Island of Belleza: part 2

By Cam Taylor

Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.

Bad language ~ Nothing I deem bad, but...let's say yes, scattered here and there.

Love/sex ~ Ongoing relationships between women. Love scenes between m/f & f/f. If none of this is your cup of tea or it offends you, you're in the wrong place.

Violence ~ Loads! The warriors are at war so....

Author's note ~ **Important**

Hi. To all of you who posted a message on the website & to all of you who sent me an email, thank you for showing your appreciation and love of the story. You were all really nice and I thank you for that. I was wary about posting it, but now I'm am really glad I stuck it out there.

Big, big thank you to my two beta readers. I really appreciate all the time and hard work you put in.

Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome.

Teaser ~ When their peaceful existence is disrupted by an attack, Dionis and her wife Queen Athena decide to retaliate and send their warriors of to war.

          The Queen's daughter Arcadia is left behind as her true love is sent off to fight, left wondering if they'll ever see each other again and if she'll get the wedding she has wished for. As the war rages in a distant land, the Princess has to cope with problems of her own while trying not to worry too much about her departed love.

          Will they be reunited and live happily ever after?

Copyright © June 2008

Chapter One

Arcadia let out a soft mewl as she slowly started waking up. Without sitting up, the Princess stretched where she lay and slowly opened green eyes to the bright morning sun that bled into her bedchamber.

Another beautiful day by the looks of it. Except Rayna isn't here, the Princess thought morosely. Sitting up in bed, the blonde sighed. She hadn't realised just how much she would miss the tall, dark-haired girl she had fallen so in love with.

Val Plummer, one of the Palace maids, entered the Princess' bedchamber and smiled politely at the blonde. "Good morn, Princess Arcadia."

"Good morn, Val."

The maid's head tilted to the side, a frown appearing on her brow. "Thinking of Rayna this morning?"

The Princess nodded. "Some days it hits me more than others," she said honestly, rubbing her eyes. Arcadia climbed out of her mahogany-framed bed as the maid got out a dress for her to wear. "It's only been two weeks. She hasn't even reached her destination yet and the thing that really bothers me is I know I probably won't be seeing her for...a long time!" The blonde poured some water into a bowl and started washing.

Val handed a light green dress to the Princess once she was done washing up. "You never know, Princess Arcadia. Perhaps they'll sort this situation out quickly."

Arcadia struggled into her shift, then the dress, sweeping her hair aside so the maid could do up the fine garment. "Or it could take forever!" She gasped as the garment pressed heavily against her breasts.


"My breasts are highly sensitive this morn," the blonde replied, frowning. "My monthly courses are due. 'Tis nothing unusual." The Princess sighed. Just one more thing to make me miserable, my monthly courses! She moved over to her padded stool and sat down so the maid could brush her hair.

"Do you have plans for today?" Val asked lightly, knowing she was stepping over the line, but wanting to cheer the blonde up.

"I was thinking of doing some reading. I'm on Agnes' diary now and with my classes over, I can take my time."

Val set the brush down. "There, all done. That sounds like a good idea," she commented on the blonde's plan. "You should perhaps read outside, 'tis a lovely day for it."

"Thank you, Val." Arcadia stood up. "Not only for your help this morn, but your conversation as well." She smiled. "See you later."

Downstairs, Arcadia entered the dining area and found her two grandmothers already seated at the long table, both dressed in Royal robes. "Good morning, grandma. Good morning, grams."

Aaronia and Mina smiled over at the granddaughter.

"Hello, sweet pea. Are you alright?" Mina asked.

Arcadia took a seat. "I'm fine. Just missing the warriors."

Her blonde grandmother chuckled. "Any one warrior in particular?" she smirked, a pale brow lifting almost to her hairline.

"Morning everyone," Athena greeted as she entered the large, airy room with Dionis by her side. Both women bent to kiss their daughter's head before moving on to their seats. Aaronia liked to sit at the head of the table with Mina seated on her left. Athena and Dionis sat side by side close to the middle of table, and Arcadia always opted for a different seat, liking variety.

The serving staff started bringing out their breakfast food, different plates of a variety of fruits, warm bread, cold porridge or warm porridge, and jugs of cow's milk and goat's milk, along with lemon juice, berry juice and grape juice to drink.

Taking a couple of slices of warm bread and some fruit, Athena looked across the table at her daughter. "Arcadia, today I would like for you to attend a senate meeting with me."

Green eyes moved down the table to settle on the blonde Queen. "Is there a problem, mummy?" the Princess asked, frowning.

"Endora has asked for the meeting, so I assume it will be about the approaching harvest. And Savannah wants to discuss the next learning term."

"Oh." Arcadia dipped her wooden spoon into her bowl of warm porridge and watched as the blob fell back into her bowl as she tipped the utensil. "Alright then." The Princess stood up. "Excuse me," she said, earning looks of confusion from her family. She wasn't gone long, only having to run to the chamber pot. She returned quickly and sat back down, apologising.

"Are you still reading our ancestors' diaries, Arcadia?" Aaronia enquired, once the blonde was settled again.

The Princess nodded as she added a drizzle of honey to her breakfast. "I am about to start your mother Agnes' diary."

"Oh. Terribly interesting, if I do say so myself," the greying redhead replied, making the young blonde smile.

"Grandma, may I ask you a question?"

"Of course, love." The Queen's mother bit into her warm bread, humming in delight at the tasty morsel.

"Why are you no longer Queen?" Arcadia asked bluntly. "I mean, mummy is doing a great job and the people love her, but surely you could still be Queen?"

Aaronia nodded. "I could be, but your mother was ready for the responsibility and I wanted the spare time. If I was still Queen, I wouldn't be able to travel off to see your uncle Ely and his family."

"Because you couldn't leave the island," Arcadia caught on. "Have I ever met uncle Ely?" she asked, remembering the name but not recalling a face.

Mina shook her head, taking over as her wife ate a slice of peach. "No, he has never returned here. He lives in Greece. You have heard of it?"

Arcadia nodded slowly, a little unsure. "The home of the Gods, like Aphrodite and Artemis."

Mina smiled and nodded her blonde head. "That's right."

"Why did uncle Ely go there?"

"Leaving here at the age of ten, he went to stay with a friend of ours who happened to live in Greece. He grew up searching for the elusive Gods and ended up loving the country so much, he stayed, even once he was old enough to leave."

Arcadia ate a couple of spoonfuls of her cooling porridge, a frown working its way across her brow. "How long have you and grandma known each other?" she asked Mina, changing the topic completely.

Mina smiled lovingly at her redheaded wife. "I'm sure you'll read it all in her diary."

"Oh, grams!"

"Another time. A day when you aren't joining your mother at a senate meeting."

* * * * *

Arcadia and her mother were in the brightly lit room where all the senate meetings were held. They sat at a beautifully carved cherrywood table that a carpenter had made from the island's resources. She watched quietly as the members of the senate walked in. Knowing now that some were against the Royal family, the Princess studied each carefully, wondering if they would ever be a threat.

Savannah Reeder smiled as she approached the two Royals. "Your Majesty. Princess Arcadia," she greeted, bowing respectfully to both women. "How are you holding up, Arcadia?"

The Princess blinked in surprise. "I am...getting by, thank you for asking, Savannah."

"I know what it is like, the not knowing and wishing time would hurry up so they will return to you. If you ever wish to talk, my door is always open for you."

"Thank you," the Princess smiled.

"Audra told me to send you her regards and wished for me to tell you that if you need a friend at any time, she is available," the head of education said of her daughter.

"Send Audra my thanks, and please tell her I will keep her in mind." Arcadia watched the brunette retreat to her seat along the table, then turned to her mother. "I can always count on the Reeders, can't I?"

Athena smiled and nodded. "Yes, my love. They are good people."

Tamara Sheehan scowled, as did Ulrica Parson, as they entered the large meeting room. Arcadia regarded the two women as a potential threat to the Royal family and made a mental note to keep a close eye on both. Tamara Sheehan, having worked so closely with the Queen on important matters, deemed herself just as important as Athena, foolishly thinking she couldn't easily be replaced. Ulrica Parson thought that the church should have more say over matters, not thinking it right that Athena had the final say over every decision.

Close behind them was Lexie, who smiled and waved at the Princess. Arcadia smiled politely in return, while silently cursing her luck of probably having to work with the girl in the future, seeing how she was being groomed for the role of adviser.

Once everyone had arrived and taken their seats, the Queen stood up. "Alright, everyone," Athena started, getting them all to quiet down.

Arcadia stood up. "I'm sorry, mummy," she apologised quietly in the Queen's ear. "I must use the chamber pot again."

Surprised, Athena blinked. "Very well, Arcadia. But lay off the grape juice, will you." Once the Princess returned, cheeks burning in embarrassment, the Queen stood again and looked along the table to her sister-in-law. "Endora, you called for this meeting. Would you like to start?"

The raven-haired woman nodded and stood up, looking up and down the table to the other heads of the sections. "The farming community has already gathered all the artichoke, asparagus and green beans from the vegetable patches and most of the strawberries and lemons from the fruit sections," she informed them. "Most of the corn has been collected, but some hadn't ripened and was left for a later date. It's good until the end of July."

"So do you need our help?" Daralis Green, the head of construction, asked, trying to speed the woman up.

Endora scowled. "We need help with the corn and tomatoes which are coming to the end of their peak time. It's fairly easy to do because it's so late in the season now."

"Why can't the farmers just deal with?" Tamara spoke up, getting the attention of all the women. Realising she had spoken out of place, the Queen's adviser ducked her head and sat back in her seat.

"The farmers will be dealing with the fruit and vegetables that are hitting their peak," Endora explained. "Blackberries, apricots, watermelon, raspberries, cherries and figs, for the fruit. Cucumber, beetroot and garlic, for the vegetables," the raven-haired woman paused, as she let the information sink in. "Usually the warriors help us before they leave for their year away, but this year...." she trailed off.

"Will everyone pass on the plea for help to their communities?" Athena asked, getting nods from the seated women.

"I will definitely help," Arcadia spoke up. "I would even if the warriors were here. I am betrothed to the warrior Rayna Banks, daughter of cattle farmers. It is my duty to help them any way I can."

Endora blinked in surprise. "Uhm...thank you, Princess Arcadia."

"When would you wish for me to arrive?" the blonde asked, hoping it would be soon. If she kept herself busy, she wouldn't think of her love so much. She hoped.

"Tomorrow, Princess Arcadia. Bright and early."

Arcadia nodded her agreement. "Very well."

The Queen smiled at her daughter, very proud of her. Perhaps I'll go as well? These women are our people and we shouldn't be seen as thinking we are above them. And Arcadia is right, she is betrothed to a member of the farming community. "Ulrica," the Queen said, turning her attention to the head of the church.

"I uhm..." Light green eyes flicked briefly to the Princess before darting back to the Queen. "I just wanted to know if...uhm...." the grey-haired woman took a deep breath. "Will we be giving the fallen warriors a traditional warrior burial?"

Everyone shifted nervously in their seats as they watched the colour drain from the Princess' face.

"Of course they will have a warrior burial," Athena snapped, irked that the woman had brought up a sensitive subject in front of her daughter. "Why wouldn't they get one?"

"'s just...I wasn't sure if they would be brought back here to the island," the grey-haired woman stuttered.

"Everyone," the Queen started in a taut voice. "Is coming home," she stated firmly. "One way or the other, they will all come home." Angry green eyes trailed around the table. "Now, is there anything else?"

Savannah Reeder stood up. "I have decided not to change what we have been teaching at the school this season. We had such great success with those who have just graduated, I feel we must be doing something right so I see no reason for change."

"It is your decision, Savannah," Athena smiled warmly. "We'll meet up again next week." The Queen stood up, effectively dismissing the other women. She watched as they stood up and bowed in her direction before heading for the doors.

Tamara Sheehan, the Queen's adviser, remained seated, her daughter next to her. "Your Majesty," she addressed the Queen with a thin smile.

"Yes, Tamara?"

"The people already love and adore you, many feeling that you are doing a wonderful job for the island."

Athena sat back down, getting the feeling she wouldn't be leaving any time soon. She patted Arcadia's arm as her daughter sat back down too.

"This...situation we find ourselves in," Tamara began. "It's a great opportunity for the Princess to show the women what she is made of."

A pale blonde eyebrow lifted. "Explain," the Queen said, curious.

"Princess Arcadia can show the women her caring side, her strong side, her people skills. When we start receiving injured back from Britannia, she could volunteer to help at the hospice I am sure you will set up."

"I haven't trained for that," Arcadia commented.

"Not many have. You can...hand around water, or sit with them and just talk," Tamara said dismissively, her intention being to impress the Queen. "What with already volunteering to help the farmers, Arcadia has set a mark for making a good impression." I'll have to send Lexie along as well, the two can spend some time together, the adviser thought. This betrothal to the warrior is surely not serious? There was no mention of them even courting before they announced they were betrothed!

"I don't know," Athena said doubtfully, looking at her daughter. Some of the injured are sure to be girls she knows! And what if....No, don't even think it.

"I think it's a great idea," Arcadia interrupted. "I want to do whatever I can to help. These girls will surely need a comforting word or two."

The Queen gave the Princess a serious look, a worried frown on her brow. "Sweetheart, you do realise some of the injured will be girls you know?" Athena said softly.

"I know," Arcadia nodded. "The least I can do is sit with them for a while, or hand them water when they are thirsty."

"Very well," Athena acquiesced. "Anything else, Tamara?" she asked her adviser, head turning in the woman's direction.

"No, Your Majesty."

"Very well. Continue with your day, Tamara."

Lexie stood as her mother did, her attention on the Princess though. "Uhm...Princess Arcadia," she stuttered. "I was wondering if...uhm...if you have any plans today?" she asked, hoping to invite the pretty blonde to the waterfall.

"I do, yes. Why? Is there a problem?" Arcadia frowned, trying to think of what could possibly be wrong.

The brunette shook her head. "Oh, no problem, Princess. I was just...uhm...never mind. Goodbye, Your Highness. Princess." Lexie bowed to each and turned to her watching mother.

Athena watched her adviser leave with her daughter, their heads bowed close together, their words quiet. Sighing, the Queen relaxed back in her chair.

"I don't trust her, mummy," Arcadia said, frowning at the doors Tamara and Lexie had disappeared through. "Something about her...." she trailed off, shaking her head.

"Tamara or Lexie?"

"Tamara," the blonde confirmed.

"You're right, I don't trust her either. But it is better to have your enemies close, where you can keep an eye on them." Athena smiled. "She is still bitter that I married Dionis."

Arcadia blinked in surprise. "What!"

"I believe Tamara was madly in lust with me and dreamed of us becoming a couple. I only ever had eyes for your mama though." The Queen smiled again. "I am fairly certain that is why young Lexie has always shown an interest in you. They see it as a way in, a way to one day have a say in running the island. 'Tis all about power to them, love. Anyway, what are your plans for the rest of the day?" she asked her daughter.

"Well, seeing how I will be busy all day tomorrow, I was thinking I would go up to the roof and start on great grandma Agnes' diary."

The two blonde's stood up and headed for the doors.

"Okay, darling," Athena smiled. "Be mindful of the sun, won't you? We are not blessed like your mama. Instead of tanning we go pink!"

Arcadia laughed. "I will, mummy. What will you be doing? Do you wish for my company?"

"I am off to see the shaman. I want to be sure she has all the supplies she needs to tend to any injured warriors. And no, you don't have to accompany me. You enjoy your day of relaxation."

* * * * *

With a glass of grape juice in one hand and Agnes' diary in the other, the Princess walked out onto the Palace roof, which was lit up from the burning summer sun. Over in one corner was a large pile of different coloured pillows used to sit or lay on.

Athena loved to spend the summer evenings wrapped in Dionis' arms star gazing and had purchased the pillows with that thought in mind.

Carefully setting her drink down out of the way of being knocked over, Arcadia sat down and got herself comfortable before delicately opening the small book to the neatly written first page.

"Dear Diary,

My name is Agnes Archer and I am the only heir to the throne. I am also the only Royal to ever have a surname. My mother married Lani Archer, who being very proud of her family and their heritage, refused to give up her surname once she married mummy.

I am the only child of Queen Abrona and Lani Archer. Mummy might have had more children if she hadn't lost her true love Candra on the battlefield.

When I was small, mummy used to tell me stories of Candra. She still thought of her true love a lot back then, I suppose. She told me Candra sacrificed her own life to save five other women. She died a hero. I think mummy would have preferred it if she had come home.

I don't remember all the details now, stories of their love, their dreams for the future and mischief they used to get up to. Once, when I was a little older and ready to understand, I asked mummy about Candra again. She got a sad look in her eyes and they watered like she was going to cry. She told me she couldn't right at that moment and fled the room. I never brought up Candra again.

I asked mama if it bothered her that she hadn't been mummy's first choice. She told me she was honoured she had been chosen and could do her bit for the prestigious Royal family. She told me she especially thanked the Gods every day for me being in her life. I hugged her tightly and told her I loved her."

"Dear Diary,

I am approaching courting age. I must admit this...scares me a little.

When a girl reaches the age of sixteen, she can approach or be approached for a date. You start courting and perhaps down the road you wed. I'm not sure I am ready for this. Not only do I have to accept the attentions of those who wish to pursue me, but I also have to start learning my role as future Queen! I think it's too much. Why can't I concentrate on learning how to be Queen before I start my search for a life partner?

I was talking to Beverley Atwell the other day and she told me that Moira Theccan had relations with a couple of the visiting boys and is now with child! How scandalous! Her parents must be so ashamed! Not only has she slept with more than one boy, but they weren't courting and they are not betrothed! Beverley told me there is a rumour that Moira is to be sent away.

I was talking to mama about Moira and her situation while we ate dinner. Mama frowned and said that's what happens to girls like that. I'm not sure what she meant, so I asked. She said I would understand when I was older and warned me to stay away from Moira. How much older, I wondered, but changed the subject because it didn't seem like something mama wanted to discuss."

Arcadia shook her head in amusement as she reached out for her drink. The day was boiling hot and as she looked up at the clear blue sky, she wished that Rayna were around. We could have gone to the waterfall and cooled off in the water, she thought sadly. She remembered a trip she and Rayna had made to the waterfall shortly before the warrior had left. Blushing, she took a couple of refreshing sips of her juice before setting the glass back down. I suppose my poor love is going crazy being stuck on a ship in the middle of the open sea! The Princess chuckled as she imagined all the warriors trapped on the boat with nothing to do. They were an active lot and with nothing to do they were probably terrorising the ship's crew and teachers. Looking back down at the diary, the blonde smiled and got back to her reading.

"Dear Diary,

Today was so hot that I decided to head out to the waterfall while everyone else was working or in school in the hopes of cooling off in the shaded water.

Along with two of my Royal guards, we made our way through the forest. The guards kept alert eyes on the alive forest. I don't know why they worry so, nothing ever happens on Belleza. The worst that could happen would be a wild animal jumping out on us, but that's highly unlikely and hasn't happened for a couple of moons now. I think the animals have learnt to stay well away from us.

As I walked out of the trees and into the clearing of the waterfall, I stopped dead in my tracks. Beneath the flowing water was a very naked boy!!!! He was incredibly tanned everywhere except his firm buttocks, which were stark white!

Hearing something, (probably me gasping) he turned and I got my first sighting of the male body! He was...a God! His body hard and firm looking, almost sculpted like a statue. Smiling an adorable smile in my direction, the boy dived into the water and started swimming towards me. My guards appeared and stood in front of me protectively. I have no idea why, it wasn't like he had a weapon or anything.

Coming to a stop, the boy stood up, the water covering his lower half. "Hello. You are the Princess, aren't you?"

I could only nod, struck speechless by this God who was speaking to me in a deep, smoky voice!

"I am Eros."

"Like the Greek God of love?" I questioned.

"That's right. My parents have a thing about the Greek Gods. My two sisters are named Hera and Nike."

I dismissed my guards, watching the two step back towards the trees, before turning my attention back to Eros. "Would you like me to turn my back so you can get out of the water?"

Grinning, Eros waded through the water and stepped out, not caring that I was watching. In fact, he laughed as I blushed crimson, my eyes wide seeing him up close. He grabbed a pair of trousers and slipped them on before sitting down on a nearby rock to sun himself.

We spent the rest of the afternoon talking. I learnt that he was older than me by three winters at the age of eighteen. He told me he wished to become a fighter and join the men in the village he lives in, not a blacksmith like his uncle was hoping. When evening came and it started to get too dark, we both had to go home. Standing up together, we faced each other, so close I could feel his body heat.

"Can you slip out later tonight?" Eros asked quietly, pulling me against his hard chest.

"I...I suppose. Why?"

"I want to see you, I want to talk to you, spend more time in your precious company."

Licking my suddenly dry lips, I looked up into his intense blue eyes and slowly nodded. "I will try."

"Good. I am here for my sister's wedding and have to attend. I can probably slip away without anyone noticing. Come at midnight."

With a nod, my eyes slid shut as Eros lowered his head and gave me my first kiss. It was so...soft! So...perfect! I didn't want it to end, but it did and we parted company for the time being. I wondered, as I walked back to the Palace, if I really would sneak out to meet him."

Arcadia stood up, the sun starting to bother her, and made her way back inside. Deep in thought about her great grandmother, she didn't see Dionis until she almost collided with her. "Mama!" she gasped. "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."

Dionis smiled down at her daughter. "No harm done, Arcadia." Using her fingertips, she lifted her daughter's chin. "You have caught the sun, sweetheart."

The blonde frowned, not sure if she should be happy about that. "Am I frightfully red? I don't colour like you do!"

Dionis laughed and shook her head. "No, just a little rosy pink. What were you doing?"

"Reading the beginning of Agnes' diary."

"I see." Dionis started walking, heading for her office.

"When should we hear back from the warriors?" Arcadia asked, following after her taller, dark-haired mother.

"It will take them just over a moon to reach Britannia," the ex-warrior explained. "Then the ship will restock its supplies, trade what goods we sent along as well as give the crew a day or two off, before heading back with the first injured."

"The first injured," Arcadia whispered. "You think there will be injuries so soon?" the Princess asked, sitting down and looking at her mama.

"Your uncle Cornelius has been sending me letters for a few moons now about a force called the Romans. They have invaded Britannia and are trying to claim it." Dionis paused, trying to edit the information she had on the enemy. "They aren't very nice, Arcadia."

The Princess frowned. "What do they have to do with those who attacked us?"

"Cornelius feels that our enemy had help from the Romans. He asked for assistance in dealing with them, once the warriors have dealt with our enemy."

"Oh, I see." Arcadia stood up and headed for the door. "I...I'm going to go lay down for awhile, I think the sun has got to me. I will see you at dinner, mama."

Dionis watched her pale daughter leave and wondered if she shouldn't have mentioned the Romans. I did the right thing, she thought. Cadie has to realise what sort of situation Rayna is in, and she has to start dealing with the reality of perhaps never seeing the young warrior again.

* * * * *

Waking from a refreshing nap and feeling much better, the Princess rose and cleaned up before changing into fresh clothes. Realising the late hour, she made her way downstairs in search of her family, wondering if she was too late for the evening meal.

Downstairs, she tried her mama's office first and found both parents seated together on one of the couches. Dionis was stretched out with Athena in front of her in her arms.

"Hello, baby," Athena greeted with a smile. "Are you feeling okay?"

The Princess nodded as she took a seat on the chair opposite. "I must have stayed out in the sun too long. The rest has done me wonders though, and I feel very refreshed. Have I missed the evening meal?"

Dionis laughed. "No, love. In fact, you are just in time."

It wasn't a secret that Athena and Arcadia had large appetites and, despite their small frames, could pack away vast amounts of food.

Athena untangled herself from her wife's hold and stood up. She kissed her daughter's head and took the blonde's arm. "How did you get on today with my grandmother's diary?"

"I didn't read all that much. It was just too hot out. I got to the bit where she met Eros for the first time at the waterfall," Arcadia explained as they left Dionis' office, heading for the dining room to eat.

Over the evening meal of beef, pork, or chicken, accompanied with vegetables and fruit and a glass or two of wine, Arcadia informed Dionis, Mina and Aaronia of her plans to help with the summer harvest and future plans to sit with the injured warriors who returned.

The Royal family listened in interest to the blonde, proud she was mixing with the island's women and helping where she could. Athena spoke of the plans to build a temporary hospice for the wounded and commented that it might be a good idea to build a proper place at a future date. A building where the sick could go and be seen to and treated by people who knew about disease and medicines. She decided aloud she would have to talk in depth with the shaman, the rest of the family watching on in amusement as she talked practically to herself.

After eating, Arcadia excused herself and made her way up onto the roof. Now that the sun had gone down for the day, it was slightly cooler, but not by much. The sky was clear though, giving the Princess an unobstructed view of thousands of twinkling stars.

Oh, Rayna! How I miss you! she thought with a sigh. This had been her nightly ritual ever since the warrior had left, the blonde keeping her promise to Rayna. She would stare up at the stars for as long as she was alone and think of every moment she had shared with her love, from childhood to the announcement of their betrothal, all the way to the sad day when Rayna had left for battle. Are you looking up at the stars, Rayna? Are you looking up and thinking of me? Wondering if I am doing the same? Are you sleeping? Can you sleep with that many women around you and the ship bobbing on the water? Arcadia smiled at the numerous thoughts that raced through her mind. At least, for now, I know that you're safe.

Hearing the roof door open, the blonde knew her parents had come up to enjoy their nightly ritual of star gazing with each other. She turned to face them, smiling brightly as she saw that they were wrapped around each other, kissing passionately and oblivious to everything. Clearing her throat before it got too embarrassing, the Princess laughed as both her parents looked guiltily in her direction.

"Hello, darling. Been there long?" Dionis asked, grinning at her daughter.

"I am off to bed. Goodnight you two," Arcadia replied, still smiling as she walked towards her parents.

"You don't have to go, Arcadia," Athena informed her. "Why don't you join us?"

Arcadia shook her head. "No. I need to get to bed. I have an early start tomorrow. But I definitely will join you next time." She kissed each parent goodnight, then made her way inside and down to her chambers.

* * * * *

Arcadia was woken early the next morning by Biana Plummer, another maid at the Palace and Val's mother, who lit a fire to warm the Princess' cold bedchamber. Though it was summer and hot, the Palace tended to be very cool. Arcadia thought perhaps that was due to the stone it was made out of.

The blonde Princess reluctantly rose when her bladder alerted her to her need to use the chamber pot. Up and knowing she had to leave soon, the blonde called for Val to help her get dressed for the day. "I don't think my fancy skirts will be suitable, Val," Arcadia commented. "Perhaps I have an old pair of trousers laying around?"

The maid's eyes opened wide in surprise. "With all due respect, Princess Arcadia, but I can't remember a time you ever wore trousers!"

Arcadia blinked and tried to think back, frowning when she herself couldn't recall ever wearing trousers. "Damn! What am I to do?"

"Perhaps your cousin Leslie would have a pair?"

Arcadia chewed on her bottom lip. "You may be right, or if she doesn't, perhaps Keera's parents will allow me to borrow a pair of hers?"

Val smiled. "Would you like me to send someone to ask?"

Arcadia smiled and shook her head. "No, Val. Pick me out a dress and I'll head out after breakfast."

After a quick breakfast alone, the Princess was informed the Queen wouldn't be able to join her at the harvest after all and Dionis was busy dealing with security issues. She made her way out of the Palace, closely followed by Lorenza Cartman, a guard about to come off night duty. Arcadia informed the guard she was heading to Karita Shepherd's home and didn't need accompanying, but the guard wouldn't hear of it.

Reaching the Shepherd's property, Arcadia jumped back fearfully as the family's large dog barked fiercely and jumped at the gate. "Lorenza! What are we to do?"

Afraid of the big dog herself, the guard could only shrug. "Its barking will be sure to bring someone out here."

The guard was right. Karita quickly appeared, hollering at the beast to shut up. The spiky-haired blonde blinked in surprise as she spotted the Princess standing at her gate and hurried towards her. "Princess? Is everything alright?" she asked, eyes darting from the blonde to Lorenza.

"Everything is fine, Karita. I am here to help the farmers with the harvesting."

"Oh, I see." The guard turned her attention to her colleague. "Lorenza, aren't you off shift now?"

The redhead nodded wearily. "The Princess needed escorting."

"She is safe here with me, you can go."

The guard waved farewell and took off in the direction of her home.

"I have a favour to ask, Karita," Arcadia said quietly, embarrassed to be asking.

"Anything, Princess."

"I found this morning that I have no trousers and imagined we will be getting dirty with the work today, I was wondering if..."

Karita smiled and opened the gate that led onto her property. "Of course, I'm sure Keera wouldn't mind you having a pair." The guard led the nervous blonde towards her home. "Have you eaten, Princess? My wife is a very good cook."

"I have, Karita, but thank you for offering. I am actually supposed to meet aunt Endora."

Karita nodded. "I'll take you over as soon as we get you in a pair of trousers.

* * * * *

Arcadia stood next to her cousin Leslie and Karita. They were surrounded by women from the farming community and other women who were there to help out, including Lexie Sheehan, much to the Princess' chagrin.

"Alright, listen up everyone," Endora Fisher said loud enough for all to hear. As head of the farming community, it fell to her to organise everyone. "I would like Gaylene Orchard," she looked at Bedilia's mother, "to take a handful of women and instruct them on how to pick good lemons and olives. Most have already been collected, but there are a few left out there and I want them collected by the end of today."

Gaylene nodded in understanding. "If you are volunteering from out of the farming community, put up your hand." She looked around the group of women. "Okay, if I tap you on the shoulder, come and stand behind me." The tall woman made her way through the crowd and tapped ten women on their shoulder, Arcadia included. With her team picked out, she led the women away from the others and towards her orchards.

The Orchards had started off just growing different varieties of apples, but over the years had expanded to olives and lemons as well.

"Okay, ladies," the dark brown-haired woman began, as they all stood around one of her olive trees. "Olives ripen from green to black. The farmers already helped me to pick a load while they were still green so that we could pickle them. Now, I want five of you to gather the rest. All you do," Gaylene said, walking over to the tree and placing her hands on the trunk, "is shake the tree vigorously and they fall off. One of you does that, or take turns, while the others gather the falling olives, okay?"

The women nodded eagerly.

"After all the loose one's have fallen, go and grab a ladder and have a peek up in the branches. Make sure all the olives are collected."

The women nodded again.

Gaylene led Arcadia, Leslie, Lacee Waterman, mother of Mallory Waterman, and Nyx and Mariah Banks, over to the lemon trees. "Okay, I want you to look for lemons that are firm," she picked one off and gave it a little squeeze to test it. "Lemons that have a glossy, bright yellow colour," she showed the women the fruit she held. "Ripe lemons should feel heavy for their size." She passed the lemon she had been holding to Leslie. "That there is a good lemon," Gaylene informed them.

Leslie looked the fruit over, then handed it on.

"Avoid lemons that are too hard or are spongy and soft. Larger lemons should also be avoided, since that means they tend to have a thicker skin, resulting in a smaller fruit core and less juice. And that, ladies, is what we are after." Gaylene smiled. "I'll be here helping you, so if you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask myself or my wife Ida, who is helping with the olives." She pointed her wife out. "Okay, let's get to work."

Arcadia had wanted to pair up with her cousin, but Gaylene separated them, deciding it was best to pair each up with two older women so they could learn, rather than chat and giggle all day. The Princess was, therefore, teamed up with Rayna's mother Nyx and Lacee Waterman, who bred fish for a living.

"So, how are you bearing up?" Nyx asked Arcadia, as she stood holding the wooden ladder the Princess was standing on.

"Some days are harder than others," the blonde confessed, glancing over her shoulder briefly. "And whenever I leave the Palace, I half expect to bump into her."

Nyx smiled. "At breakfast the other day, I plain forgot she wasn't here. I started shouting for her to get her lazy butt out of bed!" the dark-haired woman chuckled. "It took Mariah slapping me and calling me an old fool before I realised what I was doing!"

"I'm the same," Lacee added. "I did some washing the other day and of course some of Mallory's things were in the pile. I put them neatly on her bed and when I went back in later, I started yelling about how she hadn't put them away!"

The trio laughed at their antics.

"I suppose it will sink in eventually," Arcadia said softly. "We'll realise they're not here and start focusing on the ship that comes back regularly." She put a good lemon into the basket Gaylene had handed her.

"That is going to be the worse thing," Lacee said. "I don't think you two have too much to worry about. Rayna is a fine warrior, the new Dionis everyone is saying. But Mallory, well, I'll worry every time that ship gets near."

Nyx watched the Princess place a couple more lemons into the basket. "What made you accept Rayna's proposal, Princess? You knew she was going away, you could have held off and courted a few other girls."

"Please, call me Arcadia," the blonde smiled. "Today I am just one of the girls." She watched the two older women nod, an impressed look on both their faces. "I love Rayna dearly. I knew that, and because of that I couldn't possibly decline when she asked me. At Leslie's wedding she told me she would propose when she got back from her year away. Even then I knew I wouldn't be courting anyone else, though she wanted me to!" The Princess handed the full basket down to Lacee, who walked over to the cart where the lemons were being put, before returning with the empty basket.

They quickly finished working on their first tree, most of the lemons having already been taken, and moved onto the next, where Nyx took a turn up the ladder, while Lacee held it and Arcadia waited to be handed the basket.

"Do you both always help with the harvest?" Arcadia asked, wiping sweat from her brow.

"Being a farmer, I do," Nyx replied, placing a handful of lemons into the basket. "It's a duty thing, I guess. These women are not only my friends, but buy meat from me as well. The least I can do is help them out."

"I don't usually," Lacee confessed. "They don't usually need the extra help, what with the warriors being around."

Nyx squeezed a lemon and watched it disintegrate in her hand, the fruit soft and mushy. "Ugh, that's one thing I hate about this job! I'm going to reek of lemon all day now."

"There are worse things, Nyx," Lacee laughed. "You should try working with me. Day in, day out, it's fish!"

The women worked fairly quickly, despite the heat from the summer sun. When they paused for refreshments, they wandered over to the field where the cherries were being gathered, helping themselves to a handful. Arcadia sat with Leslie as everyone took a break in the shade, the blonde wondering how her cousin was coping with Keera being gone, especially since they were married.

"I'm fine," Leslie smiled, seeing the question on the Princess' face. "I do miss her and think about her constantly, mainly at night. But during the day, I have Valonia and Keera's youngest sister, Flora, to occupy my time. Or I go and see her eldest sister, Valentina, and talk to her about the upcoming birth of her first child." The redhead patted her cousin's arm. "I knew what life I was to live when I realised I loved Keera."

"When did you realise you loved Keera?" Arcadia asked in curiosity.

Leslie laughed. "Gods, it's so long ago now I can't place it! I remember this little brunette following me around, always looking out for me and being nice. I remember her bringing me a flower now and then, telling me it had caught her eye and reminded her of me," Leslie chuckled, tears welling up in her eyes as she thought of her wife. "I have always loved Keera, there is no way I could have walked away." She sniffed and discreetly wiped her eyes. "Mmm, do you smell the garlic? Gods I have a craving for some garlic now!"

Arcadia chuckled and shook her head. "I think I will pass, though I wouldn't mind trying a few of those delicious strawberries I saw!"

"Okay, ladies," Ida Orchard called out. "Back to work." She smiled as the group helping out in her orchard groaned. "Oh, none of that! We're almost done, there isn't much left, is there, love?" she looked over to her wife.

"No, we have all worked well and done a great job," Gaylene smiled.

* * * * *

After a tiring, hot and busy day, the Princess lounged in a warm bath as soon as she returned to the Palace, almost falling asleep in the tub. Clean and feeling refreshed, Arcadia joined her family for a light evening meal, telling them all that she had learnt and done, and her plans to return the next day to hopefully gather something from the ground, rather than standing up a ladder all day.

Knowing she was to be out all the next day, the Princess picked up Agnes' diary, intent on reading a passage or two before climbing into bed for a well earned sleep. The blonde walked over to her open window and took a seat, enjoying the evening breeze that was making her chambers refreshingly cool. Opening the diary, she found her place and continued with Agnes' story.

"Dear Diary,

I don't know why, but I snuck out of the Palace and went to meet Eros!

I know! I know! You don't have to tell me it was an insane thing to do! He could have been a hired killer! Or a kidnapper! Or something else, but...I found myself up in my chambers wondering if he was by the waterfall waiting for me, wondering if he would be disappointed in my not turning up. In the end, I thought it best I go and see him, before quickly leaving to return to my home.

It, of course, didn't work out like that.

Making my way through the dark forest with only a lantern lighting my path, I was petrified! I could hear rustling and all sorts of animals somewhere in the dark. But finally I spotted light up ahead and rushed forward. I was so relieved to see Eros. He grinned at me and once I reached him, he wrapped his strong arms around me and I felt really safe and less afraid. I was fairly certain he would protect me. He is strong from doing hard labour for his uncle.

Sitting down on one of the rocks side by side, Eros seemed to sense my nerves and started telling me of the place he calls home - Britannia. He told me how he lives with an uncle, who is a blacksmith and hopes for him to carry on the work. He has been teaching Eros the trade since he was a little boy. Eros wants to join the fighters though and do his bit to protect his people and home. He said it had caused many an argument between them.

The air was stifling and eventually we both got hot and sweaty. Eros suggested swimming to cool off and I had to admit it was a good idea. He didn't seem to care if I saw him nude or not and stripped off his clothes without thought before diving into the water. Feeling shy, I waited until he looked away before taking my clothes off, then joined him quickly in fear of him turning and seeing me. I shouldn't have bothered being so modest! We were soon playing around in the water, Eros diving beneath and pinching my bottom! After that, we were like old friends and didn't seem to care where we touched - all in the name of fun and games though.

When we tired, we climbed out of the water and lay on the rock, letting the warm night air dry our skin. Eros rolled onto his side, his eyes roaming down my body. I blushed once I realised what he was doing and made to cover myself, when his hand reached out and stopped me.

"Agnes, you are so very beautiful."

I think I blushed even harder then. I gasped in surprise as he leaned closer to me and kissed my cheek. Sensing I wasn't going to run off, or stop him for the time being, I felt his tongue dart out and trail up my ear. It was the strangest sensation and made me...quiver. I waited with bated breath to see what he may do next. Eros kissed my neck, soft, warm kisses, that made my breathing hitch. Then he was holding himself up on one arm, leaning over me slightly, his lips inches from mine.

"May I kiss you?"

"You already have today, why would you ask now?" I asked in a whisper.

He merely smiled and lowered his head, lips pressing to mine. I think I moaned, or he did, his lips pressing harder to my own. As I parted my lips slightly, his hot tongue moved inside my mouth and melted against my tongue, my hands went around the back of his head, fingers disappearing into his blonde locks as I held him to me, wanting to prolong the beautiful moment.

The kiss ended, but not for long. Eros was soon kissing me again. This time a warm hand covered my naked breast and my nipple hardened and ached painfully. We kept trading soft kisses as he explored my body, tender caresses setting my skin aflame! I jerked and moaned aloud when his fingers slipped between my legs. What a feeling! His tender strokes seemed to drive me crazy with a need I couldn't explain, and I could feel him, hard and throbbing against my thigh.

Eros rolled on top of me, lying between my parted legs, holding himself up on his forearms. "I want to make love to you, Princess! I want our souls to join, our bodies to sing, our desire to meld."

By the Gods have you ever heard anything quite so...romantic! I couldn't answer, my mouth dry, lips uncooperative. I nodded, then shivered as he lowered himself to me, feeling the hardness of his body on mine, his hard penis nudging against me. Then he was inside and I gasped in pain, my back arching, nails biting into his naked shoulders. Eros kissed me and started moving, and then the pain seemed to be gone, both of us moving together. I stared up at the twinkling stars, listening to Eros's moans and panted breathing. I clung to him as he suddenly started to move more frantically, a tingling warmth rushing through my veins. Then it was over, his back arched and with a shiver and tight groan, I felt a strange warmth within before he collapsed on top of me."

Arcadia stared at the diary in shock, eyes wide and mouth moving up and down as she tried to straighten her thoughts. By the Gods, she was so...graphic! The Princess put the diary down and puffed out her cheeks. Surely she knew her descendants would be reading this? Arcadia thought. Perhaps she didn't care? Perhaps she just wanted her first experience to be noted? But...this was bad...she wasn't married to Eros, not even betrothed! Yawning loudly, the Princess frowned. Damn, I am exhausted.

Feeling much too tired to read any more of her great grandmother's diary, though she wanted to, the Princess got ready for bed knowing it was another early start the next day. She fell into a deep, exhausted sleep, dreaming of her tall, dark-haired lover and smelling lemons in the air.

To be continued...

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