Clacking his quill onto his desk, he looked back at her with venom in his eyes. He shuffled some remaining papers together before stating in a cold as the Isle of Grenley, “it’s been some time since you’ve stepped foot in this room, let alone my castle. How have you been my dearest?” He threw the papers into a drawer without losing her eyes.
Althea didn’t say anything but, “greetings, father. I’ve been well since you sent me on my two-year-long journey to the other side of the continent. I hope you have been in good health.” I hate him, how can he sit there staring down at me as if I’m nothing! How can he ignore my letters for months and then expect me to play along with his little charade?!
She had had enough of his games for one lifetime. Althea never had a say in what she was able to do or who she was able to see, especially after her mother died. It’s been frustrating since then and being sent to a whole other kingdom to be married off just topped over her hatred for this place. Opal had always been her home, not the royal tree she’s been tangled up in.
King Oliver arose from his seat but didn’t approach her. Instead, he turned towards the outside balcony behind his seat. Without motioning her over or even turning to face her he grumbled to the setting sun, “what have you been doing the whole damn time?” Her fingers etched into the carefully carved banister. The paint crumbled away as his nails cracked the base. Turning around, Althea was just standing there with a blank expression. She had no care for how her father felt about how she missed every single meeting with the kings and princes from neighboring lands. But she had no idea that he knew.
Flipping out her fan, she scoffed, “you know as much as I do, father. You sent me to fetch a good heir for you.” The wind outside howled as she tried to flap the pretty white lie away from her guilty conscience, “there were a few mix up on the path to the meetings but overall I thought it went pretty well.” Althea was slick enough to play off missing every single appointment as a fluke in the system.
"The war is over, thanks to my decision to send you off through foreign lands. I see that it's even helped your demeanor a bit as well, my dear daughter." He looked down upon her with a blank expression but had piercing ice-blue eyes. Althea could feel his anger boiling up inside him, so she chose to hold back and be civil.
"I'm humbled to have been given the chance to serve my kingdom in a way that has helped end the several year-long war. I hope I have done my duty to my best ability my king." Curtsying again for good measure, she kept her gaze away from his as the room fell silent. The clinking of wine dripping into a metal cup resounded throughout the room until the bottle was set back on the table.
Not daring to meet his gaze, she looked to the old paintings upon the walls and realized one had been missing. Althea opened her mouth to question it but was cut off, "unfortunately, you were unable to find a compatible suitor while traveling the continent.” She whipped her head in his direction to see a shadow cast over his eyes as he continued in a low yet menacing voice, “I was informed by many other world leaders that you were absent from the several-even all of the meetings put in place to accommodate your own schedule. Would you care to explain exactly where you were on each of these occasions, my little flower?” His eyes glowed through the darkness cast by his crown.
Not knowing whether, to tell the truth, or to create another fib on the spot, she stood with obvious puzzlement on her facade. “I um…” Twiddling with her fan, Althea wracked every crevice of her brain, trying to think of a suitable lie. “The streets! Yes, the streets were always crawling with bandits and whatnot that would always stop the carriage or carriage in front of us! It wasn’t very safe in some of these countries father!” She hid my smile behind a false tear and a worried tone, “I was so afraid that if we tried to talk them out of it, the coachmen would be in danger! I’m just glad, the Knights made it on time to stop them from taking anything.”
Her father would never take her words for granted in any other situation. He believed Althea didn’t have the gall to lie to him. I should probably think of another suitable excuse while he’s taking in my words. If anything he already knows what really happened from the papers…Althea’s fingers trembled while the rest of her stayed hard as a rock.
She looked up at him to see him stroking his gray and brown beard with a flat expression, “Hmph. Those buffoons think they can treat a princess in that manner, do they?”
She inwardly smirked at her own victory, “I have no idea what those bobolyns were thinking father! To stop a royal carriage from--”
“They must be executed at once!” He stood in the determination at his own words and commanded for his Herald to be immediately sent into the hall. Only seconds later did he crash through the big doors huffing and puffing. Standing up straight, the Herald fixed his tailcoat and bowed deeply addressing the two of us perfectly. “Gather all of the knights that accompanied Princess Althea through the various countries she was sent and have them executed by nightfall!” At the command, no one moved. The Herald's face went pale while his body froze on the spot. He knew the king wasn’t one for joking but he was still hoping deep down somewhere that this was one.
Althea looked back at her father and wanted to choke on his words, ‘have them executed.’ I turned to Arnold and saw him go pale then back at the obviously high and mighty king I have been told to address father. “What?”
Yes, that’s all I could get out, what? As in, what just happened? Or even better, what in all the kingdom did this boggart just demand? Althea couldn’t comprehend the severity of the situation until her father looked back at the Herald in anger then back at her.
“Just as I said, my dear Althea! These incompetent knights and magicians can’t even get you to where you’ve been sent halfway across the land to be! You're lucky the princes that missed you were intrigued by your aloofness!" He stood in all his fury and was now yelling at her directly, "if you had just shown up, it wouldn't have to be this way! Now I have to throw a ball in order to see to it that you're married!"
I stepped forward while holding back my tears and yelled back, "what if I don't want to get married yet?! I haven't met a single honest person yet, why are you trying to rush this!?" She huffed out bated breaths and waited for his response in agony.
Looking up again, Althea saw that my father was now sitting back down, "execute them. Don't let a single man live that was supposed to escort the princess around the other kingdoms these past years."
"Enough!" He slammed his fist on his chair, making the thud echo throughout the hall. "I will not tolerate this behavior any longer Althea! You are already past the age of engagement, it's time you took responsibility for yourself and this kingdom!" Without giving her time to protest he stood up and walked out into a connecting room behind his bookcase.
She turned quickly to see that the door she came in before was just about to swing closed. Running through before it slammed shut, she could see Arnold scurrying down the steps. "Arnold, stop!" He didn't even turn around at her call, but instead picked up his pace. Althea hurried after him down the steps, tripping up a few times from her cursed heels.
After a few agonizing falls, she'd had enough so she stopped and took the damned contraptions off. Without warning, Althea chucked one heel down the flight and nailed her father's errand boy square in the back. He stopped, but still refused to turn and face me. "Yes...?"
I can’t take it anymore! Her tears were flowing down her cheeks as she choked out, "please don't. They're innocent, I'd rather you hang me!" She crumpled to the floor and wept until she felt a touch on her head. Looking up, Althea saw Arnold crouched down in front of her with a worried expression.
"I could never do such a thing to my lady, you should know that..." he trailed off.
"—That as your father's Hand, I must do as he commands of me, and you should be obedient as well, my princess." He stood over her and bowed once again.
Althea didn't dare look up at him. She waited and waited until his footsteps were barely audible, then stood up and jumped down step after step until she saw him opening the front doors. Letting loose her own last canon, she screamed along with it, "YOU DAMNED COWARD!" With that, she watched as he picked up her light pink shoe with a scrunch in his brow then closed the door behind himself without a word.
I hate this place! More than anything in the world, I hate how barbaric and strict these walls can be! I miss just running around without a care in the world with my hand in my mother's. Althea sprinted out the door after him but was stopped by the imperial guard that was assigned to protect the king.
“Restrain her! Lock her in her room until the ball, she will be attending this time.” She turned to come face to face with the monster that ordered all of the innocent people that have been by her side since she left for their unjust death.
“Let go of me, how dare you treat me this way!” Althea stomped on their toes and cursed the guards out all the way to her old bedroom. When the door closed with a thud, the lock from the outside clicked initiating Althea’s unsettling laugh. Her tears dried as she began stuffing anything she could under her covers. Sitting down at her mirror, Althea began to wet a cloth and wipe off her caked facade until she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. "It's about damn time one of you loafs showed up here." She didn't turn around but looked up into the mirror again to see a dark cloaked figure with a white mask on holding out a little scrap of paper to her. He didn't say anything but just waited for her to reach for it.
Stepping into the fading sunlight, she whispered, “miraculum.” Her pink fluffy dress transformed into a deep blood red cloak draped over black vest with a matching white ruffled shirt. Her blonde hair was tied up into a loose bun as a crimson mask covered her ice-blue eyes.
Knowing that there wasn't much left to say, she picked the paper out of the masked man's hand. She looked down to read aloud, "3 days time, the royal ball, Jameson Caparelli." Althea looked up to see the cloaked figure gone, while the wind tickled her nose as she smiled down at the small piece of paper. "It seems they just can't get enough of me in Opal and the Isle of Grenley." She cocked her head and flipped the little paper in confusion, “but they didn’t say what to do with him…”
Smirking to herself, she lit a small candle then danced around the room happily. Settling herself on the cushioned and freshly made bed, Althea looked at the paper one more time before dangling it above the flame and watching it turn to ash.
Standing up with a sigh, she hopped over the window ledge and plummeted onto shipping crates just outside her window. I don’t plan on just sitting idly by when all of this is my fault! Without knowing, as she jumped down towards the courtyard where her knights and ladies in waiting were to be either exiled or killed, she was being followed by a follower.
Althea jumped out onto the field and was about to throw a dagger at the rope holding the guillotine up until one of the Puppetmaster’s followers held her back by her mouth. Her vision went blurry as another masked figure stood above her blowing a cloud of green dust into her face.
When she woke up she jumped out of bed and looked around to see she was back in her room. Sprinting towards the window, the moon was already glowing high in the sky. Walking slowly back over to her bed, she twirled her finger around a strand of hair and sat back down. I could’ve sworn I’d left to stop the beheadings! She couldn’t believe she’d been so tired that she passed out before even leaving the room.
Lifting her hand into the light she read the words etched into her skin, “3 days time, the royal ball, Jameson Caparelli." Turning towards her candle, she spotted another note. “I thought I burned this or…” Lifting the paper she muttered the words to herself, “you’ve got a lot to learn my Phoenix, Rule number five: Do not do unnecessary tasks, especially if it disrupts the hierarchy.” Throwing the paper into the fire, Althea rolled her eyes before transforming once again into her assassin counterpart, Phoenix.
Jumping into a nearby infirmary, she breaks into the maternity ward and takes in the stench of newborn babies feces and vomit. Searching each and every crib, she touches each forehead to find the best fit for her rebirth. On her fifth forehead, she was finally satisfied with the little tanned skin baby boy.
Taking out her dagger she made a small cut on the baby’s hand and kissed the innocent blood. An orangey-red shine came from the room and covered every inch of the baby boy. She smiled as best she could to calm the whimpering child, but was startled to hear the footsteps of a nurse approaching. Jumping through a nearby window, Althea whispered once before leaving, “good to see you again, Pat.” With that, she wiped her eyes before leaving her old friend in his new life.
I had to cut the chapter because Tapas has a character limit for each chapter.