A/N: As of 12/18/2006 there is a link in my profile to a map that will probably aid you in reading the story. Enjoy!

The Prisoner of Peace

Chapter One: Three Days

It was her third day in the palace, as was customary. She had been alone in her temporary apartments for three entire days. She was not permitted to speak to anyone, as tradition demanded. It was expected that she sit quietly and wait and reflect on the beginning of her new life. However, she chose to sit quietly and reflect on her misery instead. She was no longer a captive, but she felt imprisoned in her lavish rooms nonetheless.

It was her tenth day since she left her own country, her home. She had spent ten days among complete strangers; people who wore different clothes, had different customs, and spoke a different way. She wanted to hate them, she really did. After all they certainly hated her. She was Princess Alexandra of Pryant, how could they do anything but hate her?

Not that she could blame them for hating her, she was certain her reputation in Verlynn was not particularly positive. They probably thought she was a common whore with no right to marry their king. Of course, the average Verlynian probably thought that all Pryantian women were whores. At least they were not discriminatory in their hatred.

Although, she could not pretend her country was perfectly friendly towards their neighbors. The feelings between the two nations were certainly mutual. Alexandra could not remember a time when the two nations were truly at peace and she doubted that it had ever happened in the history of the world, or at least not before her third day in the palace at Caer Mendyll. She was supposed to be the bond that held an everlasting peace between the two greatest nations of Lorgia. Or rather, her marriage to King Hector V of Verlynn would be. At the end of her third day in the palace there would be no more war between the countries and everyone would live in peace. Or at least that was the plan. Everyone just assumed that no king would dare attack his own family.

Alexandra could not say she knew a lot about warfare but she certainly knew her brother, King Richard of Pryant, and knew that he would have very few qualms about attacking his younger sister's home. One could not exactly call him a kind and loving young man. And so, Alexandra was fairly certain no good would come of her marriage to this strange king. In fact, it would be more effective to marry a horse. The princess would not have even agreed to the marriage if her eldest brother had not begged her to do it, she could not bear to deny him is last request.

It was the fortieth day since her eldest brother, King Kaden VIII, had died and they were forty of the longest and hardest days of her life. Ironically, she had spent the first three and last three imprisoned in a palace. The first days she spent at Caer Viseult, her home that had been captured by the enemy. She was a prisoner of war then, a bargaining chip used by Hector to get more land from her people. Then she was locked in a room for three days – guarded constantly by burly soldiers of Verlynn. She was told it was for her own safety, but she highly doubted that. And now, she had practically an entire battalion camped outside her door at Caer Mendyll. They were using her again as a pawn, this time to stop all future wars. Alexandra of Pryant had become a prisoner of peace.

And they all desperately needed peace. Every Lorgian prayed for it. The weaker nations could not afford to get caught between the two rivals, and Verlynn and Pryant could not afford to keep sending young men to the frontier just to get killed. Over the last six years there had been three great wars fought and countless smaller battles. Three kings, one princess and countless soldiers were dead and no one had much of anything to show for it. Pryant had lost the most; two of their kings were dead and they had lost the entire Western Graelyt River Basin to Verlynn, nearly one quarter of the country. Alexandra would have liked to say that it was all Verlynn's fault; that they were a country without a heart and a cruel and ruthless people. Everyone else in Pryant did. The princess, however, was wise beyond her eighteen years. She knew that Verlynn was a country like Pryant, just trying to survive. They were not evil and certainly could not take all the blame for the wars.

It was Pryantians, after all, who began the campaign that led to the Battle at the River Graelyt where Alexandra's father, King Harold III, was killed six years ago. And it was a prince of Pryant who, three years later, single handedly caused the Outrage of Kaylen Muïr, which led to the Battle of Mount Carne, where King Gideon VI of Verlynn met his untimely death. The princess could see that, she could recognize the faults of her homeland but she would never be able to forgive Verlynn for the murder of Kaden.

They had always been very close, Kaden and Alexandra. For years Kaden took it upon himself to be his younger sister's official protector. And even though he was eight years her elder, they got along famously. When she was a child and she fell and scraped her knee, Alexandra always came running straight to Kaden for comfort. He was her knight, always looking out for her and protecting her from Richard, who always saw fit to pick on her. They had drifted apart since their father had died and Kaden had ascended the throne, but she still thought of him fondly. When he died it was as though her entire life had collapsed on top of her.

And here she was, forty days later, imprisoned in a foreign capital awaiting her wedding ceremony, or more likely, her doom. Kaden had a lot of nerve asking her to do this. He had promised her the chance to marry as she liked but he had come to realize that he could not necessarily give her that luxury. Needless to say, Alexandra had vehemently opposed him. She regretted that now.

"Kaden, how could you ask me to do that?" she asked him, her eyes filled with hurt. "You promised me…"

"Alexandra, I love you, you know I do," he reasoned, "and because I love you I'm asking you to –"

"Do not tell me it's a sacrifice I have to make and that it's my duty to my country! I have heard that enough!"

"But Alexandra, think about it – we could have peace, we –"

"No, Kaden, no! It won't work. It never works. We've tried again and again to stop the fighting and this time won't be any different!" the princess yelled. "We'll just go back to fighting like always."

"No, we won't. If you marry him things will change, we'll have peace! Wouldn't that be wonderful?" He was pleading with her now, his eyes shining with hope at the mere mention of an end to the wars.

"Yes, Kaden, it would; it would be magnificent but it can't happen. You can't reconcile a dog to a cat!


"NO! I'm not willing to sacrifice my life to a peace that can never happen."

"But it will happen, it's different this time."

"What makes it different, Kaden, what?"

"It has to be different, it just has to be."

He had asked her to marry Hector the day before he died. The day before the army of Verlynn had taken Caer Viseult. Alexandra still could not truly believe that it had happened. They knew that there would be a battle, but everyone thought that Verlynn would try to take Isyl Frael, the capital. Kaden and Alexandra were not supposed to be anywhere near the battle, their uncle, Geoffrey, had sent them away. (Kaden had never been a warrior and so he had left Geoffrey in control of the military.) The Pryantian armies were supposed to march out from Isyl Frael and meet the armies of Verlynn near the River Graelyt. Pryant was supposed to win. Kaden was supposed to still be alive.

But none of those things had happened. Something had gone terribly wrong. The Verlyninans marched across the mouth of the River Graelyt, not the northern valley. Pryant lost the battle; there was hardly anyone to fight back. And Kaden was dead. None of it made any sense to Alexandra; it just was not supposed to happen that way. Verlynn had tricked them and because of that Kaden was dead.

So, she came to Caer Mendyll. She came because her brother's last words were begging her to keep the peace. And now Alexandra would marry King Hector V of Verlynn.

A maid nervously came into her room, shuffling her feet and staring at the floor. She curtsied and waited for permission to speak. Alexandra gave a small sigh, there was no reason for the maid to be so terrified of her, but the poor girl had probably heard rumors all her life that the princess beats her servants. She nodded in acknowledgement, forbidden to speak. The maid said, "Begging your pardon, milady, but it's 'bout near time you started getting ready for tonight's festivities." Alexandra silently assented, and allowed herself to be led to the bath.

It was the custom of Verlynn for brides to spend the three days before their wedding in silence and isolation. It was thought to bring good luck to the marriage if her husband was the first person a bride talked to in three days. Among members of the nobility, where marriages were generally arranged, and betrothed couples were encouraged to never meet at all before their wedding. They would make up for lost time in the three days following the wedding that the new couple would spend alone together.

It did not make much sense to Alexandra. In Pryant, couples were encouraged to bond before the wedding, not after. How on earth was a marriage supposed to work if a couple had never met until the moment they were joined in holy matrimony for the rest of their lives?

Normally Alexandra would have protested, insisting they follow, or at least address, Pryantian custom, but now she was all alone in a foreign capital and something as trivial as being quiet for three days did not seem to matter. Since Kaden had died and she had been betrothed to King Hector nothing seemed to be worth the trouble to her. She allowed the world to wash over her and accepted things with the same passiveness of a stone in a river, staying still while water beats upon its surfaces, unable to penetrate the surface.

She was dressed in a lovely gown, yet in her agony she barely gave it a second thought. It was a creamy white dress, beautiful but very simple, the only adornment being golden embellishments at her neck and sleeves. Another maid came and they arranged her chestnut hair in delicate curves on top of her head and added a long white veil. She wore no jewels save a golden circlet around her forehead. She had chosen the simplicity in hopes that in would diminish her appearance and she could just sink into the crowds of people, but it had the opposite effect. Alexandra looked even more stunning than if she had opted for a more lavish ensemble and she absolutely hated it. She would have pilled on an assortment of gaudy charms but before she had that opportunity a great throng of ladies-in-waiting arrived at her chambers to escort her to the great hall.

As a young girl she had always pictured her wedding as a day of great joy and excitement. But here she was, on the day she would become the wife of a king and she felt nothing that could possibly resemble even the most muted form of joy. The only thing she felt was dread. She dreaded this marriage just as the soldier dreads the enemy's sword. But just as the soldier must march on to meet the very sword that just might kill him, Alexandra marched on to the hall with her head held high.

They reached the great hall of the palace and her escorts stopped, motioning for her to continue on by herself. She could hear the hum of the voices on the other side of the entrance come to a halt as the doors were opened. Someone started to play music on a harp in a far off corner and everyone in the hall turned to look at her.

She gasped. People would later say that she was astonished at how grand the palace was, as they had nothing of the sort in Pryant. It was true that the great hall at Caer Mendyll was one of the grandest rooms she had ever seen, but as a princess, she never found lavishness shocking. She gasped at the man she saw at the far end of the hall who was waiting to receive her. He was not the stranger he was supposed to be.

They were coming. They were not far from the hall and they did not have much time. How could they have come to Caer Viseult and why? Their army was at Isyl Frael – in the north, what were they doing here.

There isn't any time. The small battalion of guards had lost the fight, of course they did, they were outnumbered at least five to one. Everyone was dead, save Alexandra and Kaden and maybe some of the servants. If they could just get out of the palace, they could make it to the north, to Isyl Frael. A handful of people on horseback can travel much faster than an entire army, they could make it there, it would be alright.

They were in the palace now, they were coming for them. They had to hurry, if they could just make it out it would be okay.

Alexandra fell behind, Kaden was always a better runner. He was so fast…

They were in the palace now, chasing them. If she could just run a little faster.

They were right behind her now, they would take her any minute. She would be raped, enslaved, or killed. But maybe she could still make it out maybe-

"KADEN!" she screamed. They had her now, but Kaden could still get out, he was fast.

He turned around and realized what had happened. He had to save her; he could not just leave her to die. He ran back towards them, challenging their leader to a fight.

Alexandra struggled to get away but she could not. The soldiers were too strong. She could not let him fight the warrior, he would be killed.

The king fought nobly, but he was never a soldier, he never had a chance. A short fight and a quick thrust of a sword and it was all over.

Alexandra screamed and broke away from the soldiers. She did not hear it, but their leader gave to order to let her go to the dying body of her king. If she could just get there in time, she could save him; if she got there fast enough it would be alright.

"No, Kayden, no…" she sobbed into his chest. "I'm so – I – no…" She clutched him to her in a desperate hope that maybe if she held on to him tight enough she could save him, maybe some of her life could go into him.

"Shhh, Alexandra, you will be alright," he said weakly. He knew it was the end. "But listen to me, listen…"

"No, save your strength, I'll get you out of here, I'll-"

"Listen…you have to…" he took a deep breath as the life faded out of him. "You have to keep…keep the peace." And then he died.

She numbly let go of his body as the leader of the soldiers had her taken from the palace without giving her a second glance. But as he took of his helmet she memorized his face. The face of the man who killed her brother and she swore in that moment that she would avenge his death the next time she saw that wretched creature's face.

That face was staring at her from the opposite end of the hall. It was the face of her brother's killer, the face of her husband.

A/N: Thanks for reading. I'd really like to know what you think about it so please review. I'll have chapter two up as soon as possible so stick around and hang on for the ride. :)