When we reached the prince’s castle, he landed inside the second gate. The horse stopped in the courtyard, the knight dismounted, and then helped me off the horse. A small crowd gathered around.
There were whispers of “Welcome back, Your Majesty,” and, “Who is she?”
Finally, my ‘rescuer’ raised a hand and silenced the crowd. He turned to me, and removed his helmet.
The first thing I noticed was how young he looked. He couldn’t be more than sixteen or seventeen. His lightly freckled face and strawberry blond hair were quite unusual, either in the crowd before us, or in any town I’d been in. His blue eyes were full of excitement and the thrill of having just returned from the daring rescue.
“Fair people of Nebo. I, Prince Eyroc Bimtor, have just rescued this fair maiden from the clutches of not one, but two dragons.”
A loud gasp passed through the crowd.
“I did not slay either beast, though the battle was fierce and short. But I did wound one, and escaped with both our lives. This young lady will be my guest, and as such, you will all treat her as royalty while she stays among us. Tell, us, fair maiden. What is your name?”
I stood there for a moment, trying to think with all eyes on me. I struggled to remember my own name. Should I use Mervad’s name or my own? No, Mervad was gone. I wasn’t married anymore. “Dani. I mean Danielle… Dwyer.” Tears fell more quickly as I thought about Mervad. It wasn’t fair that he should be taken from me so soon.
Another gasp passed through the crowd. I heard people muttering things like “… thought she was dead.” “…divine providence, I tell you.” and “Where has she been?”
The Prince raised his hand again, and the crowd settled down. “You must pardon them, Danielle. They murmur because I was betrothed to a woman by that name who died in a fire fourteen years ago.”
“But I didn’t die. My nanny saved me.” I blurted it out without thinking. But Mervad did die.
The Prince looked stunned. For a full five minutes, he couldn’t speak. The crowd’s murmurs grew louder and more insistent. Royal guards formed a circle around the Prince and I. Some were armored, some were not.
The Prince held up three fingers, and the crowd hushed once more. Finally, the Prince found his tongue. “Please, pray tell, what was your mother’s name?”
My brain started running and running. For a minute I couldn’t remember. Had I ever known it? Yes, Bixby had told me her name. What was it? “Teculah. Uncle Bixby mentioned her name once or twice.”
“You have a mage for an uncle?”
“You know Bixby, too?”
The Prince blinked twice, went into a blank stare for a minute, then came out with, “Oh, what great fortune has smiled upon the kingdom this day. For I have rescued my betrothed from the clutches of two dragons when she’d been thought dead for so long. Come, I must take you to see my parents right away.”