The final days on the vessel proved very uneventful for Cordelia. After witnessing the hidden solemnity beneath Robert’s cheery appearance, she had done all she could to forget seeing him like that. Try as she did, she was unable to do so.
The last day on the ship caused her heart to sink. The weather beyond the cabin, much to her dismay, was bitingly cold and windy. The sailors worked furiously to prepare the rowboats for arrival on land. Amidst the commotion, she found Robert, tying his short cloak around his face.
“Your Radiance! Good afternoon! We have sight of land, and our charts read out that we should be in the vicinity of Tenford, much to our luck!” Robert exclaimed, although the makeshift scarf covering his mouth muffled his words. “You’d best raise your hood, Your Radiance. It’s quite cold!”
The princess did as she was advised, her mood progressively diminishing. The cold, commotion, and the promise of dealing with foreign royalty all hit her at once. She felt as if she were to break down in tears.
I mustn’t. My life is not the only at stake here. Cordelia thought. Ever since she had witnessed Robert’s vow to protect her, she became increasingly more aware of her guard’s intents, which were no doubt similar to Robert’s. The fact that she was protected was very comforting, but the burden of their lives on the line worried her.
Climbing into the rowboat, Cordelia noticed the wooden chair on the one she rode in was now gone. Puzzled, she looked to Robert.
“While your comfort is essential, Your Radiance, we did not want to appear presumptuous to whatever ambassador is sent to meet us.” Robert said, shrugging as he did so.
Rowing out to the shoreline, Cordelia was not pleased by what she saw. Snow still clung to patches of grass, and the sands of the beach were covered in ice crystals. A single dock jetted out onto the water, and further beyond the shore was the village. A single brown mare stood nervously on the snow, as a few soldiers stood to keep it still.
Wyvern soldiers. Cordelia pondered. As friendly as they seem, their smiles, for the moment, are shielding daggers.
Many of the black-cloaked men-at-arms stood around. Some gripped spears and wore conical helmets; others held swords with shields bearing the menacing red wyvern. Among them, a man robed with a red cloak held a scepter, which was tipped with an ice sapphire.
Is that a red priest? Cordelia wondered. He doesn’t wear the same head wrap that most of them do. Is he the ambassador?
“Hello there!” the black robed man said. His accent was nasally and he spoke fast, unlike the way Middlers spoke, Cordelia noted. He wore an odd hat, gray and round capped.
“Yes, hello!” Robert responded quickly, hopping out of the rowboat onto the pier. “I did not expect to see a man of the faith here!”
So he is a red priest. Cordelia thought. “Good afternoon.” she managed to say, although she sounded very meek.
“Who else but a man of the faith? Our kingdoms were once united by a unique love of the gods, and it was only fitting to usher in a new union with the faith’s open arms.” the priest nodded. “I am High Priest Archibald, head of the Wyvern Order of the Faith.”
“A pleasure to meet you, High Priest.” Robert said, respectfully nodding. “You may call me Robert. I am a royal advisor of the Lion Empire royal family.” Beckoning to Cordelia, he said. “And this is Her Radiance, Princess Cordelia I of the Lion Empire, daughter of esteemed Emperor Edward VI.”
At her introduction, the Princess bowed to Archibald, who in bowed in turn. By this point soldiers from the vessel had arrived on shore and were unloading various cargo and chests from the main ship, stacking them on a patch of grass. The Wyvern soldiers made no motion to help, instead watching the foreign soldiers curiously.
“I am waiting for the rest of the troop to bring adequate horses and a cart for your luggage, Your Radiance.” Archibald spoke quickly, and Cordelia was not yet used to the speech patterns of the Northerners. “We will leave as quickly as possible and ride for Lindford, where you will meet the King Martin V and his son, Martin VI, your betrothed.”
Smiling, Cordelia did her best to seem happy and presentable. Inside, she was in a state of turmoil beyond that which she had ever experienced.