Lania had just walked through the tunnel and into the kitchen. Getting inside was just as easy as Queen Ana-Moriah had said. The network of tunnels seemingly forgotten, could take her anywhere she wanted to go undetected on the island. The one to the palace had led her here.
She shook off the bits of dust in her hair and wiped her face in her shirt. She was filthy and would have to bathe soon before anyone saw her. It was however too late for that as a girl walked up to her and grabbed her hand. Lania jumped at the sudden contact.
“Thank the gods princess, you are alright. The palace is in a state of upheaval as everyone is searching for you since morning. Where were you? It doesn’t matter, not my place to know. But the queen wishes to see you.”
“The queen,” Lania stuttered.
“She seemed even more distressed than anyone else.” said the girl as she shepherded her out of the kitchen. With each person she passed, the girl would chant. “I found her, I found her, she was in the kitchen. You can call off the search.”
This was until she was in the main palace when a serious looking guard came up to her. “Thank you I will take it from here.” he said to the servant.
“I found her.” said the girl.
“And everyone is grateful Beryl. I will let the King know of your deed.” the woman looked crestfallen but dared not to argue with the man. From the look of him she wouldn’t have argued with him either. “Wandering off again without your guards Your Highness, this is becoming quite a habit of yours.” he said turning to her.
“I just went for a walk that is all.” she said in the most imperious imitation of Aliana’s tone she could muster.
“A walk, we were told that you were abducted. But we will show you to the king and let this matter be cleared up.” he said stepping off and then stopped as he waited for her to follow.
She walked into the throne room and saw the queen and king. The king’s face was stern as if set in stone. The queen looked sad, but not as distraught as the beautiful woman who was before Her Majesty bawling her eyes out. There was an older man beside her, holding her shoulders as she wept.
“Your Majesties, Princess Aliana.” announced the guard and Lania watched as the facial expressions of those around her changed. The serious king was relaxed and his shoulders dropped. The queen held her hands on her chest and smiled. The bawling girl stopped immediately. Her mouth dropped open in shock, then anger and what looked like fear. The man beside her shoulders stiffened and his face looked calculating.
Lania walked towards the thrones and then bowed. “Your Majesties, I am sorry for causing everyone worry. I had just taken a walk. I’d fallen and hit my head slightly. I must have been out for some time.” she said as she tried explaining her dirty state.
“Fallen in the garden?” said the Queen. “But Lady Sonetta was just telling us of how she saw you being taken away, grabbed from behind in the garden. Explain yourself Lady.” she said to the woman.
“I, I, I thought...” she said stumbling over her words. The fear in her eyes grew when Lania turned to face her. Lania could smell trouble on this woman. She didn’t like her one bit.
“Yes why would you think that someone had abducted me Lady Sonetta?” she said folding her hand and cocking one hip to one side the same way she had seen Aliana do a thousand times when she’d cornered someone in an argument.
She knew her name, as Queen Ana-Moriah had coached her quite well before leaving. This was the woman who was to marry Prince Milos before he left and then he married Aliana instead. If everyone was looking for Aliana that meant that she really was missing or dead.
This woman probably had something to do with it. Queen Ana-Moriah had sent her here to kill Aliana not knowing that someone in the Garian court had already completed that task.
Her heart cried for her friend’s fate, but she was happy that she didn’t have to deliver the final blow. All she had to do know was to convince everyone that she was indeed the princess and take her place. It was the only way she thought that she could be free of the queen.
The man behind her spoke up. “Maybe my daughter was mistaken, you know how these young ones are often addle brained.” he was in on it thought Lania.
“I take offense to that Baron, your daughter and I are about the same age and I hardly think that I am addle brained, at least not enough to tell lies to the king.” she then turned back to the king. “I am sorry, but I too lied about my whereabouts Your Highnesses.”
“What do you mean Aliana?” asked the king.
“I didn’t fall. In fact I was abducted. I however managed to escape. I was however waiting for the Lady and possibly her good father to admit the truth of their crimes.”
“What crimes?” bellowed the man.
“The same one that your daughter just confessed to. She knew that I was abducted because she saw it all and did nothing, because she was the one who orchestrated it. Her alliance to Milos was broken all those years ago and then he married me. He is an even greater prize now than he was then since he is now Crown prince. She thought by removing me that she would take my place. Isn’t that the truth Lady Sonetta?” said Lania as she turned back to the woman.
Her eyes bubbled with real tears this time, “Please, please...” she fell to her knees and begged.
“She lies!” roared the baron.
“If Aliana lies, then why is your daughter begging?” fired back the king as he stood.
“She must be confused...” he threw out.
King Theo however, wasn’t thwarted. “Guards!” he bellowed. “Take her away.”
“She cannot prove any of this.” said the baron.
“I do not need proof. I am proof!” said Lania.
“Baron do you continue to defend your daughter’s innocence, think carefully of your next words. You still have a son who could inherit your title. Side with your daughter and neither you nor him will have anything.” said the king.
He looked at the wailing woman and then back at the king. He stepped back from his daughter. “Let your will be done Your Highness.” he said stiffly.
“To the stocks immediately.” said the king. “Lady Sonetta you have been found guilty of the attempted abduction of my daughter-in-law Princess Aliana of Arnay. This is classified as an act of treason and you are hereby sentenced to death by hanging.”
“Please, mercy please!” she wailed as she was being pulled away. The baron too left the throne room not seeming to look at his daughter.
Lania relaxed. She somehow knew in her heart that they were indeed guilty. That wasn’t the main reason she had to get rid of them. If they had remained, she would have been discovered. She felt slim arms encircle her and she stiffened. She turned to face the queen of Garion.
“Are you alright child?” she said touching her face softly.
“I am fine.” she said softly. It was hard to miss the care in the woman’s eyes. She had become fond of Aliana. But she was the queen of Garion why would this be? Had Aliana really been in love with that Prince and was it possible that she’d won the love of his mother as well?
“How did you escape?” asked the king.
“My abductor underestimated my fighting ability.” Lania had seen the princess in action and she was brutal. When she and Doranand sparred she was left with bruises, but not quite as many as him. She hoped that she didn’t have to demonstrate that particular skill set anytime soon. The queen had changed her face and taught her names, places and dates but combat training was not included in her tutorial.
“And just as Milos left.” grumbled the king. The prince wasn’t here? She relaxed slightly. If the relationship between him and Aliana was as close as she was now beginning to suspect he would have found her out for sure. It was good that he was gone.
“From now on, you will have guards accompanying you everywhere, do you hear me!” he said gruffly.
“Yes, yes Your Majesty.” she stammered. He then walked back over to the throne and sank down into it.
The queen patted her cheek once and went over to her husband. “This is making me question everything.” she thought she heard him say. “Milos was convinced that though Arnay may have ordered the assassination that someone in the court carried out the poisoning. I am beginning to believe him now. My Genos.” the queen sat beside him and took his hands in her hands.
Lania looked away from the two. The leaders of Garion were indeed different from the one in Arnay. She could see why Aliana would want to remain here. Too bad she was here to destroy them and their entire court. Not only would Aliana be hated at home, but her name would be cursed throughout all of Garion. She walked out of the throne room. While her newly appointed guards followed.