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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Incasta Chapter 20

Chapter 20

Strawberries sat silently at the foot of her bed, her hands delicately holding the note in front of her. She had already read it more than once, yet she wasn’t able to bring herself to believe it until Ales set his plan into motion.

A knock outside her door shocked Straw, quickly folding the note and hiding it under the white ruffles of her gown.

“Straw,” Shards’ voice called out as she carefully entered, “Are you okay? You’ve barely left your room since Ales left.”

“I-I’m still shocked about, I guess,” Straw replied, hoping Shards would not see the note. All of the worst case scenarios were running through Strawberries’ mind as she kept a mask of uncertainty on.

“I know,” Shards agreed, sitting down next to Straw’s right, much to Straw’s relief. “I’m still getting over being held hostage like that. I thought I could beat him, I thought I was ready.”

“You had to try,” Strawberries replied, placing a hand on Shards’ shoulder, “If you didn’t, then Lydia would have been held hostage.”

“I know, and Ales told me his plan last night as well, before he made me talk... about Riku.” Strawberries didn’t know what to say, so instead she gave Shards a side on hug, to which the Duchess replied.

“Hey,” Shards asked, and the moment Shards reached across Strawberries’ body, she knew Shards had seen the note. She tried to block Shards with her body, but Shards moved around and snatched the note.

“Give it back,” Straw nearly yelled, betraying how desperate she felt.

“Why?” Shards asked while opening the note, but her facial features changed from one of curiosity to agitated confusion.


This isn’t easy for me to say, but, well, I’m sorry for what I said about your food. If anything, your food’s the best I’ve ever eaten, and one of the few things I’ve missed since leaving the palace.
There’s something else I wanted to tell you. Very soon, Incasta is going to undergo a great change, a tumultuous change, one in which I must act as the cause. There will be losses, and I will never be seen the same again. I warn you because soon even Astraea will not be safe, meaning you will not be safe. You are one of the few family members I wish to survive this.
Should the palace come under siege, there’s a hidden door in the private garden that leads into a secret passageway. If you follow it, it will open up in a field near the edge of the city.
I ‘m not sure if you’ll hate me for all of this, but it must be done, for the sake of helping Incasta grow. Please don’t hate me for his.

By the time she had finished reading, Shards’ hands were shaking from anger. She scrunched the paper into a ball and threw it against the closet door in the far corner.

“Please tell me you don’t believe him,” the Duchess angrily asked Strawberries, who looked down at the floor, her fingers knotting together in guilt.

“Well,” Straw stuttered, “I... I just...”

“Oh no,” Shards said to herself as her eyes widened in realisation, “Straw, don’t tell me you... you like Ales?”


“Straw, there is no chance he’ll come out of this mess unscathed. The best sentence he can hope for if he fails is exile, and at worst he’ll be hanged. You want to defend him after everything he’s done?” A tense silence filled the room as Strawberries felt the weight of Shards’ gaze rest upon her.

“I know he’s done terrible things,” the Princess said, her voice trembling, “But I cannot help how I feel about him, just as you cannot help feeling for that guard Arthur.”

Shards was taken back a bit by this, but regained her composure as her face took on a softer look.

“Straw, I’m sorry,” Shards apologized, sitting next to Straw on the bed again. “I just don’t want you getting hurt, that’s all. No matter what happens, Ales will have to pay for his crimes, one way or another. Nobody wants to see you in pain because of something that’s out of your hands.”

“So,” Straw sniffed, “You’re saying I should give up?”

“No, I’m saying you shouldn’t do anything you will regret later. We don’t want to lose you like we almost lost Riku, okay?” Straw nodded as Shards embraced her in a hug. “Guess I’ve got a new secret to keep, huh?”

This drew a tearful smile from Strawberries as she returned the hug.

A soft click stirred Riku from his slumber, his heavy eyelids blinking a few times to see clearly. Next to his bed sat Nikz, playing with a small doll before noticing Riku.

“Nikz,” Riku murmured, his voice dry from his sleep.

“Riku,” Nikz replied, a small smile forming on her face as she moved closer. “Are you okay?” Riku was about to answer, but then the past events resurfaced as the haze of sleep faded.

“ALES!” He shouted, sitting forward only to have pain flare throughout his body like a wildfire.

“Riku,” Nikz shouted in concern, “Sit back down. You’ll re-open your wound.” As the pain continued to burn inside, Nikz eased Riku back down, watching his face as it contorted from his injury.

“N-Nikz?” Riku barely asked as he squinted back at the Princess, her concern starting to fade.

“Thank goodness you’re alright,” she said, resting back in her seat beside the bed. “You really had us worried.”

“How long have I been here?” Riku asked “What happened?”

“Ales has left,” Nikz informed him, speaking calmly, but with purpose. “He said in return for sparing your life he would be free to leave. Romeo didn’t like it, but Katherine let him go. As for how long you’ve been resting, you’ve been asleep for two whole days.”

“Two days?” Riku asked incredulously, trying to prop himself up on his elbows before Nikz gently pushed him down again.

“Don’t worry,” Nikz went on, “Romeo is looking after things. What’s more, you need to rest in order to heal. Apparantly you’re meant to stay in bed for a week.”

“A week?” Riku asked again, his voice rising.

“Calm down,” Nikz told him off, “Otherwise you won’t heal. Also, after this week, the doctor said you will not be able to return to duty for at least a month.”

“This has to be a nightmare,” Riku muttered as he closed his eyes. “And you’re taking care of me?”

“Not all the time,” the Princess replied, a smile returning to her face. “We’re all taking it in turns, except for Romeo, he was too busy. But for now, you’re under my care.”

“May the Gods help me,” Riku muttered.

“I heard that,” Nikz replied, picking up the doll she had before. It was an old voodoo doll, not that either one of the two believed in it greatly, but it was dressed in an Incastan military uniform and topped with bright pink hair.

“Besides,” she went on, “I found your Riki doll.”

“I don’t recall it having pink hair.”

“Well, I decorated it a bit more. Besides, I think you’d look good with pink hair.” Riku groaned, wishing he could fall asleep once more to escape the humiliation.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Incasta Chapter 19

Chapter 19

“How is he doctor?” Nikz asked as she, Angel and the chief doctor stood outside Riku’s room, the door open enough to see a sleeping Riku inside.

“He is resting now Your Highness,” The doctor replied, “Let us be grateful the dagger did not puncture any vital organs.”

“Thank goodness,” Angel said, breathing a sigh of relief.

“However,” the doctor went on, “He will need to remain in bed for a week, and will be unfit for battle for at least a month.”

“Riku can’t do anything?” Nikz asked in surprise. “Wow, that’s going to be interesting, I wonder how he’ll take not being able to do anything.”

“Nikz,” Angel interrupted, “You are not annoying him in there.”

“I was just joking Angel, I know he needs rest.”

“Also,” the doctor spoke up, “The Duke will need someone to be with him at all times in order to assist him, seeing as how moving too much would aggravate his wounds.”

“I understand,” Angel said, nodding to show the doctor he was excused before turning to face Nikz. “Why don’t you go inform the others? I’ll stay here with him for now.”

“Okay, thanks Angel.” As Angel quietly slipped into Riku’s room, Nikz turned and made her way through the seemingly deserted hallways. The attendants had all been shocked over the past events, as everyone had been, and were cautious not to broche the subject when a royal was within earshot.

As Nikz opened the doors to the royal lounge, everyone’s gaze turned to her, with Romeo standing beside the burning fireplace, with Abigail standing next to him. Katherine stood near the entrance to the garden while Lydia and Ginny sat on the lounge facing the fire and Midnight sat on one by herself. Strawberries had gone to her room shortly after treatment began on Riku, and Shards had wanted to be alone for a short while.

“How is he,” Ginny asked, leaning over the back of the lounge.

“He’s resting,” Nikz replied, walking over to the couch and sitting down next to Ginny, “But the doctor said he’ll be bedridden for a week.”

“A week?” Abigail asked in the same manner Nikz had earlier, “He’s not going to like that.”

“Yeah,” Lydia agreed, “He doesn’t like being idle, does he?”

“Maybe it has something to do with what Ales said,” Romeo stated. “Where’s Shards? We need her to explain what Ales meant.”

“She asked for some time alone,” Katherine said, stepping into the flickering light of the fireplace. “There’s no need to go find her because I also know the truth.”

“You do?” Abigail asked again, now resting against Romeo’s frame.

“Yes,” Katherine replied as she sat down on one of the empty lounges. “It happened when all of you were toddlers. Terrya and I were old enough to remember what happened, and when Riku and Shards came of age to choose their titles, they were informed of the secret as well.”

“Please tell us,” Nikz said as all of the royals looked at Katherine to continue.

“Very well,” the Queen sighed. “It was a cloudy day, and although it was fine at that moment, you could see a storm approaching on the horizon. Terrya and I were playing in the gardens in front of the Palace as our father, a King at the time, was enjoying a walk. But then there was a commotion at the gate. We were too far to see what was happening, and a guard came to explain the situation.

“Father left with him, heading towards the gate while we watched on. It began raining then so we took shelter at the doors to the Palace, waiting for Father. Eventually he appeared, walking back towards us, and we were pleased he was alright.

“But then we saw him carrying a small child dressed in rags. We didn’t know how to react, and we didn’t realise how serious the situation was until later on that night.”

“That child,” Midnight asked, “That was Riku?”

“Yes,” Katherine continued. “Apparently he had been wandering the streets for weeks. We waited for someone to come forward to claim him, but then we learnt that his mother had died the week before.”

“How awful,” Ginny mumbled to herself.

“When he learnt of this, Father decided to adopt Riku as his own son, making him our little brother and having his birthday on the day he was found. We were sworn to secrecy, and Riku grew up none the wiser. Terrya and I decided to tell him, and we believe that was why chose to become a Duke instead of a Prince.”

“I see,” Romeo spoke up, though more to himself, “He most likely felt that he wasn’t one of us, and owed a debt he would pay for all of his life.”

“Are you sure about that?” Lydia asked.

“I agree with Romeo,” Nikz spoke up, “I mean, why else do you think he’s been so intent on protecting us?” All royals went into quiet thought.

“What are we going to do about Ales?” Midnight asked, and Katherine’s hand went to her chin to dwell on this further.

“I wish I knew,” she replied, “I understand that he is a concern, but I’m also worried about Terrya. I would rest easier if she was here with us.”

A rapid knocking on the door interrupted the discussion, followed by the doors opening to reveal a military officer standing at the doorway.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Romeo asked in an annoyed tone.

“I am sorry,” He replied, kneeling at the doorway, “But I bring urgent news for Lady Lydia.”

“For me?” Lydia asked nervously, rising from her seat to face the soldier.

“My Lady,” he went on, “I regret to inform you this, but Paragos has fallen to enemy forces.”

“What?” Lydia gapsed, her eyes widening as she took an unsteady step back. “How, who would do this?”

“Ales,” Romeo answered.”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Incasta Chapter 18

Chapter 18

An unsettling quiet filled the air as Katherine sat at the small table underneath the tree in the private garden. Sipping her tea and watching the clouds roll by slowly did little to ease the tension.

“Um, Y-Your Majesty?” Asked Jordan, sitting uncomfortably on the opposite side of the table, “Are you sure it’s alright for me to be in here? This area’s reserved for royalty only.”

“But you are my guest,” Katherine replied softly, tired from all the recent events but refusing to vent her frustrations on the young boy. “And as a guest of the Queen, you are allowed to be in here if you are accompanying me. Or do you wish to leave?”

“N-No,” Jordan blurted out becoming quiet again. “I-I just want to help out in any way I can. But I’m afraid I won’t be of much help to you. I mean, I have no combat training or physical skills that could help.”

“You have one thing Jordan,” Katherine interrupted, a friendly smile playing on her face as her green eyes gazed at the royal assistant. “You have a kind heart, something not many people possess. You were willing to kill a Prince in order to avenge your Queen being taken away, regardless of the consequences. That takes a great deal of courage, Jordan.”

Jordan took in Katherine’s words, looking once again to the ground as a wind rustled the tree above them.

“You love Queen Terrya, don’t you?” Jordan’s eyes widened in embarrassment as his face reddened.

“No, it’s not like that,” He wailed, shaking his head to deny the statement. “I don’t ‘love’ love her but...”

“I understand,” Katherine laughed, “You don’t love her as Abigail loves Romeo, but as a mother figure of sorts. Have you lived without knowing a mother?” Jordan nodded.

“Well,” Katherine continued, “It is natural then to understand why you felt this way. Based on what your father must have told you, Terrya seemed like a nice person.”

The now calming atmosphere was interrupted as the doors to the lounge opened and Abigail entered, quickly walking towards Katherine.

“Katherine, a carriage’s approaching. We think it could be Nikz and the others and...” Abigail drifted off as she spotted Jordan. “Who is he and what is he doing in here?”

“This,” Katherine said, standing from her chair, “is Jordan Almark. He’s a guest of mine in this place and someone close to Terrya. I’ll accompany you to the gates.” Katherine then turned to Jordan. “As for you Jordan, I want you to return to you quarters and remain there until I send for you.”

“Uh, yes your majesty,” Jordan replied with a quick bow before hurrying out of the lounge. Katherine then turned to Abigail.

“Let us proceed.”

The hallways echoed with the sound of footfalls as Ales and Shards were escorted by two guards towards the entrance hall of the Palace. Shards remained quiet, but hopeful despite Ales’ blade being held at her neck.

Neither she nor Ales had spoken a word since Ales had negotiated his terms of escape. With Riku’s voice joining Katherine and Romeo outside the door, Ales had agreed to release Shards in exchange for free passage out of the capital. Whether Ales or Riku would uphold their agreement, Shards did not know, but the fact she would be free soon was more than enough to put her mind at ease.

Stopping at the top of the entrance hall stairs, Shards looked down to see every royal currently residing in the Palace gathered below her, all of them wearing concerned or disapproving expressions. Ales’ hand gently pushed against Shards’ back, moving her towards the stairs.

“Well well,” Ales said with his smug smile in full effect. “What a gathering we have here today. It’s been far too long since we’ve all been together like this. I mean, you even managed to find Ginny!”

Shards eyes widened, instantly rising from the floor to scan the familiar faces before her, and eventually she found the brown curls and framed hazel eyes of Ginny, looking back at her with equal amounts of happiness and sadness.

“Ginny,” Shards whispered in disbelief before Ales reminded her about her situation by pressing his blade a fraction harder against her neck.

“Let her go Ales,” Riku stated loud, clearly expressing his anger.

“Nice to see you to Riku,” Ales replied sarcastically, “But Shards isn’t going anywhere unless I see a carriage roll up outside.”

“It will be here soon,” Romeo stated dryly, his eyes narrowing as a hand rested on the handle of his sword.

“Ales,” Katherine asked, stepping forward now, “I will only want to ask one question. Why are you doing this?”

“To reform Incasta,” Ales replied, his tone of voice now becoming much more serious. A few gasps were heard as the effect of Ales’ words sunk in.

“But what do you mean reform?” Angel asked.

“All of you must understand that the time of Kings and Queens has passed. We are the only true monarchy left on the continent and as a result, Incasta refuses to advance because of our stubbornness and traditions. That’s why I’m going to change everything, and in the process forge a stronger Incasta.”

“And Terrya?” Lydia asked.

“Every government needs a figurehead that the masses like. Terrya will be mine. Although, it wasn’t my idea for her to leave the country, she decided to do that herself. I just gave her the information she wanted.”

“You’re insane,” Riku muttered in disgust as the carriage came to a subtle stop outside.

“I never expected any of you to understand, Ales said as he pulled his sword away from Shards neck. Shards did not waste the opportunity, and immediately ran into an embrace with Ginny.

“You will never be allowed back here,” Katherine stated as Ales began slowly walking towards the exit, “And your title as a Prince will not spare you from punishment.”

“Well then it’s a good thing that I’ve abdicated my position for the throne, unlike a lying family member we all know and trust that never had the right to do so in the first place.”

“What?” Strawberries and Riku asked simultaneously, while Shards looked away as a feeling of failure passed over her. Ales turned around, now facing all other royals with his back to the exit, his arrogant smile restored upon his face.

“You should all know the truth about our dear little Duke, of how he is not bound to us by blood. Riku was not born into our family and his mother was not a Queen or Duchess, but a common wench who was too poor or sickly to even care for their son.”

“ENOUGH!” Riku roared, drawing his sword and charging. Ales saw this coming and easily blocked Riku’s swing, and struck.

“Riku,” Nikz practically screamed as Riku looked down to see a blood red stain rapidly expanding from a knife embedded in his side. Riku’s grip on his sword all but vanished as it clattered at his feet. Riku took a laboured step away before falling back.

“Damn you,” Romeo growled, but before he could draw his sword Katherine placed an arm in his way.

“Enough of this,” She shouted, fully exerting her authority as Queen, “Both of you!” Ales looked on with an indifferent look on his face as Riku lay bleeding, with Nikz, Strawberries and Shards now at his side.

“Very well,” Ales replied, sheathing his sword and turning for the carriage, “But in return for sparing him, I will take my leave.

“I bid all of you a good day, for the next time I see any of you I will lay siege to Astraea, and everything you stand for will burn.”

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Incasta Chapter 17

Chapter 17

“What is the meaning of this?” Asked Krzysztof as the Imperial soldier walked quickly over to his commander.

“Midnight,” Nikz said happily as the young Princess ran up to her and embraced Nikz in a hug.

“I’m sorry I made you worry,” Midnight said, trying not to become too emotional.

“The important thing is you’re safe,” Riku said as he came beside them, his wrist still bleeding.

“Riku,” Midnight said in shock upon seeing the wound, “What happened?”

“The commander and I had a small disagreement,” Riku said, failing to hide his pain by wincing as the bleeding continued. “Are you okay?”

“I am,” Midnight replied, “But we need to get this boy to a doctor immediately.”

The two commoners came forward now, the girl supporting most of the boy’s weight. As she lay him down on his stomach, Riku and Nikz’s eyes widened at the large wound on the boy’s back. Midnight seemed to have applied bandages, but the only one of them who could possess them would have been the Imperial soldier.

“Who did this,” Riku asked.

“The soldier,” Midnight replied, looking over to him now discuss something with the Imperial commander. “As we were heading for the Viceroy Building, he attacked, but I convinced him to take us to his commander. I had no idea you’d be here too.”

“Please,” the common girl said, tears beginning to stream down her face, “You have to save him. You have to save Tobias.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Riku said, but as he was about to leave their little huddle, Nikz grabbed his sleeve. “What is it now Nikz?” Riku asked, a slight amount of frustration vented in his voice. But Nikz’s wide eyes were focused directly on the common girl.

“G-Ginny,” She asked in shock. “Is... Is it really you?”

Riku stopped in his tracks and turned around, now examining this girl in shock as Nikz had. All of the characteristics were there: the curly brown hair, the hazel eyes resting behind glasses, even her height was the same.

“Yeah,” She sniffed before attempting a smile, “It’s me. It’s good to see you two again.”

While Riku stood there, Nikz slowly moved around Tobias and embraced Ginny tightly, tears beginning to swell from deep inside.

“Thank the Gods you’re alright,” Nikz whispered, resting her head against Ginny’s shoulder.

“I’m-I’m sorry for worrying you,” Ginny replied, hugging back. Midnight sat there beside them, smiling at their reunion.

“Duke Riku,” The commander’s voice spoke out, causing Riku to avert his gaze from the scene in front of him. The young Imperial soldier now stood at ease beside Krzysztof. “I apologise for interrupting your moment, but this soldier has said you refused the offer of Alisia. Is this true?”

Riku turned to Midnight, whose smile remained on her face. “I told him what I thought you two would have done,” she said, placing one hand behind her head. Riku smiled before turning back to Krzysztof.

“We upheld our Policy of Neutrality, which prevents us from taking sides in any form of conflict.”

“But we saw their ambassador leave your city,” Krzysztof replied, confusion filtering through his voice for the first time.

“He left because we rejected his proposal,” Nikz said, regaining some compose despite the tears of joy still streaming down her face, as she stood while helping Ginny to her feet as well. “We have no interest in national alliances.”

“I see,” Krzysztof said with a sigh. “Then that means I have brought misery and death onto you for no reason. I am sorry.”

“That must be a first,” Nikz spoke up, her confidence returning, “An enemy commander apologising for attacking. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?” Riku nodded in reply as he stepped forward and offered his hand to the commander.

“We can save these pleasantries for another time,” he said, wincing from the wound to his outstretched wrist. “What matters now is that we stop this senseless violence around us.”

“I agree,” Krzysztof replied, accepting the handshake as the two walked towards the battlefield, the Imperial Commander pulling a horn from his belt and blew three sharp notes a few times before handing the horn to the Duke, who blew the long loud note of the ceasefire order.

Shards’ eyes slowly opened to the darkness of night. As her blue eyes became accustomed to the darkness, Shards sat up to find herself resting on Terrya’s master bed, the covers having been pulled over her after she fell asleep.

Pushing the covers off, Shards turned to get out of the bed, but something tugged at her leg as she moved, grazing against her skin. Curiosity turned slowly into dread as Shards pulled the covers back to find a shackle clamped to her left ankle, the chain leading to one of the corner posts of the bed.

“I see you’re awake,” A familiar voice stated from within the darker side of the room. Shards turned and could make out the silhouette of Ales sitting with his back against the door, his sheathed sword resting against his shoulder.

“No thanks to this,” Shards replied sarcastically, gesturing to the chain on her ankle.

“Well I don’t want you going anywhere just yet,” Ales came back casually, ignoring Shards’ barbed reply as he stood, back still facing the door.

“But why do all of this? Why hurt Angel, send Terrya away, threaten Lydia and kidnap me? What purpose is there to all of this?”

Ales slowly walked over to the foot of the bed, face showing no emotion as it left the dark side of the room. Shards crawled backwards on the bed as far as her shackle would allow, not knowing what the Prince was planning.

“The purpose, Shards,” Ales explained, his voice as emotionless as his face, “Is to build a better, stronger Incasta, one that stands on top of the ruins of the old.”

A gasp escaped Shards’ lips as fear slowly started seeping through her, the very thought of what Ales would do being the nightmare of Incastan Royals for generations.

“You’re-You’re going to start a civil war?” She asked in a hushed tone. Ales nodded slowly, his self-confident smile beginning to creep back onto his face.

“If you would call it that then yes, although I like to see it as a revolution.” Ales now circled the bed, edging closer to Shards.

“But that can be explained later. As for you, Mistress of Secrets, I have a question for you, about the past of a family member.”

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Incasta Chapter 16

Chapter 16

“Why would he do this?” Strawberries asked as she paced nervously in the centre of the royal lounge, her hands constantly shifting position. “Why would Ales do this, to Angel, and Shards?”

“I don’t know,” Abigail said, coming to Straw’s side to calm the young Princess down. “Whatever his reason, our main concern is rescuing Shards.”

Abigail’s gaze went across to one of the lounge sofas, on which Katherine was trying to consol Lydia.

“It’s all my fault,” She quietly whispered to herself. “It’s all my fault.”

“You know that’s not true,” Katherine replied, encompassing the Lady in a hug. Lydia was trembling, but she returned the hug, her emotions starting to get the better of her.

“I should never have brought him here,” Lydia went on. “It’s my fault he got into the Palace.”

“Lydia, listen to me,” Katherine said as she grabbed Lydia’s shoulder and forced her to look the Queen in the eye. “You didn’t know what Ales was planning. There was no way you could have known. So do not think this is your fault because that is the furthest thing from the truth.

“Besides,” Katherine went on, allowing a smile onto her face. “No one here blames you for anything. So you have nothing to be sorry for.”

Lydia couldn’t reply and instead embraced Katherine even tighter, to which Katherine replied with another hug, gently stroking Lydia’s copper brown hair.

“And do not think this is your fault either,” Katherine went on, now talking to Arthur, who stood obediently at the doorway of the lounge. “While I do not know the reasons why you were teaching Shards how to fight, I know you did not want any harm to come to her.”

“I am sorry Your Majesty,” Arthur apologised, bowing at the doorway. “Her protection is my responsibility, and I failed.”

“We don’t blame you though,” Abigail spoke up. “You would have saved her if you could. It’s not your fault Ales has her now.”

Arthur nodded, then bowed and walked away. Even though they were all consoling each other, Katherine, Lydia, Abigail and Strawberries could still feel the tension in the air remain, covering the room in an invisible shroud of uncertainty.

“I’m going to see how Romeo is proceeding,” Katherine finally stated, standing up and giving Lydia’s shoulder one last reassuring squeeze before leaving the lounge, steeling herself for the situation ahead of her.

There were hushed whispers from the few attendants that lined the halls as Katherine strode purposefully towards Terrya’s room. They would have seemed annoying to another in her position, but Katherine understood they were only curious.

And though she had mentally prepared herself for this, Katherine felt a pang of sorrow at the sight in front of her.

“Open this door Ales,” Romeo yelled as he pounded on the doors of Terrya’s bedroom. Surrounding Romeo were at least twelve members of the Royal Guard, weapons at the ready to apprehend Ales and save Duchess Shards.

“Don’t be stupid Romeo,” Ales’ voice said through the closed doors. “The second you come in here is the second Shards dies.”

“Then would you be willing to negotiate?” Katherine said as she made her way through the group of Guards.

“You think he still deserves a chance?” Romeo asked incredulously. “He kidnapped Shards.”

“We must not let our first response always be violence,” Katherine stated, her authority on clear display. Romeo knew arguing now would not be the best thing for Shards right now, so he nodded as he took his place by her side.

“And why should I open up, oh imposing Queen of ours?” Ales replied from behind the closed door, his smart-aleck personality putting Katherine on edge.

“Because I’m asking you not as a Queen,” Katherine replied, keeping her temper in check, “But as a concerned relative.”

For a moment, nothing was heard behind the door. The group outside stood patiently, waiting for Ales’ decision. Then there was a scuffling of feet, followed by the door opening a fraction.

Through it, Katherine could see Ales holding Shards in front of him, a knife at her neck.

“Very well,” Ales said with an arrogant smile. “Let’s negotiate.”

“You know full well you are surrounded,” Katherine stated, still keeping hold over her temper. “And you choose a room with plenty of vantage points for us to rush in and take you into custody.

“So why did you tranquilise Angel, send Terrya to Alisia, threaten Lydia and now kidnap Shards? These are serious crimes and not even your status as a Prince will exempt you from judgement.”

“It’s for a purpose you don’t understand just yet,” Ales replied, drawing a scowl from Romeo, his hand resting on the handle of his sword.

“You’re conspiring for the throne, aren’t you?” Romeo asked, drawing a gasp from Shards and a few of the Guards.

“Hm, you weren’t this perceptive last time Romeo,” Ales said in an antagonising tone.

“So you don’t deny it?” Katherine asked, concern starting to seep into her voice.

“From a certain point of view, yes,” Ales admitted before throwing Shards to the ground beside him and quickly slamming the door.

“Ales,” Romeo growled, pounding on the wooden door.

“I won’t explain until the others get back,” Ales said like a child on a tirade. “Until then, should anyone so much as set foot inside this room Shards will die.”

“Damn you,” Romeo said under his breath before turning to the Guards. “You two will stand here and wait for him to come out. He can’t stay in there forever. The rest of you are with me to the war room.”

While the armoured figures filed off around the Prince, Katherine stood there, staring at the doors with an annoyed expression on her face. Even though she knew it was unlikely, she had hoped Ales would listen to reason.

Sighing, she turned and began heading to her room, wanting to think about this by herself.

As she turned a corner however, someone in a hurry ran into her, knocking both of them down.

“Ugh,” Katherine moaned, “Who did that?”

 The Queen looked beside her to see the young attendant boy from before, the one that delivered that letter to Terrya. Now he was the centre of her attention, she began to notice his features more clearly. He had dark brown hair that was cut short, yet had a fringe that reached his eyebrows. His skin was slightly pale and his eyes were a unique shade of brown almost to the point of being gold.

“Oh my,” The boy said in surprise. “I am so sorry, Your Majesty. Please accept my apologies.”

“It is alright,” Katherine said before spotting a small dagger near the boys’ hand.

“Why do you have that?” She asked, her tone dropping as she shot a threatening glare at the boy.

“W-Well,” he said, “I’m going to kill the Prince, for having Queen Terrya taken away.”

It was obvious that Terrya was important to him, but as for a reason why Katherine was unable to answer. She stood offering him her hand.

“I understand how you feel,” Katherine told him, “But killing a member of the Royal family will not bring Terrya back.” The boy bowed his head in thought before nodding and accepting Katherine’s hand.

“Now then,” Katherine went on, “What is your name and why do you feel so passionate about Queen Terrya?”

“Oh, apologies,” The boy said, bowing to follow etiquette, though it mattered not to Katherine. “”My name is Jordan Almark, son of Anthony Almark. I had heard that my father knew the Queen and I wanted to know her as he did.

“Almark?” Katherine asked with shock and surprise. She had not heard that name for three years. “Then that means... You’re his son?”