These many nights that I have spent without you have been pure torture, from the inside out. How badly I pray nightly to the gods that you will return home safely. Without your presence, the castle feels empty, as does my heart. How long peace negotiations must take, for I have waited many months to see your enchanting smile once more. I wish that my training to become a Magyu'Za wasn't taking so long, if I was full-fledged I could teleport there right now to see you. Sadly, according to Svanti, things as powerful as the elements take time to understand. I think I understand everything just fine, but she insists that my training is not yet complete. I wish I could be like you, Pan, everything seems to come so easy for you. You have been such a powerful, strong willed negotiator ever since we met, but I am still training, and you are off speaking with kings in far off countries that I have never visited. One day I will travel the world with you, but until then I will sit here, alone in my bedchamber, missing you more and more as each second passes. I am hoping that not far in the distant future, I will be able to cherish your handsome face, and kiss your precious lips. Until then, I will be waiting here patiently for your return.
Uzume Amate Beolin III, Daughter of King Gired and Queen Bellona of Diminian, and Heir to the Diminian Throne
Uzume set down her quill, satisfied with the letter she had just written. She had been tempted to write how much her body craved his, and how empty her bed felt when he was not beside her, but one could never be sure whose hands the letter would get into. Father would never approve of what I have done. She quickly read over the letter, rolled it, and slowly began to drip hot sealing wax onto it. As soon as she thought there was enough wax resting on the paper, she quickly took the stamp of the royal emblem of Diminian and pressed forcefully with it on the still wet wax. "One of these days," she said annoyed, "we will have something else to seal parchment."
Suddenly someone knocked on the door and then burst it open. Uzume stood up from her writing desk. A servant stuck his head in before the folds of Uzume's dress were able to settle in place. "M'lady Uzume," the servant said hurriedly, "your mother demands your immediate presence at the banquet. She is growing impatient, and you know her better that I, so you know how furious she will be."
Uzume nodded. "I understand, Sorin." The servant began to remove his head from the room, but Uzume called his name after remembering the letter that lie on the desk. Picking up the letter up from the desk, she rushed to the barely open door and set it in his hand. "Take this to the falcons, make sure that it gets to Lord Pan of the Twelve Towers, and make sure the next hands to touch it are his!" There was force in her voice, authority, the kind of tone that made one know that if they faltered, then there would be dire consequences.
"Yes, your majesty, it will be done immediately." Sorin bowed and quickly exited the room, closing the door and leaving the girl standing in her large room alone. Uzume quickly rushed to the door, opened it, and followed him out. The hallway that she entered was dimly lit; save for a few torches burning brightly, but still not emitting enough light for one to see clearly. Simple tapestries adorned the walls, adding color to the plain gray of stone, although the tapestries only consisted of the colors red, gold, and brown. Uzume's leather shoes made barely a sound against the cold floor, except a soft tapping every so many steps she took.
"A banquet? Am I truly supposed to care?" Uzume asked herself sarcastically. "I mean, it's not like it's in my honor. Stupid Maahes, coming home from the pointless war in Meandia. Those stupid Meandians, they never would have started that war if they had known what was good for them, not against Diminian." She crossed her arms over her chest and continued walking, deep in thought.
A sudden clicking of boots on stone threw her out of her thoughts. Stopping where she stood, Uzume readied herself to grab the dagger clinging snugly to her thigh beneath her dress. She laughed slightly and allowed herself to relax. Why was I even nervous at first? No criminal could get into the walls of this castle. She felt remarkably childish for being so nervous. Usually she had an escort, one of her handmaidens would usually lead or follow her, but she had not had the time to find one now. The source of the clicking came around the corner and arrived face to face with her. She let out a deep sigh, as the face she saw was a familiar one.
"Her Majesty Uzume, Lady of the Griffin, my future queen." A man, about twenty-seven years of age, knelt in front of Uzume, drawing his sword and setting its tip in the crack between two stones. He bowed his head, not even taking a second glance at the young woman.
"Arise, Sir Maahes of the Holy Guard, Master of the Griffin Tower." Uzume rolled her eyes as the man raised his head slightly, but was thankful when she realized he hadn't noticed. She yawned softly and gently put her hand to her mouth as he stood up, sheathing his sword.
"Your Majesty, your mother sent me to seek you out, well…" Uzume waited for him to say something else, but he did not. They stood in silence for a moment until the man spoke again. "I am to escort you to the banquet hall. Now, if we can stop wasting time, I would appreciate it if you would allow me to accompany you."
Uzume sighed, making sure she was loud enough for him to hear. "I suppose, if mother demands it." She rolled her eyes when she saw the grin that appeared on his face. Do not feel so sure of yourself, Sir Maahes, it will only be your downfall. That, I can guarantee. He turned around 180 degrees and began walking in the direction from which he had come. Uzume reluctantly followed, picking up her skirts so that they would not drag on the floor and so that she would not trip on them, his pace was fast and she did not wish to hinder him, she had heard of his temper.
Their short trip was quiet, and the only noise they heard was that of their shoes tapping against the floor with each step. Uzume made sure to keep her eyes averted from him, just looking at him made her almost sick to her stomach. From what she had heard from ladies around the castle, her handmaidens in particular, he was a very cruel man when it came to women. She refused to admit it to herself, but Uzume was both repulsed by him, and yet compelled to learn more about him.
Before she realized, she stepped into the banquet hall, which, at the time, was the most well lit room in the castle. The room would have appeared no different than any other room, considering it was made out of the same gray stone as everything else, but ornate tapestries in many colors and with griffins woven into them covered almost every inch of the wall. Crystals, of what kind Uzume was unsure of, hung from the ceiling, casting interesting glows and shadows along the walls. A large wooden rectangular table took its place in the center of the room, about forty people sat around it.
Maahes took a seat at the opposite end of the table from where they had been standing, but Uzume chose to remain where she was and examine the guests that had been invited. Most of the people she recognized, lords and ladies of Diminian, and others she did not, most likely others of the Holy Guard, or perhaps Sir Maahes personal friends. She scoffed at the thought of anything of his being personal, every choice he made, every thought he had, and every breath he took was reported to either her mother or father. You are their puppet, Sir Maahes of the Holy Guard, Master of the Griffin Tower, and as soon as your strings break your will be disposed of.
"If you will take a seat, my daughter, then I will speak of the cause of this wonderful celebration," her mother, who was sitting at the very end of the table, said, the words flowing from her tongue. Shaken from her thoughts, Uzume met her mothers gaze. She stared intently into the dark gray-brown eyes that she knew were mirror images of her own. That was as far as their resemblance stretched. Her mother's skin showed signs of age and wrinkles, where as her own was young and pulled tight. Gray hair was held in a bun on top of her mother's head, Uzume could not recall, at the moment, its original color. "Dear Uzume," her mother almost shouted, "please take a seat daughter!" She pointed to the opposite end of the table, near where Uzume was standing, where there remained one empty chair.
Her cheeks flushing, Uzume took her seat, attempting to look unembarrassed, but failing. She sat up straight and proper, as did all of the people sitting around the table. Her mother spoke, to everyone now, and all heads turned and eyes gazed in the queen's direction. "Ladies, Lords, Warriors of the Holy Guard, I welcome you to this celebration. This is a celebration not only intended to honor a fearless warrior, but a celebration to honor a great man. Dear friends, raise your chalices, goblets, and glasses to honor a fearless hero, Sir Maahes of the Holy Guard." Cheers rang within the room. Applause thundered throughout the area, and "Huzzahs" echoed in Uzume's ears.
Her mother continued, but Uzume blocked most of it out, allowing her to examine some of the people sitting at the table. The first person to her mother's right, on the side of the table, was a man she believed to be called Birion, High Lord of the third house. She had spoke with him once, but like usual in conversations, she toned him out, listening only to her own thoughts. He had black hair that was partly held back by a small ponytail, and the hair that was free cascaded gently down his chest which was covered in what appeared to be blue silk. She was only able to see what was covering his torso; the rest of him was hidden beneath the folds of the tablecloth covering the table. First impressions of him had told her that he was a casually friendly person.
Next, across from Birion, sat Maahes. She was yet to learn his first name, and had no intentions to ever waste her time asking him or anyone else for that matter. Uzume had never taken the time to closely examine his features, but she had never truly had the opportunity or the will. But now, since she had absolutely nothing else to do, she stared intently at every nook and cranny on his face. He had striking green eyes that seemed to swirl like two endless vortexes, and, at the moment, they were narrowed into tiny slits, staring intently at her mother. Like all warriors of the Holy Guard, he wore his hair shaved so that he was nearly bald, though there was little of it to be seen she could barely make out the color, dark brown, nearly black. His face was shaven clean, except for slight stubble gathering on his chin. His lips finished off an unreadable expression on his face, it was always like that, she often wondered if he had any feelings at all. His clothing consisted of a simple gray tunic, and most likely a pair of brown pants. She did not have to see it to know that a sword resided in its sheath around his waist, he was never without it.
A young woman sat next to Maahes, she had not seen her before, but figured she must be a daughter of a high lord. Uzume cared very little for people she did not know, so she simple looked at the girl once and then looked down at the table. She gently picked up her spoon and slowly began sipping the soup she had been brought. The soup was satisfactory, but she did not really wish to eat that night, she felt slightly queasy. Bored, Uzume put her elbow on the table and rested her head in her hand. With her free hand, she played idly with her soup.
"Uzume." Her mother's mention of her name startled her, and she nearly spilled her soup onto the white tablecloth. She lifted her head up so that she was able to meet her mother's gaze. Her mother, sure that she had her daughter's attention, spoke. "I would like to make an announcement that I think most of you will be very pleased to hear." Uzume tilted her head slightly, wondering why this alone was important enough for her to listen. Her mother continued. "This is a celebration to honor Sir Maahes of the Holy Guard, correct?" Grunts and nods came from the guests. "Sir no longer! Sir Maahes, I would like to make you Lord of the Griffin Tower, and commander of the Holy Guard." Cheers echoed throughout the room, and Uzume still questioned, to herself, why she should care, although her eyes widened slightly when she heard her mother's words.
The room quieted as the queen reached out her hand, her palm facing outward, to silence them. "Not only is he going to be the commander of the Holy Guard," she said, "he will one day be our king!" Murmurs around the room suddenly ceased after her words. All eyes widened, including Maahes' as they stared at the queen, unsure of what her words meant. Uzume knew, and it nearly brought her to tears, but she was a princess, a leader of the people, and she would not let herself cry over something such as that, not in front of her subjects. "Yes, a loyal friend of mine made a wonderful suggestion to me earlier in the day." She looked to her right at Birion. "My daughter, Uzume Amate Beolin III, and Lord Maahes will be wed before the end of the season!"
Cheers broke out once again, and Uzume slowly closed her eyes, severely disappointed that her prediction had been correct. Suddenly, before she gave herself a chance to think, Uzume stood up causing her chair to fall backwards. "I won't!" she screamed, "You can't make me! I am in love with another! Mother, you can't do this! Why would you do this to me?" Uzume looked around at all the people, who were now completely silent, staring up at her. Deep inside she knew she should feel embarrassed, but her feelings of outrage pushed it away.
"Child," the queen laughed, "I am simply doing what I think will be best for the country, as well as you." Uzume slowly sat down, after realizing that a servant had put her chair back in its upright position. She looked worriedly to Maahes, hoping for some support, but he simply looked back and smiled. "Thank you, everyone, for coming to this banquet. Uzume, Maahes, Birion, I would appreciate it if you three would stay behind for a moment." At the last words from the queen, the guest quickly rose from their chairs and left, one by one.
After her soup had been taken away Uzume gently laid her head down on the table, breathing in deeply so as to hold back the tears. How could she do this? Why is she doing this? I thought she knew that Pan and I had intended to marry before the season of color. I will not marry Maahes, not even if they tell me I will never have to see him again afterwards. This is pure insanity. She could almost feel her face turning red from anger; she could nearly feel her body temperature rising. She clenched her fists tight, and bit her tongue, nearly hard enough to make it bleed. A hand on her shoulder caused to her to spring up in her chair.
Turning her head slightly, she saw the same expressionless face that she knew she would be seeing much more of in the future. "Your mother wishes to speak to you, your majesty," Maahes said, almost in monotone. Uzume gave him a cold glare and she saw him swallow. "You know I have nothing to do with this, right?"
"I don't care," Uzume answered, "I want you to know this so that things are clear between us. I love Pan, and no matter how long I live, my heart will always be his." Her face was bright red, and her eyes flamed with fury. Maahes opened his mouth to speak, but she did not wait for his comment. Pushing past him, she made her way in her mother's direction. Upon arriving, she smiled slightly at Birion, whom her mother was talking to, and her mother.
"You asked to speak to me, Mother?"
"Yes, child," her mother replied softly. "I realize how you must feel, my marriage to your father was arrange by our parents, and just look at us." Uzume glared at her, letting her know that it made no difference, and her mother changed the topic, attempting to find another way to convince her daughter that the marriage would be a good thing. "Dear, I didn't want to tell you this, not until later, but since the news of your marriage didn't please you, I might as well add on to the pile."
"Pray tell, Mother, what you could possible say to me that is worse than notifying me that I am to spend the rest of my life married to a swine?" Uzume crossed her arms and tapped her foot gently on the floor.
"Perhaps you should sit down child, this may come as a shock," her mother said, but Uzume immediately refused. "Pan was killed in a battle that broke out in Meandia shortly after they signed the peace treaty. Maahes told me of this. I didn't want you to have to know, but it is necessary."
Uzume's mouth widened, and she slowly brought her hand up to partly cover her mouth. "No," she said forcefully, "you lie!" She slowly staggered backwards, her legs shaking violently. Instantaneously, her legs gave way, and she fell into two muscular arms. She did not have to turn to know that the person who had broken her fall was Maahes. Legs still weak, she pushed him away and put her back against the cold stone wall for support. "You must be lying mother, please tell me it is a cruel joke! This is not amusing!" She looked from her mother's face, to Birion's, and then to Maahes', all had a look of pity on them, although it appeared that there was a slight tinge of amusement in Birion's.
The queen made not an attempt to comfort her daughter; she simply remained where she stood. "Uzume, your father is still in Meandia, and it worries me. As long as there are people there who protest against Diminian he will not be safe. We shall pray to Sram!" Her last words were in order, but it worried Uzume, it was not wise to pray to Sram, for payment he usually asked for death.
Uzume was outraged by the fact that her mother had quickly brushed the fact that her one true love now ceased to breathe. "I cannot remain in your presence, mother! You have no soul! That is what I shall pray to Sram for. I will pray that he will give you a soul, and perhaps a heart too!" Her mother's hand lashed out and struck her daughter in the face with her palm. Uzume put her hand to the spot where her mother's hand had just made contact. She knew a red hand must have been printed on her face. "Good night, Mother." She bowed her head slightly. "Lord Birion, future lord, Maahes." She did not waste the energy to bow her head to the other two.
She quickly pivoted on her foot and made her way out of the room, muttering under her breath. Once she was out of the room, she allowed herself to do what she had been holding back since she had been told of her engagement. She put her head in her hands and wept as she walked. She gently glided through the halls as she walked towards her bedroom. She paid little attention to where she was going, but she had walked through those halls so many times that she did not need her sight to navigate. She realized that, now, instead of her entire face being red, it must have simply been her eyes.
Once she arrived at he room, she mindlessly opened the door, expecting to find it completely empty. After looking up, she proved herself wrong. A woman, whom she did not particularly wish to see at the moment, stood in the middle of the room tapping a small wand with a small crystal in the bottom against her palm. Uzume quickly wiped the tears from beneath her eyes and stood up straight. "Svanti, I did not expect to see you here."
"Well, learner, you should know that my lessons come whenever necessary. Besides, your mother summoned me earlier in the day. I am sorry for your loss, learner, but your training has no hindrances." Svanti slowly walked towards Uzume, the wand still in her palm. She brought her hand up to the young woman's face and wiped away some of the remaining tears. Uzume smiled slightly as she looked into the older woman's eyes. Svanti was obviously much older than Uzume, mainly because of her gray hair. Her face seemed almost ageless though, for she had no wrinkles, but her brown eyes showed many years of wisdom. She was shorter than the younger woman, but her presence appeared to dominate her. She wore a simply red dress with gold lining, nothing to distinguish her from any other woman. There was one thing she had that proved what she truly was, and it was something most people had never seen, and that was a small infinity symbol tattooed on her upper left thigh. She had shown it to Uzume once, to let her know what it meant to be a fully trained Magyu'Za. "Come learner." Svanti pointed to the bed. "I will teach of Marita, the first Magyu'Za"
The two walked slowly over to the bed and sat. Svanti quickly picked up a book off of the floor. Uzume stared interestingly at the title, "The First Age of the World." She pretended to listen intently as Svanti talked of the woman who had first learned how to control the elements. She explained that Marita had originally needed a mediate to summon. Not long after that, Uzume got bored and completely ignored her instructor.
A while later, Svanti finished her lesson, closed the book, and wished Uzume good night before leaving. Uzume burst into tears again the second the door was closed. She lay down on her bed and cried until she felt there were no more tears. "Which one of you took him away from me? I wanted you to bring him home safely, not kill him. He never did anything wrong, he was an innocent. His only crime was loving a person like me!" A knock at the door turned her attention away from her dead love. She shouted for the person to enter, and a handmaiden quickly scurried into the room.
"M'Lady, your mother tells me that she would much appreciate your presence at Sir Maahes raising." She bowed, and kept her eyes averted to the ground as she spoke.
Uzume laughed after wiping the tears from her eyes. "Do you think I would want to see him raised? Why would I need to see him, I'll be seeing him every day after we are married. That man is a bastard, and I don't ever intend to speak to him, not until I take my vows, and then I will never speak to him again."
"Then perhaps her majesty would like me to draw a bath for her?" the handmaiden asked. She still refused to look at Uzume, it appeared as if she would go blind, or perhaps be tortured if she made eye contact with the princess.
"Yes, Rhua, that would be nice," Uzume replied sweetly. The girl quickly rushed out of the room through a door on the wall next to the one through which she had entered. Uzume quickly went to the task of removing her clothing. All of the buttons and bows were difficult for one to remove alone, especially on that of a dress belonging to royalty, but Uzume managed. Once free of all of her clothing, save for a small necklace on which a small pendant of a half falcon half griffin creature resided, she began to walk towards the door through which her handmaiden had exited, but stopped when she caught her reflection in the mirror above her writing desk. She laughed slightly, looking at herself in the mirror, but it had been so long since she had actually looked at herself. She stared at her red, nearly orange, hair that was held in about ten braids. It was still very red around her eyes, but she hoped that a warm bath would help it fade. Her lips were a light pink almost magenta color, and her cheeks slightly pink. Her head would have normally been held high, but too much had happened that night for her to be as self-confident as usual.
She laughed at herself and quickly walked to the door leading to the bathroom. She opened it and stepped inside. Rhua was hanging towels on the wall, and a tub full of warm water sat in the middle of the room. Stepping into the tub, Uzume immediately felt a little relief. Every since she was a child, a warm bath was always able to calm her spirits. Still the thoughts of Pan and images of his death would not leave her mind. She looked over to Rhua who was still hanging towels on the wall. "Rhua, are you married?"
Rhua jumped at hearing Uzume's voice. She turned around and spoke. "Your Majesty, I didn't realize you had come in." She paused for a moment and then answered Uzume's question. "Oh, me, no. I wouldn't have time for a husband, it is very busy around the castle, you know." Rhua smiled and brought a wooden stool next to the tub so that she could sit down.
"This is just so difficult and confusing. I just hate my mother sometimes." Uzume slid as far down into the water as she could, leaving only a bit of her neck and head exposed.
"Why should you hate her, M'Lady? Yes, Maahes is known for his horrible temper, but he is dashingly good looking." Rhua giggled. "Just think of it this way, at least with your beauty and his good looks, you will have beautiful children."
Uzume smiled slightly, pretending to agree with her. I hadn't even thought of children. If we have no children then who will take over the throne when we die? But I could never love him, I could never even pretend to love him, no matter how attractive he is! Their conversation slowly drifted on until Uzume decided that she was clean enough and wished to go to bed. Rhua left her after she dried off, and Uzume slowly walked into her room, with no clothing on. It did not matter if she was clothed or not, no one would think of coming into the princess's room without knocking.
Walking to the bureau near her bed where she kept her dress, she softly hummed a lullaby that Svanti use to sing to her when she was a child. Before she could actually open one of the drawers of the bureau, the hallway entrance to her room burst open. Without the need to think, Uzume jumped under the blankets of her bed. Maahes stepped into her room, not even glancing at her.
"Uzume, you are to be my wife. I do not care if you love me or not, you will learn to love and respect me. When you did not appear at my raising everyone looked at me as if I would know the answer why. It was not my idea that we are to be married, and had it been up to me, I would have chosen someone else. Face it, girl, you are a spoiled, annoying, selfish woman who cares about no one but herself, and I will learn to live with that."
Uzume smiled at him; somehow his anger had made her slightly attracted to him. She wondered if maybe it was because she was lonely, but she found him very attractive. "Lord Maahes," she said seductively, "if you can live with me, I can most certainly live with you." She sat up in her bed some and pulled the sheet that covered her down slightly, revealing most of her bosom.
Maahes turned to her with an expression on his face that he did not understand what she was talking about. The second he laid eyes on the woman in her bed his face flushed and he turned away. "Lady Uzume, you are a very attractive woman, there is no denying that, but we are not married, and barely acquainted."
Uzume smiled. "So Lord Maahes can blush. So much for making an offer that no man can refuse. Stupid code of the Holy Guard." The last part she said mainly to herself. "Was your little speech all you came to tell me, or was there something else because I'm sure that now that you are commander of the Holy Guard your have many responsibilities, and it is rather cold in here."
Maahes' face grew even redder as he spoke again. "I guess that that was all I wanted to say." He said each word with a pause after it, then nervousness showed through his voice. "I probably should be leaving, I have lots of lord-like duties and stuff to attend to." Uzume laughed at the way he spoke. He normally spoke with such authority, but not now, not with her lying in bed without any clothing on.
Suddenly the door opened again, and a messenger with a rough look on his face stepped in. Uzume looked at the man, as did Maahes, the red fading from his face. The messenger looked as if he had news that could kill him or someone else if he spoke it. "What is it soldier?" Maahes asked looking directly into the man's eyes, the authority returning to his voice. Uzume pulled the blanket over her so that only her face was exposed.
"Lord Maahes of Holy Guard and Uzume Amate Beolin III, grave news has come from Meandia," the messenger said. Both Uzume and Maahes stared at him intently, curious of what news could be so grave. "The King, High Lord of the Griffin Tower and leader of all of the armies of Diminian, and your father, Princess Uzume," he paused before he spoke the two words that change both Uzume's and Maahes' lives forever, "is dead."
Well, after about two weeks of hard work I have finally finished the first chapter in this story. This is the longest chapter for any story that I have ever written, let alone for the first chapter. I think I might actually write more than two chapters for this. I was thinking about writing a sort of prologue thing for it, kind of about Uzume and Pan, but only if you guys want me to. I actually read over it before uploading it, so there should be few, if any, grammar mistakes. I ask that you leave helpful comments on how I can improve the story, or what you like about it rather than just telling me to write more. Well, I guess I've said enough.