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Fantasy

Princess Amelia stomped out of the throne room. She had agreed to marry King Roland but the man was an oaf. He was older than her, and he was tyrannical. His people were starving, whilst he sat and gorged on feasts. She had been betrothed to him by her father King Jerrick as a means to peace. Nephemia had been at war with Reven since before she was born and this union was to bring about an end to it. She should have known that things would not go well as even before the wedding Roland was telling her what she could and could not do. She was being watched everywhere she went. She had no freedom even before the wedding. Since the wedding, she had only one role, to give Roland an heir. 

She had tried wanted to give it a go but she had realised she could never marry this man. Her escape was planned. After midnight she would leave the castle disguised as her maid and head to the stables where a horse was waiting to take her away. She knew that she risked the war continuing for another hundred years but she could not marry the man.

She would leave Reven and start a new life somewhere else. Anywhere else. However, there was one thing that she would regret. Both kingdoms held vast riches, gold and jewels. She had managed to get hold of the money set aside for her dowry. She had also taken the most precious jewel in the kingdom. The Marlin Diamond. It had been offered as a peace offering to Roland but she knew that he was planning to use it to fund some mercenaries. She did not know what he wanted them for but it would not be good. She would use this diamond to secure her future. If people knew she was a princess she would hopefully find a Duke or a Prince and start a life in a castle far away.

She ran to her room, passing by her eldest brother Christian. He had been lucky with the wife their father had secured for him. Although, they had also met for the first time a few days before the wedding, Beatrice had been perfect. In fact each of her four brother’s had been married to someone perfect for them. The more she thought about it the more angry she grew. Slamming her door shut she climbed on to the bed and wept. 

She was not sure exactly when it had happened but she had fallen asleep at some point and was startled by her wake up call. Evie, her maid had arrived on time with a spare dress and cloak. Together, they crept out of the castle. Without her normal gowns she was surprised at how easy it was to blend in. The guards did not bat an eye. She felt for them, they would bare the brunt of her father’s wrath when it was realised she was missing.

They managed to get to the stables. Godric, the stable hand had fulfilled his end of the deal and two horses were saddled and ready to go. This had been easier than anticipated. The saddle bags were loaded with food and the gold and jewels. Without looking back Amelia and Evie left the castle and rode as fast as they could.

They slowed down about ten miles out of the town and rode until day break. Reaching the forest they made their way off the main road and took the opportunity to rest for a few hours. So far everything had gone according to plan. However things were about to change for the worse.

They reached a town mid afternoon and took refuge in the local inn. Two women riding fine horses without an escort had garnered more interest than they had wanted but it was to be expected. They took two rooms and paid with money that Evie had at home rather than the gold coins. They ate dinner and retired for the night.

Amelia was exhausted and fell quickly to sleep. However, she was woken in the night by the noise of someone in her room. She had a small dagger on her but it was not within reach. The room was dark and she could not make out who was in the room or even whether there was more than one person.

“Is that you Evie?”

“No.” 

The deep male voice shook her. He spoke with an unfamiliar accent. Was he here to kill her? 

“What do you want?”

“Well several soldiers have arrived in town looking for a missing Princess and her maid. They should be looking in the tavern within the next ten minutes. So you have a choice come with me and I will get you safely wherever you are going, or stay here and be sent back to the castle.”

Amelia was not convinced. Why would a stranger risk his life for her? “Why would you help?”

The stranger laughed. “I am a kindly soul who just wants to help a damsel in distress.”

“Why do I not believe you?”

“Probably because you are smarter than you look. However there is not time to discuss this now. We need to leave. I have somewhere I can hide you until the soldiers move on. Then we can discuss my fee.”

“Can I at least have your name?” 

“I am Conrad. You are now Betsy, and your companion shall be Meg. You work for me if anyone asks. I bought you at a market and you both work as companions for me and whomever I choose.”

“You are disgusting.”

“Yes, however this is the best way of getting you out of here. Maybe I won’t expect you to perform for me.”

Amelia realised there was little choice than to trust the stranger who had broken in to her room in the middle of the night. She sent Conrad to wake Evie whilst she dressed and soon the three of them made their way out of the Inn and through the town. It was starting to get light and before long they would be a lot more visible than they currently were. They spotted soldiers breaking down doors and searching properties. Conrad led them to a covered cart. 

“Get in, there are blankets you can hide under. It has already been searched and I hope that they won’t come back.”

Amelia and Evie climbed in the cart. The blankets smelled horrid like the stables before they had been cleaned. However they had little choice but to do as Conrad asked. They lay as still as possible trying hard not to make a sound. After what seemed like forever they heard noise outside. Amelia held her dagger in her hand. If she was going to be captured she would give them a fight. She could hear someone by the cart creeping round. Her heart was beating faster and faster and Amelia was worried that it would beat so hard that it would give them away.

The blanket was lifted off them and Amelia was ready to pounce but instead of soldiers it was Conrad. “The soldiers are gone but you are far from safe.” 

“Thank you. We will be fine.”

Conrad smiled. It was an unnerving smile. “Princess you won’t get far on your own.”

“We will be fine.”

“Your horses have been sold to a local smith to persuade the soldiers you had bought new horses and gone west.”

“You had no right.”

“Fine I will get the horses back and you can take your own risks.” 

Amelia sighed in frustration. She had planned her escape from the castle but her plans after this had not really been thought through. “Fine. What will it take for you to help us across the border? I have some money but I can’t give you too much, I will need it to start a new life.”

“You have more than enough. Besides you are going to have to give up more than money to pull this off.” Conrad looked her up and down. She may be dressed in Servants clothes and dirty from the travel, but her long blonde hair, striking blue eyes and legendary smile were a give away. He reached in to his tunic and pulled out a dagger. 

Amelia also looked at Conrad. His hair was dark and his skin was slightly tanned, like he had come from the summer months. With his unfamiliar accent she realised that he was most definitely not local.

“Turn around.”

“So you can stab me in the back”

“Don’t be stupid. Turn.”

Amelia turned and Evie stood by watching in case Conrad tried something. He grabbed her by the hair and before Evie could act he used his knife to start cutting through it. Amelia stood in stunned silence.

However, Conrad did not stop with her hair length. He had managed to procure something to colour her hair to a dark brown. He had also managed to find some clothing for both Amelia and Evie. By the time he had finished Amelia was no longer the beautiful princess she had once been. However hair would grow back and if it meant that she would be able to escape she was happy to go along with it.

It was midday before they left the town and started North towards the coast. Conrad assured her that he would get them passage on a ship and they could make their way across the water. They travelled late in to the night passing by a town and choosing instead to sleep in a wooded area, under the cover of trees. Whilst it was uncomfortable Amelia and Evie fell asleep quickly. 

The journey to the coast took several days because they were trying to avoid the main roads. There were still soldiers searching and they had a couple of close calls. Amelia had never been to the coast before and was in awe of the ships. Conrad led them to an Inn on the waterfront and they took a table by the fire. It was early spring and there was a strong cold wind blowing in from the water.

As Amelia and Evie sat at a table eating a meagre but welcome broth, Conrad approached a man at the bar. He clearly knew the man and before long they both came over to the table. “Captain Archer, this is Betsy and her companion. They need passage across the water.”

The captain smiled. “Of course. I would be happy to transport them. I am not sure how the crew will react. Once we set said we don’t intend to stop on land for a number of weeks. Having females on board may be distracting. I cannot say for certain that they would be safe. Especially as despite the terrible haircut this beauty sat before me is quite clearly the missing princess.”

Archer smiled and ordered an ale. “It will cost you.”

Amelia pulled out her purse and offered some gold coins but Archer shook his head. “We may be far from the Castle but the soldiers have been through here. It is quite apparent that the reward for your return is a lot less than the reward for the return of the Marlin diamond. So I will take that.”

Amelia begged him to take the gold and leave her with the gem but he was having none of it. “We are leaving in the morning. You have until then to decide what you are going to do.”

“Take me.”

“Excuse me?”

“I will work for you, do what ever you want but please leave me the diamond. I will need it to secure my future.”

“I don’t know what you think I am. To be fair I am probably exactly what you think I am but in this instance the diamond is more precious than a few weeks fun on board ship.”

Amelia and Evie made their excuses and made their way to the room Conrad had secure for them.  Amelia felt trapped. They could try making their own way or potentially stay here and try and set themselves up. However the risks were great. Her father was not one to let betrayal lie. If she stayed in his lands she would never be safe. If they went across the border he would declare war.

The diamond would not only buy their passage but Archer had promised that no one would lay a finger on them. There was little choice but to hand over the diamond. In hindsight taking the diamond was stupid. Her life needed to be different now. She needed to be low key and live a quiet life. The diamond would not help. 

Early the following morning Amelia and Evie boarded Archer’s ship and handed over the diamond. She was surprised to see Conrad on board. He was casually sitting on a canon. Amelia noticed that the crew seemed on edge and she realised Conrad was watching the dock closely as was Archer. 

A cry went out and Amelia turned and saw soldier approaching. Archer ordered the crew to set sail. It seemed that someone in the Inn had realised who Amelia was and the soldiers had been summoned. 

A canon fired from a cliff as the crew rushed round attempting to get the ship out of the dock. There was no easing the ship out as the crashed through small fishing boats. If they could get out on the open sea there would be no catching them as The Intrepid was the fastest ship on the seas.

Somehow the canons firing from the cliffs were not on target and they made their way in to the ocean.

Once they were safely in to open water Archer approached Amelia. “So what’s it to be Princess. Diamond or your Virtue.”

“Have the diamond. It is more trouble than it is worth.”

“We will drop you off in a few days. Conrad has asked that we take a detour to Beseaux which is about three days sailing from here. You should be safe there.”

Amelia nodded she knew of Beseaux, but it was not somewhere that had many dealings with Reven. They would be safe there. They would be safe now assuming Archer was true to his word.

She had nothing to worry about as the crew left them alone. She found herself in awe at the sea and realised that she would like nothing more than remain by the water. She could sew and she could grow food and raise animals. She still had a very large dowry which would set them up for some time. They would be ok. Evie would be rewarded too. She did not have a family back home and was the best friend Amelia had. 

Three days after leaving Reven the ship pulled in to port and they disembarked. As Amelia watched Archer go back below deck, she had one more regret about the diamond. However it was too late to go back now. 

They purchased some horses and prepared to set out. Conrad offered to take them to a town he knew along the coast, the town he called home or he would give them directions to wherever they wanted to go. Deciding to go with their escort for one final journey they headed south towards their new life.  

April 07, 2021 22:03

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