This time I woke up before I had someone knocking at my door. I could hear the palace stirring already. I showered and sat on my bed for a bit in a towel. I didn’t know if I was ready for today.
Then came the dreadful knock. “Who is it?”
“Talia, Your Highness.”
I opened the door, still in a towel.
Talia stared, speechless for a bit before recovering herself. “I have your attire for today.” She had a bag that I assumed was full of armor.
I took it, letting her in and going behind my changing screen. “Are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Talia answered.
I found clothes in the bag and slipped them on. “Okay, how do I look?” I showed her my clothes.
“Like a warrior.”
The outfit, which was incomplete now, was a simple pair of grey leggings and a long sleeved shirt that had slits in the back for my wings and seemed to have some sort of armor built in. It was like a cuirass that wasn’t visible. Stealthy.
“Here are your pauldrons.”
A pauldron was a piece of armor that covered a person’s shoulder. Sometimes it went all the way down to the elbow. Other times it just covered the shoulder, like the one Talia was handing me. But connecting the two pauldrons was a-
“Is this a cape?” I asked incredulously.
“It is.” Talia laughed. “It will look good. Let me help.”
She stood behind me and fastened the pauldrons. I had to admit the cape felt heroine-ish. I liked the feel of it.
“What about my wings?” I stretched them out from under the cape as much as I could in my room. The cape was narrow so my wings came out easily.
“They’re so big. And beautiful,” Talia breathed in awe.
“Thanks.” I felt myself blush. I put my mismatched wings away.
“Now for your greaves.”
Greaves were armor that covered someone’s legs. They ranged anywhere from mid-thigh to the end of the shin. Mine started right above my knees and covered my shins. Talia put them on me.
“Okay, now some vambraces so your shield doesn’t aggravate your wrists.”
“Shield? I have to carry a shield?”
“Well, I’d imagine you don’t have to.”
I put on the wrist guards which were made from the skin of our vüŵ, like a cow.
“And last but not least, a belt. To carry your knife and your sword.”
She went to put the belt on me.
“You don’t have to-”
But she was already buckling it. Even though I wasn’t feeling her skin on mine, my body grew tingly where she touched me.
“You’re ready, Princess. The weapons rooms has your weapons and your shield.”
“Thank you, Talia. Where’s your armor?” I asked.
“The Princess always comes first.”
I grinned and thanked her. “Well, I’m going to meet with Cassiopeia and get my weapons. Find me when you get dressed. I was to make sure you have good enough armor on.” Why did I just say that?
“Oh. Okay.” Talia’s pale cheeks turned red and her hazel eyes flashed. She bowed as I left.
Real smooth, Amy.
I went down to the throne room. John was there.
“Cassiopeia is still getting ready,” John said. His armor was also fine. Very King-like. It was gold and he even had a helmet sitting in his throne.
“I’m going to get my weapons,” I told John.
“I’ll join you.”
We walked in silence to the armory, the upcoming attack weighing on us.
Our armory had weapons of all kinds in it. Nearly the only thing it didn’t have were missiles and things like that. Enceladus didn’t have missiles. They were never invented, never needed. Nothing nuclear either. We did have a few guns.
The keeper of the armory greeted us. “King John, Princess Amelia. I have your weapons.”
We followed him to the back of the gigantic room. He handed John two rapiers, which were light, skinny swords.
Next, he gave me a sheathed sword and I knew it was the exact one Orion had made especially for me. I didn’t know how I felt carrying around a sword Orion had made for me. It had been the only semi-kind thing he had done for me.
The keeper also gave me a knife called a zôpånt which I had come to learn looked similar to a Fairbairn-Sykes of Earth. It was long and dark. It was my favorite knife. I strapped the F-S to my belt along with my broadsword.
“Princess Amelia, I heard that your human consort’s specialty is a bow and arrow. I have the best bow I’ve ever carved here. Would you like to give it to her?” the man asked.
“I would love to. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it . . .” I tried to remember his name. I hated not knowing people’s names when they all knew mine.
“Colton,” he offered.
“Thanks, Colton.” I took the bow and quiver of arrows. The bow was smooth to the touch. I hoped Lainie never had to use it.
“And your shields.” Colton handed both John and I shields. These were also made customary for my siblings and me. All of our shields had a single L on them for Ladus. Caelum had once told me they were shaped like kites, although I’d had no idea what a kite was. I did now.
“Thank you, Colton,” said John as we walked out.
We walked back to the throne room and Cassiopeia was waiting in her throne. She was also wearing a cape and pauldrons. Hers was wider than mine. Also, it didn’t look like she was wearing any pants. As she stood, I realized I was right. First, she wore a breastplate with exposed arms. Instead of pants were two sheets of hanging armor. One hung in front and ended mid-thigh. The other was in back and stopped at her knees. She wore thigh-high boots and leather gloves.
I thought a Queen’s armor was supposed to be extremely protecting. She was vulnerable in several different places. Her breastplate had thin straps and was nearly V-cut. Her thighs were embarrassingly out in the open. It looked like she was doing a photoshoot for women’s “armor” rather than to fight in a war. The only things that were protected were her shoulders that had thin pauldrons, and her abdomen.
John seemed to be thinking the same thing. “What are you wearing?”
Cass sighed. “This is not my choice. The Constable and my maids say that a Queen doesn’t really fight in a war. She never does. So her armor doesn’t need to be functional. I argued with them but to no avail. I’m stuck with this.”
Well she did look good, just unprotected.
“Constable Asger and the Chancellor wanted me to stay in the palace. With Lainie, they said. Obviously you both know how I reacted.”
I could imagine the way Cass had reacted when they told her she shouldn’t fight.
“I am fighting with my people. Even if my armor is mostly for show,” she said. She motioned to her thighs, which were bare except for her boots and a garter on her left leg holding a sai. Which happened to be her specialty weapon. She had three on her body that were visible. The second one was in the top of her boot and the last hooked on her belt.
“I’m going to give these to Lainie,” I said, gesturing the bow and arrows. I left the throne room and headed to Lynx’s room.
When I got there, a maid was putting on Lynx’s armor. He appeared frustrated with the maid. Lainie was watching him humorously.
The maid was trying to put on his right rerebrace. It was clear she had no clue how to put on armor. A rerebrace was armor starting on someone’s shoulders and ending at their elbow.
“Ugh!” Lynx exclaimed. “Melinda, please go and get someone else to put on my armor.” I could tell he was trying to be nice to Melinda who looked terrified. He was so dramatic. Everything had to be just perfect. Melinda ran out of the room.
“Amelia, you look damn good. Better than I do at the moment.” He stared in his full-length mirror wistfully.
“Thanks. Lainie, I have some things for you.” Lainie was wearing a black long sleeved shirt and black leggings. She had one glove on and two brown archery vambraces. There was a hooded cape lying next to her.
“That’s my que. I’ll be in the bathroom,” Lynx said.
“The armory guy, Colton, found this for you.” I handed her the bow and quiver. “I hope you won’t have to use them.”
“It’s beautiful.” She ran her hand along the bow and raised it in a ready position. She put it down on the bed and her eyes started to water.
Suddenly she stood up and hugged me. “Be careful.”
I hugged her back and held on like I’d never let go. “I will.”
She stepped back and wiped her eyes.
“If this is goodbye, I want you to know I lied,” I said. Might as well come clean. “I do love you.”
Any attempt to wipe her eyes was futile. She was really crying now. I left before I comforted her.
As I walked out of Lynx’s room, Caelum and Golda came out of Caelum’s.
“Morning,” I said. They seemed to be on good terms.
Golda smiled brightly at me. “Princess.”
They were both in their armor. Caelum wore a cuirass that covered his chest and torso. It was sleeveless to show off his bulging muscles. Connected to the cuirass was a fauld. A fauld protected a person’s waist and hips. Golda’s armor was elegant and similar to Cassiopeia’s, complete with the hanging armor, but with more protection (and pants).
I began to walk down the stairs and nearly knocked Talia down them. “Oh! I’m sorry.”
I noticed that she was fully dressed. Her armor was nearly the same as mine minus a cape. “You look good.” She wore a gorget that covered her chest and neck. I knocked on it to make sure it was sound, real Enceladian metal. It was. I felt her mid-section shyly and found a hidden cuirass like mine.
“Well, it seems like everything is perfect. You’ll be well protected.” I realized I was still too close to her. I backed up quickly.
“Thank you, Princess. I’m going to get something to eat,” said Talia.
“I’ll go with you,” Golda said.
I hadn’t noticed Caelum and Golda had watched the whole exchange between Talia and me. I felt my cheeks warm up.
Golda and Talia walked off to the cafeteria. Cal was eyeing me suspiciously.
“What?” I turned away from him after he smirked. That was an expression I rarely saw him make.
“You like her. What happened to Lainie?”
“We broke up.”
“Oh. I um. I’m sorry.”
I looked at him. He was awkward but seemed sincere. “Thanks, Cal.”
“Talia is really in to you. Anyone with eyes can see that.”
“Really?” I asked with way too much excitement.
Cal chuckled and I stared at him. Had he been body snatched? I’d seen the movie on Earth. “Yes, really.”
We walked down to the throne room where Cassiopeia, John and Delphinus were waiting. I couldn’t stop thinking about Talia. Did she really like me? If so, when would I be ready to move on with someone far more compatible? Now that I thought about it, Lainie and I weren’t compatible at all. I was already one hundred-nineteen years old and she probably wouldn’t make it to one hundred. I hated to say that Vela was right but we couldn’t be together. Lainie would never truly understand me or my world.
Del got my attention by sauntering by. She was wearing a gorget over a short sleeved shirt that seemed to be like mine, with hidden protection. The gorget had an engraved E on it for Enceladus. She wore two vambraces on her forearms. One of them had three deadly spikes on them. Over her black leggings was a metal cuisse on both thighs. On her calves were schynbalds. But the best part was a sharp spear as tall as her clenched in her hand. That was her specialty.
Lynx walked in and was fully prepared for Tethys. His armor had been put on correctly and he rightfully looked better than me. By the expression on his face, he knew it too.
“Siblings. Now that we’re all here, I want to say something . . . I love you all. I know I don’t say it. None of us say it. And we should. But I love you all and we will survive this.” One by one, Cass hugged each of us. Even Golda who walked in in the middle of our hug party. As shocked as I was, I still held Cass tight.
“Cal, Lynx, go get your weapons. Meet us in the dining room,” Cass said.
Lynx and Cal obeyed and the rest of us walked into the dining room through the door across from Cass’ throne. There was already a huge breakfast waiting for us.
I sat next to Delphinus. “How are you doing?”
“I’m alright. Had some sickness early this morning,” she answered. It still was early.
“You shouldn’t fight,” I whispered, barely audible.
“Amy,” she began fiercely, “I am fighting.”
“Okay.” I almost held my hands up in surrender. I didn’t want to argue with her. But I was worried about her and the baby.
Lynx and Caelum came into the dining room. Lynx had some daggers, his specialty, on his belt, in his hand and tucked in his boot. Caelum held his double-sided sword in his hand like he was already fighting. His specialty.
They sat down and put their weapons on the table.
“Boys,” Cass scolded. “Weapons.”
My brothers grumbled but placed their weapons on the floor.
We ate in silence. The sound of utensils hitting plates echoed.
We hadn’t the slightest idea as to when Queen Amara would arrive. Or if she would arrive on a ship. Would there be talking first? Would Cassiopeia be able to negotiate another treaty? Were we just going to go straight to fighting?
Those were some of the questions the citizens were asking as we stood in the planet square, an hour later, waiting.
“Listen, I cannot answer any of those questions. We will just have to be prepared for anything,” Cass said. “Now, this is the order I want us to fight in. Guards first. Royal family next. Adults, then teenagers. The children are to be nearest to the palace. We do not want anyone to get to the palace. Our goal is to keep the fight in the square.”
“Does everyone have enough weapons?” Cass asked the crowd. No one said no so she moved on. “And everybody’s armor is the best possible? Good conditions?” Everyone nodded, head bobbing all about.
The Enceladians finally looked like an army. We were ready for war. Even if individually we weren’t. I knew for a fact, I wasn’t.
I saw a flash of red in my peripheral. It was Alessa. My eyes widened at how fierce she looked. In her hands she held two claymores. In Earth’s tale of Excalibur, the sword that King Arthur had wielded was a claymore.
“I’ll go over the weaknesses again. Tethians are wizards. They must cast their spells. The time when they are casting is when you should be attacking. Don’t wait until their spell has been cast. With Queen Amara, the goal is to get her scepter away from her.”
“Queen!” someone from above shouted. He landed roughly next to Cass. “It’s them. They’re here.”