Story by T.Charters copyright (C) 2017. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
"You have to let me go," he pleaded desperately. "She has my family. If I don't return she'll kill them."
"A pillow fight," the Queen remarked while glancing up from behind her desk.
Amanda wasn't surprised that the Queen already knew. "Sorry Mum," she quipped.
The Queen cocked her head to one side and stared. She didn't look upset.
Amanda laughed. Jane had been trying to get her to say just that for days. She'd be sorry she'd missed it. Amanda sat in a chair at the side of the room. "It was a stressful day, yesterday," she admitted.
The Queen smiled. "I can imagine," she responded. "I understand that the tailors found it quite amusing and an interesting challenge to put everything back together."
Amanda smirked. She sat for a moment and became a little quiet. She looked slightly embarrassed. "I just wanted to say thank you," she said. "For the running track," she explained. She still couldn't believe that anyone would do something like that for her.
"You are more than welcome," the Queen replied. She turned in her seat, smiled and reached for Amanda's hand. "And if it helps you can call me Mum whenever you wish," she said.
Amanda smiled, she nodded slowly and hunched forward in her chair. Her smile faded and she seemed to become even quieter still.
The Queen frowned at her and looked a little worried. "Amanda," she said.
"I was thinking," Amanda began in little more than a whisper, "when Jane and I are married I'd like to use the name Hamilton-Ayers."
"Not Chambers?" the Queen asked. She sounded surprised.
Amanda shook her head. "To know that I wasn't responsible makes it a little easier," she said trying to smile. "I don't want to forget them, but maybe now I can move on."
The Queen quickly stepped over and sat in a chair beside Amanda. She placed her arm around Amanda and pulled her close. Amanda cried silently on the Queen's shoulder. "We would be honoured," the Queen replied.
The Aide returned to the building alone. Minutes later the Enforcers rushed in. They found the Aide kneeling on the floor in front of the bodies of a woman and two young children.
"What do you need?" he said quietly. "I'll tell you everything."
The Queen stepped into the library. She pulled a chair up to the table where Jane and Pop were sitting. She turned to the guards nearby. "Leave us please," she said.
Both Pop and Jane immediately frowned. They been working on Jane's hand writing which wasn't quite so bad as her reading.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Amanda," the Queen replied straightforwardly. "I assume you know that she isn't quite as strong as she likes everyone to believe."
Jane nodded. "I know," she responded. "Is she okay?" she asked.
The Queen smiled. "She fine," she replied. "She was just a little upset about yesterday and what that meant for the future."
"You mentioned a pillow," Pop said sounding a little worried. "What was that about?"
"Her parents," Jane explained. "When I first met her she had a bit of a breakdown remembering her family. She was embarrassed about it and just wanted to hide under a pillow."
Pop chuckled. "I've heard of worse things," he said.
"Where is she now?" Jane asked. She felt like she should go to her.
"Amanda has gone to the Council," the Queen replied. "The Enforcers have caught the Aide who created the story about her. He has asked to speak with her. Apparently Allegra killed his family and he's willing to do anything to catch her."
Pop immediately sat bolt upright in his chair. He stared. "The Aide never had a family," he said.
"Are you alright, Milady?" Romana asked. She didn't like seeing Amanda upset and had obviously witnessed the Queen comforting Amanda while they'd been talking.
Amanda nodded. "I'm fine," she replied. "Sort of," she whispered silently to herself.
"Is there anything I can do?" Romana inquired. "Do you want me to cancel the rest of your meetings for the day?"
Amanda shook her head. She smiled. "No," she replied. "But thank you." She really did appreciate the concern.
They stepped into the Council chamber and glanced around. The councillors were standing in a group to one side, the Enforcers positioned around the walls and the Aide hunched in the lone chair in the very centre of the room. He looked devastated, broken beyond repair.
The Council leader hurried over. "Your Highness," he said while bowing respectfully.
Marc's phone abruptly rang and he briefly turned away.
Amanda stepped closer to the ring of tables.
The Aide suddenly looked up. "YOU'RE THE REASON THEY'RE DEAD!" he screamed at the top of his voice then he pulled a knife from his boot and raced at Amanda.
The Council Leader bravely screamed and bolted.
Instinctively Amanda stepped sideways, she spun on the spot and swept the knife from the Aide hand with her foot, it embedded itself in the wall beside the Council Leader's head, then she grabbed the Aide's arm and pulled him forward before reefing backwards and flipping him onto his back. As soon as he crashed to the floor she rolled him onto his stomach then twisted his arm up behind him. He screamed and cursed and spat at her but struggled to move at all.
Marc was at her side in an instant, even Romana was holding her large diary as though she was about to hit someone with it. Everyone else just stood and stared. They had never seen anything like it.
Amanda looked up at Marc. "Why is no one ever happy to see me?" she attempted to joke.
"It's your winning personality," he quipped in reply while sounding a a little nervous and angry with himself as well as everyone else. He glared at the enforcers. "Why wasn't he searched or bound?" he demanded. He sounded angrier than Amanda had ever heard before. "Did none of you even bother to check his story. He has no family. Go back and search the building where he was found. Do your jobs properly this time."
In the end the Aide was secured then led him away.
The Council Leader slowly crept back from where he'd been cowering behind some Enforcers. He was pale white and still shaking with fear. "Wow!" he said, bowing all the while. "I have never seen anything like what you did." He sounded incredibly impressed.
Amanda smiled thinly. "I'm surprised you saw anything at all," she replied a little coolly. She turned to Marc. "Find out what happened to the Aide?" she directed. "Help him if you can."
"You still care for him?" the Leader asked. "Even after he tried to harm you?" He sounded surprised.
"I care for everyone," Amanda replied. "Maybe even you!"
Allegra scowled and cursed then disappeared back into the crowed which had gathered outside the Council building. She'd watched with disgust and disappointment as Amanda had come and gone and seen the look of joy on everyone's faces as Amanda had waved to the crowd. Allegra sneered and spat. She had never once walked on the streets outside the palace nor greeted a crowd that was happy to see her. She hated and despised them all. In her mind they were little more than worthless trash. She looked nothing like she had before, gone was the golden hair and alabaster skin as well as the elegant flowing gowns. She now looked tired and hagged, paranoid, suspicious of everyone and everything and would be completely unmemorable should anyone ask.
"I'm sorry," Marc said as they walked back into the palace. "I put you in danger today and that is unforgivable."
"Allegra put us in danger," Amanda replied. "Not you. And I walked closer to him," she said regretfully. "I didn't wait for you or even look to see where you were. He looked broken. Safe. It was as much my fault as anyone else's."
"That's still no excuse," Marc added. "If it had been someone else they might not have survived."
"But it wasn't, was it?" Amanda responded. "And I'm not like the others, you've said so yourself."
"You rely on that too much," Marc suggested rather darkly.
"No," Amanda replied quite seriously, "I don't! As I've said before it's easier to defend yourself when you know someone is coming. Had I been facing the other way or not watching then it might have ended very differently."
Marc smiled. He nodded graciously. "Then maybe we should both not stop watching," he suggested.
Jane, the Queen and Pop were waiting at the top of the grand staircase as Amanda and the others climbed toward the throne room. It was more than clear that they already knew what had happened.
Jane hugged Amanda then stood back and stared. "Are you okay?" she asked worriedly.
Amanda nodded. "I'm fine," she replied.
Jane frowned. "Why don't I believe that?" she asked.
Amanda smiled thinly. "I am a little freaked out," she admitted.
"Then you're not working anymore today," Jane said firmly.
"I quite agree," said the Queen.
"And so do I," Pop added while crossing his arms and sounding uncharacteristically firm.
The Queen turned to Romana. "Cancel any further appointments that the Princess has today," she instructed. "If there is anything important or anything that needs to be done then bring it to me."
"Yes Your Majesty," Romana replied while trying her hardest not to smile. She sounded quite happy about it.
"But," Amanda protested. She glanced around and stared. There was no point in arguing.
The Queen turned to Marc. "Escort the Princesses back to their quarters," she instructed. "Make sure that they are not disturbed by anyone. Myself included."
Marc nodded. He turned to Amanda and Jane then directed them toward the door. "Your Highnesses," he said.
In the evening the late papers hit the street. The bold, full page headline seemed to excite almost everyone who read it. "Princess Ward Foils would be Assassin with Magical Ability!" It made her sound like a superhero.
Amanda sat hunched on the side of their bed. She looked a little pale, or at least somewhat paler than she already was.
"Are you alright?" Jane asked worriedly sitting beside her.
Amanda slowly looked up and gently shook her head. "No, not really," she replied truthfully. She stared blankly. For most of the day she'd been running on adrenaline and now that, that was gone she wasn't quite sure what to feel. "Someone tried to kill me today," she said while shivering slightly. It was a sobering thought, even more than the letter had been. It was different with Damian. He had just wanted to hurt her, to make her suffer. He'd left her feeling stronger because of it.
"Allegra tried and failed," Jane said firmly. She pushed Amanda down onto the bed then gently kissed her on the lips. "I could distract you if you wish," she added.
Amanda smiled. She chuckled. "You know sex isn't the answer to everything," she suggested.
Jane sat bolt upright and stared. She looked repulsed. "Wash your mouth out," she said while playfully sounding hurt.
Amanda laughed. "I never said no," she replied.
"How is the Aide?" the Queen inquired. She really did sound concerned.
Marc shook his head. "Not good," he replied seriously. "He has been beaten, possibly tortured and more. He truly believes that the family was his. He barely even knows who he is anymore. I've never seen anything like it."
"And the woman and children?" Pop asked.
"Still unidentified," Marc responded. "We may never know who they were."
The Queen quickly stood then turned and stared. She felt a little too comfortable. "The Council has asked permission to perform door to door searches," she revealed. "What do you think?"
"It would either help us find Allegra or send her deeper into hiding," Marc responded. "In any case it would scare innocent people that don't deserve it. I wouldn't recommend it."
"I agree," Pop said. "I think Jane was right. We should just stop looking. Let Allegra take her anger out on us. We just need to be more vigilant."
The Queen nodded. "And the Princesses?" she asked.
"In their quarters," Marc replied. He stood up a little straighter and appeared more serious. "I would like to apologise," he added earnestly. "I failed the Princess today. I was not attentive enough and that put her in danger."
The Queen frowned. She quickly glanced at Pop. "What does Amanda think?" she asked.
"She believes she is as much at fault as myself," Marc explained. He clearly didn't believe that. "She admits that she approached the prisoner while I was distracted and looking in the other direction."
The Queen smiled. "The two of you are amongst the most honest and honourable people I have ever meet," she said rather proudly, "should you truly wish to be reprimanded for this, though I don't believe there was any fault on your part, I will leave that decision to the Princess."
Marc nodded. "Thank you, Your Majesty," he replied.
"Now," the Queen said while actually sounding concerned, "what are we going to do about this?" She unfolded a newspaper which had been placed on the desk and revealed the bold headline and outlandish claim that it made.
Pop laughed as soon as he saw it. "Are you worried about what Amanda might think?" he inquired. "She has no ego about such things."
"I'd be more worried that the Princess would think it sets her apart from others," Marc said seriously. "She doesn't like to be treated differently from anyone else." He well remembered the challenge they'd had in even getting Amanda to admit she needed help, regardless of accepting it.
"I think Jane will find it hilarious," Pop suggested, "and Amanda will be happy that Jane is happy. We've all seen them when they're together," he said. "Separately they can be fragile and broken. Only together do they make a whole person. They couldn't survive without each other and, well, neither could I."
The Queen smiled. "I think they've touched us all for the better," she admitted.
Allegra screamed and cursed. She threw the newspaper across the room then collapsed on the mattress in the corner. The room was little more than a hovel, a dirt floor with only the filthy mattress in the corner and with no power for lighting or heat. Allegra sat on the mattress and stared. She was alone. Completely and utterly alone.
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