It had been days, maybe weeks, maybe years… time didn't exist in this room, where everything seemed like it could fade away at a moment's notice. Her eyes began to open as she awoke to another day -or maybe night. There were no windows; only a set of candles that sat upon a wooden table in the center of the room. What had brought her here, to this place? Memories seemed like dreams, mixing where the truth should appear. Was it fate or cruel irony that she could not remember?

A flutter from the side -a rat scurried along the wooden baseboards and hid away through a small hole in the corner. She reached out as if to capture it, but shackles held her arms and bound her to her lonesome spot against the wall. "Take me with you…" She called.

"I doubt it'll oblige," Said a cold, dark voice from the other side of the wall. The door, twenty feet or so away, swung open and a man much colder than his voice emerged, dressed in fine silk robes. His blue eyes glowed like fireflies against the candle light. The man was tall, age sketched in his eyes but not on his face. Handsome, but scornful. In his hands was a tray of food, ranging from a bowl of soup and crackers to a bit of cooked fish and perhaps a cup of milk? He sat it on top of the wooden table and strolled over to the weak girl. It was obvious she could barely hold herself up. "Its been days since you ate."

"Where am I?" She stuttered out. "Please, tell me."

"It's the same question every day. Don't you get tired of it?" He grabbed a stool that had been hidden against the dark wall and plopped it down in front of her, then took a seat. "Where am I. Who am I. One of these days, you'll surely remember."

"Who are you?"

The question startled the man. A dark smirk wrote across his long face. "That's a new one. You've never cared before who I am. -I am Demetri."

"And… I? I am who?"

"Charlotte."

"Charlotte." She repeated. "And… we are where?"

"Dungeons." Said Demetri. "Underground."

"Why am I here, Demetri?"

"You need to eat." He answered, ignoring her question. Then he stood, retrieved the tray of food, and sat back down. "Soup or fish?"

"Answers." She demanded. "I want answers."

"Soup it is," He sneered, dipping a spoon into the broth and putting it up to her lips. "Give it a blow."

She did, then opened her mouth. Demetri was delicate with her, though every time he put the broth to her lips a form of anger washed over his face. The soup was calming -something she knew she desperately needed. It warmed her down to the bones. "Might I-" But before she finished Demetri already had a cracker up to her face, ready for her. She smiled wearily, took a bite, swallowed, and thanked him.

"Demetri… what are these the dungeons of? Usually, dungeons are only for castles or mansions…"

"This is the kingdom of Delonia. We are twenty feet below the castle floors of the kitchens. -Do you want your fish?"

She shook her head. He took the time to brush a bit of hair back out of her face before he dove into the fish with a fork. As he stuffed the food into his mouth, the girl took the time to observe the room further, but made no new assumptions. So, as he ate, she decided to look him over instead. Brown hair, black boots, and a sense of pain etched in his brows. A bit of scruff along his chin, but none on his lip suggested that he might be in his early twenties. "You're… pretty."

Demetri swallowed his last bit of food and swigged down the milk. "Ahh… well, thank you. I would agree I am a bit dapper, if I do say so myself." He flashed her a pearly grin. "Now… the King is away on business today… how about we get you washed up, Charlotte?" Charlotte, still not attached to her name, nodded in agreement and out from his pockets, Demetri pulled out a ring full of keys. The biggest, longest one he honed in on and in seconds unshackled Charlotte. She fell to the floor, weak. "Oh, no, Miss Charlotte, can't have you on your knees. Come." He scooped her up in his arms. She was vaguely aware that she was being carried; only the sound of his boots clanking up the staircase kept her mind from wandering.

Light, stunning light, swallowed her eyes so that everything was white and fresh and newer than new. Charlotte closed her eyes, senses overwhelmed. Smell after smell pushed into her nostrils. Butter… rolls… meat… perfume… She flung her eyes open. "Demetri, it smells wonderful!" But nothing was as wonderful now as seeing Demetri in the light. It was like seeing a god, like seeing Zeus himself. His hair fell past his ears, his chin sharper than steel. Still, a dark presence sat deep within his eyes.

A gasp from the side, and a woman in a dress that resembled a cupcake flew up to the two, rolling pin in hand. "Sir Demetri! What are you doing? King James will surely be home by the end of the day! Why do you bring her out?" Disgust filled her eyes.

"Everyone needs a bath," Replied Demetri calmly, setting off on his path once more. Charlotte could only guess by the look in that lady's eyes that she was not welcome topside.

"Is there… something wrong with me?" She asked, burying her face into his chest.

"Just ignore her."

"She called you Sir… does that mean you're a Knight?"

"If I call you nosey does that make you a brat?" He grinned. "Questions like that do not matter. We only have a short amount of time, and you must see the truth. -But first, a bath." He carried her up a flight of stairs to a door made of ivory. Three knocks and a stout woman in maid's clothing appeared. "Harriet."

"Demetri. -Charlotte." Harriet, an old woman with silver hair, offered her tiny, wrinkled hand to Charlotte. "Come, child. -And you wait out side." She added the last bit to Demetri as she pushed Charlotte into the ivory room. A grand tub already filled with steaming water was waiting. "Get out of these clothes, dear. Lets get you cleaned up." Harriet wore the same look as the cook in the kitchens, just with an undertone of sadness instead of anger.

"Is there a mirror?" Charlotte asked as she was stripped of her clothing and pushed into the tub. "Is something wrong with me?"

"Dear child, quit asking questions and take this sponge."

Twenty minutes later, and a good scrubbing, Charlotte was wrapped in a towel and placed on a stool next to the tub. "Must brush that hair of yours. Can't let it get like a rat's nest." And as she allowed miss Harriet to attempt a brush through her locks, Charlotte unraveled her towel and observed her naked form. Young… pale… skinny… small… Something Demetri probably wouldn't look at twice. In no time Harriet had dressed Charlotte in a simple blue dress with a yellow ribbon around the middle and sent her back out to Demetri.

"You look… well… I…" Demetri faltered, coughed, and finished with, "You look nice."

Sure to herself that she must be hideous, Charlotte merely smiled and then asked, "Why was I shackled in the dungeons? Am I some sort of… deformed wreck? Do I put fear into people's hearts?"

"No… and yes." He reached out as if he were to take her hand but stopped before he followed through.

"Who am I, Demetri?"

Before Demetri had time to answer, a man turned the corner into their hallway. He was a tall, skinny drink of water with blonde curls that passed his shoulders. He wore a plumed hat and a red outfit that made him look like a red stocking. "What are you doing, Demetri?" He asked.

"Hamish -this doesn't concern you."

"She's not supposed to be out! Your job is to watch her, not tend to her!"

"The King is gone -"

"And what if he comes back early from his hunting and discovers her about the castle? It'll be your head to pay! You may have once been able to roam about and do as you wish, but you no longer have that authority. You're lucky the King even lets you stay in the castle after your blasphemy! Stand down, Demetri."

"And how would you feel if you were in her situation!?" Demetri shouted, anger flaring out with every word. "Imagine it, Hamish!"

"I… I would never make her mistakes." Glared Hamish. "She gets what's owed to her."

"Then I pray to God you get what's owed to you," Seethed Demetri, quiet. "I may have been stripped of my title but I'm very handy with a sword. If you do recall I won first prize in the jousting and sword division. Its been a few years, and I could sure use the practice."

Hamish looked offended, but said in a hushed tone, "The King is due back at five. See to it she is put back in her proper place. If you get caught and so dare as mention my name -"

"I won't," Assured Demetri. "Thank you, old friend."

"Friend. Ha." Snorted Hamish. "You're nothing but a ghost trying to grasp an object. You'll never accomplish anything." Then he breezed past the lot down the hallway and out of sight.

"What… what have I done?" Charlotte, bewildered, glared up at Demetri. "Tell me what I've done!"

"Let me… let me have the day with you. Please." He begged longingly. "Give me just one day, and I'll tell you everything."

Charlotte, against her better judgment, nodded. "Fine."

"Thank you." He kissed her hand. "Lets see if we can jog your memory. Maybe… perhaps I won't have to tell you this time."

They took off down the hallway together, up a few more staircases, higher and higher until they made it to what appeared to be sleeping chambers. Along the walls lined portraits of the kings, queens, princes, and princesses of the past. Some were kinder looking than others. Next to the last door on the left was the final portrait; a red headed king, a blonde queen, and a little red headed girl. Her face was slashed out of frame by what had probably been a sword. "King Rolland, Queen Tabitha…"

"She's beautiful…" Said Charlotte.

"She was." Nodded Demetri.

"Was?"

"She died, a few years back."

"Oh."

"They had a daughter." Demetri nudged to the slashed faced girl. "She was eloquent… supple… wonderfully witty and entertaining… do you remember her?"

"No. -Should I? Was I a chamber maid?"

"No. -But she was your friend. You never left each other's sights… the princess… I miss her so."

"Did she die too?"

Demetri strummed his fingers along the portrait, right across the slash. "Hard to say… she's lost. No one's heard from her in four years."

"Oh," Charlottle, embarrassed, looked to the floor, "Sounds like she was something else. -How did you two know each other?"

"I was… her guardian. Her Knight."

"So you are a Knight!" She jumped for joy, but stopped when she saw Demetri's expression.

"I was. -But I was stripped of my title. Hamish was right when he said I'm lucky the King lets me stay."

"Why were you stripped of your title?"

"A lot of reasons…" He trailed off. "But I have you now, so that's enough." He placed his arm around the crook of her side and pulled her close. "Do you remember anything? Anything at all? Me?"

"I… I wish I could say yes," She said, eyes trailing to his soft looking lips, "But… no."

"I see." He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I wish you could see… I wish you knew… Everyday it's the same…"

"How often do you show me this?" She asked, unknowingly wrapping her arm around his neck. It seemed to fit there, just right, as if she had done this many times before.

"This is the second time. It's not often the King leaves… and when he does, I take advantage of the opportunity."

"What happened here? Why do the people in this castle hate me so?"

"Well… to tell you that, I have to tell you who you are… and if I tell you who you are… I fear… I fear that tonight would be most unpleasant for you. But… its my job to watch over you. Its my job to make you see…" Demetri solemnly looked to the floor. "My life depends on it, Charlotte. If I don't tell you every day who you are.. I…I couldn't live with myself. I couldn't let you think you deserve this."

"Please, I'm asking." Charlotte placed a hand on his cheek. "Please."

Demetri sighed. "Might we have lunch first? One lunch and I will tell you."

"Then bring on the lunch!" She smiled. "I may not remember who I am, but I do know you are good company."

He gave her a fond smile, but it did not seem trusting to her statement. "Then let us eat. And perhaps a walk around the courtyard? It's been a month since you've been out of your cell."

A month? How long had she been here? How long had she been tied up in that Hell hole? Questions stirred in her head as he took her back into the kitchens, where they enjoyed beef stew and mashed potatoes in the corner at a small, circular table. Even now, Demetri insisted on feeding her, but she declined politely. "I can manage. I still remember how to hold a spoon, I dare say."

"That was your favorite dress," Said Demetri after he finished and Charlotte was still working on her stew. "You used to wear it for long walks around the courtyard with me… for me…"

"We were lovers?" The agony in Demetri's eyes told her it was so. "Were we wed?"

"I would have… if your fate hadn't already been decided."

"My fate? Demetri… that portrait… that princess… I wasn't friends with her, was I?"

"Can you truly not remember? Some days are worse than others… but usually you will remember something when…" Out of his pockets, he brought a small box. When he twisted a key on the side, a melody unlike any other, softer than a lullaby played. Charlotte listened to the tiny strings, felt caressed in a memory that began to surface. "My mother gave me that. Said it would keep the trolls and dragons at bay…" She reached for the box, and Demetri handed it over with care. "I was… I was the princess…"

"A beautiful, witty, sarcastic one."

"How did my mother die?"

"There was a war. Delonia and Tramascis, two kingdoms that had once been in favor of each other, turned on one another when the Queen was killed -a poison tipped arrow made from Tramascis's hands. King Rolland and King Yorlew fought a war for three years -you and I… we stowed away in the shadows. I was assigned to keep you safe… keep you from harm. But I got too close. I could no longer think as your Knight -only as your unrequited lover. And then…" He gave a laugh. "You kissed me, just over there -at that doorway. You were only seventeen, I was twenty… I thought the world would never be as bright as that moment… and I was right."

"Father was killed."

"Yes. The war was about to end -a treaty to be signed. King Rolland, the night before the ceremony, was killed in his sleep, though no one could prove it so. Delonia, without a prince, had no choice but to seek out a prince for their precious princess." Demetri looked as if he would upchuck his meal at any moment, but he continued. "And Prince James, son of King Yorlew and future ruler of Tramascis, offered his hand in marriage as a sign of peace."

"What did I do?" Charlotte was pained to ask.

"You refused. For me." Demetri shook fiercely as he clasped her small hands in his. "Because I selfishly asked you to. And it caused… it caused Delonia a whole year of war and famine. Your people were dying, and you were dying inside. I tried to sway you to… to see reason in it, but… you…"

"I…?"

"You jumped off the second story balcony. It was a miracle you survived… but you could not remember who you were. I tried to make you remember, but… every day, you would wake and once again forget who you were, and who I was. When word got to King Yorlew, he staged a visit and convinced you to hand over the kingdom and marry Prince James. By nightfall, you were wed, and I was in chains."

"But I'm the one in chains now…"

"Well, naturally, the prince did not believe that you could not remember, and when you awoke the next day after bedding him and attacked him with the hilt of his sword… he had you tied in the dungeons with me. That day, I told you who you were, but the next day you would forget once again. The Prince found humor in torturing you… he still does, even now as King. I begged for a chance to be free -and he gave me an ultimatum. If I could make your memory return for good, he would let us free, the both of us. And if you cannot remember when you awake the next day, he…" Demetri seemed to have trouble finding the words. "You are a Queen, yet he has you locked away in the Dungeons… its hardly fair…"

It was a lot for Charlotte to take in. "Have I ever remembered this much?"

"No." He shook his head. "Perhaps… perhaps this time, you will remember for good, eh? We could be free, you and I. Start a new life…"

"Demetri, if I should remember who I was, I would not run. I would fight King James. I would restore your honor and my throne."

He smiled. "You say that every day." Then he stroked her cheek. "And every day I believe you."

"How long has it been?"

A distance faded in Demetri's tone. "Four years."

"Demetri…" She grazed her palm along his cheek. "I promise, I'll remember. I promise I won't forget."

"Princess Charlotte… How I wish I could hold you and call you mine…"

A rustle and bustle from the other side of the kitchens, and in burst Hamish, soaked from head to toe. "The King, Demetri! The King, he arrives! It's pouring cats and dogs out there! Hurry! Back downstairs!"

"Damn it all!" Shouted Demetri. He grabbed her arm. "Come, Charlotte. He'll do far worse things to you if he finds you up here than down there."

"What will he do to me?" She asked as he lifted the cellar door up and pulled her down the dark and lonely staircase. "What's going on?"

Demetri led her to the dark, lonely dungeon room and placed the shackles around her arms. "Please, don't tell him I let you walk. Just a quick bath and that was it. Right?"

"Why?"

"Because, he'll torture you. Just please… promise me you'll keep your wits about you?"

"Demetri…" Charlotte looked deep into his eyes, the light from the almost dead candle bouncing off his retinas like starlight. Then he kissed her feverishly, as if he'd never do it again.

"I love you, Charlotte. If you remember nothing else, remember that."

"-That's an awfully big sentiment, don't you think?" Came a voice from the door. "She's not even yours to save, Demetri. You should know your place by now." A man came through the doorway, dressed for a ball. His silver blond hair and pointy nose caused him to resemble a rat. "You may leave."

Demetri backed away from Charlotte, distraught but foreboding. "She'll remember. I know she will."

"And lets just see if she does." Smiled the man, strolling up to Charlotte and observing her attire. "Had a bath today? Good. You look beautiful, my pet."

She glared. "You must be James."

"Hello, Charlotte. Remember anything today?"

She stuck her chin out, threatening. "Maybe I do. Maybe I remember how much of a git you are."

"Perhaps… but tell me, of what do you remember of dear, sweet Demetri here?"

"I love him," She answered, staring directly to Demetri. "I don't need a memory to know that."

"Anything else?" James tilted his head, brandishing his sword as he held it to her throat. "Pity. Although I do admit, I find enjoyment in telling you every day how corrupt and twisted your poor little life was. It makes me appreciate mine even more."

"What are you talking about? You're the corrupt one! My mother was killed because of your people! Demetri and I could never be happy because of you!"

James sighed, a smirk playing across his thin lips. "Oh, how we love to live in fairy tales and rainbows, eh, Demetri!" Demetri tried to run, but two guards stood at the door, blocking his path. "No, no, dear fellow, I dare say you will be here to see her face when she knows the truth!"

"Please," Begged Demetri, "Please. Don't… It'll only hurt her."

"And that is precisely why I must do it." James turned to Charlotte. "And I assume Demetri told you how your dear mother died? A poison tipped arrow, made by my people?" Charlotte nodded. "But what you failed to ask, little Queen, is at who's hand did your mother die?" He leaned in, pressing the blade ever closer. "Ask, little Queen. Ask him."

Charlotte, tears in her eyes, asked in no more than a whisper, "How did she die, Demetri? Who killed her?"

There was a pause for quite some time, then finally, just above a murmur, Demetri answered. "It was me… I killed her."

Her knees went weak -but she caught herself just in time before her neck would slice itself against King James's sword. "Why?? Why would you-?"

"I paid him," Said James, grinning from ear to ear, "I paid him a lifetime supply of gold and rubies for one insignificant life that would start a war that I knew my people would win. He did it, little one, to become your body guard and protect you, so that you might fall in love with him."

"Demetri…" Cried Charlotte, "Is this true??"

"…Yes…" He bowed his head in shame. "It's true."

"But… you were the one who convinced me not to take James's hand in marriage -you did that, knowing this? Weighing this on your heart??"

"I'm sorry, Princess. I… If I could take it back-"

"I… how could you!" She began to cry frantically. "I'm locked up in this Hell hole because of YOU!"

"Shh, shh, little Queen, my Queen," Cooed James, stroking her cheek with his blade, "Your King is here for you now. And I am a generous King… I will show you why it is good to be the Queen." And there he took her against her will, in front of Demetri and the guards, up against the wall. No matter how hard or loud she screamed, it was never enough for King James. He relished in the chaos. Only when she could no longer cry and Demetri was a puddle of tears on the floor did he finish and whisper in her ear, "Goodnight, my Queen. I pray to God this is what you remember tomorrow." After he left, Demetri composed himself and ran to Charlotte, unbinding her hands and setting her down on the cold, cobblestone floor.

She sobbed into his shirt. "Shh, shh… I'm here… it's okay… I'm so sorry, Charlotte… I'm so sorry…"

"You bastard…" She cried.

"I know… I'm terrible… I'm so sorry… I love you, I never meant for any of this to happen…" He rocked her back and forth, until the candles on the table went out, until there was nothing left but her soft breathing as she slept against his firm chest.

---

It had been days, maybe weeks, maybe years… time didn't exist in this room, where everything seemed like it could fade away at a moment's notice. Her eyes began to open as she awoke to another day -or maybe night. There were no windows; only a set of candles that sat upon a wooden table in the center of the room. What had brought her here, to this place? Memories seemed like dreams, mixing where the truth should appear. Was it fate or cruel irony that she could not remember?

A man emerged from the doorway, strapping, cruel eyed, with a tray of food.

"Where am I?" She asked. "Who… who am I?"

Demetri smirked, setting the tray of food on the table as he had often done. "It's the same question every day. Don't you get tired of it?" He grabbed the stool he had grabbed almost every day and took a seat. "Where am I. Who am I. One of these days, you'll surely remember."