Story by T.Charters copyright (C) 2017. email@example.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, Gods or Demons, living, dead or imaginary is purely coincidental.
"There is more," the Aide reluctantly revealed while cowering nearby. "They have also advised that they are to stop searching for yourself and your followers. They naively suggest that there are more important things to be worried about."
Allegra swore and slammed her fist into the table. "More important than me?" she said. She bared her fangs. "Thank you Mother," she cursed, "as consistent as ever!"
"Isn't that good?" the Aide inquired while nervously backing away. He wasn't a large man and sounded unsure of everything. "Won't we be able to move more freely without them watching."
Allegra glared. "It's a trick," she said deliberately. "Even your feeble mind should be able to realise that." She stared. "Remind me why I keep you around?" she added coldly, sneering. "Maybe I should have fed on you instead of Miller. It wouldn't have been much of a meal I admit."
"He was too well known," the Aide quickly responded while shaking even more than before. "You even said as much yourself. His picture is everywhere, he was hated even more than..." the Aide abruptly paused and stared. He slowly stepped back. He looked terrified, even more than he had previously.
Allegra smiled. Strangely she chuckled. "Even more than myself," she suggested.
The Aide nodded. "Yes," he confirmed without thinking.
Allegra glared. "Well, not for long!" she snapped.
The Aide nervously lingered at the side of the room.
Allegra stared at him. "Is there something else?" she demanded.
The small man almost imperceptibly nodded. "Some good news," he suggested sounding a little hopeful. "My contacts in the Council inform me that vampire who turned the Princess Ward is to brought before the throne this morning. The Council will be there to witness his sentencing."
Allegra smiled like a snake and seemed to brighten considerably. She enjoyed anything which caused Amanda pain. "I wish I could be there to see it," she said.
"It would be difficult," the Aide advised misunderstanding completely. "I understand that they have doubled the guards in and around the palace and there is a rumour that they are also constructing something in the gardens outside."
Allegra turned and stared. "What?" she asked.
The Aide shook his head. "I do not know," he replied, "but I am told that it encircles the palace entirely."
Allegra paused. She frowned. For a brief moment she looked a little worried. "Find out," she said.
The Aide quickly nodded and backed toward the door.
Allegra called after him. "And find Marshall," she added.
What little colour was left in the Aide's face quickly drained away.
Allegra stared. "What is it?" she inquired.
The small man swallowed nervously. "Marshall is now working with the palace and The Watch," the Aide revealed almost whispering. "I am told that they have found him a safe position where he can't be reached."
Allegra flashed across the room. She grabbed the small man and slammed him into the wall while singlehandedly hauling him off the floor. "No where and no one is beyond my reach," she hissed, their faces barely inches apart. "Tell him that and tell him to pray that we never meet again."
The Aide nodded and quickly scurried from the room.
Allegra glared while quaking with anger. She slammed her fist into the wall, shattering both the concrete and bones in her hand. She screamed and cursed and seemed oblivious to the pain. "I will make you pay for this," she muttered then screamed out loud, "ALL OF YOU!"
Amanda nervously waited in the Queen's study as everything was prepared in the throne room outside the door. She watched silently as Jane and her parents took their places, listened to the endless speeches by the council and shivered as Damian, both shackled and bound, was led into the room and the charges against him read.
Ambassador Grent kindly waited with Amanda. "I'm just here as a little support," he joked.
Amanda smiled. She stared as a rather ominous silence seemed to fall on not only the room outside but the entire palace.
"To sentence the prisoner," Pop announced not just formally but while also sounding rather proud, "we call Her Highness, the lady Amanda, the Princess Ward, a beloved and valued member of the Royal family and consort of the Crown Princess. Her knowledge of the accused provides her with a singular perspective."
Damian frowned uncertainly. He glanced left and right. "What knowledge?" he demanded.
Amanda slowly stood up from where she'd been sitting.
"Would you like me to come with you?" Grent asked.
Amanda smiled. She nodded. "That would be nice," she said.
They stepped into the room then walked up and stopped in front of the throne. Amanda nodded politely to the Queen as well as Bob who was standing to one side and looking extremely worried. In the end she slowly turned and faced the prisoner.
Damian's eyes widened in surprise. He recognised her immediately. "You," he said whispering in disbelief. He looked more than shocked. He'd obviously never expected to meet Amanda ever again.
Amanda smiled thinly. "For your crimes," she began while sounding far stronger than she actually felt, "you are sentenced to life in prison, or eternity, whichever comes first." She stared for a moment then turned away. She shook her head in some disgust. She nodded to the Queen once more then smiled at Jane.
Guards stepped forward and prepared to lead Damian from the room.
"Do you blame yourself?" he suddenly asked. "Do you feel responsible."
A silence fell on the room. Everyone stared. Some members of the Council looked up expectantly.
"Of course I do," Amanda admitted while turning around and again sounding stronger than she'd expected. "What do you want me to say? My family died because of what I revealed to you. It was my mistake."
Damian laughed. "Don't flatter yourself," he said coldly. He was clearly pleased to get a reaction.. "I knew about you and your family long before we ever met. I'd been watching you for months. They were always going to die."
Marc glared. He looked angry. He'd probably be more than happy to drop Damian to the floor given even the slightest provocation.
Amanda stared. In another time and another place and with another set of desires she might have found Damian rather handsome, with his slick black hair, greying goatee and sculptured features, but not here, not now. She stepped closer. "If that's true," she said. "To learn that I wasn't responsible, to know that it was you all along."
Damian sneered. "I should have killed you as well," he scoffed. "It was a mistake to let you live."
Amanda smiled. "You're welcome to try again," she said while staring Damian directly in the face.
"Your Highness?" Marc exclaimed. He turned and stared. He sounded worried.
Damian chuckled uncertainly. "What, with all these guards around?" he said shaking his head. "I think not. They'd never let me near you."
"I could order them away," Amanda suggested. "It would just be you and me."
Damian shook his head once more. "I don't think so," he replied. "I don't trust you."
Amanda grinned and bared her fangs, revealing them to Damian as he had done to her. "So you're a coward as well," she said happily. "Even better to remember you this way."
Damian stared. He'd barely heard what Amanda had last said. "What?" he demanded. "How is this even possible?"
Amanda smiled and turned away. She didn't look back.
"You did well," Pop suggested after Damian had been led away and the room had quickly emptied. He sounded extremely proud.
"I agree," Bob added nodding approvingly.
Jane hugged Amanda tightly. "And the Council?" she asked while turning to look at her father.
Pop smiled. "I would say they were suitably impressed as well," he responded. "It seems unlike that they will choose to interfere again."
Marc was standing nearby with his arms tightly folded. He didn't look quite so happy as everyone else. "Would you really have fought him?" he asked.
Amanda smiled. "Do you think I couldn't?" she said.
Marc shook his head. "No," he replied.
"And what of Allegra's person?" Pop inquired rather seriously.
Bob turned to Marc. "Marshall," he confirmed nodding. He was interested as well.
"He has been found a place at the prison," Marc revealed. "Guarding not only this monster, while being far beyond Allegra's reach."
Amanda was pleased. It was nice to imagine that Damian would regularly see the person who found him and be constantly reminded of the damage he'd caused. She hoped that in time he might feel some regret.
"And what about you?" Jane asked while hugging Amanda once more. "How do you feel?"
"Stronger," Amanda replied.
"Do you need a pillow to hide under," Jane asked both worriedly and with a quip in her voice.
Everyone else frowned and looked a little confused.
Amanda shook her head. She smiled. "No," she replied. "I'm good." She grinned then pulled Jane close and whispered in her ear. "Though I might want to hit you with one later," she suggested playfully with a quip in her own voice.
Jane smirked. "Bring it on," she replied.
"I really did want to hurt him," Amanda reluctantly admitted as she walked with Marc and Romana back toward the kitchen. She actually felt a little troubled by the thought.
"I'm glad you didn't," Romana replied.
Amanda chuckled a little nervously. "You don't want a strong leader," she tried to joke while remembering the conversation she'd had with Pop and the Council's wish that she again prove herself to them.
"You have shown more than enough strength already," Marc responded as always sounding both respectful and serious. "A lifetime's worth," he suggested. "I don't care what the Council thinks," he added without regard. "That sort of strength we don't need, and you have no requirement to prove yourself any further. Not to them. Not to anyone."
Amanda smiled. "Thank you," she said. She actually felt a little better.
Marc nodded in reply. He slowed his pace and seemed a little less certain. "I have a surprise for you," he revealed somewhat hesitantly.
"You do?" Amanda inquired. She glanced at Romana who just shook her head not knowing.
"I was going to wait until the work was complete," Marc explained thoughtfully, "but now seems as good a time as any and I well know your dislike of surprises."
Amanda smirked. She chuckled. Clearly Marc had not yet forgiven her for the incident in the gym.
They walked back the way they'd come then through the throne room and down the grand staircase which led to the large doors at the front of the palace. In the gardens outside Amanda stood and stared. She looked a little confused. There were workers clearing a path on the inside of the fence. They appeared to be carefully moving some of the larger plants and rearranging the gardens to make room for whatever it was they were building. Amanda wasn't that much of a gardener. Her green thumb was anything but. Any plant she'd ever tried care for had willingly ended its own life a few days later. She was sure there would be a warning poster of her in every garden centre she'd ever visited, though she doubted that they'd ever seen plants like these. They were usually small and compact with course petals or singular caps like mushrooms. They came in a myriad of colours and styles and seemed to thrive in the moist soil and perpetual twilight of the cavern.
"What is it?" Amanda asked. "What are they doing?" She still looked confused and wondered how Marc could have considered this any sort of a surprise at all.
He smiled. "I know how much you miss the exercise," he began. "It is a running path," he revealed sounding somewhat uncertain of the correct term. "When complete it will encircle the palace entirely and be about thirteen-hundred metres in length."
Amanda turned and stared. "Really?" she said excitedly with a smile which lit up her entire face.
Marc nodded. He smiled. He was clearly enjoying Amanda's reaction. "You should be able to run in complete safety and whenever you wish," he advised.
"Thank you," Amanda said while wiping away a tear. She felt quite emotional. She assumed that not only Marc but Jane, the Queen and Pop were also involved in the decision, but she still found it hard to believe that anyone would do something like this for her. She smiled at Marc then abruptly hugged him and Romana afterwards.
They both looked a little shocked.
Amanda smiled at them and chuckled at their reactions. "This isn't just the palace," she said, "it's my home and you don't just work here and you're not just staff, you're my closest friends. I couldn't do anything without you."
Marc bowed. "We are honoured," he replied.
Romana nodded. She seemed to be having a little trouble finding her voice.
Amanda laughed. "So where to next?" she asked.
Romana consulted her diary. "Your afternoon briefing with the staff," she revealed, "and then the Crown Princess has scheduled some time with you for a pillow fight?" Romana looked up and stared. She clearly didn't understand and Jane had obviously not explained. "What is a pillow fight?" she asked sounding completely confused. "Do they fight?" she quickly added. She sounded worried.
Amanda shook her head in bemusement, mostly at Romana innocence. It cheered her up immensely. "I'll tell you some other time," she replied.
As they walked back inside a small man who had been watching from beyond the fence disappeared into the crowd of onlookers. He raced back through the city and arrived breathless at a tall building indistinct from any other.
Allegra was impatiently waiting inside. "Well?" she demanded. She stopped pacing then turned and stared. "What did you learn?"
"I'm sorry," the Aide nervously responded while cowering as normal. "I was not able to discover what they are building, though I did witness the Princess Ward outside directing the workers."
Allegra frowned. She looked worried. "And the sentencing?" she inquired.
The Aide shook his head. "I have not yet heard from my contacts in the Council," he advised, "but seeing the Princess outside would suggest that she was not adversely affected."
Allegra promptly glared. "She is not a princess!" she snapped bitterly. "She is less than worthless. Like yourself."
As Amanda stepped into their suite she was promptly hit full in the face by a large, and incredibly soft, down pillow. She dodged to one side then grabbed the pillow before flinging it back at Jane who was sheltering like a sniper on the opposite side of the bed.
Moments later they collapsed on the floor in fits of laughter surrounded by the shattered carcasses and eviscerated contents of at least a dozen unfortunate pillows.
The room looked like a big soft a-grade pillowy bomb had hit it.
Amanda grabbed a handful of feathers then playfully blew them into the air.
Jane both sneezed and laughed at the same moment.
Amanda roared with laughter. It was both hilarious to hear and see.
They wheezed to a halt then slowly looked around.
"I think I'm going to go get a broom," Amanda suggested.
Neither of them were that worried about any of the staff seeing the state of the room, they thought it was amusing and reasoned it would also make others laugh as well, but they would never expect anyone other than themselves to clean it up.
Jane nodded in agreement. "Get one for me as well," she replied.
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