Could This Be Him?

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          By the time Atamar had ruled out all the other princes as possible husbands, she had a pretty good idea of their characters.   Although she couldn't imagine being married to them, she trusted them. 

They might flatter her extensively with their words, but they would never harm her, and they would help her if she needed help.  However, in all the time it took to get to know the characters of the other princes, she didn't feel like she made any headway in getting to know Prince Relos of Quelf. 

His behavior toward her was much the same as Prince Fretpec's.  Yet, at times she thought she detected insincerity in his face and voice. 

She constantly found herself wondering if he really meant what he said.  She tried to push the thoughts aside, but she could never bring herself to fully trust him. 

    When she was with Prince Relos, she was very thankful that Hamori and the other guards were close by, and was it her imagination or did they stick even closer when she was with Relos than they did with the others? 

His behavior was perfect, but it didn't seem to be natural to him as it did to Prince Fretpec.  She couldn't imagine Fretpec behaving any other way, but she could easily imagine Prince Relos treating her and others badly. 

At times, she thought she caught a look of contempt and even hate on his face, but it was gone so quickly she was sure she must have imagined it. 

Yet, the feeling of something sinister hiding below the surface kept her on edge.  She watched him carefully, examining everything he looked, said, and did.  Yet she could find no proof to back up her distrust. 

    Although it was not proof, there was one thing about him that did add to her distrust.  She never saw him show compassion for his centaur.  She often brought a treat for Trewa or spoke kindly, or gave her an affectionate pat or hug. 

Prince Relos did none of those things for his centaur.  She wasn't surprised that he didn't hug it, but he never even clapped it on the back in a friendly way, brought it an apple, or showed any care for it at all beyond that it carry him well. 

Atamar would have thought that the centaur was too proud to want such attentions, but she had brought an extra apple one day.  When she gave it to Relos's centaur, it had given her such a pleased smile. 

That gave her courage to pat its arm and smile back in return.  After that she always brought a treat and greeted it much like she did her Trewa.  The centaur seemed pleased, and Prince Relos didn't stop her, but he also didn't change his behavior.

She really wished her parents and Belac were with her.  She wanted to ask their opinions.  Uncle Ulap wouldn't say much.  He said he didn't want to influence her decision.  Besides, he was rather preoccupied. 

There had been another attack.  This time it had been the town of Nodsce in the Northwest where they bordered the country of Swap. 

Once again, the culprits were not identified and the attack was repelled thanks to a warning by the Mysterious Tepry.  Prince Fretpec had assured them that his country had not been to blame as soon as the reports came in. 

Everyone from Set believed him since Swap had always been a good ally.  However, that didn't ease Uncle Ulap's burden.  With her parents away, the decisions and the responsibility fell on him. 

Atamar's parents were still traveling through the country.  She was glad she at least she got a letter from them and from Belac every week.  She always wrote back right away.  She really missed them. 

    One evening, after the princes had been at the palace for two months, Atamar went to the maze as usual.  She again found every one of the palace teens waiting for her.  It was very rare for everyone to be there, and it always meant that something was up. 

    She looked around waiting for one of them to tell her what it was.  The others were looking at each other, obviously not wanting to be the first to speak.  However, most glances were directed at Isoje, Eticia, & Mitym.  So Atamar looked at them as well and said, "Apparently it is up to one of you to tell me why everyone is here tonight." 

The three looked at each other before Eticia spoke up.  "If I ask you a question, will you promise not to get angry?"  The question made Atamar worry, but she only nodded.  "I know that Isoje & I are elves and Mitym is a giant.  As such, we often do not correctly understand the thoughts and motivations of you who are humans.  However, all three of us...  we don't have any proof to support this idea, but all of us feel...  well, do you ever get the impression that Prince Relos isn't really trustworthy?"...

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