In the hushed dawn of the grand palace, while all slumbered, Kalion moved stealthily in the stable. He carefully led out his most prized horse, its slumbering eyes now fixed on Kalion, as if to question his early hour.
With practiced ease, Kalion saddled the horse for two riders, then offered a juicy apple with a smile. The horse eagerly devoured the treat, its nostrils flaring with delight.
“Today, my dear wife will join us,” Kalion whispered to the horse, “and I want you to be at your best. Remember the stunning creature we saw last time?” Kalion’s words were cut short as Erna playfully poked his side. Despite his sturdy muscles, Kalion feigned pain, then chuckled as Erna tried to quell his teasing.
“What are you mumbling about?” she asked, her eyes narrowed with amusement.
Kalion shrugged, grinning. “I’m just telling the truth.”
As he spoke, Kalion playfully retaliated by nuzzling Erna’s side. Her worried expression quickly melted away as he leaned down, brushing his lips against her forehead.
“It doesn’t hurt a bit,” Kalion assured her, his voice warm and low.
“Hey!” Erna protested, calling his bluff. But before she could say more, Kalion swept her up into his arms and effortlessly lifted her onto the horse. Despite her initial stiffness, she soon relaxed against him as they settled onto the mount together.
“Won’t we be too heavy for the horse?” Erna asked, a hint of worry creeping back into her voice.
Kalion chuckled at her concern, his eyes shining with amusement.
“You, my love, are as light as a feather,” he whispered, squeezing her waist in reassurance.
“But still…” Erna persisted, her grip on Kalion’s waist tighter.
“My darling, trust me,” Kalion said, his voice soothing. “This horse is a marvel of strength and grace. We’ll soar like birds to our destination.”
The horse nickered in agreement as Kalion took up the reins. He turned to face Erna, a broad smile on his face.
“Are you ready?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
“Yes!” Erna replied, her voice full of eagerness. She held him tighter, feeling the softness of his body and clothes against her back.
With a nod, Kalion set off towards the lake region of Haldis, where they would spend a week-long holiday.
* * *
The horses thundered down the road, shrouded in the mist of early dawn. Despite the hour, the road was dotted with travelers. Some walked alone, but not a trace of worry marred their faces. This was Hessenguard, a place of such safety and security that even early morning solitude was no cause for alarm.
As the horses galloped, the two riders basked in the peace and security of their land. They didn’t exchange a word, but the sight of their carefree country filled them with warmth. People on the road stepped aside at the sound of the hooves, and those who caught a glimpse of Kalion and Erna on horseback quickly looked away, their memories of the pair erased by Erna’s magic.
Kalion spurred the horses on, confident that the spell was holding. They raced down the road, leaving the city far behind.
Kalion had been lost in introspection since a misunderstanding caused a commotion. He hated himself for having foolish misconceptions, but at the same time, he was grateful he was the cause for her tears. Of course, Erna scolded him later for his thoughts. Erna must be tired, too, he thought to himself. As the days wore on, Erna grew increasingly exhausted from Kalion’s fake act.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to go there with you,” Kalion said, speaking of the villa in Haldis that he had come to love.
Years ago, during a time when Kalion still treated Erna poorly, he often found himself wandering the kingdom of Hessenguard. The frequent appearance of monsters beyond the castle walls, and the suspicion surrounding the food within, led Kalion to explore every corner of his kingdom. And so, when he stumbled upon the breathtaking beauty of Haldis, he couldn’t help but express his joy to Vanessa. She told him of a modest cottage belonging to the kingdom, and urged him to use it for his next visit.
Ever since, the cottage had been Kalion’s quiet escape. A simple two-story dwelling near a crystal-clear stream, kept tidy by a caretaker in the nearby village. Kalion would call ahead to ensure there was food, but he never brought anyone with him, not even Cedric. The cottage was a peaceful and beautiful place, reserved only for him.
Now, he was finally taking Erna with him to this special place.