I would like to thank everyone who has stuck with me this far.

Thanks so much for your patience in between updates! Thank you especially to drgncmb88 and azia lesley.

Chapter 12:

Cruelty of Hierarchy

A month and a half could be very long indeed, as she soon found out. Lord Devon's advances perused, a smirk apparent every time he saw her, his eyes quite often lingering on her body. She could only just contain the shudder that ran through her at the thought of what he was imagining.

As she was now forbidden to leave the castle and its grounds, the Princess spent her time wandering the gardens and stuck in her private tower. She got an occasional odd look at being by herself, but as it was her home, the guards usually left her alone.

However, one afternoon, Nassella entered the stables, for she liked to simply look at the beauties, when she heard the swish of a belt or whip, and a familiar voice cry out. Rushing back outside and around to the back, she saw a man, perhaps fifteen years her senior, whipping Tyler.

"Stop this! Stop this at once!" she cried out, wincing as the whip came down upon his back once more. The guard turned, his eyes widening, and from her position, Nassella could see that this man worked in the stables.

"Sir, what troubles have you with this boy that you deem it necessary to beat him half way to death?" she inquired, her voice firm and controlled.

"Milady, what pro-blems I have with this runt don' need to con-cern ye. Ye are a no-ble, and hasses yer own pro-blems, don' ye? Ye don' need te be worryin' 'bout this here little runt." The man replied in broken Paranian, the language of Pybom.

"As it happens, everything that goes on here concerns me. Especially the treatment of the children here. He is my servant. You will unhand him at once, and I will be reporting this to the courts," she told him, his eyes widening.

"M'lady, is that really nec'ssarry? I – I was only teachin' 'im a less'un," he pleaded.

"You wish me to allow you to get away with harming an innocent boy?" she asked, incredulous.

"M'lad, I – I work for me living. An' I was only teachin' 'im a less'un. B'sides, what is a poor lit'le serv'un to the likes of a noble?"

"Does it matter my business with him? Now, before I change my mind sir, release him. Now." She ordered, her voice growing colder. Gulping, the man obeyed, giving her a slight bow. From the corner of her eye, she noticed a very familiar boy lurking around.

"You there! Page; come here," she called, not wishing to sound too friendly with him in public. Hearing his title, the boy came over, bowing deeply to her.

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"Yer – yer highness?" the stable man stuttered out. "Yer – yer the princess, miss?" he asked, horrified.

"Yes, I am," she replied coolly, before turning to Navarro Dawson.

"Please, if you can, take him up and follow me," she ordered. The page obeyed, picking up the now unconscious, blood covered boy, and the two nobles left, leaving behind a stunned and slightly perturbed and horrified stable man.

Nassella quickly led him to her quarters, opening up the magically closed inner door.

"Lay him there," she instructed, pointing to her bed. Immediately, she grabbed a spare knife she had hidden from a drawer, handing it to the page.

"Navarro, can you please cut his tunic free?" she requested. He nodded and began work while she fetched some rags and warm water, along with a small vile of medicine.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Nassella carefully dabbed at his wounds.

"Thank you; I'm sorry to have called you away, but it would have looked even odder if I had been the one to carry him," she explained.

"Not at all; I'm a page, it's my job to perform duties for the nobles," he replied easily, leaning back against the wall as he took in the room. For some reason, though he hadn't known her very long, Navarro felt at ease within her presence.

Meanwhile, Tyler stirred slightly, but did not wake as Nassella carefully poured precious drops from the vile onto his scarred back.

"Can you help me wrap his wounds?" she asked, and Navarro quickly came to her side, holding the boy up as the princess wrapped damp bandages tight around the boy's upper body.

Then, rising to her feet, Nassella pulled the covers over him, brushing his hair slightly from his face, before gathering the soiled rags and depositing them in the lavatory.

"Navarro, do you know, perchance, where I might find a spare tunic for him?" she questioned.

"I might; shall I get it?"

"Please," she replied to his answer. He nodded, hurrying out of the room to retrieve it.

Nassella looked over at the unconscious boy, wishing there was more she could do, but knowing if she did anymore, he would only receive more trouble for it. And that was the last thing she wanted for the poor lad.

A knock sounded, causing her to jump. Swiftly, she went to her ante-chamber door and opened it to see the page she had just sent out.

"I – I couldn't get back in," he explained as she stepped aside.

"I – I'm sorry, but I couldn't find one," he continued as Nassella offered him a glass of water, which he took gratefully.

"I just don't know what to do," she admitted, looking out the window.

"Right now, you can't do anything much but interfere. And even that will attract attention," he told her.

"But – but that's so wrong!" she cried. "How can it be tolerated?"

"People are simply too afraid to stand up; they…we believe we'll get in trouble for it," he confessed, causing the princess to look at her subject.

"It's may not be looked upon, but that's kind of the social normality. Servants are looked down upon, that's just the way it is; you're an exception," he said, his voice a little to practical for Nassella's liking.

"It's still wrong," she muttered.

"Then do something about it," Navarro spat, before realizing his place as the princess's eyes widened.

"I – I'm sorry; that was out of line," he immediately said, bowing his head, letting his eyes go to the floor. How could he have been so stupid? They may be on friendly terms, but he still couldn't just tell the princess what to do!

"It's all right. I'm not angry, just surprised," said Nassella softly, getting up and putting a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"You're right; I should do something, and I would if I actually held some power at this court," she continued, her voice still quiet. The page looked up, confused.

"My father believes very strongly in that girls should be seen, but not heard from, unless asked to speak on a trivial matter," she explained, her tone darkening. Taking a deep breath, she looked out the window as she spoke.

"Thank you for helping me this afternoon – if anyone asks, you may tell them I required your assistance in moving something heavy. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask," she instructed him.

"Yes, Your Highness," the page replied, bowing, clearly recognizing the dismissal.

However, as he reached the door, he was stopped.

"How have you been treated lately by your peers?"

"We – well, Highness," he responded instantly, nervous. Nassella turned, giving him a pointed look. Navarro gulped and sighed, folding his arms across his chest, not meeting her eye.

"They're not as bad, not since you told them off. But they don't believe you'll keep your word or care if the hazing still continues. They – they couldn't understand why you had taken such an interest in me and in the hazing," he explained.

"Do I need to make another trip down there? It would have to wait, for I am forbidden to leave the castle," she inquired.

"NO! I mean – no, that's not necessary, Highness. It – it would just make things worse," he stuttered out. She looked at him calculatingly for a moment, before nodding once.

"Very well. Good luck," she said simply. He bowed again and left, puzzling the girl he was beginning to know well, wondering how she was able to understand when so many others couldn't.

So I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm going to say it anyway. I'm sorry. School and Life got in the way, but I'm back now! Thank you all for keeping with me. I promise I will see this story to the end!

Thanks to all who are reading, and liking it. If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments, please feel free to review/private message me. Thanks! ~ Aylia