Summer, 1014 YD
Alendae Palace, Lenyol
The coming-of-age ceremony at the temple had concluded, and Princess Régan prepared for her official presentation to the court at Alendae Palace. The guests, including the Custodin and Royal Consort, awaited her arrival in the Great Hall. Word was sent from her chambers as she made her way through the palace halls.
The Duchess and High Duke of Alendae rose at the ringing of bells, and their guests did the same. High Priest Alsandul, greatly honoured, crossed to the doors. ‘The Princess Régan,’ he announced.
The guards opened the doors, and the Princess entered. She smiled at Alsandul and rested her fingers in his offered hand. The afternoon sun broke through the windows; her golden gown glittered in its light, and the gold torc at her neck repelled a beam onto the wall. The High Priest led her to the main table, the Princess’ head lifted to the applause.
Lady Régan took her place at the table’s centre, between her parents, who were in turn adjoined by her ducal aunt and uncle. Alsandul kissed her cheek, and took his place with the other Beran members at a separate table.
Excuses had been made that the old Great Hall in Offenure Castle was compromised by crumbling stone. The castle, around which the modern city had been built, was ancient and knew countless faults. And so the tale was believed, and Régan succeeded in having the celebrations in Alendae. She considered it home, having resided there with her aunt and uncle since the age of eleven, when the Custodin finally despaired of breaking in her temperament.
The feast was served, consumed, and cleared. As the sun began to touch the horizon, Régan’s patience abandoned her. She lent past her mother who was giving some dreadfully uninteresting recount of her own eighteenth year, and nodded to her aunt. Lady Bevan signalled to the musicians, who took up their bows, and rose to announce the feast was concluded and that the evening’s festivities could begin.
Régan patted the Consort’s hand. ‘Excuse me, mother; I must receive my guests.’ Bridget’s eyes glistened with pride—or regret at her own passing youth, perhaps—and waved her daughter off, taking her husband’s hand across the vacant chair.
Duchess Bevan linked arms with her niece and began the exciting business of introducing the newly presented Princess to the region’s senior nobles.
‘Allow me to introduce the Duke and Duchess of Lirna, Lord Molan and Lady Ione.’
Régan turned her attention to the couple before her, a pair not half a dozen years her senior. She lit up, extending her hand, greeting and thanking them both for making the journey.
‘Did you come across the Pavilion Marshes?’ she inquired immediately.
Duke Molan laughed. ‘We kept them to our north, keeping to the road above the Barlon Ranges and Intiae Forest. We did take a small detour to see the Aisling Stones, however.’
The Duchess clutched her hands. ‘We saw them at sunrise. They were beautiful. The stones are not as large as those of the Claes, but there are twice as many, and it is double in width also, is it not?’
‘I have travelled that way once before; I believe you are correct.’ Régan liked them both immediately. ‘I do not recall my visit to Lirna, however. I must have been very young.’
‘I am new to it myself,’ admitted the Duchess. ‘I was born in Dara, and we met in court. We have been married only two years. Lord Molan was inaugurated in autumn, when his father passed away.’
Régan looked at Molan in compassion. ‘I am sorry to hear of your troubles.’
The Duke gave a slight bow. ‘Thank you. You may know he was considered old when I was born; he lived beyond his eightieth year, still in fair health, and one cannot ask for more.’
Régan had not known this; nor did she have much knowledge of court gossip, considered inappropriate by her father until she came of age. And now her age had come.
Her uncle, High Duke Nóe, came and stole her away to continue the introductions with his wife. The Custodin and Consort remained at their table, receiving news and praise while observing their daughter circulate the Great Hall. The evening wore on, and by its close the Princess had met all guests, absorbing the names and ranks she was given. As the candles at the head table sank into their holder, Custodin Màtac caught her eye.
Bidding her aunt goodnight, Lady Régan quickly sought the Duke and Duchess of Lirna. ‘I am expected to retire presently. It was a pleasure making your acquaintance; will you be joining the games in the morning?’
‘We will, Your Highness’ answered Iona with a bow of her head.
‘Lady Iona is a master of the bow. Do you play?’
Régan regretted that she did not.
Duchess Iona smiled, placing a hand very lightly on her arm. ‘Then I shall teach you.’