“Run, sister!” Someone from her right screamed frantically. It sounded so much like her sister, but she couldn’t hear it. All around her were the people of Elonae. Dead. She has once sworn to protect and she has now failed. An ax flew in her direction and…
Elaine Ayrshire hurled herself out of the dream, nearly vomiting all over her bedroom floor. It was agony. Agony to see her eldest sister wise and strong. Agony to see the people of Elonae, her friends, and family. That dream was a vision. A tell of the future. One of the many gifts given to her by her siblings when she was young, thus making her the most powerful person known. But here in Arranna, the kingdom of the South of Elonae, magic is no longer able to be used. It has been wiped out due to some ancient curse on the land five hundred years ago that has still left everyone pondering about. Though she cannot understand why some of her gifts are still able to be used. She looked at the mantle clock on the wall. Three in the morning.
Her mind jumped from thoughts to thoughts, making her unable to sleep. When the clock chimed six in the morning, she gave up on sleep entirely. Groaning, she quickly got out of bed and went to dress herself for her meeting with His Majesty after breakfast.
The council room was quiet, his Father’s two Lords flanking him and he sat two seats away from his Father knowing that he looked pissed as hell.
“I received a letter from Elonae, noting that they no longer want to have free trade with us. They would want a price of three silvers per trade and I find that utterly unacceptable.” Murmurs broke out in the quiet room. “I have given them two months to answer a letter I recently sent. Shall they decline, I will give you, General, further instructions.” King Darann of Arranna, his Father, announced.
He reluctantly cleared throat and said, “Elonae does so because they have been running low on their coffers and they too need to feed their people. I suggest, Father, that you reconsider and work on terms with them.” Crown Prince Stephen insisted. Like his father, Stephen was tall, broad-shouldered, and muscularly built. His urban-brown hair styled and sea blue eyes fixed their attention wholly on him. If his Father was ice, he was fire. He is always challenging things. His Father has done many nasty things that made him wish he could undo it all. Seated on the opposite side of him was his Father’s most loyal General, Elaine Ayrshire. Oh, gods, she looked like she was going to puke her guts up. Though he has never talked much with her, he once heard a rumor that she was from Elonae. He had seen her train, kill, and rage but had never seen her looking so sick over an announcement on Elonae. All the other meetings of that kingdom, she had looked just fine but this… Perhaps, the rumors were true after all.
“Elonae has become a handful lately, ” His attention snagging back to his Father, “and this shall be their last and final warning. Shall they not heed, I will not hesitate to cut off all trade with them from us.” His Father coolly continued, ” This is not open for debate, Prince. And if you were to do anything ridiculous, your life shall be forfeit son or not. This meeting is over. ” Stiffening, Stephen stood up, bowed to his Father with all the courage he had left, and walked out of the council room using all his self-restraint to keep his mouth shut.
Walking back to her suite, all Elaine Ayrshire could think of was the complete cut off of the trading with Elonae and Arranna. Arranna is Elonae’s biggest trading partner and if it were to be cut off… Sighing, Elaine toyed with the end of her braid thinking of ways to warn the royal family of Elonae about it without getting caught. Elaine was so lost in her thoughts that she did not notice the Crown Prince standing outside her suite door.
“Prince,” she bowed, taking the time to calm her churning mind, “did you need something in particular?”
“Hello, General. Good to see you are well. No, nothing much. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about the announcement of cutting off the trading with Elonae with you, and see where you stand.” The Crown Prince calmly said while opening her suite door.
” Would you like anything to consume while discussing the matter of it, Prince? ” Sapphire asked.
A sharp shake of his head had her bracing herself for what is to come.
The General led him into her dining room, silently pulling out a chair for him to sit. Her clean, neat, and styled suite had him gaping at the beautiful artworks hung by the walls of her rooms, no doubt done by her.
“I would just want to clarify some things and ask some questions. Nothing much.” Stephen clarified upon seeing her pale face. A slight nod was all he got as an answer and order to go on, one that he allowed her to make.
“Rumour has it that you were from Elonae. It’s it true?”
Then, “Why should I indulge the Prince in any information about my personal life before I became the General?”
“You looked like you were sick to hear I have never seen you so ——”
“Yes. I am.” A tinge of annoyance beneath those words.
Stephen could have sighed from relief was it not for the sorrow and pride in the General’s eyes that hit him like a blow to the face. He quickly schooled his face back to neutrality as he asked, “What do you think about my Father’s plans to cut off all trades with Elonae from Arranna? Which side do you stand on, General Elaine?”
Silence, again. But this time, Stephen realized that the general was sizing up all possibilities that the information she gives will put her life at risk.
” Since you’re not going to answer first, “He started,” I’ll say. I say that it is ridiculous for my Father to do such a thing though he has the power to. I have not talked to my siblings about our Father’s cause to shut down trade with Elonae but they too want to put an end to our Father’s horrible doing. And since you are from Elonae, you could give us some valuable information that might help us. My siblings and I have gathered a group of rebels, some Elonaeians too, and they have been our friends since ——”
He marveled at the softness in her eyes, but still wary enough to tell him that she doesn’t completely trust him.
The General suddenly said,” Then Prince, there is your answer to your question.”
Stephen blinked. The only sign of confusion he’ll show. As the words slowly settle in, he realizes that the General, too, has her resentment against his Father but she just did not show it.
“I shall give you information about Elonae but the amount of information I give you will be at my will. You and your companions must promise to keep quiet about for it will harm you all if word gets out.” She silently said.
Unable to convey his thanks, Crown Prince Stephen nodded and passed the General a slip of paper.
Walking up the near-empty streets of the slums, Elaine Ayrshire knows that she is playing a very dangerous game and hopes she knows what the hell she is doing. If His Majesty ever found out about this, she will be sent to her death for treason. She also prayed that the rebels know how to keep the information that she is about to give them very, very safe as she knocked on the wooden door once.
” You said that there will be a new friend of yours joining us brother?” His sister, Princess Vernnese, and second born, asked quietly. Yes, was all Stephen bothered to say.
“And how do we know that he or she is to be trusted? She might use us to her own advantage or so and might end up selling us to our own Father once we are no longer useful to whoever that new person is.” His youngest sister, Princess Diane and Thirdborn, asked annoyingly.
” We’ll soon find out then. She didn’t tell me any price I or we have to pay for the information she is to give us. ” Stephan simply said to his youngest sister. There was a knock and Kira went over to look at the peephole. A gasp came out of her.
” It is General Elaine Ayrshire. We have been found. ”
” Yes, it is her. But no, she is working with us. ” Stephan said calmly.
“Are you out of your mind? She is loyal to our father!” Vernnese raised her voice by a pitch.
“No, she will not and just let her in so that she can explain, Sister.” A glance in Kira’s direction, a silent order. Diane flung out a hand to stop her.
” Who told you that? How would you know?” His little sister asked with lethal venom.
” Let her in,” Stephan growled. Telling them that once she is in, everything shall be explained clearly. Kira, still pale-faced, opened the door with trembling hands.
As Elaine Ayrshire walked into the warehouse on silent footsteps, she surveyed the place and everyone in it. Her attention immediately shot to a group of Elonaeians sitting in the room. A glance from the Crown Prince in her direction had her taking off her dark heavy hood. Some god must have had mercy on her as it started raining heavily the moment she got out of the castle. A few gasps and murmurs broke out from the table of Elonaeians.
“How do we know that we can trust the General? That she isn’t here on our Father’s order?” Princess Vernnese asked warily. Oh, she never really liked the always cautious princess.
“If I were here on your Father’s order, you would all have been dead by now,” Elaine said with a frankness that had the princesses bristling. Good, let them deal with her wrath.” And Princess, when I promise something I do not break it.”
” As I have told the Prince, I will tell you all. The amount of information I give will be at my will. Elonaeians, I know you know who I am and I strongly suggest that you keep your mouths shut about it as I do not wish for them, ” She jabbed a thumb in the Arranna royal family’s direction,” for them to know. ”
Nods from all of them.
” All right then, we shall start. From the beginning. ”
Diane had no idea that the General knew so much information. She was frighteningly smart. She knew why Arranna hated Elonae so badly after the second war with them. All due to politics, personal history with them and so, so much more that she can’t even process it properly.
” I will speak until here. There is too much information to finish all in one sitting. Tomorrow I shall return as promised.” The General was whispering to her elder sister.
Diane wondered how the General had so much knowledge about the wars and stuff like that. She suppose that she does have amazing results, but all of them don’t seem to add up. She knew almost all the names of the royal family of Elonae and their personal history, or close enough.
Weird enough that she found herself going up to an Elonaeian and asked as calmly as she could, ” The General implied that you all know her identity. I was wishi——”
” We will tell you, Princess, that there is nothing to say about her other than the fact that you already know. That she is a General.” the Elonaeian said.
“I know. But I was thinking whether you cou——”
“No, Princess, there is nothing.” The same Elonaeian replied.
“You want to play this game don’t you?” Anger near exploding, Diane told the Elonaeian softly.
” It isn’t a game they are trying to play with you, Princess. I have told them to keep quiet about my identity and they shall do as I say.” The general said with lethal softness that had all her training instincts perking up.
Noting the tone, Diane knew the general much enough to not push anymore. Fine then, nobody can or will give her an answer, she shall go search it up herself and find out what about the General’s identity that she is so secretive of.
Storming off and out of the warehouse, Diane decided that she will go to the library first thing in the morning and find her answers. Maybe also searching up on some of the information the general has given them and verify that they are true. She took out her pocket watch and it said two in the morning. She will have to get some sleep if she doesn’t want her father to find out that she stayed up late and giving her a lecture about it. Sighing, she walked down the streets of the slums and back home to her cozy Palace suite. At least there, she can get what she wants.
Elaine Ayrshire knew that things between Arranna and Elonae are just going to get worse. She knew that the royal family of Elonae would never agree to do so and the girl she sent to tell the royal family to watch out might get into trouble. Big trouble. She was just glad that the Elonaeians in the warehouse did not give away her identity. She would get into a whole lot of trouble if they knew her true identity. Unable to sleep, Elaine got out of her suite to go to the royal library of Arranna to research more about magic. She knows that it is very dangerous to do so but she would like to learn more and perhaps try to break the ancient curse set upon these lands to erase all traces of magic. It seems to only happen in Arranna. Shrugging on her cloak, she walked down the castle hallways and to the library. Elaine, as the general, was allowed to use the royal library at her will. Nearing, she heard the scratching of claws on stone and froze. She has heard this sound before. She heard it when she was at the crossroad of the Elonae forest to the forest of Gaerfyrddin, the first King of Elonae, when she was a child. She heard it again, and this time, it was closer. The hair on the back of her neck and arms stood.
Run, a voice told her. Run, you must go now.
Not trusting anything else, Elaine ran. And though she ran as fast as her legs could carry her, the thing behind her still felt closer. Closer and closer by the inches. As though the faster she ran, the closer the thing is.
Faster, the voice urged her. Faster, girl!
She reached her suite and slammed the door shut with a loud thud. The footsteps and claws on stones behind her faded slowly, as if knowing that it has lost its prey and has given up.
Now sitting on her bedroom floor, she surveyed her room carefully, not wanting and daring to stand too close to the door. Her pants were rasped in her ears as she took off her clothes with trembling hands and stepped into the bathroom.