"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it - always."
― Mahatma Gandhi
May 15, 1263
Kingdom of Lithuania
The small girl lay panting on the ground, engulfed with fear. Struggling to breathe, she made an attempt to grab a silver amulet which rested on the dirt ground only a few inches away. Her hand wandered aimlessly through the grit and gravel, still fueled by the persistent, irrational fear inside her body that compelled her to live - despite the daunting circumstances that were set before her.
Beyond the vast forests that surrounded her, she could hear the thunderous beats of several drums, along with the jagged war cries from hundreds of men that commenced in the celestial kingdom. Death was fast approaching and there was no possible way to delay the inevitable. The smell of burnt leaves and plants flooded the air, causing the atmosphere to turn smoky gray.
The girl, desperate to honor her duty, made another ill-favored lunge for the gleaming amulet, but alas, it seemed as if even the goddess of good fortune was against her grace. She could not reach the silver-flecked amulet, no matter how hard she tried.
The clouds rumbled overhead, as if the goddess herself was agreeing, and shell-shocked waves of pain spread throughout the girl's body. She let out a pitiful moan, exhausted and weakened by the accumulating misery.
Harbored by the anguished cries of injured soldiers that seemed to ring throughout the dense forest, the saddened girl rolled onto her back and stared up at the orange sky.
Her eyes searched the translucent stars and she quickly sent out a rushed prayer to the gods. 'Please, Heavenly Masters, give me hope as well as courage to help my tarnished empire.'
The silent words echoed in the back of her mind and she could almost laugh at the cold, hard irony. How could she help her kingdom when she was the one who had brought upon it's own destruction?
"Amira...?" A deep, raspy voice broke throughout the clearing and her face inclined towards the sound.
"Yes?" Amira answered, her soft words hardly a whisper.
A light rustling in the forest could be heard behind her and she quietly tensed. What if this intruder was one of Daumantas's armymen?
Suddenly, an even worse thought crossed her mind. She had just responded to her name, thus revealing herself and her identity. Any men of Daumantas would promptly kill her, regardless.
Amira smiled at her cautiousness. She was lying on the ground, completely unarmed and derived of strength. It wouldn't matter if some brutal evil would find her. She would be ruined anyway. Either by the hand of Daumantas's forces, or by the hands of the crushed kingdom's people she had failed to protect.
The mysterious figure approached her and Amira closed her eyes, barely breathing in anticipation. She could feel an air of familiarity surround the man.
Ah, better to die in the hands of someone she knew.
"If you wish to kill me, make it quick." Amira whispered, her voice cracking with a forbidden hopelessness. She was not raised this way, to admit defeat this easily. But yet, there was nothing else she could possibly do. The Kingdom of Lithuania was going to burn in flames, if not already.
Amira could feel the man halt. Tightening her eyes, she mentally prepared for the blow that would finally end her life.
"I would never dream of killing you, Your Majesty." The stranger's tone was tender, even earnest, and Amira's eyes fluttered open with the recognition of her beloved's voice.
"Augustus." Her eyes trailed over his handsome figure, again taking in the boy she had loved ever since she was a mere girl. His face was just as she had remembered it. Piercing blue eyes outlined a sharp jaw. His hair, once light and lustrous, now had a dull sheen to it. Dressed in chivalry armor, he looked as if he was one of Daumantas's men.
Amira exhaled a shaky breath, partly because of relief and partly because of happiness. She weakly reached up, trying to grasp his hand. "Augustus..."
Augustus quickly ushered to her side, kneeling down to support her body. "Oh, what have they done to you?" His words were low and harsh, yet filled with a tinge of sadness.
Amira struggled to pull him closer, gasping with every sear of pain that surged through her body. Her head was dizzy, as if blood were roaring inside her head. Blinding, hot tears threatened to fall as she gazed into Augustus's eyes.
"We have no time to worry about my state." She simply whispered. Glancing around her, safe in Augustus' arms, she could clearly see the forest. Her heart pounded, full of worry, as she beheld all the terror that Daumantas had caused.
Seas of tall grasses and burned wildflowers flooded the area, studded with the standing trunks of charred trees. Blackberry and bramble basked in the evening, slowly entailing themselves across any remnants of life. Beyond the vast destruction, she could see a fleck of golden sunlight, illuminating the kingdom itself. The castle, thank the gods, was still upright and standing - it's beauty and grace captured like a photograph as the sun faded into the horizon. Regardless, the area around her, to a great extent, was merely annihilated. All preserves of nature and wildlife were no longer there to be seen, perhaps already fleeing somewhere safer.
She had a miserable feeling that she should be doing the same. Running away from the scene of the crime.
Suddenly, a flame of anger exploded inside Amira's body. How could she think of such an unjust thought? It made her incredibly mad that she was lying on the ground, doing absolutely nothing.
She was supposed to be hurrying towards the castle, with Augustus by her side, and rescuing her parents from Daumantas's evil hold.
"You look so ghastly..." Augustus murmured, smoothing strands of hair away from her face. He leaned away from her and reached down to grab the amulet she'd been longing for.
His actions brought her back to reality and she hesitated, biting her lip. She felt obligated to tell Augustus that she wished to go back her kingdom, along with him, but something in the back of her mind kept telling her that he wouldn't pay her any heed.
At least he had secured the pendant. It glistened faintly as Augustus placed it into his sack.
"Augustus, I th-" Amira started before Augustus quickly placed a finger upon her lip.
"You need to rest." He simply stated, glancing down the figure of her body. Amira would've blushed, but this was no time to be displaying any form of flirtatious behavior.
"No," Amira waved away his concerns, ignoring the sharp, searing pain that still lingered near her hip. "We've got to go to the castle. My father and mother... I mean, King Mindaugas and Queen Morta are in grave danger."
Despite all the turmoil that was clouding her mind and soul, Amira forced herself to sound authoritative. She needed to show Augustus that she was still in charge, no matter how utterly weak she appeared to him right now.
Augustus blinked, sullen. She suddenly realized how frail he looked. He had deep bags under his eyes and his face was sunken, incredibly pale. She softly raised a hand, stroking his cheek with content.
"T-that's an order, Augustus." Amira stammered, gazing into his misty blue eyes. She abruptly understood how dense she would've appeared to him right now and she drew her hand away. What kind of princess issued commands like that?
"That's an order, Augustus." Amira repeated her words again, this time more calmly and distinctly.
Augustus cracked a smile, staring longingly at her hand. His pale eyes seemed to lighten up jovially and Amira suddenly felt more encouraged. He would pull through, she was sure of it. Augustus was, after all, her sweetheart. He would understand how much pain and temptation she was going through right now.
"Of course, Your Majesty." Augustus complied, his face still armored with the signs of his good natured smile. "Anything for you."
"Why are you so happy, Augustus?" Amira asked, her brow slightly crinkling up with confusion.
At the same time, she loved his light-heartedness, but she also pondered whether he was taking her seriously at all. She knew she hardly looked like royalty, why with her tangled dark hair framing her face like a bee's nest and her skin bruised with scrapes and injuries.
Augustus shifted slightly, looking amused. "You know, Amira, at first I thought you had changed when I saw you out there. You looked quite lost and weak," he cleared his throat before grinning. "That was before you bid an order for me. By that time, I knew my old Amira was back. You can't go a day without babbling some upstart order to the folkspeople - including me!"
Amira widened her eyes at his bluntness. "Why, Augustus Grigas! If I hadn't fallen in love with you, I would've exiled you to the dungeons a long time ago!" Her words faltered as she looked up at him and a sinister thought crossed her mind. If the kingdom was already burned down... then there would be no dungeon to send anyone too.
Swallowing at her notions, she opened her mouth drily. "Augustus. We have to go to the Kingdom of Lithuania, now." She couldn't afford to believe that their cause was already a lost one. No, she could still feel a glimmering hope inside her heart. The hope that the warmth and courtsmanship of the castle and the people of Lithuania was still prevailing.
Augustus nodded, sensing something was wrong. His movements turning grisly as he placed her safely along the interior of his arms. He inclined forward, lightly kissing her cheek, his body warmth heating up Amira's small frame.
"Oh..." Amira murmured, dazed. She glanced up at Augustus with affection. His soft, plump lips were pleasant and beckoning. If only they had more time, she could curl up cozily into his embrace and...
'Snap out of it,' Amira thought to herself. 'You're wasting time.'
"To the castle?" She asked with a new graveness to her voice. They had to arrive sooner or later, and sooner was the desired option.
"To the castle." Augustus repeated, acknowledging her. His eyes were set steely and cold, losing all fondness he had for her. He now had the aspect of a warrior, not a lover.
Amira placed her hand on Augustus's knee. His leg was all muscle and bone under the camouflage twill, and she felt the usual current of energy flow between them. "Ready the steed," she commanded.
Augustus nodded and saw to his horse, Charisma. He removed the tack set on Charisma's backside and combed his fingers through the shaggy horse's tangled mane. Scratching behind Charisma's ears, he leaned in close to murmur in the equine's ears. "Hey, now, Vagabond. We're going in for a bumpy ride."
Amira took a proprietary pride and liking in Augustus's ill-tempered steed. She could eagerly remember all the times that Charisma had come to their rescue, be it from the King's Guard or the southern soldiers. She liked knowing that Augustus had brought in Vagabond, it would make their journey to the kingdom much easier.
"Let us be on our way, then," Amira stated, redirecting her gaze past the silhouetted figures of man and horse, and into the forest.
Suddenly, she felt a firm, strong hand steadying her. "Be careful," Augustus murmured as he gently lifted her up into the air and onto Charisma's back. "I shouldn't be placing you on the rear, but..." He pursed his lips, shaking his head with contempt. "Daumantas's men probably wouldn't notice you if you're behind me."
Soon after, Augustus took his place in front of her and patted Charisma's hindquarters, signaling for the horse to move. Charisma started treading with a fair pace on the gritty ground and shortly took to a strong and swift gallop.
Feeling the cold, October wind blast into her face, Amira crinkled her nose, unsure on where to position her arms. Glancing at Augustus's strong figure, she scooted up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, properly secure. It gave her some comfort knowing that she wouldn't topple off and fall onto the ground. That sort of scenario would surely hinder her plans and delay their progress. Besides, it would be too humiliating. Especially in front of Augustus.
Inhaling a sharp breath, she cleared her thoughts and primarily focused on the task set before her.
She and Augustus would save the castle, save her mother and father, and eventually lay waste to Daumantas's evil plans and reunite their country.
'And,' Amira's heart whispered to her. 'You'll have to make certain that Horatio is still alive, no?'
She froze, distraught. Prince Horatio? Why was she feeling for him now? Of course, he had once been her...
Amira gulped, unable to withstand the thought. No, Horatio didn't matter to her now. She had Augustus. She loved Augustus, didn't she?
Her overtired brain couldn't handle anymore repulsing ideas. Why was she questioning Augustus's loyalty? She had to stop this dimwitted way of thinking. She had to make her way to the Kingdom of Lithuania. To doubt Augustus and his principles of love was worthless at a dire time like this.
All she could afford to have in her mind was her kingdom. There was no need for saving any form of betrayer, no matter how much he meant to her.
I hoped you enjoyed the first part of the story... it's a bit disorienting, I apologize! I take a while writing... so I almost must apologize if you don't see a new chapter in a while! Keep in mind, this is just a prologue. I know it's weird that I started off with the ending off the story... but yeah. I thought it would tie up in some ways. I've researched the topic and it says you can start off like this. I hope this doesn't muddle you guys up. :P The next chapter will be very different from this. :)
Update, 5-11-13; Changed a few word choicings.