue to resist me, I will kill him!" the barbarian said with malicious intent, not glancing towards Xander.

Prada started to struggle again when she noticed movement from Xander. The young man struggled to get his senses and as he saw the peril the girl was in. Lifting his hand to his lips, he gestured for her silence as he felt around in the water for something he could use as a weapon.

The breath of the barbarian and the heat of his closeness made the Varghem lady visibly ill but she swallowed it down to look up into the barbarian's eyes. "Please don't hurt my friend.." she said quietly. "I will do as you wish." she said, trying to sound convincing in her lie.

"That's better." the Barbarian said, just as the large rock that Xander had found came crashing down between the shoulder blades of the Corsair's back. The Corsair screamed in pain and surprise, releasing Prada as his elbow snapped back and caught Xander in the side of the head, dropping the young man back towards the water.

The Corsair rushed Xander before he could recover, his hands closing over the young Lord's throat and forcing his head underwater. The young Lord's eyes widened in shock and horror and he could only focus on struggling, hoping that in his death, he would buy the time that Prada would need to get away. His vision was starting to cloud, the last of the air forced from his lungs when he suddenly felt the grip of the Corsair loosened and Xander shut up out of the water to draw in desperate and quick breaths to try to fill his lungs.

Prada stood there, a dagger in her hands, covered in the Corsair's blood. Xander recognized the dagger as one generally issued to young Ladies to protect themselves when all else fails and he looked towards Prada. Using his legs to push the dead Corsair off of him, Xander got to his feet and managed to shakily walk to Prada. Without thinking, he hugged the young woman. And she immediately hugged him back and sobbed loudly.

They remained like that for several minutes, before Xander released Prada slowly. "We need to get back to the party.."

"We can't tell anyone about this." Prada said to Xander, a look of terror and fear in her eyes. "If they knew that a Corsair was here, this close, we'll never have any freedom." she said, shaking her head.

"Then what do we tell them?" Xander asked in confusion, noticing that they were both pretty battered and her dress was torn.

Prada thought for a moment and gestured to the horse that the Corsair had left. "…we were walking and you saw a horse, and went to capture it. I didn't know to get out of the way and it caught me good." she said as she moved to recover her ripped sleeve and gingerly tied it around Xander's head to cover the knot on his head that was forming from where the Corsair had surprised him. "And you helped me and got hurt, but captured your prize."

"My parents are going to tan my hide for getting you hurt.." Xander mumbled, but nodded. "Agreed. And we keep this a secret between us and only us." he added.

"Forever and ever." Prada agreed. "And someday, you'll return the favor and give me that horse too." she pointed out matter of factly.

With that, they took a small length of rope, lost the horse's reins and tied the horse about the neck to bring the chestnut beauty back to the party to tell their amazing tale of Xander's budding.

Years went by, and the story was lost and the meeting had nearly been forgotten about until the day that Lord Sir Xander Lohstren recieved a missive with the royal seal.

'Sir Lohstren.

You are hereby requistioned to escort and protect Lady Prada Varghem as she travels north to assist in the efforts against Ellowe. You are to follow her example and protect her. Do as she requests and be kind to her, for she speaks as me.


HRH Queen Regina Taniford'.

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