It is a time of war between the two kingdoms of Wrouh and Malthine; the result of an ancient fued between two friends more than a thousand years before. The reason for warring? 'Twas forgotten long ago. Two kings, Felloro and Jamin, both descendants of the feuding friends, continue the thousand-year-war, if only for the sake of honoring their ancestors, as their fathers, and fathers' fathers had done before. In this state of rather useless fighting, do we find a young princess, Anna, daughter of
Chapter 1: An Ordinary Day
It was an ordinary day, or so Anna thought as she strolled through the familiar corridors of the castle. It was mid-day and the opulent halls bustled with the sounds and signs of activity: she passed servants, cooks, and other members of the royal house, each bowing to her reverantly as she passed. Anna inclined her head in return, continuing on her way, the many "Milady"s unoticed by her. She heard this address directed toward her countless times each day, and, frankly, Anna despised the way they venerated her, as was custom for "inferiors" when meeting a princess, or any other of the Royal Family.
Anna walked, with purposely silent footsteps, avoiding anyone she encountered by stepping into open doorways of empty rooms, or slipping into servants' hallways, and hidden passageways known of only by royalty like herself. She made her way to the stables, donning a cloak from the laundry room on the way. Upon sliding the rough material over her shoulders, the cloak covering her regal attire and the oversized hood hiding her face from view, the "Milady"s ceased. Anna hunched her back, and allowed a slight limp into her step, taking the guise of a old crone, availing suspicious glances. Upon reaching the stables she sidled up to the horses, and her long-time friend Gedric, a young groom to the royal horses.
"Gedric, my boy, have you seen princess Anna lately?" Anna addressed him, croaking with a voice not her own.
"Why, yes, dear mother," the firey red-headed boy answered, not turning from his work of brushing a young stallion, "I see her standing right in front of me!"
Anna threw back the hood.
"I suppose I can never trick you, Ged."
"No, never. I always know 'tis you, princess. You are the only one who comes to visit me. No one thinks to worry about the simple groom."
"I do.... What it is?" Anna asked, noticing the sad look in Gedric's eyes.
"'Tis naught, my lady."
"And you, Ged, can never trick me. Come, tell me what bothers you so."
"I'm afraid I will not be the stable groom much longer, miss Anna."
"And why not?"
"I shan't be near to the royal family much longer," Gedric stated, looking at Anna squarely in the eye, "I've been comissioned to the King's forces. I'll be leaving the day after tomorrow."
"But why? They can't!" Anna cried. "We need you here! They just- just can't. I'll talk to my father, see if-"
"No, Anna. I have to go. There's nothing to be done about it. Everyone has to do their duty to the king. And It's my turn to do mine."
"But, why must you go?"
"I suppose the forces are becoming short of men. It pains me as much as you that I must leave, but I must go."
"Yes, but... the men that go... they never... never return," Anna said quietly.
"Yes, but how many of they are grooms?" Gedric smiled. "I shall do my best to return safe and sound to your majesty."
"You had better..."
"I will, I promise. I wouldn't wish to displease you miss Anna. Only a fool wishes to encur the rath of a princess."
Anna smiled, and grabbed Gedric, enveloping him in a tight hug. "I will miss you," she said into his shoulder.
"And I you, miss Anna."
The two stood, locked in embrace, for a moment longer and then Anna departed grudgingly, leaving her friend to his work, with a tearful goodbye.
Anna then strolled through the green forest near the gardens, sobbing quietly, tears leaking from her eyes. She silently cursed the blasted war which her people had waged with the people of Wrouh for a thousand years. Anna, having just turned 16 years of age, had known nothing but war in all her life. Anna did not in the least accept that fact, wishing that only, for once in her life, that she might see the land at peace. She only wished, and hoped, that she might, as a princess in her position could, be able to influence the goings on of her kingdom. And then, as Anna thought upon these things, she vowed right then to attempt to bring the useless killing of men, of both sides of the opposing armies, to an end. However she could. With resolve, she walked on into the thicker area of the forest, drawing the cloak closer about her as the sun continued on it's path across the clear blue sky. Anna continued on for a nearly a league, into an unfamiliar area of the wood. As she entered a semi-clearing, Anna rested upon a large flat stone, picking wildflowers surrounding the slab. She weaved them together in a wreath, setting it down gingerly next to her.
Anna could not believe that Gedric had been drafted, and it pained her that one of her only true friends was going to be ripped away from her, possibly to loose his life in vain. she swept the flower-wreath away, in anguish, throwing herself down upon the stone slab. For many hours, or it seemed such, she weeped, wetting the grey stone with her tears until they spilled over into the green grass below. Anna payed no attention to her surroundings, but concentrated upon her sorrow to the exclusion of all else.
This, perhaps, was the girl's undoing.
If she had been more alert, she would have heard the twig snapping nearby; she would have heard the young hunter sneaking through the brush, approaching her cautiously.
After she had cried herself dry, Anna sat up, and with a sniffle noticed that the sun was much farther along it's circut than she had intended to allow it before returning home. She rose and started towards the edge of the forest, wipping her eyes on her sleeve. Suddenly she heard the rustle in the brush to her left. Curious, she neared the bush, preparing to investigate. However, just as her finger brushed aside the leaves, a figure leaped from the cover of brush, a strung bow fitted with an arrow in hand.
"Don't move a muscle!" the man shouted, "I warn you, I am not one to hesitate, fair maiden. I WILL shoot you if given cause!"