Erros was watching the road ahead, the road behind, the shoreline on his left and the low hills on his right. The countryside was a mix of woods, meadows, and fields belonging to the villages along the coast. Ahead the road curved inland as the coastline became more rugged, lined with cliffs rather than beaches.
He kept pace with the Princess as she rode down the beach. It was neither easy or pleasant. Erros had never particularly liked horses or riding them. It was a means of transport, and a painful one at that. The other Swordsmen were spread out along the road, watching over the Queen and her party. He followed the Princess as she sped ahead of the Swordsmen at the front. He kept to what he thought was a discreet distance. The Princess surprised him by racing back and coming up alongside him.
“Hello! You were talking with my mother when we left. My name’s Anaya, what’s yours?” she said.
“I am Swordsman Erros Mardaak, your Grace.” He said.
“Well, Swordsman Erros, why don’t you ride with me?” she said, pronouncing his rank and name with the insouciance only the young are capable of.
“I do not think it would be proper, your Grace. I am on duty.” He said.
“Well I think the best way to do your duty would be to catch me!” she yelled as she raced away from him. There wasn’t much beach left but she was going to use the very last of it. Or launch herself into the sea. He was about to call her back but she reined in at the last moment and turned around, smiling at him and laughing. It was at that moment Erros realized that while he was a Queen’s Swordsman his heart rate unlikely to go down.
“Anaya! Come back! You can bring your new friend too!” Erros heard the Queen’s voice as if she were right next to him. It was an odd sensation as she used her Talent to project her voice.
“Come your Grace, the Queen is calling us.” He said. Anaya stuck her tongue out at him as she fell in line behind him.
“Do you laugh at all?” she asked.
“Yes, but right now I am on duty, and that duty is to protect you.” He said. He didn’t know what else to say that wouldn’t sound improperly familiar.
“Most of the other Swordsmen will race with me.” She pouted.
“I do not know what to say, your Grace. I am here to protect you, the Queen and anyone else in our party.”
“You sound like you need to have more fun.” The Princess said. She made it sound like she had found a new mission.
“Are you mistreating the good Swordsman?” the Queen asked her daughter.
“No. I’m just trying to get him to have more fun.” She said.
“Is she bothering you?” The Queen asked him.
“No, your Highness. She has been perfectly well behaved.” Erros said.
“Hmm, that would be a first. Ask Captain Mann if there’s a single one of my personal Swordsmen who haven’t had their share of fun increased.” The Queen made a shooing motion to the Princess.
“Go and ride some more. We adults need time away from noisy, short people.” Anaya stuck her tongue out at the Queen and turned back towards the beach. “Swordsman Mardaak, tell me where you’re from.” Asked the Queen.
“Your Highness, I’m from a small town in the Southlands Barony. Denell by name.” Erros said. He didn’t add anything. It wasn’t as if one just carried on a conversation with the Queen.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” she asked him.
“Your Highness, I am here to protect you, and I cannot think that you wish to converse with a mere Swordsman in your guard.” She chuckled.
“Go on then. Keep us safe.” She smiled at him. As Erros moved away he heard the Queen say something to her maid “…sure you don’t want to go help…” but that was all he could catch. He took a deep breath as he moved away, free to make sure there were no threats to the Queen and her entourage bearing down on them. And not getting trapped in conversations he wasn’t certain he should be having.