The Lost Prince
The tale of "The Lost Prince" is an old one, having likely sprung up almost immediately after the fall of the last remnants of the Kodiri Empire, when Queen Maiqa was assassinated. The future Emperor Veshir I's men found the nursery empty of her infant son, and indeed a woman was seen fleeing from the palace into the high mountains - a woman many suspect to have been the also-missing maid of the Queen. Three horsemen left in pursuit, it is said, for their orders were to allow none to leave, but neither woman nor soldier nor horse was ever seen again, vanishing into the desert beyond the mountains. The fate of the woman and missing prince rapidly became a matter of much gossip, with many who had supported Queen Maiqa - or simply disliked her successor, or felt nostalgia for the golden days of Kodiri - declaring that someday her son would return victorious and lead the empire of old into a new era.
The myth typically opens with a lament for the assassination of Queen Maiqa, last queen of the Kodiri Empire, and an at times rather lurid description of the ransack of the palace. The myth then tells of a brave maid who, perceiving the advance of the army, ran into the royal nursery and snatched the infant prince from his cradle, slipping into a servant's passage and taking secret routes out of the city of Lidaidi. Three of the enemy horsemen see the maid as she flees into the mountains to the south and take off in pursuit, but through cleverness and a knowledge of the land she avoids them, until she reaches the barren desert past their peaks. She cries out, saying, "A child I was when last I saw those lands which gave me succor in my infancy! If a child of those lands I am, then let them succor now my charge!" And she then beheld a shimmer in the air, as a portal to Faerie opened before her. She dove through, but the three horsemen followed, and the tips of the hairs of the last horse passed through the portal just as it closed. But Faerie is a strange place, stranger yet to those who have never known it, and thrice the maid tricked the horsemen, and thrice they fell behind, until the last was thrown from his horse and swallowed by a bog. The maid, weary and sore of heart, wandered about the strange woods for a time, until at last she tired and sat upon a fallen tree, lamenting the ill fortune of her dear Queen and child. A voice then addresses her, asking the matter, and the maid explains. Over the course of the conversation, the maid is revealed to be a lost fae child, and the voice the Faerie Queen, who foretells that no more will portals open between the two realms, but who offers to raise the infant prince until he can travel the worlds in search of a path home.
ExcerptA great weariness overcame the maid then, for she looked about the strange woods and saw familiar shapes twisted into a mockery of themselves. She cradled her charge close and wandered, her clever feet finding hidden paths through the forest, until she came upon a small clearing with a fallen tree. The maid sat herself down and began to weep and wail, as was the custom of the Kodiri people when in mourning. It is said all the mourning of the empire spilled through her voice, for the cruel warlord had banned any display of grief over the lost Queen. Then, behold! For a voice, sweet like bells, sounded from the forest. "Who comes here, weeping and crying in the happy lands of Faerie? Who knows such sorrow among the eternal dances?" asked the voice. "Oh, woe is me!" cried the maid, "The greatest Queen of the elves has fallen, and that palace upon the hill is dashed to rubble! That noble line survives only in the babe in my arms, and who shall succor the Prince of a ruined land?" "Woe!" said the voice. "That is terrible news indeed, for the ruler of the Golden Palace has long been a friend of the fae. By what magic have you come? For it has been many dances since the portals between Faerie and Elfland last opened, and longer still ere I walked in those gardens, but methinks you seem familiar." "I was a child of Faerie once, but upon a dance in the mortal world I, foolish child that I was, left the mushroom-ring, and my poor parents could not find me ere the portal closed. An old couple in the woods found me wandering, and raised me in the manner of the elves, else I would have been lost," said the maid. "A child of Faerie!" the voice exclaimed. "Indeed there is kindness in Elfland. I know a couple, who long ago lost a child to the mortal world. To think such a child would return in an hour of need! I say, indeed, that Elfland has raised the child of Faerie well, for I saw how you led those horsemen astray. A fair turn deserves another, so for the child Elfland raised, Faerie will do the same. Let your lost Prince come among us!" "Oh, kindness!" cried the maid. "Truthfully you are blessed! But I fear for the land of my raising, though my Prince at least will want not!" "I see the future of this world laid out before me," replied the voice, who was in truth the Queen of Faerie, "and no more shall the portal open between our worlds, for they grow ever more apart. But there may be a path yet, for many worlds stretch out into eternity, though my vision does not go so far. Your Prince may grow in my court, as befits an elf of his station, and when he is ready his feet may yet guide him home, as your feet have guided you." The maid gave many thanks, then, and the Faerie Queen led her to the Flower Court, where the beings of that strange world dance eternally. Indeed so was the Prince raised, in knowledge of his lost heritage, and to this day he wanders the worlds, searching for a path back to the realm of his birth.
The truth of the lost prince's fate has been illusive for millennia, even with modern access to past-viewing magic. The failure of post-cognition has added fuel to the rumors that the maid and prince found succor in Faerie, for while the most likely explanation lies in the inherent unreliability of post-cognition, that something actively hides the prince is a tantalizing explanation. Faerie was a world that was of old connected to Veshiri at many points, by portals that would often last for no more than a few days or even hours. It was enough for some cultural exchange and limited trade, and a few cases of fae or elves becoming stranded on one side or another are known. However, the last officially recorded portal was some centuries before the fall of Kodiri, even as a few stories continued of portals so brief they were barely registered. No portal has opened since magic became able to detect them, shortly before the founding of the Council of Worlds three and a half millennia ago. The tale that the maid herself was a stranded fairy has no proof, though it was so quickly and commonly accepted at the time that historians suspect it must have been a contemporary rumor.
The myth quickly became incredibly common throughout the previous lands of Kodiri, with many people inventing their own versions of the prince's fate independently. It spread from there as opposition to the new Veshiri Empire (which replaced the Kodiri) spread, especially through the enormous extent of the ancient Kodiri Empire, as the idea of a true prince who would restore the old ways was tempting. In the modern era, it is considered a historical treasure, popular as a children's tale (having lost the political bite it once had).
Variations & Mutation
There are more variations than can be counted, with the highest number at the myth's start, before a common narrative became established.
The myth was banned in the fledgling Veshiri Empire, but many people still told it in secret, and it is currently a popular tale among those studying Veshiri's history, especially as the story has lost much of its political relevance.
The further adventures of the Lost Prince are a semi-popular topic for tales aimed at young children, especially those in the historic reaches of Kodiri. A few laments for the prince were also written, often by unknown authors.
The legend drew the attention of several artists, especially those opposed to Veshiri's rise, or who looked nostalgically back upon the height of the Kodiri Empire.
Date of First Recording
The earliest mention is the year 1,240 of the Dawn Era, though a formal recording wouldn't take place until five hundred years later.
Date of Setting
The legend begins in the year 1,253 of the Dawn Era, after the overthrow of Queen Maiqa.