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.
"THIS IS WICKED!" Jessica exclaimed sounding terribly excited and more like a teenager than ever. "You're the mysterious missing princess! That's so cool!"
"Is it really?" Jane said nervously. She didn't seem so sure. "What's a princess?" she asked.
"Where did you get this book?" Bob inquired turning to his daughter.
"Mom..." she started to respond.
"Gave it to you," Bob completed shaking his head and again growling angrily in the back of this throat.
Yeti tradition was to say nothing to the young until after the change. It was seen as a right of passage. How well the child dealt with the change could determine how powerful in Yeti society they might become. Bob was annoyed that his wife had excluded him and broken all the rules without any discussion.
Amanda read more of the information below the picture. "It says that this painting was completed over three hundreds year ago," she revealed looking up, "about fifty years before you disappeared. It also claims that you were born in five sixty-one, that makes you about fifteen hundred years old." She shook her head and stared.
Jessica whistled playfully and leant back in her chair. "Talk about an insurmountable age difference," she quipped while rolling her eyes.
"Jessica," Bob scolded, "you're not helping."
"Well, it is," Jessica returned defiantly.
"Maybe you should go and watch the store," he suggested.
"No way," Jessica retorted, sitting more firmly in her chair. "This is too good. I'm not going anywhere."
Bob sighed and pulled his phone from his pocket. "I'm sorry," he said. "I have to report this." He really did sound sorry.
"Do you really need to?" Amanda asked desperately. She actually sounded afraid. Only a few hours earlier she had wondered what might happen if she and Jane were ever to go to a Fey city together.
Bob nodded. "Don't worry," he said reassuringly, trying to smile. "I'll protect you. Both of you!"
"And me as well," Jessica confirmed.
Jane reached across the table and took hold of Amanda's hand. She looked just as worried. "Does it say anymore?" she asked, nodding toward the book.
"Only that your name is Elandra," Amanda revealed. "What do you think of that?"
Jane immediately grimaced. "Ugh," she said screwing up her face. "Sounds rather snooty and stuck-up. I don't think that's me."
Amanda chuckled. "Definitely not," she replied. "Not with all those things you've done to me."
Jane giggled and blushed bright red.
Bob glanced back and forth between them with a rather horrified expression on his face. "Please," he said sounding more than embarrassed. "I'm on the phone."
Amanda, Jane and even Jessica smirked.
Amanda suddenly had a horrible thought and she looked up and stared. "What about the man that was looking for her," she said worriedly. "Won't he know she's alive?"
Bob placed his hand over the microphone. "If she is the princess..." he began.
"She is," Jessica corrected sounding quite certain. She was unwilling to let a million unanswered questions get in the way of a good story.
"If she is," Bob repeated, "then surely the palace is the safest place for her to be."
Amanda nervously glanced at Jane. Neither of them looked quite so sure.
Within minutes a fleet of identical black vans screeched to a halt in the carpark out the front. Bob barely had enough time to lock up the store before they were all forced into the vehicles whether they wanted to or not.
To Amanda it felt like the journey was over almost before it had begun. She was terrified to the point of being ghostly white.
Bob placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry," he whispered, "nothing is going to happen."
"That's easy for you to say," she nervously tried to joke. "No one wants to kill you for just being what you are."
Even Jane looked equally scared. She clutched Amanda's hand so tightly that her nails dug into Amanda's flesh.
Only Jessica seemed to believe it was all part of some great adventure.
They were ushered up a stone staircase before emerging from behind a false wall into a grand hallway.
Jane looked around and stared.
"Do you recognise any of this?" Amanda asked.
Jane shook her head. She didn't seem impressed.
Amanda could understand. As spectacular as she thought the palace was, being thrust into a van and brought here against her will certainly didn't make it feel inviting.
They were led further along the corridor.
Jane suddenly stopped and glanced at a large painting hanging on the wall nearby. There was a huge slash across the centre of the canvas exposing the backing beyond.
"You did that," someone revealed.
They all turned and stared. The Queen had appeared from behind the doors at the far end of the corridor.
"When you were a child," she explained. "You were fighting with your sister, with swords nonetheless." She smiled. "I think your great uncle thought it was quite amusing to be cut in half."
Jane stepped closer to Amanda and took hold of her hand. "Sis..., Sister?" she stuttered nervously.
The Queen frowned. "Elandra?" she said.
There was a commotion at the other end of the corridor as the doors were flung open and Allegra rushed in. The news that the lost princess had been found had obviously quickly spread throughout the palace.
Allegra rightly looked extremely worried.
"My name is Jane," Elandra or Jane advised. "I'm not sure I know who Elandra is." She slipped her arm through Amanda's and pulled her closer. She was pale white and shaking with fear.
The Queen frowned even deeper. She turned and stared at Bob. "Master Watcher?" she said sternly, clearly expecting some sort of appropriate explanation.
"The princess was seriously injured when she was found," Bob explained, cool as ever, "there has been some memory loss."
Allegra breathed a not so silent sigh of relief. She coughed nervously to cover the moment.
"You found her?" the Queen asked.
"No, not me," Bob replied, shaking his head. "Amanda," he revealed quite proudly while turning to look at her. "She has also nursed the princess back to health."
"You did?" the Queen said, turning to Amanda.
Amanda nodded. "Yes, your majesty," she responded. She sounded a little embarrassed.
"Then I bow to you," the Queen replied. "We all do," she commanded, glancing at the crowds of servants and guards who had gathered at either end of the corridor. "Even you Allegra," she said firmly.
Amanda shuffled uncomfortably as everyone knelt and bowed around her. She and Jane clutched each other even tighter.
"Jessica," Bob quietly scolded.
The Queen stood up and smiled at Amanda. "Why do you look so worried?" she asked.
Amanda glanced at Bob who simply nodded. "I am a familiar," she explained nervously, fully expecting the end to come within seconds. "I have no sire. I was attacked. I never wanted to be turned."
"And you believed you would be punished for that?" the Queen inquired. "Maybe even killed?" She clearly understood her race's reputation but still sounded a little horrified that Amanda or even anyone would think that way.
Amanda put on a guilty smile. "Well, a little," she suggested.
"Do you have any family?" the Queen asked sounding genuinely interested. "Brothers or sisters?"
Amanda shook her head. "No, your majesty," she replied just as meekly. "My family was murdered by the same vampire who attacked me. I only have Jane now."
Jane smiled and squeezed Amanda's hand a little tighter.
For a moment the Queen stared. She looked a little dismayed and shook her head in some considerable disgust. She glanced up and down the corridor.
It seemed as though the entire population of the palace had now arrived and were waiting expectantly at either end.
The Queen drew herself up a little straighter. She became a bit more serious.
Amanda was absolutely terrified imagining what the Queen might be about to say next.
Even Jessica stopped giggling and unconsciously move closer to her father.
You could have heard a pin drop.
"In reward for your selfless actions toward the Princess, the royal family and also the Fey," the Queen announced while drawing herself up rather proudly, "I confer on you the title of Princess Ward. As a ward of the royal house you are both protected by us and as much a part of this family as I am with all the rights and privileges that entails."
Amanda just stood there with her eyes wide and stuttered incoherently.
Everyone else just stared.
"Thank you your majesty," Amanda finally managed to whisper. She seemed to be having a great deal of trouble finding her voice. She wobbled unsteadily, if it wasn't for Jane supporting her she might have also crumpled to the floor.
The Queen smiled. "You have returned our most important daughter," she said. "I hope that this family can be, at least, a partial replacement for your own."
Amanda nodded. "I'm sure it will," she croaked in reply.
Allegra glared then turned and strode from the room.
The Queen turned to Jane. "Well, Elandra..., Jane," she said, correcting herself, "can I at least have a hug?"
Bob sidled up to Amanda. He looked as surprised as everyone else. "You know when I said you needed to enter this world a little more fully," he whispered. "This isn't really what I had in mind."
Amanda simply nodded in reply. She was still more than a little shocked herself. She was stunned, staggered or bewildered even. She had no idea what to expect.
Allegra returned to her quarters. "Find Marshall!" she snapped at a servant nearby, then she slammed the door in the servant's face.
Bob and the Queen walked further up the corridor. Amanda, Jane and Jessica followed some way behind.
"I enjoyed that blood you sent me," the Queen revealed. "It had a very distinctive flavour but I have so far been unable to identify its source."
"It was deer," Bob advised.
"Expensive?" the Queen questioned while raising a puzzled eyebrow.
"No, you majesty," Bob chuckled in reply. "Venison."
"So if I'm a princess and you're now a princess," Jane rationalised with a playfully evil glint in her eye, "and now you're part of my family, doesn't that make us sisters?"
They both smirked and giggled mischievously.
Jessica just shook her head, rolled her eyes and sighed.
The Queen glanced over her shoulder. "They seem rather taken with each other," she said.
"Does that worry you?" Bob asked.
The Queen promptly turned and stared. "Why should it?" she said. "If they are happy then I am happy. Nothing else matters."
When Amanda awoke in the morning it wasn't to the sound of an alarm clock or cars on the road outside or even neighbours fighting or dropping their rubbish in the trash. She had woken so peacefully that it took her a few moments to realise that she was even awake at all. The grand ceiling overhead was delicately painted with frescos and surrounded with ornate edging picked out in gold. She'd lost herself in an enormous four poster bed and savoured the feeling of the finest of silk sheets which seemed to caress her body with the gentlest of touches. She felt like she was in some sort of fairytale dream. For the moment none of it seemed real.
She slipped from the bed then padded across the polished marble floor. Jane was still sleeping and Amanda was reluctant to wake her. She smiled. She'd actually been quite surprised that they'd been allowed to spend the night together. They'd both been completely exhausted. The evening had been a confusing blur which had left their minds reeling. Neither of them were quite sure what to think.
Amanda's clothing from the previous day had been cleaned, pressed and carefully laid out on the dresser. Amanda stared at them in horror. She recalled just carelessly throwing everything on the floor. She scolded herself, she felt embarrassed and resolved to be more considerate in the future.
She changed then pulled the door open to the hall.
There were four guards stationed in the corridor outside the room. They all immediately bowed. "Your highness," they said.
Amanda was tempted to turn and look behind in case she'd missed the person they were addressing, then she realised. "Err yeah, hi," she said waving a bit. She smiled uncertainly. "I just wanted to go for walk. Is that okay?" she asked. She fully expected them to say no and order her back into the room.
Instead one of the guards stepped forward. "It would be my honour to accompany you," he said, bowing once more.
"Do you really need to?" Amanda asked. She would have preferred to be alone, so that she could try and get at least something clear in her mind.
"The Queen was, insistent," the Guard said delicately. "For your own protection," he explained, "and to help you find your way around. The palace is a confusing place and it would be easy to get lost."
"Protection?" Amanda said. She sounded worried.
"There is no safer place than the palace," the Guard added reassuringly trying to ease Amanda fears. "The Queen felt there might be some who could be jealous."
"Jealous?" Amanda replied looking surprised. "Of me? Who would be jealous of me?" Then she realised once again. "Oh," she said.
The Guard smiled. "You'll soon get used to it," he suggested.
"You think," Amanda said uncertainly. She wasn't so sure or even if she wanted to get used to it. She didn't want to become something that she wasn't. She looked to the left. "So what's down that way?" she asked, obviously changing the subject and clearly trying to stop thinking about how nervous and unsure she was about everything. She had no idea, she could barely even remember how she and Jane had made it to their own room the night before.
"Mostly royal suites and private chambers," the Guard revealed.
"And that way?" Amanda prompted, gesturing to the right.
"Receptions rooms, banquet chambers and ultimately the Throne Room," the Guard advised.
Amanda grinned just as uncertainly. "That way then?" she suggested.
It was still very early in the morning and many of the night time staff were visibly cleaning and preparing the palace for the day. They would all bow and address Amanda as your highness as she passed, and she would pleasantly greet them all in return. One young woman was carrying a huge pile of towels and when she bowed a number of them toppled to the floor. Amanda immediately picked them up then carefully placed them back on the stack. The young woman was so surprised that she thanked Amanda over and over then she bowed again and again all the way along the corridor.
Amanda cringed. "Is there any way I can stop them doing that?" she asked.
"The bowing?" the Guard inquired.
Amanda nodded. She didn't feel like she deserved it in any way.
"You could ask them not to," the Guard explained, "but I would suggest that you didn't. They honour you and you honour them in return by treating them with respect. You are all that any of them have been talking about. You're a role model to them."
"A role model?" Amanda said looking confused. "How do you figure that?"
The Guard smiled. "You are proof to them that it's possible however remotely to become something more than what they are."
"And what about you?" Amanda asked. "You're a vampire, how do you feel about protecting someone like me, a familiar?"
The Guard abruptly stopped walking and looked at Amanda. He became more serious. "Nobility of birth rarely matches nobility of character," he explained. "You have earned your place here. Never forget that. There are others here who are, less deserving."
Amanda nodded. "Thank you," she said.
They continued walking.
"Where are they all from?" Amanda asked. She couldn't imagine that the Royal Family was responsible for the all the servants working throughout the palace.
"Noble families mostly," the Guard replied. "As payment to the crown," he explained. "They work extremely hard but they are protected here and it's often a better life than they would have with their sire."
Amanda nodded but didn't immediately reply. She didn't want to imagine what might happen to them if they were forced to leave or didn't live up to the palace's high expectations. "Nothing good," she thought.
They walked through a number of spectacular rooms all filled with ornate furniture and walls crammed with countless paintings, then along a final corridor which led to the throne room beyond. Amanda had actually been here the night before. After Jane and her mother had been reunited the Queen had organised an impromptu banquet to celebrate Jane's return.
Amanda had never seen so much blood.
The throne room at first appeared both quiet and empty.
Amanda felt a little nervous just being here. She stared at the throne. It only further reminded her of what she'd so suddenly become.
"It's a little gaudy," the Queen advised, walking out of her study at that moment. She'd obviously witnessed the Guard and Amanda enter the room.
They both immediately bowed.
"Your majesty," Amanda said.
The Queen smiled pleasantly. "You don't need to bow to me my dear," she said.
"Sorry," Amanda replied. "This is all a bit new to me."
"I can only imagine," the Queen responded.
The Guard excused himself then went and waited beside the door.
Amanda again turned and looked at the throne. "You don't like it?" she asked.
"It is a bit over the top," the Queen suggested. She clearly had simpler tastes.
"Do you ever use it?"
The Queen shook her head. "It's just a symbol really," she explained. "I prefer to meet people privately. Face to face."
Amanda nodded. She still looked very nervous.
The Queen smiled. "Relax," she said, trying to lighten the moment. "I'm not going ask you what your intentions are toward my daughter."
Amanda chuckled. She thought that would have been obvious.
They walked across the room then sat in the Queen's study.
"So how is she really?" the Queen asked. She sounded a little more serious.
"Physically she's fine, now," Amanda replied. "But she doesn't remember anything prior to waking in the hospital."
"Do you think it will come back?"
Amanda sadly shook her head.
The Queen nodded seriously. "You were a nurse?" she said.
"Yes," Amanda replied, nodding herself. She assumed that Bob must have revealed some of her past. "In the ER," she advised. "I work for The Watch. I was on duty when Jane walked into the hospital. I had never seen such injuries. If she had been human she wouldn't have survived. The Watch helped me get her out of the hospital then I nursed her at home. We didn't realise who she was until yesterday."
"Do you believe it was an accident?" the Queen asked. "You don't do you?" she quickly added as Amanda's expression immediately changed.
Amanda shook her head. "What was Jane like before?" she inquired.
The Queen smiled. She seemed thankful for the diversion. "Very much a tomboy," she revealed. "I could never get her to wear a dress even as a child. She was always getting into mischief and was usually filthy dirty. She never seemed to act in anyway befitting a princess."
Amanda smiled. "You don't sound disappointed," she said.
"Never," the Queen replied. "Royal life can be stuffy, full of rules and expectations. Jane made it fun." She smiled again. "What about you?" she asked.
"Much the same," Amanda responded. "Though my parents weren't quite so forgiving."
The Queen raised an eyebrow and sat back in her chair. She looked concerned.
"My mother couldn't really cope with the way I was," Amanda revealed. "My desires," she said. "As a teenager they sent me to an all girls boarding school in the hopes it would change me. I was never happier."
The Queen actually smirked.
"Later I agreed to an arranged marriage to keep my mother happy. It never happened though. I was attacked and they were murdered shortly after. I ran away. I've never been back."
The Queen reached forward and took hold of Amanda's hand. "You're safe here," she said. "You have no need to run from anyone anymore."
Amanda nodded. She still looked worried.
"What is it?" the Queen asked.
"I love Jane, I really do and I would do anything for her," Amanda started.
"But?" the Queen prompted.
"I have never bonded with anyone so fully or quickly before," Amanda added. "I don't understand why. I'm scared it will all end just as quickly."
The Queen smiled. "Apart from Jane you haven't really spent much time with your own kind before, have you?" she asked.
Amanda shook her head. She frowned. She didn't understand. "But I'm not a vampire," she said.
"No, but you could be," the Queen replied, "and we share many similarities. Our kind bond for life," she explained. "It can happen very quickly and be extremely intense. It's not something primal you have no control over. You both love each other because that's what you both want. It really is just that simple."
Amanda smiled. She suddenly smirked.
"What?" the Queen asked while frowning deeply. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry," Amanda replied still smiling, "but I never really expected to be getting the mother daughter talk from the Queen."
The Queen smiled, she chuckled softly then laughed out loud. She didn't seem offended in the slightest. She stood up while still holding Amanda's hand. "Come on," she said. "There's something I want to show you."
At one side of the room there was a heavy curtain from floor to ceiling. The Queen pulled it aside revealing a glass door which had been hidden behind. A strange, soft light fell into the room. She slid the door smoothly open then led Amanda through.
Amanda immediately stopped and stared.
They'd stepped onto a balcony mounted high on the side of the palace. In all directions there were buildings, a city, softening into the distance at the edges of a massive cavern. Below there were twisted streets, narrow and maze-like, cobbled and filled with all manner of beings hurrying one way or the other. Elves, Gnomes, Dwarves, Goblins and many, many more. The sky above appeared dark and threatening, black volcanic rock held aloft by enormous pillars of stone, their mirror-like surfaces glistening with water which cascaded from high above. The air was cool, moved by enormous fans mounted and silently spinning on the top of the tallest buildings. The whole cavern was bathed in the same soft light, it continually moved as a fleet of strange blimp-like craft with huge lamps suspended beneath gently floated overhead.
Amanda just shook her head and stared. She didn't know what to say. She barely even knew what to think.
"Welcome to Arden," the Queen whispered.
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