Aria spent the rest of the day having fun with Evie, trying to get Tsir to open up to her, and generally enjoying herself... but deep down, she knew it wouldn't last. She could feel that the mercenaries would come and get her any time now... and she didn't want her new friends to get hurt because of her.

Friends... they may not know too much about her... but they were her friends. They protected her and cared for her even when they had no reason to do so. Now it was her turn to protect and care for them.

So, when night fell, when everyone was asleep, she walked out of camp and knew that the mercenaries had arrived. So she put her sheathed sword on the ground, got on her hands and knees, and waited.

"Done running, bandit witch?" The mercenary leader asked.

"Just take me in, leave my friends alone. They do not know who they were protecting, and are therefore innocent in all of this. I am the only one who deserves to be punished." Aria answered.

"Very well." The merc responded, having her bound and a bag placed over her head. Aria didn't struggle, but shortly after the bag was placed over her head, she did start crying quietly...

She was leaving her happiness behind, and it hurt a lot more than she believed it would.


When the bag was removed from her head, she was in a grand throne room. Three thrones sat in front of her, but only two were occupied: the one to her left and the one to her right. The man in the left throne had dirty blond hair, and a slightly bored look on his face, looking like he would rather be out doing something else, but remained here because it was his duty. The man in the right, however, had hair as black as pitch and stared at her like she was something both beautiful and dirty at the same time... his gaze made her shiver.

The mercenary leader bowed and spoke with reverence. "Hail Princes Zoraan and Shadis Koles of the Kingdom of Ixion!"

"Enough of that," Zoraan, the man in the left throne stated. "Young woman, do you understand the charges placed upon you?"

"I am here because of all the lives I've taken and the money I have stolen. As such, I do not deserve mercy and will endure whatever punishment you feel is appropriate." Aria responded, touching her forehead against the ground in a sort of a weird bow due to her hands still being bound.

Zoraan looked sad for a moment. His brother, however, stood up and grabbed Aria by the chin to inspect her. Looking at her like a piece of meat. "As crown prince, we have the authority to absolve one of their sins... but I don't do this for just anybody. If you agree to become mine, then I will remove the charges against you. Sound fair?" Zoraan stared at him with disgust. Aria looked Shadis in the eyes and shook her head.

Shadis snarled. "Don't you understand? I am giving you a way out! Just say the words, and I will gladly let you run free again!"

Aria knew she would regret this later, but she couldn't help it. She spat in Shadis' face. She could hear Zoraan hold back a chuckle from his throne. Shadis slapped her in the face. "Impudent wench! Fine! Take her to the courtyard, where she will endure her punishment... the torment of being publicly humiliated. Just remember, stupid girl... I offered you a way out," He turned to the guard. "Take this pathetic excuse for a human being away."

Aria didn't cry out, nor did she pity herself... she knew she was getting what she deserved. Still, a single tear streamed down her face. She knew she was about to go through an ordeal.

The End

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