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The princess and the frog

Three very stressful and overdramatic years later, in which both the media and the people had with particular eagerness attempted to excel each other with outlandish gossip and rumors about either escaped bloodthirsty monsters or mysterious demons ravaging the capital, the excitement about the arrival of the new royal twins had left even Helen and Madison.

Thus both of the children were able to grow up relatively peaceful under their tutor’s thumb and with Anette never too far away. The two girls lived happily in their pretty tower up in the castle and were most well-behaved and ordinary. As all myth children, they started speaking after their first year and would start their education in their fourth year of life. The only notable thing might have been their occasional impertinence but their tutor, Missy, ruled the household with an iron first and nipped every sign of insubordinance in the bud.

And thus another perfect day began, this time in another tower further south. In this tower, the little princess Victoria was still sleeping in her bed, amidst countless pillows and blankets, even though it was nearly noon. Her hair was uncombed, uncut and brightly blonde, almost entirely covering up her small body and from under her hair escaped muted snores. The large, canopy bed beside her own was long empty. Her sister had been awake for hours, running up and down the room in excitement, sunkissed skin with matching hair and widely opened dark eyes, her blue sundress billowing around her naked feet. She cleaned the room and combed her hair and after her many tasks she noticed Victoria had still not left the comfort of her bedding.

With one huge leap, she jumped on her sister's bed and started excitedly jolting her until she was desperately shaken off.

″Morning Horizon.″, the young princess yawned as she slowly recovered from the attack.

″How can you still be asleep you dummy?″, her sister chided. ″Do you even know what day it is?”

Victoria pondered quietly while rubbing her eyes.

“Today’s the noble’s summit! And maybe they’ll even let us take part this time.“, her sister exclaimed impatiently.

Suddenly, Victoria felt wide awake and looked at her sister who was eagerly fidgeting with her nightgown.

“You have to get ready!”

As fast as she could they rushed into the vast marble bathroom to prepare for the occasion. In a green sundress, the long hair neatly brushed and braided by Horizon, Victoria stepped out of the bathroom and accompanied her sister out the door. They hurried down the twisted flight of stairs, down the tower. The summit would be in the northern tower to which they were now excitedly heading.

“Last one there’s vermin.“, Victoria shouted and they both started running.

Even though Victoria was a lot smaller than her sister, she easily took the lead. The ran past the many extravagant rooms and chambers they had all previously explored and dodged a handful of servants that eyed them in affright, the sounds of their bare feet echoing in the hallways. Just as Victoria sprinted around a corner and already opened her mouth to proclaim her victory, she crashed into something pretty painful and tumbled to the hard marble floor.

Her sister caught up right behind her.

“What’s the matter?“, she laughed but then she gasped audibly and came to a sudden halt right behind Victoria.

Slightly dazed, the little girl lifted her head to identify the source of her misery, but giant, black laced boots limited her view. She looked up to render a nasty remark for the owner of those vicious obstacles but the face she beheld caused the words to get stuck in her throat. A giant man in an all-black uniform glared down at her with venomously squinted eyes, his lips under the dark beard pursed in disdain. On all fours she crawled back from him not able to take her eyes off his malicious face. Horizon came up behind her and helped her back on her feet. For a moment the three just examined each other. The girls almost shaking with fear while the man gazed upon them with exceptional revulsion. It took Victoria all the defiance she could muster to not flinch away from his piercing gaze and when he failed to intimidate her he squinted menacingly.

“There you are!“, came a strident voice from behind the girls.

The man finally tore his gaze away from Victoria and looked behind them as their tutor hurried up the hallway towards them.

“I apologize for those ill-mannered children, my lord.“, said Missy sweetly and stepped closely behind the two girls.

“Apologize to Lord Bonmark, young ladies!“, she demanded and put her hands on both their shoulders.

Victoria looked up in his face again and replied to his condescending glare with sullen silence.

“Right this instant, my ladies.“, hissed Missy sternly and tightened her grip uncomfortably.

Victoria and Horizon apologized through gritted teeth and the noble smiled what he probably deemed to be a forgiving smile. Then Missy stepped in front of the girls to perform a canting bow before the noble who didn’t even acknowledge her gesture but rather turned around to the entrance of the northern tower.

“Am I the first to arrive?“, he asked.

His voice was deep and raucous and he was obviously irked by the delay of his peers.

Missy nervously brushed some imaginary dust off her impeccable uniform and when the man glared back at her she dodged his gaze.

“They should arrive momentarily, my lord. I have called their staff already. Most of them are already at the train station and-”

“I don’t care about your ridiculous excuses.“, he cut her off impatiently.

“I have better things to do than wait around for this lazy rabble.”

Missy, unsure how to react to this brazen insult to the other nobles, shut her mouth and rather came towards the two girls to drag them away from the tower.

“Come on, my ladies.“, she ordered and grabbed both their arms.

“You have a lot of studying to do.”

While Horizon had already admitted defeat and had decided to pout quietly, Victoria resisted her tutor.

“But I wanna watch the summit!“, she demanded.

Missy barely scoffed at that suggestion.

“You little imbecile would not understand a single thing.“, she berated Victoria.

But before Victoria could answer her tutor, the noble addressed them again.

“Wait!“, he ordered and Missy practically froze on the spot.

The noble walked up behind them and all three turned around to him.

“I’m sure your hands are already quite full with this lot.“, he said to Missy, gesturing at the two girls.

“But you will watch my son, while I am attending the summit.”

Missy nodded eagerly.

“Why certainly, my lord.“, she babbled but seemed a little confused by his request.

“CHARLES!“, shouted the noble and made all three of them flinch.

A child that had been sitting on one of the couches near the tower entrance now leapt to its feet and walked to the noble's side. He had been so quiet and motionless that he had been practically invisible until his father had called out his name.

He now politely bowed before the two girls and stood next to his father with a blank expression.

“My youngest son, Charles.“, introduced him his father.

They had the same black hair and piercing green eyes, the same black uniform and pale faces.

“He too, can be a little impertinent sometimes.“, continued the noble.

“But I’m sure you know how to discipline your fosterlings.”

Missy nodded, avid for his praise.

“I assure you, he is in good hands.“, she said.

The noble nodded and dismissed them with a wave of his hand.

Missy pulled the girls down the hallway, followed closely by the noble child.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, in which the three children suspiciously scrutinized one another, Missy started to speak again.

“How old are you, my dear?“, she asked the boy sweetly.

“Eight years, ma’am.“, he said curtly.

“Really?“, she said and he frowned, irritated by her condescending demeanor.

“Really.“, he jeered.

Victoria and Horizon snickered.

“Because...“, proceeded Missy, angrily squeezing the girls' arms again.

“That seems a little young for a soldier.”

Charles shrugged.

“You’re not allowed to leave the North if you’re not an official part of the army, isn’t that right, my dear?”

He grinned smugly.

“I am in the army.“, he said proudly.

Missy skeptically lifted an eyebrow.

“You’ve passed the entrance exam?“, she persisted.

“Yes, ma’am.“, he said.

Missy seemed really impressed by this achievement.

“You must be the youngest ever to enter the army.“, she flattered.

Charles grin grew even wider and he suddenly seemed more eager to answer her many questions.

“I am.“, he announced proudly.

Victoria nudged his side and he stared down at her.

“What’s the entrance exam?“, she asked curiously.

Just when Charles opened his mouth to answer her, Missy cut him off.

“That’s no concern of yours, your majesty.“, she said sharply.

Victoria seemed disappointed but Charles obeyed the tutor.

Finally, they reached their destination.

The only good thing about being homeschooled, Victoria found, was that they always studied in the palace library. It was no ordinary library however. Instead of all the books and information being saved on a small screen to be easily shared or listened to, pages upon pages of old paper were devoted to a single topic or story, all stored in massive shelves crisscrossing the unending dark hall underneath the palace. It was an honor to set foot into this library, as Missy tirelessly reminded them every day. By now the massive halls with towering bookshelves and mountains and mountains of books and scrolls were as familiar to the two girls as their own chambers. Moreover, this vast labyrinth of books was perfect to lose Missy for a few hours by hiding among the many shelves and enjoying scarce moments of solitude before returning to her boring lessons. It was truly a little paradise. Victoria wasn’t allowed to take any of the books back to her room, so she practically spent every waking moment in this safe haven, reading stories and studying foreign maps that were way more interesting than the little entertainment her Al-screen could provide and when she was lucky, Anette would even read to her and explain one or the other strange word Victoria did not yet understand.

So it upset her quite a bit when the boy they had brought with them, didn’t gasp with awe or stare completely dumbstruck at this ancient collection of knowledge but scoffed at Victoria’s and Horizon’s childish enthusiasm. Victoria already disliked him.

“Now, my ladies!“, said Missy.

“We will continue where we left off yesterday, any of you remember what we learned?”

While Horizon obediently recited their last lesson, Victoria nudged Charles’ side.

“You seriously wanna spend the next few hours listening to Missy droning on about the Great War?“, she whispered.

“Because trust me, it’s a lot more boring than any of those books.”

He eyed her suspiciously for a few moments but then he carefully shook his head.

“Then run after me.“, she said.

Before he could ask any questions and before Horizon had finished her monologue, Victoria started sprinting towards the labyrinth of books and ignored Missy’s angry shrieking behind her. She had no time to check whether the little soldier was following her and kept running through the high shelves, taking her usual turns until Missy’s screams were barely audible in the distance and she had reached her favourite spot. She came to a sudden halt and Charles ran right into her almost knocking her down. They both took their time to catch their breath and Charles was the first to speak again.

“So what’s the plan?“, he asked.

Victoria grinned mysteriously.

“This better be worth it.“, he said doubtfully and she glared at him sneeringly.

“If you think you’ll have more fun back there, you’re free to go.“, she scoffed.

Then she spun around and led him to an old ladder that was leaning on one of the shelves.

“That is...“, she added. “If you can find your way back.”

Charles eyed the ladder nervously.

“Doesn’t look safe.“, he meant.

Victoria laughed.

“I thought you were a fearless warrior? Come on, don’t be such a wuss.”

He frowned at her and she smirked and started climbing up the ladder.

It was a pretty long climb up the towering shelf and although the ladder was creaking under her naked feet, she felt completely safe. She had climbed it countless times. When she had reached the top of the shelf she looked down to find her new acquaintance still hesitatingly lurking at the bottom of the shelf.

“Come on!“, she called out.

He looked up at her with wide eyes, an expression of anguish on his pale face.

“Can’t we do something else?“, he pleaded.

“Come on.“, Victoria urged. “It’s completely safe. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

He didn’t seem convinced.

“I’m a lot bigger than you.“, he remarked nervously.

Victoria sighed and laid down on her back, her legs dangling over the edge of the shelf. But after a while, she heard the ladder’s familiar creaking and soon, Charles pale face appeared over the edge of the shelf. Victoria applauded him gleefully.

“You did it.“, she praised him.

He grimaced agonizingly.

She crawled along the shelf and he followed her on wobbly limbs until they reached Victoria’s little hideout. It was a little mountain of pillows, kidnapped from various rooms of the castle, and a pile of books Victoria would’ve never been allowed to read by either Missy or Anette. She looked back at Charles, expecting high praise for her clever hiding place, but he seemed too concentrated on not throwing up.

“Are you afraid of heights?“, she teased and he glared at her.

“No.“, he growled through gritted teeth.

She laughed and huddled against her many pillows, already picking up the book and turning the pages to find where she had left off last time.

“Are you waiting for a special invitation?“, she taunted and he joined her inertly.

“Cool huh?”

She showed him the faded pictures in her book, that showed ghastly creatures lurking through foreign woods. Charles seemed actually interested for the first time, and together, they went through the pages, shuddering at the repulsive monsters depicted on the old pages, reading the graphic descriptions to each other and before long they were laughing and fooling about together.

“I’m so glad those things don’t exist on Mythos.“, said Victoria as they observed another particularly heinous beast that was shown devouring a terrified victim.

Charles smiled grimly.

“I can’t wait until I’m old enough to travel to Aldebra and hunt some of those monsters myself.”

Victoria stared at him with admiration.

“You think you can beat even a single one of those things?”

He nodded eagerly.

“Sure. We have enough of them to practice on up North. It’s actually not that hard. They just look nasty is all but they’re not very smart.”

They continued to browse in the many books until Charles suddenly turned to her.

“I don’t think I caught your name by the way.“, he said, slightly embarrassed.

She looked back down at the book.

“Victoria.“, she said.

He nodded.

“Are you the queen or the princess?“, he asked

“The princess.”

“Cool. Then we hopefully get to train together sometime.“, he blurted.

She looked back up at him and his pale cheeks suddenly reddened and he timidly fiddled around with the book in his lap.

She grinned.

“That’d be cool.“, she said. “But I bet you’re easy to defeat.”

They both laughed but after a while, he nudged her playfully.

“But seriously...“, he said. “You wouldn’t stand a chance.”

"Sure.“, she teased.

He examined her skeptically.

“Do you even know how to fight?“, he taunted.

Victoria got awfully quiet.

“Well, not yet.“, she admitted after a while.

He chuckled.

“But I’m going to.“, she said. “I’m gonna learn how to summon weapons and throw fireballs and all that kinda stuff.”

Charles seemed pretty shocked by that idea.

“You’re gonna learn how to do magic?!“, he asked doubtfully.

“Sure.“, she said. “It’s a lot cooler than guns and all that stuff and you can use it anywhere, anytime and-”

“That’s a dumb idea.“, Charles cut her off.

They glared at each other angrily for a few moments.

“The General says magic is barbaric and that only Aldebreans use it.“, said Charles.

“Then your father is an idiot.“, said Victoria.

“The General is-”

“And besides, Fujin is the noble cultivating magic. Not your dad. She knows a lot more about it than he does. Your dad isn’t any better just because he uses artificial weapons.“, Victoria declared.

“Then why’d he win the war and not Fujin?“, Charles retorted.

Victoria’s mouth gaped open and she didn’t respond.

Charles grinned smugly and she pouted.

However, their argument was interrupted by Missy’s distant calls and the two children looked at each other knowingly.

“We gotta go.“, said Victoria and her new friend nodded nervously.

She climbed down the stairs first and buoyed Charles up as he followed her with trembling legs. He let out a sigh of relief when he finally reached solid ground and they sauntered back to the library entrance where Missy and Horizon were already waiting.

Missy approached them menacingly and Victoria prepared herself for the impending telling-off. Charles, noticing her nervous fidgeting, stepped in front of her and before Missy could even open her mouth he had begun speaking.

“We should leave, Ma’am. The general hates to be left waiting.”

And before Missy could answer, Charles had grabbed Victoria’s hand and they passed her and walked out the library, closely followed by Horizon.

Luckily, the nobles didn’t seem to be quite done yet, as the hallway at the bottom of the northern tower was still relatively empty. Only soldiers, their uniforms in varying colors corresponding to the noble family they served, were guarding the entrance to the stairwell.

All three children sat down on one of the comfortable couches while Missy stood next to them, sharply exhorting Victoria when she and Charles were talking too loud while Horizon sat quietly next to her sister. Finally, the door opened and the nine nobles exited the door, one after another. While the soldiers saluted, Victoria and Charles got awfully quiet and lowered their heads timidly. When Charles’ father stepped out the door, Charles leapt to his feet and saluted and Victoria almost laughed at his stern face.

“General.“, Charles said obediently.

His father barely acknowledged his presence with a slight nod and his son went running after him as he continued walking down the hallway.

“Wait!“, Victoria called out to him and followed him.

Several heads turned to her and before Missy could grab her by the arm, she had reached Charles and he looked down at her sheepishly.

His father and several other nobles had noticed Victoria’s outburst too, but she tried her best to ignore them.

“Aren’t you gonna say goodbye?“, she asked.

He flushed and his father sneered at her but she only looked at Charles.

Charles straightened up and smiled at her saucily.

“Goodbye your majesty.“, he teased.

Victoria smiled joyfully and waved after him as he disappeared down the hallway, hoping she’d see him again soon.

And she would.

Just not quite under the circumstances she had hoped for.

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