Ancient History
By: Selina


Part One: The First Battle

"Mother, I'll be fine. I've gone out on many other rides on nights like this one and no one from Galladoorn has ever even bothered me. When I'm out alone, I've never even seen anyone from there!"

"If they see you, they'll kill you, Cherlindrea. How do you think I would be able to live with myself after my only daughter dies?"

"Leir has trained me well. You've got to stop thinking of me as your little girl! I'm a warrior now."

"Oh, dear sweet child. You will always be my little girl. I just fear that one day you will die in a lost cause about this senseless war."

Cherlindrea laughed. "If this war is senseless, then why does it continue?"

"Who knows? Why did it even start? My Lord that was so long ago..."

"Why did it start, Mother?"

Raziel sighed. "I have soon forgotten, my daughter. As I am sure have your brothers and father."

Cherlindrea picked up her dark scarlet cape and tied it around her neck. She gently lifted the hood over her head and covered her small crown, which was more of a black scarf with a ruby in the middle, but it still identified her as being the princess of Tir Asleen. "Do every one of us a favor, Mother, and go to bed. Don't worry yourself into a frenzy if I decide to stay out late, alright?"

"How late will you stay out?" Raziel asked, worry seen plainly on her porcelain face.

Cherlindrea laughed at her mother's constant worrying. "It doesn't matter. Go to bed, sweet Mother."

"How will I know if you've been captured by those savages?" she asked frantically.

Cherlindrea sighed again. "If I don't return by the next moon, send out a search party."

"Do you really think you'll be gone that long?"

"Lord no! I only plan to be gone but for a few hours, maybe more. You will quite possibly awake tomorrow morning with your angelic daughter asleep in her chambers," she smiled.

"Alright, child. Go. Your mother has her beauty sleep to be done." Raziel kissed Cherlindrea on her forehead and went to her chambers.

Cherlindrea picked up a lantern and hurriedly walked out the door and to the stables. The last thing she needed was to be post-poned yet again, by her mother's constant rambling about griffins and gorgons and three-headed monsters and what-not coming out of the forest and attacking her...not to mention a warrior from Galladoorn. Not that Cherlindrea didn't think she could take on any warrior from any land but her mother had succeeded in scaring her out of her wits about meeting one alone in a dark forest without any form of defense. But her brother, Leir, had trained her well; she was very nearly the best sword fighter in Tir Asleen and was constantly practicing with all three of her brothers. But tonight was different. Because of the earlier storm, the skies were dark and thunder still rumbled the ground, although it had probably already made it to Galladoorn by now.

The night air was cold blowing straight through Cherlindrea's cape as if it never existed. The black leather outfit she wore underneath kept her warm enough, by her standards. She opened the gate to the stables and looked over the twelve horses that were kept there, making sure each one had food and water and was content until she came across the last stable, where her favorite horse, Kaiya, was kept. She was black with a white streak down the middle of her head and nose. Kaiya, to Cherlindrea, was the perfect horse to take out at night. She didn't run too fast, she was very seldom frightened out of control, and somehow always knew what trails to take.

Cherlindrea was talking to Kaiya softly and petting her, as she always did before a long ride, when suddenly, from behind, strong arms wrapped around her waist and lifted her off the ground with ease. Cherlindrea cried out and elbowed him back in the stomach. She was let go as her attacker stumbled back and doubled over. Cherlindrea swept one of her legs under him and he fell backwards onto his back. She placed a foot on his chest to keep him down. She lifted the lantern to see his face and gasped. "Leir! Oh, I'm so sorry!" Cherlindrea extended her hand to help him up.

Leir coughed forcefully as he grabbed her hand and pulled himself up. "I think I've trained you well!" he smiled.

"What kind of an impulse forced you to grab me from behind?" she asked with a smile.

"I just wanted to see if you would know what to do if one of those bastards from Galladoorn decided to take my little sister." Leir switched his light hazel eyes to Kaiya. "And where are you off to at this time of night?"

"I was just about to go for my midnight ride. Would you care to join me?" she asked as she hoisted herself up and threw a leg over Kaiya. She hadn't bothered to saddle her up.

Leir looked up at her. "No thanks. I mean, I'd love to, but Father had me go out and try to find dinner, so I've already had my share of horses and forests for today."

"Where is Father?"

"He was talking about staying at the Inn in town. The people are riled up about the war and there are no warriors about, so--"

Cherlindrea laughed. "I can't imagine the King of Tir Asleen staying at a run-down Inn."

Leir laughed with her. "You know he doesn't behave as a king should."

"Yes. Mother's in bed, or she should be. I told her that she needs rest. Leir, don't you go knocking down her door requesting things--"

"I wouldn't do that. She does need to rest. Well, have fun and watch out for bandits," Leir said as he walked away and out the stables.

Cherlindrea kicked Kaiya's sides and Kaiya trotted out of the stable.

<><><><><>

"Where is Marcus? He's going to be late for dinner, Ranon!"

"Oh, you know him. Mims, he's probably just outside thinking."

Mims stood up from her chair and stormed over to the window. Opening the wooden shudders, she yelled, "Marcus! You had better get home right now! You're late for dinner!"

"I'm here, Madame."

Mims jumped and turned around.

Marcus stood right in front of her with his arms behind him. After looking his mother over for a minute, he walked over to the dinner table and sat down.

Mims walked over to the table and sat down across from him, placing her cloth in her lap. "What in the Lord's name were you doing?"

"Just sitting under the oak tree."

"Just sitting."

"Yes. I was thinking about things."

"What kinds of things?" Mims asked skeptically.

"Just...things! Why is that so difficult to believe?"

"You need to get your head out of the clouds, boy. Start training! If you were as good as the soldiers in the village, you could be out there with me, fighting side by side!" Ranon exclaimed.

"I resent the fact that you even think the soldiers in battle with you better me, Father."

"Marcus!" Mims scolded him.

"I will tolerate no insolence from you, boy," Ranon stated firmly.

"Very well," Marcus threw his cloth down on his plate. "I'm going out for a ride." He stood up and walked out the door.

"Should you fall upon a band of warriors from Tir Asleen, what would you do?" Ranon screamed after him.

Marcus came back to the door. "I can take care of myself. Airk has taught me some things." Marcus slammed the door, leaving his poor parents bewildered.

<><><><><>

Cherlindrea ran Kaiya as fast as she would go. The cold wind blowing her hair back had some kind of an effect on her that cleared her mind. Suddenly, Kaiya slowed to a trot as they came upon a trail that, the least to say, was spooky. There was a fog near the ground and tree limbs poked out onto the trail and looked like hands clawing at anyone who crossed this path. Although fear should have overtaken her, Cherlindrea kicked Kaiya's sides gently and Kaiya continued down the path at a slow pace. A howling in the distance made them stop. Kaiya started neighing and backing up. Cherlindrea hopped off her horse and ran in front of her to calm her down. "It's Ok, Kaiya. I promise. Trust me," she told the horse. She patted Kaiya's neck, trying to calm her down.

Another howling close by made Cherlindrea think twice about taking this path, but curiosity got the best of her as she took Kaiya by the reins and led Kaiya down the path with her.

Cherlindrea spotted a river not too far away through the trees. Thinking her horse would probably need a rest after the long run earlier, she took a shortcut through the brush and walked Kaiya down to the bank.

<><><><><>

Marcus saddled Leick up and trotted off to the "spooky" trail that he and Airk always took when on their way to the clearing to practice swordplay. His father's words stung about him not being the best swordsman and that rather, he was the worst. That was far from the truth. His father had never witnessed his swordplay. Airk was definitely the best of all Galladoorn and he promised to teach Marcus everything he knew. Marcus was a quick learner and soon, he would be able to hold his own against Airk.

Marcus traveled carefully, knowing the woods were full of bandits and warriors from both sides, since it and the river were the only separations of the two kingdoms. He was traveling in territory that he hadn't explored before, but soon, he spotted the river that he knew far too well. He jumped off Leick and led him to the stream for a drink and to wash his face to wake himself up a little. Upon nearing the river, he spotted a figure across the way. She was bathed in moonlight and her dark hair shimmered, falling over her shoulders and out of the hood of the scarlet cape she was wearing. "My Lord..." Marcus whispered to himself. He continued to watch her with growing curiosity as she dipped her fingers into the water, sending ripples out across the lake. She took her hand out and shook the water off. Standing back up, she petted her horse momentarily before climbing back on and riding off.

<><><><><>

Cherlindrea had seen the man by the river, but he hardly seemed a threat. She continued down the creepy path, thinking about the way he stared at her. By his clothing, she could tell he was from Galladoorn, but he had almost seemed entranced by her, not wanting to rip her still-beating heart out of her chest, as anyone from Galladoorn would probably do if they knew who she was. Then again, her crown was concealed and anything that would connect her to the kingdom of Tir Asleen was also carefully hidden beneath her cape.

The sound of horses seized her thoughts. She pulled back on Kaiya's reigns and carefully listened. It was only one horse, if she wasn't mistaken, and it was getting louder by the second. Instincts taking over her mind, she dug her heels into Kaiya's sides and Kaiya bolted off down the trail. After a few minutes of this, Cherlindrea stopped Kaiya and turned her around. The sounds had stopped. Smiling to herself, she turned Kaiya back around and came horse to horse with the man by the river.

Kaiya neighed while shaking her head and stepped back a little.

"Why were you running from me?" the man asked. His voice was low and deep and not at all threatening, but full of questions.

"You are from Galladoorn."

"Yes." He paused, studying her a bit. "You say that as if it's a bad thing."

"No, it's just that...I've been told of thieves from Galladoorn roaming the forests for helpless victims at night."

The man laughed. "Dear lady, I bid you no harm."

"I am no lady, I assure you, sir. I am a warrior in the truest sense of the word."

The man smiled. "Your reputation beseeches you...Cherlindrea." He said her name almost teasingly and galloped off, leaving her in shock of what had just become.

"Hey! How did you know who I was?" she called after him, kicking Kaiya's sides to catch up. She soon rode beside him, looking in his eyes for an answer.

"I admire your ability to at least try and cover up, but really, M'lady, the one thing that gives you away you have left blindly out in the open."

"Oh, really? And what would that be?"

"The legend behind your eyes," he grinned. "It is said that they can flash fire into a man's soul."

Cherlindrea laughed and shook her head, remembering how that reputation came about. She and Leir had snuck into a Galladoorn camp with he posing as one of Galladoorn's own and she a dancer. Leir had taken enjoyment in dressing her in one of their sister's more revealing gowns, as Cherlindrea would never dress up in her own time. A veil over the lower half of her face completed the outfit. Cherlindrea danced for the soldiers and kept them distracted while Leir released the prisoners, the majority from Tir Asleen. While dancing, Cherlindrea twirled over to one soldier, who grabbed her arm. She immediately stopped and looked into his eyes. "This woman! She is not a dancer! She is..." He stopped and stared back into her eyes. Cherlindrea snatched her arm back continued looking at him, until Leir came into the room and saw her predicament. A fight ensued with Cherlindrea helping the prisoners out and getting everyone out safely. Later, she was told by a traveler that the man that grabbed her arm had stopped himself from spilling her secret because he felt a burning in his chest when she stared into the depths of his eyes.

"What?"

"Nothing, just remembering how that legend came about. I find it hard to believe that you are indeed from Galladoorn, but you serve no interest in kidnapping nor killing me."

"Don't. You serve my interest about as much as the war itself, as far as harming you goes."

"You aren't like how I pictured Galladoorn to be."

The man laughed softly. "Don't judge all of Galladoorn on me, M'lady. Everyone else probably is how you expect."

Cherlindrea smiled at his kindness to her and looked up at the sky. The moon was right over them, indicating how late it was. "Oh, dear. I had better go. It's getting late." She turned Kaiya around and started in the other direction.

"Would you care for a guard on your journey?" he asked.

"From Galladoorn? I don't trust you so completely. I thank you, kind sir, but as I stated before, I am a warrior. I can hold my own." She galloped off into the night.

"I'm sure you can," the man stated softly. He continued on his way, looking back constantly for the woman who had flashed fire into his soul.

<><><><><>

"Leir, what do you think of me?"

"Styx, why do you ask such a thing?" 'Styx' was his nickname for Cherlindrea ever since they were little.

"I just...all the other women have so many suitors. Why don't I?"

Leir laughed. "You do have suitors! They practically break down the castle gates trying to look into those eyes!" Leir stopped and looked over his little sister. "Why? Has someone done you wrong?"

"Oh, no. It's just...what if someone from Galladoorn were my soul mate?"

"No one from Galladoorn would ever be worthy of the honor to wed you, you know that. Come on, Styx, what is this all about? What happened last night?"

"Nothing, Leir! What makes you think this has something to do with last night?"

"Well, when you left, you were Cherlindrea, but when you came back you had stars in your eyes."

Cherlindrea smacked his arm playfully. "I did not, you big liar."

"Did you run into one from Galladoorn last night?" Leir asked her in all seriousness.

Cherlindrea couldn't move. She knew he could tell if she was lying.

"Hurry! Warriors from Galladoorn! We're under attack!" someone screamed.

Cherlindrea grabbed her sword and ran down the hall with Leir on her heels. She came across Raziel on the way up to the tower. "Mother, what's happening?"

"Cherlindrea, child! You must come up to the tower with me, please!" Raziel frantically begged her.

"If something is happening, you know I have to fight! What is going on?!"

Raziel looked up at Leir. "My son, please talk some sense into your sister! She is too young to die!" she said as she took his head in her hands.

"She isn't going to die, I'll make sure of that. Now, Mother, please...what is happening?"

Raziel lowered her head as tears started streaming down her face. She picked her head back up again, sobbing. "They're trying to storm down the front gates. Your father's in town, there isn't enough time for him to get here. They're going to kill all of us!"

"No they're not. Where are Rool and Ason?" Leir asked.

"They're with the guards already fighting with the first cavalry."

"Mother, go up to the tower quickly and don't come out until one of us comes to get you."

"Alright." Raziel kissed Cherlindrea's forehead and ran up the tower stairs.

"Come on," Leir grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the gates.

<><><><><>

"You're attacking tonight?!" Marcus shouted at Airk.

"It's not I, it's Father and the rest of the army."

"Why this night?"

"Why not?"

"Airk, don't play with me. Why did Father choose this night?"

"He thought that since this was a sudden decision, we would have the element of surprise in our favor." Airk looked over his younger brother suspiciously.

"I cannot believe this. When did he decide this?"

"Soon after you left."

"And he didn't request to anyone to send out a messenger to inform me?"

"He doesn't know of your skill, Marcus. Only I."

Marcus grabbed Airk by his clothing and lifted him up to face him. "Then you had better make sure that the next time this happens, Father is informed of my skill and I am called upon." Marcus dropped Airk and stormed out of the room.

<><><><><>

"There are too many of them! There is no chance in Hell we are going to survive this!" Leir shouted over the commotion to Cherlindrea on the stairway overlooking the great entrance hall.

"We can and we shall!" Cherlindrea shouted back. She looked up into his eyes and for the first time, she saw fear. Although her words were determined, her mind doubted a victory greatly.

"Cherlindrea...in case I don't make it through this battle--"

"Don't talk like that. We'll all be alive and well far after this war is finished. You can finish your speech when we're old and gray."

"Please listen to me. In case I don't make it through this battle, I want you to tell Mother that I love her and Father too. Tell them that I don't want them grieving over me, but win this war for me...and I love you too."

"Oh, Leir." Cherlindrea hugged him briefly. "This is no time to say your good-byes. We've got to split up. We'll talk after this is over."

She ran down one of the staircases, many soldiers trying their hardest to finish her, but she always turned the tables. When they stopped coming at her, she noticed how she and Leir had evened the odds. Looking around, bodies from both sides littered the hallway. Leir was fighting anyone who came at him, he was alive and well. Rool's left arm was injured, but he was right-handed and fighting with all he had. Cherlindrea looked around for Ason. He was nowhere to be seen.

A blade sliced into her left arm. "Ow!" she cried. She looked down. Her sleeve was ripped and the cut was so deep that blood was already dripping down her arm. She turned around and looked up to face her assailant. There he stood, flipping his sword at his side. Although he was wearing a helmet that covered his face, she knew he was grinning.

"Oh, you are going to pay for that dearly, you bastard," she declared through gritted teeth. She lashed out her sword, but he quickly met it. She lashed out several more times, but he met each one with seemingly little effort. Damn, she thought.

Things continued like this for a while, with she lashing out and he meeting each one. He's just toying with me... Cherlindrea's blood boiled when she finally realized what he was doing. Then she decided to turn the tables. She pretended like she was lashing out, but instead ducked as his sword sailed over her head. Being on the offense wasn't exactly her strongpoint. Getting back to her feet slowly, she smiled greatly. "Come on," she coaxed. He seemed surprised and confused.

"Clever little thing," she heard him say. He caught her off guard by lashing out. Cherlindrea almost didn't catch it in time.

A vigorous swordfight proceeded.

<><><><><>

There she is... Marcus thought. My Lord, she'll be slaughtered just standing there...

Marcus carefully crept up to her. She was looking around for something. He drew his sword and carefully cut her arm to get her attention. He cut deeper than he meant to, but his plan had worked. She obviously didn't recognize him, shouting some, while he stood there taunting her. With not much skill, she struck out, and he easily disguarded it. She was underestimating him. She threw out a few more lashes. He could see that she wasn't very good at being the offense. Suddenly, she ducked. The unexpected move caught him off guard. So she wants to switch roles.... ok. "Clever little thing," he teased. He struck at her, catching her off guard, but she came to and met him. He struck out well and she always met him. He knew of her reputation as being great, but they were actually at a standstill.

As if reading his thoughts, she ducked his sword and tripped him in the process. He fell back, dropping the sword as he did so. He watched it in disbelief as it skidded across the floor and hit the foot of another soldier. All of the fighting had stopped, with the warriors from Galladoorn either dead or taken prisoner. The majority of the ones from Tir Asleen were dead also, or seriously injured. Marcus rolled over onto his back to catch a sword at his neck. Cherlindrea looked down at him, rage crossing her eyes.

The soldier that had picked up Marcus' sword walked over to them. "C'mon, Styx. You're hurt," he said gently while taking the sword from her hand. He stepped over Marcus, to keep him in place, while Cherlindrea walked quickly to the stairs. She turned around.

"You're going to suffer greatly for hurting my little sister!" He raised the sword above his head. Marcus' breath caught in his throat.

"No! Leir, don't kill him!" Cherlindrea shouted.

"What?!"

"He'll be good for ransom. We could get possibly $10,000 from Galladoorn."

"$10,000? You really think he's worth that much?"

"Ha! I'm worth ten times that amount," Marcus said from the ground.

Cherlindrea smiled at him. "Very well. Vohnkar! Send out an order to Galladoorn. $100,000 for...what's your name?"

"Marcus."

"For Marcus. Get back to me by tomorrow's end." Cherlindrea walked up the stairs.

"Agh!"

Cherlindrea stopped dead in her tracks and turned. A soldier was running right for her with a sword raised above his head!

"Styx!" Leir shouted. He grabbed a dagger from his boot and threw it at the man. It hit him right in the chest. He dropped his sword and started falling forward. Cherlindrea dropped down and the man fell over the railing and to the floor about 30 feet below.

Cherlindrea glanced at Leir and slightly nodded her thanks and continued on her journey up the staircase.

Leir looked back at Marcus. "All right, you bastard. Come on," he picked Marcus up by his armor and tied his hands behind his back. He lifted the helmet off his head and got inches from his face. "You touch my little sister in any sort of harmful way again, and not even she will be able to save you from my blade."

Marcus tried to suppress a grin at hearing this. Hell, he would slit his own throat if he were to fight her again.

<><><><><>

"Mother?" Cherlindrea yelled. It echoed throughout the tower.

"Cherlindrea?" Raziel asked timidly, stepping out of the shadows. "Oh, dear sweet child!" Raziel ran up and hugged her daughter, almost knocking her over. "Oh, you're hurt!"

"No, I'm fine. Leir is downstairs. Mother, we have prisoners. Galladoorn won't try to break in here again if they know what's good for them."

Raziel practically jumped up and clicked her heels with happiness. "Come on, let's get out of here before the rats do us away."

<><><><><>

"What happened to Ason?" Cherlindrea asked Leir later that night.

"He was among the dead," he answered sorrowfully.

"And Rool?"

"He's watching over the prisoners."

"Have you told Mother of Ason's death?"

"Yes. She took it harshly."

"Any mother would. Is Father coming home?"

"He should be back any moment. What's wrong, Styx? Why are you asking so many questions?"

"Just trying to keep pre-occupied, I guess."

"Liar." Leir smiled and threw a cleaning rag at her.

"We can't stay here, Leir. We have to go to Nockmaar. They have reinforcements there and they can help us nurse ourselves back to health."

"Yeah, I suppose. But I don't think Mother will survive through the journey."

"She can stay in town."

"Styx, she'll worry herself to death if we leave."

"Maybe, but we have to do something! Another attack from Galladoorn like that one and we all go down in a blaze of fire!"

Leir considered what his little sister had said. As their mother always said, she did have wisdom beyond her years. "Alright. I'll send out a messenger to inform Kael. We should be out of here by the week's end."

Cherlindrea kissed his cheek. "Thank you for listening." She turned to leave.

"Wait. That warrior that you had been fighting with, do you remember?"

"Yes. Marcus, wasn't it?"

"I suppose. I was told that he had requested to speak with you."

Cherlindrea gave him an odd look.

"Well, I thought that since he matched your skills in battle, the least you could do for him was bid him the honor of having a conversation."

Cherlindrea smiled. "Alright."

"There was no room in the dungeon, so I had the men take him to that storage room next to the spring near the stables."

Cherlindrea once again smiled and made her way out of the room.

<><><><><>

Marcus had been taken, chains and all, to an underground storage room. He saw the salt blocks and grain and feeding baskets, along with quite a few barrels. He had asked the one who he thought to be the head guard if he could speak with the princess, but he had laughed in his face. He doubted the message would be received. He was delighted however, when Cherlindrea decided to greet him wearing nothing, he guessed, but a silken robe with her hair tied up. She was clearly ready for bathing.

"I heard that you wanted to speak with me."

"Yes. Um...is your arm well?"

"You expect me to waste my breath answering you as if you actually care?"

"It would have taken you less breath to say 'yes'."

Cherlindrea looked at him, anger burning in her eyes. "You are a bastard from Galladoorn who tried to kill me. You think one night in the forest was going to change my opinion of you?"

"Not that it would matter to a heartless soul, as yourself, but with you just standing there, you were bound to be killed. By a bowman if not in a hand to hand fight."

"You call me heartless," she said softly, the anger turning in her voice to hurt.

"Any other woman I know of would have a least shed a few tears over a brother's death. You act as if nothing's changed."

"I act as if nothing's changed because of the pure fact that I was taught that war is no place for mourning!" she shouted.

"And why is that, Princess? If you die in this war, you won't be given the chance."

"That exact thought is a motivation for me to not give up. Besides, even if I die, I'll be reunited with Ason." She paused and shook her head. "Forget it. There's no possible way you could understand," she said as she started out the door.

"You think I don't know what pain is?" he asked quietly, looking at the floor.

Cherlindrea stopped in her tracks and hung her head. Pushing a strand of fallen hair out of her face, she turned back to face him. "What the Hell is that supposed to mean?" she asked softly.

Marcus lifted his head to see her staring at him with no apparent emotion in her eyes. "When I was a boy, my mentor was killed by one of your soldiers. He was strapped to a wheel and tortured until he no longer breathed or moved. He deserved none of that. He had a wife and three children with no one to take care of them. That is what I mean. And when I say you are a heartless soul, it is because you hold no emotion in any of your actions, yet you are a woman."

"Yes, I am a woman. And I assure you, slave... I am not a heartless soul." With the last words, Cherlindrea stepped out the door and carefully locked it.

Part 2: The Road To Nockmaar

Cherlindrea closed her eyes and let the warm water from the hot spring massage her weary body. Marcus' words played over and over in her head. "You show no apparent emotion, yet you are a woman". Cherlindrea sighed. How could I have let him get to me? she thought. I'm not heartless. War is no place for mourning. One mistake is all it takes to get killed. I let my emotions get in the way and that serves as a distraction and fogs the mind-- prevents focus. No matter how many times she repeated her training instructions in her head, it still bothered her that he thought she was heartless. She thought about the story he told her about his mentor. Well, he wouldn't have gotten killed if he hadn't done anything...

Knock, knock...

Cherlindrea let out a frustrated sigh. "What?" she yelled.

"Um...are you decent?" Leir's voice was unsure and cautious.

"No. What is it?"

"I need to talk to you. It's important."

"Oh, Lord," she sighed. "Hold on." Cherlindrea stepped out of the spring, chills immediately running up and down her body. Shivering, she grabbed her robe and slipped into it. She tied it together as she walked over to the door. Upon opening the door, Cherlindrea was almost knocked down by Leir running past her. "Hey!" she cried.

"Sorry," Leir said hurriedly. "We have to leave now. Galladoorn soldiers have been spotted coming here for an attack."

"What?!"

"We're already wasting time. Cherlindrea...get dressed. I'll get the prisoners and we'll leave in about an hour for Nockmaar."

Leir calling Cherlindrea by her actual name told her just how important the situation was.

"Alright. Just remember about our prisoner in the storage room."

"Right. I almost forgot. You aren't going to believe this," Leir called as he walked into the room and dragged Marcus out. "I learned from one of the others that this guy is the prince."

Cherlindrea couldn't believe her ears. She stared at Marcus.

"Come on, you bastard." Leir said as he punched Marcus in the stomach. Marcus doubled over and coughed forcefully.

Cherlindrea winced as she saw Leir punch him. She watched as he dragged Marcus outside. Just before they were out the door, Marcus looked over his shoulder right at her. Leir grabbed his chains roughly and yanked him out the door. How strange... Cherlindrea thought.

<><><><><>

Leir put a chain around Marcus' neck and waist. He encircled the chain around his waist with another one, which he tied around his wrists. Leir tied the end of the chain around his neck to one of their war wagons. The same was done to another prisoner and he was placed beside Marcus. This prisoner Marcus recognized as being his father's jester, Franjean. Franjean was a Nelwyn, a dwarf, and Marcus knew there was no way he would be able to make the journey to Nockmaar, especially if he was going to have to walk the whole way. Marcus suspected they would have to stop for at least three nights, letting the horses rest and preparing food and water and that was probably the only time they would stop. Tir Asleenian warriors were very focused when it came to war and they would even go for days without food. But seeing that most of them were hurt, they would eventually have to stop or die in the middle of the road.

"Are the horses ready?"

Cherlindrea walked out of the castle, still adjusting her black leather outfit.

"Yes. You look ready for a fight."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Cherlindrea said playfully as she pulled herself into the saddle of Kaiya. She glanced down to see Marcus staring at her.

"What the Hell are you looking at?"

"Your leg," he grinned up at her. "I'd like to break it."

Cherlindrea kicked him square in the face, which made him turn around and double over. He looked back up at her, holding his face. "That's easier said than done, slave."

"M'Lady! The warriors are approaching Tir Asleenian land!" A little boy, no older than twelve, came rushing through the crowds and wagons. He stopped in front of Kaiya and rested his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

"Where are they?"

"They were entering the forests the last time I saw, your highness."

"And how long ago was that?"

"About a half-hour. There are at least fifty war wagons and hundreds of men."

Cherlindrea looked at Leir. "We have to go. I'll ride ahead and scout the terrain--"

"No. Let me do that." Leir climbed into his horse's saddle. "You're one of the best warriors, so you stay back here with the prisoners." Leir looked at Marcus. "Who knows? Maybe you'll get your chance to break her leg after all." Leir laughed as Marcus spat at him.

Cherlindrea kicked Kaiya's sides. "Come on."

Marcus stumbled as the wagon jerked. He tossed his long black hair out of his face and started the long walk.

<><><><><>

The next two days and nights went well and they made excellent timing. By noon the next day, they would be at Nockmaar. Cherlindrea was telling the servants how to set up the tents when a messenger ran up to her.

"M'Lady. Your brother seeks a word."

Cherlindrea followed the little man to atop a hill where Leir stood looking out. She ran up to him, a little worried about what was going on. Leir merely gestured out. Cherlindrea looked over the land. "Oh...my...Lord..." she whispered. There were at least a thousand campfires and hundreds of tents set up along the roads. "If there are at least five men to a fire..."

"I know. If we don't get to Nockmaar in time, we could all be lost."

"Leir, don't think like that. We're going to make it. We just need an early start in the morning." She paused and sighed. "I'm going to get some sleep, if it's at all possible. Promise me that you won't do anything crazy."

"I promise."

Cherlindrea smiled. "Alright." She kissed him on the cheek. "Just remember that we're heading out early. Be sure to get some sleep." She walked down the hill slowly.

When she arrived back at the camp, she noticed that Marcus had been put in a crow's cage. She couldn't resist smiling, if he was watching her or not. It just made her feel safer to know that he was locked up.

<><><><><>

Marcus stretched as far as he could to reach the chain that held his cage up in the air. He sighed as he brought his hand back in the cage. If he only had something long enough... Marcus looked around and saw a bamboo stick on the ground. He reached through the holes in the bottom of his cage. His fingertips grazed the end of it. Just a little further... Marcus felt his arm beginning to cramp, but he didn't care. He stretched one last time and grabbed the end of the stick. Trying not to bring attention to himself, he brought it back into the cage. He flexed his arm a bit to get the soreness out of it and then began hitting the lock that held his cage above the ground. Only a few more times and he'd be free...

<><><><><>

Cherlindrea stopped reading out of her spell book and put it down with a sigh. She just wasn't absorbing the information tonight. She set her potions down at the far end of her tent and took off her armor. She took her hair down and pulled back the animal-skin blanket and laid down, pulling the blanket up to her chin. She curled her legs up and soon she was sound asleep.

<><><><><>

Marcus' cage fell to the ground with a loud bam! He pushed on the bars, which fell to the ground without much effort. He crawled out just as some guards were running between some tents and spotted him. They shouted for more assistance as Marcus ran for his life. However, he noticed that he hadn't paid much attention to where they were, so he just ran in between tents and whenever he saw a guard, he ran the opposite way. He was being chased by about three of them as he ran behind another tent. He heard the guards stop and argue about which way he'd gone. Then he heard them run off in the opposite direction. Just as he started to breathe a sigh of relief, he turned and saw Leir. Marcus' breath caught in his throat. Leir was looking in the opposite direction and was starting to turn around slowly. Without thinking, Marcus lifted the side of the tent he was hiding behind and walked in quickly, letting the side fall back into place.

He started walking backwards and tripped over some bottles. Some of them broke and powder was laid out in front of him as he landed on his stomach. He made the mistake of inhaling and his nose started tickling. Before he could stop himself, Marcus let out a full blown sneeze. He held his breath and didn't move a muscle, thinking he had awoken the figure laying in the bed in the middle of the room. After a few minutes of complete satisfaction that nothing had changed, he started to get up, but felt immediately awkward. He shook his head and became dizzy. Staying still for a moment, he felt a sudden wave of happiness wash over him. He stood up with a smile on his face... and spotted the figure laying in the bed.

"Oh, Lord," he breathed. He watched Cherlindrea's peaceful expression as she slept. After a few moments, he realized that he couldn't resist at least an attempt to try and touch her. Walking cautiously, he whispered, "Oh, M'Lady. Please awaken from this hateful sleep. It deprives me of the beauty of your eyes." Marcus reached out to touch her and suddenly felt a sharp point in his stomach.

Cherlindrea's eyes popped open. "You step one more step closer, you son a bitch, and you really will be a casualty of war." Cherlindrea shoved him hard away from her and stood up, covering her bare body with her blanket.

"Don't be naive. I dwell in darkness without you. You're my sun, my moon, my starlit sky."

Cherlindrea brought her dagger up to his throat and shoved him away again, but he immediately came back.

"Oh, love, do put the dagger away. I love you! Tonight let me worship you in my arms."

"Dammit! Shut up! Stop saying that!"

"How can I stop the beating of my heart?"

"I can stop it. I'll kill you."

"Ohhh, death next to love is a trivial thing." Marcus put his hand over Cherlindrea's, which was on his chest trying to push him back. He glanced down at her hand before saying softly, "Your touch is like fire. It is worth a hundred thousand deaths."

Cherlindrea let Marcus remove her hand from his chest. She dropped her dagger as Marcus bent to kiss her.

"Hey! What's going on in here?!" Leir's voice startled them both. "Kill him!"

Marcus picked up Cherlindrea's dagger and threw it into the post that held up her tent. As the "roof" fell in, he grabbed her and kissed her hungrily.

Marcus fought his way out from under the fallen tent. When he found daylight again, he saw troops of soldiers running towards him.

"Prince Marcus! Over here!" Franjean called to him. He had found a horse, but it was impossible for him to mount it with his size.

Marcus ran as fast as he could to Franjean. He jumped up on the horse and extended his hand and helped Franjean. Suddenly, Marcus remembered Cherlindrea. He turned the horse around, looking for her.

He spotted her just finding her way out from under the tent. She still kept a tight grip on the blanket around her. A few strands of her long, dark hair blew in front of her face from the wind. Marcus didn't know how long he stood there watching her, but he was jolted back to reality by Franjean screaming in his ear.

"What the Hell are you doing?! Let's get out of here!" Marcus turned around and stole one last desperate glance at her before riding away.

Part 3: The Greater Challenge

Franjean babbled on in Marcus' ear, scolding him about whatever that came over him had almost gotten them killed. In time, Marcus tuned him out. Cherlindrea just refused to leave his mind. He thought about the fire in her eyes and fingertips when she threatened to kill him. He thought about her lips and that forbidden kiss that he stole from her. His lips tingled every time he thought about it.

"Watch out!"

Marcus looked up just in time to get smacked in the face by a tree branch. He was knocked off the horse and landed face down on the ground, hitting his head very hard on a rock. Groaning, he pushed himself to his knees, but that was as far as the incessant pounding in his head would allow him. Marcus grabbed his head and tried to hold it still.

"Hey are you Ok?" Franjean's worried little voice echoed in Marcus' head.

"Quit yelling! OW!" Marcus leaned over, putting his head back on the ground. Suddenly, the pain was gone and Marcus was able to move. He stood up slowly and cautiously. He felt a wave of dizziness. "What happened up there?"

"You started spouting poetry! 'Oh, Cherlindrea! Let me worship you! I love you, Cherlindrea'!" Franjean mocked.

"Cherlindrea?! I don't love her! She chained me up and locked me in a cage! I hate her! ...Don't I?" Marcus clasped his hands over his ears in an effort to steady himself.

<><><><><>

"What were you and that guy doing when I came in your tent?" Leir asked Cherlindrea.

"He snuck in and tripped over my perfume bottles. I was about to kill him."

"That's not what it looked like to me."

"Christ, Leir! If you aren't going to believe what I say then why bother to ask?!"

"All right! I'm sorry! It's just that...seeing him with his slimy lips all over you made me literally ill."

"I agree. I felt the same way."

Leir breathed a sigh of relief. "You don't know how happy it makes me to hear you say that."

"I have an idea."

"Styx...when you were talking about someone from Galladoorn being your soul mate.... you were talking about him, weren't you?"

"Leir..." Cherlindrea sighed.

"Answer me."

"No. I met someone in the woods from Galladoorn that offered to be my escort safely back here," she lied. "I don't even know who it was. But since he was so nice, it got me thinking that maybe someone from Galladoorn could be my soul mate. That's all."

Leir looked at her suspiciously. "Whatever."

"But now I know that would never happen," she said with a catch in her voice. She hoped by the Lord Leir hadn't noticed.

"Alright, Styx. By the by, what do you suppose we do about our little escaped prisoners?"

"I think that as long as we get to Nockmaar in time, it won't matter."

"How do you always manage to stay so focused?" Leir marveled.

"I have many talents."

<><><><><>

Marcus still had a lingering headache after he hit his head, but he was somehow getting through it. He was also very confused. The last thing he remembered about the camp was that he had broken out of his crow's cage and tripped over some bottles in a tent. Then all of a sudden, he had a splitting headache and he was lying on the ground with Franjean telling him that he had told Cherlindrea he was in love with her! Sure, he thought she was extremely easy on the eyes but a bit too rough and war-like for his taste. And he could think of nothing else but strangling her ever since he saw her grin at him when she went into her tent. So where the Hell was Franjean getting the idea that he had fallen head over heels in love with her?

"Marcus, old boy!" Airk's voice sounded out from the trees. He burst through with his arms outstretched. "Where in the Hell have you been?"

Marcus had to snicker at his older brother. He let go of the horse's reigns long enough to embrace Airk. "I'd been captured by the Tir Asleenians. Where were all of you when I needed you?" he asked the soldiers that had followed Airk.

"We were following closely. We're right on their trail as we speak. Heading to Nockmaar for reinforcements?"

"Exactly. They only have a thousand soldiers left, if that. A good many are wounded but not the majority."

Airk nodded. "A traveler informed me that they would have to stop at a nearby village for supplies. Do you know of that?"

"Clai Meign. I over heard some of them talking about it. If we let them get there, they'll surely win."

"Yes, but you see, my dear brother, we shall attack them there. Then go on to Nockmaar for an attack on them so that those Tir Asleenian fools won't have any place to hide."

<><><><><>

"There it is. Just about a half mile and we'll be there," Cherlindrea informed the troops.

"I hope so. My horse is about to keel over and my rear is killing me," Leir gasped.

Cherlindrea laughed. "Let's hurry up then." She dug her heels into Kaiya's sides. "Yahhh!"

"Oh, Lord, Cherlindrea, please DON'T!!!" Leir yelled after her. He sighed tiredly. "Women..."

<><><><><>

"There they are," Airk pointed out. He turned to Marcus. "Let's go."

Marcus followed Airk out of the woods and back to the troops. "We've spotted them! They're in Clai Meign! Mount your horses and get ready for battle!"

In seconds, they were headed towards Clai Meign and the unsuspecting troops that awaited there. Marcus saw the flash of a fiery arrow strike the side of a hut. He dismissed the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and braced himself as his horse jumped the wall.

Amazingly, no one was out at all. The town looked cursed. Not even a soldier from Tir Asleen was to be found.

"What the..." Airk started quietly.

Suddenly, an arrow shot out from no where and struck the soldier beside him right in the chest. He grunted as he fell from his horse.

"It's an ambush! Find cover!"

Everyone came out of nowhere. To Marcus, everything was in slow motion as he watched the fight. Airk was fighting with Leir. Cherlindrea was no place to be seen. Marcus dismounted his horse and drew his sword. He cautiously stepped around the duelers in search of an empty tavern. The Galladoornians were dropping fast and they would soon need a rest or they would all be killed.

Marcus found luck when he spotted a large wooden structure that would clearly lead underground. He stepped inside. He found a few bottles of wine and decided to make quick use of them. He got string and some matches.

When he opened the door to go out of the tavern, dozens of Galladoornians littered the ground. The few that were left were needing help...badly.

"Heads up!" Marcus yelled. He threw one of the wine bottles at the Tir Asleenians, who looked up and were instantly blinded by the huge explosion of fire that followed the bottle hitting the ground. A few more bottles later, the Galladoornians were running for the tavern while the Tir Asleenians were trying desperately to get their sight back.

The soldiers fled to the underground room and quickly found hiding places and became as quiet as to hear a pin drop. Cracks in the floor allowed them to see when the enemies came in and where they were headed.

The door to the tavern swung open, making a loud BAM as it hit the back of the wall. Most of the soldiers in hiding jumped, but forced themselves immediately to remain still and quiet. Airk was crouching by the staircase and Marcus was beside him. They heard the door open and light filtered into the room. Like dozens of cockroaches, the soldiers tried desperately to hide from it. The light was blocked by a shadow. Quiet footsteps were heard slowly coming down the steps. Marcus gently nudged Airk and handed him a knife for a weapon. Airk took it and looked at Marcus, as though he was surprised he would do such a thing. Airk turned his attention back to the staircase. He watched as a long blade came into view. A woman followed. Airk was quick to attack and grabbed the woman's wrist, flung the sword out of her hand, spun her around and held his blade to her neck.

"Princess!" A man shouted behind her. At least five soldiers had followed her and were now down the stairs and had their swords drawn.

Airk looked at Cherlindrea and back at the men. "Back." They backed up rather reluctantly and Airk looked over his shoulder at Marcus. "Get out of here."

Marcus took a deep breath. He looked at the men surrounding him. "Go on. Get out of here. Go!" One by one they went up the stairs until only Marcus and Airk remained. Marcus trudged up the stairs and Airk slowly followed, forcing Cherlindrea up with them. Once they were up, they closed the trap door and covered it with tables and chairs to keep the Tir Asleenians down.

Airk threw Cherlindrea not-so-gently on the floor against a wall. He tossed the knife to Marcus. "Watch her."

Marcus glanced at Cherlindrea, who glared at him while rubbing the back of her neck. He walked over to her and jerked her up by her wrist. He pushed her back against the wall and held the knife to her throat.

Airk went to the front of the tavern and carefully peeked out the window. Tir Asleen archers were poised to throw arrows at the tavern, should anyone decide to come out. "Damn," he whispered.

He walked briskly back over to the door and poked his head inside. "Marcus, bring our sweet little princess out here. We're going back to Galladoorn."

Marcus again looked at Cherlindrea. Her eyes were pleading him to let her go. Although no words escaped her mouth, he could understand her. He sighed and turned her around with her back to him as he again applied the knife to her throat.

Airk had Marcus walk out with Cherlindrea first, and he had the rest of the soldiers stay and he and Marcus would send reinforcements as soon as they arrived at Galladoorn. When Marcus opened the door, fear consumed him. Then he heard Leir's voice stop the archers from shooting.

"Stop, you fools! You may hit the princess!"

Marcus took a few deep breaths and saw two horses conveniently tied up next to the tavern. He walked over to them and Airk followed closely behind. In moments, they were on their way back to Galladoorn.

Part 4: The Road To Galladoorn

"You're holding me too tight," Cherlindrea complained. Marcus had one of his arms wrapped tightly around her and he held the horse's reigns with the other.

"Well...I don't want you to get away."

"Why? Because you dwell in darkness without me?" she asked sarcastically.

Marcus paused. "Get your hair out of my face before I chop it off."

Cherlindrea rolled her eyes and tossed her hair. "You lied to me."

"Did I.... did I really say those things to you last night in your...tent?" Marcus asked timidly.

"Yes. Don't you remember?"

"I...wasn't exactly myself last night."

"I suppose my power entranced you."

"S-sort of..."

"And then what?"

"Well...it went away."

"It went away?! 'I want to worship you in my arms' and it went away?!" Cherlindrea quickly sent her elbow into Marcus' chest, causing him to let her go. She quickly jumped off the horse and took off running. Marcus followed after her and tackled her, forcing her into the snow. He pinned her down by her arms and stared into her eyes. What he saw there he didn't understand...

"Marcus! Dammit, just grab the girl and let's go!" Airk yelled him out of his thoughts.

Marcus glanced up menacingly at his brother. He was only distracted for a split second, but that was all it took. Cherlindrea flipped him over her head and scrambled to her feet. She started to run when Marcus tripped her. She landed on her stomach. When she rolled over onto her back, Marcus quickly drew his sword and pressed it against the side of her neck. "Don't move."

<><><><><>

Leir paced back and forth in front of the tavern. Options ran over and over in his mind. Should he go in and be possibly ambushed and killed? Or should he try to go after Cherlindrea? Or set the tavern ablaze with arrows and force the Galladoorn scum out to their deaths?

After quite a few minutes, he addressed his troops. "Men, we have come to the point in time where we will not let the enemy victor over us. We have come to the point where we must make the first move. Archers, take your places!"

<><><><><>

Cherlindrea squirmed as much as she could to try and fight out of Marcus' grip as they neared the huge castle. She knew that every female prisoner of war was either made a servant, entertainer or a concubine. She twisted as much as she could, but Marcus wasn't about to underestimate her this time.

"Quit your damn squirming," he hissed in her ear.

Cherlindrea sighed frustratedly. "What exactly do you think you're going to do with me?"

"Actually, princess, I'm not going to do anything with you. I may leave that up to my brother or someone else, but you needn't be concerned with that now."

"And why is that?"

"Because right now, you are under my power. As of right now, you have one simple command and that is to be still."

<><><><><>

Marcus collapsed in the chair in his room. He let out a long sigh and stretched his legs. Keeping Cherlindrea from escaping again was a bit more than he had bargained for, but now she was in Airk's care. Airk had her taken away "to be brought to his chambers." In other circumstances, he probably would have done something about it, but now he just wanted to rest...then he'd do something about it.

After a few hours of restless sleep, a crash was heard outside Marcus' window. Marcus jumped out bed and rushed to the window. Outside, he could see one of their older slaves, who really should've died long ago, standing over a barrel of Ale, which he had most undoubtedly dropped. The Ale had spilled everywhere and the old slave looked up at his commander fearfully. "I-- I'm sorry," he stammered.

"You insolent little wretch!" the commander yelled. He pulled the whip from his belt and raised it above his head as the slave cowered and tried to protect himself.

Marcus rushed out the door and grabbed the whip before it fell. "Do not punish this old man for something he could not have helped."

"With all due respect, your highness, he has been transporting barrels all morning and this is the first one he's--"

"Then maybe he should take a break." Marcus shoved the whip back at the commander. He had never liked slavery. They had a stare down for a moment and then the commander backed away and left. Marcus turned to the old man.

"Oh, thank you, sir. My tired old body isn't what it used to be," he wheezed.

Marcus nodded his head and the old man went back to his business.

"C'mon, princess. The prince wishes a word with you," a guard yelled.

Marcus looked up and saw a guard with a rope in his hands looking behind a wall. He gave a tug at the rope and Cherlindrea tumbled out. They had put irons around her wrists and she was being practically dragged out by a guard. She immediately straightened her composure and tossed her hair. In an instant, she pulled on the rope hard and the guard went tumbling towards her. She kicked him in the stomach and then across his face. The guard flipped over and landed on his back. Cherlindrea spit on him and then looked around for anyone that had noticed. Either not seeing Marcus or not caring that he was there, she started searching her clothes for something. She was just about to pick the lock on her irons when Airk ran out from behind a wall and grabbed her from behind. No matter how much she thrashed around or kicked, Airk still held her tightly. Soon, soldiers appeared with irons and chains, which found their ways around Cherlindrea's wrists, waist, and ankles. The chains around her waist were keeping her wrists from going too far above her midsection, and, therefore, she couldn't move her arms very far from her body.

Feeling the rage inside him rise, Marcus walked quickly to the scene. He looked a smiling Airk straight in the eyes. "You made her into a slave?!"

"In a manner of speaking," Airk grinned as he tugged on Cherindrea's chain. She spat at him with hatred in her eyes. Airk jerked on her chain and sent her fumbling towards him while mumbling, "You need to be taught a lesson, you little--"

He was cut off as Marcus stepped in front of Cherlindrea. "Would you have done the same?"

"What?" Airk had a look of pure surprise on his face.

"If you had been a prisoner of war, would you have been trying to escape every chance you got as well? Because that's exactly what she's doing Airk."

"Fine. Then you take care of her since you know her so well." Airk threw the chain at Marcus and stormed off, motioning for the guards to follow. They did so, mumbling profanities as they went. Marcus turned to Cherlindrea. Only taking a moment to look into her confused eyes, he took her by her irons and gently led her into a nearby hut.

Marcus stopped in front of a chair in the hut and turned to her. "Sit down," he said softly. Cherlindrea did so cautiously, never taking her eyes off of Marcus, who had walked to the other side of the room. He opened a box and took out a small object. As he was walking back over to her, Cherlindrea noticed that it was a key. Marcus knelt in front of her and lifted her hands to get to the lock on her irons. As he inserted the key, Cherlindrea spoke, "You know I could kill you in two seconds?"

Marcus looked up at her. "I don't doubt it," he said softly. He looked back down. "But seeing as I'm your only ally right now, that wouldn't be a very smart thing to do."

"Why? Why are you helping me?"

"I've never agreed with slavery."

"I don't accept that. There's something else."

Marcus took off Cherlindrea's irons. "Call it what you wish." He walked across to the other side of the room and put the key away.

Cherlindrea rubbed her wrists to help her circulation. "Airk is expecting me to be at the celebration tonight. He wasn't totally honest with you."

Marcus turned to face her. "What do you mean?"

"I'm not just a slave. I'm a concubine."

Marcus felt dizzy. The room started spinning. "A...a what?" he whispered. Cherlindrea just nodded. Marcus held on to the table for support. "I can't believe he would do that to you..." he whispered.

"That's what he does to all of the women you capture. Did you really think I'd be any different?"

"I thought that he would have at least an amount of respect for you."

"Why would he?"

Marcus sighed. "That celebration you're talking about. It's an annual festival. Airk usually leads it. We have all the guards and soldiers in the Great Hall and we have a feast. There are seven or eight slaves that dance and the highest ranking official get their choice of who they want for the night. Airk usually gets first choice." Marcus paused. "It wouldn't surprise me at all if he chose you."

Cherlindrea sighed. "Are you going to be there?" she asked hopefully.

"There's not really a reason for me to be there--"

"I want you there. Don't let Airk or anyone else take me away. Please," she begged. Her eyes started brimming with tears as she looked at Marcus.

His heart filled with pain. Something had happened to Cherlindrea between the time he had rescued her and when he told her about the festival. Something had made her phenomenally vulnerable and she was about to completely lose it. Marcus continued to watch her, wondering if he would be able to hold his feelings in for much longer...

<><><><><>

"Dancers! Dancers! Dancers!" The chant echoed through the Great Hall.

Airk stood up, raising his goblet. "Bring on the slaves!" The soldiers cheered. Music started to play.

Marcus stood in a dark corner of the Great Hall and looked on with disgust.

The dancers entered through a doorway with tags on their feet to distinguish them as slaves among others. One of them started immediately with extremely sensuous movements. She was dressed up mainly in purple with a vail covering her lower face. She wore a purple top with her midriff exposed far below her naval, with her short purple skirt hanging off of her hips. The outfit was mostly outlined with gold, and it was clear to see that she had the attention of every man in the room. She was definitely the most enthusiastic of the women. After a few minutes, she swayed and turned right up very close to Marcus. She flashed him a sexy look. Suddenly, Marcus knew who it was-- Cherlindrea.

She danced around the table touching and teasing all of them until the others started to loosen up and get the idea. Pretty soon, the eyes were off of her and directed to the other dancers. Marcus continued to stare at Cherlindrea until he saw her stop and look around. Either not seeing him staring at her or not caring, she turned her eyes to the table in front of Airk. She slowly moved toward the table as if she was after something. Marcus looked at the table closely. With fear and dread overcoming him, he realized what she was doing-- trying to get her keys to her freedom.

Marcus’ breath caught in his throat. He looked around frantically for anyone else that might be watching her, but since he saw no one, he tried to settle down and his eyes returned to her. She was just a few feet away...

"AIRK!" Marcus’ head jerked up, as did Cherlindrea’s. Airk almost choked on his ale. He stood up and turned around quickly.

"What the bloody Hell are you doing boy?!" King Ranon shouted at him.

"Father...it’s the annual celebration. We have one every year," he replied, confused.

"Not when we’re at war, dammit! There shall be no celebrating! We’ve nothing to celebrate!"

"But, father, we’ve won the war with Tir Asleen!"

"No! This war is not over by far! Soldiers are still trapped in the tavern where you left them!"

"Alright, father. I’ll clean everything up and get everyone out. Go back to bed."

Clean everything up? Yes, he’ll have the slaves do it... Marcus thought bitterly.

King Ranon left rather angrily. Airk turned to the rest. "Celebration is over. Get back to your homes." He turned to Cherlindrea. He gave her an evil smile. He turned to one of the guards. "Have her perfumed and brought to my chambers." Two guards grabbed her roughly by both her arms and dragged her out.

Marcus stormed up to Airk angrily. "What the Hell are you doing, Airk?!" He asked angrily.

"Brother, I saw her first. And as always, I get the first choice." Airk downed the rest of his Ale and left the room, leaving Marcus fuming.

<><><><><>

Cherlindrea laid on Airk’s bed face-up towards the canopy. She tried to remember the directions back to the Great Hall. If she could find her way back there, she would most definitely be able to get out. Left down the corridor to the last room on the left, right through the arch, then left, then right at the split into the three halls, down the corridor to the staircase, down two floors, past the two rooms on the right--

The door opened, causing Cherlindrea to lose her train of thought. Remembering her position, she sat up slowly, arching her back.

"Don’t be frightened, my dear. I give you my word that I will serve you no harm...if you behave." Airk circled the bed to the other side and ran his fingers over the thin material that hung from the top of the canopy. He opened the "curtain" and sat down behind her. "For someone with your beauty, Cherlindrea, you really shouldn’t be out fighting in battle."

"We each choose our own path."

Airk kissed her shoulder. "The guards did a good job with you. Not that you needed any additions to the way you were before," he said softly.

"I aim to please you, my lord," Cherlindrea replied through gritted teeth.

Airk smiled and laughed softly. He inhaled the scent of her hair. "Mmmm. You smell so good."

"I suppose you have guards posted outside the door."

"Why should I? My dear lady, should you ever think of escaping, I don’t need guards. I could handle you myself."

"My, my. You certainly have an ego to compliment your words," Cherlindrea said with a grin.

Airk laughed at her again. "I admire your efforts to make me lose my temper, but it won’t work." He lowered his head until he was right at her ear. "You could be a little cooperative...unless you want to be be-headed," he whispered as his hand brushed across her bare midsection. He kissed her under her ear...

Part 5: Thoughts Of Betrayal

A few hours later, Cherlindrea quietly walked out into the hall and shut the door behind her. Her legs hurt badly and she just wanted to go to sleep and wake up from this nightmare. Airk had taken her, that one sacred part of her that was supposed to belong to her one true love...and she despised him for it. Now she really was a worthless concubine.

She had only made it to the end of the hall when she was blinded by her tears and could go no further. Starting to lose it, Cherlindrea gripped the edge of the wall and covered her mouth with her hand, trying to get a grip, but it was too late. She slowly sunk down to the floor and brought her knees up to her chest, resting her forehead on the knees and crying like she hadn’t done for years.

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Marcus got up out of bed. The Sandman was not to visit him this night, mostly due to his raging fury. The more he thought about Airk’s words and what he was making Cherlindrea do, the more furious he got. Deciding to go out for a ride, he got dressed and walked down the stairs, his fists clenched tightly at his sides.

Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, he stopped when he heard a faint noise. At first he thought it was just something outside, but the more he listened, the more it sounded like muffled crying. He walked towards the sound, which eventually led him down a small corridor. He saw remnants of cloth coming from another corridor and walked quickly towards it, hearing the crying getting louder. When he was about ten feet away, he noticed the cloth looked like what Cherlindrea had been wearing that night. He stopped when he got to the edge of the hallway and poked his head around the corner. When he looked down, he saw her, her head buried in her arms and crying. His heart completely fell apart. He crouched down, still behind the corner and slowly reached out to touch her arm.

Cherlindrea jumped when he touched her. She popped her head up and looked at him. Again, Marcus’ heart felt like it was torn from his chest when he looked deep into her eyes. She had been broken. Broken by Airk.

She looked at him as though she were scared he would kill her for finding her there. He gave her a look of comfort. "It’s alright. I’ll not harm you," he whispered, careful not to wake anyone that would kill her for this. He reached out and wiped the tears from her cheeks, trying to prove to her that he meant it. She pulled back a little when he touched her, but relaxed as he brushed his thumb over her cheek. He took her hand, looking deeply into her eyes. "Come with me," he whispered.

He led her out to the stables, where they wouldn’t have to whisper and be extremely cautious about not getting caught. He turned to face her when they had gotten inside and put her somewhat in the shadows, in case anyone did come out. Her tears started falling again silently as she looked away from him, ashamed to look into his eyes. "He took you, didn’t he?" Marcus asked softly with a hint of anger in his voice.

Cherlindrea looked at the ground and nodded her head. A flood of tears was released again at the thought of what they had done. Marcus reached out and took her into his arms, laying his chin on the top of her head and stroking her hair softly. Cherlindrea rested her head on his chest as she shook. Marcus sighed with disapproval. How could his family be like this? Cherlindrea was a princess. She was the princess of Tir Asleen, but she still deserved respect. This war had gone on for so many years that honor was completely lost in it. Marcus was just beginning to find out the cold truth of how his family really was...

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As the weeks went by, Marcus developed a plan of at least helping Cherlindrea out of her predicament. He would slip a few drops of a sleeping potion he had obtained from a midwife in town into Airk’s wine and he would be knocked out, so nothing would happen to Cherlindrea. He went to Airk’s room every night and took Cherlindrea out to the stables where they could talk. A few days after their "ritual" started, Marcus snuck a kiss in. He didn’t mean to, but he just couldn’t stop himself. Cherlindrea returned it, and now they were sharing a most forbidden love. If anyone ever found out, they would both easily be killed.

They were both out in the stables, sharing a most passionate kiss when Cherlindrea pulled away from him. "Beloved...I can’t continue like this. I know my family is worried sick about me. I belong in Tir Asleen."

"I know. I have no doubts that you’re family is worried sick about you, but I’ve been sending a messenger to the queen telling her that you are alright and that I would let no other harm you." He ran his fingers through her hair and sighed. "I knew this day would come and so it has. Cherlindrea, I love you more than life itself and I will do anything to make you happy, but I have played it over in my head and I can find no way to get you out of here."

"When I leave, I’m not leaving without you," Cherlindrea said with determination.

Marcus smiled. Airk may have broken her before, but now she was finally getting her spirit back. "The war has died down in the past couple of weeks. If it continues on like this, in three days, we will leave at our usual time, but travel away from here to Tir Asleen. Does that work better for you?"

Cherlindrea’s eyes lit up as she wrapped her arms around Marcus and kissed him happily again. After a time, she broke away again. "There is another thing that troubles me..." she said hesitantly.

"And what would that be, my love?"

Cherlindrea kissed him again. "I...I want you, Marcus," she said softly as she gazed up into his eyes.

Marcus’ eyes darkened with passion. He stood up, pulling her up with him, and wrapped his arms tightly around her waist. He kissed her with more passion and hunger than he ever had before, leaving Cherlindrea breathless when it was broken. They slowly walked back into the castle and to Marcus’ room, where, ever so gently, they made love.

Part 6: Caught

Cherlindrea and Marcus were in a deep sleep in each other’s arms on Marcus’ bed when Marcus was awakened by a commotion going on outside in the hall. He heard his father’s voice, along with Airk’s, seemingly coming from right outside his door. Marcus slid out of bed carefully, not wanting to wake his angel. He put on his clothes that were disguarded the night before and kissed Cherlindrea on the forehead, waking her up. Marcus walked over to the door and opened it only enough for him to be seen. He was surprised when he saw Airk and his father yelling at each other with about five soldiers around. “What’s happened?” Marcus asked, confused.

“Don’t play stupid, little brother, I know what you and that whore have been doing!” Airk said with complete anger in his voice. Marcus’ temper started rising when he heard Airk refer to Cherlindrea as a whore.

King Ranon sighed. “Airk, don’t jump to conclusions. Just because she’s not in your room, doesn’t mean she’s sharing a bed with your brother!”

“Then what else could have happened, Father?! She couldn’t have escaped! There are guards everywhere!” Airk turned to Marcus. “Let us search your room,” he demanded.

“She’s not here,” he growled.

“Then you wouldn’t mind if we searched,” Airk said, shoving the door open.

Marcus held his breath as Airk walked past him into the room. He looked around frantically, but Cherlindrea was nowhere to be seen. Airk turned to the soldiers outside and motioned for them to search around. Marcus watched each one of them carefully.

King Ranon walked into the room and looked at Airk menacingly. “I told you there was nothing to worry about. Marcus is loyal to his family and his family’s name, right, my boy?” he asked as he hit Marcus on the back. He walked out of the room with the soldiers, who didn’t find anything. Marcus’ eyes lingered on the floor and over to a curtain that hid a room. The curtain moved slightly and Marcus caught the site of toes. So that’s where she went… he thought.

He was snapped from his thoughts as he felt Airk practically breathing down his neck. His brother was right next to his ear and grinding his teeth. “I know she has been here. I can smell her. I was the one who took her, you know. I studied every inch of her and I know how she thinks. She sought out shelter from me and you gave it to her. It’s only a matter of time before both or either of you slips up.” With that, Airk walked out of the room.

Marcus remembered Cherlindrea and walked quickly over to the curtain, grabbing her arm and yanking her out hard. Before she could even make a sound, his lips were on hers.

“Told you.”

Marcus and Cherlindrea were both torn away from each other at the sound of Airk’s voice. Airk was standing in the doorway, along with King Ranon. Marcus stepped in front of Cherlindrea protectively, but he knew that this was one time he couldn’t protect neither her nor him.

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“Marcus, how could you?!” his mother shouted at him from her throne. In only a day, Marcus and Cherlindrea were being brought in front of the Council and the King and Queen to determine their punishment.

Marcus hung his head, not in shame, but in anger. He had been put on his knees in front of his own parents with irons around his wrists behind his back like a traitor. They had done the same to Cherlindrea, but she was being held by two guards off to the side.

“You knew Cherlindrea belonged to your brother! And you were having an affair with her! And I thought you actually had morals… I thought that you could be one of the greatest kings of Galladoorn!”

“But that’s just it, Mother,” Marcus said slowly and angrily through his teeth, picking his head up to look at her. “I can never be king. I’m the bastard son, remember? You won’t even allow me to be a soldier.”

King Ranon shook his head and lifted his hand for silence. “We’ll decide what to do with you later, boy. For you,” he said, motioning at Cherlindrea, “an execution.”

Marcus was being helped up to his feet when King Ranon announced Cherlindrea’s punishment. His mouth hung open in shock when he heard his father’s words and he glanced at Cherlindrea, then back at his father. “No! Don’t kill her!” he shouted.

King Ranon stared at his son wide-eyed. “How dare you question my judgment?!” he roared.

Queen Mims put a hand on her husband’s shoulder to try to calm him. “Marcus, the slave must face her punishment.”

“I beg you not to kill her!”

King Ranon spoke again. “She is a slave that has disobeyed orders! For that she faces the punishment of a traitor!”

Marcus looked at Cherlindrea again. “Then I ask you to take my life for hers!”

“No! Marcus, don’t!” Cherlindrea shouted as she tried to reach him. The guards crossed their swords in her way.

“Absolutely not!” Queen Mims exclaimed.

“I’m begging you! Please!” Marcus said desperately. Tears began to fill his eyes as he thought of Cherlindrea dying because of him.

King Ranon stood up and was about to let loose with a tirade on his son when an old woman stepped forward from the Council. “Your highness, you have your son begging for the life of a slave! The life of his brother’s concubine! The life of a woman for whom which quite obviously he is in love with!” she said. She looked around the room while gesturing with her cane. “Who all out of us has found true love! It is indeed a rare gift and should be blessed when it is found, not destroyed! And that is exactly what these two young hearts have found! True love! It is obvious even by the looks they share! My king, if you cannot see it when they look at each other, then I pray that you will soon find your eyes and good senses!” Marcus and Cherlindrea looked at each other with tears in each other’s eyes at the old woman’s words. “I have seen these two together and it breaks my heart to think that one of them might lose the other! So, I ask you, both of you, your majesties, to think about what your son is begging for!” An applause filled the room as the old woman finished her speech.

Ranon paused for a moment. “Alright. From the next hour on, you are both banished! But I warn you, my son. If you are captured in a battle, we will show you no mercy, for you are not a Galladoornian from the next hour forth.”

Marcus smiled at his father warmly as fresh tears filled his eyes again. He glanced at Cherlindrea, who also had a few tears falling from her eyes. A half hour later, they were both on their way to Tir Asleen and hopefully, acceptance.

Part 7: Acceptance

Marcus was laying on the bed in Cherlindrea’s room, watching while Cherlindrea brushed out her long, brown hair in front of her mirror. “I’m glad your family is more open-minded than mine.” He said it with a smile, but there was disappointment in his voice.

Cherlindrea stopped brushing out her hair and looked at him in the mirror. “What will you do tomorrow when you have to fight them?” she asked quietly.

“I guess I’ll have to fight them,” he replied, meeting her eyes in the mirror. “You heard what my father said before we left. I’m the enemy now.” His voice was full of emotion and cracked when he said “enemy”.

Cherlindrea stood up and walked over to the bed, sitting beside him. “I’m so sorry they’re putting you through this.” She put a hand on the side of his face gently. “Just…promise me that when you’re fighting tomorrow, you don’t think about them being your family. You’ll end up making a mistake and I don’t know what I’d do if…” she trailed off.

Marcus turned his whole body to face her. “Don’t think about things like that. I’m here with you now. Let’s just focus on that.” He moved to kiss her and a few hours later, they were both deeply sleeping.

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BAM! BAM! BAM!

Marcus bolted up in Cherlindrea’s bed at the loud sounds. He looked around the room and saw Cherlindrea putting on her armor.

“The battle’s taken place!” she shouted.

Marcus jumped out of the bed and put on his clothes and some armor that Cherlindrea supplied for him. When they were both ready for the battle, Cherlindrea stopped Marcus and looked deep into his eyes. She kissed him passionately. “This is it.” Marcus kissed her again, this one lasting a bit longer before they both hurried down the stairs and to the battlefield.

Once they had gotten there, a great number of soldiers from both kingdoms had been killed and it looked as if Tir Asleen was losing. They didn’t expect an attack until later in the day, and were taken almost completely by surprise. Cherlindrea and Marcus ran into the battle, eventually losing site of each other as they fought for Tir Asleenian lives.

Soon, the battle turned around and, when it was over, what was left of the Tir Asleen army stood proud on their homeland. The remaining soldiers rejoiced and Leir embraced Cherlindrea. She heard her father calling for anyone who was missing. Cherlindrea looked around, confused. When her father reached where she was, she answered, “Where’s Marcus?”

Part 8: Galladoorn's True Colors

“You are going to pay dearly for betraying your family, little brother,” Airk said through gritted teeth as he dragged Marcus through the dungeon. Marcus’ arms had been crossed and tied to his body tightly, so he couldn’t move. Marcus knew where he was being taken. The worst part of the dungeon where only the worst of traitors were sent. Only two men had been there before, but didn’t survive past two days and were devoured by the rats that settled there. That dark, damp part of the dungeon was infested with fat, big, hungry rats. “I told you that Cherlindrea was mine, that I saw her first. But you just had to have her,” Airk mumbled as he continued dragging Marcus.

Marcus was over come with pain. His armor had been taken off when he was captured and his back was being rubbed raw by the dirt floor of the dungeon. Finally, they reached where Marcus would be chained up. Airk picked Marcus up by his hair and threw him into the cell. Marcus fell against the wall opposite the door and cringed as pain shot through him. He could feel the blood trickling down his back and didn’t move for quite some time. He stared at Airk with hate-filled eyes as Airk shut the cell door and locked it. Then he walked out of Marcus’ line of sight.

Only then, when he was alone, did Marcus finally let his emotions out. Tears spilled down his cheeks in a flood as he thought of losing Cherlindrea just when they had been accepted together.

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Cherlindrea walked with a purpose through the kitchen on her way out to the stables. Leir, who was sitting at the kitchen table drinking Ale, followed her out into the night air. “Styx, where are you going?”

“To Galladoorn.”

Leir grabbed her arm. “You can’t do that, Cherlindrea. They’d kill you before you could blink. They want you to go after Marcus.”

Cherlindrea tried to jerk her arm out of Leir’s grip. “Leir, they captured Marcus! I have to go and get him!” she cried. Tears started to fill her eyes as she thought of what her love would be put through.

Leir took Cherlindrea into his arms and put her head on his chest as she broke down. “It’s alright, Styx. He’ll be fine. They won’t do anything to him.”

Cherlindrea picked up her head and looked at him, her eyes already red. “Leir, you don’t understand how they are over there!” She took a shaky breath and looked away from him. “God, we just found acceptance and then I lose him! You don’t understand how this feels, Leir!”

“Tell me,” he said softly.

“It just…It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my body and torn to shreds while it was still beating! It feels like someone has just taken my soul and sliced it into nothingness! I can’t go on like this, Leir!” Cherlindrea collapsed on the ground as her last bit of strength left her. She put her head in her hands and shuddered as Leir sat down slowly next to her. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head, swearing to himself that Airk would pay, and pay dearly.

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The next morning, Cherlindrea had a headache from her near dehydration of over-crying the last night. This on top of the pain she felt inside was too much and she refused to get out of bed. Raziel came into her room at about noon and sat on her bed, holding a piece of paper.

“Cherlindrea, please listen to me,” she started. “You have to get up and fight this. If not for yourself, then for Marcus.” When Cherlindrea didn’t move and only a tear fell down her cheek, Raziel looked down at the piece of paper and sighed. “Galladoorn has announced Marcus’s execution. It’s set for tomorrow morning by the lake in between the lands.”

Cherlindrea turned her head quickly and looked into her mother’s eyes. “Are you certain?” she choked out through her dry throat.

Raziel gave her the piece of paper that she had received from one of the members of Galladoorn’s Council. Cherlindrea looked over it, still in shock when she had gotten to the last line. “You have to do something.”

Cherlindrea sat up and threw back the blanket on her bed, jumping up. She walked around the room and stopped, looking at her mother and throwing her hands up in the air. “What am I supposed to do? How am I gonna do it?” she asked no one in particular.

Raziel brightened a little at her daughter finally taking some action. “Your father already has the wheels in his head turning. You’re welcome to join us in the throne room.”

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That night, Cherlindrea was having trouble sleeping. They would have to get up at midnight and ride as fast as they could to reach the lake and hide before Galladoorn executed Marcus. The plan was to wait until a clear spot was open, where there was no chance they would hit Marcus, or any of the other Tir Asleenians and then have the archers fire. Although the plan sounded good, Cherlindrea had a bad feeling about it. All the arguments she thought of in her head had been brought up and cleared in the throne room, but she still felt as if the plan was going to fail.

Also, she dearly missed her beloved Marcus. She wondered what they would be putting him through and if he was well. Tears filled her eyes as she thought about him, but she quickly blinked them away. Now was no time to get teary-eyed. Instead, Cherlindrea focused on what she would do if the plan failed. What she came up with was simple: protect Marcus in anyway she could.

Part 9: Moment Of Truth

Cherlindrea was hiding behind an old Oak tree the next morning, about a half hour before dawn, when Marcus was to be executed. She jumped as Leir placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Sorry to frighten you,” he whispered. “Father told me to stay with you.”

Cherlindrea rolled her eyes and looked back at the unknowing soldiers playing around. “Our father is becoming like our mother in the act of worrying.”

Leir smiled. “So some would say.” He looked over Cherlindrea’s shoulder. “Look at them. They have no idea what’s about to happen. Quite remarkable, once you think about it.”

Cherlindrea turned her head to look at him and opened her mouth to say something when a drum roll started. They both looked back at the lake, confused as to what was going on now.

“Bring out the prisoner!” King Ranon shouted.

Cherlindrea gasped. No!!! her mind screamed. She looked at Leir wide-eyed, who looked at their father, who was positioned a few yards behind where King Ranon was standing side-by-side with Airk. She looked back at the scene as Marcus was brought out. His hands were tied to a long piece of wood that balanced on his shoulders. His hair was matted and bloodied and all over his body were scratches and gapes and bruises and streaks of blood and dirt. He looked like he hardly had enough strength to breathe, much less stand. He stumbled as he got to the executioner’s block, and was kicked in the back by one of the guards, sending him to his knees. The executioner lifted his sword to Marcus’ neck, cutting an “x” where his heart would be.

Before Leir could stop her, Cherlindrea bolted from the trees, drawing her sword as the executioner lifted his high above his head. Just as he was bringing it down, Cherlindrea plunged her sword into his stomach all the way, feeling his warm blood pour out onto her hand. She put her foot on his chest and pushed him off of her sword.

She barely heard the Tir Asleen battle cry and the battle start as she looked down into Marcus’ startled eyes. She cut his hands free and Marcus fell to the ground on his back. Cherlindrea put her sword down and sat him up, placing his head in her arms. They stared into each other’s eyes as she caressed his face. She looked up and around them. Everyone was fighting. The ground and lake were red from the bloodshed. She looked back down at Marcus.

A tear slipped down Marcus’ cheek. “This is where we first met,” he choked out. Cherlindrea smiled as she shed a few tears of her own. She leaned down to kiss him gently. When she pulled away, he lifted a weak, bloody hand to her face. “I want to get out of here,” he whispered. Cherlindrea could only nod, the emotion of the moment catching her voice in her throat. She helped him sit up slowly, feeling the muscles in his back tighten and she knew he was in a lot of pain. She gently held his hands and allowed him to pull himself up slowly, until he was standing shakily. Her arms went around his neck as they kissed again.

“MARCUS!!!” Airk shouted. Things seemed to go in slow motion as Airk let go of the arrow aimed at his brother’s chest. Cherlindrea saw it’s target and moved in front of her love just in time…then collapsed on the ground.

“NOOO!!!!" Marcus cried out. He knelt beside Cherlindrea’s lifeless body, gathering her up in his arms and calling her name over and over, telling her to wake up. He buried his head in the nape of her neck and let the flood of tears fall where they may.

Raziel ran over to where Marcus lay with Cherlindrea’s body in his arms and kneeled beside him. Tears also stung her eyes as she stood back up, looking around at the pointless war in which so many lives had been lost. Emotion surged through her body as she opened her mouth to speak. “STOP!!! STOP THIS SENSELESS WAR!!!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. All attention was focused on her. “This war started countless years ago and it had done NOTHING for us! I beg of whomever remembers why it started to come forth and speak! I would like to know why two of my children have died! They were fighting for a cause, but what was it?! My daughter, Cherlindrea, was protecting her true love! It was forbidden in the land of Galladoorn! LOVE!!!!” she screamed. “Look at all of us!!! We are all reduced to savages who fight and kill, yet we know not what for! This war has to stop and it has to stop now!!! Before another life is lost!!!” Raziel looked around herself. The soldiers from both sides were hanging their heads in shame. She was breathing heavily from her outburst and her throat was in agonizing pain from screaming. She wiped the tears away from her cheeks that would not stop flowing.

Several days later, King Cairbre and King Ranon both met to discuss a treaty.

Part 10: Epilogue

Marcus lay on the bed in Cherlindrea’s room, staring up at the ceiling. He had yet to move on from her death. He had fallen into severe depression, the only thing he would do was cry and weep silent tears. There were so many things he had wanted to tell her, but he always thought they would have time; he didn’t think it would all end like this.

He was just about to drift off into sleep when he felt a cold wind enter the room. He looked over at the window and saw that it was shut. He raised up slowly, confused and wondering if he really did feel the wind.

Marcus…

He heard a voice call his name. He looked around the room and saw nothing. He seriously started toying with the idea that maybe he was insane.

Marcus, it’s me…Cherlindrea…

He looked at the foot of the bed and saw mist gathering into a form…Cherlindrea’s form. When the form looked to be solid, Marcus covered his mouth with his hand, tears falling freely down his face.

Cherlindrea nodded. “It’s alright. It’s me,” she smiled.

Marcus shook his head. “But you’re dead,” he said softly. Not being able to deal with this any longer, he brought his knees up to his chest and started shaking violently from crying.

Cherlindrea’s look softened as she went around to the side of the bed. “Oh, my love. Don’t cry! It shatters my heart to see you this way.” She sat down next to him as he picked his head up to look at her, but he felt no movement on the bed.

“Is…is it really you?”

Cherlindrea smiled. “Yes. I couldn’t leave you with you being this way.”

Marcus’ eyes lit up. “There’s so much I wanted to tell you before you died!”

“I know. You can tell it all to me in due time, love. But I don’t want you to mourn me for the rest of your life. That’s why I came back. I want you to move on. Let me go. I know that you love me more than words can describe. I feel the same way. We will be together forever one day, but you mustn’t rush it, Marcus.” Her form started to fade. “I’ll always be with you. I’ll never leave you.” She kissed him softly with all the passion her being possessed, before she completely faded out.

Marcus opened his eyes and bolted up in the bed and stared into the mirror. Had that all been a dream? He thought about it for a few moments before he laid back down onto Cherlindrea’s crown…

THE END




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