I wake up quite early the next day, and I am one of the first to arrive at breakfast. I sit by myself, as I have every day so far. I would like to make friends with some of the other girls, but that is not my priority right now. I smile politely whenever I make eye contact with one of them, but I am not one to start a conversation. After a small breakfast (I don’t have much of an appetite), we are told to gather in the hall.
A man that I don’t recognize introduces himself as the head of the royal stables, and tells us that Prince Delt has requested our presence in a hunting party.
When I hear this I can’t help but get excited, because hunting is so important in Wenth, and I am extremely familiar with it. We are informed that we may wear trousers or a dress, and are sent upstairs to get dressed accordingly. I wear trousers, of course. They are so much more practical, especially when hunting. Because I know that some girls will be wearing beautiful dresses, I am sure to wear a nice the fanciest shirt that I have, a beautiful purple one with puffed sleeves and lovely embroidery.
I style my hair in braids away from my face, and a braid down my back. I look practical, yet elegant.
I make my way across the lawns and to the stables, where a stableboy asks whether I have ever ridden a horse before. “Yes, I am quite comfortable on horseback, I have been riding since I was 6 years old.” The stableboy nods and brings me a saddled horse, a beautiful chestnut stallion called Nim. Though he is a bit stubborn, I let him know that I am in charge right away, because I know from experience that if you are intimidated, the horse will walk all over you. I see this happening to some of the other girls, and decide to share the information.
Prince Delt nods in agreement, and I hope that the girls will heed my advice, though I suppose it is none of my business.
I am also given a bow and arrows, more beautiful than any I have ever used.
We canter into the woods, and the hunt is on. I am so happy to be outdoors doing something so familiar. The weather is a little cooler today, though warmer still than the sunniest day in Wenth. I recall my childhood days, when my older brother Sif taught me to ride and hunt. I am not considered a very good hunter in Wenth, but I know that I will stand out compared to most girls here, who may never have seen a bow and arrow in their lives.
Around midday, Prince Delt falls into place beside me.
“Why Lyla,” He says, grinning, “You look quite comfortable atop a horse.”
“Yes my lord,” I reply politely, giving him a small smile, “My brother taught me to ride and hunt when I was a young girl.”
“Ah yes, you trade fur in Wenth, don’t you?”
“Yes, therefore a hunter who is able to make a kill with little or no damage to the fur is revered back home.”
“And are you one of those revered hunters yourself?” Is he mocking me? I can’t tell.
“No, I only hunt occasionally, but my brother and father are quite skilled, though my opinion may be slightly biased.” I reply.
He laughs and asks “So when you aren’t out hunting, what do you like to do for fun?”
“I enjoy making things with my hands. I create and sell hunting traps. I have become quite good at it over the years”
“Really? You ought to teach me some of your tricks.”
“Ah, but if I share my secrets with you, how can I know that you will not steal away my customers?” I say, grinning at him. He laughs. He has a nice laugh.
“I guess you have a point.” We share a smile, then ride in silence for a moment.
“Wenth sounds like an interesting place. What is your favorite place to be?”
“You mustn't laugh.”
“I promise.” He says, grinning.
“I like to climb trees. When I want to be alone, I will climb a tree, and just sit up there with my thoughts. It is quite comforting.”
He tries to keep a straight face, but I see the corners of his mouth tugging upwards.
“That is perfectly reasonable.” He says grinning, but it doesn’t seem like a mean grin.
“I must rejoin the rest of the party.”
“Of course. I am glad to have had a chance to speak with you.” And I really mean it. I might just like Delt after all. I hope that I will get the chance to speak with his brothers as well. He rides off, and I start to pay attention to the hunt again.
By the end of the day, I caught a rabbit and a fox, and managed to save most of the fur on both. I am exhausted, but proud of myself.
After a bath, I crawl into bed and fall asleep before my head hits the pillow.