The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 36

Milos left the next morning and no one but the king, queen and herself knew the reason. How the rumour mills turned. The servants said that he’d gotten drunk and again had displeased the king who in turn dismissed him from court. The barons had him in Mistwall, Catalands and Jaria. And of course there were whispers of quakes in Nilian so he must be there.

The only place for sure that Aliana knew he wasn’t was Turion. He wasn’t with her and that alone was almost crippling. How had she become so attached to him so quickly? He’d watched her for years, but she’d only know him for weeks, yet she loved him.

She loved him, she’d pretty much admitted that to Doranand. So there was no point lying to herself anymore. She loved Milos. Doran knew, but he didn’t and he’d left not knowing. And if he didn’t come back he would never know.

She had been walking in the palace gardens not really looking ahead as her vision was often clouded by tears. She then bounced into someone.

“Watch where you are going you simpering...Oh Your Highness, it is you. I didn’t see...”

“It is fine Lady Sonetta, the fault is mine. I should have been looking where I was going but I didn’t think anyone else was using the gardens. I will walk another way, excuse me.” said Aliana turning and walking the way she’d come.

“You don’t have to leave Your Highness, we could walk together.” she said coming to catch up with her. Aliana wiped away the freshly fallen tears with the back of her hand. “The palace is becoming a lonely place as more people have gone to join the war. That’s were Prince Milos has gone, is it not so?”

“Yes,” she said simply.

“I can understand that you must miss him terribly. I felt the same way when he left two years ago. We were to be married you know.”

“You were?” said Aliana looking over at the raven-haired beauty. Milos had told her that his father wanted him to be married and he’d refused and so he left. He just never told her to whom.

“Ah yes,” she said faking surprise and embarrassment. “I thought His Highness would have mentioned it. But never mind, that is all ancient history now.” she lowered her voice, “And when he left I wasn’t enceinte, so I can’t even imagine your distress.” she tittered on.

“Do you mind if we sit Your Highness, for though the morning air is quite invigorating I tire quite easily as my constitution is quite as robust as yours.”

“By all means,” said Aliana as they’d entered an alcove surrounded by hardy shrubs. Though Sonetta was trying to irritate Aliana with her snide remarks, she was actually being entertained. The more Sonetta spoke, the more she could see why Milos had ran from a marriage to her despite her uncanny beauty.

“Since, your marriage to Milos didn’t work out I suppose you’d have countless suitors lined up to take your hand since then.”

“Oh countless, but when you’ve seen the best and had it denied, all others don’t compare.” she said as she glanced over Aliana’s shoulder.

“You seem to be waiting on someone else.” said Aliana looking behind her in the bush.

“Ah yes, my brother Ferdinand. You have yet to meet him as he can be quite tardy.” she said looking nervous. “If you could please wait with me Your Highness.” she said looking more jittery than usual.

Aliana had a bad feeling about this and she got up, “I would really like to but I have relaxed enough for the morning. The queen will want to see me soon.” she turned and found herself looking up into the face of a stranger. She stepped back startled.

“Ferdinand, meet Princess Aliana.” said Sonetta.

“Well met Lord Ferdinand, but if you must excuse me.” she said stepping around him.

He allowed her to pass then in a swift movement grabbed her around the waist. She struggled against him and was about to scream but he held a swathe of cloth over her mouth and nose. It was soaked in a slightly sharp scented liquid and though she continued to fight she felt the lull of sleep pulling on her.

Rather vaguely she thought she heard Sonetta titter, ”Prince Milos is a prize one which I will not let go of that easily. Especially not to an Arnayan whore.” Aliana knew that there was a reason she’d hated this bitch, but she could do nothing as she slipped off into darkness.

When she woke, she found herself staring up into the bright midday sun, with pelicans circling overhead. Her mouth was gagged and her hands tied behind her back. She looked down and saw Ferdinand attaching metal chains and weights to her feet.

She kicked at him, but it was useless as he held her firmly until he was done. “It is a pity you woke up now, as it would have been better if you’d drowned without having any recollection of this Your Highness.”

Drown that meant they were out on the lake. She couldn’t die not like this. Not without a fight. She tried summoning her fire, but it was no use. It was too far down. Milos was too far away.

She bit and wiggled but to no avail. Ferdinand who had absolutely no resemblance to anyone in the house Dunwall, so had to be an assassin of the sort, lifted her from the floor. He smiled showing a toothless gap at the front of his mouth. “It was nice meeting you princess.” he said then dropped her into the awaiting water.

The shock of the cold water got to her first and she arched her back in protest. But the cold ceased to matter as she sunk further into the lake. She tried to free her arms, but the knots were too tight, the chains around her ankles were also secure and they seemed to be getting heavier the further she sank.

For an entire minute she continued to fall and when she thought that there was no bottom, her back landed on something solid and a cloud of sand floated around her. She reached for her flames but they were drowned in the cold water around her.

The last of her air supply had been used up and her lungs screamed in protest, begging her for something even if it was just water. She knew that she shouldn’t but the burning in her chest was becoming too much.

She inhaled. She choked. But there was nothing else to be done.

She was dead. She was dying. She was about to close her eyes when she saw someone hovering over. It was a male, not Milos as she would’ve wanted. He was beautiful with river green eyes and clothes made of kelp. He came towards her and she noted the webbed membrane between gracefully long fingers. He took her in his arms and for the second time today she fell in a world of darkness.

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