I was on my way home from collecting the berries and fruit that grew a few miles away from my cottage. My basket was so full it was threatening to spill if I didn't keep it level. I was playing a game, a game where I was a ghost moving gracefully through the trees with my cloak flowing behind me. When the noisy carriages spurred along the road on the other side of the trees I would duck behind a tree, as my own version of hid and seek. I was winning. I always played these games, but they weren't just games. They were my life, my life of waiting, alone and hidden, until the day I could complete my father's dying wish.
Blackflower Forest was my home, my haven I created to hide from the enemies of my family. The air was thick with the strong scent of lavender which always drew me away from the road, it drew me towards the untouched meadow to the east.
The big healthy trees shimmered in the summer breeze, their leaves glowed a deep green in the sunlight. The strength of the lavender grew as I drew closer to the sea of purple. It took my breath away. I could never stay away from this meadow; it always called out to me. I noticed a white rabbit within the lavender, sniffing and quickly glancing around. A fox, which often hunted in this area of the forest, was sneaking towards the rabbit.
Within the next minute the rabbit began to rush away as fast as it could go and the fox was giving chase; this was a usual sight and I knew the fox rarely caught any of the rabbits around here. I decided they were friends and like to chase each other as a way of playing.
I sat near the middle of the meadow, a sigh slipped my lips as my bottom hit the floor. When can I stop hiding? It's like I am rotting in hell and Satan is using me as his plaything. I giggled when I thought this; if I had said this aloud to my mother when she was alive I would have received a lesson on etiquette and feminine behaviour. "You will never find a husband with that unfeminine attitude!" she'd shriek as I'd bite my lip to hide my amusement.
Something was nudging me from my unexpected nap, I had lain back to watch the clouds and must have fallen asleep. A horse's snout was nudging my face. "Hello, where did you come from?" I gently placed my hand on the horse's snout as I sat up. It was then I noticed the saddle the horse was wearing, it had the crest of the royal family on its chest and the name 'Eterial' placed underneath. "Eterial, where is your rider?" I stood and grabbed my basket, scanning the tree line for any signs of life. Eterial neighed and began walking towards the left. She stopped a few feet from me.
A man was lying unconscious in front of me. His clothes seemed to be of the highest quality, even for a travelling. He looked familiar, but I couldn't dwell on that; his injuries were more important. What if he's an enemy? A little voice in my head spoke. I'll treat his wounds then tie him up until he wakes, I mentally replied to the small voice. I knew he must be a soldier, whether he was loyal to the King or not was another matter. The only way I was going to get the injured man back to my cottage was to get him onto Eterial's back.
My head was pounding; I also had an itch on the end of my nose. A tight pressure on my wrists prevented me from moving my arms. I forced my eyes open and an old wooden ceiling dominated my vision instead of the blue sky I saw before I succumbed to the darkness. I remembered the assassin's that ambushed me and my escape on Eterial, then entering into the forest and passing out in the meadow of lavender. The scent was so strong it made me feel nauseous. Lavender was a vile flower with a horrific smell.
The wounds I had sustained should have healed after my sleep. I needed to leave here and fast, before my captors realized I had royal blood flowing through my veins and tried taking it for themselves, if they haven't taken some already. The knots seemed expertly tied, they tightened as I pulled my arms, trying to release them. I needed to go back to the outpost I last visited to get the new information on my missing bride.
"Who are you? And where do your loyalties lay?" came a soft voice from across the room. I looked over and saw a thin, brown haired woman standing by the fireplace, looking at me. Her amethyst coloured eyes were dancing with different shades of blue and specks of purple.
"I am..." Should I tell her the truth "Jiadric Calan, my lady" I lied. This woman could be feigning ignorance to who I really am to get close to me. She looked familiar, like a shadow in my mind that was waiting to come back to the light.
"Well, Jiadric," she walked over to me and pulled out a dagger with a shaking hand, "who does your loyalty belong to?"
"I don't know what you are talking about." The dagger gleamed from the firelight as it shook in her hand, she didn't seem to be used to violence nor did she have the confidence most women have.
"Damn it, who do you serve?" She raised her voice and squeezed her eyes shut. "Tell me or burn in hell with the devil once I slit your throat." My breath stuck in my lungs, I had never heard a woman use such language before.
"The king." My breath was coming out heavy while I kept my eyes on the shaking dagger. She seemed satisfied enough with the answer as I watched her sheath her dagger on her belt. The fear she had in her eyes when holding the dagger dimmed ever so slightly.
"Give me your blood oath that you will not harm me when I untie you." Her hands were clenched in a white knuckle grip at her sides.
"I promise, I do not harm women." I released a large breath I didn't know I was holding as she untied the restraints on my wrist. "Thank you..."
"Ari." She didn't give her last name and she may have withheld her real first name also.
"I should be getting back to the ... palace." I pushed the words out of a lump that unexpectedly formed in my throat. There was a painting hanging on the old wall, it took up nearly the entire wall of this rabbit hole of a house. In the painting I recognised General Hebaen Froilia and his wife Liliana. They were both lovely people who treated me equally instead of as royalty; I had grown to love them as my own family since I was a child.
I was shaking and my idiotic heart wouldn't stop pounding. Jiadric. Jiadric was the name of the man who murdered my father and betrayed the King, but his last name was not Calan like the royal family. Jiadric, the bastard man who betrayed the crown and all loyal to it, the selfish man who was still searching the kingdom for me, he was called Jiadric Thukon.
This Jiadric was staring at the last remaining portrait of my mother and father. I watched him move awkwardly, to not aggravate his wounds, closer to the portrait with his hand outstretched.
"Stay back or have your hand cut off," I warned, unsuccessfully hiding my emotions.
"Why do you have this painting?" He turned to me, a dark glint had entered his eyes. Fear begun to crawl up my spine, men like him were dangerous. Men with the looks, confidence, strength and aura like this were lethal. I could lose my heart and life to a man like this.
"That is none of your concern" I now had my arms wrapped around my middle, "I think you should get on Eterial and go back to where you came from." My chest felt heavy as he began walking toward me. "Stay away, anyone who get too close dies!" I couldn't think of anything else to say.
"You are General Froilia's daughter aren't you?" he was now stood inches away from me, making it hard for me to breathe.
"Please, just get out" I was hesitant to push him because of his injuries. "This is my safe haven in the hell that is my life, I would appreciate it if you left now."
"The King has been searching for you, Arialle" he was still stood inches away from me, his stare fixated on my face.
"I am not Arialle Froilia, she died long ago, leaving me that portrait and her possessions" I told the truth. I may still be called Arialle Froilia, but I wasn't the Arialle Froilia the King once knew.
"You can't hide your fear or the truth from me Ari" he cupped his hand on the side of my face.
Irritation surged throughout my body. I slapped his hand away from my face, "it doesn't matter if you can 'see my fear or the truth', get the hell out!"
Suddenly, he pressed is lips to mine. I couldn't escape his grasp as he continued his assault on my lips. I melted into him as I gave up the fight. He then backed away, breathing heavily he said, "You may have the mouth of a sailor and the guts of a con but you are still a woman." With that he left.
I shouldn't have taken it that far. That kiss was supposed to be a thank you for saving me, but when she kissed back it was as if lighting it my body. I took my anger out on her, I knew she was Arialle Froilia but I knew without evidence that I knew it was her she would fight against coming back to the palace with me.
I was careful to act as if I was being careful of my injuries as to not arouse her suspicions, I couldn't afford her running again.
I listened to him ride away on Eterial. Somehow my walls had been breached, it was time to strengthen them. First I needed sleep.
A light breeze brushed across my face. Why is there a breeze? You closed all the windows and doors last night, the small voice echoed through my mind, dragging me out of a restless sleep. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up.
"Now that you're awake lass," a tall man with a long black beard chuckled as he pointed is drawn sword in my face, "where is the man you brought here last night?"
I sat up and stared directly into the man's face. "I don't know, he left last night."
"Then you are coming with us instead." He smirked and sheathed his sword.
"Go to hell," I kicked him in his most vulnerable place, making him fall to the floor moaning. I got up and rushed to the front door. I made it outside when a sharp pain resonated through my head.
Usually I loved to ride fast with the wind sweeping through my hair. Not today. I needed to get Arialle to safety, my scouts had found the Assassin's who ambushed me heading towards her cottage through the forest. Following my trail.
I arrived at the cottage before my group of elite guards, who where close behind me. The front door was closed and there was a note pinned to it. I was too late. She was taken by them.
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