~Chapter 4~ Warrior Princess

Kate sat down on the cold wooden floor and Dr. Telvine sat on a wooden chair across from her. "Well, Kate. Do you wish to hear my tale?"

Kate felt curiosity overtake her, and she nodded once.

Dr. Telvine laced her fingers together and focused her gaze on Kate. "My story starts in a country named Phyios. Do you know of that country?"

Kate furrowed her eyebrows and searched her mind. Phyios. The name sounded familiar. Very familiar. She had heard it before somewhere, she just couldn't remember where.

Dr. Telvine's placid expression remained firmly in place. "Phyios is a country to the south of Celestia. It is a country of farmland, of labor, of sweat. If you visited, you would see green, lush land and crops that stretched out for miles and miles. But of course, if the weather darkened, that green, lush land would become dry and wither."

Kate felt the doctor's heavy gaze on her. It made her uncomfortable, and Kate twitched.

Dr. Telvine continued. "I was born in Phyios. My family was poor, my parents simple farmers like the rest of Phyios' common folk. Phyios is home to poor farmers, Kate. There are only a few rich nobles who reside in the capital. Many nobles prefer the grandeur of Celestia's capital, where the royal palace is located."

She paused and scrutinized Kate. "The capital, nicknamed the Lily Garden, isn't it?"

Shock shone on Kate's face and she could not stifle a gasp. The Lily Garden. It escaped the foggy haze of forgotten memories and planted itself firmly in Kate's mind. How…how did this woman know that nickname?

The Lily Garden. A memory played in Kate's mind, a day from long ago, a day that Kate had thought she had forgotten.

Six year old Princess Katerina giggled as she twirled around, surrounded by flowers of all kinds, beauties, and sizes. Evelyn, a few months older than her, watched her cousin twirl as she let her fingers absentmindedly run through her hair. The queen sat next to Evelyn, a sunhat on her head that blocked Kate's view of her face.

Kate wanted to scream. What did her mother's face look like? It was now only a faded image. Her own mother's face, lost in the tide of tragedy.

The queen had a contented smile on her lips as she watched her daughter spin around in circles. "The Royal Gardens really are wonderful. I must thank the gardener again for her hard work."

"But I love the part of the gardens that you planted the best!" Katerina beamed in mid-twirl. "Let's go see the lilies!" And taking her mother's hand, she and Evelyn ran along a small pathway. "Look! Look!"

They entered a small area. The sunlight twinkled and only enhanced the radiance of the flowers below.

"My own lily garden," the queen sighed happily.

There were white lilies, pink lilies, and white lilies with tinges of pink in them. Katerina rushed over to touch a delicate white petal. "Mama! Your very own Angel's Garden."

Angel's Garden, indeed. The whites and pinks had an innocent glow that washed Kate in a soothing light. Heaven? No. Mama's Angel Garden.

Suddenly, she remembered. Because of her mother's beloved lilies, the capital had been nicknamed the Lily Garden. It had been the royal family's personal secret. No one had known, except her parents, her, and Evelyn.

And one last person. Sir Richmond, who her father had confided in and had the utmost trust in.

Was Dr. Telvine one of Sir Richmond's associates, even one of his friends? None of the royal family would ever tell anyone about that nickname. Sir Richmond had told Dr. Telvine.

An acquaintance of Sir Richmond. This woman could not be trusted.

Kate's eyes flashed and opened her mouth to speak. An indignant sound rolled out of her mouth. Her eyes widened.

Dr. Telvine raised a single eyebrow. "See? You are capable of making sounds, of speaking."

Kate's hands flew to her mouth. Her mouth had moved. She had made a sound through her throat.

She was horrified at the sound she had made. Guttural and hoarse. Had she really maimed her voice to such an extent?

"Go on. Speak. I know that you are angry about something. That's why you made that sound." The soft whispery voice did not match the dark red, long slash on her neck. Kate's attention was drawn to it.

Kate pointed to the slash. "That scar…" she whispered hesitantly, "it…it's been there a long time?"

The doctor's eyes narrowed and her expression darkened, her lips tightening. "Yes," was the short answer. "It's been there a long time."

Kate raised her head and concentrated on the woman's face. "D-Do…you know…him?"

Dr. Telvine blinked. "No. I've never even seen him, not even in pictures."

What? Then how…

And as if reading Kate's mind, she said, "I've heard of the magnificent garden of lilies your mother planted. It seemed fitting that the city would be nicknamed the Lily Garden."

Kate's thoughts were awhirl. This woman…she could read people. Their thoughts, their opinions. "You, you told me that so I would be angry."

"I did. I knew that you would link that nickname to that man. I knew your emotions would rise. I did it all so you would speak."

So I would speak, Kate thought dully.

Dr. Telvine let a tiny sigh out. "Why don't I continue my story? It's a long story, so please don't interrupt me."

Kate gave an almost imperceptible nod.

"As I was saying, my family was poor. I was born in my parents' tiny house, created by long slabs of wood and nails. I was an only child. Because after I was born, my parents needed no other child.

"I was a Phyiosan miracle. Born under the hot sun and on the damp earth, all Phyiosan babies were somewhat dark-skinned, brown-eyed, stout, and broad-shouldered. No Phyiosan was beautiful. I was different. I was light-skinned, with green orbs like the sea. Yes, there were Phyiosan blonds, but I wasn't a blond. My hair—it was the color of a waterfall, with ripples of gold and silver. And I was tall, towering over all my friends and eventually my parents. The other Phyiosans, they called me an angel beauty."

Kate scrutinized the doctor. An angel beauty. Indeed, there was no other way to express the woman's unnatural loveliness.

"Everywhere I went, I was gawked at. So my parents stopped letting me out, tired of all the questions they received. They forbade me from going outside our farm borders. I didn't care, as my friends still came to our farm to play. But I always felt apart. Even my closest friends treated me like I wasn't one of them. They called me 'princess.' That's what I was to them.

"But one day, when I was ten years old, a Celestian reporter came to Phyios to research for an article. He happened to walk by our farm. I was playing, alone in the dirt. He saw me. He went into my house and talked to my parents. My mother was crying. My father was yelling. It did not change anything. A week later, the reporter took me and sent me away to Celestia's capital. I never saw my Phyiosan friends or parents again.

"The moment I set foot in Celestia's capital, I wanted to run. I felt so apart from all the Celestians I saw. All of them, so refined, with long skirts and intricate jewelry. All of them pale-skinned like me, with beauty just as lovely as mine. I was still wearing my farm clothes, and so they stared at me walk past, every single one of them whispering things like, 'who's that girl? An ordinary laborer from the mountains?'

"The reporter excitedly led me into the royal palace. I was astounded, as I had never seen anything like it. He asked for a meeting with the king and queen, and after his request was granted, he led me directly to the entire royal family: the king, queen, prince, and princess."

Kate thought about it. The king and queen in Dr. Telvine's story must have been her grandparents, her father being the prince and Evelyn's mother being the princess.

"The reporter bowed to the royal family. I merely blinked at them, not knowing who they were or where I was. The reporter was red-faced as he hissed for me to bow. I refused to. Why should I bow to those people when I had been forcibly taken away from my rightful hometown?

"The king and queen laughed at my behavior, and asked the reporter who I was. The reporter told them that I was a Phyiosan. None of the royal family believed the man, saying that they had never heard of silvery-haired beauties hailing from Phyios. Their words angered me. I lashed out at them and told them exactly what I thought of people who thought lowly of my country."

Gutsy. Dr. Telvine was a very brave girl, wasn't she? She doesn't seem to have changed over the years.

"My outburst silenced the royal family. The princess was enraged by my behavior, and she asked me who I thought I was. I replied, a Phyiosan who was unrightfully taken from her family. The king studied me and said that I did not look like the normal Phyiosan. The queen unwisely said that perhaps I was not a true Phyiosan.

"The royal family infuriated me. I was a true Phyiosan, and royal highnesses or not, they should not insult me like this. I turned on my heel and was about to run out of the palace, when the prince caught my arm. He apologized for his family and commented on my beauty. He said that I had looks unlike anyone he'd ever seen, and asked if I wished to become a Celestian lady.

"I said that I wished not, and that I just wanted to return home. The king cut in smoothly, saying that I had no home to return to. I was shocked, and asked him what he meant. The king said that although I did not know it, there was a war going on in Phyios. It had not reached my home yet, but it would soon. He did not want me to return, just to be welcomed by peril and destruction.

"So I agreed to stay and train to be a lady of the court. News of me spread everywhere, of the strange Phyiosan girl. Boys and young men flocked around me, but I tired of them all. There were many that claimed that they loved me. I dismissed all of them. There were also many girls around my age who also lived in the palace who wanted to be my friend. I brushed away their false compliments and worked hard at my academic studies, wanting to prove to the royal court that I was more than a pretty face.

"When I turned sixteen years old, I became a lady of the court and also became eligible for marriage. Suitors from all over the country lined up to ask for my hand in marriage. Useless men, all of them. And so while all the other ladies of the court spent their time gossiping and learning skills like gracefulness and how to properly hold a ball, I buried myself in my doctoral studies and research. I had privately announced my wish to become a doctor to the royal family a few weeks before, and they had agreed after some coaxing on my part. The queen told me to stay a court lady until I turned eighteen and entered a college for doctoral studies. I agreed."

Kate's eyes wandered around the room. So Dr. Telvine had tired of court life and wanted to escape the tedious ladies and dreary suitors.

"I kept my request a secret, and so suitors continued to come to the royal palace. All of them were the same in mind and thought, but there was one who stood out, in the bad sense. A young man named Isaac Williams, who claimed to love me so desperately that he insisted on marrying me. He made threats, claims, and persuasions. I was firm on my answer of no, but he still persisted.

"When I was seventeen, Isaac found out my wish to leave court in a year and go to college. He sought me out and threatened to spill my secret and ruin my reputation at court if I did not agree to marry him. I retorted that he only loved me for my looks and not for who I was. He said that he loved me for both, and asked if I would accept his offer. I said that I would give him an answer the next day.

"That night, I packed all of my belongings and left the royal palace without a soul seeing. I set off toward the city where the college was located. Within a few months, I was fully settled there and continuing my research. Of course, when Isaac found out that I had left the palace, he was enraged. He sent men after me and chased me all over the country. His desperation led to ruthlessness as he even ordered a (failed) kidnapping attempt. It was then that I realized the full extent of the danger I was in. I began to train my body and learned martial arts. Putting down my doctoral studies, I practiced and trained for five years. I became known as not just the 'princess', but as the 'warrior princess'.

"And then it all started."

Dr. Telvine paused here and sighed wearily. Kate could tell that she was coming to the sad part of the story.

"Unbeknownst to me and my acquaintances, Isaac had created a small army of sorts, a hundred well-built and aggressive men. And so one day, when I was twenty-two years old, he and his army surrounded the small area I lived in. The men fought to get to me, and my friends in the area fought back. Blood seemed to rain from the sky as weapons clashed and people dropped to the cold cement like bricks. I tied my hair up and hid it under a hat. With that, I rushed outside and joined the fighting.

"I fought hard and worked on pushing the army back. Isaac's army kept on yelling that they would stop fighting if the people would hand me over. Seeing that the people refused to give me up, I said nothing and continued fighting. None of the opposing army recognized me, with my hair stuffed under my hat and my face covered with dirt and grime.

"Finally, Isaac himself joined the fighting. He saw me and recognized me. We fought, one on one. He had also trained himself in those five years. It was a long and bloody battle. He swung his sword at my neck. I did not manage to block it. Red pools piled around me. I lost breath and blacked out.

"When I woke up, I was in a hospital. The nurse told me that I had almost died that day. I asked her to give me a hand mirror, and she did. I focused not on my face, but on my neck.

"It was a ghastly white color. There was a deep red slash, a scar that would remain there until the ends of time. It was an emblem of my pain and suffering during that fight, as were all the other scars that lined my arms and legs. I opened my mouth to speak. Nothing came out. The nurse's face paled, and she told me that the damage had been too great. My throat was now rendered useless, and I would never be able to speak again.

"A month later, I was released from the hospital. I went to my martial arts master for information. He told me that everyone in the area was fine; no one had suffered any large injuries except for me. He told me that Isaac had been injured and his army had retreated to some other city. He said that Isaac had given up on his conquest. I did not think so, but I just nodded along."

Kate looked up at Dr. Telvine in wonder. So the woman had led this sort of dangerous, tragic life. You never could have told from just looking at her.

"I returned to my small home. Every day, I practiced speaking. I did all sorts of exercises, including the one I did with you to get you to speak. Nothing worked. My throat was damaged too much. Everyone gave me their condolences, saying that they were sorry that I had lost my voice. I ignored them and continued trying.

"It was one day, a year after the accident, when I accidentally burned myself on the stove. I jumped back and a sound flew out of me. It was a sound that sounded cracked, broken, and unused for a long time, but to me, it was the sound of hope. Of a new beginning.

"And so I continued my exercises with new determination and renewed vigor. Finally, I managed to get to the voice that I speak with today. I'll never be able to speak louder than this, Kate. But I can speak. I lost my voice, but now I have found it.

"I was so joyful when I reached the point where I could speak regularly again, albeit much softer than normal people. I felt like I was a young Phyiosan girl again, running around my family's farm. I felt free and so proud.

"I immediately ran to the hospital that I had stayed in after the battle with Isaac and his army. The nurse that had cared for me recognized me. She asked me if I was fine. I nodded. Her expression changed into a pitying one, and she said, 'You're the one that lost her voice, aren't you?' I nodded again. She placed a hand on my shoulder. 'It's okay! You may have lost your voice but you haven't lost the rest of your future.'

"I raised an eyebrow at her actions and opened my mouth. 'What makes you so sure that I have lost my voice?'

"Her expression was priceless! Oh my, it still makes me smile when I think about it now. She staggered back. She called the other nurses and doctors. After the others learned about my condition and what I had done to overcome it, they wanted to interview me. Talk to me. Ask me questions. Of course, I refused. But I asked if I could continue my doctoral studies by coming to study in the hospital itself. Dazedly, the doctors agreed.

"And so I continued my studies and became the doctor that I am now. Kate, it hasn't been easy. My journey was full of bumps in the road. Yours will too, I fear." Dr. Telvine stared at Kate in the eye. "Well, child. Will you put your past aside, bring up your courage, and find your voice?"

Kate met the woman's eyes. "I-I will." And to herself, she thought, Not just for me. But for my parents, too. I will find my voice and become both a princess worthy of Celestia and a daughter worthy of her brave parents.

Alright! That was a nice, long chapter to say sorry for all that time where I didn't update. I'M REALLY SORRY FOR NOT UPDATING! I REALLY AM!

Now, just to make this clear: the plot of the story is far from over. Just because Kate is beginning speak again doesn't mean that her troubles have stopped! No, no, no, absolutely not. So keep reading to find out what surprises I have planned for the characters!

Keep reviewing, please…I read all of them, and every single one means a lot to me! Thank you so much, everyone(: