Intro to The Sage Cheval Series!
Read on to find the Prologue of Book One in the Sage Cheval Series! The Servant Prince will be released in September! I hope this prologue helps set the stage for the series. If you’d like to hear a reading of it, hop on over to Storyteller Station podcast and have a listen!
The king looked around him. Everyone in the great banquet hall was weeping. Their queen, his beautiful queen, was dead. The plague had taken her. Even as she had been here to nurse all those throughout the villages who were suffering and ill, Queen Amalia herself had become ill. There was nothing he could have done for her. Nothing he wouldn’t have done if he could have. But what would he do now?
The king walked with purpose through the village hall, his boots thundering echoes that bounced off the stone walls. The people of the village of Valea were all huddled together, comforting one another as they mourned their losses. They watched their king walking away. His pace quickened as he neared the door, threw it open then closed it with a bang. Once out of the dark and crowded place he hurried to his horse’s side. It was raining, but he did not feel the beating of the rain on his bronze weathered face. He did not take notice as the drops pooled beneath his warm green eyes onto his full cheeks. He didn’t care that the rain ran down the length of his brown mustache and beard. He mounted his steed without a moment’s hesitation and commanded, “Magnificence, as fast as you can to home.”
Magnificence was no average horse. He was the oldest of the Sage Cheval, a lineage of horses known to be the oldest and wisest of all the horses in the land. It was said the Sage Cheval knew the minds of their riders, almost as though they could read their thoughts, but most certainly could sense their emotions. Not only that, they had been known to speak out loud when the occasion demanded it and their rider required it. This was one such occasion.
Magnificence spoke as he breathed rapidly, “I sense your fear, my young man. Fear causes one to do irrational things. I encourage you: proceed with caution. Perhaps rethink what it is you are about to do.”
“Of course I’m afraid,” the king spoke roughly, voice full of emotion, his brow furrowed, “but my decisions are my own and we needn’t speak of them. I will do what I need to do to protect my family.”
Without another word the kKing clicked the heels of his leather boots against the Cheval’s flanks and urged him on. Over the hills, and along the path through the forest he rode until finally reaching the doors of the red stables and beyond to the gates of Castle Grange.
The moment the two entered the courtyard of the castle the king leaped from the back of his black stallion and ran to the tower. There was nothing left for Magnificence to say or do so he walked back to the stables to join the other Cheval.
The king however, ran up the stairs within the castle tower, often taking two steps at a time. Once he had reached his destination, the large wooden door at the top of the tower, he threw it open without knocking giving the men within the room a start.
“I require the service of my Doyen,” he declared with urgency looking from one man to the other, water still streaming from his beard, desperation heard in every word.
Sir Edward and Sir Francis, even more startled at the look of their king with dark circles under his eyes and clothing clinging to his tall frame, stood up from behind their desks and bowed low in his presence.
“The queen is dead and I must protect my children from meeting the same fate. I need you to find a way to protect them.”
When they did not answer him and looked with bewilderment one to another, the king commanded, “I need it done with all haste!”
Sir Francis cleared his throat and stepped forward timidly, “You know we cannot raise the dead, nor can we prevent it, my lord.”
The king came close to the short and mild scholar, and spoke low, “Find a way to protect my family.”
“Yes, my king.”
The Doyen, the scholars of the kingdom of Monde, were of the king’s closest council. They provided guidance and used all of their knowledge and study to find an answer for their king whenever he required it of them. They would seek out an answer now, as instructed. In the dark recesses of the highest tower in Castle Grange where their library was kept, they sought an answer among the scrolls, books and texts they had at their disposal. They poured over every written word they could find in the castle, in the kingdom. There was no way they could find that would guarantee the health, wellness and protection of the king’s six children.
The Doyen stood with the king in their study, a crackling fire warming the room and creating dancing shadows on the stone walls surrounding them. With eyes staring at the floor, the wise men reported their disappointment to the king. He was not satisfied.
“You must find it,” the king demanded, and then, as if sensing their hesitation he added, “Have you consulted all of the texts available to you?”
The Doyen knew of what the king spoke, but were tentative in their response. It was true they had searched through all the texts and volumes in the land, save one. One book had not been removed from the shelf where it sat. One dusty volume remained. The soft appearance of the dark green binding was deceiving. To the touch the spine was jagged and if handled without care, the texture of the book’s cover could cut into flesh much like the paper’s edge. This volume they dared not touch. It was full of ancient magic and was not to be handled lightly.
As they stood in the tower with the king’s stern stare heavily upon them, it was impossible to speak untruth.
With head still bowed, Sir Edward spoke first, “We have consulted all but one, my lord.”
“All that is left is the Book of Enchantments from of old, Sire,” Sir Francis broke in, eager to explain, “No one has dared to utter a word from it in ages.”
“I will dare it,” the king spoke quickly yet firmly, and walked forward to put his face very close to Sir Francis. “I will dare,” he repeated and with that bold declaration stormed from the room.
Sir Edward and Sir Francis looked at one another, eyes wide and full of fear. Neither wanted to be the man to handle the Book of Enchantments or to read from its pages. The passages within held such power there had always been the fear of any curse or enchantment being inadvertently cast upon the reader. Whether these fears were born from fairy tale or folklore, it did not matter. The Doyen decided to draw straws for the lot and Sir Edward chose the shorter of the two. He would have to do as his king had commanded and risk reading from The Book of Enchantments.
So that misty evening, the royal children, the Sage Cheval, and the noble men and women chosen by the king as guardians for his children, gathered in the courtyard just beyond the gardens, amidst the heather and lilac. With every one of the king’s children safely within the castle walls, it was done. The spell that would protect them was read.
With the Book of Enchantments in hand, Sir Edward moved to the center of the circle of the castle’s inhabitants and spoke the words of the Enchantment of Hidden Hearts:
Illness, darkness, pestilence, drought
Let no such evil here come about
Keep hidden the castle of these precious ones true
None to see with eyes undue
A hidden place for royal hearts to dwell
Ignite now safety’s spell
‘Til time of death or pure love’s expression
Unlock the shroud of invisibility
Only a barn will all the world see
And with the last word spoken, the spires and towers of Castle Grange disappeared from the sight of all the people in all the villages of the land.