Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.
Bad language ~ No.
Love/sex ~ Romance between conseting women. If this offends you, you're in the wrong place. Go back now and forget you were ever here!
Author's note ~ Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk
Copyright © 2008
Arcadia, Princess of Belleza, slipped out of the Palace grounds, leaving behind her personal guards to enjoy some time alone. She rushed towards the forest, holding onto her great, great, great, great grandmother Ailis's diary, and disappeared into the shadows of the tall trees.
She lived on an island called Belleza, an island that was home to women only, and ruled at this moment in time, by her mother Queen Athena.
The first Queen, Ailis, had picked the name Belleza, Spanish meaning beauty, after setting foot on the island for the first time and seeing the breathtaking beauty and peacefulness of it.
Arcadia walked the uneven dirt path surrounded by the old trees. Some grew so tall in some parts that the sunlight didn't penetrate. On ground level, there were flowers of different varieties in all sorts of colours, their different aromas tainting the air. The blonde could hear various bird calls, the odd screech from a monkey or two and other animal sounds that brought the vast forest to life.
Finding a quiet spot, the Princess settled down with her back leaning against the thick trunk of a tree and opened her ancestor's diary. As part of her learning to become the next Queen, she was to read her ancestor's diaries to get an idea of what they went through during their life.
We set sail under the cover of darkness, a trustworthy friend of Callena agreeing to take us. My beloved has set up a deal with him - in return for his discretion, we will allow any family of his to come to our island. He will also be coming by in six moons time to take Callena back to civilisation so she can get anything she has forgotten or anything we need more of. Our peaceful future lies with him, but if my love trusts him, then so do I.
Val and Hazel turned up, both women smiling warmly, both excited. Val brought with her enough books to fill two crates! We won't be getting bored during our trip! Hazel had packed up all their clothes, some cooking utensils and seeds and herbs, ready to start up a garden.
Tricia Youngs also turned up, along with her three girls. Their few possessions won't go far, Tricia mainly brought what few clothes she and the girls own.
Marta arrived and watched wide-eyed, as Callena and the ship's crew started loading the animals. Callena is bringing, for now, five cows and two bulls, a number of chickens and three roosters, and five sows and a boar.
The shaman arrived and smiled proudly as I stood next to my hard working love. She led me below deck and gave me a quick check over, all signs are good. Thank the Gods!
And last to arrive was Teresa and her two girls. Eleanor is a sweetheart and at two winters old, already smart. She toddled over to me, a big grin lighting up her face, and wrapped her small arms as far around my swollen stomach as she could. The sight made all the women smile. Dulce, five summers old, was quiet as always. She is a good girl, but I am sure that she has witnessed some things that will stay with her for life.
Teresa started complaining about the early hour and asking why we were leaving under the cover of darkness instead of at a time when other ships were about and we would be noticed as much. Callena calmly informed her that she didn't want to risk anyone seeing us or being able to follow us.
Also to come with us were a blacksmith's widow, who apparently knew the trade, a farmer's wife and her four boys, a carpenter who brought many supplies, and two stonemasons, who were to work for Francis and her crew.
With that, we were off."
We have been sailing now for over a whole moon! I am sick of being stuck on this boat! What with my sickness in the mornings, then seasickness when I get up, I have no peace! Ugh!
Callena told me this morning that we are almost there. 'Tis a good thing. We have...we've been arguing. A lot lately. I suppose all this stress all at once has gotten to us. Once my love is up in the morning, I am lucky if I see her again before I retire to our chambers. She is so busy taking care of the animals and the people we have brought with us.
I hope things settle down when we reach our new home. I don't know what I'll do if she doesn't want me any more!"
Arcadia looked up from her reading, thinking she heard something. Scanning the forest around her, she saw nothing unusual and returned to the diary.
* * * * *
The raven-haired warrior laughed as her best friend pulled back her arrow in her taut bow. "You're going to miss," she predicted.
"Shut up, Rayna," the smaller warrior growled.
The two girls lived on the island of Belleza, a place of beauty and peacefulness. It was taught to every child born on the island, that their ancestors had come to Belleza after leaving behind a world of violence and fear and pain. A world that was cruel and had no mercy. A world dominated by war-lords and mercenaries, who took what they wanted, when they wanted.
The early days had been hard. The first families to arrive hadn't had homes and had all lived in a hastily made tent community in the forest, away from the shore and out of sight of any ships passing by. A women-only crew, led by a designer called Francis, and consisting of stonemasons, carpenters, and their many labourers, had been working on the Palace first, before building homes and plotting out land for the farmers. When the changing weather affected the tent dwellings, the builders had taken time out to put up simple wooden huts, some of which still stood around the island, and served as historical sites.
Rayna Banks, daughter of a cattle rearing family, and her smaller friend Keera Shepherd, daughter of a sheep rearing family, both lived in the farming community. At the age of ten, when asked to choose their career, both had opted for the life of a warrior and had been in training ever since.
Hidden in the camouflage of the dark green trees, up high on a thick branch, Keera aimed at the distant target and let her arrow go.
The two friends watched as the wind blew the arrow off its course and towards a seated blonde they hadn't spotted before.
The arrow hit the tree the young woman was leaning back against, the loud thwack it gave startling the blonde. She looked up in surprise and gasped as she watched a dark-haired warrior, dressed in her training leathers, hurtling towards her.
Rayna dropped to her knees in front of the beautiful blonde, who looked vaguely familiar to her. She was dressed in fine white robes, with gold stitching along the edges. A fine pair of sandals were on her feet. It was a popular outfit among the Royals and nobles. "Are you all right?" she asked, taking a warm hand in her own.
Oh, my Gods! It's her! It's Rayna! Arcadia thought, a rush of childhood memories running through her head. "I...I'm fine, thank you. It just...startled me." Gods, she's beautiful! Her hair is shorter than it was the last time I saw her, her body is toned and...ohhh, muscular! I wonder if she remembers me?
"I warned her she would miss," Rayna said softly, heart beating hard for some unknown reason.
The blonde looked over the kneeling warrior's shoulder and spotted another warrior, her brunette hair also cut shoulder-length short, standing back, looking apologetic. That looks like Keera Shepherd, one of Rayna's best friends. "Miss me?" Arcadia asked, watching as the dark-haired girl kneeling in front of her laughed heartily. I like the way her eyes light up when she laughs, she thought idly.
"No," Rayna said, once she had calmed down. "I told her she would miss her target."
The gong that signalled the approach of nightfall sounded, making both girls look up.
The blonde picked up her book and stood. "I have to go," she regretfully told the still kneeling warrior.
"Of course." Rayna stood to her full 5 foot 9 inch height and found herself a head above the other woman. "Please, allow me to walk you home, Princess Arcadia," she offered.
The Princess gasped, her green eyes going wide in surprise. "You know who I am!"
Rayna smiled. "How could I forget the small girl who I used to have so much fun with?" She offered her hand to the blonde. "It is a pleasure meeting you again, Princess."
Arcadia shook the offered hand, smiling. "It is good seeing you too, Rayna Banks. I would like very much for you to walk me back to the Palace."
Rayna kissed the back of the blonde's fingers, smiling as the blonde's cheeks reddened. "Lead on, Princess."
* * * * *
Rayna sent Keera on her way and walked silently next to the Princess as they made their way through the forest and towards the Palace.
As the sun started its decent and the night rolled in, they walked through the winding trees, the green grass soft and soundless beneath their feet. The forest around them was alive with sounds, monkeys screeching in the distance, bird calls with their wings fluttering, as well as sounds from the many insects and night creatures slowly awakening.
Arcadia lost herself in memories of their early days together. Her first day of school was when they had met. Both her mothers often told her stories of her childhood, and her first day at school was one of her favourites.
"Arcadia, you must go," Queen Athena explained patiently. "You will one day be Queen, my love. These children will be your people. Don't you want to meet them? Talk to them? Make friends?"
The little blonde Princess shook her head and pouted.
"It is also important you learn...."
Dionis walked into the grand and beautifully decorated living room where her family were and scooped her daughter up into her arms.
"Mama!" the little blonde shrieked.
"What, Arcadia?" Dionis laughed. "Why are you pouting?"
"Mama! I don't want to go to school. Do I have to go?"
Dionis frowned at her daughter. "You don't want to meet the children? They are your age, you'll make some nice friends."
"I have you," Arcadia pouted.
The dark-haired warrior laughed and tickled her daughter's sides. "Okay. I tell you what. You will go to school today and if you really don't like it, I won't make you go back."
Arcadia beamed a bright smile at her dark-haired mother. "Okay."
"Okay." Dionis kissed the little girl's head. "Now, go and grab your bag and I will walk you to school." As the Princess ran from the room, Dionis looked over at her blonde wife, her smile slipping when she found her Queen glaring back at her. "What?" she asked innocently.
"What, my love, are you going to do if she comes home hating school?"
The warrior walked across to the Queen and wrapped her arms around the smaller body. "She won't. She will meet loads of little playmates and forget all about us." She kissed the end of her wife's nose.
"You better hope so, darling, because she is going to school no matter what."
The Royal family set off on their walk towards the school, a large, one storey wooden building, where even the Queen herself had attended. Athena and her wife flanked their daughter's sides, while the Royal guards discreetly followed the happy trio.
As the school building came into view, the Princess started to drag her feet, much to the amusement of her parents. Athena and Dionis looked at each other, and together lifted Arcadia off the ground so she was dangling in the air between them.
"I changed my mind!" the small blonde protested. "I don't want to go!"
As the Royal family approached the school, they watched three young girls running around, playing with a small ball.
A small brunette held the ball in her hands, her two taller friends flanking her sides. "Ready, set, go!" she shouted.
The two girls either side of the girl took off running and the brunette kicked the ball with all her might, eyes widening as she saw the approaching Royal family. Her hands lifted and hid her face, knowing the ball she had kicked was going to hit them. Also knowing how much trouble she would get in.
Arcadia watched as a raven-haired little girl ran towards her, glancing back over her shoulder as she looked for the flying ball. Suddenly, she dived through the air and grabbed the ball in both hands, falling at the feet of Dionis.
"Good catch, little one." The tall warrior offered her hand to help the girl up. "What is your name?"
"Rayna Banks. I'm going to be a warrior some day, as good as you, Dionis."
Dionis chuckled. "You have a few years yet until you have to decide, Rayna Banks. Enjoy your childhood first of all."
Rayna looked at the wide eyed Princess and took the little blonde's hand. "Come on, with you here we can play two against two."
"How did you slip away from your guards, Princess Arcadia?" Rayna's softly asked question broke through the Princess' memories.
The blonde looked up at the warrior and smiled. "Years of practice."
Rayna laughed. "You shouldn't. It could be dangerous, you know?"
Arcadia rolled her eyes. "Nothing ever happens on Belleza, Rayna."
"Princess!" someone shouted out, relief heavy in her voice.
Both girls looked at the clearing of the forest and spotted a guard rushing towards them, her hand on the hilt of her sword, which hung faithfully by her side.
"Princess, it's not safe for you to be running around alone."
"Leonora, I'm fine. I am quite safe with Rayna. She is a warrior, the best apparently."
The suspicious guard scowled at the tall teen, who smirked back. "She is a warrior-in-training, Princess. Hardly suitable for your protection." The guard looked back at the blonde-haired Princess. "I should get you home, Princess. The evening gong has sounded and your mothers will be wondering where you are."
"But Rayna is..." Arcadia started to protest.
"It's okay, Arcadia," Rayna interrupted. "It is her job and I should be getting home as well."
Green eyes looked into blue, disappointed. "I will see you again, won't I?"
Rayna gave the small blonde a bright smile. "You found me once, I'm sure you will again." The warrior watched as the Princess was led away, wondering if she really would see her again. I know I would like to.
Once Arcadia and her guard were out of sight, Rayna sighed and set off for home. Walking slowly back through the forest in the direction of her family's farm, the warrior's thoughts drifted back to when she had met the Princess. By the Gods, we were trouble! she thought, smiling, thinking of their first day of school.
"Okay, class. It is almost time to get started with some painting," Savannah Reeder called out. "Find a partner, please."
Arcadia, who hadn't let Rayna out of her sight since their meeting earlier that morning, took the dark-haired girl's hand. "Can we be partners?"
"Sure." Rayna led the smaller blonde over to the small table where her friends, Keera and Bedilia Orchard, were already sitting.
Their teacher handed out pieces of paper and chalk. "Okay children, working together, I want you to create a picture of how you see our island."
The small blonde princess picked up a green chalk that almost matched her eyes and started drawing. Her mother had returned from a distant land with three boxes filled with, what she called, coloured chalks. She had given them to the school as a gift, guessing the children would love them.
"What should I do?" Rayna asked frowning.
Green eyes looked into blue. "Can you find me a blue chalk? For the sky."
Rayna smiled brightly. "Yeah." She stood up and walked from table to table in search of the elusive chalk called blue for the green-eyed Princess. She wasn't sure why, but it was important she find what Arcadia wanted.
Spotting the elusive colour, Rayna grabbed it and turned to head back to her table, a successful smile on her face.
The dark-haired girl turned back around to look at the owner of the screeching voice. "What?"
"That's my chalk! You can't just walk over and take it!"
"Yes I can. My friend asked me to find it for her."
"Well I'm using it. Give it back." The brunette stood and reached for Rayna's hand.
A scuffle broke out between the two girls as they fought over the blue chalk. The other children stopping their work to watch, laughing and calling out. Arcadia rushed over from her seat. "Lexie, I asked for the chalk. Let go of Rayna!"
Lexie Sheehan looked up from her position on the floor. "You're not in the Palace now, Princess. The blue is on my table and you can't have it!"
Arcadia dropped to her knees and started wrestling with the brown-haired girl, Rayna caught between them.
"Girls!" Savannah called out in shock. "Stop this! Fighting over a coloured chalk, shame on you all!" The teacher rushed over to the scuffling girls. "Rayna Banks, let go of Lexie's hair! Princess Arcadia, do not draw on her face!"
Rayna laughed at the memory. Yes, that was a good day, and it sealed our friendship. Until she disappeared, that is. The young warrior heard the soft sound of someone following her. She slowed her pace, listening closely to her pursuer's steps.
As whomever was following her jumped at her, Rayna crouched, sending her attacker sailing over her body. The dark-haired girl laughed as she looked down at a frowning Keera. "Didn't I send you home?" She asked in amusement.
"I uhh...I stuck around. Didn't want you out in the dark alone."
"What were you hoping to do?" Rayna asked her friend, as she offered a helping hand to Keera.
"I was hoping to get a jump on you, but as usual you are aware of everything!"
Rayna smiled. "I heard you miles away," the warrior joked. "Why are you really following me?"
Keera gave her taller friend a sheepish smile. "Was wondering how things went with walking the Princess home."
Rayna rolled her eyes. "Have you always been this nosey?"
"I am not nosey!" Keera protested. "So?" she said after a pause. "Details, please."
"We were intercepted by one of her guards, we said goodbye, and now I'm walking home."
"Yes. What were you expecting?"
Keera shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, something...more I guess."
Rayna threw an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Come on, we're late getting home."
The two friends started walking in the direction of their homes.
"How are things with your sweetheart?" Rayna asked. "Got up the nerve to finally ask the poor girl to marry you?"
Keera blushed. "I'm working on it." She looked up at her taller friend. "She at least remembers you, doesn't she?" Keera asked of the Princess.
"Yes," Rayna admitted, smiling. "She remembers me."
The farm that Rayna's parents had was rimmed by fencing they had made and erected themselves. The fence ringed not only the house, but ran up to their fields as well, keeping the animals in. Their home was on a bank, which was how they had come about their surname, and looked down onto their fields.
The one-storey wooden house they lived in had originally been built with two bedrooms, a kitchen and living area where the family gathered in the evenings around the fireplace. As the family had grown, a couple of other bedrooms and a storage room had been added, and now the house looked like it had wings.
The family primarily reared cattle and had a large number of them out in two fields. But recently, they had traded some of their stock for a flock of sheep, planning on using the wool they produced to make winter clothes, and to eat the meat.
Rayna jumped the small gate, rather than opening it, knowing if her mother saw her she would be in trouble. Humming to herself, a certain small blonde dominating her thoughts, and walked through the simple wooden door. Her family looking up from their seats.
"Rayna, where have you been?" Mariah Banks asked. "And don't try to fib your way out of the trouble you're in young lady!"
"Keera and I were in the forest practising with our bows. She almost hit the Princess."
Mariah's eyes widened.
"Was the Princess all right?" Nyx Banks asked nervously.
"Yes, the arrow just startled her. I offered to walk her home, that's why I'm late."
Satisfied with what her daughter said, Mariah stood from her seat. "Go and get cleaned up, love. We're due at the large hall for dinner shortly."
The farming community met up every morning and evening in the large hall to eat together. It was a way for them to stay in touch with each other and to catch up on any news going about.
The large hall was made of timber, from the nearby forest that ringed the whole island, and a thatched roof on top to protect them from the rain. Inside were two long, dark wooden tables, accompanied by narrow wooden benches to sit on. The women had a rotation schedule, each day two families had the responsibility of preparing food for the community to eat.
* * * * *
After washing up, Rayna followed her family down to the large hall. Wooden torches that were lit each night, ran along the edges of the dirt paths that wove throughout the island, close, but not close enough to start damaging fires. They lit up the darkness, keeping wild animals at bay and permitting the women to walk about without stumbling around.
Splitting from her parents, who stopped to talk to other women, the warrior collected her hot food and took a seat on one of the wooden benches. She was quickly surrounded by other warriors and young women keen to show their interest in her.
Bedilia Orchard, a tall, muscular warrior, and close friend of Rayna and Keera, shooed away a small redhead and sat down next to her friend. "Hello there, Rayna," she grinned.
Rayna glanced at her raven-haired friend before turning her attention back to her food. "What has Keera told you?"
Bedilia laughed. "Now that's a strange thing to come out with, my friend."
Rayna lifted a dark eyebrow, remaining silent as she chewed on warm bread.
"She said you ran into the Princess. Well...she almost shot the Princess, you uhh...went to the rescue."
"Someone should sew that girl's mouth shut! Where is she?"
"Off in a dark corner somewhere with her sweetheart." Bedilia spooned hot potato into her mouth, moaning in delight. "So?" she said, after finishing her mouthful.
"You and the Princess?"
Rayna sighed. "What about me and the Princess?"
"You remember what people use to whisper when they saw the two of you together? How you were destined to be together, one dark, the other light, the balance in each other's life."
"We happened to meet. I wouldn't read too much into it, my friend." Rayna skewered a piece of meat with her fork. "May I eat now? While my food's still hot?"
Laughing, Bedilia nodded and got on with eating her own food.
Conversation flowed around them, girls nearly of marrying age flirted and vied for the warrior's attention. Rayna spent the rest of the evening thinking about a small blonde Princess, wondering if she really would see her again, or if like before, she was out of her life again.
Arcadia slowly made her way through the forest to where she had been reading a few days previous. This time though, she had two of her Royal guards trailing a few paces behind her.
Reaching the same tree she had been seated at when she had met Rayna again, the Princess sat down on the soft grass, placing the diary she held down on her lap. This was the first chance she had gotten to come out in search of the dark-haired warrior and hoped Rayna would be in the forest.
I wonder if I'll see Rayna today? she thought as she looked around, hoping to see some sign that the warrior was around. I don't even know if this is a regular place for her and her friends to come. Sighing, Arcadia picked up Ailis' diary and opened it to the page she was on, having to get some reading done.
Today we reached the island and it is...breathtaking!
As soon as the ship stopped, Callena led me down the gangplank and onto soft, untouched, nearly white sand. Behind us the ocean, in front of us thick green forest. There are tall, old trees as far and as deep as my eyes could see. They are taller than any tree I had ever seen before and surrounded by small bushes and flowers in all colours.
Callena told me our home was being built deep within the forest, so even if someone lands on the beach, it is doubtful they will venture in too far and discover us for fear of running into the wildlife. I didn't ask her what wildlife was sharing our new home. I think it's best I don't know just yet.
I named our new home Belleza, one of the Spanish words I remember Callena's grandmother telling me. I remember that it means beauty because I looked up, straight into my love's blue depths at the time. And that is what I saw as I looked around the island...beauty, or belleza.
Callena and the others raised mugs of port in toast of the chosen name. My love poured me a mug of sweet cider. It was a wonderful moment."
Arcadia looked up, thinking she heard something, but really searching for any sign of Rayna. She watched the bushes for any movement, then glanced up at the high branches of the trees, looking for shadows. Finding nothing, she frowned and got back to her reading.
Things are so hard! Life on the island is throwing us many challenges, but I suppose that was to be expected.
We early settlers are living in a quickly put together tent community, our tents close but not too close. We thought it best because of the unknown animal threat hidden in the forest. We don't want anyone getting hurt or killed.
Teresa keeps complaining about everything! I can see Callena getting worked up and I am afraid one morning or evening, she's going to snap and they'll come to blows!
Everyone is growing tired of Teresa's complaining. They have all had quiet words with her, they too seeing the tense look on Callena's face and in her stance, but it has done no good. She is not only annoying my love, she argued with Marta over her cooking and made Val cry with nasty comments about the books she brought!
Anyway, to change the subject, just one more full moon and then Callena and I will be parents! It is so scary thinking about having another tiny person to look after and care for! But I have Callena's love and support, and I know she will look after and protect us.
I think I am going to miss being pregnant. Oh, I know I complain almost every day - okay, every day - but in the morning when I awaken and feel sick to the stomach, Callena sits behind me, her strong arms wrapped around me, and gently rocks us and sings. And in the evenings she rubs my feet, then lays down beside me and caresses my stomach while talking to the baby! I am going to remember those moments forever.
We have decided to start a tradition - we are going to pick a name beginning with A for our girl, and our daughter's first born will also have a name beginning with A and so on down the generations. I thought it was a lovely idea.
Callena took me to the outskirts of where our home is being built today. There are so many women working on it! The brief glimpse I got, I saw numerous stonemasons and carpenters, as well as a number of labourers. It is going to be wonderful and very secure, I'm sure.
By the way - Callena and I are fine now, the tension we both felt and the arguments from our trip on the seas are gone."
After re-reading the same line a number of times, the Princess admitted to herself she couldn't concentrate because of a certain dark-haired warrior invading her thoughts. I just have to stop thinking about Rayna and whether or not she's going to turn up, Arcadia thought in frustration. Though I do hope she does make an appearance, I would like very much to....She frowned. What? Be her friend again? See if there can possibly be more between us?
Rearranging herself, with her knees bent and the diary leaning back against them, Arcadia tried again to concentrate. Reading her ancestor's diaries was a big part of her studies. She was only on Ailis and had many more to go through.
Our daughter has been born!
I woke during the night in labour. Callena panicked and was at a loss for what to do. She jumped up and started rushing from one end of our hut to the other. I calmly had to tell her to go and get Pomona, a nurse who we brought with us. It took the rest of the night, but just after the break of dawn, our daughter, Abi, arrived.
Callena was in tears, it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen! She gently held her tiny daughter and looked at her in awe, then to me with a look of wonder on her face."
Arcadia sighed as she closed the diary, unable to concentrate any more. She looked again for Rayna and sighed again as she saw nothing but the forest. I must concentrate! Rayna might not even come here today. She might have plans or something. Perhaps she rarely comes to this part of the forest? The blonde shook her head. It doesn't matter, I am here to read! She picked up the diary again and cleared her throat, prepared to try and read again.
The carpenters have erected small huts for us all. A nasty change in the weather put our tent community in trouble and we decided to have something more suitable built. They have also been busy constructing pens to keep the animals in, and we the women with nothing else to do, are putting them up. Even the children get involved once Val has finished teaching them for the day.
Marta has settled well into preparing meals for everyone. At times when she isn't cooking, she spends her days with two other women, preparing the ground for a vegetable garden. I think she is quite taken with one of the women. I have seen her blushing more these past few days than in all the seasons I have known her!
Teresa is still causing trouble! We all thought she would settle down once we had been here a while, but it seems she finds something new to complain about every day. If she is not complaining, or being horrible, she is bragging! She likes to remind us that it is she who goes out hunting, who protects us at night from the wildlife, how she is to train our future protectors. On and on she goes, annoying everyone.
Callena lost her temper the other day and sent Teresa away. She sent her off into the forest in search of a good spot to start training our warriors and for homes, or at least that is what she said Teresa was to do. We are all hoping she stays away at least a week. Perhaps a whole moon if we are fortunate.
Abi is well. She grows a little bigger every day, I'm sure! Callena won't put her down! It is adorable to see the two together. Abi smiles brightly each time she sees her dark-haired mami, and gurgles happily. It is adorable!
I keep telling my love that one day our daughter will have to learn to use her own two feet - Callena pouts and tells me "no time soon, my love." I smile knowingly and kiss her.
I know I have only just had the baby, but already I am hoping the shaman will grant us with another gift."
Arcadia turned the page.
More good news!"
A dark shadow fell over Arcadia. Thinking it was one of her guards, the blonde scowled as she looked up, ready with an angry insult on her tongue. "Rayna," she murmured, smiling lustrously.
"Hello, Princess," the dark-haired teen replied, returning the smile. She glanced over at the two Royal guards, who were looking her way, sizing up the threat she posed. "I see you didn't slip away today."
"No, someone told me 'twasn't safe."
They shared another smile.
"Do you mind if I sit?" Rayna asked, pointing to the spot next to the Princess.
"No, please do," the blonde smiled.
The tall teen removed her sword and sat down, sighing in contentment.
Arcadia laughed and bumped shoulders with her. "Long day?"
"Mmm, I am glad to be off my feet." Rayna looked down at the dairy Arcadia was holding. "What's that? Homework?"
The blonde smiled and shook her head. "No. Well, sort of, I guess. It's the diary of my ancestor, Ailis."
"The first Queen," the warrior noted.
Arcadia nodded. "Do you remember much about what you were taught?"
Rayna tilted her head back in thought. "Uhm...Ailis, heavily with child, set foot on our beautiful island and named her Belleza."
"Is that all?" the Princess laughed.
"Uhm..." Rayna sucked her bottom lip into her mouth as she thought, missing the sigh from Arcadia as the blonde watched. "Things were hard for the new islanders and one woman caused a lot of trouble for the Royal family, disagreeing and arguing over everything."
Arcadia nodded. "Teresa Black. My great, great, great, great grandmother Callena and Teresa almost came to blows several times. I have been reading about the beginning of it all." The blonde leaned against the warrior's side. "Teresa Black was the founder of our warriors. Did you know that?"
Rayna shook her head. "No. They don't teach us that sort of stuff. Just about weapons and different varieties of fighting styles."
"Oh, right." Small fingers traced the cover of the book. "Did you know that eventually Teresa was banished?"
Blue eyes widened. "Really?"
"Mmm-hmm. She argued with Callena over every decision. Eventually the senate voted to banish her for the peace of the island."
"Wow, I didn't know that." Rayna smiled and nudged the Princess with her shoulder. "I should hang around you more often, I bet I would learn a lot."
Arcadia blushed. "That would be nice," she admitted quietly, looking into captivating blue eyes.
Rayna swallowed nervously at the sudden tension between them. "That uhm...that doesn't happen very often."
"What doesn't?" the Princess asked in confusion.
"Someone getting banished."
"Oh. No," Arcadia agreed. "It is very rare." She cleared her throat and broke the intense eye contact between them. I feel so...strange? Almost nervous. A tingling in my stomach, or...fluttering perhaps.
The warrior watched the Princess carefully, noticing the faint red to her cheeks, the strange hitch in her breathing. She wondered if the blonde was perhaps sick. "Do you remember the last time we sat like this, side by side with a tree at our backs?" Rayna asked quietly, changing the subject.
"I...I was thinking about that last night, wondering if you remembered our childhood friendship." Arcadia smiled at the memory.
Rayna nodded. "A few days before your tenth birthday. That was the last time I saw you."
"You never said goodbye," the dark-haired girl said quietly.
Arcadia looked at the warrior in surprise. "Why would I say goodbye? I never wanted to lose touch, Rayna. I...I have thought about you these last few years and kept track of how you have progressed with your training."
"Why did you suddenly just disappear?" Rayna asked in a hurt voice. "I know you were never going to be around forever, you are the Princess after all, but...you left with no word."
Arcadia swallowed hard as she listened to the hurt in Rayna's voice. "I had no say in it, Rayna. When I got home that afternoon, I was informed it was just time." She sighed. "I cried all night, begging both my mothers to let me stay in school. When that didn't work, I begged them to bring you to the Palace."
The Princess laughed. "Yes, I was a typical child, threw a fit, pouted, wailed about how unfair it all was. Nothing worked."
Rayna laughed, an image of the small blonde throwing a fit in her head.
"My mother told me it had hurt just as much when she had gone through it at my age."
"Well, I am glad we have met again, Princess. 'Tis good seeing you again."
Arcadia smiled brightly, immensely happy she wasn't the only one who felt that way. "It is good seeing you too, Rayna." Looking down at the diary in her lap, the blonde frowned. "Uhm...not that I'm not enjoying your company, but shouldn't you be off training?"
Rayna smiled and nodded. "Yes, I am actually taking part in a tracking exercise. I am to find warrior Keera Shepherd."
"I should let you go then, we want you to finish unbeaten and the very best, don't we."
"She is the reason I actually found you sitting here," Rayna admitted in a soft tone. "She is up in that tree over on our left."
Arcadia looked deeply into Rayna's baby blues. "Really?" she asked quietly, her voice sounding strange to her own ears.
"And I thought I was just special, taking the great warrior Rayna Banks away from her training!"
Rayna laughed. "Oh, you are special, Princess." She picked up a short, thick stick that was lying nearby and threw it up into the branches of the tree Keera was perched in.
"Owww!" the small warrior cried out, as the stick hit her.
Arcadia laughed along with Rayna, both girls watching as Keera climbed down out of the tree.
"By the God's! I thought I had you this time, what with the Princess sitting here to distract you."
Rayna stood and stretched, her shoulders popping as she did so. Looking down at the still seated blonde, she smiled softly. "I'm afraid I must go, Princess, but it was nice spending some time with you again."
Arcadia stood as well, standing in front of the tall, dark-haired warrior. "I hope to spend more time with you, warrior." She offered her hand, smiling, then blushing, as Rayna took it in her own larger hand, lifting the appendage to her lips and kissing the back.
Rayna smiled and ducked her head shyly. "I would like that, Princess. Enjoy your reading."
Keera waved over at her mother, Karita nodding in acknowledgement. "Goodbye, Princess. Oh, and uhm...sorry about almost hitting you the other day."
Arcadia chuckled. "It's quite alright, Keera, no damage was done. Goodbye." The blonde watched as the two warriors retreated back into the trees, one tall and dark and powerful, the other slightly smaller and lighter, but just as powerful. I can see why so many girls fall for the warriors, the Princess thought as the two girls disappeared out of sight. I really have missed their company. Admittedly Rayna more than Keera, but then with one you get the other; the pair never far from each other's side. She thought back to the argument she'd had with her parents on the last day she had attended school with her best friend.
Arcadia walked through the large wooden doors that kept out everyone who wasn't permitted to enter. The two guards that had flanked her sides, watched on as the blonde ran for the beautifully carved doors of the stone Palace.
"Mummy? Mama? Where are you?" the small blonde called out.
Queen Athena appeared at the wide living room doorway. "What is wrong, love? Why are you shouting?" she asked in worry, glancing from her only child, to the guards.
Arcadia grinned. "I got to play after school with Rayna and Keera," she said excitedly, as she charged at her blonde mother. "Rayna was hanging upside down from a tree branch and I thought she was going to fall, but she didn't 'cause I told her to climb down."
Athena laughed as she scooped her bubbly daughter up into her arms. "Arcadia, slow down, darling!" the Queen said laughing.
"Where is mama? I have to tell her."
Athena let the Princess go and laughed as the small blonde raced into the large, beautifully designed living room.
"Mama! Mama! Mama!"
Dionis stood from her seat on the chair that a carpenter had made and called a couch, beautifully carved wood and stuffed with the softest of feathers, and lifted her small daughter high into the air. "Arcadia! Arcadia! Arcadia!" the dark-haired warrior laughed, spinning the blonde around.
"I was playing with Rayna and she was hanging from a tree branch upside down!"
"Really! Wow! You didn't do it, did you?" the warrior scowled.
Arcadia shook her head. "No. I was scared she was going to fall, so I told her to get down."
The blonde leaned in and whispered, "She is my best friend, I didn't want her getting hurt."
Dionis looked over at her wife as she walked in, a look passing between them.
"Why don't you sit down, love," Athena said to Arcadia, though she was looking at her wife.
The family sat down on the comfortable couch, Arcadia between her parents.
"I am glad you liked school, Arcadia. After the trouble we had getting you to go in the first place, I am glad you went and made some friends."
"I am glad too, mummy."
"Arcadia, you know you are the Princess, the only Princess, the next in line to rule the island?" Athena said.
The Princess nodded.
"Well, as Princess you don't pick a career like the other children, your path is already set."
Arcadia frowned. "I know all this, mummy, you told me before."
"Well, now your studies on becoming Queen and what it entails begin," Dionis said, taking over from her wife. "That means no more school, baby."
Arcadia jumped from her seat, spinning around to face her two mothers. "I have to go back! Rayna's there! She's my best friend, I can't leave!" she wailed.
"I understand, honey," Athena tried to soothe. "But this is the way it is. It is the way it was when I was growing up also."
"No! I don't want to stay home! What about Rayna, she won't understand if I just don't turn up!" Green eyes widened. "She'll...hate me!"
"No, Arcadia, she won't," Dionis soothed. "You will meet again one day."
"And she too will soon be busy with her own career," Athena explained.
"I hate you! I hate both of you!" The little girl ran from the room in tears.
Those first couple of days were hard, Arcadia thought as she looked back. But life went on. And hey, mama was right, we have met again. The Princess walked over to her now standing guards, ready to return to the Palace. This time nothing can keep us apart. Well, except I soon turn sixteen, which means I have to start the search for my life mate. And Rayna...Rayna will go off for a year to fight on a real battlefield.
"Are you ready to leave, Princess?" Karita Shepherd asked.
"Yes." Arcadia smiled. "Did you see your daughter, Karita? It seems she was paired with Rayna today."
Karita smiled. "I am proud of Keera, no matter what."
"That is good to hear."
"And besides, no one can top Rayna. She is set to become one of the very best."
Arcadia smiled. Yes, she is, she thought proudly. The Princess headed back towards the Palace, following Karita's path, Sarita Sexton, another Palace guard, following behind. I wonder if Keera is still madly in lust with cousin Leslie? Arcadia thought idly.
Reaching the impressive, solid walls of the Palace, Karita knocked and announced their return. One of the thick, dark wooden doors was opened by a guard inside, who quickly shut the door again once the trio were inside.
"Will you be leaving again, Princess?" Karita asked.
Arcadia frowned. "Uhmm? No, I don't think so, Karita."
Both guards smiled. "Have a good afternoon, Princess."
The blonde smiled. "Thank you. You too." Turning, Arcadia walked inside the large Palace that had always been her home.
As Princess, she had been, for the most part, cut off from the other children. This never really bothered her, though she had admittedly missed Rayna once they had been separated and on many occasions she had been lonely, but the Princess knew her role in life. She was the next in line, the next ruler of Belleza, and for this reason, she took the time to appreciate the guards around her, the guards who would lay down their lives to save hers. She took the time to wander the sprawling maze-like corridors of the impressive Palace she could call home, finding rooms and things that had been precious to her ancestors, that hadn't seen the light of day for many years.
Smiling, Arcadia thanked whoever may be listening, for the comfortable life she was able to live.
"Hello, darling," Athena greeted. "Did you have a good day?"
The Princess smiled at her blonde mother. "A better one than you, I am guessing. You look really worn out, mummy. Is everything all right?"
The Queen took her daughter's arm and led her towards Dionis' office, fairly certain that was where she could find her wife. "Your sixteenth birthday is fast approaching, Arcadia. The advisor's have been filling me in on plans for your special day."
The Princess rolled her eyes. "Does it have to be so public, mummy? Can't I just stay in bed for most of the day, then come down for a fancy dinner with you and mama?"
Athena laughed. "That sounds very nice, darling, but you know how it is. The women of our island like to show their respect, and of course it is a good reason for them to have a day off. Then of course we have family who have left the island coming back to celebrate also."
The two blondes walked into the large, darkly decorated office where Dionis could often be found working, usually on new security plans and other things concerning the safety of the island.
The dark-haired, ex-warrior looked up and smiled brightly. "My two favourite blondes in the whole world. To what do I owe the pleasure?" she asked as she dropped her quill.
Athena walked around the dark mahogany desk and took a seat on her wife's lap. "We were discussing Arcadia's birthday."
Dionis scowled. "Oh."
Athena smiled and kissed away the pout her wife suddenly wore. "I know you don't like the fact our little girl has almost grown up, but she has grown into a beautiful young lady, hasn't she?"
"Yes, but once she turns sixteen you know what that means."
Arcadia had taken a seat on one of the specially carved couches her mama had in the office. "I will be of courting age," she said.
"Exactly," Dionis said unhappily. "Arcadia will have to start her search for her...for her...."
Athena smiled and kissed her wife's temple. "You can say it, my love."
"I don't want to," the dark-haired woman pouted, making the Queen laugh.
"Mama, would you mind if I stayed in bed for most of my birthday? Then in the evening, I would come down and have a nice meal with you and mummy."
Dionis looked over at her lounging daughter. "Sounds like a plan. In fact, I will join you and we will both hide away from the world."
Athena rolled her eyes. "You two are terrible. Arcadia, there is no getting out of your very public party. We have to hold it so that potential suitors will be able to see just how much of a wo-..."
Dionis clamped a hand around her wife's mouth. "We know, love. You don't have to spell it out."
Arcadia stood, suddenly feeling blue and desperate to be alone for awhile. "Call me when dinner is ready," she called over her shoulder to her parents as she headed out of the room.
"It's not fair," Dionis said quietly, once they were alone. "I can still remember her first steps. The first time she called me mama..."
"I know, love," Athena soothed, hugging the dark-haired woman tightly. "But she will always be here at the Palace with us, 'tis not like she is going away, is it?"
"No," Dionis conceded. "But...she will be married and will perhaps have children of her own, and I will still have memories of her as a baby. It's just not right!"
Athena kissed Dionis again, this time claiming her lips in a deep, loving kiss. "Maybe I can take your mind off this for awhile, what do you think?"
Dionis smirked, knowing exactly what her blonde wife had in mind. "Mmm, you can try I suppose."
"Then try I shall. Take me to the Queen's bedchambers, warrior. Before my lover comes home and catches us," Athena joked.
"As you wish, my Queen."
* * * * *
Up her bedchambers, Arcadia decided to chase away thoughts of her being a grown up by reading some more of Ailis' diary. Finding the page she had been on before Rayna had shown up, the blonde settled onto one of the padded seats she had and began reading.
More good news! Many of the animals we brought over with us are now expecting! Callena had been keeping the males and females separate, but once we erected the pens she sorted out a system or a rotation plan, and started trying to get them to breed. Her plan has worked.
Marta has lived up to her name - Fisher. Whilst out strolling with Odele, they came across a lake. Marta spent the afternoon fishing and came back with a great haul. Fish will be a welcome change to our diet.
Our life is throwing many challenges our way, but Callena and I have slowly been setting basic rules in place, and life is getting a little easier."
Arcadia turned the page, finding Ailis had skipped a few years.
The Palace is finished!
Francis came by today and gave us the wonderful news. She took Callena and me to see it, to make sure we were happy with how it had turned out. Standing in front of the Palace, she told us nervously that we can always extend the building if we need more rooms. I told her to first concentrate on building homes for the other families - many are now tired of the simple huts they have been staying in.
The Palace is a spectacular stone building that is pleasing on the eye and fits comfortably in with the surroundings. There are battlements running along the top. Callena told me that was for if we are ever attacked, archers can shoot through the open sections at our enemy, then apparently hide behind the solid section for protection. Our new home looked very solid and impregnable, (unlike me, but more of that later!). Callena seemed very satisfied.
I congratulated Francis and her crew on a job well done, and informed them all that once they have built the homes for the others, I would throw a large extravagant party in celebration of their work, so we all have a chance to congratulate and thank them properly.
Ahh, yes, my other news. I am with child again! Once we got settled into our new life on the island and started forming a new society, I went to speak with the shaman. And, well, you know the rest! Callena is delighted, as is my precious baby girl, Abi. She cannot wait for a little brother or sister to play with, though she spends many a day in the company of Eleanor and the three Youngs girls."
Over the years, more women and families have arrived, our society growing. A simple way of life being had by all. Callena and I formed a senate, the original women who arrived with us being members.
Val is of course the head of the educating. She is pleased with the few teachers who have joined our home and who are now teaching our future generations, Val now oversees what gets taught, and spends her days noting all that has happened.
Marta is head of the farming community, that has gone from strength to strength. The fields that were set out to grow crops, vegetables, and to be pastures for the animals, are all doing well, and providing for all of us.
Tricia heads our religious section. She found God and had a church built for others to worship in. So as not to offend anyone, she also had a couple of temples erected for those who believe in other gods.
Francis, after suffering a career ending injury, heads our constructing section. She gives approval or not to all who want something built. She has also taken to teaching her skills to others, not wanting her knowledge to go to waste.
One of the first major decisions made by the senate was to banish Teresa. She became a real problem and was ruining our peaceful existence, making many miserable. We thought about it for a long time, not sure it was the right thing to do, afraid she would return to the main lands and bring back my father's people, but in the end we have done what is best for the rest of us.
I feel deeply sorry for her two girls. Dulce has followed her mother into the warrior life and appears to be not too bothered by the outcome. Callena put her in charge of the warriors, and works closely with her over the islands security.
Eleanor is a different matter. It seems the only time she smiles is when my darling Abi is around. The two spend hours together, talking, reading, learning new things. I am glad Abi is such a good friend to her. I remember when I was pregnant with her and Eleanor use to hug my stomach. I am sure they are bonded to each other. We shall see."
Arcadia smiled at her ancestor's thoughts, already knowing what happened at a later date.
"It was also decided, for good reason, that no man will be allowed to remain here from the age of ten. The men have left and taken sons who were old enough with them, starting up a small village back where we have left. This decision was reached after we had some trouble. A group of men formed a group who were opposed to women being in charge, and a few of the young girls are now with child after experimenting with some of the young boys. Their mothers are not happy to say the least!
It has been decided by the senate that everyone should have a career, one that they stick with for life, only changing if they marry someone from a different walk of life. We have had many women changing their trades every other day and it has become an annoyance to many of the women whose trade they have decided to copy!
At the age of ten, the children will be asked to pick their career.
They can become a warrior, spending years honing their skills, before going away for a year to fight on real battlefields with the men who have left us, learning from them and helping when needed. Upon their return, they could choose to become an elite warrior, whose duties included patrols of the dense forest that surrounds the island, and going away to fight whenever their help is requested. Or they could join the Queen's security and remain on the island at all times, protecting the Royal family.
Only the strongest, biggest, fearless, can become warriors. Each taught to never retreat. Never to surrender. Their initiation is to be sent out into the forest alone, with no weapon or supplies. Each girl has to use all her knowledge to survive for one moon. When she returns, she will be ready to become a warrior of Belleza.
All that is over my head, but was formed by Callena and Dulce.
They can choose to be an educator as a career. It involves spending their early life reading about the history of the island, reading about the outside world, then going on to become a teacher or historian, her job to teach the future generations about their past.
Teachers work in the small school, set subjects approved by the head of the section. Historians will spend days inside the temple where the sacred books are being stored, those brought with us early settlers, along with diaries from myself and the future Royals, and books full of heroic tales and family histories, noted by the historians.
They can chose to be a farmer. It is a hard life rearing cattle, sheep, or pigs. Or growing crops, wheat, barley, corn. Some may have small vegetables patches, others may have entire fields filled with a variety of vegetables, instead of having animals or crops.
Their partners and young children, if they have them, will usually be put in charge of working in family run food shops, trading their produce with other families and women on the island, as well as trading to the outside world we have left behind, but occasionally go back to.
A construction career will consist of helping to keep up the maintenance of buildings and homes, as well as helping to erect new ones. Francis thinks that designing will become a popular career for those who can draw. Thatchers, stone masons, and carpenters will, of course, never be short of work.
A blacksmith career involves making new swords, spears and shields for the warriors and Palace security, as well as looking after the horses on the island.
The final career choice is the religious life, serving in the island's churches, performing wedding ceremonies, or becoming an apprentice to the island's shaman, learning the ways of magic.
A good range of choice, if I do say so myself.
Oh, a short note - Hazel has given birth to twins! A boy and a girl, they are adorable!
And Marta is now a happily married woman, her wedding to Odele going off smoothly."
A knock on the solid wood door interrupted the Princess' reading. Arcadia looked up and smiled as Biana Plummers looked in. "Biana. How are you this fine day?"
The older woman smiled. "I think you mean evening, Princess, and I am well, thank you."
"Evening?" Arcadia questioned.
"Yes, Your Highness, it is now the eve, and why I have come to get you. Your mothers are waiting to have their evening meal with you."
The Princess stood and groaned as she stretched. "I didn't realise I had been reading so long! Would you tell my mothers I will be right down, I just have to freshen up a little."
Biana bowed. "Right away, Princess Arcadia."
Left alone, Arcadia put away the diary, finished for the day, and hurried to get herself presentable for dinner.
* * * * *
"So, what is going on with you and the Princess?" Bedilia asked, grinning at her friend's back. Keera and Leslie smiled.
Rayna turned from watering the small patch of vegetables her mother had. "What do you mean what's going on?"
"There is loads of gossip going around that you two are secretly seeing each other," Leslie informed the dark-haired girl.
The tall warrior growled. "Why can't people mind their own business!" She turned back to her task. "We're not seeing each other in that way. Keera nearly shot her with an arrow the other day..."
"You nearly hit my cousin!" Leslie shrieked, slapping her love's arm.
Keera scowled at Rayna. "The wind blew the arrow off its course. She wasn't hurt, I swear. Rayna, you big mouth!"
Rayna smirked. "Anyway, we got talking after I ran to see if she was all right."
"And you walked her home," Bedilia added. "You didn't have to do that."
"She didn't have her guards with her, she had slipped away form the Palace. What would you have done?"
Bedilia conceded Rayna's point. "True. But then, what about today?"
Rayna looked at the three girls who stared at her awaiting her answer, and rolled her eyes. "Again, that is Keera's fault."
Leslie scowled at her girlfriend.
"Today in training we were testing our tracking skills and Keera decided to hide in a tree near the Princess."
"You never mentioned that!" Leslie scolded. "The way you told it, made it sound like they've been sneaking around meeting up!"
"Yes, well, made it interesting, didn't it?" Keera grinned. "Anyway, how was your day, Leslie, my love?"
"Okay. I went to speak to Yolanda Sexton, about her work. She has some interesting ideas on how to progress the island."
"Like what?" Rayna asked, frowning.
"Her and her fellow workers want to find ways to help women conceive, and improve medical treatments," Leslie explained.
"Doesn't the shaman deal with all that?" Keera asked in confusion. "If you want to be blessed with children, you go and see the shaman. Same if you're feeling unwell."
"Yes, but she uses magic, perhaps black magic to aid us. The women want to find another way." Leslie looked at the three unconvinced warriors and scowled. "You'll see, they will do great things and in a few years, people won't believe what we used to resort to."
"Girls," Mariah called out, leaving the Banks's house with her wife and youngest daughter, Leala. "It is time to head to the large hall for dinner. Rayna, go and get cleaned up."
"Yes, mother. I'll see you there, girls."
The three girls walked after Rayna's family, leaving their friend to head inside to wash up.
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