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Feb 13, 2021

Fantasy Romance

Praeya lived atop the tallest tower of the great castle in the city of Mijira. From there, she could see the great ocean to the south, and would spend hours gazing out of her window at it and wondering if anything lay beyond. Most said there was nothing, for how could there be? No great explorer had ever ventured very far before turning back, fearing that they may run out of food and water by the time they could see anything. Praeya often imagined venturing out herself in one of Mijira’s great ships and discovering brand new lands and peoples.


To the east, on the clearest and brightest days, she could see the distant sparkle of the Forsaken Sands. Rumours of savage men and tales of terrible wars were all she heard of the sands. And to the north of it, a forest that none who had ever gone into had come back. Though this sounded truly terrifying, Praeya could not help fantasising about exploring it herself one day.


Looking west, Praeya could see the greenest of lands. A forest which looked altogether more inviting than the one in the east sounded, and beyond, the three great cities of the Western Lands; the only place in all of Mhyrran where one could find peace. Her heart ached to see it, and to visit the people there, hear every word of their tales and every note of their songs.


She did not know what lay to the north, for every time she willed herself to look there, she found that she could not. She would turn her head and when her eyes almost reached the northern side of her tower, something cast them downwards, or her eyelids would shut themselves. And a peculiar feeling would come over her then; a feeling that she really should know what lay to the north. But the feeling would soon pass, and she would once again gaze out of one of her other windows, and dream of what lay beyond.


***


One night, she heard a voice come from outside and far below.


‘Praeya! Praeya!’


The night was still, and she heard the voice clearly. Coming out of her bed, she tried to look out of her window but found that she could not, for the voice sounded far below her window which faced northwards.


‘Hello?’ she called. ‘Who is there?’


‘It is I, Mytham.’


‘Mytham?’ called Praeya. ‘I am sorry, I do not know anyone by that name.’


‘Ah!’ Mytham called. ‘But you do! Come, look out of the window and you shall recognise my face.’


‘I cannot,’ Praeya called. ‘For some spell stops me from looking out of my northern window, and into anything beyond. Can’t you move to another side of my tower?’


‘Alas!’ Mytham called. ‘The northern part of your tower is the least guarded, and easy for me to get to. Have you not seen the guards standing by the other parts of your tower?’


Praeya ignored this question, for two others formed inside her head. ‘Why would the guards be disturbed by your presence here? And why can’t they hear you call to me?’


‘Dearest Praeya!’ Mytham called. ‘All of that is easy to explain, but you must know me first! You must remember me!’


‘I remember not your name, nor your voice,’ Praeya called. ‘And these are dangerous times – there are rumours that Mijira may again war soon. How do I know you are not an enemy soldier, sent to assassinate the...’


That’s odd, Praeya thought. What am I? Who am I? The queen of Mijira’s castle? A princess perhaps? What a peculiar thing to forget…


‘Yes?’ called Mytham. ‘Assassinate the who?’


‘Well, you should know!’ Praeya said, defensively. ‘I’m obviously someone important if I live in the castle.’


‘Important...’ Mytham called. ‘Or a prisoner?’


‘A prisoner!’ Praeya scoffed. ‘Do not be so foolish!’


‘Well either way, you’ve always been important to me,’ Mytham said.


Praeya felt her cheeks flush. But who was this mysterious man?


‘I’m sorry,’ she called. ‘I really don’t know who you are, and it is late. I should return to my bed.’


‘Very well,’ Mytham said. ‘But I shall return tomorrow night, for I believe I can help you remember me.’


‘And if I do not remember you, will you stop coming to my tower?’ Praeya asked.


‘Yes,’ Mytham said, and his heart sounded heavy. ‘But you must give me three chances. Three chances to help you remember me. And on the third night, I believe you will remember who I am.’


‘That is fair,’ Praeya said. ‘I must return to my bed to sleep now, and perhaps you should do the same, curious man.’


‘I will,’ Mytham said. ‘And I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.’


And with that, Praeya returned to her bed. When she fell asleep, she dreamed that she could finally look out of her northern-facing window. All she could see was a thick, black cloud which enveloped everything. Looking downwards, she say the faint silhouette of Mytham, but could tell nothing of his appearance.


The next evening Praeya went to bed as normal, for she did not truly believe that the strange man would return. She was just drifting off into a sleep when she heard the same voice, once again callin to her.


‘Praeya! Praeya! It’s me, Mytham! Come to your window!’


Praeya went to her window and once again could not look out of it, but called down to Mytham.


‘Well now!’ she said, casting her eyes to the floor. ‘I was not sure if you would return!’


‘Nothing would stop me from coming to you,’ Mytham said. ‘How has your day been, Praeya? What have you been doing today?’


Praeya thought about this and was stunned that she could remember nothing of her day. ‘Well, I… I...’


‘It matters not,’ Mytham said, brightly. ‘I have brought proof that you know me. Open your window carefully and reach your hand out. I climbed your tower earlier and I have left something you will recognise upon your windowsill.’


Praeya did as instructed. Without looking, she gently swung her window outwards and tapped her hand around the windowsill until her hand happened upon a small, hard object.


‘Take it! And look upon it!’ Mytham called.


She brought it into her tower and looked at it. It was nothing more than an ordinary pine cone.


‘A pine cone!’ Praeya cried. ‘This is what you wanted to show me? How can an everyday object such as this be proof that I know who you are?’


‘Ah, it is no ordinary pine cone,’ Mytham said. ‘That pine cone is the one you gifted to me after we walked one autumn eve, hand in hand and laughing merrily at each other’s jokes. You must remember that night, Praeya? It was the first time I confessed my love for you. And you returned it and promised me your heart.’


Praeya shoo her head. ‘I am sorry, you really must have me confused with someone else, for I remember no such eve.’


‘It aches my heart to hear you say so,’ Mytham returned. ‘But I believe you will remember it, no matter how strange it may seem to you now. Pray, will you do something for me? Will you keep the pine cone somewhere safe inside your tower? Just until either you remember me, or I have failed to convince you? Either way that will be merely two more nights from now.’


‘Very well,’ Praeya called. ‘I will keep it in my tower. I expect you shall be back again tomorrow eve?’


‘Aye,’ said Mytham. ‘And I think I will do better to remind you of who I am. Goodnight, Praeya! Sleep well!’


Praeya closed her wundow and returned to her bed. She drifted off into a sleep in which she dreamed again of looking out of her north-facing window. The dark cloud was still there, but this time she could almost make out the lands beyond. She saw a very faint outline of a great city, which she did not know the name of. Beneath this again was who she presumed to be Mytham. He stood, gazing up at the tower. She could still not see his face, but he looked as though he was simply waiting there. Waiting for as long as it would take for her to be able to see him, and come down from her tower.


The next evening, Praeya did not go to bed, for she now knew that Mytham would likely make good on his promise. It was another still night and the sky was cloudless and bright with the light of the moon and the stars.


As promised, Mytham arrived in the still darkness beneath her.


‘Praeya!’ Mytham called. ‘How was your day? Did you leave your tower today?’


Once again, Praeya felt confused as she tried to remember the events of the day and found that she had no memory of it.


‘Why… why can’t I remember?’ she found herself saying aloud.


‘Do not fret!’ Mytham said. ‘I have brought you another gift. Open your window carefully and reach out!’


Praeya once again did as Mytham said. This time, her hands grasped something delicate and cold. Bringing it into the tower and facing away from the north, Praeya opened her hand and found a beautiful silver necklace with an emerald shining within it.


‘Mytham!’ Praeya cried. ‘This is no mere pine cone! You cannot give me this!’


‘Ah, Praeya!’ Mytham cried. ‘This is not the first time I have gifted you that necklace. I gave it to you on your birthday some six years past! You must remember? I saved all my coin for it and you called me a fool. I said that I had nothing else to spend my silver on but to make my one true love happiest.’


‘Mytham,’ Praeya called. ‘You have made a terrible mistake. I cannot keep this necklace, it is not meant for me. Please, take it back and find the woman you truly seek.’


‘Remember our deal, Praeya,’ Mytham said. ‘Keep the necklace in the same safe place as the pine cone. Place them next to each other. Tomorrow night I shall return once more. If you do not remember me then, then you can do what you wish with the pine cone and the necklace: return them to me, set them alight or cast them into the sea! But for now, dearest Praeya, leave them safe together in your tower.’


‘You are right,’ Praeya said, sadly. ‘I did make you a promise. Very well, I shall keep them for tonight. But tomorrow you must take them back and seek the woman you love.’


‘I have already found her,’ Mytham said, and although Praeya could not see him, she could hear the smile on his face.


It took a long time for Praeya to fall asleep that night, but when she did she dreamed yet again of the dark cloud. This time, it looked as though it was almost gone. She could see the great city that it had once veiled; it was set upon a great hill, a magnificent castle made of white stone at the very top. The city was still; it looked as though nobody lived there, but she knew this could not be true. Looking down to the foot of her tower, she saw Mytham standing there. The clouds seemed no longer to touch him, and she might have seen his face if her tower had not been so high. He looked up at her and waved.


Praeya once again did not go to her bed the next evening. She waited for Mytham to arrive with a feeling of dread, for her mind was now settled; Mytham was wrong. He had somehow gotten Praeya confused with a former lover whom he had somehow lost. He would provide Praeya with another object tonight which Praeya would not recognise. She would return it, along with the pine cone and necklace, and the poor man would walk away dejected. She hoped he would find his lost love, or that he would be able to move on from his heartbreak.


‘Praeya!’ Mytham called. ‘Are you there? How did you sleep last night? Did you dream?’


‘I did,’ Praeya said to the window. ‘In fact, twice I have dreamed of you. But a great, dark cloud has veiled your face, and you have been too far away for me to see you.’


‘And what of Freymaer?’ Mytham enquired. ‘Have you dreamed of that?’


Praeya was confused. ‘I’m sorry, but that word is unknown to me. What is Freymaer?’


‘What is Freymaer!’ Mytham gasped. ‘You mean you remember nothing of the great city upon the hill? The grand, white castle?’


‘I dreamed of it!’ Praeya cried. ‘How did you know?’


‘And you do not remember its name to be Freymaer?’ Mytham asked, ignoring her question.


‘Mytham,’ Praeya said. ‘For three nights you have come to my tower, claiming I know you. You have asked me how my day has been and I have not known. You seem to know what I have been dreaming about, and you seem to perhaps know why it is that I cannot look to the north. You claim I know you, but I have no memory of your name, your voice, or the stories you tell me related to the items you have been bringing. Please, if you know what is going on, I would have you tell me.’


‘I told you that on the third night you would know me,’ Mytham said. ‘I have left one final gift for you outside your window. This one will take more of your attention, and so I will leave you for a few moments to look through it at your own pace.’


Praeya opened her window and felt around for the object. Finding it, and taking it inside her tower, she saw that it was a small book. She opened it and found neat handwritten pages. Upon reading the first few sentences, she saw that it was Mytham’s diary. Within its pages, accounts of Mytham’s life in the city of Freymaer were detailed. Mytham’s daily life, his work as a farmer, and accounts of the rising tensions between the cities of Freymaer and Mijira.


She finally found pages where own name was written. Mytham’s account of how they had met, how they had indeed walked together and picked up pine cones. Tales of romance and love, happiness, joy, overwhelming warmth and tenderness.


Praeya wept.


‘Praeya? Are you alright?’ Mytham asked, for he must have heard her quietly sobbing.


‘This is wonderful,’ Praeya said. ‘Your love is endless, like the great ocean to the south. But it is not for me. This is the third night you have tried to tell me I know you. But you are wrong, Mytham. I am not the same Praeya that is written about in your diary.’


‘I see,’ Mytham said with a distinct sadness in his voice. ‘I expect you will want to return my items. Before you do, will you grant me one last request? Have you kept the pine cone and the necklace safe?’


‘Yes,’ Praeya breathed through her weeping.


‘Are they together?’ Mytham asked.


‘Yes,’ Praeya returned. ‘They are laid on a small table in front of my window.


‘Then will you place my diary next to them?’ Mytham asked. ‘Just for a moment. Just take one moment to look at all three things together, and see if that helps you remember me.’


Praeya’s heart sank. She wished that Mytham would simply leave, for she did not wish to break the man’s heart any more than it had already been. But she did as she was asked – she placed the diary on the little table and looked at all three of them together.


And then something incredible happened.


It all came back to her – the time spent with Mytham, the city of Freymaer, her true home, the sudden invasion by Mijiran soldiers, her capture and her confinement in the tower of the Mijiran castle, and the king’s wretched spell which made her forget everything.


She glanced up, and was surprised once again. She was no longer standing in her tower. She was outside, and in front of her was Mytham, smiling brightly.


‘I knew you could do it!’ he said, and ran to her. The two embraced lovingly and wept together. This time, Praeya wept tears of happiness.


‘How did you break the spell?’ Praeya asked.


‘The items were charmed,’ Mytham said. ‘They could have been anything – rocks, leaves, a piece of bread. But I thought it might be nicer if they were special items. Now come, we must get out of Mijira. I know of a safe way out of the city, and my horse will speed us towards Freymaer. Towards home.’


‘But the guards,’ Praeya said. ‘How did they not hear our conversations each night?’


‘That fool of a king, Eldhir, put a charm on the northern part of your tower, so that you could neither see nor hear anything from that side. So he saw no need to place any guards there. But the charm worked so that nobody could hear any sound coming from the north. I discovered this when I was spying on the guards. I’m not sure where King Eldhir learned this charm, but he didn’t learn it well.’


‘O, Mytham!’ Praeya cried. ‘Thank you! Thank you for coming for me! Now come, we must leave this place.'


Praeya went with Mytham and the pair managed to swiftly escape the city of Mijira. It was never known why King Eldhir took Prayea prisoner, but the tale of her and Mytham was told and sung of in the lands of Mhyrran for many years to come.

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