Chapter 18 - Valaria I

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I pace back and forth by the edge of the lake, waiting for Ethan anxiously. I am actually going to Valaria. And not just that, I will be attending Prince Caspien's name day feast.

The thought carries both excitement and terror to me. From most of the Valarians I met, they are mostly mindless snobs that have pouches full of gold coins just waiting to spend and I do not want to be in any way associated them.

But there is also the longing feeling of curiosity, to find out what's really in Valaria that made people gawk so greatly even after they exited the land. Probably it's the beautiful ladies and riches dripping from every corner of your eye; a man's dream. I can only imagine before but now, now I will see it for myself.

It's like getting my first spear all over again, receiving a present. The feeling of excitement and eagerness that makes my heart thumps faster at every minute.

I told mother I would stay for the night in the forest to collect night foxes. Although she didn't seem to be convinced by my sudden hunt for foxes, she let me.

I let my mind wander for a while until I hear the familiar sound of hooves stomping on the ground from my back. " Are you ready? " Ethan says, as I whip my head to him. He is not in his normal attire and I can see streaks of gold on his green tunic's side, making him look a bit fit for the title prince.

I give him a nod and lift myself onto Snow's saddle, swinging my right leg to the other side, Ethan's back facing me. He looks to me over his shoulders with a gleam of excitement in his green eyes before whipping Snow to a full out trot. I expected this and dig my fingers into his back, careful not to be too harsh.

The sudden harsh wind makes me squint my eyes and a few stray strands of my hair fly in the air. I get lifted into the air slightly whenever Snow's hooves landed on uneven ground. It's the third time I rode Snow with Ethan. Maybe next time he'll let me be the one holding the reins.

Snow slows down to a slow canter as the mountain comes into sight, slowly showing itself through the tall trees. It is not the mountain I used to hunt with Father but it is quite the same.

The trees are already sprouting its leaves, green gushing on every branch and giving us only small beams of illuminating sunlight that manage to shine through the leaves. A few squirrels run across a branch and jump to the other and birds are laying in their nests, warming the freshly laid eggs.

Beautiful is an understatement for this place. Animals seem to run around more freely here and I can't help but smile at the sight of sparrows flying towards the setting sun.

The tall mountain finally comes into my full sight and under it is a dark hollow cave that - if Ethan is telling the truth - will bring us to Valaria. He whips his reins gently for Snow to go forward and we slowly venture into the cave.

As we pass the entrance, the evening light disappears almost completely. A sudden chill rushes through me as the darkness engulfs us. I grip Ethan's tunic tighter. Even if I close my eyes it will make no difference as it is so dark. Ethan seems to know where to go even with the absence of light.

I can only see his figure, steady and strong in front of me. The only sounds that fill my ears are Snow's hooves and the steadily dripping drops of water from somewhere in the cave. Although the sounds would probably be calming in the light, it changes in the dark.

" Are you still there, Cat? " Ethan suddenly says in the dark. His voice is loud in the quiet cave.

I nod until I realize he can't see me. " Aye. I answer. I can feel the ground getting steeper and know that we are going upwards.

" It's not much further, " he reassures. From here I can see his emerald eyes as he glances back. I do not know whether he can see me or not. He reins Snow faster.

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