Strawberries laid back on her bed, humming a random tune to herself while throwing and catching a small wooden ball, a object most of the other royals wondered why she liked it. The Princess used it for such occasions as this, when she felt depressed, bored or had a lot on her mind.
A gentle knock came from the other side of her door, causing Straw to sit up and see who it was.
“Come in,” She said, and the door opened to reveal Abigail, wearing a sympathetic smile on her face.
“Hey Straw,” Abigail said, coming inside the room and sitting on the crimson bed covers beside Straw. “How are you feeling?”
“A little bit better I guess,” Strawberries replied, placing her hands on her lap, the wooden ball still firmly in her grasp. “I always knew there’d be someone who thought like that.”
“Don’t let what Ales said get to you,” Abigail replied, placing a hand on Strawberries’ shoulder. “The important thing is that you know we enjoy your cooking. You don’t have to please everyone every time.”
“I know Abi. It was just a bit harsh. I mean, he could have said something nicer to spare my feelings.”
“I don’t think Ales’ has ever spared anyone’s feelings,” Abigail said as a smile reappeared on her face. “He’s been that arrogant for as long as I can remember.”
“Why is he here anyway?” Strawberries asked, looking at her older relative as they both stood from the bed.
“He and Lydia were apparently invited here by Terrya,” Abigail replied. “Not sure why though, but it seems suspicious if you ask me.”
“How so,” Straw asked, tilting her head a fraction in confusion.
“Well,” Abi began, brushing a strand of blonde hair out her eyes before bringing her hand to her chin. “Ever since the two of them arrived, Terrya hasn’t been as moody. She looks more determined, I think, and she’s been going to the war room a lot more frequently, even though Romeo’s doing a fine job guarding the city. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The two Princesses stood in silence for a moment, contemplating on these facts.
“Well,” Starwberries said, looking back at Abigail with her violet eyes. “Maybe we could ask her what’s going on. I mean, Terrya isn’t one for keeping too many secrets. That’s Shards’ job.”
The two princesses laughed at the joke before walking out of the room, ignoring a note attached to an arrow embedded in the windowsill, the note bearing the emblem of Prince Ales.
The Duke paced back and forth in the waiting room, while Nikz and Stone sat in armchairs, concern etched onto their faces.
“She’s been gone too long,” Riku stated the obvious, muttering it more to himself.
“Shouldn’t we send out a search party?” Nikz asked, looking to Stone who shook her head in response.
“No one besides us knows that Midnight is out there,” Stone replied. “If we send guards out to search for her, then the anti-government group might search for her as well, and we don’t know what they would do with her.”
“So you’re saying we should abandon our younger sibling,” Nikz asked with annoyance rising in her voice, standing from her seat.
“We never said that,” Riku said, “We are just stating the reason for not sending a large search party. Also, there’s every chance that they will be back any minute.”
The door opened slowly, and all three royals turned expecting to see Midnight returning unharmed.
Instead, they saw one of her escorts, his arm heavily bandaged.
“Miles,” Stone gasped, her hands rising to her mouth.
“Where’s Midnight,” Nikz asked, terror easy to pinpoint in her voice as Riku’s eye were wide with shock.
“I am sorry,” Miles replied, his breath short. “The Princess followed a cat into an alleyway and then we were ambushed by thugs. We fought them, but Fredrick was severely injured. As they held us at bay, one managed to escape with the Princess.”
Silence fell over the room before Nikz stepped forward, and delivered a swift slap to Miles’ face.
“You were supposed to protect her,” the Princess nearly shouted, her emotions barely held in check.
“Nikz, that’s enough,” Stone said, placing a hand on Nikz’s shoulder. Nikz sent one last glare at Miles before accepting an embrace from Stone.
“I have failed you,” Miles went on. “I will accept any punishment deemed necessary.”
“We don’t punish people for trying to do their job,” Riku said, stepping towards Miles. “Now, where were you when Midnight was taken?”
“We were five blocks down the main street before taking an alleyway to the right.”
“Very good,” Riku replied with a nod. “Now then, you’d best go to the infirmary and rest. Otherwise that wound won’t heal properly.”
Miles bowed before giving one last sympathetic glance to Nikz before leaving the three royals to themselves.
“Why did you lash out at him?” Riku asked, turning to face Nikz.
“I don’t know,” She replied, still caught in Stone’s embrace. “I just want Midnight safe.”
“And so does he,” Stone stated, her tone caring but firm. “We all want Midnight returned unharmed.” They all went silent as Stone guided Nikz back to her armchair.
But then another soldier burst through the door, panic smeared all over his young face.
“Sir, it’s-it’s the Empire,” He said nervously. “They’ve amassed an army just beyond the town wall, Sir.”
Riku’s face whitened as his eyes widened in fear for one second before he could regain his composure.
“What?” Stone asked as she moved to the windows. Looking out, she gasped as she saw a mass of dark-armoured soldiers waiting beyond the city walls.
“Have the perimeter guards bring all civilians inside the city wall and escort everyone to the southern side of the city,” Riku commanded, walking briskly out of the room towards the wall entrance. “Where is Sir Cassie?”
“She’s currently at the barracks Sir,” The soldier replied, following the Duke.
“Have her ready the Royal Guard along and behind the wall. Be prepared for ranged combat and siege weapons.”
The soldier nodded before running off in the other direction. Riku, meanwhile began running through the corridors until he was on top of the wall surrounding the city itself. The Viceroy Building was built along the northern edge of the city, and the wall was built connecting to it.
Riku came to the edge of the wall, looking out at the force waiting for him. There were Imperial troops stretching on endlessly. From a cursory glance, there must have been more than five thousand soldiers at least, meaning that Authos was now greatly outnumbered.
“Riku,” A voice asked, as Riku turned to see Nikz and Stone standing there, looking both at him and the enemy army behind him.
“You two need to get to shelter,” Riku asked, controlling the tone of his voice to hide his fear. “And Stone, send a search party for Midnight immediately.”