Story by T.Charters copyright (C) 2017. firstname.lastname@example.org
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, Gods or Demons, living, dead or imaginary is purely coincidental.
In the early morning the group of friends gathered at the graveside. There were four graves clustered close together with an obvious space for a fifth, they were set further back in the cemetery than most, shaded by and encircling the base of a massive oak. The graves were clean and tidy, lovingly tendered and free from neglect. The headstones were simple with little more than a name and date. The same date on all the graves. The names and inscriptions were similar as well, Melanie, Michael, Ann and Frank Chambers, taken from us far too soon. For someone unknowing it might have appeared to be the result of an accident or some catastrophic natural event. The friends knew better.
"What's it been now," one of them asked, "three, four years?" It wasn't really a question.
The others just solemnly nodded.
"Has anyone heard from her or know where she is?"
No one replied. A few shook their heads.
"Why do you think she ran?" another asked.
"What would you have done?" another in the group said a little firmly. "We were all there, we saw what happened to her. He almost killed her and then to wake and learn he'd also murdered her family. I don't know about you but I probably would have run as well."
"Do you think she'll ever come back? Do you think she's even still alive?"
"We can hope," one said.
Amanda woke screaming and crying.
Jane was at her side within moments. "You're shaking and covered in sweat," she exclaimed sounding panicked herself.
The doors to the suite were flung open and Marc and the other guards rushed into the room.
Amanda tried to smile. "Bad dream," she revealed, her voice still shaking as much as she was. She was totally freaked. She glanced at Marc. "I blame you," she said in a lame attempt to joke.
"Me?" Marc replied. He both looked and sounded confused.
Amanda pointed at a number of newspaper clippings on the dresser nearby.
Marc picked them up and glanced at them. "Oh," he said.
"What are they?" Jane asked.
"Clippings about the attack and murder of Amanda's family," Marc replied sadly. "I am sorry," he said.
Amanda simply nodded. She'd collected them after she'd run. They were all that she now had of her real family. She'd liked knowing that the clippings were hidden in a drawer somewhere but she had never since looked at them. She'd never expected the staff to find them when they'd moved everything from the apartment to the palace, nor had she expected their sudden reappearance to upset her so much.
"Have you looked at them?" she asked Jane.
Jane shook her head. Strangely she looked a little embarrassed.
Marc and the other guards politely excused themselves then returned to the hall outside the room.
Amanda frowned. "What is it?" she asked.
"I can't read," Jane replied wretchedly. "I've forgotten how to do that as well." She smiled uncomfortably. "That's where I've been hiding. In the library," she said. "Trying... Did you know there was a library here?" she asked.
Amanda shook her head. In reality she really hadn't seen that much of the palace at all.
"It's amazing," Jane related excitedly. She was clearly quite taken with the place. "It's huge and musty and full of ancient books," she explained. "But..." she started and stopped.
"But what?" Amanda asked.
"It's difficult," Jane added. "There are a few words I can understand," she said. "But most..." she paused again. "I have to use a dictionary to learn what they mean, then often look up the words in the meaning as well. It's so..." She angrily gritted her teeth.
"Frustrating," Amanda finished.
Jane nodded. She smiled. "That!" she said.
"Do you want me to help?" Amanda asked. She wasn't going to push.
Jane shook her head. "No," she said, "this is something I want to do myself." She actually sounded a little bitter as though she was taking everything a bit more personally than she had previously.
Amanda nodded. "I'm here if you need me," she responded.
Jane smiled. "I know," she replied. "There's a girl working in the library if I get really stuck," she said. She frowned for a moment. "She has a strange name, Romana I think."
Amanda smiled. She chuckled silently. It was clear that the Queen knew far more about what was happening in the palace than she let on. Amanda was pleased. It made the Queen seem less distant than she had to appear.
"Are you going to be okay?" Jane asked. She still sounded worried.
Amanda nodded. "As long as I don't have to look at those things anymore," she said.
"Shall I get rid of them?" Jane inquired.
Amanda shook her head. "No," she replied. "They're all that I have left, but at least hide them so I can't easily find them again." She grinned woefully. "I really am pathetic," she said.
"Then that makes two of us," Jane replied smiling as best she could.
Amanda smiled herself. "Do you think we'll ever be whole?" she asked.
"Only together," Jane replied.
Late in the morning Marshall strode into the hospital. He took the elevator to the admin level then knocked on the Administrator's door. As he stepped inside he flashed his police badge.
The Administrator looked up concerned. "Can I help you?" he asked worriedly.
"Amanda Chambers," Marshall replied. "We're reopening the investigation into her assault."
By midday Amanda had finished talking with all the staff and learning what was really expected of her. She was a little overwhelmed and even more in awe of the Queen and how she so seamlessly managed everything and made it all look so easy. Despite the staff's insistence Amanda suspected that she might be a poor replacement.
Afterwards she followed Marc back through the palace. She wasn't really taking any notice or watching where they were going. She was thinking about Jane and what she must be doing in the library. She was a little surprised to find Marc had led her back to her quarters.
"Why are we here?" she asked.
"You will need to get changed," Marc advised. "The Queen has asked that I provide you with some physical training this afternoon."
"Physical training," Amanda repeated uncertainly. She wasn't exactly sure she knew what that meant.
"For your protection," Marc suggested. "You previously enjoyed running so that style of attire would be perfect."
"How would you know that?" Amanda asked. She hadn't been running since before she'd been attacked.
"I wouldn't be much of a guard if I didn't learn something about my charge," Marc responded, smiling a little too smugly.
Amanda didn't appreciate it. She crossed her arms and stood firm. "Do you and the Queen often speak about me?" she asked. She actually sounded annoyed, like her privacy had been violated in some small way.
Marc nodded. "Every evening," he replied. "It's part of a briefing she has with all the senior security staff." He honestly didn't understand why Amanda was upset.
"Will Jane be joining us?" she asked.
Marc shook his head.
"So why just myself?" Amanda inquired. She didn't like being singled out without any sort of reason. She probably wouldn't have been so annoyed if Marc had warned her beforehand.
"You are not a vampire," Marc explained without sounding belittling. "As such you do not have protection of the blood."
"Blood?" Amanda prompted. She didn't understand.
"Bloodlines," Marc added, explaining further. "A vampire's strength is proportional to the age of their bloodline. The royal bloodline is the oldest there is. It would be difficult for anyone to get the better of Jane even without instruction. The Queen felt that some self defence training might be beneficial for yourself."
"Really," Amanda responded, brightening some and strangely smiling a little smugly herself. "Is this part of your training?" she asked.
Marc nodded. "It is required by all security personnel," he replied.
The clerk in the records department watched Marshall step into the Administrator's office across the hall. He grabbed his mobile phone and quickly tapped in a message.
"I'm sorry but I don't know that much," the Administrator advised. "She wasn't attacked here, it was her previous hospital."
"And where was that?" Marshall asked.
"You don't know," the Administrator responded. He sounded confused.
"Just verifying the facts," Marshall replied. "You understand," he said while smiling as though he was about to leap down the other man's throat.
Amanda changed into some sweatpants, brightly coloured runners and an equally festive top. She met Marc in the hall. "So where to now?" she asked.
They made their way down to a lower level of the palace which seemed to consist mostly of staff quarters, storage rooms and in a distant corner a training facility populated with exercise equipment, sparring mats and other off duty security personnel. They all immediately stopped what they were doing and stood and bowed as Amanda entered the room. They moved to the side and watched with interest.
Marc led Amanda into the centre of the chamber. He stopped in the middle of one of the mats.
"We won't start with anything complicated today," he said. "I'll pretend to come at you with a knife. I just want to see how you'll react."
"Should I pretend to be scared as well," Amanda quipped.
Marc frowned at her. "You should be taking this seriously," he said a little sternly.
"Oh I am," Amanda replied.
Marc retrieved a rubber training knife then turned to Amanda. "Ready?" he asked.
Amanda simply nodded.
Marc immediately ran at her.
For the briefest moment Amanda didn't move then she suddenly twisted sideway before grabbing Marc's arm and pulling him toward her, she spun to the right while still holding onto his wrist and kicked his legs from beneath him, then she planted her feet and pulled back with all her strength so that with his extra momentum Marc flipped completely before landing solidly on his back. Amanda twisted his arm in its socket then slammed it to the mat.
Marc cried out in pain. He dropped the knife and it skittered aside. He struggled to move at all.
Everyone else just stared.
One of the off duty guards seemed so overcome with shock that he ran from the room in a panic.
Marc groaned and winced in pain.
Amanda released his arm and sat on the mat beside him. "So what did we learn today?" she asked. She picked up the rubber knife then playfully tossed it on Marc's chest.
"Never to assume anything about you," he suggested. He slowly sat up all the while rubbing and flexing his shoulder.
"So what do you say to the Queen about me?" Amanda asked.
Marc turned and stared. "Is that what you're upset about?" he asked.
"Never anything personal or private," Marc hurriedly replied. He was obviously a bit upset that, that hadn't been clear. "We only ever speak about your interactions with staff and security related matters," he explained.
"So never anything about me and Jane?"
Marc shook his head. "Never," he replied. He sounded horrified at the thought. "I'm sorry," he said. "I should have told you about this as well. I thought it might be a fun surprise. I know you miss the exercise."
Amanda smiled. She smirked. "I'm really not that big on surprises," she responded.
"I've noticed," Marc replied while still rubbing his shoulder.
Amanda smirked once more. She looked a little embarrassed herself and maybe just as guilty. "Sorry," she said as well. She patted the mat. "Maybe I should have told you about this."
"You think?" Marc said. As surprised as he'd been he also sounded equally impressed. "So what is it?" he asked. "I've never seen anything like it."
Amanda smiled. She was, for a change, happy to be something a little less than predictable. "It's called Aikido," she explained. "It's a type of human martial art. I had a friend a few years ago, Cassandra Nixon, she studied it in Japan and later taught it in her gym. I learnt it from her." Amanda's smile faded. She hadn't thought about Cassandra in a very long time. The last time she'd used her training was against the skinhead in the ER.
"Do all humans know it?" Marc asked now sounding a bit worried.
Amanda shook her head.
"So did you know this, Aikido, before you were attacked?" Marc asked. Immediately afterwards he realised it was a spectacularly stupid question.
Amanda nodded. She smiled. She didn't feel like embarrassing Marc any further.
"So why didn't you..." Marc started and stopped. He wasn't quite sure if the question was too personal.
"It's easy to defend yourself when you know someone is coming," Amanda explained.
When Marshall returned to his car there was someone leaning against it waiting for him.
He stopped and stared. He swallowed a little nervously. The sun was high in the sky and he was already finding the light uncomfortable. "Master Watcher," he said sounding unsure.
Bob glanced up into the sky. He smiled as he felt the warmth of the sun on his face. He wasn't in any great hurry to speed things along. "Marshall," he said finally.
"It's not often we see you out of your store," Marshall commented while turning his collar to the light.
"If you do this," Bob warned, "there is nothing and nowhere that would stop me from finding you."
"I have no choice," Marshall replied. "You know that. If I refuse she would do worse things to me than you ever could."
Bob nodded. He stepped away from the car and politely opened the door. "Get some sunscreen," he suggested. "I understand it's a very long drive. Oh and Marshall," he added, turning, as he walked further away, "should you find yourself in trouble with nowhere else to look, desperate and dying, thirsting for blood, don't call The Watch, we wouldn't help you."
Marshall stared. He looked more than shocked. "But The Watch is there to help all Fey," he said.
"No," Bob replied darkly. "It isn't! The Watch protects the Fey from discovery as well as the lives of those worth saving. I would wish a different fate for you."
When Amanda stepped into the library Jane glanced up excitedly from where she was sitting almost completely hidden behind a huge pile of books.
She bounced over and hugged Amanda almost knocking her off her feet. She appeared extremely pleased for the diversion.
"I've missed you as well," Amanda confirmed. She really had. Recently it seemed as though they only saw each other late in the evening after the day was over. Amanda wanted something more. She smiled. "So how are you going?" she asked.
Jane just shrugged. She smiled thinly. "It's getting a little easier," she said while thankfully not sounding as down as she was that morning.
"Are you hungry?"
"Starving," Jane replied.
They fed together then Jane returned to the library. Amanda sadly watched her leave. They both agreed that Amanda clearly had the better guard. Jane's bodyguard was boring to the point of being tedious. He never smiled or said anything other than ordering people aside.
Amanda just shook her head. She couldn't understand how someone could willingly be that way.
She had showered and changed before meeting Jane and she walked with Marc back toward the throne room.
The Queen was as usual working in her study.
"I hear you both had some fun today," she said, looking up and smiling while at the same time appearing a little serious.
"The Princess far more than myself your Majesty," Marc replied wincing slightly.
The Queen smiled. "So what do you think of this ability of the Amanda's?" she asked.
"Aikido, your Majesty," Marc replied. "It's extremely interesting," he said.
"A benefit?" the Queen asked just as seriously.
Marc nodded. "Possibly," he replied.
The Queen nodded. She turned to Amanda. "Would you be willing to share this knowledge?" she asked.
Amanda paused. She looked very uncomfortable. After a moment she reluctantly shook her head. "I can't," she said. "I made a promise. To break it would not only dishonour me but the person I made it to."
The Queen smiled. "I respect that," she replied, "and you have no need to ever feel uncomfortable. A promise made is to be cherished. To break something so personal is to lose a part of yourself. I understand that completely."
Amanda smiled. "Thank you," she said.
Marc excused himself then went and waited in the throne room.
"You shouldn't feel upset about being a little overwhelmed today," the Queen added as though the previous conversation hadn't even taken place. "You'll soon get used it. In no time managing the staff will seem like nothing at all."
Amanda stared. "Does everyone know already?" she asked. Now she felt like everyone was laughing at her.
The Queen smiled. "As I mentioned before," she explained while chuckling slightly at Amanda look of complete horror, "it's impossible to keep any sort of secret around here." She leant back in her chair. "Now tell me about this, Aikido?" she inquired. "Why do you even know it?" She really did sound intrigued.
"Because I was once a human woman and I needed to protect myself," Amanda replied. She really didn't understand why the Queen was asking. To Amanda it seemed obvious.
"But why would you need to protect yourself?" the Queen pressed.
Amanda stared. She thought for a moment. Surely the Fey world couldn't be so different, could it? Thinking about it now she had never felt so safe. "Do you know what rape is?" she asked hesitantly.
The Queen shook her head. "I have never heard of such a term," she replied. She was fully aware of the human world, as she had revealed in the past, but she clearly had little idea of the interactions between individuals.
"It's where one or more individuals force themselves upon another for sexual gratification without that person's consent," Amanda explained.
The Queen stared. She looked more than horrified. "There is such a thing?" she asked almost whispering. She sounded quite disgusted. Angry even. "In the Fey world such an appalling act would be met with instant execution. There could be no excuse for such behaviour. I wouldn't care who they were."
"In the human world too many people get away with it," Amanda revealed sadly. "I worked at night and would be returning home in the early morning. I needed to protect myself. That's why I learned Aikido."
"Humans would be so despicable?" the Queen almost spat. She sounded livid.
"You have no idea," Amanda replied.
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