I was eight. For my entire life I had lived in the lush splendors of Iae Wiltur- the royal palace of my ancestors. As the only child of the King and Queen of Danubae, I was groomed to become sovereign ruler of the kingdom someday. This was unusual to the surrounding kingdoms. I was girl; therefore I was not to be raised as a ruler but raised as the wife of a ruler.
But my parents- my mother especially- would not hear of such a thing. I was their first born and had a right to the throne no matter was sex I was. So as I grew I was trained in all the arts becoming a strong and powerful ruler.
I studied the basics- reading and writing- in several different languages including all the forms of Elfish and Dwarfish native to our land. I also learned the history of my world all the way back to the first of my line to step foot on what would become Danubae soil.
I studied military strategy as were my father's orders and I began to learn to wield a bow and arrow and ride a horse. I was given my own set of bejeweled daggers, which I was taught to use and was rather clumsy with. Later I was to begin with the longsword but at the time the weapon was much larger than I and would've been quite impossible for me to handle.
And of course, I learned the social graces becoming a princess. I learned to walk properly, hold myself with poise, dance gracefully. I learned the ins and outs of managing and attending a state ball and how to run a palace smoothly.
But of all my training I loved best the developing of my magic skills. Born to one of the most powerful enchantresses known to our world, I naturally possessed a gift for the Power. My mother worked with me- teaching me spells and tricks- and I loved those precious times with her.
They were the only times I had with her. She shared equal power with my father in the running of the kingdom and so was a very busy woman. I was mostly raised by her close circle of sorceresses and was always at a distance from either of my parents. So I came to regard them with the awe and respect that their subjects did. To me, no one was wiser or stronger than my father and no one was kinder or more beautiful than my mother. They were in complete control of the world around me and I felt safe in that knowledge.So that day, when I was just barely eight years old and playing in a field with Shane, the son of one of the sorceresses, I never suspected that my world could be so torn apart as it soon would be.
Shane and I were throwing harmless energy balls at one another- a favorite game amongst all children with the Power. I was ruthless in my assault on him because he'd recently teased me about the crescent moon birthmark on my shoulder. But even as ball after ball of glowing blue energy struck him, sending ticklish sensations through his body, he was unfazed.
"Is that the best you can do, Drianna?" he challenged.
I puffed up with fury. He was older than I and his Power much more developed. His energy balls would send such tickling sensations as to make one fall down with a fit of laughter while mine were barely noticeable. But he, along with everyone else in the palace, believed that I as the daughter of Queen Catalonia, should be especially more adept at the Power than anyone my age. I was not.
I couldn't even shape shift yet and people were beginning to doubt my being powerful at all. Some said I was a late-bloomer and they pressed me to work harder at my craft. But I simply couldn't advance at the pace expected of me. I was beginning to feel the pressures from those around me and I was growing to resent it.
I mustered up all the Power I could and shot a mighty energy ball which hit Shane square in the chest. He didn't flinch. But he responded with a ball of equal size and much stronger potency and it struck my back as I tried to run, knocking me to the ground and making me roar with laughter.
My laughter subsided with the fading tickles and Shane appeared over me, his fiery red head blurry in my teary eyes. He extended his hand to me and when I took it he gently lifted me to my feet. I glared at him and brushed myself off.
"I just need time," I said vehemently. "I'll get it."
He smiled. "I know."
The sound of pounding horse's hooves turned our attention to the road beside the field. A rider, hunched over his steed, red cape flying behind him in the breeze, blew past us and rounded the corner towards the palace. Shane and I exchanged a look and raced in the direction of home.
When we reached the grand doors of the palace, we paused to catch our breath and let the guards open the ornate doors for our entrance. Quietly we stepped inside into the Great Hall where the banners of each ruler of the Creote Clan hung behind the marble statues of them.
I pressed a finger to my lips and pointed to the throne room. We crept silently down the purple and gold carpet and to the set of golden framed doors. One was slightly ajar and Shane pulled it open wide enough for the both of us to slip inside. Immediately we ducked behind a statue and watched the small crowd of people at the head of the room.
My mother and father sat on their thrones, surrounded on each side by their council members. The rider knelt before them on one knee.
"Rise," my mother commanded.
"Your majesties," the rider regarded them reverently as he stood to face them. "I have urgent news from the Court of Otaire, King Oghma and Queen Olivia- sovereign rulers of our neighbor, Groithia." He drew a scroll from the folds of his cloak and unrolling it, read, "As the light of our life hath been put out, so shall we to your own flame. On this day, your countryman hath slain the Crown Prince Antony Omag Otaire."
The council members' faces were all aghast. My mother and father's remained stoic, though I could see in my mother's blue eyes, the slightest glisten of tears.
"As we have been wronged, so shall we wrong you. Your heir, along with your throne and all the land that accompanies it shall be ours by force."
My mother found my father's hand as the council became abuzz with furied chatter and the rider replaced the scroll in his cloak. I watched as she met father's eyes and one word escaped her lips, "War."
The palace was in chaos. Servants rushed about, wringing their hands as they shakily performed the tasks assigned them. More guards were stationed at every door and window and they held their weapons at the ready. Knights clambered noisily through the corridors towards father's war room and sorceresses rushed in and out of mother's chambers.
It seemed that Shane and I had been forgotten in the madness. We were taken to the playroom and left alone. No one visited or checked up on us but the guards were stationed outside the door.
"I'm frightened," I said to Shane as I pulled my knees to my chest and rocked back and forth in the window seat.
"Don't be, Drianna." He settled beside me and put his arm around my shoulders. "Your father and mother will manage everything. They'll keep you safe. Nothing bad will happen to you."
"But what if something bad happens to them?"
Shane looked thoughtful. "Then I'll protect you."
I wondered what exactly he thought he could do. Tossing measly energy balls at the enemy wouldn't win a war. Ever since I could remember, Shane had watched out for me.
Aliqua, his mother and my head nursemaid, told me that once when I was seven months old, I'd been set on the grass in the courtyard while everyone was preparing a picnic. I was a curious baby, as she told it, and I spotted a bee buzzing around the flowers beside me. With my uncoordinated fingers I swatted at the bee, trying to catch it. It landed on a flower and just as I was about to touch its stinger, two-year-old Shane pulled me away from the insect, saving me from the painful experience of being stung.
Since that day he'd been my shadow and bodyguard. Whatever scrapes we got into in our games I came through unharmed, sometimes at his expense. But this was one time that Shane couldn't watch out for me. He was ten years old, far from a man and far from being the sorcerer he would be. His reassurances did nothing to settle my growing fear. But I was grateful for the sentiment.
"Do you want to play a game?" I shook my head. "Do you want me to read a book to you?"
"Well then what do you want to do?"
"I want to see my mother."
"You can't do that. The guards won't let us."
"Well we just won't go past them." I leapt from the window seat and bounded over to the far nursery wall. I stared thoughtfully at it and its intricately carved wood. By running my fingers over the leafy pattern, I found the button I was looking for and pressed, sending a small portion of the wall swinging open.
"Drianna…" Shane warned as I ducked through the passage.
"I'm going with or without you," I called over my shoulder. "Are you coming?"
He was behind me in an instant and together we picked our way along the dark passageway. It seemed forever before we reached the door which would lead to the torch-lighted hall. When I felt it's weathered wood beneath my fingers I exhaled a sigh of relief. The next part would be easier.
The hall was narrow and we had to dodge the flaming torches that lined its walls. Shane's hand found mine and pulled me behind him to lead me through the corridor.
"Watch out for rats," he whispered.
I shuddered. "Don't talk about rats."
He chuckled. "Don't worry. We're almost there."
Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth the door swung open and we were inside my mother's chambers. A crowd of faces all turned to us and silence fell over the room. I spotted Aliqua amongst the sorceresses and cringed inwardly at the look of displeasure on her face.
Then my mother's voice came to my ears. "Drianna, Shane, what in God's name are you two doing?"
We looked up at her sheepishly. She was tall and intimidating when angry. Her two blue eyes stared down her long, pointed nose at us and her pink lips pulled into a frown.
"I'm sorry, mother. I wanted to see you."
"See me? About what?"
I fumbled for the words but came up hopelessly blank. So I shrugged my shoulders and concentrated on digging my toe into the thick carpeting. Mother laid her long-fingered hand on my shoulder and I felt that she understood that I was frightened and naturally seeked her out.
"I would like to introduce you to someone." She led me to the center of the room where a tall man was standing with his arms clasped behind his back. "This is General Akkad. He is a great friend of your father's and was your grandfather's most trusted commander. He's since retired and now lives in Dezla."
I'd never heard of Dezla. Nor had I ever heard of General Akkad. I peered up at him nervously. He was an imposing figure with long, sturdy legs and a proud chest. Browned skin was taut on his cheeks and his thin lips were surrounded by white stubble that matched his unruly white hair. As he looked at me, they twitched and were suddenly smiling down at me disarmingly. The smile reached his eyes too and that's where his real kindness shone. It twinkled in the dark orbs and was not bellied, but indeed enhanced by the wrinkles and crows feet around them.
"Your highness," he said with a bow.
"General Akkad is going to take you to Dezla for a bit. Would you like that?" mother asked.
"It's not safe for you here."
"I'll come back?"
"Of course. When it's safe."
I considered this. "When shall I leave?"
"Immediately, I'm afraid."
Mother had taught me to be brave and to do what was most sensible and necessary at the time. I didn't want to leave but if it was my mother's wish, then I would. With a look up at the general, I nodded. "OK."
The carriage was ready and waiting. A few of my things had been packed into two small trunks and loaded onto the plain black coach. The black horses stamped and neighed impatiently in their harnesses and General Akkad stood waiting by the carriage door. I looked back at the small crowd behind me.
Mother and father were there as was Aliqua, my tutor, my etiquette instructor, and my archery instructor. I embraced each of them and accepted teary kisses from Aliqua. I was as much her child as Shane.
I glanced around. The little redheaded boy was no where to be seen.
"I don't know where he's gotten off to," Aliqua said, knowing my thoughts.
"Tell him I said goodbye?"
"And tell him not to go on any adventures without me."
Aliqua nodded and stifled a sob. I turned and went to the waiting coach, allowing General Akkad to help me inside.
"Wait! Drianna!" Shane's voice called to me. His feet pounded against the cobblestones and he arrived breathless at my side. His two green eyes met mine and he gave me a lopsided smile, presenting me with shiny blue horseshoe. "For luck. It's from Liliquoi's hoof."
I smiled. Liliquoi was my favorite of all the horses in the royal stables. I'd been there at her birth and the stableman, Hirok had given her to me. She was the first horse I'd ever riden.
"Thank you, Shane." I hugged him tightly, clutching the horseshoe to my chest. "I'll miss you."
I pulled away and climbed into the carriage. The general slipped in across from me and with the slap of the reigns, the horses began trotting out of the gates. I leaned out the window, waving to my family. Shane ran after the carriage, waving until we were well down the drive.
When the palace was out of sight, disappeared behind a hill, I sank back into my seat. General Akkad watched me with pity in his eyes as mine filled with tears. I was eight years old. And I was leaving the only life I'd ever known and would never know again.
TBC… Please review!