Fantasy. Alain Harper takes Jordan Highridge away from his brother Henry’s dominion, promising never to trouble Henry again. Princess Ariel Adams becomes upset at what seems unfair treatment of her by comparison to Jordan. With fellow Triond author Jack Shepherd.

Alain put a hand of comfort on Ariel’s shoulder for a moment and withdrew it. “Don’t worry, he’s no threat, and in any case he won’t be here long. Soon he’ll be joining Marshland’s military school, living within his palace.”

“Wait! He gets to continue to live like a Duke and get military training, and I have to give up my royalty and live in a swamp?”

“Royalty is as royalty does, Your Grace. Jordan has suffered long and hard, even at his tender age, as no heir to a fiefdom should have to suffer. Until recently you’ve known nothing of the trials of this world. If I had the authority to choose who’d rule this world and had to choose between just the two of you, I’d choose the one who’s learned humility and patience through suffering. Jordan’s learned that lesson well already. You haven’t, not yet.”

Alain’s words were gentle and kind, but his reasoning hit home – all too hard. “That’s why you’ve brought me to this forsaken place? To teach me humility and patience?”

And what my people call ‘anger management’.” Alain couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at that, but he checked his amusement quickly. “You’re not going to argue your way into the Mandate of Heaven, nor elbow the Five Dukes out of your way to the Marble Throne by wishful thinking. There are more ways of serving Sept-Ternia than being the Queen of the Snowflake Kingdom – and better ones for you. At the moment your only alternatives are to stay the ‘spoiled brat’ that Marshland says you are, or else to die at the hands of House Highridge and its camp followers – quite possibly as the result of unrestrained gang-rape. I won’t allow that to happen, but I have my reasons for allowing this. Your life may not seem fair at the moment, but it will balance itself out in time if you trust me.”

“Ha!” Ariel marched off and sat in her tent to pout.

Alain shook his head and returned to the others, then called Autumn to a private meeting of his own. “Dearest, after the Princess has had time to cool off, find a time and way to help her see reason about her situation. She knows I’m right about it deep down, but to admit it will force her to change in ways she’s unable to face without help. That help will come much more easily from a woman than from me.”

“You got it, Blademaster,” Autumn said with a smile and a playful kiss on Alain’s nose. “And don’t underestimate the Hooded Man working through you – not that you usually do. She’s already changed, just by being in your presence. She just hasn’t looked in her internal mirror closely enough to see it yet. I do. If I can help her take a good look without fear, then I will.”

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  • Jack Shepherd on Jul 30, 2012

    :D I enjoy helping you flesh out the framework of this story. Between the two of us I believe we’re making this a diverting and enjoyable read. And I like the fact that I’m able to follow your plot lead without the temptation to distort it beyond recognition. That says something about how your skills are growing.

    I still say that apart from characters such as Edwin Bitterroot, your characters here are so far the most realistic you’ve come up with. Alain Harper under any name is a complex character, and the fact he’s able to deal with something other than ciphers is a real credit to you.

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