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.
"Why do you suppose your memories worked when mine did not?" Jane asked.
Amanda shrugged. "Mine might be stronger and more focused than your's on this," she suggested without knowing. It seemed as good a theory as any.
They were lying on the mat holding each other in their arms. Amanda was actually the tiniest bit jealous, not that she would ever say anything or even really cared. She had trained for years to get to this level, but by sharing her memories Jane had learnt the basic forms and transitions in a matter of minutes.
"So have you worked out your frustrations yet?" she asked.
"Pretty much," Amanda replied. "You?" she inquired.
"Apparently I was once hugely famous for going to bars and getting in trouble," Jane suggested. It was obviously something more she'd learnt about herself from all the books.
"I really don't think Marc is going to let us do that," Amanda said frowning. "Do you really want to though?" she asked.
Jane shook her head. "Not really," she said. She had clearly been joking. "It doesn't seem like me anymore."
"What about Bob's?" Amanda proposed. "We could go there if you really wanted to get out. I'm sure that both Bob and Jessica would be happy to see all of us."
Jane smiled. "I'd like that," she said.
They changed then had Marc join them in the car.
As they drove Marc turned to Amanda. "You still haven't told me how you got out of the palace," he said. It was clear that he hadn't yet forgiven her for leaving without his protection.
"Why would I?" Amanda joked in reply, smiling as she did. "I might want to escape again."
Marc frowned and looked seriously at Amanda.
"Through the same tunnel we've just used," she revealed.
Marc stared. He seemed a little shocked. "But it must be like ten kilometres from there to the shop," he suggested.
Amanda shrugged. "What can I say?" she said guiltily. "I like running."
"Didn't it hurt?"
"It did when I stopped," Amanda attempted to joke. "I don't really remember very much," she said more seriously.
Marc shook his head. "Well, I do hope you realise that you can't do that again?" he inquired.
Amanda nodded. She'd learnt her lesson. She smiled at Jane and gently squeezed her hand. "Don't worry," she said. "I'm not running from anything anymore."
When they arrived at the store Bob and Jessica were indeed very happy to see them.
Bob immediately leapt up and raced around the counter. He hugged Amanda so tightly as to squeeze the breath out of her, then he held her at arms length to better examine her face. "Are you okay?" he asked while looking and sounding both serious and worried at the same moment.
Amanda nodded. "All better," she replied happily.
Bob stared at her. He smiled and hugged her for a second time then glanced over her shoulder toward Jane and Marc. "Thank you," he said.
They retreated into the back room and sat around the table. As always Marc stood by and guarded the door in case it attacked them. For any other species the room might have seemed cold and inappropriate. For vampires though the earthy smell was intoxicating.
Jessica stared at Amanda. "Do you have the..." she started and stopped. She looked a little embarrassed to be asking.
"The teeth," she whispered without knowing why she was.
"Can I see them?" Jessica asked.
Bob turned and stared. "Jessica," he scolded. To him it seemed like the vampire equivalent of asking a woman her age.
Amanda laughed. "It's all right," she said. "Though I'm going to need some blood. I haven't figured out how to make them drop without feeding yet." She wasn't really sure that she actually wanted to learn that.
"Feeding?" Jessica prompted while screwing up her nose.
"Eating," Amanda explained. "It's what we call it."
"It sounds so vicious, like an animal," Jessica suggested staring. She looked horrified.
"I guess," Amanda replied. She hadn't really thought about it like that or at all.
Jessica shook her head then abruptly stood and ran toward the rear of the building.
Amanda frowned. She looked at Bob. "What did I say?" she asked.
Bob sighed then simply gestured in the direction that Jessica had run.
Amanda nodded. She rose and followed. She found Jessica stretched out on her bed. "What's going on?" she inquired as she sat on a chair nearby.
Jessica stared at her. "Are you still really you?" she asked while sounding a little afraid.
Amanda nodded. "I think so," she replied.
"But you have fangs and green eyes and your skin is so pale!"
"Yeah I don't get a lot sun," Amanda quipped.
"You want to know what I've found to be the hardest?" Amanda said.
"The teeth," Amanda replied while playfully screwing up her face. "Now I understand why vampires don't talk very much when they're eating."
Jessica smirked. "So what's it really like?" she asked.
"Being royal," Jessica explained.
"Oh you mean being waited on hand and foot and doing whatever I want," Amanda suggested.
Jessica nodded excitedly.
"It's a myth," Amanda replied. "I've never seen anyone work harder than the Queen and I can't remember a single day when Jane and I could just be ourselves." She didn't sound disappointed. "Why do you think we're here tonight?" she asked.
"Jane wanted to go to a bar but we knew we wouldn't be allowed," Amanda revealed.
"Why not?" Jessica prompted. She sounded confused. She obviously thought that they should be allowed to do whatever they wished.
"Being royal is something more than just being a person," Amanda explained. "We're part of an idea that the Fey believe in and everything we do or say can shape it and not always for the best."
"So why do you stay?" Jessica inquired.
"Because I love Jane," Amanda replied, "and I believe in that idea as well. It needs to be protected."
They sat for a moment and stared at each other.
"You good now?" Amanda asked.
"You have changed," Jessica said. "You never used to care about anything."
"I never really had anything to care about," Amanda replied. She smiled. "Now come on," she said more seriously, "lets get back before dad starts telling Jane and Marc all our embarrassing stories."
"You mean like you trying to suck the blood from a steak," Jessica suggested.
"Or you telling him you were a vegan," Amanda chuckled in reply.
They laughed together then walked from the room.
They heard Jane laughing before they even set foot in the back room of the store.
"So let me guess," Amanda said, sighing deliberately, "the blood out of a steak story again."
"Did you really do that?" Jane asked laughing still.
Amanda forced a smile. She glared at Bob who just grinned and somehow managed to look both small and innocent. "Almost," she replied. "When Bob found me in the car I was almost dead. I didn't realise you could buy blood. In fact I didn't even know that's what I needed. I had cravings. I was trying to eat the steak not suck it."
Amanda and Jessica sat at the table.
They glanced at each other then stared at Bob.
"So what story should we tell?" Jessica asked rather seriously.
"Hmm, I don't know," Amanda replied rubbing her chin. "There are so many good ones."
Bob glanced back and forth between them. "What are you talking about?" he said. He sounded worried. "I haven't done anything. Have I?" Now he didn't sound quite so sure.
Amanda smiled, she grinned. Making Bob sweat for even the briefest moment was more than enough payback. "I've got a great idea," she said excitedly while rubbing her hands together.
Everyone turned and stared.
Bob sweat a little bit more.
"Jessica would really like to know what it is to be royal," Amanda explained. "Let her come back to the palace with us tonight then she can spend the day tomorrow and see for herself."
"That's a great idea," Jane confirmed.
"Can I please?" Jessica asked.
Amanda turned to Marc. "Okay with you?" she inquired.
Marc simply nodded.
"Then it's settled," Amanda said smiling. She clapped her hands together and stared across the table.
Bob frowned. He looked confused. He had been so concerned by what Amanda was about to reveal next that it took him a few moments to realise what she had actually suggested. "What just happened?" he asked.
In the early morning Marc was rudely awoken by a firm knock on the door to his quarters. He leapt from the bed then reefed the door open. "The Princess'?" he asked expecting the worst.
"No Sir," a younger man, another guard explained while shaking his head. "He's back," he said.
Marc nodded. He threw on a shirt and a pair of shoes. "Where is he now?" he asked.
"The gym," the guard replied. "Captain," he added sounding unsure, "sir? What are you going to do with him?"
Marc shook his head. "That depends on him," he explained.
"So you're going to be my personal assistant," Amanda asked. She didn't sound disappointed.
Romana quickly nodded. "Yes, Milady," she replied while sounding very excited. "Marc suggested it to me yesterday," she explained, "because you already seem comfortable with me around. He thought it might make the transition easier."
Amanda smiled. It was true. It would. "We'll you certainly look the part," she said.
Romana smiled. She was carrying a large diary and a number of smaller notebooks and pens.
"So where to first?" Amanda asked.
"Your morning briefing with the staff then later Ambassador Grent has asked to see you," Romana related.
Amanda frowned. "Why?" she asked. She'd only met with Grent the day before to discuss seating arrangements. It seemed a little too soon for anything else.
Romana shook her head. "I am not certain Milady," she replied.
Amanda turned to Marc. "And Jessica?" she asked.
"I have arranged an escort for her," Marc revealed. "Throughout the day she will spend some time with the Queen, the Princess Royal and yourself."
They found Jessica sitting at a table in the kitchen waiting for them. As soon as she saw Amanda she leapt up then bounded over before hugging Amanda tightly.
"Wow!" she exclaimed excitedly. "My room is amazing and that breakfast was incredible. How can you not like this place?"
"I never said I didn't like it," Amanda replied as an uncomfortable silence fell on the room and everyone turned and stared. "I said I don't expect it."
She smiled once more then gestured for the senior staff and managers to join her at the table. She introduced both Jessica and Romana and explained what Romana new role was going to be, then afterwards they worked through the usual business for the day as well as any grievances or concerns anyone had. Thankfully there were none.
Romana diligently took notes of everything.
Amanda felt more comfortable almost immediately. It was nice to not have to remember everything herself. She still had no idea how the Queen did everything without any help. "Practise, hundreds of years of practise," she thought.
There were purchase orders to be signed and piles of paperwork and decisions for the upcoming anniversary. By the time they were finished almost two hours had passed.
Jessica looked thoroughly bored. "Do you do this every day?" she asked.
"Most days," Amanda replied quite happily. "Morning and evening and whenever I'm needed," she said. She thanked the staff for their time then led Jessica, Romana and Marc from the room. "So, where to next?" she asked.
Romana consulted her diary. "Ambassador Grent is waiting for you in the Grand Ballroom," she revealed.
The Grand Ballroom was as spectacular as it sounded. There were frescos painted everywhere and the walls were decorated with ornate panels of amber and gold. Silver, gold and emerald pointing completed a picture of total opulence unmatched by any other room in the palace.
Jessica stared. "Ok, this is better than my bedroom," she muttered. She sounded a little overwhelmed.
Grent bowed as Amanda approached. "Your Highness," he said with his usual flourish.
"Ambassador," Amanda replied while smiling and nodding politely. She introduced Jessica and Romana. "And of course you remember my constant shadow," Amanda added gesturing toward Marc.
"A pleasure," Grent replied greeting everyone in turn.
"I hope I haven't kept you waiting to long?" Amanda asked.
"Not at all," Grent responded.
"More seating arrangements," Amanda suggested. She still had no idea why they were meeting.
"Thankfully no," Grent advised rolling his eyes. It had been a trying discussion for both of them. "I have a personal favour to ask if I may," he added.
"Of course," Amanda replied, now somewhat intrigued. "Anything," she said.
Grent smiled. "You'll recall that my daughter is somewhat taken with yourself and the Crown Princess? She loves all the rumours, true or not."
"Tomorrow is her thirteenth birthday," Grent revealed while drawing himself up rather proudly. "It is a special time for any dwarf and I was hoping that maybe yourself or the Crown Princess might be able to visit if only briefly." He paused and seemed a little embarrassed to be asking. "I know it is very forward of me," he said sounding somewhat apologetic.
"I would be honoured to attend," Amanda replied. She glanced at Marc. "Will that be a problem?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No, your Highness," he responded. "I'm sure we'll be able to arrange something."
Grent smiled once more. He was beaming from ear to ear. "Thank you," he said graciously with his exaggerated nature seeming somewhat lessened than normal. It was clear that he was not accustomed to asking for personal favours for himself.
Amanda left Romana and Grent to work out the details of the visit. She walked with Jessica and Marc back the way they'd come. Amanda turned to Jessica. "I'll take you to the library so you can spend some time with Jane now," she said.
Marc interrupted. "I sorry your Highness," he advised, "but we are required in the throne room. The Crown Princess and her father are already waiting for us there."
"Why?" Amanda asked.
"A matter of security," Marc replied rather gravely.
When they arrived in the throne room there were more guards stationed at the doors and around the walls than Amanda had ever seen before. She and Jessica stood beside Jane and her father.
"What's going on?" she asked almost whispering.
Jane just shook her head. She reached out and took hold of Amanda's hand. She looked worried.
Two guards escorting a third strode into the room.
"Guard Miller," Marc advised rather seriously. "He is charged with dereliction of duty and being absent without leave. He was observed leaving the palace without permission after the Princess Ward first demonstrated her ability." Marc turned and stared. "As a known confidant of Allegra's it is believed that he sought her out to advise her of this."
"Well, of course I did you useless prick," Miller snapped defiantly. He certainly wasn't trying to hide his guilt. "Allegra is Arden's true future not this pathetic coward or her primitive ape of a lover."
Jane didn't flinch. She barely even reacted.
Amanda squeezed Jane's hand a little tighter. She was a little hurt herself. She had never expected that her vampire heritage would be used as some sort of slur against her.
"Silence!" Marc demanded.
"Or you'll do what?" Miller sneered. "I couldn't care less what happens to me."
"Why do you hate me so much?" Jane asked her voice quiet but controlled. "What have I ever done to you?"
Miller slowly turned and glared. "I don't hate you," he replied. "I hate what you represent. Weakness! For two hundred years I watched you do nothing more than beg for mercy as they experimented on you, as they cut into your flesh and flayed it from your naked body, as they sold what they made from it to the humans. Never once did you fight back or even try to escape. You are a coward. You have no right to rule anyone."
"This is treason," the Queen blurted out while quickly stepping forward. She both looked and sounded more than horrified. She placed a comforting hand on Jane's shoulder. "I could, should have you executed for this," she said.
Miller just laughed. "I would gladly die for what I believe is right," he responded.
"No!" Jane suggested suddenly speaking up. She sounded firm, stronger than anyone expected. "Let him go!" she said.
Everyone including Miller turned and stared at her. They all looked confused.
"Really?" Marc said sounding even more confused than anyone.
Jane nodded. She stepped forward and stared Miller directly in the face. "But first let the world know who he is and what's he's done," she suggested. "I doubt that anyone would help him afterwards and I suspect that even Allegra wouldn't want him back. She'd be paranoid enough to believe he's being followed." She smiled but not coldly as though she was enjoying it. Instead it was quirky, ironic in nature. "You're about to be stripped of everyone and everything," she said. "Soon you'll have nothing and no one. Is that weak enough for you?"
Both the Queen and Jane's father nodded. They both looked rather proud. "Well, said," they said together.
Amanda turned to Jessica. "So do you still think this life is so great?" she asked.
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