Okay, so I really have no right to be posting a new story when I'm sure the readers of my other stories think I've abandoned them (I haven't if you're wondering). It's just that this story has been sitting in my notebook since 2008, and while I'm not sure how the reception to it will be, I felt like sharing it. To the readers of my other stories, if you're reading this right now, I promise I've started the next chapters of both Lack of an Afterlife and We're Damned After All, I'm hoping to update both stories within the next two weeks. I feel more nervous about posting this story than any other that I've ever posted. However, please don't let that stop you from giving me your harsh, honest opinion. I have a few chapters of this story already written, it's just a matter of typing them up. I really can't make any promises about how often I'll be updating (college is keeping me a lot busier than I'd expected), but as with all my stories that I post here, I do plan on finishing it. I hope you enjoy! :)

I frowned at the blue dress my mother insisted that I wear today. It was so horribly simple.

"It's supposed to be simple," she had said. "It's going to be Leanne's day."

Everyday was Leanne's day. She was, after all, first in line for the throne. You were never quite as special when you were only second best.

Of course, I had no desire to be queen. I was more than thrilled that that particular job would be Leanne's. It was just too frustrating sometimes to have to live in her shadow.

Today would be worse than most because today would be Leanne's eighteenth birthday. It was a cause for a huge party with only the most important guests. What had we done for my birthday? A simple family dinner, of course.

I know it's incredibly ridiculous to be jealous. After all, I was a princess in one of the most prosperous of lands. My life was all glamour and intrigue and those other exciting things girls my age wish for.

I moved to the full length mirror to get a better look at myself. My mother knew what would work for me at least. The sky blue silk looked particularly rich and it matched my eyes perfectly. Perhaps the dress wasn't so bad after all.

A knock on my door interrupted my twirling. "Come in," I answered.

Cassandra, my governess, walked in holding a beautifully carved box. Excitement rose in me, and I moved closer to greet her. Usually such packages sent by my mother contained jewelry. I hadn't planned on wearing any tonight, but if my mother insisted…

"Princess Sophia, you look beautiful," she complimented me.

I smiled, I heard those words often, and I tried very hard to not let them make me vain. "Thank you," I said to her. "Did my mother send this?" I pointed to the box in her hands.

"Yes she did," she opened the box to reveal a tiara, very simple to match my dress. The tiny diamonds and aquamarine gems were perfect.

I placed the tiara on my head and resumed my twirling. "Please tell my mother that I said thank you," I said as she was walking out.

"Of course, milady."

An hour later I left for the ballroom. Three maids and two bodyguards escorted me in. When I entered, everything was perfect, just as it should be.

My mother was already seated looking as serene and beautiful as ever. She was dressed all in white and she sparkled in her many diamonds. The only sign that she was a day over twenty-five was her hair, once the same white blonde as my own, was now completely silver.

We did not age the way humans do. They wear out their bodies so quickly.

I went to take my seat on my mother's left – Leanne would sit at her right – at the elevated table where the royal family and most important guests sat.

"Sophia, you look lovely. I was right about the dress, wasn't I?" my mother smiled at me.

"Yes Mother, you were right, just like you always are," I said grudgingly.

"You would think my infallible record would make you listen to me more."

"You would think so. But I am still convinced you are wrong about not allowing me to go out of the castle. And since you won't let me try, we can never be sure who's right," I complained.

"I am quite content to believe that I am right. But please do not bring up this argument tonight, Sophia. I am not just being mean. You know perfectly well how dangerous it is."

I gave in with a sigh. It was too dangerous. The words won all of my mother's arguments. I was not being a brat and mother was not being insanely overprotective – on this point, at least. My country is at war – a war that has been going on for too many centuries. Because of this war, my mother has deemed it much too dangerous for me to go beyond castle grounds. In all my sixteen years, I have never left this place. I am a prisoner in my own home.

But it was not the time to dwell on such unhappy things. Guests were arriving. One by one they came to greet my mother and they would all pause to tell me how beautiful I looked. I thanked them and acted charming and sweet, just as a princess should behave. I could feel my mother's approval.

"Hello Princess Sophia, you look absolutely beautiful." I couldn't help frowning when I saw who paid me the compliment.

"Thank you Prince Thomas," I said politely.

He was heir to his own throne – a very powerful throne – and he came from a noble, well respected family. He was good looking enough for girls to throw themselves at him. And he was also my unwanted betrothed.

My mother couldn't understand my aversion to the arranged marriage. It wasn't like she was marrying me off to an ugly, old king twice my age. Thomas was seventeen. He was tall and muscular, with a strong jaw and a fairly nice smile. My complaint was, as always, the idea of having my life mapped out for me bit by bit.

I wasn't even sure if Thomas actually liked me. He liked the way I looked. I could tell that by the way he stared at me. But he was always so unresponsive when we were alone. He bored me.

The guests were all settled after a while and my mother stood, ready to announce Leanne.

"I would like to thank all of you for coming to celebrate this happy event with my family and me tonight. Please allow me to present my daughter, Princess Leanne."

Leanne walked in looking wonderful. She and I looked nothing alike. While I looked so much like Mother, she was almost exactly like our father.

She normally had wild, frizzy russet colored hair. She was tall where I was more petite, and while I was whip thin, almost fragile looking, every part of Leanne was filled out. Today however, her hair was fixed into perfect ringlet curls and her forest green dress had been tailored to make her appear dainty, more princess like.

People made all the appropriate sounds of wonder and approval, and I readied myself to settle into another predictable party that was the story of my life.

You should at least pretend to have a good time. I frowned when I heard my sister's voice in my head. I didn't like when she invaded my mind with her telepathic powers.

Well I don't like it when you use your power on me either, but you don't hear me complaining about it.

That's because I can't read minds. I said to her in my mind, knowing she could hear.

True. You should smile more though. It'll make you look even prettier.

I couldn't help smiling at Leanne whose face broke out into a big grin when she saw me.

There you go, much better.

With that, she left my head and accepted an invitation to dance from one of her many suitors. Everyone wanted the favor of the future queen. No arranged marriage for her. She would be a monarch in her own right one day.

An hour into the party -- when I was sure no one would miss me -- I left the ballroom wanting to be by myself. I made my way to one of the castle's many balconies and stared out at the peaceful night. All I wanted was to be anywhere but the place I was. I wanted to live someone else's life.

Nothing about the way I lived was free. I couldn't even enjoy a temporary escape from it because of the war to I had lost so many people. My father, my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, they were all dead. The only blood family I had left was my mother, Leanne, and a single cousin.

I took one deep breath and got ready to go back to Leanne's party. Before I could even turn, my body froze. It felt like ice cold water was running through my veins. Suddenly, I wasn't seeing the castle grounds outside the balcony anymore. Instead, I saw the ballroom and everyone in it being attacked. There was fire. People were screaming, running…dying. And then, I was looking out the balcony again.

It took me a second to recover from the overpowering heaviness of the vision and then I was running. I had to tell my mother what I saw.

I couldn't make myself be calm as I ran through the castle. In all the years of the war, not once had we been attacked at the castle. Our enemies never made it close enough. The castle was supposed to be safe, protected, that's why my mother kept me here, because nothing bad was supposed to happen. Here, she could control everything.

People stared as I ran through the ballroom to my mother. I had to stop for breath when I finally reached her.

"Sophia, what's wrong? I was wondering where you were. Why have you been running?" Mother asked in a disapproving tone.

Leanne, never one to be patient enough for someone to actually speak, listened to my thoughts. I know because I heard her gasp.

"I saw an attack," I explained quietly to my mother. I was cautious to make sure no one heard me. It would be bad if people started panicking. My mother was looking puzzled at Leanne's face which was frozen in horror. "Here, now, soon, they're going to attack, people will die."

My mother stood and signaled to the guards in the room. Leanne had joined Mother and me now. "What are we going to do?" she asked.

Before anyone could answer her, I saw my vision come to life. The shattering sound of glass breaking from the windows interrupted the mingling guests. Our enemies climbed in. A woman shrieked as the shards of glass sliced her skin, drawing blood.

And then, chaos. More enemy soldiers came from other windows, others came right though the door. Guards rushed to protect my family and me.

I screamed as someone pulled me back by my hair. My eyes watered as the same person yanked at my roots again. One guard moved to fight him off while another pulled me away. I felt weak and lightheaded, everything passing by me in a blur.

I had lost sight of my family. None of what I was seeing made sense until I spotted Leanne. A huge man with brown, sunburned skin and veins popping out of his arms was choking her. His greasy, black hair came down to his shoulders and he had a scar that ran right down the center of his face from his hairline to underneath his chin.

He grinned cruelly at me and tightened his grip on my sister.

"No!" I screamed. I tugged my arm away from the guard who was still pulling me along. "You have to save Leanne," I pointed to my sister.

There was no indecision on my guard's part. Leanne was first in line to the throne. It was his duty to save her first.

He still didn't get there in time. The giant man took a dagger and stabbed Leanne's heart. Her fact twisted in agony as the giant monster tuned the knife in a complete circle and moved it down cutting her stomach open. She fell limp, and after that I have no idea what happened in the ballroom.

Remember to smile, it always makes you prettier. I heard my sister's voice in my head one last time, although I couldn't be sure I wasn't hallucinating. My legs gave out, and I fainted wishing again that I could be anywhere but here.