Part 1 - Not One of You!
The warriors and Knights that surrounded them fell suddenly silent, focusing on the fight taking place right before their eyes. Both fighters seemed to have reached a deadlock and it looked like the combat would end in a tie.
After all that time wielding it, the sword felt heavy, forcing the smaller fighter to hold it with both hands. The other fighter, a Knight of Everlyn, was a big man, with broad shoulders and strong harms. Strength was something he definitely didn’t lack, and he showed it proudly by wearing a full, complex armor that looked rather heavy. Watching his every move a cold smile touched the smaller fighter’s lips. There it was, his weakness - agility!
Breathing heavily under the helm that covered both head and face, there wasn’t a single inch of skin that didn’t feel sticky beneath the blazing heat of the midday sun. But the taller fighter was also tiered, he also panted. It was so hot!
It’s way past time to put an end to this. And, charging towards the big man, the smaller fighter avoided the fast blow of his heavy sword. Without stopping and with a fast turn, the sword descended in an agile curve to immediately rise again, the point of the blade pressing against the Knight’s chest, threatening his life.
Having lost the fight, the man dropped his weapon on the floor. He hadn’t been fast enough to recover from the blow he’d launched, which had hindered his ability to defend against his adversary’s attack.
“There’s not one of you, not even one, able to defeat me! This Kingdom is lost!” the winner cried out, the strong voice muffled by the helm and, sheathing the sword, mounted his horse and left behind the silent circle of warriors who, once more, had been left speechless before such performance.
It was always the same. Every week there was a new warrior anxious to challenge him. And until that day no one had been able to win against him.
As if it knew its owner’s mind, the horse took them towards the forest that formed the West border of the Kingdom and only stopped when it reached the sunny shores of the Silver Lake.
Pulling hard at the helm that seemed about to choke her to death, she was finally able to take a deep breath, her blond, wavy, sticky hair falling freely down her back. With a sigh of relief, she dismounted her horse and walked towards the lake, where the sun cast bright reflections on the crystal waters. Dipping her hands in the cold water she washed her face, cooling herself.
The girl jumped, startled, and slowly turned around to face the furious expression that awaited her.
“Heric. And how are you feeling today? It’s a beautiful day, wouldn’t you agree?”
Heric strode towards her, holding her by an arm, and roughly pulled her away from the lake.
“How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t want you to walk around in these clothes?”
Allana pulled at her arm to no avail, wishing she could simply demand that he’d never touch her again, and raised her head, facing the angry brown eyes that looked down at her.
“Your warriors are worthless, Heric! What do you think will happen to our Kingdom when the Armies of the North attack us?”
“You are a Princess! You cannot walk around dressed like that, fighting against my men! How many times do I have to explain it to you?” he snapped.
Allana looked away, angrily, and Heric took a deep breath releasing her.
“Allana … you’re to be my wife. You shouldn’t be worrying about such unpleasant things, like war or warriors. You should try and … and …”
“Please you?! Give me a break!” she added with despise. No. Calm down. Everything will be lost, if you face him like that. Everlyn will lose its last and only hope, she reminded herself, trying to control her wish to kick him to the ground!
“Allana!” he admonished her, holding her hard by her shoulders and the girl couldn’t help cower slightly before his severe tone. “I’m taking you back to the palace right now!” he decided and Allana obeyed against her will.
Furious at the way he treated her, she mounted her black stud and Heric, on his horse, held both reins, leading her back to the palace, as if she were unable to ride her own horse.
Contrary to what would be normal to any traveler wishing to be welcomed to Everlyn’s palace, Heric took her by a narrow path, leading her directly to the stables and avoiding having to cross the area where the Knights went about their daily practices.
Everlyn’s palace was a large complex formed by three distinctive wings, connected through bright corridors covered in long rows of windows. In the main wing were the common facilities, such as the kitchen, the dining room, the council room, the library and other rooms at the disposal, not only of the Royal Family, but also of the Council of Ministers. In the South wing were located the sleeping quarters, be it the Royal Family’s chambers or the guest’s rooms, usually left empty since it was rare for Everlyn to receive any important guests. And finally, the North wing was dedicated to the festivity halls, where a beautiful ballroom occupied most of the first floor. However, and due to the lack of use, the North wing remained closed and no one went there in years.
The three wings opened to the front yard of the palace, where lanes of white stone cut through a green lawn, leading to a large square. There stood a delicate white fountain made of three elegant stone maidens that poured clear crystal water from the basins they held. However, only the main wing opened to the back, to a small yard where narrow paths led to the palace gardens.
It was there that Dana awaited them.
Heric dismounted and reached for the Princess, helping her down, although they all knew she was perfectly able to do it by herself. Dana’s blue eyes also looked at her furiously, and Allana lowered her head pretending to feel remorseful. I am no one, only one more. And those that live here and depend on us are many. And they need someone to guide them, she told herself, preparing for the punishment that would surly follow.
“It was as we expected. I found her by the Silver Lake! Dressed … like this!” Heric pointed out and Dana approached her, holding her by an arm.
“Thank you, My Lord. I’ll take care of of the rest.”
Heric nodded in accordance and walked past them, towards the palace. Allana raised her head, looking fearfully at Dana, but her nanny remained silent as she angrily pulled her inside.
Once back in her room, Dana undressed her of her male clothes and prepared to leave, taking with her all those attires unworthy of a Princess. However, just before closing the door, she stopped as if she had forgotten something, and looked back at her. Allana had been waiting and she knew it, which only made her even angrier, knowing that those golden eyes had already guessed what she was about to say.
“And Allana … You’re grounded! You won’t be leaving your room unless I say so! Understand?”
“Yes …” she simply replied and Dana finally left.
Allana ran to the door and locked it, letting herself slide towards the floor where she remained seated.
For a moment there, when Heric had held her near the lake, she’d thought he’d hit her again. And now she was once more locked in her own room, grounded until who knows when.
Her thoughts wandered once more towards that group of warriors where not even a single man was able to defeat her. Her! A fifteen year old girl! How could they possible win over an entire army? The war was near. And Everlyn was doomed.
She was sure her mother was also aware of it … but she was too sick and seemed to have lost all interest in matters concerning the world of the living. And Heric … Heric was in a desperate situation and took it out on her at every chance he got. She would have to marry him by the end of Spring, when she completed her sixteenth birthday, but the mere thought gave her the creeps. He was too old, twice as old as her! Were it not for her mother, she thought, she would have left that place long ago! The world, outside, was so beautiful and attractive, so big and unexplored! But Lidya was so sick …
With a resigned sigh, Allana took a deep breath and got up to take a bath that would clean the sweat of the battle from her skin.