"Clarissa!" The call which rang out over the beach came from a sharp tempered woman standing in the kitchen door way of an old inn, in response to the summons a beautiful girl dressed in ragged clothing swam with strong stokes to the shore, and ran to the inn.
"There you are, you lazy girl! an elf has arrived and his horse needs to be watered and fed, when you've done that you can help me make tea. Hurry up now!"
Clarissa ran to the stables with a smile on her face, a horse! perhaps if she asked politely the elf would allow her to ride it! She blinked as she entered the stables after the light outdoors the building was particularly dark, in the gloom she could make out the dark shape of a horse, her eyes adjusted completely, she gave tongue to a low whistle of appreciation, he was a beauty, with muscles rippling, head held high and silver hair gleaming, he was magnificent!
Clarissa moved forward softly and stroked his nose, then she took an old halter down from the wall and placed it round his neck, slowly she led him to the old trough that stood outside, when he was finished she combed him thoroughly and fed him hay and grain. Everything she had done she did with precision and slowness prolonging everything so it would last longer. but now there was nothing left that she could do, and with a wistful sigh she patted the horse and went into the inn.
There she was kept busy mixing, cooking, scrubbing and running errands so it wasn't until she served tea that she saw the elf.
She had somehow conquered up a picture of a fifty year old elf with grey hair and a stern countenance. What she saw was a handsome elf of about twenty, with brown hair and brown eyes that twinkled and snapped as if at some private joke.
Clarissa had time for no more than one startled look for just than there came a sound of hooves in the courtyard, she quickly placed the elf's plate in front of him than walked hurriedly outside. A man seeing her figure in the twilight called out
"is this the inn? I have a man who has a broken leg with me."
Clarissa answered quickly "yes this is the inn. Wait there a second while I get a man to help lift him down."
She ran into the tap room and said breathlessly "Mr. Bill there's a man with a broken leg outside can you please come and help lift him of his horse and into his room."
The Innkeeper grunted and moved out from behind the bar with Clarissa toward the door. The Elf spoke than "may I help?" the Innkeeper nodded a yes and continued walking outside he made his way up to the man holding both horses and said "whadya want me ter do?"
The Stranger inclined his head towards the man spread across on of the horses, "will you help me carry him in please? if you'll take his shoulder's I'll take his legs." Bill moved to do as he had asked. With the elf helping they soon had him inside. "Have you anyone in this village who knows what to do with broken legs?" asked the man of Bill, the elf spoke up than and said "I have had some experience with setting broken bones. If you will permit me?" And he bent over the prone man.
"Now that's over," Said Bill half an hour later "I suppose you will be staying here tonight?" After the man had acquiesced he bade Clarissa to prepare another tea and room.
Once the two customers were seated around the table the man turned to the elf and said
"I don't know how to thank you for caring for my servant Mr. err"
as he hesitated over the name the elf supplied it "Woodrow, son of King Aubrey. And don't mention it, I was glad to help."
Clarissa looked at the prince in amazement, she realised now why he had such a fine horse but while she was still gaping in surprise at Woodrow the man spoke again "and my name is Charles, son of King Nathaniel. Since you will take no thanks, I mealy will say you have my deepest gratitude, and if ever there is something I can do for you don't hesitate to ask."
Clarissa looked over at Bill who was polishing the beer taps as though it was no big deal to have royalty dinning in his tap room, than after giving each a beer she exited the room to think it over and house the horses.
When she returned to clear the table it was obvious that the two Princes were enjoying each others company tremendously. After tea they moved into the small room of the tap room where the guests at the inn were accustomed to retire, the two Princes, as they were the only guests, had it to themselves.
Clarissa after she had finished the work she had to do went in to light a fire for them, eager for any news they might share. In a lapse of the conversation Woodward suddenly said abruptly "you said before that if there was anything you could do to help me, just to ask, will you ask your father to take me on in his army?"
Charles looked at him a moment in surprise then said "certainly, I'm sure my father will take you. But excuse my curiosity, why does a prince of elves want to join an army of men?"
Woodrow hesitated a moment than nodded decisively "I will tell you" he said.