We run through the woods and mud splatters against my leather boots. I brush back my indigo bangs and stop for a moment. I don’t need to catch my breath because running doesn’t affect me. I’ve stopped for the ones I’m traveling with. Three trolls, two fey, a werewolf, and a shape shifter. All but the werewolf need to catch their breath from the grueling pace I’ve set. I turn around and face them, my new recruits. I stop in front of one of the fey, one from the winter court, named Neiva. She looks up as I block out the murky light.
“Yes, General Swann.” I nod and move on, asking all the recruits the same question. As I turn again, I hear one of the trolls begin to tell another story about me, the first female elf-fey mix to become a general in the Mythical Marine Corps, the MMC. The other troll leans in and listens to the story, eyes wide. The shape shifter’s smooth and languid voice slips over the steamy air and completes the story.
“That’s not how I remember it, Guiana. After the General captured the Dark Emperor, she spared his life, but sent him to Grianga.” The werewolf pipes up.
“That’s where they sent my half-brother. Any magic you can do is gone once you walk into its shadow.” Neiva shivers. I stand up.
“Time to get going. Come on.” Reluctantly, they stand up and we resume running through the murky, muddy woods towards the Elvin capital, Drianiea.
After we arrive in Drianiea, I finally allow myself to relax. This is my home, my shelter, where I belong. After dropping the recruits off at the military barracks, I catch a ride on one of the trolleys headed towards the castle. I sit back and listen to the vlann’s rhythmic footsteps against the smooth stone that makes our roads. A few minutes later, we reach the castle. I walk past the purple marble and diamond walls that make up the gates. As I head towards the throne room, servants everywhere stop in the middle of their daily chores and bow to me. Even when I’m not wearing a crown, they still do that. When I reach the polished ebony doors to the throne room, I’m stopped by Biorean, one of the king’s advisors.
“Adeline, the king and queen are out in the garden.” He looked at my attire. “And I suggest stopping by your room and cleaning up before you meet them, they’re with the ambassador of Tsarinas.” I nod, but turn right and head towards the garden.
As soon as I step outside the sapphire doors, I’m greeted by the scent of flowers and herbs. I stop and close my eyes, drinking in the scent of home. I walk down the maroon marble pathway towards the pavilion, and where I know I’ll find my parents. I duck under a flowering, fragrant jasmine vine and see most of the royal court sitting on soft cushions in every color of the rainbow. My father is in the middle of telling a story, but he stops when he sees me.
“Princess Adeline! Lords and Ladies, Ambassador, permit me to introduce my daughter, Adeline.” He reaches his arm towards me and all eyes of all the courtiers follow. I can tell that quite a few are unimpressed by my looks at the moment, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’m safe at home again.
“Come, sit with me.” I nod and nimbly skip up the steps to where my parents are sitting. My mother moves her long violet skirt to make room for me. I smile my thanks and sit down. I half listen to the talk until I hear my name.
“Adeline, how did this morning’s training go?” I can tell by the smirk on the fey face to know that he expects me to complain. But I’ve never been one for pleasing people I don’t have to, so I stretch before answering.
“It was great. There is nothing as exhilarating as running through the forest for two days with a new group of recruits.” The Ambassador speaks up.
“And what regiment are you training them for?” I cock my head and smile at him before answering.
“The MMC.” I grin as I hear the gasps of shock and whispers. The only woman to train new recruits is General Swann, me. Everyone has heard of me in that respect, but very few know that Princess Adeline is also General Swann.
“My Lady, I had no idea!” I smile politely and wave away the fey comment.
“Lord Gringana, that is okay, very few know of my, ah, other occupation.” The Ambassador looks at me.
“Well Princess Adeline or General Swann…”
“At home I am Princess Adeline. In all other places, I am a general.” He nods.
“Princess Adeline, please, do not let us keep you from your rest after your long journey. We need you rested for the ball tonight.” Another courtier pipes up.
“We might all need rest; I hear that the princess is the best dancer in the Elvin country!” There are laughs at this comment. I get up and kiss both parents on the cheek and retire to my room to get ready for tonight.