I hope you enjoy my story! Reviews make my day, and constructive criticism would be appreciated since they help me improve my story. Anyway, read on…

Chapter One

The window needs more cleaning. Eww, is that a spider I see up there? I'm sooooo hungry. I wonder if there are scones left for me. I doubt it. Jordan eats everything he sees. It's a miracle he's still lean. I should talk to him about house rules. Uh-oh. I can feel an extremely loud stomach growl coming up. I hope Greta won't hear it. Oh, who am I kidding? She hears everything. She's got good—kinda freaky—hearing. She can hear the sound of muddy slippers on clean marble from a billion miles away—

"Rochelle, are you even paying attention?" my governess snapped at me with the shrillest voice I have ever heard in my entire life.

I tried to stifle a yawn, but failed. "Of course," I had the nerve to say after.

She sent me her most vicious glare—a look of pure venom. I, of course, completely ignored it. She has been my governess for ten years—which was a shame, I dare to say—and that look was too familiar to bring even the slightest shiver down my spine.

"I'm sorry, Greta, but the life story of Sir Belch is extremely boring. My mind is actually begging my body to shrivel up and die because of it."

"It's Sir Belge," Greta corrected irritably, "and he is and always will be a well-honoured hero. He deserves recognition."

"What an odd name…did he invent fun? If he did, then yes, he is absolutely a hero. I shall severely worship him for the rest of my—"

"He pretended to be an ally to Jadyn!" Greta cut in angrily.

I was suddenly interested. "He did? Really? Did he get caught?"

Greta smiled at my swift attention. "Yes, he got caught, but before that, he was a tremendous help to the king. He warned the king many times of planned attacks and such."

"What happened to him when he got caught? What did Jadyn do to him?"

Greta lifted an overly-plucked eyebrow. "What do you think, Rochelle?" She rolled her eyes. "Jadyn, as you already know, was the cruellest, most powerful, and most vicious villain in history. She was ruthless."

"Oh." I pitied Sir Belge. I knew that he was tortured first—went through extreme pain and suffering before dying. Then, after that experience, he was slowly put to death. I could almost hear his agonizing screams. Or, perhaps he was proud and did not let out a single moan.

I shivered as I thought about Jadyn. I could imagine her with perfect clarity…remarkably slender, thick raven hair, pale skin, and abnormal black eyes that were colder than ice. Beautiful, potent, and dangerous.

I was glad that she was long gone, not a trace of her blood in anyone of Tarson. That vile, disgusting creature! She must have killed for pleasure!

Greta loudly cleared her throat. "Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, I remember. He moved to capital city Arelle and worked as a silversmith. His wages were suitable for him; he lived a simple life in Arelle. He also received the reputation as a kind, honest man. After six years, he decided that he needed a change. He moved to Delorn and started a business there as a shopkeeper…"

Just then, there was an extremely loud and dreadful sound. Greta gasped and then looked as if she was about to pass out. I, on the other hand, didn't know whether to let out my hoots of laughter or pretend to be utterly embarrassed.

My stomach finally growled.


After I finished my scrumptious, well-thanked for lunch by myself, I headed out for a peaceful stroll. I still had about thirty minutes before I had to resume to my tedious studies.

Actually, I was lying. It wasn't a peaceful stroll because Greta ordered someone from the manor to keep an eye on me. I looked behind me and there he was…a bearded middle-aged man with an overly grim face, trailing me like a lost puppy. Except he was doing it in an annoying, creepy way.

I walked at the boundary of the high-class side of Mirith, my mind peeved at this unwanted bodyguard. I wanted to get rid of him, so I set my mind to do it.

I spotted a short and skinny brown-haired jester ahead of me. He was beside the small outdoor stage, about to start his show. His back was facing the audience. I walked up from behind and pulled him aside.

"Wha—hey!" He sounded terrified.

"I'm not going to hurt you, fool!" I hissed at him. "Are you intimidated by a girl like me?"

He reddened. "No."

"Good." I leaned over and lowered my voice. "Do you see the bearded man, about a couple of feet behind me? He's most likely staring at me right now."

The jester looked. "Yes."

"In your show, you ask for a volunteer, right?" I didn't wait for an answer. "Just pull him from the audience and force him to be the volunteer, all right?"

He looked at me steadily. "What do I get from this?"

I rolled my eyes. "Here are ten silver pieces." I handed him the coins from my hidden pouch.

His eyes gleamed. "All righty!"

A moment later, his show started. I pretended to watch interestedly and be amused. I laughed and clapped among the large audience. The jester looked at me once, and when he did, I gave him a do-it-already-I-want-to-get-away-from-here look.

He gave a short, secretive nod. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, I need a volunteer!" he announced loudly.

There was a series of "Pick me!" or "Over here!" or "Me! Me!"

The jester turned to my bodyguard. "What about you, good sir?"

"No." The voice was firm.

"Aw, party pooper. Audience, we won't let him refuse, right?"

"Right!" the audience replied. Then they all pushed my bodyguard on to the stage. He protested and fought, but to no avail. Once he was on the stage, he was stuck there.

I grinned and pushed my way out of the crowd. My bodyguard spotted me, but my good and faithful jester held on to him. The poor captive of the show shouted to me, but I ignored those shouts.

I left the show behind, and pretty soon the laughter sounded distant and faded. I strutted, happy and proud of myself.

Later on, my peaceful mind was disturbed by another rowdy laughter, indistinct chatter, and loud cheering. It seemed to be coming from the low-class side of the city.

I frowned and at that moment, was determined to find out what all the commotion was about, even if it meant going to the other side. I followed the voices and when I turned at a corner, was startled at the sight.

A large crowd of unruly commoners were encircled around what looked like a form of entertainment. They were cheering and chanting a familiar name. As I approached the throng, I saw two young men in the center. They seemed to be in a duel, both with sharp, deadly-looking swords. Wait a minute…one of them looked familiar…

"Jordan!" I hollered.

The noise level suddenly died down, as if every commoner had the ability to single out a noble from a massive crowd. I felt myself boil as the curious, steady eyes turned to me. Of course they must be wondering what I, a fifteen-year-old noble,was doing on their side of the city.

The expression in Jordan's brown eyes was a mixture of surprise and amusement. Even his opponent stopped and stared at me. I must have looked a sight…my fancy crimson dress completely stood out among the shabby, dirty ones.

"I…uh…I…" My, I must have looked like a complete fool. "I…uh…I…uh…" Well, at that time, it wouldn't have mattered what words came out of my mouth. I think I was already branded a dimwit. Oh well…

"Go get him!" I cheered loudly and raised my fist in the air.

Silence. I just wanted to melt.

"Er…thanks," Jordan said.

With that, I walked away, hearing a pin drop to the ground.


"So, who won?" I asked when Jordan was back in the manor.

He shrugged. "I did." He said it as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "What were you doing there anyway? That side of the city isn't a place for you, believe me. Every person there must have committed a crime of some sort."

"Have you?" I asked. The words came out before I thought about them.

"No," he replied stiffly.

"Sorry," I said. I switched to something else. "I didn't know that you duel with other people. What it is it for anyway? Do you win money?"

"Sometimes," he answered, "but usually, I do it for practice. I can't be rusty with swords."

"Why?" I asked, amused. "It's not like there's going to be a war anytime soon. No one dares to fight Tarson."

It took him a long while to answer. Finally, he grinned and said, "To protect you, of course. From outlaws and such."

For some reason, that irritated me a bit. I could protect my own self. Besides, I was not his little sister. He was only slightly more than a year older than me.

"Thanks, but I can protect myself," I said dryly.

He chuckled. "Do you? You don't even know how to hold a sword."

I sniffed. "I have my ways," I replied, though I was lying. I didn't have other ways.

"Of course you do," he said sarcastically. He absent-mindedly combed his blond hair with his fingers.

I eyed him critically. "Why are you here?" I asked out of the blue. Well, what can I say? I was really curious.

He was startled at my question. "What do you mean?" he said, frowning.

"Why do you work here, in this manor? You've only been here for two weeks, but it seems as if…you belong somewhere else." Then I corrected myself: "As if you're meant for something else, I mean."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said bluntly. "I like working here."

His job was scooping up horse dung, for crying out loud.

"It seems to me that Arelle is a much more exciting place than this ugly, boring city," I said. "I don't understand why you left it. Someday, I'm going to get out of here and go there." I gazed out into the sunny horizon with a dreamy expression on my face.

Then I blinked. What madness was I saying to him? I barely even knew him!

He laughed. "Why? So that you can get a shot on marrying the prince and live in the Arellean palace?" His voice was filled with mockery.

"I don't even know the damn prince!" I said angrily. "Nor have I seen him, so why would I be interested in him?"

He shrugged. "Does it matter? He's rich. He's powerful. People also say that he's handsome."

I snorted. "Why don't you marry him?"

He shot daggers at me. I swear—his glare was deadly.

"I met the prince…and he's is a bastard," he said, as if he was stating a fact.

I lifted an eyebrow. "Is this the way to talk to a lady?" I asked with a pretend sense of authority.

"No," he replied with a grin, "but you're not a lady."

I snorted. "I know I'm not. And you aren't a gentleman, so that makes us equal."

He pretended to be hurt by this. "What are you talking about? I am a gentleman!" he said. He swept the most ridiculous bow I have ever seen. Intentionally, I think. "See? I bet the prince cannot do that!"

I groaned. "What is it with you and the prince?! Are you two arch enemies?!"

He did not answer. I sighed angrily.

"Fine," I said hotly, "be mysterious. I don't care." Then something from the side of his waist glinted and caught my eye. It was his sword. I reached over and unsheathed it.

I didn't expect it to be so heavy. I carried it for two seconds and unintentionally dropped it to the ground. Seriously, it was that heavy.

"My, you are really weak," he said with a sardonic grin.

I glowered. "I did that on purpose," I said. What a good little liar I was. I reached down and picked up the heavy (seriously!) sword with two hands. It was a fine weapon—it had the most durable and sharpest blade, and the handle had precious gemstones on it (they were the ones that I noticed). I knew that the sword was extremely valuable. "Where did you get this?"

He snatched it back. "My old master was a good friend of mine. He was of nobility, and before he died, he gave this to me." He placed it back in the sheath with one swift motion.

There was something wrong about the way he said that. His tone sounded…flat, as if he had been practising that line countless times.

"I see…" I said slowly. I gave him a wary look.

That got in his nerves. "Stop that," he hissed. "Do you think I'm lying?"


"Well, I'm not."

Just then, a shrill, piercing voice called my name. Holy, that woman could certainly make people cringe. That was a talent, though. Seriously, it was. If I had a voice like hers, I'd use it to my fullest advantage. Yeah…I'd use it to scare away Lord I-Think-That-I-Am-So-Handsome-I-Am-A-Ladies-Man-I-Am-Loaded-But-I-Want-More-So-Rochelle-Be-My-Bride-So-That-I-Can-Own-Your-Family's-Entire-Fortune-And-Make-You-My-Property. He was a baron, the lowest rank of peerage. (My father was a marquess, the rank below a duke and above an earl.) His full name was Lord Richard Ormon Aars. Seriously.

"Whose voice was that?" Jordan asked, half-amused and half-terrified.

"My governess's," I answered wearily. "Shrill, huh?"

"I almost wet myself."

I chuckled and said goodbye.


"We will now move on with embroidery," Greta said.

I groaned and she shot me the usual glare.

"None of that!" she said angrily. "A young lady of high rank must always know how to do needlework."

Whoever made that a rule is eeeevil.

I glowered. "I've decided to skip this."

"Well, my dear," said Greta with no love or sweetness in her voice, "I was given specific instructions from your parents to educate you properly. Therefore, you have no choice."

"My parents aren't here," I shot back.

"True, but I am."

"Then you're fired."

"Nobody but your parents can fire me."

"But they're not here, so I'm in charge."

She steered out of that and said with a warning tone, "Rochelle, your parents are coming back early in the morning tomorrow and they will ask for a full report. It won't be pretty, trust me." She smiled a smile that did not reach her grey eyes. "By the way, a long while ago, I overheard your parents considering Lord Richard's proposal. He asked them for your hand in marriage, you know. That man is certainly impressive. He has his way with words. Your parents plan to talk to you once they return."

I bit back a scream of outrage. I didn't doubt her words. My father had always hinted about permitting Lord Richard to marry me.

"Let's not talk about this," I said very stiffly.

She smiled. Her thickly painted face had a look of pure triumph. She thought that she had won and that I was now ready to be an obedient little girl.

In your dreams, Greta. In your dreams.


The entire household was in slumber. It was night time, with nothing but the dull moonlight and the few streetlamps to battle with the dark.

I loosely tied my black cloak around my neck. Cloaks were my favourite type of garment. They were very comfortable, light, and provided the most impressive warmth. Plus, of course, they could camouflage you with anything of nature (the dark, the snow, forests, etc.).

I opened my bedroom window and a cool breeze greeted me. It was late spring and summer was just around the corner. I proceeded to climb down a tall tree that stood just next to my window. The tree was seriously my best friend. I have used it as a ladder for almost six years now.

I felt more excited than usual tonight because I have not freely and independently walked around the city of Mirith for the longest time. Three weeks, to be exact. Now was the perfect time to travel around the city once more (though there was nothing much to enjoy) and have time to myself. I wanted to settle my thoughts and think of ways to convince my parents not to permit Lord Richard's proposal. No way was I going to marry him.

I chuckled inwardly as I climbed down the tree in total silence. The leaves did not rustle loudly, as if they wanted to help me escape.

Then I finally touched silent ground with my muffled feet. I pulled my hood up, covering my black hair and the upper half of my face.

I proceeded to walk away from the manor when…

"Where do you think you're going?" came a deep, familiar voice.

I jumped in surprise and my heart skipped a beat. "*beep*!" I turned around and saw a grinning Jordan. I glared at him. "You scared me, you *beep* *beep *beep* *beep*! I hope you *beep* *beep* *beep*, you *beep* *beep*!"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," he said as he shook his head (he was still grinning). "Where did you ever learn those lovely words, my lady?"

"Around," I snapped. "Now, excuse me." I began to walk off, but he placed himself in my way.

"Just a minute," he said firmly. "Where are you going?"

"I am coming back, if that's what you're wondering," I said. "I just want to walk around the city and straighten out my thoughts."

"Your thoughts?" he echoed.

"Yes, thoughts," I said impatiently. "Those little things in your mind that can bother you sometimes."

He rolled his eyes and then said, "What's bothering you?"

I sighed. "I'm going now." I sidestepped and began to walk off.

But he blocked me again. "It's dangerous out there."

"Look," I said angrily, "I didn't ask you what's dangerous and what's not, all right?! Now, get out of my way."


I cursed in my mind. All I wanted was some time alone…to be at peace and figure out how to control my life.

Then an idea came to me. I bowed my head down and pretended to cry. "Y-you d-don't wh-what it's l-like to f-feel all l-locked up," I sobbed. Tears poured down my cheeks. I tried hard not to smile at my talent. "I-it's s-so hard."

I felt his arms around me. Perfect.

"It's all right," he said softly. "I'm here."

Riiiiight. I almost felt sorry for him. I made my body tremble and I sobbed louder (but not loud enough to wake anyone).

He comforted me with my head buried in his shoulder. I didn't want to hurt him, really, but there was no other way to escape. So I did what I had to. I raised my right leg, and with my knee, I hit him…where it always hurts for males. Hard.

He fell to the ground and moaned in pain.

"I didn't want to do that," I said, "but you are soooo annoying. I'm asking for just one night to myself. If you want to bring joy to me, don't tell anyone. Don't wake anyone up."

With that, I fixed my hood and ran off.


To help you understand ranks and stuff, the order of peerage is: duke, marquess, earl/count, viscount, and then baron. If all titles of honour are included, the order is: duke, marquess, earl/count, viscount, baron, baronet, and then knight. Baronets and knights are considered slightly above the usual commoners, but they are not part of the peerage. Last of all, the royal family (of course) is obviously above all these titles.

By the way, most of this story will happen a year later, when Rochelle is sixteen. Please review! I would really really appreciate that!