Word travelled fast around Amicah. The next day, everyone in the country knew that Ashelia De Sancto Serennio was Ash De Fieruilla. Meetings were made, rumors were born, and uncertainty grew around the whole country.
“Ashelia De Serennio is Prince Lucas’ Royal Guard.”
“I heard she snuck in here, pretending to be a country boy.”
“It seems that the Prince and his Royal Collaborator are protecting her.”
“Not only that, the King and Queen themselves are protecting her too.”
“Even after she almost killed King Evander?”
Ashelia was glad she could throw away her wig, but it was not a nice feeling to have everyone watching her, especially the guards, as if they were ready to go and lunge at her if she becomes too suspicious.
After the huge revelation last night, Ashelia had just gone straight to bed, and somehow not even wanting to wake up. But she did, and now she was walking the corridors, maids and guards and other castle staff already speaking. She passed the kitchen, hearing the radio on. And of course, they were talking about her.
“Ashelia,” Dominick called.
“Good morning, Dominick,” Ashelia said, glad it wasn’t Lucas.
“So it seems we’re leaving today. We’re going back to the Amicah military base,” he said as they continued walking. Ashelia wasn’t even sure where.
“So, do you know what the King and Queen even plan to do with me?” Ashelia asked.
“There’s nothing they can really do. You made the sacred vow of being Lucas’ Royal Guard, so you kind of have to stay with him.”
Ashelia felt nauseated. She wasn’t sure if she could even speak to him again, now she hears she has to be with him for the rest of her life. Before, she would have been ecstatic, but Lucas’ “I hate you” still lingered in her head.
“So where’s Lucas?” Ashelia asked.
“Avoiding you,” he said. A sharp pang went through Ashelia. Dominick looked at her and stopped. “Oh, no, no! Not because he hates you or anything, on the contrary, he thinks you hate him after he said all those things to you.”
Ashelia shook her head. “I’m the one who almost killed his father.”
“King Evander told him everything you said,” Dominick said. “The reasons why you couldn’t kill him.”
Ashelia’s face turned red, realizing that she practically proclaimed her love to Lucas to him. “Oh no.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” Dominick said, smiling. “He was happy to hear it.”
“That’s not the point,” Ashelia groaned. If she wanted to tell him that she loved him, she didn’t want his father to tell him first. That’s just embarrassing.
“Well you’ll be glad to hear this,” Dominick grinned at her. “Lucas declined the marriage proposal.”
Shock ran through her. “What?” she asked. “But why? I mean, if he declined then that means Amicah could be in great danger.”
Dominick shook his head. “They’re still going to help. It seems the Leica owe the Camuilla a lot.”
Ashelia’s face heated up, relief overwhelming her.
“You’re happy,” Dominick smiled.
Ashelia’s face turned even hotter.
“I can see it by the expression on your face,” Dominick said.
Ashelia laughed nervously. “Is it that obvious?”
He nodded. “That’s why you and Lucas should just make up and be together already.”
Ashelia sighed. “It’s not that simple.” She rubbed her temples, thoughts spinning; one smacked her in the head. She immediately looked up at Dominick. “I can’t stay,” she said suddenly.
Dominick frowned. “What do you mean? I’m sure you and Lucas will make up soon enough, eventually either way.”
“No,” Ashelia said. “My whole goal since Aeson died was to finish his. His goal was to avenge our mother’s death. The target has changed, but the goal hasn’t. It’s probably impossible to have his name be the one to have avenged our mother, but it still doesn’t change the fact it still needs to be done.”
Dominick’s expression softened. “They are not going to just let you leave like that, Ashelia. Trust is rare right now to you. They’ll think that you are going to speak of Marcellus military’s whereabouts.”
Ashelia bit her lip, knowing he was right.
“Excuse me,” said a maid who walked up to them and bowed. “Breakfast is ready.”
They nodded, all the while Ashelia’s head ache got worse.
Ashelia was fully aware of the blue eyes that were staring at her from the moment she came in. She couldn’t get herself to look at him, it was still too much.
“So you are all leaving after breakfast?” Queen Katrina asked, still looking as beautiful as ever. Ashelia was still wearing her soldier’s uniform, considering she still had no other clothes.
“Yes,” said Lucas. “We’ll be heading out. It seems that there have been strange and suspicious things going on across the river. We’re expecting the attack soon.”
King Evander nodded, taking a bite of his breakfast. “I hear you’re taking the Second Sword with you.”
Lucas nodded. “That’s right.”
King Evander nodded, though it was apparent he was unsure. “He wouldn’t harm us,” Ashelia said suddenly. “I’ll make sure of it.”
“Oh I’m not worried about that, I’m sure you will,” King Evander responded. “I was just worried about the rest of you in general. More rumors will spring up that will be even more unpleasant.”
Dominick scoffed. “Oh, it’ll be fine if we take him. Even if we bring him, Ashelia’s the one they’d still be talking about.”
Ashelia wasn’t sure whether to thank him or not.
“Ashelia, honey, what so you plan to do?” asked Queen Katrina. Ashelia looked up at her and saw the sincere worry in her eyes. She wondered being worried upon what it felt like to have a mother.
“I’ll stay with Lucas,” Ashelia said, avoiding everyone’s eyes. “I can’t just go back. If they see that I have vowed to Lucas, they’ll kill even me.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” said King Evander, trying to reassure me with a smile. “Even royals break the law at times.”
Ashelia looked up at him, and saw just how good of parents they were, and saw exactly that they were the ones to teach Lucas kindness. She wondered that if her mother was still alive, and her father was different, if she would have ended up different.
Of course I would, she thought.
“The only one who could break the law and get away with it is my father,” Ashelia murmured. “He wouldn’t do that. He listens to Jade…but she hates me too.”
Silence fell upon them, and Lucas’ heart started to break seeing Ashelia like that. Katrina and Evander glanced at each other, deep sympathy in their expressions.
“You’re welcome here,” said Queen Katrina.
“Anytime,” said King Evander.
“Thanks,” Ashelia smiled slightly, but inside she knew that if nothing changed and went the way things were going, she still didn’t belong there.
And she still had Aeson’s goal to finish.
Ashelia looked up cautiously and caught Lucas’ eyes.
I’m sorry, I love you, Ashelia thought as she looked at him. I’m sorry, I love you.
She gave him a slight smile, which surprised Lucas, but he gently smiled back.
A thought suddenly came into Ashelia’s head. The king and queen of Amicah are accepting of Ashelia, so…if Ashelia manages to stay here, can she finally be with Lucas?
Ashelia stared at the ring in her hand, the ring with the brand of an Eagle. Her brother’s ring.
Tears started to fall down her cheeks, sadness overflowing her.
How many lies had to happen before everything became okay? Her mother was not even killed by an enemy; she was killed by the woman who now has her title.
Memories flowed back to Ashelia. They were the faint and few memories she had of her mother. She had been killed when Ashelia and Aeson were very young, and all she could recall was the warmth of her embrace. Everything else was non-existent.
After she had died, Aeson was the one to step up and start taking care of her. Everything he did was for her, knowing each other were the only ones they had left.
But now he was gone too.
A knocking came to Ashelia’s ears, and she quickly wiped the tears away and looked to the door of her room.
It was Lucas.
“Can we talk?” he asked softly, his blue eyes catching hers.
Ashelia was uncertain, but she nodded, knowing running away from something like this was idiotic.
Lucas came in and closed the door and sat down beside her on the bed, his eyes gentle.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean it when I said I hated you.”
Ashelia mentally flinched, remembering the words being shouted from him. “Even if you did mean them,” she murmured. “I would have understood.”
“But I didn’t mean them,” he said suddenly. “I didn’t.”
Ashelia gave him a small smile, and Lucas slowly reached a finger up, brushing a tear form her face. “Are you okay?”
Ashelia quickly thoroughly wiped the rest of her face, making sure there were no more. “I was just thinking, don’t worry about it.”
Lucas stared at her, and then looked away, his eyes distant. “I wonder,” he said softly. “When exactly did I start to worry so much about you, that when I see you upset, it starts tearing me apart inside?”
Ashelia looked up at him, eyes wide.
“And when,” he continued, “Have I started thinking about you so much? And when have I started feeling you were a natural part of me, that when I turn around and you’re not there, everything feels so wrong?”
Ashelia’s fingers tightened around the ring in her hand.
What was he saying, she asked herself.
“When exactly,” Lucas murmured, looking down into Ashelia’s eyes. “Had I fallen in love with you?”
Tears started falling down Ashelia’s face again, and Lucas pulled her into his arms, embracing her tightly, never wanting to let go.
“I want to be with you,” Lucas said. “It’s not too impossible now.”
Ashelia pulled away a little, looking up at him, “Most of your people won’t accept it.”
“I don’t care,” Lucas said, caressing her cheek.
Ashelia shook her head, facing away from him. “Lucas, you have no idea how much I want to be with you too,” she said. “But—”
“But what?” Lucas asked, interrupting her. “You’ve been cautious and careful all this time, having so much on your mind. I understand that. But can’t you think simply for once? At least for this?”
Ashelia glanced at him and looked away, uncertain.
“Please,” Lucas begged. “The truth is we are able to be together now. So why can’t we be together? You want to be together right?”
“Of course I do!” Ashelia exclaimed. “But I can’t just do anything I want!”
“You never do anything you want!” Lucas said, grabbing her hand and squeezing them in his. “You’ve taken more burdens then capable of one person,” he told her. “Can’t you see that everything you’ve done, it’s been for someone else and never had it been for you?”
Ashelia looked away from him.
“Why?” Lucas asked, his voice growing soft. She looked over at him. “Why did you lie and say you wanted me to marry her?”
Ashelia shook her head. “How could I possibly tell how I had felt?” she asked him. “That I didn’t want you to marry her? I had absolutely no right to say that to you. Lucas, I was going to kill your father! I was going to ruin your kingdom, hurt your family, and most of all I was going to hurt you!”
“But you didn’t,” Lucas told her, his eyes growing soft. “You didn’t. And that is what’s important.”
Ashelia sighed. “Maybe…but it still does not give me a right to do as I please,” she murmured. “How many times had I hurt people? I’ve hurt everyone. Directly, or indirectly, it’s still true. And yet there’s still so much I have to do, which will likely involve hurting someone again.”
“Let me help you,” Lucas said. “Let us help you. You have friends here already; we’re on your side. Let us help you. You deserve to do something you want once in awhile.”
Ashelia looked up, watching him closely. His eyes burned into hers, and she felt everything he was saying. She understood what he meant, but it was the life she had taken on with her own free will.
“My life’s never been fair,” Ashelia said, tears blurring her vision. She buried herself in Lucas’ chest, everything starting to overflow out of her. The pain, the fear, everything. “I grew up wondering what would have happened if my mother never died. I sometimes fantasized about it, going shopping with a mother, doing each other’s hair, her helping me and giving me advice about everything,” Ashelia cried. “I thought of how different my father would have been. He used to be nice, you know, until she died. Everything went downhill from there. And when Aeson died…I couldn’t handle it anymore.”
Lucas cupped her chin with his hand, pulling her head up so she was looking at him. “I promise you,” he vowed, his voice having that raw determination and power that she heard at times. “I promise you, Ashelia. I’ll replace all that pain with happiness. I promise.”
Then he leaned down and kissed her, closing the space and dissipating the wall between them that had seemed to be impossible to knock down.
Queen Jade walked elegantly down to the command tents of the military campsite near the Alister River that separated the warring countries. Her dark wavy hair blew around her, but her head was held high, her eyes icy blue as she walked in to see her son.
“Mother,” said Spiridon, shocked that she was there.
“Hello, my son,” she said, embracing him. She looked up, drinking in his silver hair and hazel eyes. “How is this going?”
“Good,” Spiridon said. “But why are—”
“I just wanted to see my son,” she said as she slowly sat down on a chair. “Is that wrong?”
“No, of course not,” Spiridon said, “But you hate traveling far.”
She shrugged. “I just came back from visiting Cadence, what does another few days of travel matter?”
Spiridon stared at her, worried. “You want something, mother. I know it.”
Queen Jade sighed, standing back up. “I just want to help Aeson get back, is all?”
Spiridon continued staring at her, cautious, his eyes watchful. “You hate Aeson.”
Queen Jade threw back her head and let out a laugh. “Yes well,” she said. “I thought you did too.”
Spiridon sighed. “I’ve had a change of heart, mother. All this time I’ve treated Aeson poorly because you told me he was getting in my way of becoming king. But he never even wanted to be king, so maybe you misunderstood.”
Queen Jade shook her head, an empty smile on her face. “I’m not wrong. And he still does.”
“How can he?” Spiridon asked. “He doesn’t even know he was legal rights to the crown!”
“What he doesn’t know doesn’t hurt him, sweetie,” Queen Jade said.
“But it is wrong mother,” Spiridon said, trying desperately to get her to understand. “After Ashelia died, everything started to become surreal to me. All these lies that we had created, one day they are going to catch up to us.”
“No they won’t,” the Queen said, her voice hard. “Not if we don’t want them to.”
“But it’s wrong, mother,” Spiridon said. “We have Aeson thinking he and Ashelia were the illegitimate children. You told them that King Ezio divorced Queen Ahleya and married you before I was born!”
Queen Jade shrugged. “Is there a point to this?”
Spiridon sighed in frustration. He knew she was always like this; stubborn to her own wishes. Nothing he said seemed to ever get to her.
“The point is,” Spiridon said. “Is I’m saving Aeson and telling him everything. And you’re not going to stop me.”
Spiridon headed out of the tent, leaving the shocked Queen Jade staring after him.
Queen Jade had always doted on Spiridon, since he was her son, and he was always obedient to her. She couldn’t believe how disrespectful he was being and how he was willing to give up everything she had worked for.
Anger seeped up inside, her mind already devising plans as to how to make things change.
Ashelia may have gotten quite used to the whispers, knowing they were going to be everywhere they go, but it didn’t mean they still hurt.
Whoever said words were just words was wrong. If you understood the intention and meaning behind them they meant so much more.
“I’m sorry,” said Ashelia. “It’s because of me we got stuck in this crappy room.”
“It’s better than what I usually stay in,” Stephen muttered, looking around at the plan room. The room contained to beds that could fit two people, but the room was so small it was might as well just have been one massive bed.
“It’s fine,” said Dominick, setting down his sword holster off to the side of the wall.
“It’s not that bad,” said Lucas, looking around.
Ashelia frowned at him. “They wanted you to have the suite,” said Ashelia. “Why didn’t you take it?”
He shrugged. “There would have been no point. I hate special treatment anyway.”
Ashelia gave a small smile.
“Where are you going?” Dominick asked, finally seeing how Ashelia was putting her cloak back on.
“I want to check out the town,” Ashelia said.
“I’ll come with you,” he said.
“I will too,” said Lucas.
“I’ll go,” said Stephen, standing up from where he had just sat down.
“That’s everyone then,” murmured Ashelia, making sure the hood of her cloak was up, so maybe they wouldn’t notice her silver hair so easily and quickly.
Stephen had been allowed to come with them, after much debate and insisting. She couldn’t believe how King Evander and Queen Katrina were going for her. King Evander had all the guilt, which is true, so that would explain it. But Queen Katrina just sincerely wanted to.
“You’re blessed,” Ashelia said to Lucas as they all started heading out. “Your parents are so kind, and they’re always there for you.”
“Well,” said Lucas the rest of the three of them put up their hoods also, “After years and years of living a difficult life, you start to realize there are only a few people you can truly trust, and you do everything for them.”
It was already getting dark, and the four of them made their way through the streets of Braiosa, a small town far off away from the others. It wasn’t very prosperous, with only having small stores and buildings. No matter how much the Camuilla try to help everyone, it is nearly impossible, and there are still those that are left homeless in the streets, rummaging around to try to survive.
“Here you go,” Ashelia smiled as she gave a small girl that was sitting with what looked like her even younger brother against a wall. She looked up, her eyes light blue and wide with fright, her brother looked up also.
“T-thank you,” she stuttered, her voice so soft Ashelia could barely hear it. The girl took the coins and reached for her brother’s hand, already heading to a store for some food.
Ashelia looked around as Dominick and Lucas also went around giving other children some coins, all of their faces brightening up.
“I don’t see how my father can sit in his castle and spend so much money for things like military vessels,” Ashelia scowled as Stephen came up to her.
“King Ezio’s father was like that also,” said Stephen. “They learn from each generation.”
“It’s absurd,” Ashelia spat. “Sometimes I wonder how this war even started in the first place.”
“Most ancient archives are lost,” he said. “No one really knows.”
“Then isn’t it pointless now? King Evander and Queen Katrina seem like they would be ecstatic to end this war!”
Stephen shook his head. “All King Ezio knows is that the Camuilla did your family wrong for many generations.”
Ashelia scoffed, disgusted. She wondered off as the others went around, continuing farther into the town, seeing the many people there. The town had dirt roads, and only wooden buildings, much different from the rest of Camuilla. She pulled her hood down lower, hiding her face.
Something hit her back and she turned around to a little boy, of age about eight, and a little girl about six, both homeless, wearing tattered clothing. They had accidently run into her.
“Sorry,” said the boy, grabbing his sister’s hand and running. Ashelia figured it was to get some food, but as she kept her eyes on them, she saw the boy lead the sister to what looked like a doctor’s building.
Curiosity filled Ashelia, as did worry. She silently followed them, and the boy came in running to the woman behind the desk. The door was kept open, so Ashelia peeked in from the outside.
“Please miss!” he shouted. “My sister is sick, can you help her?”
The woman looked sympathetic to them but she shook her head.
“I have money!” the boy exclaimed, raising his hand to show her. “Help her!”
The woman leaned over, counting the money, and then a she shook her hand. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You’ll need much more than that.”
The boy’s brown eyes grew wide. “What? But, but—”
“Hey little boy!” yelled a deep voice. Ashelia looked to her left, seeing two big men walking into the building. They looked like bandits, but very extreme, dangerous ones. She could see the scars all around their bodies, and one even had a rake across the left side of his face, shutting his eyes forever. They were both armed, and had cruel smirks on their faced.
“I hear you have money,” said the one with the scar across his eye. “Give it to me.”
Ashelia’s stomach started to turn as to how cruel they could be. She could see the gold jewelry across their fingers and pierced in their ears, they didn’t need any.
The boy pulled his little sister behind him, putting on a brave face, though it was obvious he was frightened. The woman behind the desk stood up scared.
“The Drogo brothers!” she gasped.
The two brothers smirked.
“Armand—,” said the scarred one.
“And Corbett,” said the other.
“At your service,” they both said in unison.
“Please leave,” said the woman behind the desk, trying to be brave. “We don’t want trouble from you.”
Armand and Corbett stepped up, drawing their swords and stepping towards the little boy and girl.
At this point the girl was starting to cry, clinging to her brother. The boy set his jaw tight and raised his chest at the two men.
“You know,” said Corbett, pointing the sword at the boy. “We’ll leave if you just give us your money.”
“No!” the boy shouted. “I need this money! My sister is sick!”
Corbett and Armand glanced at each other, smirking. In a second Armand snatched the boy while Corbett grabbed the little girl, carrying her out of the building and out into the streets. The boy started thrashing around, trying desperately to punch Armand, but Armand just laughed, carrying him over his shoulder into the middle of the dirt street also. The little girl in Corbett’s arms was screaming and bawling at the top of her lungs.
Everyone in the streets stopped and stared, some gasping with surprise. Murmurs rose up, and whispers started speaking about the Drogo brothers. As Ashelia listened, she found out they were famous bandit brothers, going around threatening everyone and even killing. All the things they had were from money they had stolen.
“Hey!” Corbett yelled to everyone, his eyes wide from adrenaline. “Look here, there’s a little girl and boy who won’t seem to listen to us. They need to be punished, don’t they?!”
Corbett dropped the girl down, who fell to her knees, still crying. The brother in Armand’s arms started screaming and thrashing about even more.
Corbett raised his sword above his head, and looked around. “Does anyone object?!” he called.
“Does anyone want to step up?!” called Armand.
Ashelia looked around, seeing if anyone dared. She saw some other homeless children looking, their faced scared and full of sorrow. She could see they wanted to, but they had no fighting chance. As she looked on, she saw men who if they banded together, could probably take them on.
But none of them moved. Most of them just looked away, not wanting to see it.
Anger surged through Ashelia, not understanding how they could just stand there.
“Of course not!” Corbett yelled, and proceeded to start bringing the sword down. The boy screamed, reaching out to his sister with tears running down his face.
Without thinking, Ashelia flashed forward, drawing her sword and stopping it from falling down to the girl.
A surprised expression crossed the Drogo brothers’ faces, and Armand lost good grip on the boy, and he fell to the ground, running to his sister.
“I hate people like you,” Ashelia spat at him. “You’re nothing but cowards who are too lazy to actually get up your ass and do some real work.”
Furious expression’s came over both their faces, and before Ashelia knew it Armand shot forward with his own sword. Ashelia dodged it, sliding Corbett’s sword away from her and blocking Armand’s. They both came at her, their swords blinding, and Ashelia was driven back, falling into the crowd who scattered around. Ashelia saw an opening and slashed at Corbett, who blocked the attack, but she kicked him, making him fall back into Armand.
Ashelia could see it now; the advantage. Ashelia has had real training, and all they had were experience in the streets. Their fighting was sloppy, messy. And Ashelia had a real chance at this.
“Who are you?!” Corbett shouted at Ashelia as he spit out blood, him and his brother taking stance again.
Ashelia drew her hood back away from her face, revealing her silver hair, which had grown well past her shoulders. Gasps came around from every corner, eyes widened, and a deathly expression came upon the Drogo brothers’ faces.
Ashelia couldn’t be more satisfied.
She pointed the sword at both of them, letting her emotions come over her; she looked around, catching everyone’s eyes.
“I can’t believe all of you either,” she said, her voice rising. “You have two helpless children about to be slaughtered right in front of you and you do nothing. Nothing.”
Armand and Corbett let out a vicious laugh.
“It’s always been this way,” Armand laughed. “Can’t you see? These villagers have always been this way. That’s the way the world works! Normal people don’t spend their time helping others, they have better thing to do like shopping.”
“That’s right,” spat Corbett. “We were once like these children also, and we got sick of it. So we survived, our own way.”
Ashelia looked around at everyone, seeing the shame all across their faces and saw that what they were saying was true.
“It’s not too late,” Ashelia told them. “It’s not too late.”
Armand and Corbett came at her, angrier than before, meaning more strength. She staggered back and blocked as Armand swung his sword at her. In the corner of her eye doom came at her as she realized Corbett had ran around, circling to behind her, and raised his sword, his eyes full of anger, along with what looked like craziness.
Ashelia quickly let go of her footing, letting herself fall to the ground to jump forward and get away. It was almost successful, to which Armand had hit her sword, knocking it out of her hand and making it slide across to the homeless children watching. Their eyes were wide with fear.
Corbett and Armand stepped up to her as she looked up to them, fear starting to sink in.
“My apologies, Prince Ashelia,” smirked Armand.
“But there really is something as ‘too late’,” smirked Corbett. He raised his sword, and Ashelia closed her eyes in disbelief.
Images and memories came back, running through her head.
It started when she was little, all the memories of her mother coming back to her. It quickly transitioned to all the times she was with Aeson, and she suddenly longed for his smile. Their deaths came, and her life flashed as she took her brother’s identity. She saw Philo’s smiling face, and then flashed over to Lucas.
Oh, Ashelia cried inside herself, I never even told him how I felt.
She could hear the wind rushing past as the sword started swinging down to her, and then there was a loud, thundering, steel against steel clash.
Ashelia opened her eyes to see a boy at age about fourteen in front of her. He had her sword in his hands, and she saw that he had blocked Corbett’s sword.
“Matt, Lily, run back to the others,” he said to the boy and girl who had been harassed by the Drogo brothers. The two nodded, running towards the other homeless kids.
“Are you alright?” he asked, glancing back to Ashelia.
“Y-yes,” she stuttered, surprised.
“Boy,” growled Armand, stepping forward and raising his sword. “What are you doing?”
“I’m doing what’s right!” the boy yelled, emotion edging every being of his voice. It rose up to the others watching, their faces torn. “For years Braiosa has been a very poor town, but you want to know why that is? It’s because of stupid jerks like you two!”
“Watch your mouth boy,” Corbett scowled.
“But it’s also our fault,” the boy said, his voice softer, but the power held on, raising all the villagers heads. “It’s our fault for letting this go on. If all of us banded together, we could take these two on. Heck, we could take every bandit who came this way! But we’re all already so full of fear we can’t even stand up to two!”
Ashelia stood up, watching him, and she suddenly got reminded of Aeson. So much so that tears almost started to fill her eyes.
A man suddenly stepped forward, looking around at everyone.
“The boy is right!” he announced, declaring it to everyone. “All this time, we’ve let fear run our lives, and let it stay like that because to us it is ‘normal’. It is not normal.”
“That’s right!” said another man, stepping forward.
More cheers broke out, and the town’s people started stepping forward. Confusion filled the Drogo brothers’ expression, and they couldn’t believe it. Ashelia could see the fear starting to build in their eyes.
The brother’s started to step back in towards each other, their eyes filling with uncertainty.
“Step back!” Corbett threatened, raising his sword at all of them
“We’re warning you!” Armand growled, but everyone could hear the slight shaking.
The villagers came forward, and Ashelia held out her hand to the fourteen year old boy. He smiled at her and gave her back her sword. She stepped forward towards them, backed up by the villagers there. She pointed her sword towards both of them, a smirk on her face.
“You Drogo brothers are dead here,” Ashelia said. “Unless you want to face revolt by everyone here, leave all your jewelry here, flee, and never come back.”
Corbett and Armand glanced at each other, then hustled to get all their jewelry off. They dropped everything on the ground and dropped their swords. Ashelia nodded at the villagers to let them go.
“It’ll be pointless to spend any effort on them,” she said.
The villagers nodded and made a pathway for them, allowing them to run. They all watched as they went away from their view.
All eyes went to Ashelia as she walked over and picked up a piece of jewelry. She motioned for the homeless boy that had defended her earlier to come to her. He went, his blue eyes wide. Ashelia gently took his hand and dropped the piece of jewelry in, and then she closed his hand over it, smiling at him.
She looked over and saw that the other homeless kids had gathered closer to him.
“What is your name?” Ashelia asked.
“Angelo,” he said.
“Angelo,” Ashelia repeated, testing out the name in her tongue. “Angel. It suits you.”
Angelo smiled, his face turning a little pink.
Ashelia grinned at him. “Angelo, I want you take all this jewelry and use it up for you and your friends. Get all of you shelter, food, and medical care, especially to Lily over there,” she said, gesturing towards where Matt held Lily. Both their faces brightened up.
“Then,” Ashelia continued. “I want you to continue defending this town, just as you had defending me. In fact, I now name you all the Braiosa Guards.” Ashelia stood up, catching every town’s person watching’s eye. “Does anyone object?”
They all shook their heads, agreeing to Ashelia.
Ashelia smiled at Angelo again. “See that? It’s never too late.”
Angelo bowed deeply. “Thank you, Princess Ashelia!”
The other homeless children joined in, bowing to, their voices in union. “Thank you, Princess Ashelia!”
Ashelia looked up as the town’s people who had witnessed everything also joined in, bowing in thanks. “Thank you, Princess Ashelia!”
Ashelia’s whole face turned hot, knowing she was blushing deeply. After some more smiles, they all started to disperse, getting on with their lives.
New lives, Ashelia thought.
Ashelia started walking back; a smile still plastered across her face, seeing how there really was still good in the world. As she walked back to where she had left the others, she was still grinning to herself as they emerged from a store.
“There you are!” Lucas exclaimed, running to her. Dominick and Stephen tagged along, carrying bags of things.
“Why is your hood down?” Stephen asked, looking around. “Villagers are already whispering, Ashelia.”
Ashelia shrugged. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, courage radiating from her. Optimism surged through her entire body, thinking that maybe everything will turn our alright. Maybe even perfectly.
It might have just been one encounter with homeless children and bandits, but it was exactly what she needed.
“Excuse me,” said a man. They all turned to see the manager of the Inn they were staying at. The one who made them stay at a poor room. “I saw what you did,” he said, his eyes apologetic. He suddenly bowed, then looked Ashelia in the eyes. “I was wrong. Please, take the suite, free of charge.”
The three’s jaws dropped as Ashelia just grinned at him.
“Thank you so much,” she smiled at him. He gave her a thankful smile and walked away.
“What was that?” Dominick asked, shocked.
“And I am serious,” said Stephen, looking around. “What’s up with the villagers, they are all staring. Even more than usual too.”
“It’s okay,” Ashelia repeated, reaching up and pulling Lucas’ hood down. She gave him a smile, and Lucas instantly smiled back, seeing how happy she was. “I want them to see,” she said as she leaned up and kissed him.
“This is it,” Spiridon said, his whole body tense and anxious. “After weeks of preparation, tonight is the night.”
A lieutenant nodded. “New moon tonight and the sky are filled with clouds. It’s the best time.”
“I got the information from the soldier I have as my spy,” said General Andreas. “It’s true. General Demetrius is leaving for the Amicah base up north. Apparently he’s going to visit Lucas.”
Spiridon nodded, taking everything in. “Perfect. It is better timing then I thought.”
General Andreas stood up, and the other Lieutenants and captains did also.
“Shall we get started, then?” the General asked.
Spiridon looked up at him, his hazel eyes bright and determined.