The late spring sun felt warm and pleasant upon his back as he rode aimlessly west. It was, Slade reflected, about the only part of this journey that felt anything other than miserable. He had left Vestland, his homeland and the Kingdom that should one day have been his, two ten days ago. He had never really wanted the Throne and the responsibilities that went with it, he despised court intrigue. Now without Ming by his side he definitely no longer wanted to be Crown Prince Einreich, no longer wanted to be heir to the centuries old High Throne, in fact he no longer ever wanted to see Vestland again. He especially did not ever want to see Ming again; she had broken his heart completely. Even now, nearly a half turn of the three moons and he still could not even begin to sort through his conflicting emotions.
He had been so certain of her answer, so sure she would say yes that he had even gone to his parents, High King Erich and Queen Urda, to ask their permission to marry Ming. His parents had been aware of the deep bond between the two and approved the union so had gladly given their permission. Slade knew that he and Ming loved each other deeply and even now despite her refusal he was still sure of that.
So why, Slade asked himself for the thousandth time, why had she said no? Why had she refused his proposal? It made no sense and that, perhaps, was the hardest part of all it for him to deal with. His relationship with Ming had grown so slowly; from playmates to friends and eventually to lovers. How could he possibly have made such a huge mistake about the direction of their relationship?
Shaking his head Slade tried, once again, to push the thoughts of his broken love affair out of his mind. He could see a shady grove with a small stream nearby and decided he would stop and have his noon day meal. From his surroundings he believed that he was still within the borders of the Duchy of Karameikos, although as he had elected not to use the river roads but to ride his horse instead it was difficult to be completely certain. Not that it really mattered; he had no specific destination in mind. For now he was content to travel, far from Vestland, far from Ming and see where the road would take him.
As he sat under the shady trees Slade reflected with some sadness that he had not spoken to his father before he left. Although the second born of High King Erich’s sons Slade had been his father’s designated heir and the two had always been extremely close. Yet in his shame and hurt Slade found that he had been unable to confront his father and tell of his decision to leave court for good. Instead he had taken the cowards way out and left only a note for his parents. He had not bothered to speak with his older brother Ulrich, the two of them had never gotten on and Slade did not really trust his older brother. He did, however, have a tearful farewell with his young sister Ursula. As he chewed on the dried beef he had brought with him Slade reflected that it would be Ursula that he would miss the most. Apart from Ming, of course.
Angrily Slade stood up and began pacing; he had to drive these memories of Ming from his thoughts yet it seemed that everything conspired to bring her beautiful face to his mind. He abruptly decided not to finish his lunch; he would get back on the road and find something, anything that would serve as a distraction from his lost love. Yet as he rode that afternoon Slade realized it was far easier to make the resolution than it was to actually keep it and his memories of Ming continued to plague him.
Slade continued his journey for several more days always following the same pattern. He would rise early and eat lightly while he allowed his horse to graze. Then he would ride through the light forest, keeping the swift running river to his left hand side, while he continued his journey in a westerly direction. When the sun began to set Slade would look for a place to set up camp and begin the long process of trying not to think about Ming.
Although he had no true destination in mind, Slade had always wanted to see the Sacred Grove of the druids. He had loved nature and everything about the forests and animals since he was a small boy and had decided that would be as good a destination as any. What he would do after that Slade had no idea.