Darkness has been present since the beginning of time. In this particular world, like in many, it can come in several forms. A dragon gone mad from old age, a long line of corrupt monarchs who put their pride before their people, demons roaming the countryside, despondent Gods of Old who fear their inevitable replacement. But the most dangerous kind of all is the darkness belonging to the average man. The man who is desperate and willing to do anything for their cause, justified or not.
The Kingdom of Agnizera, which had recently become an empire with the annexation of the Kingdom of Colovia, had one such problem. With the ascension of newly crowned King Azaniledro, Agnizera was waging wars on nearby countries so he could become an Emperor. In his old age, he had finally taken over the entire continent, spreading grief and misery to his newly acquired subjects. Though wise and knowledgeable on how his empire should run, he was greedy and disinterested in what could very well be described as the heart of Agnizera, his heirs.
He had a bad hobby of collecting princesses, queens, and women of royal lineage. He had twelve daughters and three sons, 13 of whom were born to the women in his harem. These women were royals so all of their children had a right to the throne. But only the first born, the Imperial Prince Rojexali, was presumed to be the official heir. Rojexali was the only child he favored, as shown by his name. It was customary to name the first born male with a name befitting royalty for good luck and a long reign. The rest of Azaniledro’s children had short, undignified names: Aleja, Mirya, Jore. Proof of their inadequacy.
But the Emperor did not limit his affairs to just royalty. His youngest, Valena, was known throughout all of Agnizera as the ‘Unwanted Child’. Her mother was the daughter of a small Baron family. She had just come of age at the time of Valena’s birth. It was a scandal that rocked the kingdom from its highest to its lowest classes. Young, naive, and with no social backing or power to speak of; Valena was an Imperial Princess in name only. Her greatest and only ally was her maid, Jaya. Jaya was the only child of the Minister of Finance in the Republic of Dhamaye, the first country to fall to Emperor Azaniledro. Her young life was spared, despite her high ranking, to serve as a maid to the newest princess who had yet to be born. Jaya had been taking care of Valena ever since.
Even with Valena at 15 years old, Jaya had remained her only friend. While other maids took care of the washing and preparation of meals, Jaya would dress her, bathe her, and spend all of her free time with her. Jaya was the only one allowed in her room. Valena was reaching the age for her social debut and becoming increasingly stressed. Her siblings were becoming bolder in their disapproval of her and the palace servants had taken to avoiding her gaze and whispering behind her back when she showed her face. Jaya, with her previous exposure to high society, limited though it was, had started to teach Valena sophistication and etiquette. The Emperor never seemed to care enough about Valena to bring her tutors in preparation for her role in high society, leaving Jaya in her young age to take care of it all.
Unfortunately, this proximity made Jaya vulnerable. The Emperor, given his ruthlessness, of course, had enemies. There was a rebel group from the fallen Country of Colovia who had been plaguing him for months. They were terrorizing commoners in remote villages, pilfering nobles in their carriages between territories, and enlisting mistreated peoples of other annexed countries into their ranks. They had every intention of taking down the empire and reinstating the countries, violently. They concocted a plan to kidnap one of his heirs and demand his surrender or forfeit their life and they did just that. Imperial Princess Valena, being the black stain on the Imperial Family, lived in a neglected and empty palace farthest from everyone. In the night they broke in and stole their target, whisking her away into the forest, their destination unknown.
Comments (0)See all