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A Picnic with the Princess

Princess of Lanfor is nearly finished! We have reached the climactic end fight between the Heroes and the real force behind the Serpent Cult. It is a terrific struggle and not everyone may survive this battle—but I am getting ahead of myself. Today I promised to give more details on the Princess Anya of Lanfor.

Anyabarithia Ulteshto Farbican, or Anya as she prefers to be called, is the Princess and sole heir to the sovereign nation of Lanfor. Lanfor is a small island kingdom situated in the Merchant Channel directly between northeastern Thac and the great mainland continent of Arinthar. While diminutive in size, Lanfor is nonetheless a powerful nation. Its strength comes from its great army and the Queen of Lanfor herself. The Queen is rumored to be a powerful sorceress, one who has ruled over her nation for more than a millennium.

Anya is the only surviving descendant of the royal family of Lanfor. As such, she has received the finest of everything be it clothes, food, education, or any of the finer things in life. She is attended by a powerful retinue including the Wizard Sigfus, Battle Priestess Jesira, Lady at Arms Deldrania, Master Archer Oripeah, and the deadly assassin Darilyrus. The Princess also has free access to the royal family’s yacht. The Windhammer is a mid-to-large size airship with an unlimited range due to its elemental powered drive and a small compliment of deadly magefire cannon.

On her twelfth birthday, Anya was presented with an exotic present from a foreign advisor and friend of the royal family, Theramon. It was a baby dragon. Thermon also gave Anya the secret to controlling the small dragon, something which only the great Dragon Thrall Master was ever able to do. The young Princess became obsessed with dragons and set out to catch as many as she could. After a few years, she had built up an entire stable of young dragons that were at her beck and call.

The Heroes first encounter the Princess Anya in the Darkwoods. They had succeeded in driving away the Serpent Cult from the monolith, but become concerned when an airship appears headed directly for them. Although it is easily in her power, Anya does not attack the monolith outright. Instead, she invites the Heroes to join her for a ‘picnic’ in a nearby meadow.

This is not at all out of character for the young monarch. As the Heroes soon find out, Anya’s temperament is mercurial at best. This is probably best exemplified during Elladan’s first meeting with the erratic Princess. Erring on the side of caution, the companions send the stalwart bard, along with Donnie and Martan, to attend her ‘picnic.’ Let’s take a look at that excerpt from the Princess of Lanfor:

Elladan marched purposely past the thick mass of brush and into the wide meadow with Lamorn at his side. His gaze immediately fell on the lavish spread laid out before them—it was a Heroes Feast. Elladan was quite familiar with the spell. The Duke of Dunwynn had used it to salvage the Lady Andrella’s birthday party.

His eyes swept across the table, falling on the figures at the far end. They were three lovely women, the one in the center possibly one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. Her appearance rivaled that of Shalla, the attractive bardess Elladan had left back in Ravenford. Yet in contrast to Shalla, this woman was fair, with hair so blonde that it bordered on white and a complexion like porcelain. She also dressed far more provocatively than the lady bard. Garbed in fine black and gold, her elegant outfit bespoke of nobility, at the same time exposing as much skin as possible.

Still, Elladan was not thrown by her beauty. He had met many attractive women in his time—it kind of came with the territory in his line of work. He quickly assessed the young lady, noting the tiara atop her brow, and the regal way in which she carried herself. This was most definitely the Princess Anya of Lanfor.

Elladan flashed the Princess one of his best smiles as her brown eyes turned toward him. He nudged Lamorn and shifted his approach toward her, noting the way she blatantly stared him up and down. Elladan immediately revised his assessment of this young lady. She was quite obviously used to getting what she wanted. I’ll have to be careful with this one.

As he approached the Princess, her two attendants casually, yet protectively flanked her. Elladan smiled to himself. Not exactly a trusting lot, are they?

He halted a few feet from the Princess, then executed a deep bow. “Elladan Narmolanya, of the House of Narmolanya, at your service your majesty.”

The Princess continued to look him up and down, her voice breathy and her cheeks somewhat flushed. “My my, Elladan, we are very pleased to meet you. I hope that I can count you among my friends.”

She had placed particular emphasis on that last word. Elladan maintained his composure, smoothly replying, “I was hoping the same thing, your majesty.”

The young princess motioned for her two attendants to step aside, then strode over to Elladan, her slit dress exposing far more of her fair legs than would be considered appropriate in an elven court. Elladan cast a quick glance at Lamorn, and noted the squire’s face had turned a bright shade of scarlet. Attempting to spare the lad any further embarrassment, Elladan spoke softly to him. “Wait here, lad.”

Lamorn responded with a slow nod, the young squire unable to tear his eyes away from the visage of the sultry Princess. Elladan stepped forward and met the young princess halfway.

Princess Anya extended a porcelain arm, her eyes dancing playfully as she stared at him. “Attend me?”

“Certainly, your majesty.” Elladan grasped her slim hand in his, noting how cool her fingers felt to the touch. He silently hoped that signified a warm heart, though that remained to be seen.

The Princess spun around and led him back to the table, her tone regal, yet with playful undertones. “Please join us for lunch. After all, we wouldn’t want this feast to go to waste, would we?”

Elladan responded politely, while noting how closely her one attendant, the red-head dressed in scarlet, stuck to her side. “That would be a shame, your majesty.”

She stopped and stared at him, a sensual smile gracing her lips. “Anya. Please call me Anya.”

Elladan smiled back. “Anya then.”

Anya let go of his hand and leisurely sat down at the head of the table, her eyes firmly fixed on Elladan’s as she slowly crossed one long leg over the other. The Princess’ eyes continued to dance as she motioned an arm toward the chair at her right. “Please sit down.”

“Thank you… Anya,” Elladan responded as he smoothly slid into the proffered seat. As expected it was quite comfortable, despite its high back and ornate design.

Anya reached over and pulled a grape from a nearby bowl, delicately chewing on it as she regarded her guest. “Tell me, Elladan, how did you manage to take control of the monolith?”

Elladan knew he had to be careful here. He could not risk telling this young, pampered noble too much about his friends and their mission. The elven bard reached for a grape as well, buying himself a few moments to carefully word his reply. “That is quite a tale, milady—one I’ve yet to put into song, but it is filled with cunning and bravery.”

Anya eyed him carefully, her expression taking on a shrewd cast. “Oh, of that I am sure… but weren’t there safeguards and traps and such?”

Elladan sat back and fixed the Princess with a half-smile. “There were a few… but nothing that we couldn’t handle.”

Anya raised a dark eyebrow as she lounged leisurely in her chair. “We? Is it a large group that you are traveling with?”

Elladan kept his tone casual as he reached for another grape. “Not really… but enough to get the job done.”

Anya narrowed her eyes, her slim arms folding across her chest as she assessed the weight of his words. “Obviously, if you were able to secure the Golem Master’s monolith.”

Ah, so she does know about Larketh. Somehow the discovery of the Golem Master’s stronghold had reached all the way to Lanfor.

Elladan maintained a neutral expression as Anya continued to eye him shrewdly. The Princess unfolded her arms and placed a hand on the table, gently rapping it with her fingertips. “That is no trivial feat for a small group of travelers… tell me about them.”

Elladan shrugged, that same half-smile twisting his mouth as he continued to verbally fence with the Princess. “Oh, there’s not all that much to tell. A few warriors, some magic users, a couple of folks that are handy with a lock pick… you’re typical crew for a job like this.”

Anya’s brown eyes bore into him, the Princess silent for a few moments. Finally, she responded with a slow nod. “Typical, and yet not so typical… I think it would take more than the ‘usual’ crew to break into one of the Golem Master’s strongholds.”

Elladan cast a brief glance at the red-haired woman who stood just behind the Princess. Her dark eyes were fixed on him, a brooding malevolence behind them that sent a cold shiver up his spine. Elladan quickly shrugged it off, and responded warmly to the Princess. “Thank you, Anya, but I can assure you that we are just a simple band of travelers.”

“Hmm,” Anya murmured, as she reached for another grape. This one she brought up to her lips and sucked on for a few moments before popping into her mouth.

Elladan suddenly felt very warm. He nodded toward the crystal decanter that sat on the table between them. “May I?”

Anya, an amused smile on her lips, responded with a brief nod. “Be my guest.”

Elladan poured the clear liquid into the silver goblet in front of him and took a brief sip. It was ice cold. He placed it down on the table, and returned his attention to the Princess. “Thank you, Anya.”

Anya sat there watching him with clear amusement. “My pleasure.”

The Princess eyed him for a moment longer, then moved forward in her seat. She leaned over the table toward him, exposing more of her bosom than would have been considered proper in an elven court. “So, tell me, Elladan… have you found the Colossus?”

To his credit, Elladan kept his eyes firmly fixed on Anya’s, not flinching at the mention of the Colossus. Yet how could she possibly know of the existence of the huge stone golem? Not even Telvar, the mage the Serpent Cult had tortured to obtain the location of the monolith, had mentioned the colossal construct. All this flashed through Elladan’s mind in a moment. He responded to Anya without missing a beat. “Of course we did, Anya.”

The Princess reached out and placed her hand on top of Elladan’s, gently caressing it as she spoke. “Would you be a doll then, and do me a tiny little favor?”

Elladan kept his eyes focused on Anya’s. “If it is in my power.”

Anya flipped Elladan’s hand over and held it there, while drawing circles in his palm with her finger. She was doing her darndest to rattle him, but Elladan was no novice when it came to flirtation. The elven bard took a deep breath and continued to smile at the Princess.

Her voice took on a sickly-sweet tone as she continued to draw on his palm. “Would you destroy it for me?”

Elladan’s eyes widened momentarily at her request. He had to admit, it was not what he had expected. Elladan had thought it more likely that she would want the Colossus for herself. He pulled his hand away from hers and gazed at her curiously. “Destroy it? Why would you want to do that?”

The Princess sat back in her chair, and waved a nonchalant hand at him, her tone sounding almost bored. “Because it’s dangerous… and… my advisors have warned me that it must be demolished.”

Her voice grew sweet again, a sparkle returning to her eyes. “Now won’t you do this little thing for me? I’ll make it worth your while.”

Elladan sat back in his chair, his mind racing. Her advisors warned her? There is no way they could have known about the Colossus. The creature had an antimagic field around it that hid it even from magical eyes. It suddenly dawned on him, Elistra was right! There was a tie in between the Princess and the green dragon—it had to be the Dragon Master. Only another Thrall Master could have known of the existence of the Colossus. Thankfully, the Dragon Master himself had not returned, instead sending Anya to do his dirty work.

Elladan gazed at the Princess with a mournful smile. “I’m sorry, Anya, but even if we could, I’m not sure how to destroy something that large.”

Anya let out a short sigh, the young lady nonchalantly twirling a lock of her long blonde hair. “Ah well, that’s too bad.”

A dark eyebrow suddenly arched across her forehead. Anya sat up and gazed at him curiously. “Tell me, Elladan, are you and your companions good friends?”

Elladan cocked his head to one side, a single eye narrowing. “We haven’t known each other long, but I would say so.”

The Princess picked up a spoon in front of her and casually played with it. “So, say something were to happen to you. Would they do anything to save you?”

Elladan did not like the sound of that thinly veiled threat. He threw up his hands in front of him. “Now hold on there, little lady. I thought we were going to be friends.”

A wide smile spread across Anya’s lips. “Oh, my dear Elladan. I wouldn’t dream of harming a hair on that gorgeous head of yours.”

Before he could respond, the Princess dropped her spoon, and waved her hands at him in a circular motion, two words falling from her lips. “Tristis Mutatio.

Elladan tried to stand up, but the sudden tingle of magic surrounded him. Abruptly he felt himself sinking downward, the top of the table disappearing above. Elladan tried to summon his lute, but it would not appear. He attempted to cry out, but no sound came from his throat. He gazed around in panic, and saw that his hands had grown smaller, his fingers shortened, and that grey hair had sprouted out of them.

A pair of large hands suddenly grabbed him and lifted him up into the air. Anya’s red-haired attendant towered over him, a wicked smile across her dark features. The scarlet woman carried him to the Princess and handed him over, Anya snuggling him against her soft bosom. Elladan, panic setting in, tried to escape from her grasp, but the Princess held him firmly in place. She gently stroked his head and back, while softly cooing to him.

“Now, now, Elladan. Don’t be scared. I’m sure your friends will soon be here to rescue you.”

There you have it folks, Princess Anya at her finest. Stayed tuned next month for another excerpt from Book 4 of the Heroes of Ravenford series, Princess of Lanfor, and for news of its pending release date.

Thanks for stopping by!

F. P.

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