Peter Brand came out of the woods and stumbled into a golden meadow.
A young man of 23, he'd spent years in a dark forest, struggling over cave and canyon in search of himself. His clothes and his body bore the stigmata of his lengthy journey. His pants were tattered at the knees, his knees scraped liked they'd been slashed by the claws of a honey badger.
He'd long since surrendered his shoes to a creek with a roaring current. He laid a satchel down at his side and rested, soothing tired feet that had learned to absorb rocks and dirt for comfort.
He sat among swaying reeds in a meadow flanked by two mountains, one on each side. A breeze blew down every minute from each of their snow-capped peaks.
Peter was ready to drift off until he heard a laugh in the distance. It was the giggle of an adolescent girl and slowly it grew louder. Soon, standing in front of him was a spritely young woman, blonde in the hair, blue in the eyes. She wore a checkered vest and baggy pink pants and she danced, eyes closed, hands outstretched to the reeds. She started slightly when she saw Peter before her.
She introduced herself as Nicola, princess of Brose, the kingdom of meadow and mountains. Peter introduced himself as a wanderer, unable to tell her who he was or where he was from.
He was struck by her celestial beauty, her hair flowing with the winds that came off the mountain peaks. In each of her eyes he noticed a scratch across the retina but she saw him fine.
Smiling, she stuck out her right hand and implored Peter to come meet her father. He left his satchel behind and pranced away with her, following as she led him up the mountain. They ran alongside hundreds of other sprites who wanted to meet the wanderer. They, too, wore checkered vests, baggy bright pants and all had scratches through their eyes like Nicola.
They arrived at the summit where they found a half-built castle. Its spires were not fully-shingled and it had not even a retractable gate. Still, the view of the surrounding landscape added to its majesty.
Nicola took Peter right to her father's throne and asked if he could stay. The king was wary of the young man. He rose from his throne, had a sycophant hold his staff. He felt his arms, kicked lightly at his legs, asked him questions he could answer in a heartbeat.
The king was wary of Peter's strength and poise and asked what brought him to Brose. The king softened when Peter said he didn't know.