The Outlaw

The Outlaw

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

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Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

Summary

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Summary

Please review. Feedback appreciated

Chapter1 (v.1) - The kingdom

Author Chapter Note

All my chapters written thus far is here. Could not separate chapters

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 30, 2017

Reads: 30

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 30, 2017

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The days in Moralis were all the same. Everyone had routine and were predictable. I walked the halls of the kingdom, careful to not meet the eyes of guards who stood blocking certain doorways. Doorways I wanted; doors I needed access too. My heels clicked as I continued down the hall, my long ivory dress dragging behind me as I went, just a little bit further I thought to myself. I had almost made it, of course i never, that would have been too easy. “And where are you off to Ensley Rose?” The voice came from behind me. I turned to see Jacob Feener, he stood tall. His beer belly hung out over his pants, his shirt buttoned tight, he wore a guards uniform that was much to small for him. I felt my heart pound as he revealed his crooked yellow smile, and stroked his ugly black beard. Feener was my sister's most trusted guard, meaning he was my worst enemy. I stood up straighter building my confidence as I began my lie, “I’m going out to the gardens to tend to my flowers, then perhaps out to the stables to visit with my horses; It's a rather beautiful day for both” I lied. Feener looked at me waiting to find any trace of the lie I had just told him, but he wouldn't find it. I was a good liar, I had to be. “Fine, just stay out of trouble princess. No leaving castle grounds, your sister's orders. Are we clear?” he said. “Clear” I responded. I turned on my heels, a smile playing on my face, because off of castle grounds is exactly where I had intended to go. I walked through two more hallways until I made it to the bottom of a stair case, I waited until I was alone in the hallway before loosening a brick and finding the handle to open a secret entry way. I slipped behind the wall shutting the door quickly, not many people knew this existed. My sister had likely forgotten of its existence, but i remembered. My father had showed us when we were just young girls, an escape route out of the castle and into the village incase we had ever needed it. Since my sister Jada had become queen and my parents died it has been my escape route for everything. I grabbed a match and lit the torch illuminating the tunnel. On the floor my bag was in the same place I had left it, I quickly undressed pulling my dress off and crumpling it on the ground, my dress now had spots of dirt streaking the satin. I smiled at my small but simple act, I hated these dresses. The more dresses I ruined the more it would anger jade which was the icing on the cake. I quickly pulled a pink hoodie out of my bag and a black pair of slacks. I threw it all on, finally kicking my heels off to the side and tying up my track sneakers. Next, I grabbed a second bag. I peeked in to make sure it was all their, sure enough all of my gold jewelry and a few gold artifacts from the castle Which I had stored was still their. I tightened the drawstrings around my bag and slung it around my shoulder. I had to be quick if I was going to make it back without being caught. Running through the tunnels could get confusing if you weren't familiar with them, thankfully I knew every inch of the tunnel. I ran as fast a I could, It took about 15 minutes for me to get to where I needed. I quickly unlocked the hatch and jumped out locking it behind me. The exit of the tunnels was just outside of the village in the woods. I looked around and there was no one, so I ran another 5 minutes with my hood up hiding my face until I reached city limits. When I reached the village I was careful to keep my head down, careful not to make any eye contact with anyone. If I was in the village and somebody saw me it would get to the guards almost instantly. There was only a few people I could trust in the village to do what was needed to be done. I took mainly alleys and back roads until I made it to a small tavern, Pariahs tavern to be exact. I pushed open the old wooden door and made my way upstairs to the same room as always careful not to mingle with any of the guests. The stairs creaked as I climbed higher and higher, finally reaching the top floor where old Pariah sat at his desk flipping through an old book. “Pariah” he looked up. His face was had gotten more withered these last couple years, his age beginning to creep up on him. He would never tell me his age, but most people said he had been around for a long time, some suspecting he was nearing his nineties. He placed his glasses on the desk and closed his book beckoning me over. “Miss Rose this is dangerous you know, you're putting yourself in a dangerous position, especially with the extra guards who have been around lately. If any of them were to catch you I would imagine your sister would be none to pleased” he said. I sat down across from him, placing the bag in front of him, opening it for him to see. “I know the risks Pariah. I just can't sit their and do nothing. She's starving our people. Many of them losing their homes for her greed. Children starving to death. How much do you think this will get?” He looked through the bag moving things around to see the value of them. “Well it's more than last time. I would say it's enough to feed many of the villagers for maybe a week once the gold is all melted down”he finally said. I tapped my hand along the table, last time I had only got them about four days worth of food, at least it was a bit more. “And you will make sure everyone is fed?” “Everyone, your majesty.” I stood up pulling my hood over my head once more “I must get back to the castle, I've been gone for too long already” he nodded in agreement “you are doing what you can princess, don't forget that. Now make sure not to take any main roads, the guards have had a big presence in the village lately. They must suspect something. It's only a matter of time before they come to me looking for answers. And know princess your name will never escape my lips” he bowed. I trusted Pariah with my life. It was because of our joint effort that people were being able to eat, he knew it and so did I. I left the tavern quickly, careful to take no main roads. I ran the same way I came, I was almost to the outskirts of the village when a scream stopped me in my tracks. The scream came from a girl, I looked around and there was no one. And when I heard the scream again I moved closer to the main road to see what was happening, positive it's where the scream came from. A group of villagers had gathered round the commotion making it hard to see, but once I pushed passed them I could see what was happening. A girl no older than eight sat on the ground crying, her mother being held back by guards. “Please, please! She didn't know any better. She was just so hungry. Please just don't take her hand it will not happen again! Mercy for my child please” It felt like a knife twisted in my stomach. The little girl sat on the ground with a granola bar next to her. She had stolen a little granola bar. I watched for what the guards were going to do next praying they would be lenient. They couldn't take her hand for this. Could they? I watched one of the guards, Dudley grab the little girl from the ground and hold out her arm as another guard Pat unsheathed his sword. Villagers all around me shut their eyes or turned away knowing what was coming, and knew the child didn't deserve it. Both child and mother cried out and as Pat lifted the sword to take her hand I knew what I had to do. I ran out into the middle where the child was “Stop right now” I pulled down my hood holding my breath. These guards knew me, they knew I had no real power or authority thanks to Jada. The only thing that might save this little girl was the fact the villagers were unaware of the lack or authority I held. The guards wouldn't dare let the villagers know that by going against me in public. It would raise questions. Pat's eyes locked on me “that's an order” I said again. He put the sword in its sheath “let the girl go. Now. And her mother” I said to Dudley. He hesitantly let the girl go, who ran over to her mother. All guards looked at me knowing I had broken the rules leaving the castle. They couldn't touch me yet, not in front of the villagers. “So sorry princess ensley, won't happen again” Pat said. He bowed along with the other guards. All a show. The wickedness in their faces told me everything I needed to know, I would be brought straight to Jada as soon as I was out of sight. Villagers surrounded me bowing, cheering, offering gifts. The mother and child thanking me as they made their way home. I noticed Pariah in the crowd as I was about to leave to my leave and gave him a solemn nod hoping he understood my conscience couldn't let that girl lose a hand. I waved good bye to the villagers and walked out of the village the guards all walking behind me, as soon as I was out of eyesight I was grabbed by both of my arms and hauled back to the kingdom. I fought the entire way back, kicking and thrashing against them as they finally Got me through the castle doors. I knew I wasn't going anywhere but it didn't mean I couldn't make it hard for them. My pants were scuffed with dirt from being dragged on the ground my knees burning but I kept fighting. The two guards dragging me lifted me up as they opened the throne room doors revealing my sister and two boys both dressed in fine clothing, no doubt royals or of some importance. I couldn't make out either of their faces as I continued fighting the two guards, they finally threw me to the ground right in front of the queen bitch herself, Jada. “ What is the meaning of this, Pat? Dudley? I was in an important meeting with our guests from the south” she sounded irritated. No doubt her unruly sister being dragged into the throne room was apart of whatever plans she had with the two boys. “So sorry your majesty. The princess was found in the village. She stopped us from carrying out a punishment on a villager” Pat said. “Ensley?” I looked up at one of the boys who spoke my name, Archer gray. Archer and I had been betrothed since birth when my father was alive. As soon as he died my sister revoked it. I didn't care none the less, my sister probably wanted him for herself. He wasn't a bad looking guy, for 18 he was quite handsome actually and soon to be king of the south but I wasn't tore up when the engagement was called off, that was the least of my worries. We had only met a handful of times throughout the years, and every time we met we managed to argue. He had always picked on me as a child. He looked shocked as his green eyes searched mine, I couldn't much blame him. I knelt on the floor in a hoodie and scuffed up pants being dragged into the throne room, not exactly what you expect to see of a princess. I only nodded at him and turned my attention back to Jada who was even more miffed that Archer had spoken to me. “Well sister. Causing trouble again in the kingdom, you know what that means don't you?” I stood up facing Jada. Her red hair was tied back in a braid, she looked like my father whereas I was blonde and looked like my mother. “Yes sister go ahead and throw me in the dungeons. I'll gladly walk down there myself. Your starving our people, a little girl almost had her hand chopped off because of hunger. You're pathetic. I'll never regret standing up for my people. You've done nothing but ruin this kingdom because of greed!” I yelled. I wanted to jump at her, but the guards stood closely behind me ready to grab me if I made an attempt. Jada laughed but I could tell she was angry “little sister you better be mindful of who is queen around here or the dungeons will be a lenient punishment. I could do a lot worse, but I will be merciful considering you are my sister” she quipped. I rolled my eyes. “Guards take her to the dungeons until I feel like she has learned her lesson” they went to grab me but I shrugged them off “I know the way fellas. Archer, lovely to see you again” I gave the biggest phoney, mocking curtsey I could muster which made him laugh and batted my eyelashes through all the dirt and sweat I was covered with knowing it was anger Jada. I gave one quick look back as I headed for the dungeons and one thing was for sure, Jada was seeing red and I would definitely hear about this. I absolutely hated the dungeons. The cells were dark and smelled musty, rats ran across the cement floors but the one good thing about the dungeon was that I loved the people down there. The guards opened the cell door and pushed me in with 5 other cell mates. “Again ensley?” Freddie asked. I laughed and sat down in my corner of the cell I usually occupied. “Why of course friends. I can't stay out of trouble” they all smiled sadly knowing the real reason I was down here. They knew about my trips to the village and everything else I tried to do for Moralis and felt bad about the hand I was dealt. They all respected me. And although they were all in here for different crimes I had learned to respect these people as well. Most of them didn't belong in here, but thanks to Jadas rule here they were, sitting in the cell next to me. Sadly, none of them were ever let out. I filled them in on the details of what had happened, all five eager to learn about what was becoming of Moralis. They all still had families who lived their, children. I had told Pariah to especially look out for their families, make sure they had enough food to eat. It was only a small gesture but the only one I was able to make. “One of these days you will take back this kingdom Ensley, and fix all the wrongs your sister have created. I'm sure of it” said Freddie. I smiled a sad smile. I would love nothing more than to lead this kingdom and free the people of Jadas tyranny, but it wouldn't happen. She was the rightful heir to the throne by birth, but if my father had been alive just a bit longer I would have been queen. He had told me months before He died he was in the process of overturning the law, for he could chose a daughter to rule his kingdom when he died. He had told me he did not trust Jada with this kingdom although it was her birthright. He had seen Jadas lust for power, for greed, as did I. He knew this kingdom would suffer at the hands of Jada, and he was right to think so. I managed to change the conversation, nobody needed to know how little faith I had. The days were long in the dungeon, I was on my third night there when something changed. We had all been sleeping, well trying to when we heard a guard yell out. I woke with a start, as footsteps neared the dungeon more than one set. Before either of us could comprehend what was happening a small group of men were at our cell door “in here, she's in here” the voice said. I knew they were talking about me, I had been the only female. The keys clanged as they opened the cell door and in walked Archer gray. Something was off about him as he walked in, the way he had carried himself told me he was not my friend in this situation. “Archer? What's going on” he grabbed my arm and shoved me, pulling me out of the cell before any of the other prisoners could react. His face was cold and calculated “Ensley Rose you are now a hostage of the south, don't make this harder this it needs to be” my mouth dropped. He couldn't be serious. He's got to be kidding me. He grabbed a pair of shackles from his men shackling me before I could put up a fight. I searched his eyes looking for any hint of the boy I had once knew and I didn't see it. He was being serious. I backed up against my cell “Archer no, you can't take me away from here, my people need me” I pleaded with him. I didn't know why I was being taken hostage but all I knew was I couldn't leave Moralis, not while my people were starving. I couldn't do anything for them as a hostage in the south. My plea fell on deaf ears. I thought I seen a hint of understanding but it was gone as quick as it was there. “Come on sir, grab her and let's go” one of the men said. “No!” I yelled. I hit one of the men who neared with my hands shackled threatening him to stay away “do it” was all Archer muttered and I felt a Sharp pain in my neck. I watched as the man withdrew a needle from my neck, my legs instantly collapsed, Archer grabbing me before I fell, this was going to knock me out. I felt everything begin to go black. “Here your majesty, I'll carry her” the same man who had pierced me with the needle. “No, no one touches the girl. I'll take her” he whispered and with that Archer picked me up into his arms and my world went black. I woke, hitting my head off the door. I blinked a few times waking myself up and looked around. I was in a carriage, it bumped along the road as I opened the curtains looking out, I was no longer in Moralis. Instead I was in the south. I had only been their twice but it was familiar to me as I watched the city structures pass by. My stomach dropped, how long had I been out for?. I looked across from where I was sitting, Archer Gray watched me silently. My hands had been unshackled, I contemplated jumping across and attacking him but knew he would win, and that his men were only an earshot away, ready to take me down and shoot me up with another needle if need be. A coward's way out in my opinion. We both sat back staring at each other, well glaring on my part if I was honest. He waited for me to say something, and when it became clear that I wasn't going to speak he finally spoke up. “Ensley…” “don't”. I cut him off, “I don't wish to speak to you, I don't even want to look at you. The faster you get me to your dungeons the better, I have nothing left to say to you” my voice carried no emotion, exactly how I was feeling, numb. My eyes started to well up, no I wasn't going to cry, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction, but the pain was too great and the tears came. I swiped at them with my sleeve quickly wiping them away. “You won't be kept in the dungeons” he said quietly. His voice sounding sad, almost as if he felt guilt, so he should I thought. People would be starving to death in my kingdom over whatever petty game Archer and Jada were playing at and I was the pawn. I refused to speak to him the rest of the way, he tried a handful of times asking me questions or asking if I needed anything but I pretended he wasn't there. When the carriage finally rolled to a stop Archer paused before getting out “I don't want to shackle you again Ensley” he said softly. “Don't then. Just know I'll fight the entire way” I said. “Please Ensley” he pleaded. “I'm a hostage am I not? Don't give me any special privileges. You started this now finish it. You were brave enough when you took me against my will, you never faltered in front of your men. Now all I see is a coward. Too afraid to finish what he started” I said. I could tell I struck a nerve, he shackled me without another thought, men never like to be called cowards and I knew it, especially Archer gray who prided himself on being anything but a coward. He was known for being strong, a fighter who would go into any battle with his men without a thought and I had damaged his pride. Archer left the carriage without saying anything else, I stayed sat down refusing to come out willingly, so a guard dragged me out. I fought most of the way, but I finally got to tired and went limp letting the guards pull me the rest of the way. Maids who walked the halls looked me up and down as I was dragged through the castle halls not sure what to make of me, when we finally made it to the hightower they opened a door revealing a room complete with a king size all white canopy bed, sky blue walls. The room had its own sitting room and extravagant bathroom attached with a view of the garden. These were royal chambers, and this was to be my prison while I was here. I slammed the doors practically pushing the guards out who now stood on the outside guarding my doors making sure I was truly trapped in here. I walked in circles around my room furious. All I could think about was my kingdom and how I could no longer help them. I did not rest for hours, finally when I got sick of brewing I got into the shower. The shower washed off all the dry dirt and blood that had accumulated over the past few days, and when I got out I scoffed looking at the arrangement of dresses in the closet. All were beautifully tailored and my size. Someone must if sent ahead that I was coming and had them ready upon arrival. I put on the plainest dress that was there, which wasn't really plain at it. The light pink dress was fitted went to the floor with diamonds covering the bodice. I looked in the mirror, I had looked like a princess again, even though I was anything but here, I was still a hostage no matter how they wanted to dress it up. I sat on the bed, mind racing. Why the hell was I taken hostage anyways? Jada wouldn't even care. She wouldn't even bat an eyelash, if he was trying to manipulate her for something he wouldn't get it, not for me. Hadn't he realized that? I paced the room again, although I made a spectacle of not talking to the future king I was going to have to. Maybe if I explained to him that this was all for nothing he would let me go back. I ate my dinner in the chambers alone, and when I was done I waited a bit later into the evening to make my request. They would probably laugh in my face. I opened the exit of my room where two guards stood “Take me to the Prince” I waited for them to laugh or send me back in my room, instead the beckoned me forward taking me to him. He must of wanted to be informed of I wished to speak to him. I followed the guards, my dress trailing behind me. My hair loosely pinned out of my eyes, I looked good. I made simple look good no matter how much I tried not to. I waited outside the study, as one of the guards knocked and went in, he came back a minute later opening the door for me to go in the stepping outside closing the door behind me, leaving only Archer and I. I walked across the room, Archer sat in his desk going through a pile of documents. He looked up from them and blushed when he saw me, I looked like a whole different person now. He took a minute to take me in and quickly looked back at his documents. I sat down in the seat across from him and crossed my arms. “I trust the wardrobe it up to your standards” he said leaning back in his chair. He looked tired as he ran his fingers through his hair yawning. “I didn't realize hostages had standards” I said coldly. Before I could stop myself I kept going. I was upset and it was all spilling out. “Archer you took me for nothing. Whatever you want from Jada you're not going to get, I mean nothing to Jada, you actually did her a favour by getting rid of me. I thought we were at least friends Archer, and you go and take me hostage for some petty thing with Jada!” He let me speak without interrupting, without saying a word just watching, my rant went on. “I worked so hard for my people giving them what I could in the circumstances, fighting against Jada whenever I could and you took all that away from me, and you made it all for nothing by taking me” I finally stopped not sure what else to say. “It wasn't for nothing. You are safe and you are in my kingdom where no harm will come to you. I didn't want anything from Jada, I heard whispers, rumours about what was happening back at court. I knew you were in trouble, and when I got there and seen the guards drag you in the throne room I knew the rumours had been true and I knew I had to get you out of there” his cheeks reddened at the admission but I kept listening. “I know you're upset but I made the best decision I could. Taking you hostage was all a ploy for Jada, she had nothing I wanted. You're not a hostage in a sense Ensley, I want you as an Allie, I want you to take back your kingdom. Jada is not a sound ruler, she is a tyrant and we both know it, eventually that will effect my kingdom as well. That's why I took you hostage, I couldn't have Jada think I saved you just to kick her off the throne, she would never allow it, she would send assassins to kill you before that ever happened” I suddenly felt bad. I believed what archer was saying, I believed he was genuine and I believed he wanted me on the throne. “Really? You're willing to help me get back my kingdom?” I asked finally. He nodded a half smile playing on his face, he had waited for me to calm down before making the admission, my temper getting the best of me. “Well”I said finally ready to break the tension “who knew Archer Gray had a soft spot for me” I batted my eyelashes kicking him playfully with my foot. He stood up laughing “you wish princess, no one gives you a hard time but me. Not even Jada. That's my job” I grinned knowing Archer had always been the one to test me, picking on me had always been a special hobby of his. I stood up with him never realizing how much I would appreciate Archer “Thanks, for everything” I whispered quietly. He played it off like it was no big deal but it was. What we were going to do was a huge deal. He opened the door of his study and dismissed the guards walking me back to my rooms himself. “I was truly sorry to hear of your fathers passing, he was a great king, and I'm sure a great father” he said. I walked next to him as he led me toward my rooms “you're right, he was. A great man indeed. I hope to follow in his footsteps one day” “I'm  sure you will. He always spoke highly of you Ensley, the last time I spoke to him he told me I would have my hands full with you, that I would finally meet my match. He said you would drive me to be a better king, as you had drove him” I smiled at his story of my father. My father had always told me he wouldn't of been half the king he was without me, his little advisor he would call me. “Ensley I must ask you something, I've wondered time and time again. Know your answer won't change me helping you”he said. we were both at my chambers now and I knew what he was going to ask “Was it you who wrote that letter and ended our betrothal” he looked shy and almost embarrassed, I could tell he really wanted to know and had been fighting the urge to ask me all day. “No. I never ended our betrothal. Jada had been behind the letter. She told me she had a far better man for me to marry, Ryker Canning of the north.” Archers eyes widened “he's a snake, he's known for his cruelty towards women. You've never been alone with him have you? Did he hurt you?” He looked a mix between worried and angry. “Calm down Gray, I can handle myself” I said shrugging it off. Archer was all serious now, his face stern “that was not the question, Did he hurt you or ever lay his hands on you Ensley?” He waited for an answer impatiently. Everyone across the kingdoms heard the rumours, everyone seen Ryker Cannings cruelty. When I had met Ryker I knew right away he was a monster, just by the way he carried himself. He had been to the castle twice making arrangements with Jada to marry me off to him, most time I was lucky enough to avoid him, slip away without him seeing me. Once however I was not so lucky, and he had cornered me showing me his brutality. I went back to that night, I had been out of my chambers late, looking for gold around the castle to take to the village. “You're avoiding me princess” I turned around not realizing Ryker was there. He walked toward me, smug that he had finally cornered me while I was alone. “Sorry I have been busy” I turned away from him to walk away but he grabbed me by the arm throwing me against the wall. He pinned me to the wall, the alcohol on his breath evident, it was the first time I was truly scared for my impending future with him. He had his hand around my neck, a mark I had to conceal for days after “you girl are going to be married to me soon enough and I can guarantee all the rumours you've heard about me are true. You may be able to hide and be safe behind your castle walls now but the time is coming where you will come back to the North with me and you'll have no choice but to face me” I grimaced from his grip which tighten around my neck. “Your sister has promised me great things in accepting your hand and I intend to accept them. Be wary that I won't be so tolerant next time of your blatant ignorance, you will soon be mine and I will not let you smite me as you have, take this as a warning Ensley, you will not cross me when you are in my castle. Everything will have consequences, there will be no muttering about in the middle of the night like you are so used to here, you will have order in my castle. Until next time, princess” he finally let go and I fell to the ground gasping for air taking in his threat. His cold black eyes haunted me for nights afterwards. The thought of him truly did scare me after that, every night waking me up with nightmares knowing he would soon collect on their arrangement whatever that had been. Archer pulled me away from the memory “well? I'm waiting for an answer Ensley” he said again. He could read it on my face, there was no use lying to him. If we were truly allies now he had to be made aware Ryker could come looking for me, and it was an all too real possibility. I opened the door to my chambers and Archer followed me in as I recounted the same memory of being cornered by Ryker to him. It was the first time I had ever told anyone about what had happened less than a month ago, and it felt good to not have it bottled up anymore. I had even told him about the nightmares, which he really didn't need to know but just sort of slipped out. Archer was stoic, but the viciousness he felt radiated from his eyes the deeper I got into the memory and when I finally finished we just sat their looking at each other. I waited for him to speak but he never, he seemed to be deep in a thought of his own. “You wanted to know, well that's what happened” I said hoping he would break the silence. “We're you scared of him?” He finally asked quietly without looking at me. Yes, of course I was. I was terrified about my life with Ryker, I knew it would be better if I had spent my life in the dungeons rather than marry him. Archer didn't need to know that much though “After that night I was, I won't lie.” I settled on finally. Archer stood up clearly shaken “you should have wrote to me, you should have told me what was going on Ensley I could have helped you a lot sooner. Why didn't you write?” He asked. I had thought about it, I had wanted to but I didn't want to burden anyone with my problems. I had considered writing him numerous times, I had hoped he would help me and now I realize he would have in a heartbeat. I had known his father king Tristian would have helped me, his father had always liked me, our fathers had been best friends and he thought of me as a daughter. I shrugged not knowing what to say. “There has to be a reason” he said again. “I didn't want to burden you. I tried to handle it myself and clearly I couldn't” my voice broke. everything I hadn't been able to admit to myself was coming out, archer was good at that. He punched the wall angrily walking around the room frustrated “you're angry with me” I said. “I'm not” he shouted. “Yes you are, you just punched a wall” I said pointing out the obvious dent in my wall. “That's not it, that's not it at all” he said. “Then what is it then?” I stomped my foot like an angry child. He wanted to know and I had told him and now I feel like I shouldn't have. “I'm angry at myself for not coming sooner, when the rumours had started. I'm angry for not being there when Ryker did that, I'm angry I wasn't there every time Jada through you in a cell for doing the right thing for you people, for every time you were punished and I wasn't there, and for every time you decided you couldn't write me and ask for help. I'm angry I wasn't there, I could have been there Ensley” I realized then he had acquired feelings for me some point down the line and I hadn't noticed. I was so used to us having an arranged marriage that I didn't notice when he actually started to develop these feelings that were true and genuine and now he was blaming himself for something he could not be blamed for. “I need some air” he finally said. “Will you still be awake in 30 minutes?” I nodded knowing I couldn't leave the discussion between us like this before going to bed. He stormed out of the room leaving me by myself. It felt nice knowing someone cares so much, but archer shouldn't blame himself, if anyone's to blame for all of this its Jada. I took off my dress and grabbed a plain white nightdress that came to my knees, the satin felt nice against my skin, better than what the dress had felt. They were always so uncomfortable. I then unpinned my hair letting it fall loosely around my face as I prepared myself for bed. I unlocked the balcony doors and stood outside in the chill night air, and saw Archer. He was far off in the distance with a bow and arrow shooting at targets, a real archer. He was a good shot, everyone had known that about him. I watched silently careful not to let him see me as I watched him shoot over and over. When he finished I shut the balcony door behind me, knowing he would be making his way back up here. I fiddled around my room anxious for him to come back and finish our conversation, I felt safe when archer was around. A feeling I had not felt in a long time. Almost 30 minutes on the dot passed when A knock came at my door. I peaked out making sure it was Archer before letting him in. He was calmed down now as he walked back into my room, carrying two pieces of chocolate cake laying them on the table where we both sat. “I trust you still have a sweet tooth” I dug into the cake right away not even answering him making him laugh “that answers that question then” he smiled. I grabbed a bottle of wine that had been in my Mini fridge pouring us both up a glass to wash down the cake. “I hope this stuff is free” I said handing him the glass. He grinned as I sat back down sipping on my wine. “I'm sorry for earlier, it was a lot to take in. I knew it was bad, I didn't realize how bad” I poured him another glass of wine as he had finished his off right away. “Don't apologize. It was a lot and in no way your fault” I said. He didn't agree with me instead saying “I won't let him get to you, Ryker. You're safe from him here. I don't want you to be scared of that anymore” I nodded. “Thank you. I believe you when you say that. It's comforting” he smiled a soft smile. He finished off another glass of wine which surprised me, Archer was never a big drinker. I poured him a third glass “Archer Gray you better slow down, the next rumour that will be milling about is that I got the crown prince drunk in my room. The people will love that, what a scandal” he chuckled almost spitting out the wine. “I can't help it. You make me nervous” he said candidly. I raised my eyebrows ushering him to say more “Something about you, Ensley, intimidates me. Not in a bad way but it's like you stir something in me” he admitted. I smiled blushing, feeling brave I decided to push him further “it seems that soft spot you have for me is bigger than I thought” I teased. “I won't deny it. I have certain feelings for you” he watched me carefully testing me as I had tested him. “What kind of feelings?” I asked. He stood up pushing the chair in. “Well I think I'm going to call it a night” I couldn't believe this guy. My mouth dropped and I followed him across the room jumping in front of him and blocking the door “What kind of feelings Archer? Tell me” I demanded, only making him grin more. He picked up my hand quickly  kissing it, “till next time princess, goodnight” he said with a wink. And left me in my room to my thoughts. I slept better than I had in months, finally waking up to the sun beaming through the window. I hadn't shut the curtains last night, I made a mental note to close them tonight as I sat up yawning. When I was finally mustered the energy I took a long shower, I was going to be ready early, I had to make a plan to get my kingdom back and soon, my people had food but not for long. The food I had provided would run out in less than a week and taking back a kingdom from Jada would probably take longer than that by the time I had gathered enough supporters, so I had needed to start planning. When I got out I went to the closet, looking for something that would bring out all my assets, something I hadn't done in a long time. Was I trying to impress Archer Gray? I smiled at how foolish it sounded. Yesterday morning when I arrived at the castle believing I was a hostage I had hated Archer. As soon as he told me the real reason I was here and the conversation we had last night everything was changed, there could potentially be something there for us in the future. I finally settle on plum dress it was cute, and with a pair of black heels I looked flawless. I was almost ready when a guard knocked at my chamber doors “your highness, breakfast will be in the great hall, I will escort you when you're ready” I quickly finished up and left my room with the guard. I nodded to maids the same ones who had seen me being dragged to my room yesterday, I was like a new person today after finding out why I was really here. The doors to the great hall opened, revealing A long table the king at the head, Archer to the left, the queen to the right and Archers sister Clara next to the queen. I felt nervous walking in, knowing Archer had more than likely told them everything. But as I neared I realized there was nothing to be nervous about they had always been like family. Clara ran over to me first, she was 13 and beautiful. “I'm so happy you're alright” she said hugging me. I hugged her back she was the type of sister I wish I had. She looked like archer, blonde and poised, made to rule. Queen Clarisse was next, she was regal. A long red gown flowing behind her and soft features and glowing smile made me jealous Archer had such a great mother like her. She was everything I wanted to be. She embraced me tightly whispering quietly for only I could here “we are so happy you are here darling, we were all so worried when we heard the whispers. you caused my son many sleepless nights” she pulled back winking. Archers mother had always favoured me and made it known, there was no backdoors with her. “Thanking you for having me under such circumstances, I'm forever indebted” I said. “Nonsense. Get over here girl, We were happy to help. You are like one of my own. Besides, it was all Archer. He orchestrated the whole thing, every detail. He made us proud that's for sure” king tristian said holding out his arms. I embraced him and he reminded me of my father, they had been so alike. I looked over at Archer who sat quietly blushing at his father's comment. I sat next to archer and his family and I all spoke like the long lost friends we were. When the food arrived and no one was no longer paying attention Archer whispered “you like nice, dressing up for anyone special?” I nudged him with my arm turning red. Breakfast came in three courses, and by the time the last course came I was filled, there was just so much of it it was impossible to eat it all. Archer and I were the last at the table after everyone had dismissed themselves. “Your family is so kind, you are lucky to have them” I said. Archer smiled “They are pretty great. But like all families we have our disagreements, and differences. It's not always like this, I think everybody is just in a better mood because you're here at the castle. They all adore you” he said. I was about to respond when the doors burst open, a boy, the same boy who had been with archer in the throne room talking with Jada strolled in. He strode across the room, head held high, an arrogance about him I thought to myself. He looked no older than Archer and I, as he shot me a brief smirk before addressing Archer. “No wonder you wanted to save feisty here so badly, she's a real dime without all the dirt and grime” he said. I smiled at his boldness catching me off guard. “My god she smiles too, I thought she only threw right hooks and kicked the hell out of guards. I wouldn't have wore my full armour if I knew she wasn't going to beat me up like the others” he finished. I rolled my eyes at the boy “The day is still young, sir. There's still time, wearing that uniform may be the best thing you've ever done” I said crossing my arms. Who was this boy to judge me? I wasn't sure how to take him. Archer stood up and I stood with him, archer standing between me and the boy “Ensley rose this is Connor Devro, head of my guards unit and my most trusted  and loyal friend. None of this would have been possible without his help” I took that as my cue to thank him, “Thank You for the help you provided, I was in a difficult situation and wouldn't have made it out of there without your assistance” I Curtseyed and  held out my hand for a handshake, or for him to kiss my hand, I was still a princess. Instead this boy, Connor, gave me a high five “no sweat doll face, anything for my boy Archer” he said throwing his arm around Archer and messing up his hair like only a best friend would. They both laughed in sync, as I watched on. Boys. When they finished with their little bromance Connor finally got down to the point telling us the reason he had found us, besides mocking me “I think we should have a meeting later tonight and discuss how we are going to proceed in overtaking Jadas kingdom. We need to start making arrangements and calling upon allies if we are going to do this. You also need to write a bogus letter to Jada on what you want for her sister's return because this is suppose to be a hostage situation as far as Jada knows. I doubt she will accept anything, but make sure it's outrageous for she definitely doesn't agree to the terms and we get to keep Ensley as a hostage while we plan to overthrow her kingdom. Our hope is that she doesn't see it coming, and hopefully she has no idea we are working with her” I nodded knowing this is exactly what I wanted, a meeting was getting me closer to taking back the throne. “In saying that” he added “I think it's best that you are confined to the castle grounds, if word gets out beyond the castle it may travel back to Jada and this whole thing will be in jeopardy” both Archer and I agreed. Word traveled fast and all it would take would be someone to tip off Jada. “you're right, I'm going to put a lockdown on the castle for now. No one comes or goes without special reason to leave. We can't have this getting out” Archer said. I was relieved, they could have easily decided to just keep me in my room as a prisoner to keep the illusion going. Instead they were making arrangements for me to be a guest, a safe one at court while we planned the takeover. I was a prisoner in my own home, I'm glad Archer and Connor agreed I wasn't to be a prisoner here as well. “Now that it's all been decided, I have some business to attend to if we are going to get the lockdown and the meeting in order for tonight. Connor would you mind showing Ensley around the castle, I was going to do it myself but these matters need to be dealt with as quickly as possible” Connor nodded his head agreeing to show me around. “Is that alright with you?” Archer asked me. I nodded, although I wasn't sure what to think of Connor, I wanted to know my surroundings and if Archer was too busy to do it Connor would have to do. Archer squeezed my hand before he excused himself leaving Connor and I alone. “Common then I don't have all day princess” Connor barked. I followed after him, having difficulty moving as fast as him in heels, which he seen but didn't slow down. He brought me to the kitchens first, then the throne room. Followed by the maids quarters then the guards quarters where he was greeted by everyone he passed, it seemed he was well respected about here although I didn't know how. He then showed me the weapons room which was next to the training room. “This room needs to be cleared for 12 o'clock” he said to the two boys sparring as we passed. Next he showed me the gardens which he didn't seem too particularly interested in and the stables. I stopped petting one of the horses “common princess you have horses at home, move along” Connor said. Connor made remarks about everything, little digs here and there throughout the whole tour so I decided to shut him up. “Actually the few horses I had in my stable that Jada didn't kill for punishment against me were then sold at the market until there was none left, only an empty stable. So no I don't have any at home” I spat. “I'm sorry I didn't realize” he said quietly. The nicest thing he had said all day. I just shrugged my shoulders, as we continued the tour. He didn't say much more as he led me back to my room, until we got to my door. “Alright thanks for the tour, I'll see you tonight I guess” I said as I opened my door. “You'll see me in 30 minutes actually” he said. I looked at him as he smirked at my confusion. “I've had enough of the great Connor Devro for one day Thanks” he stifled a laugh at my annoyance with him. He enjoyed it. “You'll be down in the training room in a half hour to train with me. Make sure you wear something that isn't that” he said referring to my dress and heels. “And why would I train with you? You don't even like me.” I said. “You'll train with me because I'm the best there is and you need the training. I've seen you fight and you need all the help you can get. Besides, I've been made aware of your previous situations” I turned red realizing he was talking about what had happened with Ryker. “I know archer said he would protect you and let no harm come to you here but that's nonsense and foolish on his part. He can't protect you from everything forever so I'm going to teach you how to protect yourself. Got it? And for your information I don't not like you but I don't like you either. I'm not going to coddle you like Archer will, you need to learn how to protect yourself and I'm the best one to teach you. Now get your stuff and meet me downstairs at 12” he walked away leaving me stunned. I shut my door determined not to go down and give that arrogant Connor Devro the satisfaction but the more I thought about it the more I realized he had a point, I needed to learn how to fight, and I needed to know how to win. I walked into the training room 5 minutes late as Connor was punching a boxing bag “you're late” he turned around. He was shirtless with a pair of grey sweatpants on. I moved my eyes to his face refusing to look at his six pack any longer, refusing to give him the satisfaction. “I didn't think you would come” he said. I walked around the room gazing at all the equipment “I have my reasons” I countered. “Is that reason Ryker Canning?” He asked. I glared at him feeling as if he knew something personal, something he didn't deserve to know. I shrugged it off, he wasn't my only reason. “I have many different reasons. Ones that I will not be discussing with you Devro. My reasons are mine and mine alone” I said. I fidgeted with my tank top and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. “Don't worry, i'm not interested in your sob story. I want you to think about your reasons when you're fighting. Your angry, let your anger guide you every time you try and make a move. Let it push you to your greatest potential” wow what a motivating speech. sarcasm. Connor had me punch the punching bag for a good fifteen minutes, analyzing every little thing. “Hold your hands like this. Keep your foot there. Punch with your entire body. Stop hitting like a girl”among a million other things. Finally he worked on form, trying to teach me how I could gain advantage on my opponent, what not to do and what I should do. He showed me the best places to hit, he was very through as he explained everything, he would then do an example then I would execute, over and over and over until finally he ended our session. I looked at the clock, it had been over two hours. He handed me a bottle of water and I sat down chugging it back, not realizing how much I had been sweating and how out of breath I was. “You surprised me” he said taking a swig of his own water next to me. “How so?” I asked, wiping my face with a towel. “You didn't complain once. Never even asked for a break. Half of my men wouldn't be able to do that without complaining. That shows the makings of a great fighter, either that or you're just very stubborn and you wanted to try and put me in my place. And if that was the case you did, I'm impressed” he admitted. I grinned taking another sip of water. “I would count on it being my stubbornness, I'm no fighter” I said. “I wouldn't be so sure, you were good. Did your brother ever teach you anything in regards to fighting” Asked Connor. I felt my stomach twist at the mention of my brother. My brother and I had always been close, until his accident that had left him paralyzed. When I went to visit him it was like I wasn't even there, he couldn't speak, he just existed day in and day out unable to function. His accident took a great toll on our family and the kingdom, I had lost a brother while they had lost a future king. “He didn't like me fighting, he tried to keep me away from it all. I never needed to know how to fight back then anyways. He fought all my battles for me. He was a great brother, and would have been a great king if his accident did not happen” I added sadly. Connor agreed “he would have made a magnificent king. a king I was prepared to serve under. But sadly it didn't work out that way. Mind you I'm thankful I met archer, he too will be a wonderful king” it was like a ton of bricks hit me. Connor Devro, was going to serve under my brother had the accident not happened, I felt like I already had the answers, it all pieced together in my mind slowly. He was born of Moralis, I was sure of it now. “You were born in Moralis, weren't you?” He nodded as I pieced it together further. “Your father was Sergeant Sam Devro, and your sister must be Lexi” he again nodded. I felt a lump form in my throat knowing what had became of sergeant Sam Devro, put to death by my sister for being loyal to the people of Moralis, he had broken many rules to help the people of Moralis and was discovered and put to death immediately. “He was a brave, noble man. I know it doesn't mean much, but I stayed with him to the very end, he never died alone. He died a hero. Your sister, I helped escaped through the tunnels before Jada could find her and punish her also, however I don't know what become of her after she got past the castle walls” I said softly. I realized Connors distaste for me, in his mind I was probably the reason for his father's death, my sister killed his father and would have killed his sister aswell had she gotten her hands on her “It does mean a lot. It's something I always wondered about. My sister is safe, in the south according to a letter I recieved she's in hiding. They were both loyal to you” he said. “I know” “I haven't figured out if my loyalties lie with you or not yet princess, I guess I'll just have to see what kind of a princess you really are for myself” he said watching for a reaction. I stood up throwing my towel in the hamper “I don't know how you will find out what kind of princess I am if I don't even know yet for myself” I said somberly. Aware of all the doubt I had in myself to actually be a good ruler to my people “well from what I've seen and heard so far I have a feeling you're just the type of ruler Morlais needs” I smirked at him, this boy was so confusing. “Did Connor Devro just compliment me?” I smiled standing with my hands on my hips. “Now now, I wouldn't go that far their feisty, it wasn't so much a compliment as an observation”. I rolled my eyes and began to walk out of the training room “whatever you say Devro” I called back. Note to self, Devro might not be so bad as I thought he was. As soon as I was out of Connor's sight I practically limped all the way up to my chamber. The soreness was setting in already and I didn't even want to think about tomorrow's training session. I threw off my training clothes and cleaned myself up before sitting down at the desk. I began to pen a letter to Pariah, my most trusted Allie in the city, the last time he had saw me I was caught by the guards and I haven't had a chance to speak to him since. The letter was short and sweet, only stating all is good and I would be in contact with him very soon. He would be instrumental in my overtaking of Jada, he had much influence in the city. I wouldn't send it though until I had direction from Archer just in case. I just finished sealing my letter when a knock came at my door. I walked over expecting Archer, or even Connor, but instead I was met with a girl about my age. “Good afternoon princess, my name is Kate Avery. I've been assigned as your lady” she pushed her way through the door and into my room going straight to my closet “not bad, not bad at all. Did you pick these out princess? You must have impeccable style” she pulled out dress after dress looking each one over. I watched her scan every detail before placing them back in. “Archer actually had them put up here before I got here” I said “I'm honestly not very stylish truth be told” she grinned sweetly “that's why you have me deary, I have enough style for the both of us” she said. I laughed, it was true, looking at her she did have style, she wore things I would never be able to pull off. “Did Archer send you?”I asked curiously. “Of course he did. He wants only the best for you I hear which would be me. He's also being very strict on who he assigns to your care so I've been told. I've also heard he's assigned his personal guard, Connor Devro to you. Have you spoken to him yet? What's he like? He's such a dreamboat. All the girls are after him here at court, mind you he doesn't have the time of day for any of them. And with Archer out of the picture now it doesn't give us girls any fun around court” she whined. “What do you mean, Archer out of the picture?” I asked. She looked at me like I was stupid. “Oh honey, you have got to be kidding me” I shook my head, I wasn't kidding. “Prince Archer is practically obsessed with you, everyone knows it and can see it. With you at court he won't so much as bat an eye at any other girl here. He's finds you very intriguing I hear” I laughed at kate. I liked this girl. She was so cheery she was like the girlfriend I had always wanted but never had “you hear a lot of stuff it seems” she laughed agreeing. We spent the afternoon talking about the courts, the latest news anything to pass the time. It was nice to have someone to talk to, I was actually sad when she left to run errands, I liked her company which was odd. I usually was the type who rathered being by myself. I walked to supper by myself, when I got there it was only myself, queen Clarisse and Clara eating. Archer nor the king was there which surprised me, but I guess running a kingdom I should have expected that. Clara spent supper filling me in on who she was set to marry, and how cute he was, mind you she had never met him in person before but was excited nonetheless. I had remembered being devastated learning I had an arranged marriage when I was young, many times archer had come to the castle and I would refuse to speak to him, and refuse to even play with him as a child. As I got older even though I didn't like it I dealt with it and understood the importance of the alliance it would create, I secretly wondered if it was the same for Clara and if she was putting on a brave face in front of her mother. Only time would tell. I excused myself from supper and took my time walking to my rooms until I walked right into Archer “hey I'm walking here” he joked. I got my balance back after walking straight into him “sorry I wasn't paying attention” I laughed. He waved it off, “come with me the meeting is about to start, sorry I didn't give you more warning. We were waiting on our last guest and she just arrived” he said. “She?” I asked. He opened the door behind him ushering me in and locking it behind him. Inside the room was a round table with familiar faces sitting around. Connor Devro of course, Kate who had been assigned to me quarters and three men dressed as guards who I didn't recognize. Then a girl with fiery red hair burst out from the back of the room. I knew that wild crazy redhead anywhere. “Perry?!” She ran across the room with not a moment to spare embracing me like the old friend she was. “Hello old friend. Look at you!” I laughed as she looked at my grown appearance. They last time I'd seen Perry was a year ago when she had been brought to the castle, as a prisoner. She led a band of rebels who's lived in the woods, they answered to no ruler, they did what was best for them and I liked that. Instead of a dress she wore long black pants and a long black shirt with a dagger strapped to her leg and sword strapped to her side. She was a warrior in every sense. “Perry, what are you doing here?” I asked. She smile leading me to the seat next to hers “I stopped Archer and his friends on there way to Jadas castle in the woods, I was about to rob naturally, but one of my men informed me that he had been betrothed to you and it went from there. He said he was planning to help you I said I would join. I have a debt to repay” she said. “You have no debt” I said knowing what she was referring to. “No debt? Let me see your back and still tell me that I have no debt to repay” she said. I felt the heat ride in my cheeks aware that everyone was now curious as to what she meant. My back that was permanently scarred, my back that still hurt whenever I thought back to the pain I had endured that day. A day I would never regret, it was the day I decided I would no longer stand idly by Jada as she dueled out cruel punishments. “What is she talking about?” Archer asked, him and Connor stepping forward. “This girl took 30 strikes to the back with a whip, a punishment that was meant for I. I had been caught helping elderly who could no longer afford the tax out of city and into my village. Ensley knew this, she supported what I was doing. She knew the elderly would have a better life with me and she helped me in any way that she could. A punishable offence according to Jada. Princess Ensley here released me at night fall before my punishment was to happen, Jada knew it was her, and Ensley took 30 blows because of it” she said proudly. I bit my lip, thinking back, remembering every low and then blacking out from the pain. The boys both looked at me both wide eyes, both were unaware at some of the punishments I had endured at the hands of Jada, something I still wasn't comfortable sharing

 


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