The real fun began the next day when he offered to take her out riding. Normally, Fire would have told him no in very choice words but she had a plan. They rode off to a river on the king's private hunting grounds (which were not in use at the time) and Fire decided that then was the time to begin her torture. She begged him to race with her, pouting when he tried to decline. He finally gave in and Fire led him through as many mud holes and thorn bushes as she could find. She, due to her skill with animals and her elven heritage, came out of the forest unscathed whereas Raven was bleeding from many scratches and covered in blood.

            "Let's do it again!" Fire cried in a deceptively innocent tone. If he hadn't been too tired to look up he would have noticed the malice clear in her eyes.

            "I truly don't think I can, love," he replied panting. Fire frowned at the nickname and vowed to get revenge for it.

            "Oh, okay, I'll go see if the soldiers want to play then," Fire retorted smiling in satisfaction.

            "You do that," he murmured seeing the triumphant look on her face that he doubted was totally due to winning their race.

            Fire borrowed a sword from one of the smaller guards and practiced with a friendly young man named Daven. The soldiers soon stopped to watch her strange fighting strategy. Daven was much taller that her and much more powerful but she kept dodging his swings and taunting him to make him lose control. Her hair had been tied back with a piece of leather and swung around her like a horse's mane. Daven was breathing hard from all of his movement and his protective armor. Fire, however, was still fine because of her built up endurance from living in the forest and because she refused to wear armor. She bided her time until her opponent was nearly exhausted then moved in for the kill, dodging his small attempt to defend himself and tapping his chest with her dagger, the sword long since discarded as useless.

            "I told you I'd win," she said smiling warmly.

            "That you did, little one," he said affectionately.

            She suddenly noticed a lot of men watching them.

            "Aren't you supposed to be training?" she asked coolly. They shuffled nervously then went back to their own practice sessions.

            "So, Daven, where're you from?" she asked as he dried his face with a towel.

            "A little town called Yaria," he replied smiling warmly.

            "What caused you to leave that for this?" she asked gesturing toward the palace that was her new prison.

            "Vendra," he said, hate clouding his features.

            Fire sighed, "Yes, they have strayed far from their original ways." Daven gave her a curious look. "The birds remember it as do the elves. They were once good. Long, long ago when the elves roamed freely and fathers respected their daughters."

            "You don't like it here much, do you, child?" he asked gently.

            "Why would I?" she cried passionately, "I was forced here. I-I never planned on this."

            "Of course not, child. Not many plan on becoming a queen."

            "I never planned on marriage," she whispered looking at a bird flying in the distance.

            Daven raised his eyebrows. It was nearly unheard of for a girl to remain unmarried.

            "Don't look at me like that. I'm better at fighting than loving and I thought I could run from anyone my father tried to force me to marry."

            Daven looked unconvinced.

            "Besides, I hate kids. They get on my nerves. If I get married I risk having kids, if I understand correctly."

            "You don't like children?" he asked not believing such a sweet girl could feel that way. A look of pain was momentarily displayed before she looked away. Fire smiled, suddenly her normal self.

            "Hey, Daven, think you can beat me this time?" she taunted. He knew that she wasn't telling him something but he never backed down from a challenge.

            Raven, unbeknownst to Fire, had crept to the training grounds to watch her fight and had witnessed this conversation from behind a nearby shed. He walked away with something new to think about and hopefully use against her to make her his own. He wanted desperately for her to come to him. Preferably willingly, even though that seemed unlikely at the moment.

            Fire was immediately yanked into the bathing room when she stepped into her rooms.

            "What the-"

            "We have to get you ready for dinner, Princess," Hannah said.

            "I have a name," Fire growled.

            Hannah ignored her and turned on the water. She motioned for Fire to get in but Fire stubbornly pointed to the door. "Out!" she ordered. Hannah reluctantly left and Fire eased herself into the warm water trying not to whimper. She'd gotten quite a few scrapes bruises training with Daven. He, of course, didn't know that because she'd been trained to hide pain so he always figured he'd missed. She washed quickly, aware of Hannah's haste and wrapped a towel around herself. Hannah proudly held up a dress that seemed a mere slip of nothing. Fire stared at it then shook her head as if she hoped she was seeing things.

            "You want me to wear that? Fire asked disbelievingly. The dress was long and red and made out of the same scarf-like material as last night's but this one was noticeably thinner.

            "What's wrong?" Hannah asked.

            "It's indecent!" Fire exclaimed.

            "Well, only the prince shall see you tonight so it is quite all right if it shows a little skin," Hannah said trying to reassure the pale girl in front of her.

            "I can't take this anymore!" Fire yelled.


            "Get out of my room!" Fire bellowed, scaring the other girl. Hannah ran out of the room and straight to the king's advisor who would tell her what to do. While she was gone, Fire hurriedly dressed in her own clothes and locked the door. She then sat on her bed and waited to see what they'd do. Surprisingly, nothing happened and Fire drifted to sleep.

            Raven smiled as he used magic to make her sleep. She hadn't even noticed the shadow that he'd shifted into touching her forehead. He grinned and used a spell that quickly changed her clothes. She was now wearing the very dress she'd fought so hard to avoid. It clung tightly to her but he made himself stop thinking about that. He gently shook her awake and saw her surprise when she caught sight of the dress.

            "But-" she stammered staring down at the dress.

            "Magic, my sweet," he replied with a smug smile.

            She spat out a long string of curses that would make even a soldier blush but Raven just grinned bemusedly.

            "Time for dinner, then," he said offering his arm. Fire cursed him and yelled that she wouldn't leave the room in the dress if her life depended on it.

            "We'll do this the hard way then," Raven said, grabbing her arm. Fire cursed him in every language she knew but his grip did not loosen. Hannah rushed in with Sands close behind.

            "Raven, let go of the princess," Sands said tiredly. Raven glanced curiously at his friend and advisor then let go. Fire mumbled incoherently about a torrent. Hannah, sensing the other girl's distress, placed her arms around her. The girl's shoulders shook as she tried not to cry.

            "Fire?" she whispered. The girl didn't respond. "Look what you did!" she accused forgetting she was speaking to the prince.

            The prince had the grace to look ashamed.

            "She's dead," Fire whispered to herself.

            "Who's dead?" Raven asked confusedly.

            Fire shook her head. I DON'T WANT TO REMEMBER she yelled silently. She let the blackness consume her, knowing that when she woke up she would no longer remember until something else triggered the barely suppressed memories.

            Our minds are strong. So strong that they try to protect us from the bad things. It doesn't always work, though. Protecting us can sometimes lead us into more danger; the danger of losing ourselves to the illusion that nothing is wrong. These barriers are worse for magic bearers. If you don't know your soul how can you expect to truly harness the power that lies within it? You can't. There lies the danger. 

Note from Shadow: Sorry this took so long… I've had it written for a while but couldn't decide if I liked it and finally forgot about it. Now I've edited it and I'm more confident about it. Please review after you read this.