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

Chapter Four

As soon as the sun started to rise on what was to be a glorious Friday, the Queen's public relations committee started putting up banners wishing the Princess a happy birthday. Others cleaned up the general area. Everything had to be perfect.

Two nights previous, the male members of the Royal family, the Queen mother's siblings and their families, arrived from Britannia. A celebration had been held to honour their return home.

Arcadia slowly walked downstairs, a grumpy expression on her face, as she tried to rub her eyes without falling over. Reaching the ground floor, she squealed as someone lifted her up in strong arms and spun her around.

"Happy birthday, Princess!" Cornelius greeted.

Arcadia squeezed the big man's neck. "Thank you, great uncle," the blonde said, kissing the man's cheek.

The blonde-haired man put the Princess down. "You're up very early?"

"Mother just woke me with a rousing version of happy birthday singing!"

Cornelius laughed. "Never mind. You can sleep in some other morn. Come," he wrapped a big arm around her shoulders. "Come and dine with your uncles and cousins." Cornelius was Aaronia's big brother, the first of six children born to Agnes and Eros.

He ruled over the village in Britannia that his father had lived in and fought for. Men and women who had left Belleza usually headed there, and a close knit community had formed. From time to time, they called on the warriors of Belleza for help, but not very often, as they had fighters of their own.

Arcadia followed Cornelius towards the dining area, already hearing the loud voices of her extended family, as they boisterously argued with each other over the table.

* * * * *

The women who lived on Belleza arrived in the middle of the island, where a large wooden stage had been erected years before to host Royal weddings, graduations, and public events. Families started arranging tables around the wooden platform, tables that would hold food, desserts, and drinks, as well as things to trade for, like pots, jewellery, and things that had been bought back by travellers to the outside world.

Rayna arrived with her family, grumbling about the early hour on her one day of rest. As soon as her parents managed to set up their table, the warrior put down the baskets of cabbage and green beans she had been holding. "I'm going to go and look for Keera and Bedilia," she told her mothers.

"Okay, love. Check back here every once in awhile, won't you," Mariah said to her eldest child.

"Yes, mother. Bye." The dark-haired warrior started walking, taking a peek at all the tables she passed, seeing what food and which drinks were being set up. She mainly saw already cooked food, like chicken thighs and wings. They were cooked the night before, now ready for when people started to get hungry. The pots and cutlery didn't interest her, but she did pause at the jewellery tables a moment. She was seeking a treasure for the blonde Princess, although unsure of her reasons though.

Many of the farming families had built small fires, ready to cook steaks and pork meat. For dessert, there were different cakes of all shapes and sizes, pies of all flavours, and different biscuits and breads. To drink, there was grape juice, goats milk, cows milk, wine or sweet cider.

"Hello, Rayna. How are you?" Gaylene Orchard asked, as the teen stopped at her table.

Gaylene Orchard's family owned a large plot of land that grew different varieties of apple trees. When she had married her partner Ida, they had been gifted a small plot of their own and continued the family tradition of growing apples as well as starting to grow olive trees.

"I'm fine, thank you, Mrs. Orchard. Yourself?"

The older woman smiled. "I'm all right, thank you."

"Is Bedilia around somewhere?" Rayna asked, picking up a lush green apple from one of the baskets.

"Yes, somewhere. She wandered off with Keera."

"Okay, thank you." Rayna started to move away.

"If you find her, Rayna," Gaylene called out. "Tell her that her mother needs help with the fire."

Rayna smiled as she looked back at Ida Orchard wrestling with a couple of sticks she had gathered for her fire. "Okay, Mrs. Orchard." Continuing on, Rayna was stopped again and again either by women wanting to congratulate her on her training, women giving her their best wishes, or by a few of the young women approaching courting age, who blushed and giggled as they spoke and flirted with her.

The warrior spotted Keera leaning up against a tree, passionately kissing a familiar looking redhead and decided not to disturb her. The dark-haired teen found Bedilia helping one of the women on the public relations committee to hang up a banner.

"Hello, Bedilia," Rayna greeted.

"Hello, Rayna."

Rayna had known Bedilia all her life. Keera, Bedilia and herself were inseparable and had been since they learned to walk, always managing to get themselves into mischief as they grew up. Bedilia had also opted for the warrior's way of life and was definitely built for it. With a large frame and rippling muscles, she was a force to be reckoned with.

"Your mother needs help with her fire," Rayna informed her friend.

The raven-haired woman looked down at Rayna from where she stood high up on a ladder and rolled her brown eyes. "Help me here, then I'll head back." Bedilia climbed down the ladder she was on and moved aside. The two warriors were similar in looks and could have passed for sisters, the only real difference was their different eye colours. Bedilia's eyes were steely grey, while Rayna's were baby blue.

"Is that Leslie Youngs Keera is getting all hot and passionate with?" Rayna asked as she climbed up the ladder.

"Yes, who else. Did you know she wants to help the shaman? Apparently the shaman is going all..." Bedilia frowned, searching for the word she had heard. "Scientific."


Bedilia shrugged. "Don't know, I heard someone say that. Some of the new settlers to the island were talking of the Romans and it's something to do with them."

"Neither of them are of courting age," Rayna mentioned of their friends.

Bedilia smiled. "Yes, but they've only had eyes for each other since forever. Everyone knows those two are destined to be together."

Rayna finished tying the banner to a light post and climbed down. "You know Arcadia's going to hate all this."

Bedilia laughed as Jada, a blonde woman who worked for the Queen, scowled.

"Why would the Princess hate this?" the blonde asked. "Everyone is going to a lot of trouble to wish her happy birthday. We're all joining her in celebration."

"She doesn't like a fuss," Rayna replied. "I bet you she would rather stay home and be with her family."

"You're right, of course," the birthday girl said from behind the trio. "Uncanny how you know me so well."

All three women turned to look at the Princess in surprise.

"Princess! What are you doing here?" Bedilia spluttered.

Arcadia smiled fondly at the tall girl. "You do know it is my birthday, Bedilia Orchard?"

"Yes! Right. Of course," Bedilia nodded, cheeks burning in embarrassment. "What I meant was you are here very early, considering it is your birthday."

"I was woken up early by my mother," Arcadia laughed, green eyes looking to Rayna. "I think she is more excited than I am." The Princess looked back at Bedilia. "It is good to see you again, Bedilia. You have changed so much!"

The raven-haired teen grinned. "It is all the training."

"Princess," the committee worker broke in. "This was suppose to be a surprise!"

"It's okay, Jada. I knew something was going to be done to mark this occasion. You only turn sixteen once, after all." The Princess turned her attention back to the two tall warriors. "I'm surprised you two got roped into helping with setting up decorations?"

"My parents dragged me down here," Bedilia confessed. "Jada here asked for my help as I was walking around."

Arcadia nodded and turned amused green eyes on Rayna, a blonde eyebrow lifting.

"My parents dragged me out of bed, claiming they wouldn't get a good spot if we left late." Blue eyes remained locked on green, a smile dancing along the warrior's lips.

"I should uhh...I should get back to my mother," Bedilia said, breaking the spell between Rayna and the Princess. "She will probably still need help with that fire."

Rayna looked at her friend, blinking a few times as her words finally got through. "Right. I'll catch up with you later."

Bedilia smiled knowingly and walked off, leaving Rayna and Arcadia staring at each other again, with Jada left feeling like she was intruding.

"I should go as well," Arcadia said finally. "The whole Royal family is due to start arriving, cousins and even uncles!"

"Oh, right. Okay." Rayna smiled brightly. "Maybe I will see you around?"

The Princess returned the smile. "Hopefully." With a wave, she turned around and walked away, feeling blue eyes following her. Taking a deep breath, Arcadia headed towards the stage, resisting the urge to look back at Rayna.

As she approached the large wooden stage, Arcadia smiled as her grandmother, Aaronia, spotted her and waved.

"My granddaughter is sixteen summers old!" the elder Royal exclaimed, as Arcadia made her way up the steps and onto the stage. Aaronia took the Princess into her arms. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."

"Thank you, grandma."

Aaronia was the first daughter born to Agnes and Eros. Born in Britannia, she had been brought up being told by her mother that she was special and the future Queen of a distant island. Agnes informed her young red-haired daughter of her former home, describing it in vivid detail for the young girl to imagine, and telling her what her future role meant. At the young age of ten, leaving behind her family and the home she had always known, Aaronia had travelled to Belleza, ready to be taught all she needed to know to become the next Queen.

The elder Royal pulled back slightly, holding the blonde by her shoulders, a tiny frown on her brow. "You are here very early, Arcadia. I would have thought you would like a bit of a lie-in?"

Arcadia rolled her eyes. "That was my plan, but mummy burst into my room singing happy birthday. After that I couldn't get back to sleep."

"So you came down here and with at least one guard, I see."

The Princess looked over her shoulder to the guard standing alert at the bottom of the steps. "Yes. I thought I would be sensible."

"Good girl."

"I had breakfast with the uncles and cousins," Arcadia said. "They were telling me some interesting things about life back in Britannia."

A horn sounded before Aaronia could comment, announcing the Royal family were on their way from the Palace.

Aaronia and Arcadia turned to look towards the path that led to and from the Palace, seeing Athena and Dionis arm in arm, heading towards what was known as the centre square. The rest of the large Royal family walked slowly behind them, along with the Royal guards.

"It always amazes me," Aaronia murmured.

The Princess looked at her grandmother, frowning. "What?"

"The love between them, it seems to burn stronger and stronger as the years go by." The greying redhead glanced at her granddaughter. "When they met, they would look into each other's eyes and be lost. It was like...the whole world disappeared." Aaronia smiled at the memory of her young daughter. "If you were standing nearby you felt like you were intruding on something very precious." The elder Royal looked back towards the approaching couple. "I knew as soon as my daughter introduce Dionis to me, that they would be together until the end of time."

Arcadia looked in wonder at her parents, really appreciating for the first time the love between them. "Do you think I will find a love like that?" she asked quietly.

Aaronia smiled lovingly at her granddaughter. "Of course. Nothing on earth can keep true soul mates apart. If she is on this island, you will find each other. Or of course him. Your great grandmother Agnes, my mother, married a man and had six children."

Arcadia's green eyes widened in surprise. "Really?"

"You haven't gotten to her diary in your studies?"

The Princess shook her head. "Not yet. I'm about to start Abi's diary right now, then it is onto Abrona's diary."

"Oh, tragic!" Aaronia exclaimed. "I won't say a word. It's your birthday and it is much to sad to relay today."

Athena led Dionis onto the stage, smiling at her mother and her daughter. "Hello, mummy," the Queen greeted.

Aaronia smiled and kissed her eldest daughter hello. "Hello, darling." She moved to Dionis, kissing her as well. "Hello, Dionis. How are you holding up?" she asked, knowing the dark-haired woman was like her own wife, and struggling to accept the fact that her daughter had grown up.

"I'll get over it, Aaronia." Dionis leaned a little closer to her mother-in-law. "Mina got over it, right?"

Aaronia laughed and rubbed the bigger woman's arm in sympathy.

"Where is grams?" Arcadia asked, looking around the stage and not spotting her other grandmother.

Aaronia waved a hand in the air. "Who knows! I left her talking about how to make a good fire with a couple of the women." She rolled her eyes.

"I'm here, I'm here," Mina said from behind Dionis.

"Grams," Arcadia shrieked, flinging herself at the blonde.

"Hello, sweet pea. Happy birthday."

"Where is Rosana?" Athena asked of her younger sister.

"She is out in the crowd with Endora and the children," Mina replied, having seen her youngest daughter and her family as she wandered around.

"Right, now that everyone is here, I will make a quick speech," Athena said. "Then we can start celebrating properly." The Queen wrapped her arm around her daughter's shoulders and led her to the front of the stage. "Women of Belleza," she said loud and clear, watching as all the families packed into the square turned in her direction. "Today, we have gathered together to celebrate my baby's sixteenth birthday. Some of you have children who have already reached this milestone, some of you are yet to experience it. Take it from me ladies, it is so hard!"

Some of the women laughed and nodded in agreement.

"But, you might agree with me here, Arcadia has grown up to be a beautiful young woman. A woman who whilst still learning the ways of life, now has to also learn what comes with running this island, what is best for all of you, our people, and that sometimes tough choices have to be made." Athena looked proudly at her daughter. "I am confident she has what it takes to not only keep us living this great life we have, but to help improve it as well."

The crowd clapped and shouted out their approval.

Athena looked back out at the crowd. "Arcadia will be our next Queen, but that won't be for awhile yet. She is young, but then so am I," she paused as the women laughed again. "Our future is looking bright and it is in good hands. Now, let's celebrate."

That got another round of applause and a loud cheer. Then everyone turned back to what they had been doing - organising food, chatting and setting up their tables. A group of girls started playing music on wooden instruments they had learned to play.

Athena hugged Arcadia. "Enjoy this, baby. We will celebrate privately later on."

"Thank you, mummy, for what you said." The Princess wiped away an unshed tear.

"I meant every word, honey." The Queen kissed Arcadia's blonde head. "If you wander off, make sure you take a guard with you." Athena winked, then turned to talk to visiting family.

Arcadia strolled slowly past each table, talking a little with each woman she came across. Potential suitors approached now and then, wishing her a happy birthday and offering gifts, hoping to get noticed.

Hearing a commotion up ahead of her, Arcadia headed towards the din, only for Leonora to step in front of her.

"Princess, I think it would be wiser to go elsewhere," the brunette guard said softly.

The Princess was about to reluctantly agree, when she heard Rayna's voice clearly.

"You better take that back, before I rearrange your face!" Rayna bellowed angrily.

Arcadia stepped quickly around her concerned guard and hurried over, watching helplessly as a swarm of guards surrounded the dark-haired warrior. As they took hold of Rayna's arms and started to lead her away, the Princess stepped forward. "Let go of her!" she demanded.

The guards stopped in surprise, but didn't release the teen.

"I'm sorry, Princess Arcadia," Sarita Sexton said, bowing her head in respect. "We are under strict orders from your mother. You will have to go to her."

Arcadia watched helplessly as the guards started off again, then turned and hurried back to her family. "Mama!" she called out to Dionis as she got near to the stage.

Dionis turned to look at her scowling daughter, watching as she put down numerous flowers and other tokens of affection. My daughter is popular it would seem, she thought, smiling. So she should be, she is truly beautiful.

"The guards took Rayna away even though I asked them to release her," the scowling Princess explained.

"They are under my orders to make sure today stays peaceful. What was Rayna doing?"

"Arguing with another girl." The blonde wrapped her arms around her dark-haired mother. "Can you have her released?"

"She was disturbing the peace, Arcadia. The guards did their job."

"But, mama!" Arcadia protested, putting on her best pout. "It is my birthday and Rayna is my friend."

Oh, no, not the pout! Sighing, Dionis knew she wasn't going to win this argument. She looked over at Lorenza, one of the guards standing nearby. "Lorenza, can you go with my daughter to the holding cells and tell Sarita I want Rayna Banks released."

"Yes, Your Highness," the guard nodded.

"Thank you, mama," the Princess smiled, kissing her mother's cheek before turning away. Arcadia rushed down the steps, hurrying off of the stage and walked briskly towards the holding cells, not waiting for her guard or Lorenza. Women with gifts for the blonde thrust them at her as she hurtled past, but all were left wondering what the emergency was.

While Lorenza talked to Sarita, Arcadia wandered over to where Rayna was being held. The small cells were only big enough for one, and were simply made out of strong bamboo poles that were embedded deep into the ground.

The dark-haired girl was sitting on the grass with her back to the bars, staring off into the forest. "Rayna," the blonde said quietly.

The warrior glanced over her shoulder, seeing the Princess standing in front of her small cell holding flowers, a plate with different slices of cakes on it, and a number of dolls and pots. "I don't want to buy anything today, thank you," she joked.

Arcadia laughed, knowing that Rayna wasn't in too much of a bad mood. "Be nice, or I won't get you out of here."

A dark eyebrow lifted. "You can do that?"

"I got my mama to let you out of here," the blonde admitted.

"Thank you." The warrior stood, stretching under an appreciative gaze.

"Can you uhh..." Arcadia licked her suddenly dry lips. "Can you tell me why you were arguing with that other girl?"

Rayna shifted nervously, a slight frown forming on her brow. "It doesn't matter," she mumbled.

The Princess moved closer to the bars. "It does. I know you, Rayna. You don't lose your temper without good reason."

The warrior gripped the wooden bars in front of her. "How would you know?" she growled, suddenly angry. "We were friends when we were children! A lot can change, Princess."

"Yes," Arcadia acquiesced, ignoring the stab of hurt she felt at the words. "But, I don't think you have." She stroked the fingers curled tightly around the wooden bars. "You are a warrior, Rayna. Warriors are trained to keep their heads, I know that much at least."

The warrior stared deeply into concerned green eyes. How is it she can always reach me? she wondered. She watched as the tip of a pink tongue darted out and ran slowly along a supple bottom lip. "She insulted you," she said quietly, blue eyes still locked on the soft lips.

Arcadia's eyes widened. She was defending me? "You...you were defending me?"

"I guess."

Lorenza approached the two teens, knowing she was interrupting something. She stopped next to Arcadia and smirked in at Rayna. "Ready to get out of there?"

"What do you think?" Rayna replied, scowling.

The guard unlocked the door and stood aside as the tall teen stepped out. "Stay out of trouble," she called out, as the warrior walked away.

Arcadia followed after the warrior, unsure what to say to her silent friend.

Rayna stopped suddenly and turned around to look at the blonde. "Do you want me to help you with some of that?" she asked, pointing at the gifts in Arcadia's arms.

The Princess smiled. "Thank you, that would be great." She handed over the dolls and pots, keeping hold of the flowers and the plate of cake slices. "Would you like a slice of cake?" she asked, looking down at the small mountain she had.

"Uhmm," Rayna looked down at her now full arms. "No."

Seeing the warrior's dilemma, the blonde took hold of her elbow and led her away from the crowds to the edge of the forest. She took a seat on the soft grass, waiting until Rayna sat down next to her, placing the gifts between them. Smiling, Arcadia offered Rayna the plate, knowing exactly what slice the dark-haired girl would take.

Rayna took the one made from apricots, smiling in delight as she took her first bite. "I love these."

"I know," Arcadia replied, taking a bite out of a golden brown biscuit.

They sat in a comfortable silence, both enjoying their treat and the nice weather. Leonora, Arcadia's personal guard for the day, stood a fair distance away, giving the girls their privacy.

Rayna finished first, licking each of her sticky fingers, as she glanced around.

Arcadia watched closely as each digit disappeared inside the warm mouth, before sliding slowly back out.

"Princess?" Rayna said, seeing a strange look on the blonde's face. "Arcadia, are you all right?" she asked in concern.

The Princess blinked rapidly, her steamy thoughts of the warrior disappearing. "What?"

"I asked if you were all right?"

Arcadia smiled, a blush rising to her cheeks. "I'm fine, just fine, thank you."

Rayna laughed at the blonde's strange behaviour. "Okay." She stood up, bending to pick up the gifts she had put down. "I should get back to my parents. My mother asked me to stop by now and then."

"Oh, right." Arcadia stood up as well. "Mind if I walk with you?"

Rayna smiled. "I've got half your gifts. I kind of figured you would follow."

As they walked, they talked easily about everything, falling easily back into their comfortable friendship. Though they were of course older, they were still both at ease in the other's company. Rayna pointed out women she knew, offering tales involving each family, like the time the Waterman family had made a fire too close to the washing line, and set their washing alight. Arcadia listened carefully to every word, taking it all in and loving Rayna's voice.

The Princess pulled the tall warrior to a stop at a table full of books. The two women standing behind it smiled and wished the Princess a happy birthday.

Rayna watched as the blonde interacted with the two women, how friendly she was and how she listened to what they said, and how she didn't act like she was better than them. Seeing Arcadia take a fancy to a certain book, Rayna quickly bought it for her, telling her it was a gift on her special day.

The two women gave the Princess another and waved as the two girls walked away, quickly discussing in hushed tones how good the young couple looked together.

Finding an empty bench, the two teens sat down, silently watching the women of Belleza celebrating the Princess' birthday.

"Thank you for the book," Arcadia said quietly, tracing the front cover delicately with a finger.

"You are very welcome, Princess. I know you love to read, and hey, it is better than the first gift I ever gave you," Rayna laughed. Though I liked it, she thought, thinking back to their first and only kiss.

Arcadia looked into blue eyes. I don't know about that. The blonde opened her mouth to respond, when someone called out to her.

"Princess Arcadia!"

The blonde looked away from intense blue eyes and over to whoever was calling for her attention. She frowned when she saw it was Lexie Sheehan, daughter of her mother's head adviser. "What does she want?" she muttered.

The good-looking girl smiled confidently down at the Princess, as she came to a stop in front of her. "I have been looking everywhere for you."

"Really, Lexie? Why is that?" Arcadia asked suspiciously.

The brunette smiled again. "Just wanted to talk. You know now we are sixteen, you are of courting age."

Arcadia fought the urge to roll her eyes. Oh, Gods, please don't let her ask me out! I know her mother is very important to my mother, but that doesn't mean we would make a good couple. Even if everyone says it would be a good idea, the Princess thought.

"Well," Lexie continued. "You know how everyone at the Palace says we would make a great couple, what with you being the next Queen and myself learning about being an adviser from my mother. We would be a very powerful couple."

Rayna stood suddenly, a surge of jealousy rolling through her. "I have to get going, Princess. Again, happy birthday, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day." She walked off before the blonde could reply.

Of course she would date someone like Lexie Sheehan. She is the Princess and Lexie is close to her family. Her mother is the Queen's head adviser, for Gods sake! Rayna frowned. But she is such a bitch though! Arcadia is nothing like that. She is kind, and caring, and sweet. The warrior sighed. What do I care, I'll probably end up guarding her in the future. I have no need to take an interest in who she ends up marrying.

Arcadia watched her dark-haired friend walk away, wishing she could get up and go after her. Sighing in defeat as she realised Lexie would only follow her, she turned her attention back to the brunette.

"We would have gorgeous children as well, and that is very important, don't you think? The women don't want to be ruled by ugly people."

The Princess stood up, ready to scream at the self-involved woman. "I have to get back to my family, Lexie," she said instead, picking up her many gifts. "Maybe we can discuss this some other time."

Lexie blinked in surprise at being cut off. "Oh. Okay then. I will see you around the Palace I'm sure, Princess."

Arcadia walked away, heading for the stage. Not if I can successfully avoid you, she thought. Maybe if I set up a quick date with someone, Lexie will back off? The blonde smiled. Never know until we try.

Later that night, Arcadia lay on her stomach on her specially made bed. Like all the other beds in the Palace, it was carved out of the best wood and the mattress filled with the finest of feathers, making it soft and exquisite to sleep on.

After celebrating with the women of the island all day, the evening had been spent with her family. Her uncles and cousins were due to leave soon and were eager to catch up and celebrate while they could. The party was still going on downstairs, but Arcadia had desperately wanted some alone time.

In front of her, the Princess had open Abi's diary, eager to finish it so she could move onto the next. From what her grandmother had said earlier, or rather, hadn't said, her family seemed to be incredibly interesting.

"Dear Diary,

I have fallen in love!

She is amazing! She is so...kind, and caring, and funny. She really makes me laugh and I always seem to learn something new when I spend time with her, like the time she taught me about the different birds in our very own forest. And to fish! She taught me how to cast my line and I actually caught a fish!

The other day, we sat down on the beach, away and out of sight from everyone. It was a beautiful day, the sky was clear blue and there was a slight sea breeze to keep us cool. We talked about everything! Our dreams, our fears, what we love and hate about the island. There is one problem though - I love Eleanor Black.

She is scared about the reaction my parents will have to the news of our love, and I have to admit, I am scared also. After all the trouble Eleanor's mother caused and then to get banished!

But none of that was to do with us, so surely they will be happy for us, right?

Well, I love her and I won't lose her, so I don't care what they say because I won't give her up!!!

Anyway, mummy is more concerned about a possible attack on our island. Once every six months, she sends a ship back to where she escaped from. Scouts go to see what has changed and to trade some of our goods for other things. The trip back in the Summer, brought back four horses and a couple of crates of steel - out of which we can apparently now make ourselves weapons and armour.

But, back to the point - this trip just gone, the scouts discovered that mummy's father, the war-lord, has had his army out searching for her. Plus, he has paid barbarians and mercenaries to search for us.

Mummy is worried and even mami is concerned, especially because of the banished Teresa! They fear that she could lead them to us.

My darling baby sister, Marcella, has broken her arm! She took a tumble down the steps and scared everyone to death by screeching so loudly in pain. The shaman tended to her and said she will be fine. Her arm is splinted and there should be no permanent damage.

I have to go, my candle is about to die on me, but more tomorrow."

Arcadia set the diary down. Reading about new love had set her thoughts on Rayna. I feel something for her, I'm sure. But does she feel anything for me? I still don't know if she is seeing anyone, I...I can't get up the courage to ask.

The Princess nibbled on her top lip, something she did when she was thinking. Perhaps I should slip out now and go see her? She disappeared this afternoon hastily, and I didn't see her again.

With a plan in mind, Arcadia stood from the bed and crossed to the mirror she had up on one wall, wanting to look presentable. I shall go and ask why she hurried away so quickly. And perhaps I'll even ask if she is seeing anyone, not that it's anything to do with me. She frowned. Will it look strange that I am enquiring? Perhaps it will give away that I may be interested? The blonde walked over to the door. Perhaps I'll steer well away from the topic.

* * * * *

Rayna walked around the large field, checking the fences for any damage. It was dark out and she couldn't see without the aid of a small lantern, but she knew the fences were fine. They had only been checked a few days previous, in truth, she had just wanted some time alone and used this as her excuse.

Would Arcadia date Lexie? Would she actually marry that fool? She shook her dark head. It shouldn't bother me so much! Who the Princess dates or marries is nothing to do with me. Though...I do want her happy. She is my...friend after all. Noticing a broken beam, Rayna crouched and shone her lantern closer to the damage. That can be fixed tomorrow. The warrior stood and continued on. Perhaps, as a friend, I can mention that Lexie is completely wrong for her? Rayna frowned. But would that look like I had an interest in matters? Would she become suspicious of my motives?

"Hello, warrior."

Rayna shrieked and spun around, blue eyes wide. "Princess! You...you scared the life out of me!"

Arcadia bent over in laughter, having never seen a funnier sight. "Oh, Rayna! How funny!"

The warrior scowled. "I would appreciate it if you don't mention this to anyone," she said in a low, tight voice.

Arcadia shook her head. "I won't, I promise."

Rayna relaxed her stance. "What are you doing here, Cadie?"

The Princess smiled at the shortened use of her name, something only Rayna had ever done. "I uhm...I wanted to come and scold you."

"Scold me? For what?"

"This afternoon you left me in the company of Lexie Sheehan!"

Rayna frowned. "I...I thought perhaps you wanted to talk to her."

"I was talking to you, and besides, you know I can't stand her!" Arcadia smiled as she moved closer to the warrior.

"I used to know that. Six years have passed by, Princess. I can't be sure of anything," Rayna said quietly.

Arcadia reached out and rubbed the nearest arm. "You can be sure that I haven't changed all that much. I still dislike Lexie, I still don't want you climbing trees, or swinging upside down on the branches," she paused as they both laughed. "And I still want to be your friend...if you're interested?"

Rayna smiled. "Very interested, if you think you can put up with me."

Arcadia smiled. "I know I can. I was thinking that perhaps we could meet up in the forest in the afternoons," the Princess suggested. "Talk about our school days, our lives now, get to know each other again?"

"Sounds like a good idea. I'll even walk you home so you get there safely."

Arcadia grinned. "I do have guards, warrior."

"Yes, but you have a habit of escaping them," the dark-haired girl retorted. "Where are they this evening?"

The blonde's head fell to hide her blush. "Probably back at the Palace."

Rayna laughed. "I see. How about I walk you back? We can start this talking thing you were talking about."

"You do realise you have to talk as well, Rayna? I know how little you used to say, and I don't want this to be one sided."

"That depends," the warrior laughed.


"Are you going to let me get a word in?"

The Princess slapped the warrior's arm. "I don't talk that much!" She laughed. "Well...not all the time." Laughing along with Rayna, the two girls started back up towards Rayna's house.

* * * * *

Back in the Palace without anyone knowing she had slipped out, Arcadia made her way up to her bedchambers, the day catching up with her.

With heavy eyes, she undressed, slipping into her nightgown. Smiling as she thought of Rayna, she pulled back her soft covers and climbed into the inviting bed.

She sighed in contentment as she buried herself into the comfortable feathers, her head on her soft pillows. I had a good birthday. It wasn't too bad. I got to spend some more time with Rayna. I caught up with the cousins and my uncles. Now, I am officially of courting age and girls will start chasing after me! What a life I live and I hope it will only get better. The blonde drifted to sleep with thoughts of a certain dark-haired warrior on her mind.

Chapter Five

The warriors all stood in a large circle around their teacher, Zamira Wood, in the middle of a clearing in the forest.

"Today you will be going up against each other with your swords," the well-built teacher said loudly so all her students could hear. She waited for the excited cheers to die down. "At the beginning of each round, the tip of your sword will be dipped into your teams colour. The round will end once one of you has ten slashes of berry juice on you."

The warriors nodded their understanding, suddenly eyeing each other up.

"Okay, Bedilia Orchard and Mallory Waterman, you're up first."

The two warriors-in-training moved into the middle of the circle and faced each other after dipping the tips of their weapons in the berry juice of their team.

"Remember, ladies," Zamira said, taking a position on the sideline. "The first to impose ten nicks wins."

"I fight better with a battleaxe," Bedilia protested, setting her feet.

The teacher smiled at her scowling student. "You should learn how to use every weapon available, Bedilia. You never know what is going to happen out on the battlefield. You could lose your favourite weapon. Then what?"

"Oh, all right, we'll do it your way."

Chuckling, Zamira sounded the gong and the fight began.

Rayna watched the two teens closely, studying Mallory's footwork and her grip on her sword. Each warrior had a specially made sword, the right weight and design for them. Bedilia is a more competent fighter, she thought, after a few moments. The dark-haired warrior clapped along with the rest of her team as Bedilia got in a few nicks in quick succession.

Keera stealthily made her way next to her taller friend, clapping and cheering along with everyone else, though she wasn't paying attention to the fight. "Did you hear about the Princess?" she asked quietly enough so she wasn't heard by their teacher.

"What about her?" Rayna mumbled, eyes never leaving the fight.

"There is a rumour going around that she is seeing Lexie Sheehan."

Rayna frowned down at her friend. That can't be right. She told me the other night she didn't like Lexie? Perhaps she was pressed into dating Lexie? "So? She is of courting age, they go around in similar circles. I'm not surprised they got together."

"You're wrong," Destiny Atwell, a small but strong blonde, interrupted. "I heard she was going around with one of the religious girls."

"What does it matter?" Rayna asked, her attention back on the fight. "Who she sees is nothing to do with us. Our duty is to protect the island."

The other two warriors looked at her.

"Since you two met up again you've gotten together in the forest almost every day. And I know for sure you walk her home. Hasn't she said anything?" Keera asked.


"Aren't you a little curious as to who the Princess will end up marrying?" Destiny asked. "People are putting down bets on who it will be. I've got a bet that she marries the Reeder girl, seeing how their families go way back to the very beginning."

Keera looked at her friend closely, eager to hear her answer. She knew the bond her tall friend had with the blonde Princess.

Blue eyes flicked briefly to each girl, before darting back to the fight. "No. We both have our paths. Mine is to be the best warrior on Belleza, Arcadia's is to be the next Queen. We're on completely different paths." She folded her arms defiantly.

"You never know old friend," Keera said. "Maybe your paths will cross somewhere up ahead." She slipped away.

* * * * *

Rayna was dueling with Ralphina Theccan, a warrior slightly taller than her own five foot nine. Whilst her opponent had the height advantage, Rayna was stronger and more skilled.

Better to be the hunter, than the hunted, she thought. Unless your opponent is bigger and stronger. Then, start on the defensive until you wear them down, she heard Zamira's voice teaching her.

The clang of the swords meeting seemed to echo off of the surrounding trees. Their panting breaths sounding harsher the longer the fight went on. The crowd around them cheered and clapped, calling out their approval and appreciation.

For Rayna, everything disappeared. The only thing that mattered was her opponent, who at this moment was getting more tired and breathing even harder the longer their battle went on. The dark-haired warrior was breathing a little heavily herself and her forehead was dotted with perspiration, but she was still calm and in control, and hadn't yet been marked. Her opponent looked like an artist's canvass.

As the gong sounded, indicating Rayna had hit her mark ten times, a loud cheer went up from her team. The warrior remained undefeated.

Keera and Bedilia walked over to their friend's side as she sheathed her sword and shook Ralphina's hand.

"Still undefeated, Rayna," Keera congratulated, clapping and smiling gleefully.

"And not a mark on you," Bedilia added, smacking her friend on the back. "You were...."

"Sloppy," Zamira scolded from behind them. She shooed away Keera and Bedilia, then turned back to her best student. "You were distracted."

The dark-haired warrior frowned. "I was not. When?"

"When a certain young blonde turned up," Zamira laughed, and then again harder as Rayna blushed. She wrapped a muscular arm around the younger woman's shoulders. "She is of courting age now. As are you. Why don't you ask her out?"

Rayna gaped at her teacher. "I can't!" she sputtered. "She's...she is a Princess! The Princess! Set to take over from her mother and be our next Queen!" The warrior shook her head. "I am just a warrior. I am...unworthy."

"Are you forgetting that the Queen's wife was once a warrior?"

"Dionis wasn't just a warrior, she was and still is the greatest warrior this island has ever had."

Zamira shook her head. "Did you know Dionis had to work twice as hard as everyone in her class? Dionis stayed behind many a day to improve her skills. She worked hard to be top of the class." Zamira smiled, grey eyes sparkling. "Dionis ended her career the best, but it took a lot of hard work to get that credit."

"She was and is the best. That is what matters," Rayna responded. "She came from a good family also. The Queen's mother was happy to accept her. I am from a farming family, no matter what greatness I achieve that will always be remembered."

Zamira smiled again. "This all comes naturally to you, Rayna. You have a gift, one which by the time I am done with you, and the other teachers are done with you, you'll go down in our history as the greatest. Not too many mothers would be disappointed in you joining the family."

Rayna looked doubtful.

Laughing, the teacher slapped her student on the back. "Anyway, I have taken enough of your time, Rayna. Go," she said. "Go and have some fun, or ask a pretty girl out on a date," she hinted, making the young warrior blush again. Shaking her head and laughing again, the teacher walked away.

Still blushing faintly, Rayna walked towards the seated Princess, her armour moving soundlessly with each step. She was wearing her training armour, brownish-green trousers that blended in with the surrounding trees, a chain mail shirt that protected her powerful upper body, arm guards to protect wrists and upper arms, and light chest armour to protect from the sharp swords the warriors trained with.

The dark-haired warrior smiled brightly as she approached Arcadia, who was dressed in a finely made, blue-dyed dress, her blonde locks tied up out of her face. "Hello, Princess. Here to swoon over me?"

Arcadia laughed at the cocky young warrior. "No. Actually, I am here because I wanted to see you get your butt kicked."

Rayna laughed at the fiery Princess' retort . The blonde smiled, getting a strange warmth throughout her body as she watched Rayna's face soften as she relaxed in jest. I will have to make her laugh more often.

"So, Princess." Rayna's cocky look disappeared. "Uhm...can I wa-..."

"Wow! Rayna Banks! The Rayna Banks!" a redhead interrupted. "I just met Bedilia Orchard and Keera Shepherd, and now I get to meet Rayna Banks! I'm not interrupting, am I?"

The dark-haired warrior scowled at the intruder. "Actually..."

"Rayna," Arcadia broke in quickly, getting to her feet. "This is my date, Kemina Sexton."

Rayna crossed strong arms across her chest and eyed the new arrival. Of course Arcadia is on a date. Why else would she be here?

Kemina put out a hand. "I am a big fan or yours, Rayna. So are both my mothers. Do you know Sarita Sexton? One of the Palace guards. She believes you are going to be one of the true greats."

Rayna looked down at the hand, but didn't move to shake it. "Yeah, thanks. Anyway, I should let you two go." She unfolded her arms. "It was nice seeing you again, Princess Arcadia."

Arcadia watched the dark-haired warrior walk away, a heavy feeling settling in her heart. She looked so...hurt, when Kemina appeared. The blonde sighed. I'm on a date, but the only woman I can think of is....Never mind. She's shown no interest in me and is obviously not interested in there being anything between us anyway.

Rayna scurried up the nearest tree once she was out of sight of the Princess and Kemina. As the two girls started their slow walk towards the Palace, lost in conversation, Rayna jumped silently from tree branch to tree branch, keeping an eye on the blonde Princess. She told herself it was in case trouble erupted, though Arcadia had her own Royal guard with her.

Arcadia tuned out Kemina's talk of her mother, Yolonda Sexton's, work as a developer, and thought instead of Rayna. I wonder if I am wrong and she does like me? the blonde thought. Why else would she look so hurt over me being on a date?

"Don't you agree, Princess?" Kemina asked, oblivious to the blonde's inner turmoil.

"I'm sorry?" Arcadia blinked at the redhead, looking slightly apologetic. Goddess, how rude! I'm on a date with the poor girl and I am not paying attention to anything she is saying!

"That what my mother is working towards is very important. My mother wants to open a..." the redhead searched for the word. "Laboratory. Where couples could go when they wanted children." Kemina shook her head, as she saw the confusion on Arcadia's face. "I'm not explaining very well. Uhm....Say...we got married," she laughed nervously. "With the work women like my mother are doing, couples could go to this laboratory when they were ready for children and get hold of their family's...seed." Kemina cleared her throat, blushing furiously.

Arcadia frowned. "The family seed?"

"Yes. For example, if we were together and ready to start a family, we could go to this laboratory and if you were the one who wanted the baby, we could use semen from male members of my family, so the child would be both of ours."

Okay, first of all, how in Hades did we get on the subject of marriage? Our marriage! And now having children!

Up in the trees, Rayna rolled her eyes. By the Gods! Why did Arcadia agree to go out with this fool?

"Uhm...I'm not sure I understand, Kemina?" Arcadia said.

Kemina laughed nervously again. "Sorry, I'm not really explaining it right. The uhm...women want to get the men who leave the island to...donate their seed. Are you with me?"

The Princess slowly nodded. "So they can store it until we women might want to use it?"


"Oh, right. But...how would they store it?"

"Uhm...they haven't actually gotten that far yet. This is all in the theory stage still."

Arcadia nodded. "The shaman helps a lot of couples already, without the aid of all that."

Kemina frowned. "Yes, but it's rumoured to be black magic she uses. My mother is working towards a more...suitable way."

"The generations of my family have been going to the shaman. It has worked for us."

Kemina nodded. "I'm not saying it is wrong, Princess. I was just telling you what the developers were up to."

Just agree with her. "Yes, Kemina, the work they are trying to do is important," the Princess nodded. "The island should be working towards progression."

As the two girls came to a stop at the large wooden Palace gates, Rayna crouched on the high branch she was standing on and peered down through the leaves and other branches.

"I had a really good time today, Princess Arcadia."

Kemina's voice once again broke through Arcadia's thoughts of a certain dark-haired warrior, she couldn't seem to stop thinking about. "Hmm? Oh, yes, so did I, Kemina."

The redhead smiled, delighted. "I...I wanted to share with you something I love, and uhm...if we," she paused to clear her throat. "If we go out again, maybe you would like to do something you love."

Arcadia smiled politely, but didn't reply. She's nice, but my highlight of our date was seeing Rayna!

Kemina took a step closer to the Princess, intending on kissing the blonde goodbye.

Up in the tree, Rayna tensed and scowled down at the bold redhead. She's not going to...kiss Arcadia, is she?

"You're not about to kiss my daughter, are you?" Queen Athena asked as she stepped through the suddenly open Palace gates, followed by Lorenza, her personal guard.

Rayna watched in amusement as Kemina jumped a foot back from the Princess. "Your Majesty! I...we..." the redhead sputtered. "There was...there was an eyelash!" She started backing away. "I should..." She pointed off over her shoulder. "Goodbye, Princess."

Once the redhead had hurried out of sight, Arcadia turned to give her mother an amused look. "Do you plan on scaring off all my dates?"

"The guards sent word that you were out here. I thought I'd rescue you." The Queen smiled at her only child. "Come on, you can tell me about it over a slice of freshly made fruit bread."

Arcadia sighed and walked passed her blonde mother and into the Palace.

Athena smiled and turned to follow her daughter inside, catching a dark shadow jumping off through the trees. Frowning as she realised Arcadia's guard hadn't moved to act, she turned to look at Karita Shepherd, her daughter's personal guard. "Karita, did you not spot that shadowy figure up in the trees?"

"I did, Your Highness."

"You judged whomever not to be a threat?" the Queen questioned.

"It was the warrior, Rayna Banks, your highness. She usually walks the Princess home. Today, Arcadia had company."

Athena laughed. "Doesn't she think you're up to the job of looking after my daughter?"

The spiky-haired guard allowed a small smile to grace her lips. "I wouldn't like to guess, Your Highness."

The blonde laughed again. "Tell me, Karita. Does my daughter like this warrior?"

"Your Highness, with all due respect, my job is to protect the Princess. Not to run or keep a check on her love life."

"As a mother, what is your opinion?" the Queen pressed her old friend.

Karita smiled. "You couldn't hope for anyone better," she replied honestly.

Athena smiled and gave a slight nod. "Good. Anyway, how is Keera's training coming along?"

The guard beamed with pride. "She is doing very well, Athena. She is making Valonia and myself very happy."

"Yes, it is a shame she is in the same year as Rayna. I'm afraid no one is quite as good as her, at least, according to Dionis."

"Rayna is one of the few who are naturals at what we do. She learns so quickly and masters everything put in front of her. I am as proud of her as I am my own daughter."

Athena nodded. "And your eldest, Valentina? I heard she had settled down?"

Karita nodded. "She did. Finally. She has found happiness with the up and coming designer Cass Masoun."

The Queen smiled, pleased for the young woman. "I heard they have been blessed?"

"They have, Valonia and I will soon be grandparents!"

"That is truly wonderful news, Karita. Send on my best wishes."

Karita bowed her head. "I'll be sure to, Your Highness."

"Anyway, I won't hold you up any longer. I am sure Valonia is expecting you home. I don't want her mad at me!" the Queen joked.

Karita laughed and shook her head. "No. She does have a temper and if I'm late for dinner, it will be directed at me! Goodnight, Your Highness."

"Goodnight, Karita."

The Queen entered her home and sighed, immediately a feeling of peace washing over her. My ancestor's, Ailis and Callena, did a good job when they had this Palace built. They managed to capture warmth and homeliness, as well as making us, the Royal family, safe and completely secure.

Walking into her wife's office, the Queen found Dionis behind her desk reading over a stack of papers. Their daughter was curled up in a corner of one of the couches, reading one of their ancestors' diaries.

"Arcadia, how was your date?" Athena asked, as she took a seat on the opposite end of the couch Arcadia was sitting on.

Dionis looked up from what she was doing, a dark eyebrow raised. She didn't like that their little girl was already of courting age and disliked talking about it even more.

"It was okay, mother," Arcadia replied, not lifting her head from the diary she held.

"Just okay?" Athena pressed.

"Yes. Kemina took me to her home area and gave me the tour, then we went to watch the warriors train."

Dionis laughed. "Oh, dear!"

Arcadia frowned, looking over at the dark-haired woman. "I thought it was fascinating actually, mama," she told Dionis. "Rayna was sparring with another girl..."

"What weapons were they using today?" the ex-warrior asked in curiosity. She had heard all about the young warrior, and had been getting updates on her progress from Zamira.

"Their swords. They had to dip the end in their team's colours at the beginning of each new round. Rayna remains unbeaten, whilst the poor girl she was fighting was absolutely covered in berry juice!"

Athena watched the way her daughter lit up as she spoke of the young warrior. Interesting. "That is all you did on your date?" she asked, getting back to the subject.

"Yes," Arcadia nodded. "Afterwards, we slowly walked back to the Palace. Kemina filled me in on some of the ideas her mother and some of the other women have. They want a building called a laboratory, and they want to get the men of the island to donate their seed."

Athena blinked in surprise. "Really?"

Dionis chuckled. "I predict a very busy senate meeting in store for you, my love."

"Anyway," Arcadia continued. "Then you, dear mother, appeared and scared Kemina half to death!" the Princess scowled at her blonde mother.

Dionis laughed loudly. "What did you do, my love?"

The Queen blushed faintly. "She was about to kiss Arcadia..."

"What!" Dionis exclaimed, half standing from her chair, steely blue eyes flicking from her wife over to her daughter.

Athena stood up and walked over to her wife, a gentle hand pushing her back onto the chair so she could sit on her lap. "I happened to appear before she did and asked what she was doing."

Dionis kissed the blonde softly on the lips. "And what did she say?"

"Apparently, Arcadia had an eyelash." The Queen dropped a quick kiss on her partner's lips. "You have to admit, Arcadia. Kemina is nice, but not the one for you."

The blonde Princess rolled her eyes. "You are right. She isn't the one for me. But still, you didn't have to scare her off the way you did."

Dionis wrapped her arms around her wife's waist. "Good job, love. We don't want just anybody kissing our little girl."

Arcadia slipped out of the office as her mothers started kissing and talking in soft tones. She had seen that look in their eyes before and it was best to be elsewhere when it took them over.

Though she wouldn't admit it to anyone, Arcadia loved seeing her mothers being so loving with each other. It was her wish to find someone she could love as much and as deeply as her parents did each other.

Well, she sighed. It's not Kemina. Could it be...Rayna? Do I want it to be Rayna? The blonde walked upstairs, heading for her bedchambers. When we were younger, I loved being in her company. We were inseparable. She nibbled on her bottom lip. And over the years I have thought of her, and kept track of how she has progressed with her training.

She walked into her room, smiling at Biana as the older woman finished lighting the fire for the evening. Left alone in her room, Arcadia settled onto her bed. If only Rayna would ask me out, she thought, picking up her ancestor Abi's diary. I find myself thinking of her, I hope to see her whenever I leave the Palace, I enjoy her company. But what does this mean? Does Rayna feel the same? Is she seeing anyone? I still haven't gotten up the courage to ask!

Annoyed with the questions she didn't have answers for, the Princess opened her great, great, great grandmother's diary.

"Dear Diary,

The other day, Eleanor and I were sitting down on the beach together. It has become our favourite place to go to get away from everyone. Anyway, she asked me if I would officially go out with her! She looked so adorable as she asked, I couldn't help but lean over and kiss her. I told her I had thought we were already officially going out, seeing how we are always together, spending every spare minute we have in each other's company. Her face lit up and she looked....I can't think of a suitable word, so I'll go with beautiful, exquisite, radiant, ethereal, all of the above!

We spent the rest of our time together shyly kissing and talking of our futures.

When the evening gong sounded, she walked me home, holding my hand the whole way. At the Palace gates, we kissed each other goodnight and Eleanor quietly told me that whenever I was ready to tell my parents, she would be there by my side. My heart just about burst right there!

Now I just have to figure out the best time to share my delightful news with my parents.

Dulce, Eleanor's elder sister is dating Diana Youngs, the youngest of the Youngs girls. It is so funny seeing them together! Dulce gets all flustered and poor Diana blushes a lot.                                                                       

Tricia is delighted because at least one child won't be leaving. Her eldest, Blyth, returned to Britannia, wishing to find a husband.

Eleanor told me her sister is very taken with Diana and it can only be a matter of time before they are wed.

In other news, some of the women have become sick! The shaman can't seem to cure them and it is very worrisome. Mummy is worried the women will grow afraid and start to panic, she doesn't want a riot on her hands. She is keeping a close eye on the situation."

Arcadia smiled at her teenage ancestors rambling, and turned the page to continue.

"Dear Diary,

Eleanor and I are official!

Together, we nervously met with my mothers and told them of our love. They were happy for us! And they wished us all the best with their full blessings.

My poor love! She looked like she was going to faint at first, then again when my mothers' said they accepted our relationship. We spent the whole morning in my mothers' company, talking about this and that, Eleanor's future, and how her sister is doing, as we shared warm bread and biscuits.

Just before mummy had to leave for a meeting with the heads of each section, she asked when we planned to have an official joining! I am sure both myself and Eleanor looked shocked - we hadn't even made an official announcement about our relationship, let alone got engaged to each other!

Eleanor looked at me lovingly and squeezed my hand, then confidently turned to look at both my parents and boldly told them in May, because that was the start of the warm weather and she didn't want me catching a chill.

I swear, I fell even more in love with her right then!

After leaving the Palace, we went to see Dulce, to tell her our news before anyone else. She congratulated us, but didn't really seem all that surprised or bothered. She told us she had suspected we would end up together since we were both little girls, seeing how we were always together.

Dulce is a warrior and works closely with mami over the island's security. She doesn't really show that much emotion, but she did seem happy for us, and hugged us both.

Mummy is informing her committee that we plan to make an announcement to all the women on the island about our relationship. We have to let them know so that everyone who has been trying to woo either of us will know we are taken."

Arcadia flicked past the couple of pages about Abi's official announcement about their relationship, and Eleanor proposing to the future Queen. The Princess felt that it was a private matter and didn't want to intrude on that part of her great, great, great grandmother's life.

"Dear Diary,

I am soon to be married! Whilst I am excited and longing to be joined to Eleanor, I find myself nervous and slightly scared too. I told mami this and she laughed, telling me it was just jitters and everyone gets them. She asked me if I loved Eleanor, I looked at her in disbelief and told her of course I did. She smiled and said, "There you go then. Try to relax, go for a walk perhaps."

She made it sound so easy to forget! But, seeing that she herself had felt the same, I trusted her judgement.

Mummy is sick. She has been to see the shaman, who gave her some foul smelling herbs to have, but they don't seem to be working. Mami is very concerned. She tries to pretend everything is fine, but I can see the worry on her face sometimes.

Surely mummy will get better? She is the Queen. And still young, though I've been told that the average life expectancy back where the women escaped from is twenty-five! This is for a number of reasons though - husbands beating wives, drinking too much, illness, dying during childbirth. Here on the island, the women don't drink all that much, and no one beats their partner!

I am sure mummy will be fine."

"Dear Diary,

I am a married woman!

The ceremony was...breathtaking! All the male members of the island returned to witness their future Queen marry. They, along with the women, watched on as Eleanor and I exchanged our vows and swapped rings. After the ceremony was the celebration. Drinking and eating good food, dancing, talking, everyone generally having a good time.

It was an amazing day that I'll never forget. Eleanor looked truly beautiful in finely made black trousers and a white shirt, her boots almost shining. Dulce gave her away. It was a lovely moment for the sisters, and I could see how proud Dulce was, and how grateful my love was for her sister being there and being a part of our wedding.

I have to go, Eleanor has just nervously walked into our chambers and is waiting by the door all unsure of herself. She is adorable!"

Arcadia turned the page, eyes widening as she glanced over her ancestor's worried words of her ailing mother.

"Dear Diary,

Mummy has not improved! The shaman keeps bringing herbs and medicines for her, but they do no good. Many a day, mummy stays in bed, tired and sick looking. Mami is most concerned and when not hovering over the bed, keeping watch, she is storming around the Palace demanding answers. She barely eats, and mummy eats very little. Eleanor is my rock. She lets me cry to her at the end of day, when we are alone in our chambers. I am...scared. I thought this was a brief illness, but now, instead of getting better, it seems mummy has gotten worse!

With the Queen being ill most days, I have taken on more responsibilities. Mummy tells me she is proud of me, how I am handling things, and giving me advice. After the long day, I go straight to her if she is in bed and tell her everything. Some days though, she is well enough to be up and doing the duties herself. She takes me with her, teaching me what being Queen entails.

I have to admit, being Queen is quite stressful. I really don't know how mummy does it! I love and admire her so much.

Now that I have taken on a lot of responsibilities, now isn't exactly the best time, but...I am with child!

Eleanor is delighted and has been telling anyone who will listen about how proud she is and how she can't wait. I love her more each day. She is truly my rock. At the end of my now long days, she quietly massages my feet, or my shoulders, listening to me moan on and on about my duties. If I bathe, she'll quietly wash my back, or if she joins me, she'll hold me and listen, kissing me softly, hugging me, telling me everything will work out. I don't know what I would do without her!

In other news - Dulce has married! She, of course, wed Diana in a small, simple ceremony, that was attended by friends and family. Eleanor gave her sister away, repaying what Dulce did for her.

Dulce took on the Youngs name, giving up her own. The Blacks are no more, neither sister seems to care, both happy to forget that part of their life."

Arcadia flicked past the short paragraphs about Abi's first pregnancy. She wondered why her great, great, great grandmother hadn't written more on the subject. Maybe she was too ill? Grandma told me she was terribly ill when she was pregnant with mummy. Or perhaps Abi was too busy, what with taking care of Royal duties.

"Dear Diary,

Mummy has passed. She...died peacefully in her sleep."

Arcadia swallowed hard and quickly continued on.

"Dear diary,

The shaman has no answers to the many questions myself and mami have been asking about the illness that has claimed mummy. She looks almost as distraught as mami does, knowing that everything she tried, failed to save the Queen. We know she is not to blame, she offered mummy every herb, medicine, treatment, she knew of and possessed. It was...just time, I suppose.

Mami is heartbroken, destroyed by the loss of her soul mate. She barely eats, barely leaves their bedchambers, barely sleeps. Her eyes are red-rimmed from crying and her healthy glow has disappeared, leaving behind a pale, hollow person. The only time she leaves the Palace is to go and sit next to mummy's grave.

Marcella won't speak. She locks herself away in her bedchambers and only comes out to dine with Eleanor and myself. I don't know what to say to her. What can I say? Our mother is gone. She will not see her first grandchild, she will not see Marcella get married...there is so much she will miss out on!

Eleanor told me she felt the same about her mother, though her mother isn't....she is still gone. My love told me that she feels her mother with her at all times, and said my mother is with me and mami and Marcella too. She will always be close as long as she is in our thoughts.

I am now Queen. I would gladly give up this rite if it would bring my mother back!

There has to be an official ceremony making me Queen, but no one is in the mood. The whole island is grieving the loss of my mother. I told this to the religious people, but they are insisting, saying the islanders need stability, need a Queen to turn to. Eleanor thinks we should go ahead, suggesting we make it an island affair, saying goodbye to a very much loved Queen and welcoming the new. I suppose. I can't seem to get up the energy to do anything these days, what with losing my mother, worrying about mami, and being with child."

Wearing a frown, the Princess turned a few pages and scanned down the next page she stopped at. Abi was now officially Queen and had given birth to a baby girl.

"Dear diary,

The island has progressed well. All the homes were of course finished during my mother's reign, but were made out of wood. After losing a number of homes to fires, I ordered any new houses to be built out of stone. Though these take longer to construct and are a lot of hard work, at least they won't burn down!

The rest of the island also remained underdeveloped. The animals of course bred and the farmers who were in charge of them are doing well, but the vegetables and crops were a different matter.

The farming community has been sectioned off. Fields and land has been set out for each family to grow or breed whatever they like. We have the beginnings of an apple orchard! In the years to come it will be beautiful, I'm sure.

Lavinia asked me if she could try to produce apricots - I told her to try what she likes on her land. That will be nice though, apricots and apples, what a treat!

Good news! I am with child again! Eleanor is once again delighted and playing the part of happy mother-to-be, and I am sure Abrona will be happy to have a playmate.

It seems rather soon to me. I mean, Abrona isn't even a year old yet. Don't get me wrong, I am just as happy as Eleanor and mami is happy as well, when Eleanor doesn't have Abrona, mami does - carrying her all over the island!

The birth of Abrona brought mami out of her depression and put a smile back on her face. For that I am truly grateful. I was...I was afraid I was to lose her too.

Everything went smoothly with my first pregnancy, I am sure this one will be the same, though we have lost a couple of women during childbirth on the island, complications arose and they couldn't be saved. I must admit, I am already liking this pregnancy. I haven't been half as sick as I was with Abrona! Mummy told me, before her passing, that she was the same with me, but with Marcella things were better.

I wonder if that is going to be something all our future generations go through? I suppose we'll see.

In other news - Dulce and Diana are to be mothers! We all very happy for them, and eagerly awaiting the new arrival, though it will be many moons yet!

I must go, I can hear Abrona crying. It is time for her afternoon feed."

Arcadia stared wide eyed at the words in front of her. I wonder if that is true? she pondered about the words on Royal pregnancies. Will I suffer the same?

A knock on her closed door interrupted her thoughts. "Yes?"

The door opened to reveal Val Plummer, Biana's eldest daughter. "Your mother sent me to tell you that the evening meal is ready, Princess Arcadia."

Arcadia smiled as she shifted to stand up. "Thank you, Val. Would you please call me Arcadia? I don't mind, really."

The young woman blushed and ducked her head. "It's not proper, Princess."

"Perhaps while we're alone?"

Val nodded, still blushing. "I'll try to remember, Prin-...Arcadia."

Smiling brightly, the blonde Princess left her room to go and dine with her family, many questions about Abrona's writing formed in her mind, waiting to be answered.

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