Catherine and Ceri stood near the bow of the King’s barge and watched the Auselfra. The seemingly calm river had become covered with eddies and swirls, giving evidence of the currents once hidden in its depths. The river narrowed, and for the moment, the curve of its banks hid what was ahead. A short time later, the Bølge Cataract appeared. Cataract was an exaggeration. Even small boats passed through the ripples and waves unhindered. Those waves served as a warning that ahead lay the Rif. The series of cataracts dividing the upper Elfra from the lower.
Matsveir was serving King Awrick and his guests a light luncheon as the river widened, giving the first sight of Arnarhvall. Flags and banners festooned the upper docks, and music drifted up the river. Arnarhvall was greeting their returning King.
Portions of the ancient walls that once surrounded the city stretched out from the waterfront. Laying past the docks was evidence of where those walls once stood. The city had removed more of the rampart in recent years. This allowed the waterfront to double in size. That and the widened thoroughfare that led to the Risker docks permitted the citizens of Arnarhvall greater access to the products and produce that arrived daily.
A cheer sounded from the crowd that filled the docks near where the King’s barge would berth. Standing in the area that city guards kept cleared was a regal lady. A boy and a girl were at her side. From a distance, their ages were hard to judge.
When Ceri asked who they were, Catherine responded, “That is the queen, and I believe Prince Ari’s siblings.”
The prince had walked up behind her as she spoke. “Yes, that’s Erling and Hilde. Don’t believe half what they tell you about me.” He smiled. “Erling imagines that I’m off on some grand adventure every time I’m on some diplomatic errand. And Hilde’s worse. She insists that I’m off on some romantic quest. They won’t believe that most of those journeys are boring beyond imagination.”
“This one wasn’t, was it, son?” The King asked as he approached.
“This wasn’t going to be boring before the Yetann interrupted the training. Thankfully, We do have a happy ending.” Ari responded to his father.
“And for that, I’m thankful,” Catherine added.
Catherine noted that Ceri was silent. She always was when some noble or official was near. When she was alone with Catherine or the felag, she filled the place to overflowing with questions or observations.