Brayand shivered as a cool breeze blew over his shoulders. He tended not to leave the city walls in the early morning, and so was not accustomed to the winds that blew in from the sea at this hour. But protocol demanded that he be present, despite Niel’s continued insistence that such was not required.
“Lord Hathen,” he had said the night before, “I am quite certain that you will not attempt to murder us, nor will you use this opportunity to insult the noble kings of Seralia.”
“All the same,” Brayand insisted, “I will be present at your departure.”
Now, of course, he regretted those words, but such is life. Niel’s companions had already mounted their horses, and now stood waiting for their lord.
Niel extended his arms towards Brayand. “Thank you, Brayand Hathen, for your charitable hospitality. Your guests from Seralia are grateful for all you have done for us.”
Brayand returned the gesture, grasping the other’s arms. “You are most welcome, Niel Rator. You and your people are always welcome to return to our city. May peace reign between our peoples.”
Niel nodded, letting go of Brayand. “Good. Now that that’s out of the way, when will you be visiting us in Keto? The desert may not be to your liking, but our city and people will certainly impress you.”
Smiling, Brayand responded. “I will plan to visit before the end of the year. I’ll need to learn the protocol for visiting Seralia first.”
“Again with the protocols,” Niel rolled his eyes, sighing visibly. “Brayand, come as a friend, not as governor of Alden. It’s much simpler.”
“Prince Rator,” Helin spoke up. Both men turned to her. “I feel something strange in the air. The elements are restless.”
“What do you mean, restless?” Niel asked, his jovial demeanor gone at her words. She must be one of the desert shaman, Brayand thought.
“I’m not certain,” she responded. “They are agitated, worried. I think they are fearful, or something akin to it.” She closed her eyes, then nodded. “Yes, fearful. Something is happening that they are afraid of.”
“Is it safe to travel?” the prince asked.
Helin’s eyes remained closed, the only sound coming from the wind. “I’m not certain,” she said at last. “I have never seen them like this before.”
“You’re more than welcome to stay longer,” Brayand said, but Niel was already shaking his head.
“If the elements are this afraid of something, then I must return to Keto at once. No matter the danger.” He turned again to Brayand. “But I look forward to your visit. Thank you for all you have done.”
Brayand bowed slightly. “Be safe, Niel.”
Niel mounted his horse, and with a cry, the trio rode off, climbing the hilly road until they vanished beyond Brayand’s sight.