Princess Azzara leaned against the windowsill with her elbows and looked out at the view. It was a bright summer morning in which brought a crystal blue sky. A slight breeze caressed her face, and the smell of fresh summer air wafted in through her nose. Azzara surveyed the beautiful city below. The people were going about their daily lives without a care in the world. Looking out at her beautiful city like this, one would never say that such significant changes had taken place recently. However, Azzara had only to look at the many red, and black banners draped all over the city, and the battalions of imperial soldiers clad from head to toe in heavy steel armour, to know that everything had changed.
Only a month ago her father, King Tylon III, had marched his army to meet the Seventh Imperial Legion in open combat at the Bullian Plains. It was there that the Gillian Royal Army had reached its end along with her beloved father. King Tylon’s son, Prince Kellin, had been crowned the new ruler of Gillia not long after. Azzara loved her younger brother fiercely. However, she, like many others in the royal court, knew that he was weak. King Kellin, only fifteen years old, had surrendered the kingdom to the empire without a fight. The Emperor of Yasida, Emperor Neo Gilises, had promised to keep the royal family of Gillia in power as long as they surrendered. The empire had kept to their word after Kellin had surrendered and swore his allegiance to the Empire. Azzara saw it for what it really was. Her brother was nothing more than a puppet for the Yasida Empire to control.
Azzara turned away from her window and looked around her grand bedchamber. Most of her belongings had been packed away by the palace servants. They even took away the doll that her late mother had hand made for her. There was not much left within, for in the past week; the palace servants had been preparing for her departure to the Imperial Capital. Only two days left, she thought glumly. Azzara had been arranged to marry the Emperor’s youngest son, Mario Gilises, five days from now. She had been forced into the engagement by her brother, who of course, was being controlled by the Emperor. The marriage was supposed to solidify the union between the Empire and Gillia.
I won’t do it! She thought to herself. She had been saying it for weeks. She had told it to anyone and everyone, including her brother. It was, of course, no use. Azzara did not have a say in the matter. It came to a point where she was forbidden to see her brother until the day of her departure. Two of Kellin’s guards had been posted outside her door day and night. It was not for her protection, and she knew that. It was a scheme to keep her locked up in her room until the day of her departure. She knew her brother would not want her locked up like this. Especially when he knew how much she loved to stroll through the royal gardens. No, this had to be the work of the Imperial General, Marcus Valva. Marcus Valva had taken up residence in the royal castle not long after Kellin had declared his allegiance to the Empire. General Marcus had been sent to Gillia to “advise” the new king on matters of state and politics.
“This is ridiculous!” Azzara said out loud.
“I’m going for a walk, and no one will stop me!” she opened her oak-made chamber doors forcefully. As expected, two steel pikes crossed together and blocked her path. Two soldiers clad in heavy steel armour stood on either side of the door; barring her path with their decorative halberds. “Your Highness” one of the guards said. “Let me through! I wish to go for a walk!” the princess said unkindly. “Apologies your highness, but you have been ordered to remain within in your chambers until the day after tomorrow,” a guard said sternly. Azzara was fuming. This treatment was unforgivable. These men were not imperial soldiers but Gillian soldiers. They wore full steel plate armour that was dyed purple with gold linings. They wore white capes with the Gillian crest embroidered in the middle. A blue horse surrounded by a ring of blue swords.
My soldiers are keeping me captive! She thought bitterly. “Is that so!?” she began to shout “Whose order? My brother!? Or General Marcus!?” she could not see the soldiers faces as they wore purple plated helmets which covered their entire head. However, she could sense certain anxiety coming off of them and noticed that they gripped their halberds a little tighter.
“Careful your highness” a silky voice rang out. Azzara looked toward the steps leading up toward her bedchambers. There he was — the man she had loathed these past few weeks. General Marcus walked confidently toward her with a devilish grin on his face. “Someone might interpret that as being slander” he continued to smile as he performed a pronounced mocking bow to her. Azzara’s nostrils flared as her eyes burned into the man standing before her. General Marcus Valva. The man who kept her confined to her chambers for weeks. The man who brought her beloved kingdom to its knees. The man who led the army that slaughtered her father. “Well, well,” the general said slyly “Princess, I would never have dreamed that one with such an exquisite face such as yours could create such a nasty look” he laughed humourlessly. She hated him. To any other woman, the general would appear to be a good-looking man. He had high cheekbones, a pointed chin, straight nose, deep green eyes, and a head of glowing white hair that flowed down his back. Besides his dashing physical appearance, General Marcus was a charming man. Many women in the court described him as having an alluring smile and an attractive demeanour. Perhaps if she did not hate him so, she would have thought him a gorgeous man worthy of praise. However, at the moment, Azzara hated and despised everything about this man. From his sick laugh to his evil green eyes. She wanted to hurt him, to tear his handsome face off of his head, to stab him in the heart until that sickening grin turned into terror.
“Apologies sir! We will take her back to her room” one of the soldiers said. “Sir?” The general inquired mockingly “I am not your ‘Sir’ you will refer to me as ‘My Lord’, soldier” the guard bowed his head slightly “Forgive me my lord” it happened quickly. Azzara could never quite recall how it happened. Before she knew it, the general had his hand on the soldier’s face and smashed the back of his head against the wall. The wall cracked, and the soldier’s helmet split open. He was dead. Azzara stood frozen. Her heart began to pound out of control, and her body began to shake. She was unable to move or think. She was overcome with a fear that she had never felt in her life. “First he calls me sir, and then he dares to not even bow properly,” General Marcus said coolly, as he dusted his hands together. Azzara stared wide-eyed at the dead soldier. Blood dripped from the back of his helmet and stained his white cloak a shade of crimson. He was so fast, she thought. I did not even see him move. Azzara’s lips began to tremble, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Now princess, I will not tolerate disobedience. Your king has ordered you to stay within your chambers. Disobey again, and you will be punished, do you understand?” General Marcus had lost his charming demeanour and his grin this time. He now had a hard edge to his voice. His eyes told a different story than they did only moments ago. To Azzara, the general’s eyes said only one thing right now this man is the devil himself!
That night, Azzara found it difficult to sleep. Images of General Marcus filled her every waking moment. She never thought she could fear anyone. She always fantasised about being the one who would slip a dagger between his ribs one day. However, the fear he instilled in her only hours ago had left her feeling weak and ashamed. While lying in her bed and staring out of her window at the stars, her chamber doors creaked open, and a dark figure slipped in. The figure closed the doors shut and moved toward her bed. Fear clutched at her heart and left her breathless. She wanted to scream for the guards, but no sound could escape her lips. It was like a nightmare. Was it the general? Did he come to punish her in the dead of night? The figure moved toward her bedside and lit a candle. The figure removed its hood, and the light revealed a handsome boyish face staring at her with concerned eyes. “Kellin!” she gasped.
“Quietly sister” Kellin whispered “Nobody knows that I am here besides the guards outside your door” Azzara sighed in relief “What are you doing here in the dead of night? You frightened me”. King Kellin sat down on his sister’s bedside and looked at her with a sad look in his eyes. Azzara had not seen him in weeks. He looked so different now in such a short period. He looked several years older and developed dark circles around his eyes. The baby fat around his face had disappeared. He looked so thin and worn. He was much paler than before, and his dark brown hair was longer and untidy. It brought a tear to Azzara’s eye to see her younger brother look so dishevelled. Being two years older, Azzara had always felt responsible for Kellin and felt the need to protect him. Kellin was still a timid boy, so unlike their father. King Tylon was a mighty warrior and had a commanding presence about him. When King Tylon spoke, everybody listened. He was both feared and respected. King Kellin, on the other hand, was quiet and soft-spoken. He crept that people would often forget that they were in the same room with him. Kellin would always avoid confrontation and do whatever anyone told him to do. It was up to Azzara to make sure that no one took advantage of him when their parents were not close at hand.
“I wanted to check up on you. To see how you fare” Kellin said. Azzara wanted to yell at him. She wanted to slap him and demand a reason for his treatment of her these past weeks. However, looking at his shameful appearance and noticing that he looked as though the weight of the entire world were on his shoulders, she resisted the urge to lash out. “I’m alright,” she said kindly “What about you? You don’t look well at all” Kellin gave a sad smile. “I’ve been through a lot lately. I...” Kellin reached his hand toward her and stopped. He seemed to think better of it and began to look down without another word. It was too late; however, Azzara had seen right through him. She knew her little brother better than anyone. She knew, at that moment, Kellin wanted to hold her tight and cry. He tried to tell her about his suffering like he used to when they were younger. He did not. He wanted to be a man. He wanted to be a king. She had to respect that no matter how much she wished to throw her arms around him and hold him close.
For a moment, silence had fallen between them until Azzara decided to speak “Do I have to go so far away? To marry the son of a man who took our home away and killed our father?” Kellin shook his head. “We’ve been through this Azzara” Kellin said “Your marriage to Mario Gilises was the second condition of our peaceful surrender” Azzara turned away and bit her tongue. Yes, she thought. The empire’s vast legions stood outside the city gate that day ready to lay siege to the royal capital. That was when General Marcus and the Emperor’s eldest son, Tarius Gilises, had entered the city to discuss terms with Kellin and his advisors. The Empire had promised not to attack the city and to ensure that Kellin remained king if they would meet two conditions. First, King Kellin would pledge his allegiance to the imperial throne and that Gillia becomes a vassal state of the Yasida Empire. The second condition was that Princess Azzara would marry the Emperor’s youngest son, Mario Gilises, in the imperial capital.
“As royalty, we have duties to fulfil Azzara” Kellin continued “your duty is to marry. That’s how it has always been with the women in our family” Azzara scoffed. She refused to be a commodity to be traded at the whims of men who thought themselves her better. She was much more than chattel to be traded. “I won’t do it,” she said calmly “I simply will not” Kellin rose from her bedside and walked toward the door. He stopped suddenly and with his back to her, and he said “You will. That is the will of your king”, and with that King, Kellin exited her chamber without another word leaving Azzara alone with the terror of her nightmares.