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.
David drove into the visitor carpark. He parked the car then climbed out and glanced around. He looked surprised. The apartment complex, such as it was, wasn't really what he'd been expecting at all, instead it more closely resembled some immaculately sculptured parkland with a loose collection of semi-detached town houses artistically scattered throughout. He reached back into the car and pulled out his mobile phone just to check if he had the correct address.
"Twelve-sixty Chatterton Drive," he read to himself. "How does she afford this?" he thought.
Even on his salary he couldn't come close to affording something on this level. He lived on the other side of town, in a small, one bedroom weatherboard flat he shared with a million cockroaches which he affectionately referred to as the shit-box. This place was in another league all together.
It had been more than a struggle to get Amanda's address from the administrator. The older man had been extremely reluctant to reveal anything. Along with his courage it seemed as though someone had also removed his arse then handed it back to him on a platter. He seemed reluctant to speak about Amanda at all. He almost seemed relieved that she was gone.
At this time of the morning David would normally be on his way home, but he was worried about Amanda and wanted to make sure she was okay. They'd worked well as a team and he missed her company and he also felt responsible for what had happened. He wanted to say he was sorry.
He slowly walked around the tree-lined paths searching for her apartment. He finally found number three and its partner buried even further back in the trees than the others. It was so secluded that it was hard to imagine that the entire complex was only a few kilometres from the centre of the city. It was quiet and peaceful with no screaming children or people of any kind.
He knocked on the front door and waited. Nothing. He knocked a little firmer then rang Amanda's mobile phone which he could hear ringing within the building.
The front door of the neighbouring apartment creaked open and an older lady poked her head out. "They're not home," she advised in a rather businesslike manner. "They went out last night but they haven't been back." She looked like the sort of person who would keep tabs on the comings and goings of everyone and would quite happily reveal them to anyone who would ask.
"They?" David said. "I thought Amanda lived alone."
"Another girl moved in with her a few weeks back," the woman explained. "Arrived in an ambulance nonetheless," she said rolling her eyes. She clearly didn't think this was an appropriate method of travel.
"An ambulance?" David prompted.
The woman nodded. Her eyes seemed to sparkle with delight at being able to reveal someone else's business. "Covered in bandages she was poor girl," the woman revealed while faking some sympathy. "I'd say she was a relative if it wasn't for some of the noises I've heard them make. Strange they are though," she added shaking her head and frowning as though her life depended on it. "Never come out during the day and have all the windows blacked out so they never get any sun. Just plain weird they are." She obviously didn't consider Amanda to be the sort of neighbour she would prefer or maybe she was trying to deter David from ever coming back.
David smiled uncomfortably, that was a great deal more than he'd wanted to know. He turned to leave. "Incidentally," he asked, turning back, "how much does it cost to rent one of these places."
"No one rents these places!" the woman snapped as though the merest notion of renting anywhere was totally beneath her. "They are all privately owned."
"Then Amanda owns her's?" David suggested.
"It would seem likely," the woman replied then she slammed the door in David's face.
David shook his head. Now he was even more confused.
Allegra strode into the Queen's study and discovered Amanda and Jane quietly talking with the Queen.
"So," she said, glaring at her sister while ignoring everyone else, "you've returned." She couldn't have sounded any less happy if she'd tried.
"Apparently," Jane quipped.
"So where have you been?" Allegra demanded while avoiding any pleasantries such as hugging and smiling. She was clearly probing for information to learn it Jane remembered anything at all.
Jane shrugged. "You tell me," she joked in reply.
"You little bitch," Allegra blurted out missing the jest, "are you accusing me of something?"
Jane was so shocked that she stumbled backwards. She didn't know what she'd done.
Amanda immediately leapt to her feet. "Hey!" she said. "No one talks to her like that."
Allegra turned on her. "You do not address me," she hissed. "Regardless of what everyone else believes you are less than worthless. You should be put down like the creature you are."
"Hey!" said Jane leaping to Amanda's defence.
Allegra simply ignored her then turned and scowled at the Queen who was looking just as shocked as everyone else. "Mother," she said sounding not just cool but cold, then she turned and stormed out.
For a moment they all stood and stared after her.
"I don't think she likes me very much," Jane suggested her voice quivering a bit. She seemed like she was barely holding it together.
"Nor me," Amanda added, feeling the same.
"When can we go home?" that both said together.
When David arrived home he promptly fell into bed. "Whatever the reason," he thought, for the moment he was too tired and too confused to care that much. He was so tired that he was out before his head even touched the pillow. He never even showered or changed out of his scrubs. They were all problems for another day.
"Well, that could have gone a little better," the Queen whispered. She shook her head in some considerable distaste. She was horrified. Disgusted by how Allegra had treated not just her sister but them all. "Are you all right?" she asked, looking from Jane to Amanda and back.
"When can we go home?" Jane asked again, her voice quivering as before.
The Queen frowned. "You are home," she said.
"No," Jane corrected while reaching for Amanda's hand, "our home," she explained.
Amanda silently nodded in agreement.
The Queen sighed. She nodded reluctantly. "I would not stop you from doing whatever makes you happy of course," she said though sounding disappointed, "but you are both in desperate need of some instruction. When it is Jane's time to rule..."
"RULE!" both Amanda and Jane immediately blurted out. They quickly glanced at one another. Together they had absolutely no idea what the Queen was talking about.
The Queen frowned once again, deeper than before. She seemed a little surprised. "I'm sorry," she said and genuinely sounding so. "I assumed you both knew, that you understood."
"Understood what?" Jane asked.
"You aren't just my daughter or simply a princess," the Queen explained rather seriously. "You are Elandra Valencia Amelia Hamilton-Ayers, the Crown Princess, first heir to the throne of Arden and all the treaties and territories there in. It has always been my hope that you would rule after me."
Amanda and Jane just stared.
"And you would not be exempt either," the Queen said turning to Amanda and to her ears possibly sounding even more dire. "As Jane's partner you would become the Queen consort. You would rule beside her."
Both Amanda and Jane flopped back into their chairs.
"But Allegra looks so much older," Amanda suggested.
They'd all seen Jane's sister at the banquet the previous night though none of them had spoken. Allegra had done her best to avoid them all.
The Queen smiled. "Allegra wishes she was older, but no," she replied. "They are twins actually," she explained, "an aberration in our world but one which only makes Allegra even more bitter." The Queen sighed. She sounded disappointed, like she'd failed in someway. "Allegra can never be allowed to rule," she said gravely. "She believes in the old ways, with the army under her command and along with her followers she would turn this planet into a blood war the likes of which human kind has never seen."
"You know this?"
The Queen nodded.
"Couldn't you stop them?" Amanda asked.
The Queen shook her head. "Even if I wanted to it's not right to tell a person what they can and can't think," she explained. "You have to take the good with the bad."
"So we have no choice," Jane said.
"There are always choices," the Queen replied. "You could refuse to take the throne and I could hand power to a different family, but even then Allegra could petition the Council to overrule that decision and you would still not be safe. She will always see you as a threat. I'm surprised that she hasn't tried to kill either one of you already."
"Is that supposed to make us feel better?" Amanda asked.
"No," the Queen said shaking her head, "but it is the truth."
The servant finally found Marshall hiding in the back corner of a grotty, run-down bar located in a seedier, disreputable part of the city. It was a well known haunt for enforcers and undesirables with whom few others would care to associate. The whole place reeked of Dwarven beer and was stained with Goblin piss and blood.
"Mister Marshall sir," the servant said nervously while cautiously glancing around. This really wasn't the sort of place she would ever chose to frequent. She was only here because she'd been ordered to.
Marshall slowly turned and glared. "What do you want?" he growled. He looked and smelt terrible, like he hadn't bathed or fed in days.
"The Princess Allegra demands your presence," the servant advised.
The few others seated at the table looked up from their drinks and whistled disparagingly. "Oh the Princess," they all mocked.
"Shut up you lot," Marshall spat. He turned back to the servant. "What does she want?" he asked without any reverence whatsoever.
The servant shook her head. "I don't know sir," she replied. She thought for a moment. "Maybe to help with her sister," she suggested.
Marshall frowned. "Her sister is dead," he said. It had been a commonly held belief among many. Marshall knew more than most. He'd seen the body after all. He had no idea how the princess had died or where she had been all this time, but he knew for certain that Allegra had been involved.
"Oh no sir," the servant replied now sounding more excited. "The Princess Elandra has been found and is now back at the palace."
Marshall stared. He'd been sitting in the bar for the last few days and had no idea what had been happening in the real world. He suddenly felt very afraid. It was he who had identified the body and informed Allegra her sister was dead. He suspected a slap across the face would be the least of his punishment this time.
They sat silently for a time.
To Amanda it felt as though the entire weight of the universe had again landed on her shoulders and she was responsible for everything once more. She hadn't felt this way since her family had been killed.
Jane muttered under her breath. "My own sister wants to murder me," she said. It was a lot for her to take in.
The Queen suddenly chuckled and shook her head.
Both Amanda and Jane looked up and stared. They were a little taken aback.
"You really need to stop looking so worried," the Queen suggested. "Both of you! Nothing bad is going to happen today or any time soon." She rose from her chair. "And until it does," she added, strangely smiling, "why don't we have some fun."
She led them out onto the balcony.
Jane was at first a little overwhelmed as Amanda had been.
The Queen stepped up to the railing as a huge cheer erupted from the streets below. She waved then beckoned both Amanda and Jane forward as another huge cheer rose from the streets.
"You see," she said, "there are far more people here who like you than would wish you harm."
"They know about me?" Amanda asked. She was surprised.
The Queen smiled. "Of course my dear," she replied. "You'll find it's very hard to keep a secret around here."
Jane shook her head. She looked confused. "Valencia Amelia?" she said joking as normal. She really didn't sound that impressed.
Bob's phone rang in his pocket. He wiped his hands on his blue and white stripped butchers apron then fished it out. He glanced at the display and frowned before lifting it to his ear. He was working in the back room with Jessica. They were packing stock and preparing for the day all the while trying to make up for the store being unexpectedly closed the previous evening. He returned the phone to his pocket after barely having said a word.
"Who was that?" Jessica asked looking up. So far she had avoided going back to school completely. As long as she helped in the store Bob had given up arguing.
"One of my Watchers," he replied. He sounded a little worried. "Someone was looking for Amanda," he explained.
"The Princess," Jessica quietly sniped.
Bob frowned at her. "Are you jealous?" he said almost laughing.
"NO!" Jessica retorted sounding quite defensive. "Maybe, a little," she said, looking completely wretched.
Bob smiled. "I think you got the better deal," he suggested.
Jessica looked up and stared, she cocked her head to one side. She was elbow deep in a huge container of minced beef which she was reluctantly separating into one-kilo bags. As a vegan it looked terribly wrong. "Why would you think that?" she asked.
"No privacy and always having to be careful to do and say the right thing," Bob listed, "never being allowed to go anywhere on your own, being constantly judged by how you look, needing a bodyguard at all times." He smiled. That life certainly wasn't for him.
"Always getting what you want and the best clothes money can buy," Jessica added playing the Devil's advocate, "being waited on hand and foot and never having to work."
Bob shook his head. He looked a little upset with Jessica's comments. "I know that most of the royal family work extremely hard for the Fey," he revealed. "I very much doubt that Amanda and Jane would be exempt from that."
Jessica just nodded silently. She didn't add anything further.
"So what are you going to do?" the Queen asked.
"You mean other than princess lessons," Jane joked.
The Queen frowned. "Seriously?" she insisted.
"I..., I," Jane started then stopped. She looked a little panicked. She shook her head then jumped up and ran from the room.
Amanda rose to follow her.
The Queen placed a hand on Amanda's arm. "Why does she always have to joke about everything?" she asked.
"It's her way of coping," Amanda replied. She tried to smile. "Give her some time," she said. "Get to know her. She doesn't know you or this place. She barely even knows herself. Imagine waking up one morning with no memory of anything then having to deal with all of this. It's completely overwhelming."
The Queen nodded. She hadn't really understood how difficult it must be. She looked upset with herself for pressing. "And how are you doing?" she asked.
Amanda shook her head just as sadly. "I'm not sure I know who I am anymore either," she replied.
She found Jane huddled against the wall in one corner of the throne room. "Hey you," she said as she sat down beside her. It must have looked quite strange to anyone else to see the crown princess and Amanda huddled together.
"Is she angry?" Jane asked. She leant against Amanda and rested her head on Amanda's shoulder.
Amanda shook her head. "Just worried," she replied. "She's probably just as unsure about everything as you are. So are you ready to go home?" she asked.
Jane quickly glanced up. "She'll let us?" she asked hopefully.
Amanda nodded. "But there are conditions," she advised not sounding one hundred percent happy with them herself. "We'll need to take security and we have to return regularly for..., princess lessons," she said while rolling her eyes and comically quoting the words in the air. She chuckled as it all sounded so preposterous.
Jane didn't care, she just instantly agreed.
Amanda looked at her seriously. "Are you sure?" she asked. "You won't be able to go outside anytime as you can here. The apartment is no where near as big and you've felt uncomfortable about being trapped inside before."
Jane nodded. "I'll be fine," she said. "I just want to be with you."
Amanda smiled. She wrapped an arm around Jane's shoulder and pulled her close. She felt the same.
Amanda's guard came and stood over them. "Are you okay?" he asked. He sounded worried. He obviously wasn't accustom to seeing any of the royal family just sitting on the floor. Especially in the throne room.
Amanda nodded happily. "Pull up a patch of floor," she suggested.
The Guard shook his head. "It would be better if I stood," he replied.
Amanda frowned. "What do I call you?" she asked.
"I sorry?" the Guard replied.
"Well, I can't keep calling you, hey you, or guard person can I," Amanda explained.
The Guard smiled. "My name is Marc," he replied, bowing graciously.
"Marc it is then."
"Should we tell him?" Jane whispered.
"I don't know," Amanda replied looking up. "Do you think he's up to it?"
Jane shook her head. She didn't look convinced.
Marc glanced back and forth between them "Up to what?" he asked worriedly. His mind was suddenly full of disturbing images as to what the pair might be planning.
Amanda smiled. "Feel like a road trip?" she asked.
"You shouldn't feel jealous about Amanda," Bob suggested.
"I don't, not really," Jessica replied.
"Then what is it?" Bob asked. "Don't you think Amanda deserves something nice to finally happen to her?"
"Of course I do!" Jessica replied and sounding a little hurt by the accusation. "It just feels like I've lost another sister."
Bob smiled. "Or you could choose to think you've gained extra one," he suggested.
"You mean Jane?"
Jessica immediately smiled. "So you're saying we could be related to the royal family?" she said excitedly.
Bob immediately cringed. He hadn't thought about that.
"If they got married then you'd be the father in-law," Jessica suggested while grinning from ear to ear.
"Yeah," Bob reluctantly agreed. "I would be, wouldn't I?"
In the evening Amanda and Jane returned home but even this journey wasn't as pleasurable to them as it could have been. They wouldn't have minded just getting a cab, but instead the Queen insisted they be chauffeured home in an enormous black limousine. They again felt uncomfortable with all the opulence and fuss.
Once inside Marc looked at them seriously. He had already scouted the entire apartment while one of his assistances had kept them all waiting outside. "Some rules," he said. "You never answer the door even if you think you know who it is, in fact you don't even go near it. You never leave without myself or one of the others and don't even think of ditching us. We'll be monitoring all calls and patrolling the complex at night. During the day The Watch will stand guard. As far as anyone is concerned you are both still living in the palace. You don't tell anyone where you are."
"Fine," Amanda said sounding a little incensed. She crossed her arms and glared. "Then these are our rules," she said. "This isn't the palace it's our home, so no royal highness or your majesty, I'm Amanda this is Jane and you're Marc, that's it. We just want everything to be as normal as possible."
"Agreed," Marc replied.
"Fine," Amanda repeated.
"So," said Marc while pointing into the lounge and trying to make light of everything, "do I just go collapse on the sofa, turn on the game and scratch myself."
Amanda immediately smirked and shook her head. "You'll do fine," she said.
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