The royal families sat in the dining hall enjoying a small feast of chicken and pork with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Timena ate with Eurina and the staff downstairs in the kitchen. Now that her presence was not required, she too could enjoy her meal but this time with more familiar company.
Timena went in depth about each of her opponent's weaknesses during her sparring earlier in the day. There was an extreme sense of pride she took in sparring, and winning. As a woman it was already quite difficult to be taken seriously so being handy with a sword gave Timena some advantage. It had always been obvious to her that her father had wanted a son, although he wouldn't ever have admitted it. Her father trained diligently with her from the time she could walk— when Delacroix came into her own, she wanted nothing to do with swords or fighting which was fine since he was heavily invested in Timena.
Vassar had quickly given up any hope that Delacroix would take a liking to any form of weaponry, as his first born had developed an interest in archery and jousting, as well as swords. She was the perfect son. Delacroix was more interested in well-made dresses and one day falling in love and marrying a king. Their father had been devoted to one child's interests, in turn neglecting the other's. Timena had been burdened with that guilt unbeknownst to her father and sister.
Traveling up the cobbled steps and into the corridor, Timena caught sight of everyone exiting the dining hall. The girls all giggled each time Silas or Aldus uttered a single word, they groaned in frustration. Miro smirked towards them before taking notice of Timena and bowing his head. She smiled politely.
"Timena, won't you join us?" King Vassar suddenly gestured for her to come to him.
Why did I even come up here in the first place? She thought, woefully.
"I was thinking we could have a little archery tournament." He suggested.
Delacroix smiled scornfully towards them both. Timena's eyebrows scrunched together in uncertainty.
"Um, why don't we all just sit and chat, outside on the court. Dela you can tell him about that thing you, wanted to talk to him about." Delacroix glared at her in realization. Silas' gaze was focused on Timena, his eyes questioning.
"No let's all go bask in Timena's archery skills." She snapped.
Timena looked at her, confused and somewhat offended. She had always felt as though it was partially her fault that their father hadn't spent any time with Delacroix in the past. There she was, giving her sister an opportunity so the attention could be on her for once and her response was to lash out at Timena.
She could not change that she was more like him than her sister but now she had decided that it also was not fair to place such a considerable amount of blame upon herself.
"You know what, let's do exactly that." She bit back smugly, before sauntering away.
Timena steadied her hands before placing and aligning her arrow on the rest. With her right arm elevated, she drew the bowstring back as far as it would allow, she focused her eye on the target that was only a few metres away. Every sound but her breathing had been drowned out— taking a deep breath, she let go.
The arrow landed the center, she smiled.
Clapping and cheering followed, Timena smirked at Delacroix triumphantly. Any feelings of guilt she had, had been replaced with her own satisfaction.
"That is seven in a row, absolutely remarkable." Vassar declared with pleasure.
Timena bowed playfully. Delacroix glared in her direction, as did Hanleigh but she couldn't have cared less.
"So I guess I can't claim you had some stroke of luck." The voice was sultry, sounding as though it were alluding to something deeper.
Timena looked up hesitantly at Silas. Those pale blue eyes gazed into her own.
"Oh no that was luck, all seven times." She said sarcastically. A smile played upon his lips, reaching his eyes. He was about to speak again when a heap of red hair came into view.
"That was wonderful Timena, you're really quite gifted. What did you think of it King Silas?"
Emandalyn peered up at him inquisitively.
"Gifted indeed, she's an enigma." He said simply before walking away. Timena was confused by his remark.
"He fancies you, I wasn't too sure last night but now I'm certain of it." The girl beamed with excitement.
No, no, no. Not possible. Timena told herself. Why would he want her?
"There's no point in us being here any longer, he may have already made up his mind." Emandalyn looked over to Silas and Timena followed her gaze. His eyes were focused on her and suddenly she felt a sense of nervousness and fear come over her.
Timena paced back and forth around the room. She had practically darted off the field when she caught sight of Silas' intense stare. Maybe Emandalyn was reading the situation entirely wrong, Silas was an intense person, that was obvious. He had barely acknowledged her since his arrival in Mororcin and the way she carried herself couldn't have been appealing to him, could it?
She wore breeches instead of dresses and would much rather spend her time wielding a sword than preparing to one day become a queen. Timena's body shook with fear— fear that Silas might be taking an interest in her and fear she would lose her independence. She had never envied the idea of being tied to someone else, her freedom meant everything to her.
At the threshold of the kitchen entrance Norman's tall figure stood. He turned around expectantly.
"Norman I am having, a bit of a problem."
They walked down the hill leading to the stables as Timena expressed her concerns about King Silas. She was fearful that Emandalyn was right, Delacroix had been preparing her whole life for this and it would be just another thing to add onto the list of things she hated Timena for. Norman knew that she loved the freedom she had considering she was a princess and that she never saw her life being joined with someone else's.
"I'm frightened if I'm being honest with myself, and you. I could be overreacting but deep within myself, I know it's somewhat unlikely. I don't need Dela to hate me any more than she already does as of right now." She said sadly, Norman looked to her in confusion.
"She got angry because father wanted me to show off my archery skills, so I tried to persuade him to do something else and then I hinted at her to try to bond with him. She snapped at me so, I snapped right back." Timena explained, the guilt was starting to emerge once again.
Norman chuckled. "Your sister's jealousy isn't your fault, but your father's and her own. You cannot force a relationship, it must come on its own. I know you feel that guilt even as we speak but you have to free yourself of it."
He walked inside the stable, Timena looked around to make sure they were alone before going inside. Timena saw Enoch nod politely before leaving them.
"I wish I knew how, but I need your help with something." She idly began to rub her horse's neck. Norman waited.
She sighed before saying, "If he does decide he wants to marry me, I need you to help secure a passage out of Gabaden for me, just in case." Norman's expression faltered, but he understood what he was being asked.
"Please." Timena's eyes appeared glassy and Norman walked towards her, holding her in a gentle embrace.
"I will help you, always child." At his words, Timena visibly relaxed, resting her head against his chest as she let the tears fall freely.
Timena felt more in control knowing that she would have Norman's assistance, although she hoped that she wouldn't need it in the end. After entering the castle, she made herself scarce— not wanting to draw any attention to herself, she needed to become invisible.
After supper, she quickly checked her surroundings before sneaking off to her room. Once she closed the door, she let out a heavy breath. Tending to her gear, she threw it aside hastily and went to the bath that had been set. The water was lukewarm against her heated skin and her body began to relax gradually. Timena had considered the possibility that she might be overreacting, but the better half of her knew it was better to have a plan just in case her fears came true.
Waking from what seemed like a dreamless sleep, Timena discovered the curtain to be wide open as usual. She groaned, covering her face with a pillow.
The importance of being scarce came into mind as she got dressed. Sneaking around the castle and downstairs to the kitchen was easy enough. Eurina placed a bowl of porridge on the little wooden table by the window.
A few words passed between them as Timena ate but her thoughts were clouded. She didn't give Eurina much opportunity to pry as she hurried out the back door and down the grassy hill.
"Morning Timena." The young boy smiled as she entered the stable.
"Hello Enoch." He walked over to her with reins in hand.
Both patting the horse's neck, Timena looked at him. He was merely fourteen now and favoring both his parents more and more with each passing day. With Eurina's sandy brown hair and warm eyes, and Norman's height and quiet mannerisms.
"Is it true?" Enoch's worried face was enough to tell Timena that he knew about her plan.
She sighed before gently placing a hand on his shoulder. "I hope I won't have to, but if I do..."
He shook his head in understanding as he passed her the reigns.
"No more eavesdropping." She said jokingly before leaving the stable.
The hustle and bustle of the city was almost deafening. People scurried along the cobbled streets as Timena noticed a few of the princesses exploring the markets.
"Timena, over here." Emandalyn waved excitedly in her direction.
As she approached the girls, she was quickly dragged aside by Emandlyn. "So, I overheard a conversation between your parents and Silas. It was about you." She said happily.
All color had drained from Timena's face, it was true, her fears were becoming a reality.
"W-What were they saying?"
"Well Hanleigh and I couldn't hear that well, but your name was mentioned quite a lot and the word marriage was thrown out a bit as well. There was yelling before that too, something about Mororcin."
Holding onto Emandalyn for support, Timena felt her face grow cold as a sick feeling began to settle in her stomach.
"Are you, alright? You look a bit pale Mena." The concern in Emandlyn's voice was comforting, but Timena was worried for herself as well.
"So you must be quite pleased with yourself, it seems as though King Silas has taken an interest in you. Only God himself knows why." She rolled her eyes, scowling at her.
"Believe me, pleasure is not what I'm feeling at the moment." She confessed as she noticed a few townspeople scurrying past her in the opposite direction and the hushed whispers around her.
She peered her head out above the crowd to see what the sudden fuss was.
Silas, Aldus and two of their guards traveled down the path easily as the crowd slightly parted so they could pass. Ducking into large the crowd, Timena ran into the nearest building.
The church was quiet as her feet trailed inside and up the staircase, she walked alongside one of the pews overlooking the entire room.
"Are you sure about this?" It was Aldus, trailing behind Silas. Timena crouched down quickly but she couldn't resist peeking her head over the balcony.
"What about Delacroix, or even Hanleigh?" He inquired, trying to distract his brother.
He was trying to help her.
"I could have sworn I saw her come in here." Silas declared, slowly turning away to look around.
He walked around the church, searching. Aldus looked up directly at her, his eyes urging her to leave as soon as possible. She didn't need any further incentive to hide as she got up slowly and moved away from the balcony.
"Maybe she's downstairs, let's check." He suggested and Silas followed behind.
As she heard the door close, her feet were moving on their own accord. She figured it would be best not to take her chances with the front doors as Silas' men might be outside. The side of the church had a door that lead outside but it would be a bit dangerous. There aren't any other options.
Closing the door behind her, she could see just how high up she was and immediately regretted having looked down in the first place. To the left of her was a narrow ledge that led to a less than sturdy steel ladder and from there she would figure out the rest.
She took a few shaky breaths, her heart was pounding heavily in her chest and she could feel the sweat forming on the palms of her hands. Her front leaning against the wall, she slid one foot sideways and went along slowly. Her fingers grabbed at nothing but flat surface until she felt her foot reach a corner, she was almost there.
Timena's hands and body embraced the wall as best they could until she neared the ladder— bending down and fingers searching, she grasped the rail tightly and hesitantly placed one foot down at a time onto the step. Continuing to go down, she could see where the ladder ended, it would be a short enough distance to jump down and land. At least without breaking a bone, she thought.
As she reached the end of the ladder, she let her feet go down and her hands now hung from the rail. Looking below, her body swung slightly. Timena wondered if she had underestimated the drop below, but she knew going down was her only option. Shallow breaths escaped her lips, her hands were slipping— and then, she was falling.