The Change by EveryBit12
Summary:

  A king must find a way to quiet the fear building in his kingdom as trouble from an older brother, whose eyes are on the throne arises. When the King's youngest daughter Armida, who has been held in secrecy as an asset to the land from the gods reaches 21, there is propaganda which has infiltrated the nation of a savior looking to overturn the rule and free the people from the recent poverty and poor state of the nation caused by famine and drought, just as she disappears from sight. They begin to form a support for this unknown visitor out of desperation and hope for a brighter future, causing an uproar and putting an entire people in need of one young woman until her much needed return back home.


Categories: Original Fiction Characters: None
Classification: General
Genre: Action-Adventure , Drama, Erotica, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Story Status: Active
Pairings: None
Warnings: Adult Situations, Character Death, Dark Fic, Extreme Language, Femslash, Graphic Violence, Homosexuality, Original Characters, Sexual Content , Strong Sexual Content , Work in Progress
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 14781 Read: 10424 Published: August 16 2013 Updated: January 19 2014

1. Introductions by EveryBit12

2. Chapter 1 by EveryBit12

3. Chapter 2 by EveryBit12

4. Chapter 3 by EveryBit12

5. Chapter 4 by EveryBit12

Introductions by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Name of Nation

Noveen

Name of People

Novidas

Background

History: Aric became king at 9 years old after father's death from old age. He was trained to become the leader of their army as his older brother was to take the place of king. Before the father had died, the older brother had committed a heinous crime which was not above the royal family, leaving him exiled forever. Aric and Anahi were betrothed from birth, and they were married at 13. During Aric's rule, there have been many upsets and uproars as he was young and not raised to be in the position. Many groups formed looking to oust the king, even though the family had been in control for centuries. He and Anahi were pushed by the elders to produce an heir, preferably a son to secure his rule, but their first and second born both turned out to be girls. Before Armida was born, a meeting with the counsel showed that the third child would be their hope for an impending struggle and that the people had seen a sign from the gods, and to guard her heavily and tightly. Allona is a skilled warrior who was given the task of protecting her younger sister.  In secrecy, Armida is raised. No one has seen her bare face in the public as a part of her protection, and she is never left alone. When Armida reaches 21, there is propaganda which has infiltrated the nation of a savior looking to overturn the rule and free the people from the recent poverty and poor state of the nation caused by famine and drought. They begin to form a support for this unknown visitor out of desperation and hope for a brighter future.

Characters

Aric 

   Aric: Kind, yet stonelike. He is stern with all of his daughters, but especially Allona. She was supposed to be their son, but of course they were proven wrong so he raised her like a son. Anahi is the only person he seems to soften around, but mostly in private. There had been bids made to get rid of her and replace her with a younger woman in order to deliver a son. He fought against it and kept her, turning her into a hated figure. Aric isn't sure what Armida's purpose is, but he fights to make sure she is protected as he finds that many people around him are sinking to betrayal with a war on its way. He takes command of their army when issues began to burn hot, leaving Allona upset and feeling thrown away when he refuses to change her guarding position to one of active duty.

Anahi

  Anahi: quiet and meek woman who remains mostly with Ameqran as her companion. She prefers to stay out of the political side of life, seeing it as a curse that leaves her people wishing death upon her. When Aric comes to her with his troubles, she never fails to give him wise advice, helping to guide him through tough situations.

Ameqran

   Ameqran: Ameqran is vivacious, intelligent and skilled in almost every department. She takes on many lovers and looks to commit to no one man, especially at her age. She is considered close to the end of the desirable marrying age and is feeling the pressure of finding a mate even though she plays as if she is in no rush. Though she is the oldest, she is the most relaxed and fluid of the siblings, often being the one to take the structure out of stiff moments.

Allona

   Allona: Fierce and quiet. She rarely cracks a smile or shows emotions other than boredom. She is one of the most physically fit people in the nation, and begins to feel that it is a waste to not be a part of the military. She loves her sister, and has never questioned protecting her, but she wishes for a bit more freedom to help the nation. She is the one who hears what happens in the streets, the one in the royal house that many people come to asking for favors. She is the one who finds out many of the plans and attacks against their men, and helps Aric to guard against them. Allona has been focused on solely becoming her father's protégé and her sister's guardian, and has never shown any interest in any person beyond that. She meets a woman who is one of few that tends to Armida and they end up sharing a private and exclusive relationship, which she keeps from anyone knowing that it would be shunned and possibly cause them both to suffer from severe consequences. These kinds of relationships are deemed okay for regular civilians, but illegal for the royals.

Armida

   Armida: Armida is a timid girl. She is nearly 21, yet she has never lived a life as an adult as she is constantly under someone else's care and is forbidden from exploring or doing any other independent things that could possibly harm her. Her biggest fear is her purpose as no one has ever been able to explain it. She thinks that she will be sacrificed for the greater good, and doesn't want to be in that position. She looks to escape and live a regular life away from the nation but doesn't know how she would do it. She is the only one to know of Allona's relationship even though she keeps it a secret from her sister. She knows the implications, but doesn't look to reveal it. During her excursion, she comes in contact with a neighboring nation which she knows nothing about, and catches the eye of the young king who has just taken the place of his father. When she learns about the trouble coming to her nation, she will ask him for help though Aric will refuse because of a past feud with the former king.

 

End Notes:

Still updating charcters as they come along.

Chapter 1 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

Trying something different here...

   Through the small screen, Armida watched the two dueling bodies throw themselves down on the rough stone ground. She flinched from the crushing sound of their armor meeting each other as the slimmer fighter on top delivered a swift blow to her opponent. Flinching from the grunts, she fought the urge to close her eyes just before the one who seemed to take control of the match was thrust off and tumbled head over heels.

    Armida sighed, a sign of relief as she brought her hands together. Had she not been in the eyes of her lady in waiting and guards, she would have cheered along with the soldiers who lined the court. A glistening knife was sent through the air, quicker than the eye could see, hitting the protective chest plate with a silent thud.

   "Are you out of your mind!" A halt came to the entertainment as the high pitched voice screamed from behind her facial mask which covered everything but her eyes.

   "Well, we want to know that this armor is suitable for any and everything don't we?" Silence blanketed the small arena as the laughing knife wielder stood to her full height of 5'10, removing the straps around her ears as her mask fell to the ground. She had a brilliant white smile that soldiers had to look away from for fear of becoming another one of her prey. It was always an honor to be named a lover of the powerful Ameqran, but word of the romp filled and submissive positions they found themselves in one night with her also got around. It didn't always help their reputation when they became the butt of jokes for weeks upon end in the barracks.

    Turning to where Armida rested, Ameqran gracefully crossed her legs before taking a full bow at the hips. Then, Armida looked to her trusted servant, nodding her head to be helped down the stairs. Before she was removed from behind the portable screen which always kept her face ambiguous in public, a heavy ornate hood was placed over her head. It was light enough for the summer months, but even that didn't stop the suffocating feeling she felt whenever it was placed on her.

   Reaching out her hand, it was taken gentily as her long skirts were held up by her own.

    Wrapping her hand around the lodged weapon, Allona pulled it free from her chestplate. Looking down to examine the damage left behind. She had been there when the new armor was crafted, and through all of the tests and all of the weaponry, nothing had caused this kind of damage. Of course, she shouldn't be surprised; it was her elder sister Ameqran who had thrown it.

    Her skills never failed to impress.

   If she didn't fill her time with men and parties, she would give Allona a run for her money in being the top female fighter of their land.

   "Do you realize how long it took to get this made? To get this perfected?" She ran her hand down the length of her long black ponytail sitting atop her head. Allona rarely went without her heavy makeup, accentuating her piercing eyes, and adding another level of intimidation to her already natural scowl. One side of her head was shaven clean, a common hairstyle for the female soldiers. It mirrored the male equivalent, which opted for leaving just the hair atop one's head. It was the same style her father sported, and when Allona finally received clearance to join in on the show of rank, she was beyond elated and proud.

    "Yeah, well now you can make it better. See, I've helped you sister, you should be thanking me." Ameqran could see that Allona wasn't amused as one side of her face curled into a snarl.
    "I'll tell you how you could help me. By -" Allona's scathing words never came out at the sight of Armida descending the steps towards them. Walking to the low lying wall, she opened the gate to allow her into the ring.

    "How was the show little one? Wasn't it nice seeing me kicking around Allona? Just like old times."

   "You've never kicked around anything-"

     "Don't forget who helped turn you into the skilled hard ass that you are now." Ameqran moved past Allona as she scooped Armida into a tight hug.

   "God, don't you hate this thing. How the hell do you live like this?" She pulled back, flicking the hanging cloth. It was blood red, one of the finest that their money could buy. It had gold stitching and jewels that helped to way it down. There was never fear of a breeze giving even the briefest of peeks to Armida's face.

    "I don't remember living without it." She replied softly. The reality was bleak, and drove a small frown to Ameqran's face as she looked behind her to Allona who simply shrugged, agreeing with her little sister.

   "Yes, well. Maybe one day that will all change for you." Her small adage of hope was brushed off as Armida let out a rare laugh.

   "I'm not holding my breath for that one." When Armida took her gaze away from her sisters, she saw that the dozens of men that were once cheering so boisterously were now at attention, standing in silence. One arm was crossed diagonally to their opposite shoulder, a standard greeting for members of the royal family. It was to show that for them, they would cross their hearts and put forth their lives in honor of serving the founding family.

   Armida never wanted anyone to die for her life, especially when she had never truly lived it, so the salute was always embarrassing for her to stand by and watch. She had tried to tell some in private that it was unnecessary, but her wordless pleas always went unheard.

    "Will you be joining me for an afternoon meal?" Looking expectantly to both older women, Armida hoped that her request wouldn't be denied. She rarely had any company to join her, usually eating in silence with Allona and her lady in waiting standing off to the side in without uttering a word.

    Ameqran regretfully smiled. "I'm sorry little one; I have already made plans that were forged weeks ago. I'm a woman of my word, and I can't break it." When Allona grunted, Ameqran withdrew one of her many hidden knives, poking her in the side, getting a hiss of pain from her lips.

     "I understand, kuza. Hopefully one day, we can share an afternoon together. Soon?" Armida had learned long ago to not show much disappoint about anything, and beyond her veil, she held a leveled expression though her eyes shone in hurt.

    "I'll give you my word, that you are my next priority. I promise on that, little one." Looking to the tall tower, she watched as the time keepers began to ring the large bell that would resound throughout the land, signaling another hour past.

   "I must get going now. Allona, my dear, that was a wonderful duel I must applaud you. It was a nice stretch for my muscles." Teasingly, Ameqran pinched her cheek before receiving a rough slap.  With Armida, she leaned forward, placing a kiss upon her covered cheek.

    "I'll be seeing you all." Walking off in her heavy boots, Ameqran captured everyone's gaze as she hopped over the surrounding wall of the arena and disappeared. Little bouts of laughter and jeering came from the men , cut short by Allona's sharp glare in their direction.

   "Let's go on then. There's no need to insult the cooks by being late." Allona's tone was light and gentle as she spoke to Armida. Nodding to her personal assistant, she found her eyes locked onto the captivating color that seemed to glow. Before she realized that she had been staring, the other woman ducked her head abashedly, walking to Armida's side as she began to raise her skirts as she took the steps one by one.

    "You're on your own. Use your time wisely." Allona directed the men behind her, their dutiful stance relaxed as they went about their ways.  When her eyes settled back in front of her, this time she found herself the subject of a pointed stare before they blinked away with a small smile.

oOo

 

      "You're so tense, I feel as if I can't properly eat, Allona."

     Armida placed the spoon in her hand to the side of her bowl of cooled soup. A delicacy during the summer days and a relief to her and her usual attire. It was soothing and crisp, just the way she liked it. Looking to her older sister who sat as if she was in a royal court session, Armida removed her veiling carefully.

   "It's just you and I, sister." Allona's eyebrow crooked up to the lady in waiting as she stood by Armida's side, taking away the veil and leaving them to their meal as she remained in a back corner.

   "Allona, Eviva is a friend. We've known her for years, you can relax in her presence as well as any other member of the family."

   "Little one, I don't think I was born with the ability to be, relaxed."

    Armida watched as Allona took a breath and her shoulders came from around her ears. That was as much of a relaxed position as Armida could hope to pull out of her. By passing utensils, she watched as Allona lifted the bowl before her to her lips. Though the manner would have been rude in the company of others, it was befitting of a warrior like herself, and it even showcased her royal mannerisms taught to her as a young girl as she gingerly wiped her mouth before setting it back down to the table.

   "See, now don't you feel much better?" Smirking, Armida, passed a cup to her sister, pouring her a cup of water as they began to take from the many platters before them.

    "Allona, might I ask you something?" The grunt from her sister told Armida she had her attention.

   "You and Ameqran are such skilled fighters. I don't think I've seen anyone with so much finesse before in my life. You are father's children, so it's only to be expected."

   "I don't need your compliments little one. I've heard them a million times before."

   "Of course you don't." Armida cleared her throat as she looked Allona in the eye." I'm his daughter as well. You two have proven that it doesn't only take a son to uphold the family name and honor."

   "Armida, not this conversation again."  Slouching, Allona grabbed for a piece of meat, stuffing her mouth full.

   "It is a conversation worthy of thought. I want to learn how to do the things you do."

   "Little one, it's much more than learning. You can't just pick up a book and do what we do."

   "I know that!" Armida's voice rose as Allona finally stopped eating long enough to see the death glare coming from the younger woman.

   "Where's your covering? I can digest my food better without that seething look you give me."

   "That's not funny, Allona."

    "I didn't intend for it to be." Allona's face scrunched into a scowl as she watched Armida push back from the table. "And just where do you think you are going? Little one, sit down and finish the meal."

   "I have lost my appetite. You can finish it yourself."

   "Little one!" Allona watched Armida's back disappear as she snatched her head covering from Eviva's hands. Looking to the guard just outside of the door, she called to him. "Don't let her out of bounds." The man took the order with a quick salute before following behind the disgruntled Armida.

   Allona pushed away the food on her plate, taking a long drink of water as she heard the soft sounds of fabric floating towards her.

    "Her majesty has become restless. She seeks entertainment and enjoyment in activities where she feels useful."

   "She's useful right where she is. I don't even understand where these fleeting thoughts of hers come from."

   "They are not so fleeting when she speaks of them on a daily basis." Eviva stood by Allona's side, waiting for the other woman to look her way as she sat with her face between her hands.

   "Allona, she's spent her entire life in this apartment. Cut off from nearly anyone who isn't family, but for a select few. "

   "It's always been this way."Allona said softly." It will always be this way, so she needs to stop wishing for more. She has a servant, guards, unlimited access to anything with in a reasonable distance.What more does she need?" Allona reached for Eviva's hand, drawing the woman into her lap as she began to remove her chest plate. Other than sleep, this was the only time she felt safe enough to do so. Eviva removed it from her body, Her hands sliding down Allona's muscular and toned arms.

   "She needs something, Allona." Eviva felt the fabric belt at her waist come undone, and the straps to her dress fall from her arms as Allona buried her head into her neck.

   "Something?" She muffled with a laugh as her hand grasped a bare breast. Kneading it softly." Well, so do I." Kissing the soft skin on Eviva's neck, Allona stood from her seat, taking her with her as eager legs wrapped around her waist. Looking to the entrance, Allona went to quickly close it as she made her way to her own room that had been furnished within Armida's apartment. It was there for special reasons; sleep and Eviva.

   "One day we will not be so lucky to get time to ourselves."

    Allona sat her to her feet, admiring the short hairs between her legs as the dress fell completely from her body.

   "Let's not waste it now." Allona could feel herself clench as she stood just inches away from the heat emitting from Eviva's skin. Her lips met hers roughly as she sought to taste every bit of her mouth. Eviva nipped her lip, drawing a growl from Allona as her hands filled themselves with her firm behind as she lead her backwards toward the bed. Sliding back, just as she knew Allona liked it, Eviva sat with her legs haphazardly pulled together, giving Allona a glimpse of the slick folds waiting for her.

   In no time, Allona was bare as the day she was born, sliding right in between the space of her woman's legs, fitting perfectly as she delivered kisses up and down her trembling thighs. Her nose filled with Eviva's aroma, something so sweet and addictive that Allona would throw away every bit of common sense in her body just to be wrapped up in it. Without even touching her, she watched as more of Eviva's arousal dripped from the pouty lips, brown and fleshy.

   "How long have you been like this, my love?" She asked, concerned and pride laced in her voice as she looked to the fast breathing woman.

   "The moment her majesty suggested we go to watch you duel." Eviva nearly whimpered as she felt two fingers part, revealing the pink flesh that was there for Allona to please. The soft lips she felt kissing her nether regions sent a shiver up her spine as Allona became lost in their passion, writhing and moaning  so loud that anyone could hear, but not caring about it one bit.

oOo

  "You do not have to follow me around. I'm sure you would enjoy spending time with the other men, wouldn't you?" Armida turned to the guard for the fifth time, telling him in her own way to get lost. She knew that he couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen years old. Where the other men stood stone faced upon any of her requests or bids for conversation, he would nearly shake in his boots, cheeks turning so red that she feared the boy must have had a sickness.

    "Why aren't you in school?" Armida came to a stop at the bottom of steps which led into her garden."You are much too young to be wasting away standing at a door." Shaking her head, Armida began walking slowly through the many flowers which she had grown in her spare time.

   It was one of the few things she could dedicate herself to; watching them grow and blossom when they had the right amount of air and sun. They were what she aspired to be one day, but she knew that she only had the potential to be the flowers she had seen wilt away within days from bad care. It always saddened her to the point of tears when she would lift them by their limp and shriveled leaves, knowing that one day she would look no different.

   "You should be enjoying your studies, making friends and spending time with them. Wouldn't you like that?"

   The boy stood terrified at the fact that Armida was now addressing him directly, looking into his eyes from behind the red veiling that shifted in the wind.

   "Well? You can speak to me; it's only us two here." She took a step to his three as he backpedalled, giving them distance.

   "T-This is an honorable position. It has bestowed honor to my family to have a son being the-"

   "What about you? What has this given you?" Armida interrupted him, something she rarely did to anyone."This wasn't something you decided on your own. Someone else told you this is what you were supposed to do. Where you were supposed to be. Whether or not they said this was for your best, it wasn't because they only had the thought of what a title and praise could bring to them. It is all for their own benefit." The boy stood with his mouth agape. His face became ashen as he stared at Armida's face full of anger. It was the first time he had ever seen more than her eyes, and he immediately felt ashamed as he shielded his eyes.

   "Your majesty, I please beg of you to replace your coverings. I am not worthy enough to see you face, your majesty." Armida cocked her head to the side, confused by what he began to babble.

   Raising a hand to her cheek, she felt her own skin, and immediately understood his reaction. Tilting her head to the sky, she felt the heat upon her face that didn't come from the ridiculous veil. She felt her heart beating hard against her chest, and as she held her fist to it, she drew her eyes back to the boy who refused to look at her.

    "Look at me."

   E-Excuse me?" He stuttered.

   "I have told you to look at me and yet you defy me." Her voice became regal, shedding the softness she had always spoken with as her anger began to rise.

   "Please-I can't. It's unlawful." Stepping until she was as close as she could get to him, Armida grabbed a hold of his hands, with a strength that belied her stature as she tore them from him. Though the boy was big and muscular for his age, he was rendered weak before Armida.

   "Look. At. Me." There was an order not to be disobeyed as he did what he was told. He saw for the first time, that she indeed didn't possess any defects or imperfections as it had been assumed around the nation. There had always been bets that she had some hideous scarring which kept her hidden from all eyes to see. As a boy, he had been told that to look at her majesty full on would be to forfeit your own life.

   He began to cry at the realization.

   "Forgive me, your majesty. Forgive me for this mistake." He wept.

   "Stop it. Stop it right now. I didn't call for your tears. I called for you to treat me as a person! To look at me, as an equal. Why is that so hard? Is my face that unpleasant? What do I hide for? Why? Acknowledge me!" Armida's eyes became wet with rage as she shook his limp arm, yelling over his sobs.

   "I do not know. All I know is that it is law, your majesty. Please, do not do this." Armida's arms shook so violently, the boy thought that her bones would crush from the pressure.

   "Please, you may injure yourself." He begged for her to let him go, but a tight hold on his chin kept his head in place as he stared straight into her eyes. He tried twisting his head out of her grip, but to no avail.

   "What is your name."

   "I-I am just a guard, your majesty."

   "Do you think me a fool? Do I not know your position?"

   "No, you are no fool, your majesty." He closed his eyes, this being the most interaction he had ever had with the woman. He had always seen her as a quiet demure woman, never changing her moods past a somber pleasant one; she had even been the object of his dreams at night when he returned to the barracks, imagining the day that he could remove her coverings and prove the rumors wrong.

    Now staring into her maddened face, he could only feel fear from the intense outpour of emotion she threw at him. He had seen her sad during the days and nights, and had even stood and listened to her speak of doing things in life which she had never done before, but had never entertained her talk.

   "Then tell me your name." This time, the burning hiss left her voice as she began to whisper hoarsely. Her eyes pleaded with his as his voice began to break.

    "Dacian, your majesty." He finally told her, the tears drying on his cheeks as Armida began to wipe them away.

    "Dacian. That is a wonderful name." Armida's eyes softened as she clasped a hand around the side of his neck.

   "I ask for your companionship, Dacian. If you are willing to give it, I will take it with great honor." Armida's words were filled with her promise and loyalty as she watched the pupils of his eyes enlarge.

   "Your majesty-"

    "Please, I know not what a friend is, but I see one in you, Dacian. I have never experienced something of that nature."

   "How could her majesty ask for my companionship when I am not worthy of such a gracious gift?"

   "Because your majesty sees your worth. She would only hope that you see hers. That you are the one person that does." Dacian shivered beneath her touch as he resisted the temptation to plead with her to take back her every word.  Taking a step back he stared at her head on, bringing his boots in to make a loud clack as he extended an arm over his heart.

   "Consider me a loyal and unwavering companion to her majesty for as long as she requests." His voice was strong and loud as he called out his dedication to her. Bowing her head, Armida took for his hand, holding it to her own chest before Dacian stiffened in fright.

   "As I am to you. A forever and loyal...friend, Dacian." The blush to his cheeks returned as he held his hand by his side as if it were a delicate flower from her garden. Bending down, he picked up the covering she had thrown in the midst of her anger, wiping off the dirt it had gathered before handing it to her with both hands respectfully.

   Taking it with a laugh, Armida placed it back on her head, making sure it was snug and centered as she smiled from behind it.

   "Now you've seen my face, no one else other than my family has done so, Dacian."

   "I am honored, your majesty."

    "No, now you can simply lie to rest any of the nasty rumors which I'm sure have travelled around about me. I don't hear them any, but I'm sure they exist." She began to lead them out of the garden and up the stairs.

   "No, no, your majesty! There have never been rumors about deformities on your face-" Dacian shut his mouth quick as he felt himself say too much, fearing that she would become offended from his words.

   Laughing, Armida began taking the path back to her quarters, with a stammering Dacian trying to explain and dispel any bad mouthing that she knew went on about her."Come now, Dacian. No need to get so worried. I know you haven't seen that particular side of me, but I enjoy a laugh every now and then as much as the next person."

    "Your majesty." He expressed in a self-deprecating tone.

   "Ah. None of that.You shouldn't talk in such a manner about yourself." She stopped them with one finger raised, catching Dacian off guard as he bumped into her. She was beginning to see the more clumsy side of the boy she had always wondered about, and felt a sisterly pull towards him as he hopped back as if she were made of fire.

   "As friends, you must only speak of yourself in the highest of manners. Understood?"

   Shaking his head vigorously, Dacian replied." Yes, your majesty."

   "Between you and I, Armida will most certainly do." Walking ahead once again of a baffled Dacian, Armida's heart actually began to swell.

 

   The smile to her face stretched her cheeks, as it was the first time she had ever felt such a feeling before.

Chapter 2 by EveryBit12
Author's Notes:

It's time to start pushing out long overdue updates while I have freedom during the holidays...

 When Armida had arrived back at her apartment, it was to find Allona emerging from a back room, securing her uniform back into place. She hadn't seen Armida from the doorway yet, as her attention was still focused on something-or someone-still in the room. Armida had become skilled at being present, yet having her presence unfelt by those around her. As she stood there with her hands clasped before her, she knew what caused the smile on her sister's face. She had passed by doors where sounds of soft panting and groans flowed out to her ears before, and had promised to never let her sister know that she was aware of her relationship with Eviva.

     "Armida." Allona's back straightened once she turned and came to see her sister standing off at a distance. Not faltering, she proceeded with scolding her like Eviva wasn't adjusting her dress behind her. "I see you decided to return after your ...outburst..."

     "You know what's extremely disquieting? The fact that even though I crave freedom, I don't know what to do with it when it's right at the tip of my fingers and eventually I find myself willingly looking to captivity for safety."

    "Captivity? Please, enough with your exaggerations, little one. The more you speak of the heavy burden that weighs upon your shoulders which have never seen a day of hard work, the more I get a sense that you are ungrateful and unappreciative of all that is done to protect you."  By this time Allona had made it across the room, and stood towering over Armida who shrank back from the bite in her sister's voice. She knew exactly where such sentiments came from, and guilt filled her gut as she turned her eyes away.

     "In would be in your best interest to be more mindful. Or else you risk upsetting me." At this point, Armida's eyes burned with embarrassment as Eviva and the guards stood off in the distance, of course not eavesdropping, but hearing everything that had been said. Closing her eyes, she could feel all of their energies pulse through her. They flashed behind her closed eyelids as dark hues of red, purple, and blue.

     One of the energies seemed to be approaching from a distance, and could be made out as the shape of a man-most likely a young soldier. In her mind Armida could see him meeting with another figure that resembled her sister.

    "It seems you have company arriving, kuza. By the looks of it, it must be urgent." Armida's eyes opened and shone a light blue color so clear that they nearly looked white. Allona took a step back as she watched them transform back into Armida's deep blue. Before she could pull together her shock, Armida had walked around her, and the sound of feet running towards the front entrance could be heard.

     "I'm here for Her Majesty Allona. Please, it's very important that I speak to her." Allona ripped open the doors to the apartment, and sure enough there stood a young man whose face was reddened from his journey to the outskirts of which Armida was housed. Looking back over her shoulders, she wondered how Armida had known.

     "Speak." She commanded after shutting the doors and moving the young guard aside. She stood with her arms crossed against her chest as she listened to the man stammer out his message.

    "There have been more sightings of vandalism within the city-"

    "So contact the police." She said not understanding why he would bring such a petty issue to her.

     "That's not all that has happened. A riot has broken out amongst the citizens; two shopkeepers and dozens of officers have been executed in the middle of the square by a group of partisans." His eyes bulged, and that was when she was able to notice the dirt marks and cuts on his face. His uniform was torn and splotched with blood.

     "Who gave you the orders to come for me?" Allona's heart raced. This was it. Her father had finally called upon her to help with serious matters. Pride began to well as she waited for conformation that it had indeed been Aric to send for her.

    "I'm not here under orders, your majesty. I was only able to escape with my head and you were the first person I thought of. They have access to the palace completely blocked off. There's no way getting around it without conflict.

     With a lump of disappointment in her throat, Allona charged forward calling for a stable hand to bring forth her horse. It's shiny black coat emerged into the sunlight, it's rays bouncing off and showing the powerful muscles which lied beneath it.

    Hoisting herself upon the animal, she looked down to the young man who was ready to sprint off once again, leading her to the chaos.

    "You expect to get there before the entire city is exterminated?" She asked, reaching out a hand as he took the offer behind her.

     Giving the horse a kick in the sides, they began galloping off, gradually gaining speed as they raced off towards the town center.

     From a window, Armida watched as they became just a speck on the horizon. Standing to her feet, she began moving towards Dacian who still remained at the door before a debilitating pain hit her. Stopping in her tracks, she held her head between her hands as energies and images flashed before her. They fought to become more vivid, and raged on in violent colors this time.

     Red.

      Nearly everything was red.

     "Your majesty, is everything alright?"Eviva noticed Armida groaning and immediately came to her side. "Your majesty! Your eyes!" She screamed when Armida's eyes opened wide, revealing the same haunting color that Allona had seen just moments ago. Her hands fell to the girl's arms in an attempt to steady her. Slowly, her brown orbs returned, and even from underneath her veil, Eviva could see her face contort into a fierce grimace as she moved away.

   "I am fine, Eviva. It was just a small ache."

     "You should sit down, your majesty. I don't think I've ever seen an ache to cause such a...look." She tried to lead Armida to her room for a chance to rest, but was rejected as Armida wrenched her arms from her.

     "Thank you, Eviva, but I am fine. I just...I just have to get some fresh air." She assured her.

     But what she really wanted to do was ask Dacian what had been exchanged between Allona and the messenger.

    "Are you sure, your majesty?"

    "Please. Take some time to yourself. " Patting her shoulder, she moved quickly before Eviva could protest.

     "On our way to the city you'll tell me what's happening, right?"

     "E-excuse me?" Dacian was bugged eyed and confused.

     "You were present when Allona spoke with the young man who was just here, yes?"

      "Why-yes I was, your majesty."

     "Then I trust you have a poignant memory and will fill me in on our way to the city."

      "There's nothing unusual going on in the city." He lied quickly.

      Calling his bluff, she began walking to the stables situated just a short walk around the building, Armida watched as the stable hands scattered to their feet, unsure of what to do at the sight of her.

     "Which of these would be best to take for a short trip?" She asked completely oblivious to the way the shook their heads and gulped, not wanting to be the one to address Armida.

     "Your majesty, surely you can't be serious about going to the city at a time like this."

      "A time like this?" Armida walked up to the row of animals before her, surveying which would do." I thought that nothing out of the ordinary was happening there? I was just hoping to take a leisure trip, maybe even see my mother..." When she finally found one that satisfied her, she looked over her shoulder to Dacian.

    "Will this do?"

     "That...that is a mule, your majesty."

     "It's just like the others, though quite small...maybe we would go unnoticed if we-" Calling to a stable hand to open and release one of the larger horses, Dacian led it out of the stable with a smirking Armida behind him.

     "If you insist on going to the city, which I am sure your presence would be forbidden, then you should ride on a proper horse, your majesty."

    "See? Friends helping friends, Dacian." When he watched her mount the horse, he hadn't expected that someone of her stature would know how. She did it with ease as she waited for him to join her. Scratching his head, he cursed knowing that he had broken enough rules to ensure that every bone in his body could be shattered as punishment.

    Even so, he climbed behind her, taking the reins in his hands.

    "Forgive me, your majesty." His head shook in shame as he began a journey that he couldn't refuse.

oOo

     Armida and Dacian had arrived to the city, but hung back near the edge of a nearby forest as they watched and listened to the chants and clashing bodies that moved in the distance.

     "I must suggest that we return to your quarters, where it is safe." Dacian said as he observed all that was going on. They hadn't even seen the heart of the uproar, and yet he could sense the danger ahead of them.

    When he didn't receive and answer from Armida, he looked behind him to see that her face had been uncovered once again.

    "Why must you do this...?" He hissed as he turned away instantly.

    "No one has ever seen me, so there's no harm in them seeing me now."

    "It's against the law, your majesty! You're only putting others at risk by doing something so rash." He watched her tuck the cloth in the waistband of her clothing. "Even without your covering, it's easy to tell who you are!" He pointed to her decorative garb which just screamed importance. Looking down at the extra fabric that flowed around her body, she began ripping it apart.

    Dacian would have to go into hiding after today. That was the only option if he ever wanted to live.

    Crouching to his feet, he put his hands to his face as he waited for her to finish. By the time she had, her outfit had been completely transformed.

     She had gotten rid of most of the elaborately designed material, making her look much more like a commoner even with a strip tightly fashioned around her forehead as a head band. He looked down to see that her skirts revealed the fronts of her legs, at least up to her knees.

     "All you need now is a face full of mud and you will most certainly look like the daughter of a worker..." He spoke sarcastically.

    Bending down to grab soil from the ground, Armida rubbed it against her skin.

    "It's so gracious of you to help me, Dacian. Now I won't be as noticeable." Satisfied with her work, she stood before him with her arms held out. "Do I look the part?" She asked wanting his honest approval.

    "No." He said bluntly. Standing to his feet. Armida reached for him before he could walk away.

    "Then tell me how to. Please, Dacian."

     "Well first thing's first. Don't look so happy to be poor and miserable."His words hit her at her core.

      "There's no happiness in that. Once you're able to master the down trodden look of a laborer who works to death without any reward, then you will look the part. Your majesty." The last of his sentence was said with a hint of bitterness.

 

    How could she wish to leave the safety net that's been provided for her since birth to travel and see the gritty life beyond her apartment? Who would want that?

Chapter 3 by EveryBit12

     Dacian followed close behind Armida as she weaved in and out of the forest, coming closer and closer to the riots in the city. Her adrenaline pumped through her ferociously. She had never seen such a thing, had only heard about wars and battles of revolutions through the books and oral teachings of the elders who schooled her as a child. The sound of screams and roars went through her body, stilling her once she emerged from the trees.

    "Your maj-Armida, please.." Dacian had finally caught up with her and just as she stopped in amazement; his hand hovered over his weapon for the moment he may have to defend Armida.

    There was a cloud of dust looming over the streets as the townspeople ran with weapons drawn, waving them in the air as they chanted for the removal of the king.

    "Change is now! Change is now!" Armida curled away from the crazed man who nearly spat in her face as he chanted his cry of rebellion. Blood covered his face, spit dribbled down his chin as he came to a gurgling stop just before her.

     "The King has wronged us! Stand up now, join the movement or be left on the wrong side." His hands gripped her arms as he began shaking violently. Armida was too stunned by the allegations against her father. Her father had done nothing but great things for the kingdom! Since he was a young boy he had made the best decisions ever seen in the land, what could they be upset about?

     "Leave her!" Dacian pried at the blunt fingers around her flesh, throwing the man off to the side. He began convulsing as dark blood flowed from his mouth. During his last moments, Armida couldn't take her eyes off of the sight of the dying man.

    "Change..is now..." He stuttered before gasping for the last time.

    "These people, they are...they are insane. " She said to herself as she began backing away from the corpse at her feet.

   "Armida, you have seen enough. Please do not subject yourself to more." Dacian pleaded with her just before pushing her out of the way of a sprinting crowd. They never seemed to let up as faces of horror passed by them instead of anger.

    "Murder! They are murdering us!"  They whizzed past the cowering woman whose knees knocked together as she watched bodies fall to the ground, trampled by the others without a second thought. Armida found herself being tossed back and forth as she stood in the way of their escape.

     "Armida!" She could hear Dacian calling her as she fought her way through the stampede without ending up as the poor soul she had just trampled on. Looking around wildly, she found Dacian being pushed back further and further as a pair of citizens recognized his military uniform, and began delivering heavy blows with their impromptu weapons.

    "Dacian!" She screamed." Dacian, no!" As she tried her best to twist in the opposite direction, she was hit hard by wailing hands as a body collided into her own, throwing her to the side of the road. Bright spots shone behind her eyes as she blinked them away. The body against her never moved, it remained still, and became heavier with each passing second.

    "Gods, no!" She shoved the body away upon seeing the arrow which protruded from the victim's back.

    His blood spilled all over her, seeping into the royal fabric.

     Common hands had given it its color, and now common blood soaked it.

     "Get back! Get back or I'll have your head!" She watched as soldiers wielded their swords with ease, slashing them through the air and claiming the necks of those who had the misfortune of being too close, so Armida remained on the ground instinctually. She recognized Allona's voice as she sped past on her horse. Armida nearly lost her lunch when she saw the splashes of blood which covered Allona's face, and the back of her hand wipe it off as if it were nothing.

     Shock filled her when she watched the blade held in her sister's hand severe the head of a woman who tried her best to run away from the assault.

    That was when she lost it.

     As she heaved up the contents from the pit of her stomach, she could hear the sound of large crashes fast approaching. It was a deep rattling noise that shook the windows of nearby shops, and brought on even more blood curdling screams.

    Dark smoke filled the air, rising higher and higher as screams of agony deafened her. Crawling on her hands and knees, she was able to ignore the sharp pain of broken glass and rocks that broke the skin of her palms and knees as she tried to find shelter somewhere else, out of the open.

     Hearing the sound again, she realized that it had to be coming from the canons she had read about in her warfare studies. Debris rained on her head, hurrying her movements along.

    "Armida!"  Dacian found her small figure on the ground with the one eye he could see out of. As he was dragged away, the rebels were able to deliver brutal blows, promising that Dacian would be unrecognizable once they were finished with him. They had plans to impale him on the nearest tree as a message to the army from which they were fleeing.

     Before she could even put together everything that swarmed around her, she felt her body being dragged and thrown behind a wall that had become the remains of an old shop.

     "Get down!" He ordered as he forced her head into her lap, throwing his body over hers as a canon hit the building just beside their hideout.  At this point, she was more than certain that she had relieved herself from fright as her ears rang. She watched Dacian's lips move, him urging her to get up, but she couldn't force herself to do it.

    It was then that she noticed the bulging skin around his eye and the deep gash on his face. Her hands went to them quickly, assessing the damage even though he pushed them away.

    "There's no time for that, Armida. We must leave immediately." Slowly her hearing began to return as she listened to his command. Her body trembled as he led her away carefully. She cursed herself for having a name that spoke of strength when she obviously had none.

    She had been ready to see rallying in the streets, experience what she thought would be a peaceful protest.

    She never expected the violence. The slander against her father. The death of men at the hands of people she was taught served in the name of the same people that they mowed down.

    Nothing made sense anymore.

   On her lips, she tried to deny everything that rushed at her now as her world turned to black. Dacian being the only support there to keep her from falling to the ground, looking like one of the hundreds dead in the streets already

Ooo

      Dacian laid Armida's limp body down by the stream as he finally found a resting place. By the time that they had emerged from the wall, the city had become silent as the army had managed to move the rioters out of bounds, locking it down behind them. He moved quick over expired bodies, and those just moments away who grabbed at his ankles for help.

     He was to return Armida back to her apartment in the same shape she left in, and now looking at her disheveled and dirtied face, he just knew that wouldn't be possible.

   Cupping his hands in the running water, he tried his best to clean of her face, his mind warring with his heart to not lay a finger on a member of the royal family when he knew she needed help.

    Carefully grabbing her chin, and tilting her head from side to side, he prayed that she would come to soon enough.

    "Armida..." he called out softly.

     Behind her dark lids, images of the chaotic scene replayed over and over. She found herself frozen in the midst of the hate and anger that ran rapid in the streets, unable to move out of the way of danger as it charged forth. Before she gasped awake in surprise, the last thing she saw was the vicious look upon Allona's face as she wielded her sword, coming down in a swoop for Armida's head...

    "Are you okay?" Armida rolled to her side, coughing as she regained consciousness. There was a burning sensation in her throat that showed as her eyes watered. Reaching over the embankment, she began scooping handfuls of water into her dry mouth.

    "No...Dacian, I am not. How could I be?" Her hands dug into the skin at her knees as her body began to shake. "Why?" She turned to him now, large brown eyes overflowing with tears as she looked to him for answers to questions she never had to ask until today.

     "Why do they destroy their own home like that? Why must they cause so much havoc, Dacian?" Her arm extended to the place beyond the trees. She was too weak to hold it for long as it fell back into the dirt by her side.

    "My father-he-he does all that he can for them. He says he has made it so that everyone has a fair chance." Now as Dacian looked to her confused expression, he knew that her questions were more for herself than for him. The more she mumbled to herself, the more he realized that she had been fed knowledge that was twisted and turned into a grand story.

     It had been at least five years now since the troubles had begun within Noveen.  First it began with unheard of restrictions to natural resources: water, land, everything that the Novidas needed in order to sustain a life and survive. Boundaries were imposed upon the people, dictating areas in which they were allowed to travel and areas where they were allowed access to the limited resources given to them. Increased taxes that were well beyond the majorities' means made it difficult to afford anything that had once posed no problem. Everyone had felt the pinch as the changes started, but most kept quiet and went on to find a way to adjust to the new lives forced upon them.

       Soon, all males who were of at least thirteen years old were called to mandatory enlistment with the military. Some families had even seen sons who were but barely ten years old whisked away from their homes because their bodies were deemed more than valuable. The call for more soldiers had become so urgent, that they had even opened up certain positions to women that fell outside of just the medical realm of duty. As time passed and concern coupled with fear grew, the citizens watched the soldiers numbers triple weekly, creating a massive force of man power before they even knew it.

        Dacian was now a part of that group, and had been for 3 years now.

        Few, if any enlistments were voluntary. Many had been forced to serve whether they wanted to or not. That had been the case for him.

      His father had been one of the major crop producers before regulations began. For his work, their family of six young girls, and one son never went without a meal. Even though his father had standing within the community, he was never able to snag a secret deal to ensure that their family's rations be far greater than those around them. The only thing that they could promise him was that he, an old man well into his sixties, would be useless as a soldier and would never have to worry about being called to duty. They even spared Dacian from immediate enlistment after seeing that he was well fed and more than fit to join due to their comfortable life. They would wait for him until he turned sixteen, and at this point in time, that meant he had three years of dreading the unavoidable command.

       Three years that he never even got a chance to live.

       It hadn't gone unnoticed that even though the family of nine should have been scrounging by on scraps, their meals never left them with an empty feeling of hunger, though they were never as grand as before. Anyone in their right mind would never speak up about this, knowing that to do so would mean less food in their mouths. But when their front door was torn down as they slept one night, their secret about never experiencing the resounding pang of hunger felt throughout the Noveen, his father was dragged from the house and forced to show the soldiers where he was keeping the illegal contraband.

    The rest of the family had stood and watched as he was beaten into submission and finally agreed to lead them all to where he had kept the food that he had not only been feeding to his family, but had been selling on the black market for profit.

      Dacian knew hurt and he knew pain.

      The last he had seen of his family was his father's decapitated body lying on the cold ground as his mother cradled him to her chest. His small sisters' shrieks of terror could be heard miles away as he was bound and thrown into a carriage that carried him away to begin his life as a soldier.

     He had screamed and screamed for mercy, asked for them to allow him to honor his family and not leave his mother and sisters alone in such a way.

    His pleads went unheard and now here he sat guarding the youngest member of the royal family.

    Dusting his hands off on his pants, he stood to his feet and walked past Armida to the running water. He doused it on his own face as he tended to blood that could have been his or another's on all the visible parts of his body.

    "I can guarantee, that everything you know about your father is a complete lie." He told her bluntly. Shock flooded her face as she began to defend him.

     "My father is a noble man, and has been for a very long time."

     "And who told you that?" Dacian calmly interrupted her, looking her squarely in the eyes." Your teachers, right? The same teachers that are only approved by his majesty? The same teachers who must only teach you what his majesty wants you to know? Armida, those same teachers would tell you that everything you have seen here today was not real. That the blood caked on your hands was just something you imagined. The death, the rebellion, they would claim it was all a farce." Dacian became heated as he stalked around her.

     Armida began to feel uneasy in her own skin as the words she planned to use to defend her father once again fell back to the pit of her stomach.

    She remembered all of the teachers who would visit her in her apartment. They were always so stoic and demanded she never question anything they said. Her curiosity was always thwarted with a little you should learn to listen and not speak advice. And that's how she had always lived.

     She would burn with questions, but once she learned that it was worthless to ask for answers, she kept them bottled inside. There had only been one occurrence where she came close to breaking the strict façade many showed before her.

    "That's not true. I had a teacher once. He was a lovely and intelligent man and he-" He disappeared one day.

    His name had been Master Anuk.

    He was introduced as her new instructor on the history of the Noveen military and its many great successes and heroic battles that gave way to a free nation that was built on the premise that all men were one.

     "Though we celebrate a very important sentiment that all are created equal in this great land, we do not necessarily do as we say, young miss."

    Armida's brow cocked behind her veil as she raised her hand to speak. The older man before he paced the ground with a book. He was charming, in his mid-twenties, and more than fond of the young girl before him who so eagerly raised her skinny arm in the best way she could while still remaining as regal as possible.

    "It's just you and I, you may speak." He smiled as he watched her sit on her haunches. She always took that stance when she was very interested in a subject matter, and he never corrected her into a proper position.

    "That's not true." The small lift in her voice hinted at her uncertainty as she had just heard a value that had always been stressed and taught to her from a different perspective. She knew Master Anuk was different than the other men who taught her...he was young for one and handsome.

    "Not true?" He asked with sincere interest as he stooped to her level.

     "You say that all men are equal, but then say that they aren't all the time. My father says that everyone is treated fairly and just. He told me that!"

    Tilting his head to the side he nodded in understanding her confusion." Well, what he thinks is fair and just may not be...fair or just. Those are two very objective words." Rubbing his chin, he looked over his soldier to the guard uniform that peaked just through the crack of the door. He tried his best to get privacy for their lessons. Going against his better judgment, he turned to her in a whisper.

      "Sometimes, in the world, those with power may say that they want what's best for every single citizen, and I believe that there are rulers out there who stay true to this idea. But sometimes...when we place the fate of thousands...millions in the hands of a few people, their idea of equality, fairness, justice, is only seen through a perspective where there are clear lines and boundaries, so that what they want is never impeded on."

    "What does that mean?" Armida asked...grasping on to his every word.

     "Master Anuk. The lesson is over." Before he could say another word, the guard that once stood by the door was now in the room with the teacher and student.

    "It's not time for the lesson to end yet!" Armida said shocked, looking to the clock on the wall.

    "Master Anuk." The guard ignored her cries as Master Anuk stood ashen faced. His once healthy glow seemed to diminish just as the gold in his hair became lifeless and dull.

    Armida stood too, watching his chest rise and fall rapidly.

     "Master Anuk..." She knew what would happen to him. She would never see him again just when she was staring to enjoy their time together. "Don't go Master Anuk." She watched from a distance as he slowly gathered his things, the guard lurking close by like a dog.

    "He is to finish our lesson, and you are to leave us this instant. " Her voce deepened as she stood with her back erect and chest pushed out. The guard looked to her, but didn't obey what she was sure were clear commands. Instead, he simply bowed his head as he took Master Anuk by the arm, forcing him out.

    "No...No! Stop it! Let him go!" She broke all of her training as she ran towards the two men, beating at the leathered arm to release Anuk.

    "Your majesty...please!" Anuk watched as she attempted to free him with all of her might. Her dark eyes spoke volumes as they looked to him in panic. "Please. We-we will finish our lesson another day. I promise you. Just be patient and wait for me, find out new things to share with me! We are both a teacher and a student!" His voice raised as he was moved further and further away from her, his movements becoming more frantic as he fought against the armored man behind him.

    "Armid--!" Silence met her ears the moment that the large wooden doors were slammed shut, severing her ties with Master Anuk.

    The next time their meeting came around, it wasn't he who greeted her with a warm smile and hello when she entered the room, but another round old man who neither bothered to ask how she was, or answer when she said those words to him.

     Dacian looked on as Armida seemed to no longer be in the same place as him. Her eyes glassed over as she teetered from side to side, catching herself against the rough bark of a nearby tree.

     "Armida..." He watched as she slunk back in between the trees towards the place where they had left their horse. When Dacian called to her, she couldn't respond, just kept moving forward with staggered steps. Slowly, she mounted the horse herself, not having the need nor the patience to wait for Dacian to help.

    He began to think that he had gone too far. He had said to much to Armida.

    By the look of her posture, it was as if her spirit had been ripped for her being as she stared ahead blindly.

 

     Finally, he climbed atop the horse and began guiding it back home. He couldn't even imagine how he would explain their appearance, the reason for their absence, or anything else to Allona. The thought alone made him cringe as the marched on to his sure death.

Chapter 4 by EveryBit12

Eviva waited by the door as she watched the two riders approach slowly but surely. She clenched the fabric of her dress until her knuckles showed white. Just moments ago she had received a message from Allona through a messenger boy. He had been dirtied and wide eyed when he told her to make sure Armida stayed clear of any sight of the rumblings going on in the city.

     Watching Armida move sluggishly towards her home, a torn veil lying haphazardly on her head, she just knew that there wasn't much she could protect her from now. Praying silently, she hoped that she could get her cleaned and settled just in case Allona made a surprise visit.

    "Come, we have to get you cleaned your majesty." Eviva reached for Armida's arm, but was rejected as her wild eyes looked to the servant who had been like just another sister over the years.

    "Please... do not touch me." Her voice shook as she slid past Eviva. Feeling slighted by Armida's unusual behavior, Eviva watched as she closed the door to one of her many rooms.

    She was ready to interrogate Dacian and demand he tell her what had gone wrong while they were out. Eviva was supposed to be responsible for Armida, nothing was to harm her as she stayed under her care. She felt as if she had failed at the one task she was asked to do.

    "She looks like death." Eviva hissed behind Dacian as he emerged from the stable after returning the horse. The sight of his swollen and bloodied face told her that they both had been to hell and back.

    "My gods..." She began to shake as she covered her mouth from shock."What has happened to you?" Eviva further assessed his injuries before gasping," Armida? Is she hurt as well?"

    Shaking his head Dacian looked to his feet. "I don't think her pain is physical."

     Glancing over her shoulder, Eviva decided that she would make Armida speak to her even if it meant forcing her. Quickly striding to the door, she knocked on it loud enough to let her know it was urgent that she answer.

    "I would like to have time to myself." Armida's ghostly voice spoke from behind the wooden door.

    "I believe that being alone is not what's best for you."

    "I can decide what's best for me!" On the other side of the door, Armida had jumped from her crouched position on the ground as she pounded her fist in anger, shocking Eviva who reeled from the sudden action. Her voice was hoarse as she yelled, chest rising and falling harshly as she backed away, the silence on the other side telling her that Eviva would grant her one wish for just this moment. The sound of feet moving away gave her relief as she returned to her spot on the floor. Around her she had arranged candles to aid her in a therapeutic ritual her mother had taught her. They were to help with the headaches she had been prone to since a little girl. Combined with everything that she had gone through that day, they had intensified. She had seen images for the first time ever in place of the abstract colors she usually experienced.

       Relaxing into a crossed leg position, Armida looked to her legs that were covered in slashes and blood. Her clothes were raggedy, and instead of feeling ashamed of her current state, she felt a twisted sense of liberation. That could only be completed as she removed her veil.

     Holding it between her hands, she fingered the once magnificent stitching. Looking at it now, it sure was a morbid way to live. Everything around her became even clearer. She was a shut in who had always accepted her life as the way it was. She had grown without a friend or true companion of who she chose on her own. Everything and everyone in her life had been chosen for her, shaping every single aspect of her life.

    Even though her heart held love for Eviva, she too was nothing more than a device in the ploy her father had planned for her life since the day she was born. If she were to look her in the eyes at that moment, she would only see betrayal and deceit in the woman.

     Armida had nothing but love and respect for Aric...had never questioned that anything he had done for her wasn't for the best. She had been taught to love him through the many portraits that decorated her apartments, the stories all of her instructors had dedicated to him. There was never any time to be spent between the father and daughter; she hadn't even lived in the same home as them since she was five years old.

     Her sisters had always told her many tales of their father, and unknowingly she had programmed herself to live vicariously through interactions that were never her own. Laughs and love that she never once experienced. As a girl, she was gifted small dolls that were complete replicas of the royal family-her family. They were made by the best handicraftsman, and Armida had always taken special care as she played with them. She would happily forget about her secluded life and play out the her wishes and desires when she toyed with the dolls.

     Moving to her sore knees, Armida moved to the large chest that sat at the foot of her bed. Opening its heavy lid, she searched for the small box which held each figurine in place.She hadn't touched the toys in ages, keeping them as safe as possible in her chest. Slowly, she gazed over the dolls as memories flooded back to her. Trailing her fingers along the intricate details of her sisters, mother, and father, she paused when she came to her small doll.

     As the others showed smiling faces, she realized she didn't have one at all.

      Armida recoiled from the faceless figure as if it burned to touch it.

    Her eyes burned as tears began to form. Biting her lip she held them back, as they were tears of anger and not sadness. She couldn't risk snapping the very thin strings which held her together.

       Eviva stood beside the bedroom door, listening closely for any sound on the other side. Caught off guard, she was taken aback to see the door open quickly, an emerging Armida stopping in her tracks before running into Eviva.

     "Your majesty..."

      "I must go and speak with my mother Eviva." A part of her cursed as she told her babysitter her plans.

     "I don't think it's best for you to leave at a time like this. I'll draw you a bath and fix a meal. Gods only know what horrors you have been through today..."

    "There will be no need. I am visiting my mother." Walking past her, Eviva noticed that Armida had changed into darker clothing, even replacing her veil with a simpler black one as her dark curls billowed beneath it. A small sack crossed her body, holding the dolls she had once admired as a child and supplies to help Dacian with the injuries that she could.

     "Your majesty, please just stay here. It's safer for you, and I'm sure Allona wouldn't like for you to be out of bounds." Eviva was nearly pleading with her as she followed behind a determined Armida.

    "Allona doesn't like many things, Eviva. I'm beginning to not concern myself with that any longer." With expectant eyes, she looked outside to find Dacian, but was disappointed to see that he had been replaced with another guard.

    "Where is the guard that was here before?" Coming to a stop just beside the man, she looked around to see if he was anywhere nearby. Saluting her immediately, he kept his eyes lowered.

      "He is seeking medical attention, your majesty." Fingers flitting down to the small satchel, she nodded, a small pang of disappointment hit her making Armida wish she would have brought out the air immediately.

     "Right."  She said with a sigh.The guard looked back to Eviva who stood waiting to catch Armida by the arm at the first sign of flight.

     "If that's what you were worried about, your majesty, then let us go back inside."

     "Eviva, my mind has not changed." Armida's voice was flat as she ignored her pleading and began walking away. The guard immediately followed. Physical contact was forbidden unless permission was given, or if Armida was in imminent danger.

    "Young miss..." He called out. Her feet began moving faster. She was glad that she chose the loose flowing pants instead of one of her usual skirts. They would have made it harder for what she was prepared to do.

    Taken by surprise, the guard watched as Armida sped away, faster than he ever thought she could move. Her body was small and quick as she made her get away. His delayed reaction to chase after her gave Armida a great lead.

    "Armida!" Eviva screamed from the veranda. She watched as other guards placed throughout the area saw what was happening, and followed suit.

    "Please Armida!" She called as she too took off in pursuit of the young woman who chose to break all protocol.

   Armida paced herself, breathing hard as her arms and legs pumped harder and faster. She didn't dare to look behind her, as the hairs on the back of her neck told her that the guards were close enough. Her eyes darted before her, searching for coverage as her veil flew into her face. She couldn't be bothered with it as she tore it off, holding it tightly.

     The vast land seemed to be endless, and she wondered if this was all even worth it.

    But before her head could talk her heart into stopping and submitting to the guards she saw that she was fast approaching a ledge which could be her only hope.

      She had no idea how far it went down, or what waited for her there, but as the guards called out one more plead, she took the risk and jumped. As Armida's body glided through the air, she wondered if her physical being was left standing looking over the cliff at her as she fell. Time escaped her, making it feel suspended in the air for eternity.

     The thud of her body sent a shock through Armida's entire system. The prickly bushes and rough rocks lightened her fall...in a way.

     Armida protected her face as she tucked her arms before her tightly as she rolled through the dirt. Gritting her teeth, she endured the pain as she prayed for it to end soon.

    Letting out a gruff moan as she was finally stopped by a large rock, Armida rolled on her side clenching at her back that made which smacked into the stubborn stone. Biting her tongue, she ceased any curses that were sure to escape.

     "Don't just stand there!" Eviva bellowed from above. The guards who stood looking over the cliff tried to see through the cloud of dust Armida had caused. Since she didn't hear the sound of their boots thumping the ground around her, she took advantage of their moment of hesitation and scurried as quickly and quietly as possible until she was no longer in view.

     Looking over their shoulders nervously at Eviva, the men took the leap.

Ooo

       Armida trudged through the forest, not quite sure just where she was. Looking behind her, she laughed at the irony; those men were supposed to be some of the highest trained guards, ready to battle and defend at the drop of a hat, yet couldn't bring themselves to jump a mere twenty feet off of the same cliff Armida fell from. In her hands, she held her headdress. Would it even matter if she wore it or not at this point? She had worn very simple clothing that would necessarily give away her status. All that the Novidas knew of her was that she was adorned with garment that masked her features, so one had any earthly idea what she looked like.

     "I can at least make it to my mother without it..." Deciding to do away with the veil, she tucked it safely into her small satchel.

     Armida had never visited unannounced or unaccompanied, and was sure that at a time like this she wouldn't be well received. She would somehow have to find an entrance into the enormous home. It was nearly impenetrable beyond its tall solid gates, but if Armida had learned anything in the last few hours, her father too suffered from follies just like any other man.

     Her journey continued on end. Armida had never been given any special lessons which would most certainly aid her in a situation like this, but the more she became in tuned with her senses, the more natural navigation became.

     "I can do this...." She assured herself as she climbed a hillside. Above she could hear the sound horse hooves trotting on a paved road. That was all the sign she needed to know that she was on the right track.

     Slowly lifting herself up, she carefully surveyed the road for those passing by. Unsurprisingly, the road was barren but for one soldier who rode the horse Armida had heard. He moved slow and with intent, telling her that his purpose was to search for individuals who were not meant to wander around without permission.

    He had to be a part of her father's security unit, and definitely not someone she would be asking for help.

     Making her way all the way to the side of the road, she kept a watchful eye as she got into a crouching position. The rider was less than fifty feet away, and the smallest sound of shuffling would alert him, and draw attention to Armida. Moving sveltely, Armida crossed the road, able to see the rough of the royal home through the trees. Taking as much coverage as possible had to be done; it helped lower the risk of being seen as she knew the way she moved was suspicious enough to detain her if they wanted to.

     As long as she kept her eyes ahead of her, Armida would not be deterred.

oOo

      With the help of a guard, Eviva was hoisted in to the air and reached for a dangling rope that would help pull her back on land. It had been an hour now since they began their search for Armida, her body disappearing right before them.

    "We have to find her as soon as possible."  She fretted as the guard began walking beside her, back towards Armida's apartments.

     "The men are doing their best, we have them searching the entire compound and surrounding areas.

     "She has to be found or-" The color from Eviva's face drained as she saw the undeniable figure of Allona approaching  in the distance." Or Allona will happen." The man beside her stiffened from the sight as well, knowing just exactly what was implied.

     Allona's confusion and suspicion was easily detectable as she road slowly past the men who saluted her and continued moving past her in all directions. When her piercing gaze fell to where Eviva stood, was too ashamed to hold her head up, and gently bowed it as Allona came to a stop.

    Silence weighed heavy in the air as the guard gave a proper salute. His eyes darted to Eviva.

     "What is going on here?" Allona's voice was cold as she questioned the two before her. Her eyes remained on Eviva's averted gaze as the man beside her stuttered out an answer.

     "Your majesty-there---it was brought to our attention that-but we are currently trying our best-"

     "The longer you ignore me, the more insulted I feel...." Speaking directly to Eviva, she cut off the other man, sending him away as Eviva was left alone to bear Allona herself.

    "Acknowledge me." She demanded.

      "Your majesty, we have encountered a situation while you were away." Still refusing to lift her head, Eviva took a step backwards as Allona came closer.

    "Look at me!" Allona's voice became even sterner as if that was possible. Her eyes hardened immediately, she knew that none of the rioters had made it this far out of bounds, she had made sure of it. There wasn't much that could go wrong here, and what could shouldn't

    "I-"Eviva began to shake, her hands unable to stay still as she stood face to face with Allona's glare. The taller woman's nose flared as her back stiffened, fists set at her sides.

    "Where is she?" She boomed, causing Eviva to jump from nerves.

    "We're looking for her...she's not in danger I'm sure...she just...she just left."

    "She hasn't just left in fifteen years, how the hell does it happen now under your watch?" Allona turned sharply, mounting her horse as she began to ride it fiercely towards Armida's apartments.

     Eviva stood frozen, unable to move a muscle after witnessing Allona's wrath. She felt the blame placed on her, and accepted it knowingly. She had never been on the receiving end of the Allona everyone else knew, and the feeling was devastating.

    With a shaky breath, she knew that it would do her no good to hide from her, and with acceptance of whatever would be done she made her way with lead feet.

     By the time Eviva had arrived to the apartment, it was to witness the aftermath of Allona's rage. The entrance door had been left open, things turned over as Allona went on a mission to figure out just how her sister could have left so easily.

     "Did she say where she was going?" Allona bellowed the question without turning around. Her skills as a fighter had made each one of her senses very keen, and the soft sound of Eviva's feet were detected instantly. Eviva watched as Allona turned over the small chest that lied in the middle of Armida's bedroom floor. Toeing through the items, she  searched for any hidden note or hints to Armida's whereabouts.

    "She...she just left."Before the flare of Allona's nose could begin, Eviva went on in defense of herself." I tried my best to coax her to stay. She was very adamant on leaving, I have no idea what she saw in the city, but it changed her-"

    Allona froze from Eviva's words. "Armida was in the city today?" The question she asked told Eviva to tread very lightly on her answer as Allona's dark eyes seemed to reach their limit.

     "Yes, your majesty." Lowering her head, Eviva realized that not only had she let Armida go once today, but twice ." She left with the young guard. I promise you I had no idea about the first incident until a stable hand reported that they had taken one of the horses." Eviva's hands were held out to show her innocence, something that didn't help to soften Allona's judgment.

     "Is that supposed to please me? Do you deserve an award for failing to keep her in her place?" Stepping past her, Allona rubbed at her temples. There weren't many places she could think of when trying to figure out where Armida had run off to.

     When she found her she would make sure that Armida would never want to set foot outside again-

     As Allona began designing a plan of punishment, the thought of her father finding out about Armida's little outings shook her to the core.

    "Is there anything that I can do to help?" Eviva called after Allona as she suddenly took off out the door.

    "I believe you've done enough!" She screamed hurriedly as she climbed atop her horse. Kicking its sides, Allona urged it on in the direction of her parents' home as fast as she could.

Ooo

     With her hands on her hips, Armida looked around from behind the cover of trees as she calculated the distance between her, and the grand window from which her mother's silhouette could be seen.

    Damn her father and these open grounds.

     She could easily be spotted at any moment, no matter how fast her legs could move her. Who knows what could happen if she was mistaken for an intruder and taken down by one of the many men on duty walking the grounds.

     It struck her that running the distance would of course be her first plan, but the idea of simply strolling as if she belonged there never did.

     So she took the chance.

      Her hear beat wildly against her heart, so much she was sure it could be heard a mile away. She didn't dare to let her eyes wander past the window seat her mother had taken. Out the corner of her eye, she could faintly see a guard appear from behind a tall pillar coming to a dead stop at the sight of Armida.

    "This is forbidden territory to outsiders." His voice boomed with authority, but Armida had heard that kind of tone from people of higher positions than a courtyard watchdog. She continued walking.

    "Surrender now or I will be forced to subdue you." He spoke even louder, not used to someone defying one of the king's personal guards. His ego fueled him as he stalked quickly behind Armida, his long strides matching her quick ones. Armida's senses were heightened as she felt the heat of his hand invade her space, coming close to clasping down on her arm in order to stop her.

    She had no idea how it happened, but she was glad it did.

    Before the guard's fingertips could land on her skin, Armida quickly grabbed his arm, twisting him quickly before he could catch a glimpse of her face. He yelped in pain, and before his screams could alert anyone else, she found her arm wrapped around his neck tightly, dropping him to his knees as he fought against her chokehold.

    Squeezing tighter and tighter, Armida prayed that this would work out the way she wanted as she felt his body become heavy. Dropping the guard to the ground, Armida looked at her arm as she shook her head.

     "Sorry?" She whispered conflicted with the body before her and the knowledge that she had been the cause of his temporary unconsciousness.

    Private lessons with Allona were finally paying off after all.

     Checking to see if any others had arrived for their place in line with Armida and her newly released skill, she broke out into a light jog towards the cover of the elaborately styled pillars of the home.

      Without a second wasted, Armida began surveying the side of the home, looking for the best way in. She hadn't been here in so long, that she couldn't remember any special passages.

     "No..." She groaned as she closed her eyes, tilting her head back.

      She felt a breeze grace her face in the short moment of silence, and then...

 

     "Armida?"

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