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 took a seat away from the large crowd of people who had gathered to watch the warriors train in the afternoon sun.
The teachers usually kept the island women far enough away from the young warriors so they didn't get in the way. Today though, the warriors had been sent up high into the trees to fight each other, using only a wooden staff.
Shielding her eyes from the little sunlight that leaked through the high tree-tops, Arcadia gasped again and again along with the other women, as Rayna battled her opponent.
Sometimes the dark-haired warrior came dangerously close to the edge of a branch she was standing on. The Princess held her breath each time she thought the warrior was going to fall, her heart stopping in sudden fear. By the Gods! I feel like I'm nine years old again, watching her swing upside down from that branch!
Rayna was very graceful, the Princess had to admit. Arcadia watched as the beautifully carved staff twirled effortlessly in the warrior's hands, like it was a part of her.
Goddess! She is so graceful and strong and...beautiful! Arcadia thought, watching as Rayna flipped over backwards to avoid a blow from her opponent. I'm going to have to take the initiative with her. She acts all strong and confident, but in actual fact, she's kind of...shy and on the quiet side.
Two full weeks had passed since her date with Kemina, and since, the Princess had been out with Audra Reeder and Ralphina Theccan. Not being able to dispel thoughts of Rayna, the blonde had decided the dark-haired warrior was the one, and had started to make sure she was wherever the warrior was. Arcadia turned up at all the warrior's public training sessions, she sat for hours in the deep forest, hoping Rayna would come along, she even took long walks down towards the farming community, hoping to bump into the raven-haired beauty.
As the gong sounded, ending the third round of staff fighting, Rayna shook her opponents hand, then jumped gracefully down out of the tree they had been fighting in, making the crowd gasp, then clap their approval.
Arcadia stood from her spot beneath a tree and watched the warrior shake hands with her fellow warriors and accept praise from the women who had rushed forward to get her attention. It seemed to the Princess that Rayna was very popular among her fellow warriors, despite the fact that she was so good. Everyone was eager to congratulate the dark-haired teen on a well fought fight.
The blonde felt the pang of jealousy as the girls in the crowd hurried forward, eager to get Rayna's attention, and told herself she was being silly. She had no claim on Rayna. The warrior could talk and flirt with whoever she chose.
Rayna spotted Arcadia waiting patiently behind the crowd who had rushed forward to meet her. Seeing the small smile on the Princess' lips, Rayna shot her a radiant smile of her own, ignoring the way her heart was suddenly beating a little faster. It's from the fight, she told herself. "Excuse me," she said to the crowd around her. "I have to get going." Without another word, the warrior made her way past the crowd and over to the waiting beautiful blonde. "Hello."
They stared at each other in silence, both nervous for some unknown reason. Since the Princess had turned up at Rayna's farm and proclaimed her wish to be friends, the two girls had met up as often as they could manage. They had fallen back into their friendship easily.
"You're very good, Rayna," Arcadia complimented.
"Thank you. Years of training and listening closely to the instructors."
The Princess smiled. "I'm glad you listen. It has paid off."
The warrior returned the blonde's smile and felt her cheeks begin to burn as she blushed from the praise. She shuffled her feet nervously, never taking praise very well.
"I was watching you up in the trees and every time you looked like you were going to fall, it scared the life out of me!" Arcadia admitted.
Rayna laughed and looked boldly into green eyes. "I'm not going anywhere, Cadie. You still haven't seen me get my butt kicked." Arcadia let out a delightful laugh. The warrior smiled as a strange feeling came over her, not for the first time in the Princess' company. By the Gods, she is adorable!
"I was reminded of the time when we were nine," Arcadia mentioned. "When you were hanging upside down from a tree branch, scaring the life out of me!"
Rayna chuckled and nodded her dark head. "I remember that. You convinced me to climb down."
The blonde smiled and nodded. "I suppose I should have tried that just now," she joked, making the warrior laugh.
"So..." The warrior looked around. "What brings you here today, Princess? Another date?"
Arcadia suddenly looked nervous. "No, uhh..." she trailed off and shifted from foot to foot, not meeting Rayna's eyes. "Actually...I came alone to uhh...watch you." Green eyes flicked up briefly to look into electric blue. "I...I was wondering if uhm..." she cleared her throat. By the Gods! This is so hard! She took a deep steadying breath. "I was wondering if you would like to go out with me?"
Rayna's eyes widened in surprise, her mouth moving up and down as she tried to form words. She crossed her arms, then uncrossed them and started playing with the bottom of her shirt. "Aren't I suppose to ask you?" she asked, frowning.
"Yes!" the Princess exclaimed, flinging her hands into the air dramatically. "But if we wait for you to get up the nerve, we'll probably be very old! Who knew you warriors were so shy!"
Rayna looked around nervously at the small blonde's outburst. She wants to go out with me? She can date anyone she wants and...she wants a date with me? "Okay."
"Okay?" Arcadia frowned, unsure to what the warrior was agreeing.
"Okay, we'll go out," the warrior agreed. "When is good for you?"
"Now," the blonde blurted out. Her eyes widened as she realised what she had said. Oh, Goddess! That makes me look so desperate!
"Now!" Rayna squeaked, blue eyes wide again.
Why not? Arcadia nodded confidently. "Now. Are you busy?"
Looking around, Rayna saw they were almost alone, most of the crowd and other warriors having drifted off. She smiled, suddenly cocky again. "No, I'm not busy. Climb on my back."
"What?" the Princess asked in confusion.
"Wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my waist. I know the perfect place to take you, but we have to move fast."
Arcadia felt the thrill of what was possibly to come race through her. She moved to stand behind the the tall, broad shouldered warrior, placing her hands on each shoulder and jumped up, wrapping herself around Rayna.
The warrior scurried up the nearest tree, being careful with her precious cargo. She started running at pace, hearing Arcadia's personal guard trying to keep up, and the Princess breathing next to her ear.
Reaching the coastline, the warrior stopped at the last possible tree. She crouched slightly, helping the Princess get down onto the thick branch, then focused on the gorgeous view that was ahead of them. The sun was slowly dipping out of sight, its orange-pinkish colour reflecting across the calm blue ocean.
"Oh, Rayna!" Arcadia whispered, as she took in their surroundings. "It's...beautiful!"
"Yes, very beautiful."
The blonde turned to glance at the warrior and blushed when she met blue eyes, that were hungrily taking her in. "I was talking about our view," the Princess said softly.
Rayna smiled and turned her head to look back out at the spectacular view.
"Do you come up here often?" Arcadia asked quietly, feeling that speaking any louder would ruin the mood that surrounded them.
"I come up here to think or to just reflect," Rayna replied, eyes not leaving the ocean.
"So not a lot then," the blonde joked.
Rayna smirked, turning to look at the Princess. Her breath caught in her chest as she looked at the blonde. Arcadia was leaning back against the tree trunk, a content smile gracing her features, green eyes sparkling, the sinking sun making her hair shine golden. By the Gods, she is...so beautiful! Without realising it, Rayna took a step towards the young Royal.
The dark-haired teen put a hand on the blonde's waist, the other moving up to her face to push away strands of loose golden hair. "You are so beautiful, Prin-..."
"Just Arcadia," the blonde murmured, before reaching up and pulling Rayna's head down to her.
They kissed. Their lips softly pressing together for the first time in many years, the feeling of finding home filling both of them.
Arcadia ran her fingertips through Rayna's dark locks, moaning softly as the warrior's hands caressed her sides. She pulled Rayna closer, deepening the kiss, the warrior's muscular body pushing her back into the tree trunk.
Karita, who was keeping an eye on the surroundings a couple of trees back, smiled as she glanced the young couple's way, delighted that the two teens had finally worked out what everyone else had seen between them and acted on it. Knowing she had a job to do though, she reluctantly cleared her throat. "Princess Arcadia, I am sorry to interrupt."
Arcadia slowly pulled back from Rayna, licking her swollen lips daintily. "I almost forgot we weren't alone," she mumbled, only loud enough for Rayna to hear. She looked towards her Royal guard. "What is it, Karita?"
"This wasn't a scheduled stop, Princess. Your mother will be getting worried that you are not home."
The small blonde sighed as she looked back into blue eyes. "She is right. I should be going."
"How about I walk you home?" Rayna offered, not wanting to let Arcadia go just yet.
"I'd like that, Rayna. To be honest, I'm not ready to let you go," the blonde confessed.
The warrior ducked her head and placed a soft kiss on swollen pink lips. "Me neither. Come on."
Arcadia hung on tightly to Rayna as the warrior ran from tree branch to tree branch, rushing to get them back to where they had met an hour earlier.
Jumping down to the soft grass, Rayna helped Arcadia to stand on her own feet, then offered her hand for the Princess to hold.
They walked quickly in the direction of the Palace, closely followed by an alert Karita. Reaching the tall, solid Palace gates, Rayna stopped and turned to face the Princess, smiling as Arcadia turned to look at her.
The Princess wrapped her arms around the warrior, holding her close. "I had a good time. Thank you, Rayna," she said, burying her face against Rayna's shoulder. She breathed in deeply, taking in the warrior's scent. She smells like soap, sweat and...the earth, she thought in amusement.
"So did I, Princess. You're welcome any time."
"So this means I get a second date?" Arcadia asked with a hopeful smile.
"I'm sure I can pencil you in," the warrior replied, chuckling as the blonde slapped her.
They leaned towards each other, both wanting another kiss before they parted for the day.
"You're not about to kiss my daughter, are you?" the Queen asked as she stepped out of the Palace gates.
Rayna lowered her head, closing the gap between herself and the Princess, her lips softly brushing against Arcadia's.
Delighted, Arcadia slid her hands through the warrior's dark hair and pulled Rayna harder against her.
Pulling apart when oxygen became an issue, Rayna looked over to her Queen and smiled politely. "I'm sorry, your majesty. I couldn't not kiss your daughter. She is beautiful and will only grow more so as the years pass, judging on your exquisite looks."
Karita watched as her old friend blushed at the compliment from the young warrior and couldn't hold back a smile of her own.
"Thank you for your kind words," the Queen said softly, feeling the heated blush on her cheeks. "What is your name?"
"I am the warrior Rayna Banks, your majesty. And I am honoured to serve you." Rayna bowed as she finished, showing her respect for the Queen.
The blonde Queen glanced at her daughter and saw the way Arcadia was captivated. I believe your search for a partner is over, little one. "Are you ready to do your one year of service, warrior?" Athena asked Rayna.
"Of course, your majesty."
"I'll be seeing you at the passing out ceremony then."
"I hope so, your majesty."
Athena smiled. "You'll be there, Rayna. From what I hear, you are our best young warrior since my wife."
"I don't know about that, your majesty," the dark-haired teen said modestly.
"Anyway," the Queen continued, liking the young warrior already. "Arcadia, it is almost time for the evening meal, so say goodbye. Karita, would you follow me, I'd like to discuss something with you."
The Royal guard walked around the two teens, following the Queen inside the Palace gates. "Your majesty?" she said in concern, trying to think of what could be wrong.
"It's nothing, Karita. I just wanted them to have a few moments alone."
"I'll go back out in a few moments, your majesty," the guard replied, smiling knowingly.
"A wise idea, my friend," the Queen laughed. "Is Keera dating yet?"
Karita scowled. "She is and has always been in love with Leslie Youngs."
Athena laughed again. "You warriors! You're all alike. Dionis is not happy about Arcadia dating either."
"She's my little girl," Karita protested.
"But she is training to be a warrior, Karita. Doesn't that worry you more?"
"Yes, of course. But dating is different." The guard scowled. "They have loved each other for so long, Valonia says now they are of age, it is only a matter of time before they announce their engagement! Then she'll leave! Leave home! For Good!" the guard stated unhappily.
Athena smiled. "Ahh, the one good thing about being a Royal. My little girl has to stay at the Palace."
"Yeah, yeah, rub it in."
Athena turned to walk away laughing. "Go home, Karita, and send my daughter in, would you, please."
* * * * *
Arcadia entered the Palace feeling like she was walking on the clouds above. Rayna, Rayna, Rayna, she chanted in her head. She was so...sweet. And taking me to her special place! That was so...sweet! She sighed dreamily.
"Hello, darling," Athena called out, as the Princess walked passed the living room doorway. "Will you join me?"
"Oh, mother! Must I be questioned as soon as I get in? Can't I have some time to myself before you question me and upset mama?" Arcadia protested, even as her feet led her over to the grand room her mother sat in. She took a seat next to her blonde mother and waited for the inquisition to begin.
"Where did you disappear to, my love?" Athena asked, smiling.
"I didn't disappear."
"There was an unscheduled stop that held you up."
Arcadia smiled as she thought back to where she had been and what she had been doing. "I was at the coastline."
Athena frowned. "The coastline?"
"With Rayna," the Princess said dreamily. "She goes there to think and reflect. Today she took me and we watched the sunset." Sort of. When we weren't kissing. Thinking about the warrior's soft kisses made the blonde blush.
Athena watched the blood rush to her daughter's cheeks. Watched the sunset, yeah right. The Queen smiled softly. "It is beautiful, isn't it?"
Arcadia looked at her mother in surprise. "Yes, it is. Very beautiful."
"Your mama used to take me up there," Athena explained. "We would sit close together, my head usually on her shoulder, her strong arm around me, and we would watch the sky changing colours with the setting sun. Then she would walk me home." She smiled fondly at the memories of a young Dionis and herself and their early dating days. Of course, we weren't always just watching the sunset. Wide eyed, the Queen looked at her daughter. Don't be silly, Athena. Karita was there with them. "Will you be seeing Rayna again?" she asked finally.
Arcadia smiled brightly. "Yes. Tomorrow hopefully. She has that thing she has to do coming up though, so I don't want to distract her too much."
"It's the final test of their abilities," Athena said, nodding. "They are shipped off and led out to a real battle, alongside our distant family members, where they have to put everything they have learned over the years into practice."
"I hope she passes," Arcadia said quietly. She looked at her mother in sudden fear. "What if...what if something happens to her? Every year there are losses!"
"Rayna is the best we have, from what I hear, my love. She will pass with flying colours and return to you."
"I hope so," the younger blonde muttered. She looked at her mother shyly. "Do you think so?"
"To be honest, I have no clue," Athena replied, with a small smile. "But your mama seems to think so."
"Mama knows best."
Athena smiled brightly as she thought of her wife. "She does when it comes to warrior things, darling." The Queen wrapped an arm around her daughter's shoulders and held her close. "Do you really like Rayna then?"
"Mother!" Arcadia tried to pull away, but was held in place by Athena.
"Oh, darling! You know I am only asking because I care."
"You're just being nosey."
Athena smiled and nodded once in acknowledgement. "Come," she said, standing up. "All this talk has left me hungry. Come on, let's go find your mama."
* * * * *
Rayna couldn't wipe the silly grin from her lips, as she made her way home. All her thoughts were on Arcadia and on the softness of her lips. She's a great kisser, the warrior thought dreamily. The best, I bet. And she wants to see me! Rayna sighed happily.
"Where did you disappear to?" Keera asked, disrupting Rayna's happy thoughts.
"Jeez, where did you come from?" the startled warrior grumbled. She looked at Keera and Bedilia sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree.
"Don't avoid my question," Keera retorted. "You were talking to the Princess, last time I saw you."
"Yeah," Bedilia added. "We stepped away to give you a little privacy, then poof, you were gone." A dark eyebrow lifted in question.
"I...we....By the God's, you guys are nosy!" Rayna exclaimed, throwing her hands up in defeat. She started walking again, hoping to avoid the issue.
Keera and Bedilia jumped up and hurried after her.
"The uhm...Princess asked me out," Rayna finally confessed.
"No way!" Keera exclaimed in surprise.
"Aren't you suppose to ask her?" Bedilia asked.
"Yes way, and yes, I was suppose to ask, but she got impatient waiting for me to do so."
"Would you have?" Bedilia asked, knowing how shy her friend could be.
Rayna scowled. "I might have. Who knows now!"
"That means no,"Keera retorted, laughing. "Where did you uhm...go?"
"I took her to the coast to watch the sunset."
"Ohh, how romantic!" Keera grinned.
"Talking of romantic, when are you going to propose to poor Leslie?" the dark-haired teen changed the subject gratefully.
"I'm working my way up to it," Keera defended.
"Keera, you've been in love with each other since...meeting!" Bedilia laughed.
"Actually I..." the smaller warrior took a shaky breath. "I was thinking of doing it after Leslie's graduation."
"That's...just before we leave for the year," Rayna said.
"I know," Keera nodded. "And I know that's a bit selfish, but...I love her and if I am going to die, then I want to die being her wife."
The two dark-haired warriors looked at each other, then down at their friend and smiled.
"Better hope she says yes then," Bedilia joked.
"Who says yes?" Leslie asked, startling all three warriors. She laughed at them as they jumped. "I thought you warriors were suppose to be alert at all times, knowing what was around you and all that."
Keera wrapped her arm around her love's shoulders. "We knew you were here, we just wanted to make you laugh."
"Oh, really?" the redhead smiled, leaning over to kiss the warrior's cheek. "What is it you were talking about so seriously?"
Keera shifted nervously. "Nothing."
"Rayna and the Princess," Bedilia replied, making Rayna scowl.
"What about them?" Leslie asked, looking over at the warrior.
"It seems your cousin wants to...see Rayna," Keera replied. "She even asked her out."
Leslie smiled. "Arcadia never was one to wait. Once she knows what she wants, she goes after it."
"Great, I feel like a piece of meat!" Rayna complained, making the other three girls laugh. They continued on towards their community, ready for their evening meals after a busy day.
* * * * *
Over the evening dinner, Athena surprisingly didn't mention Arcadia disappearing with Rayna. Apparently Dionis had problems to deal with and the Queen didn't want anything else bothering her.
Arcadia wasn't sure what the problem was and not a lot was said. Dionis did mention Cornelius once or twice though, so the Princess thought perhaps the problem was his.
Once the meal was finished, Dionis excused herself and headed back to her office. The Princess, instead of following her dark-haired mother to read like she usually did, excused herself from the rest of the Royal family and went upstairs to her bedchambers, her thoughts predominantly on Rayna, her own upcoming graduation, and the many diaries she still had to read. So much to read, so little time, she thought settling down in her chair near the fire.
Lavinia has been successful in growing apricots! She was so happy with her success, she raced to the Palace and hugged me in delight. She left behind a basketful and I must say, they are very good. Her success has made me hopeful that we will be successful elsewhere.
Construction has started on a large building that is to store the history of each family. Mummy's diaries are to be put in there in a special section for Royals only, along with mine and Marcella's. Mami doesn't have any diaries, she said she always left that sort of thing to mummy. The women on the island are to donate their works if they wish. But, and this is a must for everyone, we are to keep a record of all women on the island and those born here. A...family tree of sorts, including the males that have to leave as well. I thought it sounded like a good idea when Ivy Parson suggested it at one of the meetings.
Dulce and Diana have become mothers to a beautiful baby boy! They have named him Foster. Foster Youngs, has quite a ring to it, wouldn't you agree?"
I have given birth to a son. He looks exactly like Eleanor, who of course is going around bragging. He has wispy black hair on his head, her grey eyes, and even her scowl! I allowed my darling to name him, seeing how Abrona's name was my choice. Eleanor named our boy Terence. I think it's after her mother, but I don't mind, she should remember her mother and not be ashamed."
Arcadia flicked past the pages about the island's continued development, the new women settling on the island, the successes and failures of crops and vegetables. Nothing much had changed from back then to now, some years the farming community had good years, other years were bad.
Thinking about the farming community brought Rayna back into the Princess' immediate thoughts and a warm smile lit up the blonde's face. I can't wait to see her tomorrow! Arcadia sighed. This afternoon was so perfect, even though it was a spur of the moment thing. Getting up to stretch, the Princess walked from one end of her chambers to the other. When I'm with Rayna...I feel different than when I was out with Kemina and even Ralphina. My time with Kemina was...interesting. She's very intelligent and good company, but something was definitely missing. And my time with Audra Reeder was fascinating and entertaining! Ralphina...the Princess frowned. Well, it would be a stretch if all warriors could be like Rayna.
Ralphina Theccan was under the impression that girls should be falling at her feet purely because she was a warrior. She hadn't been amused by the Princess challenging her in a verbal debate, and didn't like that the princess was so strong willed. Their courtship had ended quickly.
Arcadia shook her head. Anyway, none of that matters now. I am courting or being courted by the one I wanted. Smiling happily, the Princess started to get changed for bed, wanting to have a good night's rest so she was refreshed for the next day.
Arcadia sat on the soft green grass, leaning back against a tree, out of the afternoon sun. Her two guards, one sitting, one standing, were a few trees away, giving the Princess some privacy.
She was trying to concentrate on the diary she held, but her eyes kept drifting into the trees in search of Rayna. It had become routine between them, meeting for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, talking and sharing kisses before parting for the night.
I should really let her concentrate on the upcoming trip she has to go on. And I should finish my reading. Arcadia looked up as she heard approaching footsteps and couldn't stop the smile that lit up her face. Dropping the diary she hadn't been reading, she stood up and ran to meet the dark-haired warrior.
The Princess gasped as she came to a stop in front of Rayna. "What happened?" she asked, running a gentle finger across the bandage around Rayna's head, an ugly purple bruise already formed beneath it.
"A branch snapped back and hit me. It was a complete accident."
Arcadia slid her arms around Rayna's neck and pulled the warrior's head down, kissing her softly. "Come on," she said, taking a warm hand in her own. "Let us sit down." The blonde sat back down where she had been, tugging Rayna down next to her.
The warrior stretched out on the grass and lay her head on Arcadia's lap. "You carry on with your studies, I'll take a nap," Rayna said wearily. She closed her eyes and sighed happily as gentle fingers brushed through her hair. "What are you reading today?"
"The diary of Abrona. The other day, my grandmother was telling me her story is very tragic."
Rayna opened one eye and looked up into green. "Really? Why?"
"I don't know. She said she didn't want to ruin it for me, so wouldn't say."
Rayna laughed. "Left you eager to know, huh? Will you read me a little?"
"Are you curious?" Arcadia asked softly, tracing the warrior's cheek gently.
"No, not really. I like the sound of your voice though. It fills me with a sense of...peace."
Smiling, her heart filled with love for the warrior who acted tough, but was actually quite soft. The blonde opened the diary to where she had been and started reading aloud.
I am Abrona, the future Queen of Belleza. I am twelve Summers old and have reddish-blonde hair like my mummy had. My eyes are grey like mama's.
My mummy died during the birth of my baby sister. I was six, my brother, Terence five. I find myself struggling to remember her, I...I remember little things, like a lullaby she used to sing, or sometimes I'll catch a scent and it will remind me of her.
Mama used to tell us stories of mummy whenever we asked. She liked to tell us, saying it made her happy recalling the love of her life.
Mama told us how they grew up together and how they always had a bond. She told us of mummy's parents Ailis and Callena, the first Royals, and the women who founded the island we now call home. Even these days, mama will sit and retell stories she has told hundreds of times. I like listening to her and watching her as she talks. She always looks so happy and laughs a lot. When she finishes though, she gets this sad look in her eyes and disappears until dinner usually.
My brother was sent away when he reached ten. It is the rules. I miss him. We used to have so much fun together, playing tricks and making up games to keep us entertained. He writes to me sometimes from where he is in a place called Hispania. He told me how the weather is similar to what we have on Belleza. He tells me about what he does during his days, what he is learning, and friends he has made. It's not the same though. I wish he were here. Our younger sister, Belicia, who is seven now, barely remembers Terence. I think that is sad.
Mama told me Terence can return though on special occasions like birthdays and weddings. I asked why he hasn't been home for my birthdays, and she said he couldn't get to Britannia where the boat leaves from. I hope he can the next time it is my birthday, or even for Belicia's.
I have been learning of my future duties as Queen, it all sounds really boring! I told mama I would rather become a designer and help with the building of houses. She frowned and told me it was my duty to be Queen. It was the way things worked.
I don't think it's fair to thrust this destiny onto me! Why can't Belicia take my role? She is a girl. Perhaps I will ask mama her opinion on that?"
Arcadia flicked past a few pages, not wanting to read Rayna the angst of her ancestor. It seemed Abrona wasn't happy with the life she was being made to live. Her anger at everyone and more than a few nasty words expressed her opinion about what she thought of being the next Queen and losing her mother at such a young age. She was saddened whenever she saw other girls out with both their mothers.
"What's wrong?" Rayna asked, seeing a frown on the Princess' brow.
"Oh, I'm just skipping past a few pages. It seems Abrona was incredibly angry at the world, and I don't want to read those bits to you."
Rayna smiled. "I see."
"Ahh, here we go, young love," the blonde smiled, while Rayna rolled her eyes.
I am almost of courting age! Mama told me that once I reached sixteen, I would start my search for a mate. Someone who I would share my life with. She told me there was no rush, I could take as long as I want over choosing who to wed, perhaps I will hold out until I'm twenty!
I jest. I think I already know who my one is! Back when I used to attend school, there was a girl named Candra. She was...truly beautiful! With long blonde hair and the bluest eyes I have ever seen! Anyway, I have seen her around lately and I don't think she is seeing anyone. Whenever our eyes meet, she turns away, blushing an interesting shade of red. I wish she would approach and request my company!
Do you think I could ask her? I've never heard of a Royal asking to court someone. Perhaps I could be the first? But what if she is already courting or being courted by someone? What if she is betrothed! I suppose I will just have to wait and see, I have a couple of moons yet before I am even of age.
Aunt Dulce and aunt Diana are having another baby! That will take them to five! I asked mama why they have had so many children and she laughed, before telling me that they love each other dearly. I wondered afterwards if mummy had lived, perhaps I would have more siblings? A question that will never have an answer.
Anyway, I spoke with cousin Lonette, asking how she feels about having another sibling. She is hoping for a baby sister. She says she is sick of all the boys in the family. Her older brother, my cousin Foster, left the island as well. He went to Britannia. I don't understand why Terence didn't go to Britannia as well. I must remember to ask next time I write to him."
Today I woke up and found beautiful handpicked flowers on my window sill. Candra is soooo romantic!
I couldn't wipe the smile from my face over breakfast. My family kept enquiring what had made me so happy first thing in the day. It got even worse when Candra arrived at the Palace.
Today was the day we announced to the island we are officially together! Candra was so nervous. She's not used to the attention like I am. I held her hand throughout the ordeal, offering silent support.
I don't know why such a big fuss was made, it's not like we announced a betrothal. (Can you imagine!). We could have had a quiet word with a few of the gossips and let the news spread by itself. But no! The public relations woman decided we should make a big deal out of it, so Candra and I were sat on the stage they recently built in the middle of the island. Women who turned out to see us were cheering (some were booing!). It was like we were...famous or something.
Anyway, it's over now. Thank the Gods!"
Arcadia smiled and turned the page.
It is terrible! The island has been attacked! Or rather, the Palace has.
It goes back to grandma Ailis. Her father hated the fact she was in love with abuela Callena. She was Spanish, and came from a poor slave family. Apparently that is reason enough to hate her. Put on top of that the fact she was four years older than grandma and you'll start to get the picture. (Abuela is Spanish for Grandmother, by the way).
They met when grandma Ailis was sixteen. One day, grandma got out of the Palace where she lived and was walking around, when it started raining heavily. To get out of the rain, grandma sheltered in someone's doorway to stay dry, when a tall, dark, exotic stranger stopped next to her. To cut a long boring seduction bit short, they fell in love.
When grandma's father found out, he hit the roof and banned her from seeing abuela Callena. He had his security guards increase their patrols around his house and told Callena she would be strung up if she stepped foot on his land. (Very dramatic, isn't it). He then hurriedly tried to find a husband for grandma, hoping to get her married off!!!
It didn't stop them. They found ways to meet up and be together. When grandma turned seventeen, they eloped and got married. (How romantic!). This still didn't stop Ailis's father though, even when grandma was pregnant with mummy, he still tried to separate them.
Anyway, they came here to the island with a group of friends who wanted to leave as well. But the old man wouldn't be put off. He started spreading evil lies. He sent his armies out in search, he hired barbarians and mercenaries, and when they had no luck finding the women, he got in touch with the families the women had left behind and told them lies to get them to join his ranks in search of everyone.
Abuela Callena didn't expect to be left in peace. That is why she had Teresa Black, mama's mum, train a group of women all she knew in fighting techniques.
My love, Candra, is a warrior! Now we have been attacked...she will be going off to fight!
I wept all night when I found out. Mama told me she would have a word with aunty Dulce, she is the warrior's leader, and will have her keep an eye on Candra. But it's not enough! They are going off to battle, so many people are killed or injured during these battles. I have heard all about wars involving the Romans, it's usually a bloodbath!"
Arcadia looked down at Rayna, seeing the warrior had drifted to sleep. She softly brushed her fingers through dark locks. What would I do if you had to go off to fight? She shook her head, turning her attention back to the diary and turned the page.
Today was the worst day of my life!
It started last night when I begged Candra to stay with me. I wanted...I wanted to give her what's already hers. I wanted us to be together, to...lay together, to share this special gift...just in case. She insisted we should wait until our wedding night. I went to bed alone, not sleeping as my thoughts lingered on her.
This morning was heartbreaking! I went down to the shore where the warriors were preparing to leave. While mama spoke with aunt Dulce, I escaped with Candra, spending a few last moments in each others arms, kissing and whispering I love you's.
Then aunt Dulce called, "Everyone front and centre." and it was time. Candra and I walked back towards where everyone was lining up, with our arms around each other. I stopped next to mama's side and held Candra's hand until both our arms were stretched as far as they could, then her fingers slipped from my grasp.
I watched, my heart breaking, tears running freely down my cheeks, as all the warriors started boarding the boat. Mama put her arm around my shoulders and told me everything would be okay. Her attempt at making me feel better didn't work.
Candra broke rank and rushed back to my arms, holding me tightly. "I will be back, Princess," she whispered into my ear. "As soon as I get back, we will get married and live happily ever after."
I burst into tears again, Candra lovingly wiped away each one, kissed me, and smiled. "I love you, Abs" (that is her nickname for me), then she was gone."
Rayna slightly opened her eyes to look up at the blonde, seeing the sadness on the Princess' face. She watched the blonde turn the page, and closed her eyes again, as Arcadia continued reading.
I know it's been a few moons since I last wrote, but...I couldn't...I just couldn't force myself to write.
Candra's...gone and with her my heart and soul. She died a hero.
No, this doesn't make me feel any better, at least not now. Maybe one day in the future when it doesn't hurt so much."
Rayna's eyes flew open. "Don't even think it," she said softly. But it was too late. Green eyes were already filled with worry and fear. The warrior sat up and pulled Arcadia into her arms.
"No," Rayna broke in. "Don't start thinking about what may or may not happen. You will drive yourself crazy with those thoughts."
Arcadia pulled out of the embrace. "But we could be attacked, couldn't we? You'll...you'll have to go off and fight." Doesn't she know how much I care? Doesn't she know it would kill me to lose her? Doesn't she...feel the same?
"Yes, it could happen. But you can't worry about it every day, Arcadia. There is danger in every job. On the farm, an accident could maim or kill someone, one of the houses on fire could kill someone. We can't think about it too much, we have to live and take each day as it comes."
The Princess threw herself back into Rayna's arms, squeezing her eyes shut as tears threatened to fall.
"Come on, Cadie. I'll walk you home," Rayna offered, pulling back out of the tight hold the blonde had on her.
"No, I will walk you home," Arcadia replied stubbornly. "You got hit pretty hard in the head. I won't be able to sleep tonight worrying whether or not you got home."
Rayna chuckled and leaned forward to place a soft kiss on the end of the blonde's nose. "Okay, Princess." She stood up and offered the blonde her hand to help her up, and pulled her up next to her. The warrior wrapped an arm around Arcadia's shoulders, feeling slim arms go around her waist.
Holding each other close, the two girls made their way towards Rayna's house in the dimming light, Karita and Leonora following them silently.
"Rayna," Arcadia said quietly, unsure of the reaction her coming words were going to get.
"I don't want to see you again until you are due to leave."
Rayna stopped walking, pulling the Princess to a stop also. "Care to explain why?"
Green eyes locked onto confused blue. "I...I want you to prepare yourself without interruption for what is to come. I asked mama about it and she told me it's different each year, but for her tour, she hardly got any sleep, she had to eat whilst on the go, and sometimes she didn't stop for days..." Arcadia trailed off. "I want you to be ready for it. Whatever it is you're going to face."
The warrior opened her mouth, ready to protest. Arcadia stopped her, placing her fingertips on her lips. "Please agree to this, Rayna."
"Please, Rayna. I know I'm being stupid and reacting badly to that diary, but..." the Princess sighed. "Just humour me, okay?"
Seeing how much this meant to the blonde, Rayna reluctantly nodded. "Okay," she answered, cupping Arcadia's cheek in her large, callused hand. "But I'm going to miss you."
"Of course I will. You mean a lot to me, Cadie. You...you always have done."
Feeling her heart burst with love for the dark-haired teen, Arcadia launched herself at her and kissed her passionately, not caring that they were in the presence of her two guards. "Mmmm," she moaned as she broke the kiss, and backed away breathing hard. "I love kissing you so much, but I better get you home."
Rayna laughed and nodded. She glanced back at the two guards, who were conveniently looking the other way. "I think you embarrassed them."
Arcadia looked back at her guards and laughed at the blushes she could just make out in the light that remained. "Yes. Well, you are Karita's daughter's best friend. I am sure she has watched you grow up."
Laughing, Rayna offered the blonde her arm and they set off again.
Outside Rayna's house, the two teens stood in the shadows as Karita and Leonora gave them some privacy, confident the young warrior would look after the Princess. They had their arms wrapped around each other and were swapping soft kisses.
Tightening her hold around the blonde's waist, Rayna leaned her forehead against Arcadia's and looked into her eyes. "Are you really serious about us not seeing each other?" she asked quietly.
"Oh, honey, yes," Arcadia replied. "I want you to concentrate. It's only two weeks."
"Yes, but it's going to be a bloody long two weeks if I can't see you."
Arcadia kissed away the pout on Rayna's lips. "I will miss you very much as well, Rayna. But can you do this for me? Please?"
"Cadie, we're going to be apart for a whole year! I don't understand why we can't spend these few weeks together?" the warrior complained.
"I...want you to focus completely on your training, no distractions. Please. Please do this for me."
"Yes, I'll do it, but I am not happy about it."
"Rayna," Mariah called out. "Say goodnight and come in so you can clean up before dinner."
"Okay, ma." Blue eyes looked back into green. "I hate this, but if it is what you want, I'll go along with it. I care about you a lot, Arcadia. I will do whatever makes you happy." She ducked her head and kissed soft lips again. "I better let you go, otherwise I will be here for another half of a candle!"
Arcadia smiled. "We can't have that." She kissed the warrior one last time, then stepped back. "Goodnight, Rayna." She walked off, disappearing into the darkness.
"Night, Princess." The warrior watched her go, then sighed and turned to go inside.
* * * * *
Arcadia wished Karita and Leonora a goodnight once they reached the Palace. She walked into her home on autopilot, not really conscious of what she was doing. She knew the layout of the Palace so well, she could walk around with her eyes closed if she wished.
With troubled thoughts on her mind, instead of heading to Dionis' office, where she usually spent her evenings in the company of her quiet, dark-haired mother, she headed instead for the art room, where she knew Athena would be.
Athena was a big lover of art. Whenever she returned to the world her ancestors had left behind, she would always return with something new, like a painting that had caught her eye, or a piece of pottery, or a carving. The Queen was a talented artist in her own right and when something didn't call for her attention, she could be found standing in front of her own easel, or seated with a parchment of paper, whatever she was seeing coming to life on her canvas or paper.
Athena looked up in surprise as her daughter walked into the art room, knowing something had to be wrong to warrant a rare visit from the blonde Princess. "Hello, darling. Everything all right?"
Arcadia waved a greeting to her mother and offered a weak smile. "Hello, mother. Everything is fine," she replied, taking a seat on one of the comfortable light green sofas her mother had added to the room. "Can't I just come and spend some quality time with my mother?"
Athena smiled. "Usually you curl up in your mama's office with a book or one of the diaries. You rarely come to me. What's on your mind, baby?"
The Princess nibbled on her bottom lip, unsure about whether to speak out about her fears. Athena waited, knowing whatever the problem was, it would come out eventually. She continued with her painting, the forest scene she had outlined slowly coming to life with each drop of colour she added.
"Were you scared when you realised you were in love with mama?" Arcadia asked quietly.
Paintbrush stopping in mid-air, the blonde Queen looked across at her daughter in surprise. "Scared? Why on earth would I be scared?"
"Because she was a warrior. You must have read Abrona's diary. Didn't that make you fear what could happen?"
Athena put down her brush and smiled in sympathy at her daughter. "What happened to your great, great grandmother was unfortunate. Losing her true love before they could marry...well, it was tragic. She was never the same after losing Candra. But that never made me afraid of what I felt for Dionis. You can never fear love, Arcadia." She walked over to the blonde and sat down next to her. "Sometimes in our lives we are given challenges, tough challenges, but still we have to carry on."
Arcadia frowned. "Did it bother you that mama was a warrior though?"
"Yes, of course it did." The Queen wrapped an arm around her daughter's shoulders.
"Did you ever ask mama to give up the warrior life?" the Princess asked curiously.
Athena shook her head. "No and I never would have. It was the life she wanted, the career she wanted. I would never have stood in the way of that." She tilted her head, looking closely at Arcadia. "You have to understand, baby. It is their life. They train for battle for all those years, then they have to go off and do a final test to be able to graduate." The Queen took a deep breath. "Sometimes they don't return."
Arcadia blinked rapidly as her eyes filled with tears, thoughts of losing Rayna filling her head.
"And even when they do pass and return to you," Athena continued, "if we are attacked or are called upon for help from our male counterparts, they rush off again to do their duty."
"How did you cope with mama living life as a warrior?" Arcadia asked, wanting to know everything she could about living life with a warrior.
"I didn't," Athena admitted. "When Dionis left for her final test, I thought I would die every day I woke up and remembered where she was and what she was doing. I waited in fear for news, fateful news that would have killed me inside. At day break, I would rush down to the coastline and wait for the returning ship." She took her daughter's hand. "Every other week it would return with the dead and the injured. I never knew what I was going to find."
"But mama made it back. She came back and you two got married."
Athena smiled brightly and nodded. "Yes, it worked out for us. The year your mama took her final test was pretty quiet. There were no major battles raging. She was put with a small group and they used to patrol a large area, keeping it safe from barbarians and travelling mercenaries. She was very disappointed when she returned. She had trained her whole life and in the end never saw battle."
Arcadia frowned. "Never? We've never been attacked or asked for help while mama was serving?"
"Why did mama give up her warrior life?" Arcadia asked. "She could still be serving now if she wanted."
"She wanted to be close to her family and your grandma Mina offered her job, upgrading our security and finding new ways to keep us all safe." Taking her daughter's hand, Athena looked into green eyes, very much like her own. "What has bought this on, darling? Are you...are you having feelings for a warrior?" Could it be young Rayna, I wonder?
"I...I was just wondering is all. I read Abrona's diary this afternoon and...it was so sad."
"Yes it was," the Queen agreed. "But that can't stop you from following your heart, baby. If you find true love, someone who is your heart and soul, don't shy away from it because that would be more tragic than losing them all together."
Nodding in understanding and with new troubled thoughts whirling around her head, Arcadia smiled and stood. "Thank you, mummy. I better go and check on mama, you know, make sure she's not getting into any trouble without me."
Athena laughed, knowing full well what her wife was like. "Darling," she called out.
Arcadia turned back to her mother, a blonde eyebrow slightly raised.
"Think hard about what you want in life. Loving a warrior isn't easy, but then could you join with another when your heart is elsewhere."
Arcadia nodded once in acknowledgement and headed for the door.
Athena watched her daughter go, a slight frown creasing her brow. I hope she's not thinking about asking Rayna to give up her warrior life. That could only cause trouble between them.
* * * * *
Later that evening, after Arcadia had retired to her chambers for the night, Athena lay curled up next to Dionis, both staring at the flames of the fire they had going.
"Arcadia was quiet at dinner this evening," Dionis said. "Is something wrong?"
The Queen caressed the strong arm that was wrapped securely around her. "I think....Promise me you won't get angry or upset."
A dark eyebrow lifted as the Queen tilted her head to look up at her wife. "So something is wrong?" Dionis said, promising nothing.
"Dionis, my love, promise?"
The ex-warrior sighed and nodded. "Promise."
"I think our daughter has feelings for a warrior." Athena waited for the explosion, surprised when there was none. "Dionis?"
Dionis kissed her wife's head. "Why do you think that? Has Arcadia said something?"
"She came to see me earlier in the art room," the Queen sighed. "She...asked me if I was scared when I realised that I was in love with you."
"Because you were a warrior," the blonde explained.
"I see. What did you tell her?"
"It is because she read Abrona's diary, you know, how she lost Candra."
Dionis nodded. "It brought up questions."
Athena nodded. "I told her that what happened was tragic, but it never made me fear what I felt for you."
Kissing the blonde's head again, Dionis smiled happily. "I love you."
Athena grinned. "And I you, my warrior."
"So...why does this make you think she cares for a warrior?"
"Arcadia asked if it bothered me you were a warrior, if I ever asked you to give up the warrior life, how I coped while you were away."
"I see. What's your plan?"
"To find out if you're right about Arcadia liking a warrior?"
Athena smiled. "Time will tell, my love." The Queen knew it would be unwise to share her thoughts on their daughter and Rayna. Dionis hated thinking of their little girl as a grown up. For the time being, she would let things play themselves out.
* * * * *
Arcadia lay in bed staring blankly up at her ceiling. The room was aglow from numerous candles, the flickering flames making the shadows dance. She had been fairly quiet for the rest of the evening after the talk she had with her mother. She was worried and afraid about what the future held for her. She knew she liked Rayna.
Oh who are you trying to kid! You love her. You are in love with her. The Princess rolled over onto her side. Can I live in fear of not knowing if she's coming home though? And if we were to marry and have children, could I cope if we lost her then?
Wondering what her great, great grandmother had done after the loss of her true love, Arcadia sat up and picked up the discarded diary.
Today is my wedding day. In a few short hours, I shall walk down the aisle and be joined with a woman I do not love!
It has been a year since the....since Candra went away. Mama has fixed me up with another women. She says it is my duty to marry and provide an heir to the throne. We sat and had a long talk. She told me she knew what I was going through, what I was feeling or rather, wasn't feeling. With the loss of mummy, I know she was telling the truth.
My wife to be is named Lani Inman and she works with a group of women who are trying to improve the island, no sorry, trying to progress the island.
Anyway, I met her and we went out a couple of times. She is nice, I suppose. I told her the deal. I said boldly on our first date that I would never give her my heart, as it already belonged to someone. She said she understood, she complimented me on coping with what has happened and said she didn't know if she was a strong enough person to go through what I have.
I respected her after that. That is why when mother suggested I marry Lani, I agreed. She knows the deal, and I know that she is not all that bothered by love either. She cares more for her work. She proposed one evening in the gardens and I said yes.
I must go, I have to get ready. The next time I write, I shall be a married woman and probably no longer...pure!"
Arcadia's eyes widened. She had to marry someone else! Someone she didn't even love! The Princess frowned. Why didn't the shaman just gift her with a child, an heir to the throne? Then she wouldn't have had to marry anyone?
She turned the page, eager to continue.
I am a married woman.
It is the morning after my wedding.
Our wedding was a large fancy affair. Friends, family, men and women who have left the island, they all attended. I wore a fine peach coloured dress and a pasted on smile. Lani looked smart in a green shirt and dark coloured trousers. She looked so proud and incredibly happy, I tried my best not to ruin it for her, even though I thought a lot of Candra. Many of my thoughts were on the fact that I should have been marrying Candra, how this was supposed to be our day, how she would have looked in her warrior finery.
Last night we...consummated our relationship. It was completely unpleasant! Lani was gentle and took care of my needs as well as her own. The whole time...the whole time I lay there wishing it were Candra. Having her image in my head, then opening my eyes to see someone else hovering over me...it just about destroyed me.
The shaman didn't bless us or anything, not like she usually does. She took me aside and told me tonight I had to consummate my marriage, then she would arrange for a suitable male to come to the island, where he and I would be briefly joined, in the hopes of me getting pregnant. When I asked why she wouldn't bless me, she told me it was because she knew I had no love for the woman I was joined with, my heart was elsewhere.
It's not fair, though the act wasn't completely unpleasant, I just...I don't think I can do...it again! I suppose I have no choice. There must be an heir."
Arcadia put the diary down and rearranged herself to get comfortable again. Could I do that? Could I not only marry another, but let them....and have a child by them or some...male brought to the island specifically to get me...with child? She sighed. Maybe...maybe Rayna and I should just....She shook her head. No. It is not allowed. There are rules for a reason. Rayna will be fine and she will return, then we'll see about our future.
The Princess didn't fall asleep for many candle marks.
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