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 ~ Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk

Chapter Five

Arcadia watched the water her feet were dipped into rippling every time she moved her legs. The day was again hot and she had persuaded Leslie, Audra Reeder and Kemina Sexton that they should go to the waterfall to keep cool. Being a hot summer's day, others had the same idea and the secluded waterfall wasn't quite the peaceful retreat it usually was.

Lorenza Cartman and Karita Shepherd stood not too far behind the Princess, keeping watch over the surrounding forest and the other girls. There was much to be afraid of in the forest and a guard couldn't relax no matter how hot the weather.

Leslie bumped her shoulder against her blonde cousin's, both girls sitting side by side. "Did I tell you I have started showing?" she whispered.

"No," Arcadia replied, shaking her head.

"Come on." The redhead stood up and pulled the Princess up with her, dragging Arcadia towards her two alert guards. "Will you two wait here?" she asked the pair. "I have something quite private to share with the Princess."

"I don't think...." Lorenza started to protest.

"We're not going far. Only far enough for no one to hear or see us from here," Leslie argued, turning pleading green eyes on her mother-in-law, Karita. "Please. We won't be gone long."

"We'll be right back," Arcadia added.

Realising it probably had something to do with the redhead's pregnancy, Karita reluctantly nodded, giving her permission. "Okay. But be quick about it and shout out if you see anything out of the ordinary."

Leslie grinned broadly and hugged the spiky-haired guard. "Thank you, mama! We'll see you in a bit." She took Arcadia's hand and pulled her away from the waterfall into the forest. After making sure they were truly alone, Leslie lifted her dress and proudly showed off her stretched abdomen. "My sickness has passed now, thank the Gods! But I have been feeling light headed now and then and I tire so easily," she said. "It also hurts where my abdomen is stretching." She rubbed a hand lovingly over her growing baby. "The shaman told me 'tis all normal, so I'm not worried."

Arcadia smiled though her thoughts were troubled. She is only a couple of weeks ahead of me! I am going to have to talk to mummy about telling mama. "That is so amazing, Leslie! And just knowing 'tis a tiny life that grows within you!"

"I know! I wish Keera were here to share this joy, but then, perhaps it is better that she isn't!"

A pale blonde eyebrow lifted in confusion.

"She would only worry over everything! You know what these warriors are like. On the outside they are all tough and don't care about emotions, but when you get them alone....Well, I don't know if all warriors are like that, but Keera certainly is. Don't tell anyone that!" the redhead laughed, lowering her dress.

I really wish I could share my news with you, Les. But I have to tell mama first, Arcadia thought, sighing.

"The shaman said she thinks I am perhaps fourteen weeks along," Leslie said. "She told me there are sometimes up to forty! Can you imagine? I'll be huge by the end, I am gaining a lot now as it is!"

"You've got a definite bump, yes," Arcadia agreed. "But you are hardly huge, Leslie."

The redhead laughed. "Come on," she said, taking her cousin's arm. "Let's get back before your guards charge through seeking us out."

Arcadia smiled and allowed herself to be pulled along. If she is fourteen weeks along, I must....roughly...be twelve. I have got to talk to mummy.

"There you two are," Kemina said smiling, as the two girls appeared out of the forest. "Everything alright?"

"Yes, thank you, Kemina," Leslie replied, dropping her cousin's arm. "Just private business we had to talk about." She sat down on the smooth grey rock that surrounded the pool of water that the waterfall fell into. "What did we miss? Or did you just miss us?"

"Oh of course we missed you!" Audra laughed. "You, Leslie Shepherd, are the life of any social gathering!"

All the girls laughed at this truth. Growing up, Leslie would keep the conversation going, break up disagreements and fights, start fights and arguments and get everyone dancing and laughing. No outing was complete without Leslie around.

"I was just hoping aloud that the children I have to teach next term aren't anything like us lot!" Audra said. The brunette had decided to follow her mother Savannah into the education career and was set to become a new teacher when the school was opened again.

"What are the chances of that?" Cherie Fisher asked smiling. She was a strawberry-blonde, like her mother Rosana, the Queen's younger sister. Her eyes, a sparkling turquoise colour, were always alight with delight or mischief.

"What were you lot like?" Flora Shepherd asked, swimming closer to the older girls. "I know my sister was always following poor Leslie around!"

Leslie laughed and slapped the younger girl's arm as it came to rest on her knee. "Don't say it like that! I thought she was adorable!"

"Rayna was the trouble maker," Leala Banks said. "Or at least that is what our mothers think!"

"She wasn't a trouble maker," Arcadia defended. "It just sort of..."

"Found her!" Audra laughed. "Do you remember the first day in class when she got into that fight with Lexie?"

"Yes!" Leslie laughed. "And Arcadia drawing on her face!"

The girls all laughed at the memory, before they turned sombre, remembering half of the girls they knew were now off fighting a war.

"You just wait until they get back!" Kemina said, breaking the sombre silence that surrounded them. "The bragging of the travelling they have done, the things they have seen."

"Keera better bring me something back!" Leslie joked. "Or I shall make her go back!"

The jovial mood returned and the girls were soon back in the water racing and having splash fights.

* * * * *

Back at the Palace later that afternoon, Arcadia lay on her bed, her back propped up by the softest of pillows, deep in thought about her cousin's pregnancy. Leslie is only two weeks ahead of me and is already showing! she thought, a hand covering her dress-covered abdomen. Her fingers slowly rubbed back and forth as she thought about possible outcomes when she told Dionis.

Standing up, she lifted her dress and examined herself head on and sideways, seeing only a slight pouch. Sighing, the blonde lowered her dress and sat down on the edge of her bed. I am going to have to tell her before I start really showing, otherwise she'll be so hurt I left her out. Deciding to go and seek out the Queen, Arcadia stood up again. She had made up her mind. It was time to tell Dionis. Now they just had to come up with a plan.

Leaving her bedchambers, the Princess made her way downstairs, the art room being her destination. It was a comfortable room that had beautiful works hanging up or standing around on carved tables or stone podiums. She found that no matter how angry or stressed, she always relaxed once seated in the well lit room the Queen often frequented.

Athena looked up in surprise from the drawing she was working on as her daughter walked into the art room. "Hello, darling."

"Hello, mummy." The Princess settled on one of the padded sofas, watching her blonde-haired mother sketch for a moment or two. She loved seeing the concentration on the Queen's face when she worked. She wore the same intense look when meeting with members of the senate. Taking a deep breath, Arcadia knew she needed to broach the subject of her pregnancy. "Mummy."


"I went down to the waterfall with a few friends this morn."

Light green eyes flicked over to the hesitant blonde. "Did something happen, Arcadia? Was someone hurt?"

The Princess shook her head. "Oh, no. Nothing like that. It's just cousin Leslie was one of the group."

"Oh, how is she?" Athena asked, eyes drawn back to her work.

"She is well. Her morning sickness has passed, but she says she tires easily and her abdomen hurts."

The Queen nodded. "Yes, I went through that. It will pass."

"She is...already showing," Arcadia continued.

Knowing where her daughter was heading with this subject, Athena set down her pencils and pad and made her way across the room to the sofa her daughter was sitting on. "You think it's time to tell your mama," she stated, lifting the blonde's feet and taking seat.

Arcadia nodded. "Leslie is already showing, mummy. And she is only a couple of weeks ahead of me."

"And you? Are there any signs of you starting to show?"

The Princess nodded. "I have a slight roundness to my abdomen."

Athena sighed, running a dainty hand through her blonde hair. "Alright. We shall have to tell her before she finds out and thinks we left her out." The Queen nibbled on her bottom lip, a trait her daughter had picked up. "How about after lunch?"

Arcadia let out a shaky breath. "Yes, I suppose. No time is ever going to be perfect. I know she is going to be disappointed in me for doing what I did. And Rayna..." Worried green eyes turned to the Queen. "You won't let her hurt Rayna will you?"

Athena chuckled. "She won't hurt Rayna, love." At least I hope she won't! "Let's go and join the family for lunch," she said, standing up. "We seem to spend little time with each other these days. I don't like it."

Smiling, Arcadia stood and slid her arm through her mother's, the two blondes heading for the door. "We're going to have to make a public announcement, aren't we?" Arcadia said in a small voice.

"Eventually. But not until you are really starting to show. Let's deal with your mama first."

They stopped in the entrance hallway when one of the guards approached Athena. The marble floor beneath their feet was spotless as usual, the exquisite carved furniture - small tables and chairs - were dusted to perfection. Arcadia looked around the brightly lit entrance hallway, taking in the wide, winding staircase that was directly ahead of the large front doors of the Palace. The living room was on the right, the door closed at the moment. And the receiving room for guests to wait in was on the left. The Palace was beautiful in design and could be added to if needed, and in actual fact, had been over the years.

Business taken care of, the two blondes continued their walk past the staircase towards the back, where the main dining room was and where lunch would be served.

"Hello my two favourite blonde's," Dionis greeted as the pair walked into the dining room. A cough from Mina drew the dark-haired woman's attention. "My apologies Mina. Two of my three favourite blondes."

The women laughed at Dionis' expense.

"Hello, love," Athena greeted, bending to kiss her wife's head. "That's not work, is it?" she asked of the papers that lay in front of Dionis.


"Put them away, love. Let us enjoy each other's company while we are all in the same room." Athena took her seat and smiled affectionately at her wife.

"What has everyone been doing?" Aaronia asked. "Athena?" she turned to her daughter.

"Not a lot. There are no new problems for me to deal with, so I have mainly been in the art room working on my latest piece," the Queen replied. "I am sure that will all change though. Something always comes up eventually."

"Mmm," Mina nodded. "Especially with the ship due back soon."

Arcadia smiled. "I can't wait. I hope for a letter from Rayna."

Dionis frowned. "I just hope we don't have any casualties, or if there are, not too many. That would be a terrible blow so early in the fight."

Two serving girls appeared and started setting out the lunch foods. As it was summer and the heat almost unbearable, there was no hot food. Lunch was a choice between bread, either salted or not, a variety of fruit, salad, eggs, cold meats, vegetables and cheese. To drink, there was wine, milk, either goat or cow's, or grape or lemon juice.

"Do you have any plans for the rest of the day, Arcadia?" Dionis asked, picking up a slice of apricot and slipping it into her mouth.

Surprised green eyes flicked from her dark-haired mother to the light-haired Queen and back again. "I...uhm...no, not really. Nothing planned."

"Would you like to join me for the day?" Dionis asked, reaching for some cucumber. "I am going out into the forest with a group of guards," she smiled at her wife. "And historians to see what wildlife we can find living out on our island. We haven't done it for some time and I am curious to know what is out there these days. The historians want to make notes on what we have running wild for the future generations to read about."

Arcadia smiled in delight and nodded her fair head in agreement. "That sounds like fun, mama. After eating I'll go and change into something more suitable."

"Excellent," Dionis replied, a beaming smile on her face. "I can't remember the last time we went out and spent time together. Meet me at the Palace gates once you're ready, my love."

Arcadia looked to the Queen, silently conveying her wish to put off their talk for that day. Seeing Athena nod her acceptance, the Princess grinned. "Will do, mama."

"Can I interest anyone else in joining us?" Dionis asked the other women.

"I would but I really want to get my sketch finished," Athena replied.

Dionis reached out for her wife's hand and squeezed the appendage. "I understand, my love."

"I have some business to see to," Mina replied reluctantly. "But have fun and come back to tell me all about what you saw."

"I'm going to go and visit Rosana," Aaronia answered. "It's been a while since I've just dropped in and I like to keep her on her toes," the greying-redhead chuckled.

* * * * *

Arcadia lay back on her bed, yawning for the third time since she had entered her chambers. It had been an exciting, but exhausting day. The small group of Palace guards, her mama, a couple of historians and herself had spent many hours walking though the rough foliage tracking different animals. The blonde had to admit it had been worthwhile. She had found the whole day enjoyable and loved spending the time with Dionis, who really was just a big kid. She rarely got to spend quality time with her dark-haired mother and had made the most of it.

Wearily, Arcadia changed for bed and climbed in, deciding to read some more of her ancestor's diary. She hadn't had time to do so recently and was eager to see how Agnes' situation worked out. Opening the diary to where she had last been, the blonde removed the feather she had put in to mark her place and settled down to read.

"Dear Diary,

          Eros has arrived back on the island and was immediately brought to the Palace. He is even more handsome than I remember and I am sure he is bigger in build. To my great relief he is not married or even betrothed to another, and he seemed happy to see me!

My parents and I sat in the grand living room opposite Eros and his family. To say it was awkward is an understatement! And to make matters worse, no one had seen fit to inform him that I was with child! I suppose when he saw me he just assumed I had grown fat!!!

Upon finding out I am expecting his child, Eros immediately agreed we should marry. He told me that he planned to propose the next opportunity he got anyway. In fact, when he was summoned home, he thought someone was sick in his family and had planned to propose when he had a moment to come and see me, all because he missed me so!

So, there you have it. My love has returned and we are due to marry shortly! Then we shall leave the island for his home in Britannia. I can't wait!"

"Dear Diary,

          I am a married woman! We had a hastily put together ceremony because of how far into my pregnancy I am. All the women on the island were given the day off so they could attend and witness the blessing. We have also decided to have a ceremony back in Britannia for Eros' friends and family.

Saying goodbye to my parents was the hardest thing I will ever do in my life, I'm sure! Before we left for the shore where a ship was waiting to take me to my new home, I had a few moments alone with my family. I think mother was the most affected. I'm still not sure she has forgiven me yet for getting into this situation. That and we are...were so close.

Mummy pulled me into a tight embrace. "Your happiness is what is important," she said quietly. "I hope he is everything you think he is and that you have a good and prosperous life together." The Queen pulled back and gave me a small loving smile. "And remember, my darling Agnes. This is your home and you are always welcome back."

I couldn't help but sob then. I had been so afraid they were washing their hands of me, but from the Queen herself I had an open invitation back and a home to return to. It was a great relief.

I hugged my two teary-eyed grandmothers, telling both how much I would miss them. I realised as I was doing this that I would probably never see them again! My heart just about broke at that thought, but I couldn't dwell on it for long for suddenly I found myself in my mother's arms and we were both crying.

"We shall come and see you soon," she choked out. "Once you have had the baby and had a chance to settle into your new life."

"I would like that," I told her truthfully.

Now it is time for me to go and learn how to be a wife and soon a mother, all in a different land! This, my diary, will be handed to the historians for my future descendants to read and learn from. So here it is, my lesson to whomever is reading this ~ Your family is the most important thing. Love and honour them and listen to the advice they share. Don't rush into things head first, things have worked out for me, but they could easily not have. Learn from my rashness and remember Eros could have been an assassin that first night, he could have been betrothed or married and I could have ended up being an outcast. But, most of all, love is the greatest gift, do not fear it, embrace it.

          Agnes Archer."

Arcadia blinked in surprise. Wow! I sure wish I could have met her. She seems like she was a fascinating woman. The blonde placed the finished diary on the table next to her bed. After a long tiring day and with her pregnancy, she was exhausted. Having been up to gaze at the stars and wish her love well, the Princess blew out the nearby candle and quickly fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of wildlife she had seen that day and of babies being born out of wedlock.

* * * * *

Arcadia slowly opened her eyes and groaned as sunlight poured into her chambers. Rolling onto her side, the blonde sighed and closed her eyes again. At least I am not sick this morn, she thought gratefully. She slid a hand onto her slightly pouched abdomen, fingers gently stroking as a rush of contentment rolled through her. I hope your mama is okay, she thought, a warm smile curling her lips as she thought of Rayna. You wait until you see her dressed in her warrior's armour! Boy, is she beautiful and....Enough of those thoughts!

The door to her bedchambers opened as Val walked in, the strawberry-blonde maid smiling at the awake Princess. "How are you this morn, Princess? Not sick I hope?"

Arcadia returned the smile and shook her head. "No, not sick this morn. I am actually feeling refreshed and well."

"That's good, Princess." The maid walked over to the large wardrobe that held the Princess' clothes. "A dress today?"

"Uhm..." Arcadia tried to think over what she had planned that day. Dress or a robe? "A dress will be fine, Val. Something light in colour and light in fabric, please."

Dressed in a violet summer dress, her silky blonde locks brushed and tied back, Arcadia made her way downstairs to the dining room. She found it empty. Having a craving for strawberries again that morning, the blonde made her way into the kitchens, seeking out the cook and requested what she wished for breakfast. Thanking the woman in advance, the Princess then went in search of the Queen. They had to come up with a plan on how to break her pregnancy news to Dionis. Not finding her mother in the art room, Arcadia headed back upstairs to the Queen's office.

"Good morning, Arcadia," Athena greeted, as her daughter stepped into the spacious office. The room had a lot of light, with windows on the back door and double glass doors that opened onto a small balcony, where Athena had put a small table with two metal chairs so she could occasionally have lunch outside. The Queen's desk had been in the office for many generations and was made of Cherrywood from the island's very own cherry trees. "How are you this morning, my love?"

Arcadia smiled as she hugged her blonde mother. "I am well, thank you, mummy. I wasn't sick for a change."

Athena smiled. "That's good."

"Mmm. I wanted to ask if you had a plan?"

A pale blonde eyebrow lifted. "A plan?" the Queen questioned.

"On how we should tell mama that I am with child."

Athena smiled and nodded her understanding. "We shall tell her over breakfast, along with your grandmothers. Dionis can't get too angry then."

Arcadia licked her lips nervously, not realising it would be so soon.

"Is that alright with you, Arcadia?" the Queen asked. "We can wait, love. If you would prefer?"

"No, no," the blonde shook her head. "That's fine."

"Good." Athena looped her arm through her daughter's. "Let's go and get some breakfast. I am famished!"

"Do you....Will mama be terribly angry, do you think?"

Athena sighed, not really knowing how her wife was going to react. "I can't say, darling. You know how complex your mama can be!"

Arcadia smiled weakly and fell silent, allowing the Queen to drag her along.

* * * * *

With everyone seated, the two serving girls brought out the breakfast foods, the cook herself bringing out the Princess' strawberries.

"I requested them," Arcadia explained, when the rest of the family gave her a funny look. Lately strawberries were the only fruit she would eat at breakfast and a few if she could get them at lunch and the evening meal. She didn't think it all that strange, they were delicious and ripe, bursting with flavour.

"How was yesterday, sweet pea?" Mina asked, starting on her breakfast of dried fruits and boiled eggs. "Did you see many things of interest?"

"Yesterday was amazing!" Arcadia replied with a beaming smile. "We saw so many beautiful animals."

"Anything you didn't recognise?" the blonde-haired woman asked smiling.

Arcadia nodded, her mouth full. "There was this funny little green creature," she said, once she had finished chewing. "It had a strange hard shell on its back that it retreated into when I tried to stroke it!"

Mina chuckled in amusement. "How odd!"

"It was!" the Princess nodded. "It moved really slow as well. I sat and watched it for a moment or two, but it moved so slowly I quickly grew tired."

"She means bored," Dionis interrupted, earning a scowl from her daughter.

"How about really wild animals?" Mina directed at Dionis.

"The wild pig numbers seem to be up," the dark-haired woman grumbled. In the early days of the island's history a number of the pigs brought to the island had escaped into the wild when their wooden pen was broken during a storm. The pigs had escaped and bred with something native to the island creating a larger, fiercer animal. "We shall have to keep an eye on the situation, we can't have them destroying our farm lands and eating the vegetables and fruits."

"Gods, not again!" Athena exclaimed. "Do you remember years ago when that happened? The farmers went into a hunting rage, vowing to hunt down all the buggers!"

"What happened?" Arcadia asked, green eyes wide.

"I managed to calm them down in the end and we went about putting up better fences to keep the pigs out."

"When is the ship due back, Dionis?" Aaronia asked, changing the subject.

"Before they left I sat down with the captain and we worked the schedule out. Going by that, either tomorrow or the day after."

"Mama, I...I have an announcement," Arcadia said suddenly, deciding now was as good a time as any. Especially if in the coming days the ship came back with casualties. "I have an announcement for all of you in fact."

All eyes rested on the blonde, waiting patiently for news that seemed important. The Queen's light green eyes conveying her support.

"I...well you see..." Arcadia cleared her suddenly dry throat and squeezed her eyes shut. Just say it. Get it over with. "When we were attacked, I realised Rayna would be going away for perhaps a very long time," she said in a rush. "In fact, I knew she might not even come back. That...scared me so much. Especially after reading great, great, grandmother Abrona's diary and learning of her losing her true love." Green eyes darted around the table. "You see...Rayna and I...we..." She picked up her grape juice. "We lay together and I am with child," she rushed out, her head falling forward, chin touching her chest as she waited for an explosion.

The dining room was silent and still. No one moved or said a word as they let the Princess' words sink in.

"Wh-...what?" Dionis broke the silence first, confused blue eyes drifting from her daughter to her wife, who didn't seem surprised at all.

"I...I'm with child," Arcadia softly repeated, watching Dionis look from her to Athena and back again and again. She looks...betrayed!

Mina smiled as she stood from her seat, hurrying around the table to her granddaughter. "Congratulations, sweet pea!" she said joyously, hugging the nervous girl.

"How can this be?" Dionis frowned. "I don't....You're not even....When...."

Athena placed a loving hand on her wife's tense forearm. "Never mind the when or the how, my love. The fact is our little girl is going to be a mother. We are going to be grandparents. Arcadia needs our support, especially in this difficult time."

Dionis stood quickly, her chair toppling over, and turned to briskly walk out of the room.

"She hates me!" Arcadia whispered, tears pooling in hurt green eyes.

Athena jumped up and hurried to the blonde's side, wrapping her arms around her daughter. "She doesn't, love. She's just...confused and bewildered right now. Give her some time to think everything over. She'll come around, I promise you."

Mina stroked her granddaughter's arm soothingly. "Your mother is right, Arcadia. This news is shocking, but Dionis is your mama and nothing can stop her loving you."

"I hate to say this, but I'm with Dionis," Aaronia spoke up, getting their attention. "The child will be born a bastard!"

"We plan to marry as soon as Rayna returns," Arcadia answered, hurt that her grandmother seemed to be against her as well.

"And if she doesn't? If she is killed, then what? A bastard child cannot rule the island in the future."

"Mother!" Athena exclaimed. "Don't say such a thing!"

"My mother was told the very same thing, Athena! The child was illegitimate and couldn't rule until she was married."

"That was a totally different situation and you know it!" Athena responded. "Grandmother Agnes lay with a man! Arcadia has joined with a woman and is at least betrothed to Rayna."

Flashing grey eyes widened and the greying redhead stormed from the room.

Mina sighed and stood up, looking sadly down at her child and granddaughter. "I'll talk to her, calm her down and get her to see sense. Athena," she tilted her daughter's chin so she could look into green eyes that matched her own. "You are right, my darling. Agnes was in a different situation and couldn't have possibly ruled. Aaronia is probably hurting from that fact. Just...give them both some time." The blonde kissed the Queen and Princess on the head and left the dining room to go in search of her wife.

Smiling, albeit sadly, the Queen helped Arcadia stand up. "Come on, my love. I think a day out of the Palace will do us both some good."

* * * * *

Dionis stood on the Palace roof staring out across the island she called her home. Though night had come, the air was still warm from the day's sun, the sky was clear and filled with hundreds of sparkling stars. The ex-warrior placed her hands on the warm stone of the wall that ran around the roof and leaned into the structure, sighing as she thought over events of the day.

Her little girl had truly grown up. Arcadia had started courting and Dionis had just about come to terms with that. Then the Princess was betrothed. That was okay because Rayna was going away. Dionis didn't have to deal with it right away, she had time to get used to the idea. But now, her only daughter had disobeyed the rules of the island and lain with her love. Dionis was troubled. And sad. Mainly sad because her little girl had grown up and was about to move on to the next stage of her life.

Arcadia stood in the dark doorway watching her mama stare out into the darkness in contemplation. She hadn't seen Dionis for the rest of the day, the dark-haired woman leaving the Palace without a word to anyone and not even returning for the evening meal. The blonde feared Dionis would never forgive her and felt like crying every time she thought it. I wonder if mama will talk to me? Gods, I wonder if she will even look at me! the Princess thought, nibbling on her bottom lip. Only one way to find out the answer. Quietly, she made her way out onto the roof and came to a stop next to the tall woman's side, saying nothing as she waited to see if she would be turned away.

Knowing she would have to make the first move, Dionis sighed and turned to look at Arcadia. "I'm disappointed," she admitted softly. "But I know why you did it. I...I think if your mother and I had been in the same situation you have found yourself in, we perhaps would have attempted it also."

"I am sorry I disappointed you, mama," Arcadia whispered, tears filling her light green eyes. "But I'm not sorry I did it. Even if I could go back, I would do it again."

Dionis nodded. "You two really love each other, don't you?"

The Princess nodded.

"And you both thought this through? It wasn't...Rayna's idea or anything?"

Arcadia gave her mama the faintest of smiles. "It was actually all my idea to begin with. I spoke with the shaman who told me to talk to Rayna. Then Rayna spoke with the shaman, then we all spoke to each other. We thought carefully about what we wanted, mama."

The dark-haired woman wrapped her arm around the blonde's shoulders. "So, I am to be a grandmother! How long do I have to wait for my new playmate?"

The Princess laughed, relieved Dionis wasn't too angry and that she was speaking to her. "A good while yet, mama. Leslie will give birth first, I assure you."

"Plenty of rest and make sure you eat well and look after yourself," Dionis instructed. "Anything you need or crave, all you have to do is ask me and I shall see to it."

Arcadia hugged her mama's side, fighting tears as her relief flooded through her. "Thank you, mama. I love you."

"And I you, Arcadia. Always, my precious girl." Dionis smiled down at her daughter.

They both stood staring out across the island in silence, arms around each other, neither feeling the need to speak. Arcadia wondered if Dionis knew of what had happened after she left the dining room that morn, or if she had heard about Aaronia's feelings on the matter. The blonde looked up at her dark-haired mother and saw the peace and tranquillity she usually saw on Dionis' face when she was relaxed. Smiling and looking back out at the view, she decided not to say anything, fairly sure Athena would inform her of what she needed to know.

"Come on, my love," Dionis finally said, squeezing the blonde's shoulders. "Let us go in and see what your mother is up to. Perhaps she will join us for a late night picnic in my office."

Arcadia grinned as she looked up at Dionis. "We haven't done that in years!"

"I know. Now is a good time to start again. A family should do things together, they should stay in touch, and lately we have all been busy." With her arm wrapped around her little girl, she walked them back inside.

* * * * *

Arcadia woke before the sun was even up, eyes stinging from a lack of sleep. She'd had a restless night, tossing and turning, too excited to sleep. The ship was due back after two and half very long months, and whilst she desperately hoped Rayna was not on board injured or worse, she also hoped the warrior would be back. I can't win. I want her back but I don't want her hurt! The blonde grinned. I shall be contented if she has at least written to me!

Arcadia rolled onto her back and covered her pouched abdomen with a hand. Your mama isn't exactly the type to sit and write, but she promised she would, so I live in hope. I hope she is coping all right with being away. Mama, your soon to be grandmother, told me how some of the warriors who were in her year got seasick! Then homesick once they arrived! I can't see your mama being seasick, or if she is affected she wouldn't admit it! She is so stubborn! I hope, little one, you don't take after her in that respect. Gentle fingers stroked slowly. I don't know why I find myself continually caressing where I guess you to be. I thought it was to comfort you in a way, but I think 'tis more a comfort to me! Especially now that the fighting has started and I worry even more for Rayna. There are no guarantees to her safety, no matter how good a warrior she is. And, of course, mama made her a commander! I just know she'll insist on leading the charge!

Remembering Val had mentioned she wouldn't be in as she was going down to the shore with her parents, Arcadia got up and washed. She dressed herself in one of her finest white robes and put a pair of soft leather sandals on her feet. Brushing her long blonde locks, she hastily tied her hair back out of her face and was ready to make her escape.

Slipping out of the Palace easily, the Princess hurriedly made her way through the dense forest and down to the shore, under the cover of the early morning darkness. She came to a stop as she reached the beach area, standing behind a group of worried parents, girlfriends and wives, who were all watching the distant ship slowly approach.

"By the Gods! This is the worst part, I am sure!" Dawn Walkers complained, eyes never leaving the ship.

"Yes, the not knowing if you are getting a letter or an injured child back!" Gaylene Orchard agreed.

"Bedilia is hardly going to be on the ship, Gaylene," Coralee Atwell, Destiny and Kornel's mother commented. "She is a good friend of Rayna Banks. I doubt she or Keera will be in any danger with her around."

"You never know, Coralee. During battle it is everyone for themselves," Dionis said as she appeared, walking passed the waiting women with a purpose.

Arcadia ducked slightly behind the group of women in front of her, not wanting her dark-haired mother knowing she had woken early and escaped the Palace without her guards.

Leslie came to a stop next to the Princess' side, an eyebrow lifted in amusement. "Hello, cousin. What brings you down here in near darkness?" she asked smiling.

"I have a few warrior friends, cousin. I am here in the hopes that they are not on board."

"Oh, right. Not hoping for a letter from a certain dark-haired warrior you are betrothed to?"

Arcadia's lips curled up into a smile. "Perhaps." The blonde looked at her red-haired cousin, noticing Leslie looked rather more pale that she usually did. "This must be so hard for you, Leslie. How are you holding up? No more sickness?"

"No, my sickness has passed." Leslie sighed. "It's strange. On the one hand I am hoping for a letter, telling me she is well and missing me and home. But on the other hand, I hope she is on the ship with a silly little wound just so I can have her home again."

The Princess nodded, having had the same thoughts herself. Sighing, she turned her attention back to the approaching ship. Seeing Dionis turn around to glance around the gathered crowd, she ducked down out of sight.

"Cousin," Leslie chuckled as she watched Arcadia. "What are you doing?"

"I don't want mama to know I am here. She will be furious I am out without a guard!"

The redhead smiled. "I see. Uhm...how are you going to get your mail then?"

"I am hoping that if there are any injured warriors, she will be preoccupied with them while someone else hands out the mail. If not, I shall have to wait."

After docking, the crew aboard the ship informed the agitated women that there was a sack full of mail for them and that there had been two casualties, though they didn't say who. Dionis climbed aboard the ship as soon as the gangplank was lowered and demanded to know who had been killed. The women waiting on the beach held their breath as they waited for news, praying it wasn't their loved one.

Finding out about Diana Plummer and Ralphina Theccan, Dionis walked sombrely down the gangplank trying to think of the words to say as she approached Diana's parents Biana and Jeanette. "I am very sorry," Dionis said in low tones. "I am told Diana died bravely fighting the Romans," she informed the two heartbroken women, eyes full of sympathy. She shook each woman's hand and Val's as well, then informed them that Diana would be given a full warrior burial whenever they were ready.

The distraught women clung to each other and their only other child, as the Queen's consort stepped back. Being comforted by those around them, the Plummers sobbed with grief.

Swallowing hard, Dionis approached Jada Theccan, who worked on her wife's public relations committee. "My deepest sympathies. Ralphina fell in battle bravely fighting the Romans. She will be given a full warriors' burial whenever you are ready." She shook each parents hand, offering her sympathies, before going back on board the ship.

The gathered crowd tried their best to comfort the two families who had suffered a loss, whilst feeling guilty for being relieved it wasn't someone they loved. As Dionis saw to the two fallen warriors being carried to their final resting place, one of the ship's crew handed out the mail.

Leslie collected the letter addressed to herself and the one addressed to Keera's parents, while Arcadia watched in silent dismay as mail addressed to her was handed to her mother. The two girls walked together as they slowly made their way back through the forest, silent as they thought about the two fallen warriors. They were both aware that it could have easily been the one they loved.

Arcadia cleared her throat. "Have you told Keera of your good news?" she asked.

Leslie smiled warmly and nodded. "Yes, I put it all into the letter I just sent off." She glanced down at the mail she held in one hand and smiled again at her cousin. "You wrote to Rayna," she commented, remembering the letter she had handed over for the blonde.

Arcadia nodded. "Yes. I told her nonsense things, like what I did during the day, gossip I have heard from the Palace staff, how much I miss her." How I am with child, she thought silently.

"Mmm, me too," Leslie nodded.

They reached the edge of the forest and stopped, turning to look at each other.

"'Tis good seeing you, cousin," Leslie smiled. "You are looking...very well."

"Thank you," Arcadia smiled.

"I shall get going. I am eager to read my darling's letter, as I am sure you are desperate to get your hands on your letter."

The Princess nodded. "I am. I just hope mama doesn't get held up too long!" Arcadia hugged Leslie. "Take care, cousin. We have to meet up, even if it is just to catch up with gossip."

Leslie nodded. "Stop by whenever you wish, Arcadia. You are always welcome."

"As are you at the Palace. See you later."

* * * * *

The Princess rushed back home and ran unseen up to her bedchambers, wanting Dionis to think she had been sleeping while the ship had arrived.

Not long after settling back onto the bed, someone knocked on her chambers door. The blonde's heart raced as she hoped it was Dionis with her mail. "Come in," she called out, watching the door as it was pushed open.

The tall, dark-haired woman stepped in and smiled at her reclining daughter. "Hello, sweetheart. Dressed for the day already?"

"Good morning, mama. I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep. Is everything okay?"

Dionis shut the door and walked over to the bed, taking a seat on the edge and sighing. "The ship arrived home this morning, Arcadia. I just wanted to come and tell you that there were two casualties, none of whom were Rayna."

Arcadia sat up and hugged her mother, seeing the turmoil in her eyes. "Thank you for telling me, mama. Who were the fallen?" she enquired, already knowing the answer.

"Diana Plummer and Ralphina Theccan."

"Will we be attending their burials?" the blonde asked quietly.

"I will be. It is my duty as security chief. Your mother will be as well, as she is Queen."

"I will too," Arcadia stated. "My betrothal to a warrior makes it my duty and I...courted Ralphina briefly."

Dionis smiled, amazed how grown up her little girl was. "I am very proud of you, Arcadia."

"Thank you," the Princess blushed.

The Queen's consort sighed. "Two deaths this early is a bad sign. It will only get worse now that they have encountered the enemy." Dionis stood up and took out a letter from a pocket. "This arrived for you," she smiled, holding out the letter for the blonde. "Assuming 'tis a letter from Rayna, I shall leave you in peace to read it. I must go and tell your mother about the casualties and let her know I told Biana and Val Plummer, and Jada Theccan they didn't have to come back to work until they felt ready."

"I appreciate you coming to tell me the news, mama. I am sure you must be very busy, so thank you."

Dionis smiled. "Never too busy for you, my love. And I told you I would keep you informed of all I knew."

As soon as Dionis left to return to her duties, Arcadia delicately opened the sealed letter from her beloved and settled back to read it.

"Dear Arcadia,

          On the Sunday morn we left, I watched Belleza get further and further away and for the first time it sunk in that I wouldn't be seeing you for many moons! 'Tis now the second day of our journey and already I miss you so much, I am thinking of diving overboard to swim back to your side.

Changing the subject - before I really do jump overboard - I decided to start you this letter and add to it day by day. By the time we reach Britannia I will probably be sending back a book! No, I am kidding. Perhaps five or six pages.

The journey so far has been uneventful. Keera continually moans about having to leave Leslie. If I don't jump, she certainly will! Some of the girls have been teasing her about what they suspect happened in the bedroom on the few nights she had with Leslie. Whenever asked, she goes a very interesting shade of red. Embarrassingly, I tend to blush as well as my thoughts turn to you.

Bedilia has been challenging everyone to arm wrestle, some of the others have been learning how to tie knots. I got so bored today, I offered to help the ship's crew wash the decks! I was politely turned down.

I don't know whose idea it was to trap usually active warriors on board a ship for a long period of time, but they should have their head looked at! If it was Dionis, please don't tell her I said that! I plan to marry you, Arcadia, and I doubt she will let me near you if my thoughts got out!!!

That is all I can say for now. If I carry on, I will end up boring you to tears.

Love always,


"Dear Arcadia,

          Saying I would write every day was stupid of me! I am stuck on a ship with nowhere to go and where nothing much happens! (Sigh). Let's see...what can I say?

At the evening meal last night, Diana slipped and her meal went flying. The poor girl landed smack on her bottom, her food raining down on her! I don't think I have laughed so hard in my life! I know I shouldn't have, Arcadia, but it was the funniest sight. She stood up with as much dignity as she could manage and returned to the cook, who replaced her food, while stifling a smile.

Today, I woke up and we were served....I'm not sure what and I wouldn't like to guess! Something disgusting for breakfast anyway. Up on deck, Keera was again talking about Leslie, how much she misses her, her laugh, the way her nose crinkles, her kisses. She was thankfully interrupted when one of the girls spotted something in the water. We all rushed over to the rail and watched as three of these...I don't know what they were...they were bigger than any fish I have ever seen. They are grey or blue-ish in colour and have these strange long mouths. They were a joy to watch though, diving out of the water and following the ship for a long while before they grew bored of the game. After that, I slipped away and came below deck to write to you.

I miss you, Arcadia. Your laugh, your soft lips and softer kisses. I miss listening to you reading aloud....(big sigh).

I will add more to my note if anything happens, but I wouldn't hold my breath, my love.

Love always,


Arcadia laughed, imagining her dark-haired girlfriend getting frustrated and bored. My poor love, she thought sympathetically.

"Dear Arcadia,

          We are now two weeks into our journey. We have annoyed the teachers and older warriors. So much so, that now they have us doing drills and practising our sparring with each other.

I'm not sure where we are now, all I can see when I look around is the sea. But the water is rougher, making the ship rock up and down. A few of the girls are seasick, but it hasn't affected me, Keera or Bedilia. Saying that though, I can't wait to get back on dry land!

I wasn't aware you courted Ralphina seriously? She keeps making comments about your time together. She got on my nerves so much the other day, I almost jumped up and hit her! Bedilia must have noticed because she grabbed onto my arm and told Ralphina that you couldn't have been impressed for now you are betrothed to me. The look on her face was priceless.

I am....

I was interrupted - one of the girls decided it would be funny to throw squid at Mallory Waterman and I had to go and stop a scuffle that broke out. You see what boredom does to us - turns us back into children! Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, seasickness and Ralphina. Enough on that subject.

I am now lying in my hammock, writing to you by dim candle light. Every night I find my thoughts drift back to those intimate moments we shared. Lying in your arms, or you in mine. I clearly remember your soft skin, the heat of...certain places. Your soft moans and gentle sighs. By the Gods, Arcadia! Do you realise how breathtaking you truly are? Thoughts of returning to your arms are keeping me sane, of seeing your eyes light up in joy, of getting the sweetest of kisses from your lips.

Do you dream of me I wonder? (Grin).

Love always,

          Your Rayna."

"Dear Arcadia,

          We have arrived in Britannia, (thank the Gods!), and were met at the docks by your uncle Cornelius and his best men. After unloading the ship of all our supplies and loading everything onto the carts, Cornelius led us back to his village.

The village is simple in design and hidden away from all. Much like Belleza. The homes are made of wood from trees cut from the forest. They have animals kept in pens nearby, where they can keep an eye on them and prevent stealing. Close to the village is a small stream, beautiful to see and sit next to.

I spotted my older brother Benedict straight away and ran to hug the big brute. He looks well and is incredibly happy with his young wife, Sarah, and their two sons.

I have told you I have older twin brothers, haven't I? If not - surprise!

Anyway, a little later, my other brother and Benedict's twin, Brutus, arrived back and I spent some time with him. He is a lot like me, and when we were children we were always finding trouble. I have been told he has two bastard children with two separate women in neighbouring villages! Sarah informed me Brutus doesn't seem the settling type. He likes his warrior life too much. Well, at least he has heirs to carry on his name I suppose, though I am sure my mothers wouldn't be happy if they knew of the situation.

There was a big celebration. The women of the village prepared a glorious meal and everyone sat eating and talking. Then afterwards a large bonfire was lit and men and women started playing their instruments. Ale and wine flowed freely and people danced, the warriors being popular dance partners. Keera and I challenged my brothers to a drinking contest...I'm not too sure if any of us won! 'Tis the morning after that I am writing this to you!

I don't want to worry you, my love, but I am sure you would worry more if I didn't say anything. There has been trouble! My brother Brutus killed a Roman soldier and a small scouting party came looking for him. They attacked one village and are heading for the next. We are heading over to the village to see if we can save them.

I had to stop writing because we left our village in a hurry, desperately trying to reach our destination before the Romans.

These Romans...they worry your great uncle a lot. For that reason, they worry me also. Cornelius told me they are strong and well trained. Their training regime is like none he has ever seen before. They do gymnastics and swim a lot to build their physical strength and fitness. They fight with a wooden weapon they call "Pila" or "Pilum" that shatter on impact.

Remember this, Arcadia, take this information to Dionis or write it down somewhere for future reference.

I can't quite imagine it, but by tomorrow I will know of these Romans, for tomorrow we go up against them. I love you, Arcadia. I always will no matter what.

Forever and always,

          Your warrior."

Arcadia had unconsciously started rubbing her stomach as she read and smiled when she realised what she was doing. Your mama wrote like it was the last letter she ever would. I suppose it could have been. You never know with battle. Everyone for themselves, that's what my mama said this morn! The blonde sighed, knowing Rayna's next note would have been written after the battle. Knowing her love hadn't been killed made it a little easier, but still, she wasn't sure of other injuries.

"My dearest love,

          'Tis after the battle and...we have lost two. By the time you read this, you will probably know who they are, but if you don't yet, we lost Diana Plummer and Ralphina Theccan. Both were courageous and died as heroes in my eyes.

Before the attack we had the element of surprise and had our best archers up in the trees, ready to rain arrows down on the advancing men. Ralphina was one of those hiding up high in the tree-tops. She was hit when the Romans returned fire and fell from the tree. We are not sure if the injury killed her or the fall, but she did her bit and her family should be proud.

Diana was somewhere behind me, from what I have heard. She was strong and brave and saved the lives of a couple of fighters from the villages who joined with us. She was injured at the beginning of the fight when the Romans threw their wooden weapons, but she fought on and did us proud, finally falling to a cowardly attack from behind.

Neither girl, warrior, will ever be forgotten. Not here and not on Belleza.

I am fine, my love. I am...very weary. My shoulders ache, my arms, my...I ache everywhere! But overall I am fine, my love. so don't worry too much, okay?

I hope you are well and your family as well.

Love always,


Arcadia kissed the page she held, a loving smile on her lips. "Be safe, my love." Getting up, the Princess set the treasured letter aside and made her way out of her bedchambers. She made her way downstairs in search of Athena and breakfast.

* * * * *

"Should I ask why you are up so early in the day?" Athena asked smiling, as Arcadia walked into the art room.

The Princess smiled and shook her head. "No. Let's pretend I always get up this early."

"The guards informed me you slipped off early this morning," the Queen mentioned, glancing over at her seated daughter.

"Don't tell mama, will you?" the blonde asked. "The day the warriors left she told me she would keep me up to date on what was happening," Arcadia explained. "This morning, mama sought me out to inform me of the injuries to our warriors. She didn't know I had been down on the shore and already knew."

"You don't wish to hurt her feelings."


Athena smiled. "I won't say a word, my love. But no more sneaking off, alright?"

Arcadia returned the smile and nodded.

"Two casualties this early is a bad sign your mama said." Athena sighed, walking over to join her daughter on the padded chair. "It will panic the women and cause a fuss, I'm sure."

"Will you be holding a meeting?" Arcadia asked. "To try and soothe them?"

The Queen shook her head. "No, you can't soothe them. We are at war and there will be losses."

"I shall be attending the warriors' burials with you and mama," Arcadia informed her mother. "Being betrothed to a warrior myself, it is my duty to show my support to those who are serving with her."

Athena brimmed with pride. "You are going to make a fine Queen, my love."

The Princess blushed at the compliment. "Thank you, mummy."

"Come on," Athena said, standing up. "Let's go and get some breakfast." She offered her hand to pull her daughter to her feet. "How are you this morn, Arcadia? No sickness?"

"No sickness, but I am showing a little more. My abdomen is more pouched than it was."

The two blondes walked through the entrance hallway and towards the dining room at the back. With a wicked smile on her face, Athena nudged her daughter's arm. "Did you perhaps receive a letter this morn?" she asked as they neared the dining room doors.

Arcadia laughed. "That, my dear, nosey, mother, is for me to know." Laughing at the look on the Queen's face, the Princess made her way into the dining room, walking passed an already seated Dionis and kissing her head, before greeting her two grandmothers in the same manner, though a little hesitant when it came to Aaronia.

Dionis looked from her daughter to her frowning wife. "Problem, my love?"

"Your daughter," Athena pouted.

Dionis' lips curled up into an amused smile. "Why is it that she is my daughter when she is being bad, and our daughter when she is good?"

"The way of the world, darling," Athena chuckled. She bent and kissed her wife's lips, before taking a seat next to her.

"When are the funerals for the fallen warriors?" Mina directed Dionis' way.

Dionis swallowed her egg and cleared her throat to reply. "Tonight."

The Queen blinked in surprise, chewing on a chunk of warm bread with melted butter smeared onto it. "That's rather soon," she commented. "Together or in a separate ceremony?"

"They decided to have it together. They grew up together, trained together, the families thought it was fitting to bury them together."

"What happens at a warrior's burial?" Arcadia asked curiously, holding her stomach as she felt nauseous.

Dionis blinked, surprised her daughter didn't already know. "Uhm..." she cleared her throat again. "A service is held, the family saying a few words if they wish, maybe friends as well. Then their swords or weapon of choice is lain with them, as well as favourite possessions, like a love token or something special to them. Then the box is sealed and then...we...we set them on fire to release their mortal-bound souls."

"Oh." Arcadia swallowed hard, pushing away her plate as her appetite disappeared.

"You don't have to attend, Arcadia. 'Tis not your duty to do so," Dionis said kindly.

"I want to," the blonde replied adamantly. "Rayna said in her letter that they both died heroically. They deserve my attendance."

Everyone smiled proudly at the still young, but wise Princess.

* * * * *

As evening approached, Arcadia returned to her bedchambers to change for the two warriors' funerals. She felt sad at the two young lives that had been lost. Whilst not knowing Diana, she had known and briefly courted Ralphina. When thinking about never seeing the arrogant warrior again, the Princess was filled with melancholy.

Francis Church, a redhead the same age as Arcadia at sixteen summers old, knocked before she entered the Princess' chambers, there to help the blonde change for the funeral. She was married to the warrior Clarance Church and the pair had been good friends of Diana.

"How are you holding up, Francis?" Arcadia asked kindly, as she slipped out of her fine white robe and into a dark blue dress, more suitable for the service she thought.

The redhead offered a sad smile. "As well as can be expected, Your Highness. On the one hand I am so grateful it wasn't Clarance killed. On the other, I feel guilty because Diana was a good friend to both of us. She will be missed." The maid picked up the Princess' silver-handled brush. "Would you like me to brush your hair, Princess?"

"Please, Francis. I think tonight I shall wear it up. I want to look smart and respectful, whilst trying my best to keep cool."

"Ohh, I know what you mean. This heat isn't something you want to be out in long!" the maid replied, running the brush through long silky blonde locks. "How are you feeling, Princess?"

"Please, call me Arcadia."

The redhead shook her head. "Oh, I couldn't. It isn't right, Your Highness."

The Princess sighed, knowing that there were some women at the Palace who would never relax around her. "I am feeling...sad, lonely, happy, guilty. Most of all worried," she admitted, as her hair was pinned up neatly, held in place by emerald encrusted pins. She stood up, turning to look into understanding grey eyes. "I just pray this comes to a swift conclusion. I don't think I could bare it if it was dragged on for years!"

Francis took the simple gold chain Arcadia handed her and waited as the blonde turned back around. The Princess had put Rayna's signet ring onto the chain after fearing she would lose it.

"Thank you, Francis," Arcadia said softly, once the chain was fixed around her neck.

The redhead bowed her head in respect. "Rayna must love you dearly to have handed you her warrior's ring," she commented, hoping she wasn't stepping over the line.

Arcadia smiled brightly. "We both completely adore each other. I can't wait for the day she returns so that we may marry."

Knowing she had to be leaving so she could get home and changed for the warriors' burials, Francis cleared her throat. "Will there be anything else, Your Highness?"

"No. You get on home now, thank you, Francis." Smiling until she was left alone, Arcadia sighed as she sat on the edge of her bed. This is going to be so hard, she thought, fingers playing with the ring that rested on her chest. Knowing how easily it could have been Rayna, or even Keera or Bedilia! How do I look the families in the eyes, knowing their loved ones are gone forever but mine is still out there? The blonde took a deep breath and stood up, knowing she had to get going.

On the island of Belleza, in a part that was uninhabited, was a hidden stone building that housed the urns and etched plaques of fallen warriors. The day after the fallen warrior's funeral, the ashes were gathered and either placed into an urn to stand inside the stone building, or mixed with bronze to make a plaque, which was then nailed to the wall with the fallen's name and perhaps some loving words etched onto it.

But that was for tomorrow, this night friends and family of the two warriors, along with the Royal family, stood around the two pyres. Other women of the island stood back at a respectable distance, there to show their thanks and pay their respects, whilst not intruding.

The ceremony was short, Ulrica Parson, head of the church community, spoke briefly. Then the parents shared stories from their memories and announced how proud they were of their daughters. Athena stood before everyone and told the women how proud she was of them for serving their Royal family and for protecting their home, for being brave in the face of danger and how they wouldn't be forgotten. The service finished with singing.

Arcadia watched as the pyres were lit, her chest tightening as she imagined she was there for a funeral of someone she loved dearly. She choked as her breathing hitched and sank against Dionis' side, as her dark-haired mother wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders.

As the women of Belleza turned to make their way back home, Athena approached the devastated Plummer and Theccan families and had a quiet word with both sets of parents. She stumbled over her words slightly as her daughter stopped next to her side.

"I received a letter from my betrothed, commander Banks," Arcadia said softly. "She wrote of both Diana and Ralphina. She told me they were both courageous and died heroes in her eyes. Diana," the blonde looked to the Plummers, two of which she knew well. "Diana was injured, but still she fought on and served them well, making everyone proud. Ralphina," she looked to the Theccans. "She was in the starting attack, hiding up in the tree-tops to rain arrows down upon the enemy. She was one of those who caught the Romans by surprise and inflicted some damage. They will both be remembered for generations, this I swear to you."

Both sets of teary-eyed parents thanked the Princess, then turned to be alone in their grief.

To be continued...

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