Author: XandraAli PM
After being taken from her home Laseana is now being forced to marry a man she doesn't know, on the other side of the sea, but not by her family, by her enemy. #3 in my 'Into Their Own' series, after 'The Peasant' and 'The Strong One'Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Spiritual - Words: 3,269 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-14-12 - Published: 11-25-11 - id: 2974052
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Laseana leaned against the window and stared into the forest, then gave an involuntary shudder. She would never understand her older sister's fascination with the place. She much preferred to stay safely within the castle walls. Who knew what lurked within that dark mass of trees? Every time that she watched Sara enter them she feared Sara would never come back out, but this time she knew she wouldn't.
Laseana brushed away the tears spilling from her eyes and went to her dressing table to begin brushing through her hair. She yanked the stiff brush through her hair with much more force than necessary, sending a stinging pain radiating over her scalp, how could Sara do this to her? She depended on her sister, more than she wanted to admit.
A commotion at the gate drew Laseana back to the window. She pushed aside the curtain with the back of her hand, her fingers still clutching her brush. It seemed that everyone in the castle was now surrounding someone standing by the gates. A man in the uniform of a guard broke off from the crowd and run into the castle.
Laseana squeezed her brush tightly and tried to keep her breathing steady, even as her heart threatened to burst right out of her chest. It was probably nothing, just an upcoming wedding or something like that. But what if it wasn't? What if someone had died? What if it was her father? He'd been gone so much longer than he'd said and he hadn't written in weeks.
Laseana started up, the brush falling from her grasp, then leaned against the window, trying to breathe. "Come in." She gasped out.
"Your mother wants to see you at once." Her mother's maid, Nadira, called through the door. Hurried footsteps indicated that she had already left.
Laseana grabbed the bright blue liro from her wardrobe and wrapped it over her white dress, then hurried to her mother's quarters. When she arrived she found her mother and her younger sister Angeni already waiting in her mother's sitting room.
As usual her mother sat in her favorite high back chair, sitting as straight and nobly as a queen on her throne, her hands neatly folded in her lap, and Angeni sat as far away from their mother as possible on the settee. But Laseana knew that things weren't quite the same as usual, she wasn't sure if it was the way Angeni seemed to actually be paying attention to their mother, or the way her mother kept twisting her wedding band around her finger.
Princess Lydia Monteya was the model of dignity and nobility, and she did not approve of fidgeting of any sort. Her perfectly shaped red lips were drawn up so tightly they nearly disappeared, another habit the princess disapproved of. At the sight of Laseana she relaxed her mouth into a smile, the diplomatic smile Laseana knew all too well, and motioned a perfectly manicured hand towards the settee.
"Sit darling, we have much to discuss, and little time." She looked to the door again, leaning forward to look down the hall. Impatience was clearly written across her face, or was that fear? Laseana couldn't decide, but she hoped for the former, that was a much more familiar territory.
"Where is Sara? Nobody has seen her all morning, not since yesterday in fact." She turned her eyes back to Laseana, clearly expecting an answer.
"She's gone Mother, she went out riding just before dawn and hasn't returned," Laseana bit her lip and hesitated, but her mother's look left no room for excuses, "and I don't think she will."
Lydia pinched the bridge of her nose, as if to ward off a headache. "Of all the times for her to pull a stunt like this, foolish child."
"I'm surprised it took her this long, she's been thinking about it from the day she returned. Not that you would know." Angeni's voice was as prim and proper as her mother's but they were tinged with her usual bitterness.
"Angeni!" Their mother spoke sharply, showing the cracks in her composure, "I will not have any of your attitude, not today. Is that understood? I don't have the time to deal with you right now."
"Not that you ever have." Angeni mumbled the words but Laseana heard them and she knew their mother had to. For a moment she saw a flicker of pain in her mother's eyes as Lydia blinked rapidly, taking in a deep breath, but it was quickly gone, replaced by the business like attitude that Lydia used with everyone, including her children.
"We haven't the time to argue girls. I'm sure that you have both noticed that there has been quite a lot of activity around the gates."
Laseana nodded as her heart resumed it's rapid beat. Angeni nodded as well, a slow and jerky movement, as if she begrudged her mother even this small response.
"Our country is under attack. The Adavian army landed on the coast late yesterday, they ravaged the capital and are now on their way here, they are certain to arrive within the hour."
Laseana cried out involuntarily, "What are we going to do? We must leave at once!"
Lydia placed a gentle hand on her daughter's knee, "No, we will remain here. We are not commoners or animals to flee before a threat. We are royalty, a strong and noble line. We will hold our ground, and do honor to our name."
Laseana leaned forward and gripped her mother's hand tightly, on the edge of hysteria. "But Mother, we can't fight them! We must flee, what will it matter if our blood is royal if it is all spilled upon the ground?"
"We will not fight them. Such battles are for foolish men and wild animals, not us. We will accept our fate with dignity and grace. Is that understood?"
Laseana scrunched her eyes together tightly and swallowed a sob, her arms wrapped tightly around her body, rocking back and forth. Suddenly all the times she had been afraid came back to her, they paled in comparison to this moment. She had no idea what was going to happen to her. She could be killed, or taken back to Adavia as a spoil of war. She had heard stories of what soldiers did to the women they captured.
Princess Lydia moved to sit beside her daughter, pulling her into her arms. Laseana melted into her mother's embrace. The last time she remembered her mother holding her like this she had been a small child. From then on her signs of affection had been limited to a hand on the shoulder, a quick and stiff embrace.
"It's going to be alright, God will take care of you darling. Trust Him." Her mother whispered gently.
Those words surprised Laseana more than anything, her mother went to church and fulfilled all of her religious duties, but Laseana had never heard her speak of God in this way. What had happened in just these last hours to change her mother so?
"Now, I want you both to go to the nursery and wait with your little brother and sisters, they have only been told that we might have to go away for a while so don't say anything. There are things I must do." Lydia got to her feet and headed towards the door then stopped and turned back. She looked to Angeni, chewing on her lip, the first sign of uncertainty Laseana had ever seen from her confident mother.
In an impulsive movement the princess leaned down and hugged Angeni tightly. Her daughter remained stiff for a moment then relaxed a little, her arms slowly snaking around her mother's neck. Almost as quickly as it had started the moment had ended and Lydia had hurried from the room.
A tear ran down Angeni's face and she quickly brushed it away. "Come along, we should go the nursery." She pulled her older sister up and led her through the halls to the rooms where the three youngest children were kept.
Laseana had stopped sobbing, she supposed she was a little too shocked to feel anything else right now, this most certainly was the most surprising day of her life, and it was still early.
The nursery door opened before they had even reached. Marthe, the nanny who had been responsible for the upbringing of all the Monteya children, motioned the girls in. She gave them both quick but warm hugs. "I'm glad to see you girls, and I'm sure your brother and sisters will be too, they're in the playroom with Morena."
Marthe led them through the entry room and into the playroom where Morena, Marthe's assistant, was playing with the younger children. Kahli and Lovela, the twins, sprang up the moment they saw their big sisters, moving almost as one to run towards Laseana and Angeni.
"Sana! Geni!" They spoke nearly in unison, as usual. Laseana pulled Lovela into her arms, glad for a distraction. She would never have admitted it but of the twins Lovela was her favorite, she was so much more reserved than her fiery twin, so much like Laseana herself.
Luke, the baby of the family, was settled on Morena's hip. His dark brown eyes were always very serious but his dimpled smile belied his excitement. He bounced up and down, stretching out his chubby arms. Angeni scooped him up at once, resting her head against his dark curls.
Laseana smiled, Angeni seemed to find something with Luke that she never had with her other siblings. Laseana had never been able to understand her middle sister. She was every bit as passionate and adventurous as Sara, but she had no interest in Sara's outdoor exploits, preferring to direct her own passions towards more feminine amusements. She was the shortest of the sisters, coming only to Laseana's chin, and her skin was far more fair than any of them, almost a cream and honey tone rather than the copper skin of the rest of her family. But she had the same determined chin and dark brown eyes as both her mother and her oldest sister.
Laseana had never quite understood why her mother was always so cold to Angeni. Angeni was, in most ways, an ideal lady, dignified and graceful, not to mention beautiful, if a bit spoiled and temperamental at moments. She should have been nearly the ideal child to her mother, but instead Lydia practically ignored her third daughter.
Lovela had completely settled down in Laseana's lap, content to do nothing more than suck her thumb and watch the others. She had no fear of the coming events because she had no real knowledge of them. Laseana longed to return to a time of such innocence and bliss. A time where fear was reserved for snakes, spiders, and other similar creatures.
A furious pounding, followed by foreign shouts, drifted through the open window and Laseana had to bite down on her tongue to keep from screaming. Angeni jumped up and slammed the window shut. Luke, startled by the sudden noise let out a wail, Laseana wished she could join him. Instead she wrapped her arms around Lovela and let her head hang down.
The grating sound of rusting hinges, followed by a metallic 'clang' indicated that the gates had been opened. They were coming in. Her grip on Lovela tightened and the sob she'd been holding back came out as a squeak as tears spilled over her cheeks.
For a few moments everything was silent, no more clanging metal, no more shouting, no more pounding hooves. Only the sounds of Angeni's furious huffs and her own quiet sobs. Then all hell broke loose. There was an eruption of screaming, pounding footsteps, and breaking wood.
Seconds later their door crashed open, split right down the middle. Laseana screamed and shrank back as Adavian men poured into the room, one after another. Angeni jumped to her feet, "And you call us savages? Breaking down the door on unarmed women and children?" She spit at the feet of the man nearest her.
WIthout hesitating the soldier slapped her full across the face, leaving an angry mark the shape of his hand and splitting her lip. Angeni glared at him as she dragged the back of her hand over her mouth, wiping away the small trickle of blood. Then she actually smiled, "And you call yourself a man."
The soldier grabbed her by the back of her dress and threw her through the door and into the arms of another man. She flailed wildly as the second man attempted to secure her wrists behind her back. "Just get her out of here." The first man shouted before turning back to the rest of the group.
His gaze fell on Laseana, and it sent chills up her spine. His gaze was both cruel and haughty, as if he always did and got what he wanted. "Now, we don't want to hurt you, and so long as you do as we say we won't, but I will not tolerate any more attitude. My orders are only to deliver you alive, the condition in which you arrive is completely at my discretion."
Laseana fought at the panic clawing away at her, desperately trying to keep her breathing under control. It was moments like this that she wished she was more like Sara, strong and brave, not allowing fear to get the best of her. Right now fear was getting all of her.
"Nothing to say? Good, you're already learning your proper place. Now get up and come with us."
Lovela and Kahli both clung to their nanny while her assistant carried Luke. When Laseana didn't move fast enough two soldiers pulled her to her feet and half dragged half carried her through the door and down the hall. She wanted to kick and scream like she could see Angeni doing, but she was practically paralyzed, sobbing so hard her chest and stomach were growing sore.
Her horse, the sweet roan mare she rarely rode, waited at the gates and she was unceremoniously dropped into the saddle. Her knees clamped tightly around the horse's body and her hands assumed a death grip on the reins. She had never been comfortable riding, the little traveling she did was always by carriage. Although she supposed riding was better than going by boat.
Her mother was led to her own mount, a massive black gelding as impressive and imposing as she was. Angeni was thrown bodily into a large wagon already carrying the little ones and their nannies. Angeni was plenty old enough to ride, but she guessed that the soldiers had guessed, and rightly so, that she would take off the first chance she got.
The caravan took off almost at once, heading back along the same road it had come on. They rode for several hours before stopping abruptly in a thickly wooded area. It made little sense to Laseana, she didn't spend much time in the woods but she didn't think this looked like much of a place to camp.
The trees would require them to scatter the tents wherever they could find enough space, and she didn't see or hear any sign of water. Perhaps for a lone traveler it would be sufficient, but she couldn't imagine it would work very well for a group of their size.
The man who had slapped Angeni came forward. From listening to the soldiers she had ascertained that he was Lieutenant Adrius and he was in charge of this operation. He shouted out to his men, a wicked smile on his face, "Well men, it would seem that this forest is in the way of our campsite, and you know what we do with things that get in our way don't you?" His smile widened. "We destroy them, now get at it."
The soldiers all took off at once, with the exception of those chosen as guards, grabbing axes from the wagons.A young man, perhaps a year or two older than Lisa herself, stood next to the Lieutenant. He was not in a uniform, instead wearing the clothes of an aristocrat, bars sewn to the shoulders of his silk shirt indicated his status as a soldier. He leaned over and appeared to whisper something to Lieutenant Adrius but the older man brushed him off.
Lisa bit her lip as the sound of axe against tree pounded into her head. As much as she didn't enjoy the outdoors this land was a part of her, a part of her heritage and her history. This was her home and they were quite literally destroying it before her very eyes.
It took less than an hour to create a massive clearing, leaving nothing but stumps in their wake. As soon as the destruction was completed the tents were pitched and supplies were unpacked. Lisa was led to a large tent at the very center of the camp.
To her surprise the tent had been furnished. The bare ground had been covered and padded and two mattresses were covered with silk bedding. Her own wooden wardrobe sat in one corner with her dressing table. In the other corner she recognized Angeni's wardrobe and dressing table.
Angeni was practically thrown through the tent flaps and into Lisa. The site of her own furniture seemed to infuriate her. "What, do they think that giving us some of our things back will make us forget the fact that they kidnapped us?!" She spoke loudly enough that Lisa guessed the entire camp could hear her.
"Angeni please." Lisa pleaded, "Don't get yourself into more trouble than you already have. Don't make this any worse, please." Lisa had thought she was out of tears but apparently not for they had resumed their race down her cheeks.
Angeni sank onto a cushion, pulling Lisa down with her. "So that's your plan? To just let this happen? You're just as bad as Mother." She shook her head in disgust, her arms crossed over her chest in a defiant gesture.
Lisa sniffed and wiped away her tears with the edge of her shawl. She didn't want to fight, her whole life was a fight. For control of her fears, for peace in her family, and now for her country. She just wanted to give in, it was so much easier.
She just wished there was someone who understood, yet it seemed that everyone else in her family was perfectly brave and confident, and they expected her to be that way too. Her parents had always been far too busy running their land to worry about her. Lisa knew that Sara loved her, but her older sister had never liked any display of emotion, she saw it as weakness, especially fear. And for Angeni, well it seemed that Angeni thought of life as a game.
She wasn't sure when this had all started. She had never been particularly adventurous or outgoing, but there had been a time when she had loved trips to the sea. She had no desire to fight at scream like Angeni, only to carry herself with the dignity fitting her position, not cowering and shying away like a frightened animal.
The idea of escape had come to her, but the only place she could go would be into the woods, and somehow that didn't seem like a very good alternative. She was completely trapped. She couldn't go home, and she wasn't sure she could go on either.