en far above average.

   “The negotiations between our two countries for the issuance of bonds, is coming along nicely, when they told me that you were heading it, I just had to have you visit for a round of hunting.” Prince Maxim said, as he looked up at the wolf and eagle banners.

   Although it was a slightly antagonistic relationship, calling each other mad dogs and bald eagles, the union between Lechen and Felia was like that of two allied nations rising up against a common foe.
Such were the times, when great powers unite to keep in check the traditional powers and although it hurt his pride a little to admit, Felia needed Lechen’s support to help them out of financial difficulties.

   “That’s the job of the financial minister,” Bjorn suddenly stood in his saddle, bringing the shotgun to bare.
A pheasant broke cover, scared out by the noise of the oncoming hounds.
It started climbing into the trees canopy, but Bjorn brought it down quickly and the hounds fell upon it.
“I’m just here to enjoy my honeymoon.”

   Bjorn gave Maxim a smile as if nothing had happened.
It was an extremely brazen display, even though he had to be aware of who was holding the money for the Lechen delegation.

   “However, the Felia royal family announced that they would be forcibly converting interest rates on government bonds and implementing new taxes to impose on securities.” That was the unfortunate thing about Bjorn, he wore his heart on his sleeve.

   The two princes of Felia exchanged glances and started to co-ordinate their opinions.
Crown Prince Maxim was about to speak when the rush of the hounds scared something big out of the brush.
A small deer bounded onto the track and looked at the hunters.

   The Crown Prince brought up his gun, but was stopped by his brother, who pointed to Bjorn, Maxim got the meaning and waited to let Bjorn take the first shot.
There was no sound of a gunshot from him though.
He was just staring down at the doe and showed no signs of going to shoot his prey.

   Moments later, a much larger deer came out onto the track.
Maxim sent a questioning glance to Bjorn, who simply shook his head to dissuade the others.
They took his meaning and didn’t raise a single threat.

   The mother doe had clearly come looking for its wayward fawn.
While they looked on in silence, the baby approached its mother, looking for comfort.

   While the doe escorted the fawn back into the forest, Bjorn simply watched them leave.
At first, it seemed like he had shown mercy, but to those who knew the mad dog of Lechen well, it was a disconcerting look because you could never hope to guess what was going on behind those cold, calculating eyes.

   “Do you want to catch it?” Maxim asked.

   Bjorn smiled like the warm spring sun and the fear of those who saw deepened.
What does a baby deer mean to him? Was it because it ran right out in front of them, or maybe because it lived in a forest that had been cut down?

   “No, don’t touch it.” Bjorn said, kicking off his horse and riding on.

   The two princes of Felia watched him go and gave each other disgruntled glances.
Maxim ordered his steed to follow first, with neither of them able to come to any conclusion or idea what the mad dog of Lechen was about.

   Maxim really hated this mad dog, a perverted mad dog.




The snow had fallen non-stop since the morning and Erna had been out in it.
She finally stopped for lunch after making five snowmen about the front garden.

   She inspected her dainty snowmen lined up along the driveway, expressionless.
She had made them, one by one, while she was waiting for Bjorn to return.

   Erna was still excited about her birthday, which no one else knew about, but she was starting to feel a little lonely.
Bjorn will be back soon and even though she never got her letter, she was excited to climb up to the cathedral dome together.
But even that was looking a lot less likely.

   The snow fell and everything became a colourless silhouette.
Perhaps to reflect the disappearance of her lingering feelings of sadness.
She had become so used to being disappointed and let down, she no longer felt anything.
Not even her red hands felt cold any more.

   Bjorn wasn’t coming.

   She was alone.

   After calmly accepting that fact, Erna turned to head back into the palace.
It was probably best she didn’t tell anyone today was her 20th birthday, then they wouldn’t be able to find it funny that she spent it by herself.

   It came to the late afternoon when Erna decided to go out.
The servants of her entourage, who had been expecting a day in the city, had become lazy in their unexpected day of rest, so Erna was able to sneak out, passing by them like smoke.

   Erna slipped through the main gate of the guest-house and looked up at the brilliant white, cloudy sky.
Last year she celebrated her birthday with her family, around a crackling fire.
The table was full of delicious food and realised only now how happy she had been.

   Rubbing the tears from her reddened eyes, Erna began walking down the snow covered road.

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