Oria, the nature kingdom.
Aeros, the air kingdom.
Aithne, the fire kingdom.
Limus, the water kingdom.
These four kingdoms make up Aontacht, but there was once when everyone lived together.
Long ago, our Ancestors gave the world magic crystals. They looked like every other stone, small and unpolished, but the contents of them were far greater.
There were four in total, one for fire, water, air, and nature. They provided magic to the inhabitants of the kingdom, to help make their lives easier. Everyone was happy, children would run around on the cobblestone streets, laughing as they wielded magic from their fingertips.
The Ancestors named the world Anotacht, meaning unity. And Aontacht lived up to its name. Everyone lived in harmony, humans and mythical creatures alike. The Ancestors ruled this world, five people who shared their power equally.
And then the nature crystal vanished.
People could still talk to the spirits of nature, but they could no longer control it. They started panicking, thinking that it would just be a matter of time before all the crystals disappeared. But even worse, Aontacht started to fall apart due to arguments.
The Ancestors formed four groups, those who favored air, fire, water, and nature, dividing themselves in a time of need and breaking their promise to stay together. The fifth Ancestor disappeared along with the crystal, never to be seen or heard from again.
People started to accuse others of stealing the crystal, forming allies along with enemies. Air had allied with fire, but became mortal enemies with nature. Water and nature formed an alliance together, while water and fire became enemies.
Nobody knew who dropped the first bomb, but soon, all four sides were interlocked in a fierce battle, known as the Cogadh Mór. The Great War.
Children no longer ran through the streets, their mothers clutching them tight, not wanting to let go. The villages were destroyed by the opposite sides, debris and melancholy lining the skies. What once was a world with all people living in peace was now a place of terror and uncertainty.
And then the biggest battle had begun.
The four sides fought each other, air and fire against nature and water.
Beams of water dosed fires that had started, and people from nature whispered to the spirits of Mother Nature, asking them to help in the war. They made weapons out of stone, arrows whizzing past, adding to the chaos of war. Blood streamed out from fresh wounds of loved ones, but nobody could stop to help them. The amount of dead people and creatures increased, littering the floor like trash. An Ancestor, floating off from the ground, waved his hand, and people were flung high into the sky, like some sick type of fireworks. They crashed back into the earth, dead. Dragons spewed red-hot flames, and trees caught on fire, burning and withering as the spirit inside them died as well. Plants curled their fingers around people, crushing the air out of them. Mermaids called water, flooding the place and drowning crowds of people. The war lasted for five years, leaving the world in ruins, yet there was no declared winner. The Ancestors had decided to call a truce, but the world won’t ever be the same again.
The Ancestors had decided to rule their own kingdoms, splitting up Aontacht. And thus, the Four Kingdoms were formed.
Wind swirled around me, my copper red hair swishing over my face. But instead of the wind blowing me around, I only felt strengthened by it, like it was seeping into my bones and energizing me. It was a dangerous feeling, one that would surely get me exiled, or maybe even killed. After all, how would the citizens feel if their Queen had powers that only their enemy had?
I sighed, and called off the wind. Ever since I was little, I could control air, making it bend to my will. I didn’t know why, but I knew that it was unnatural.
No one else in Oria had powers. Talking to the nature spirits took years of training to master. Some stubborn plants won’t even open up no matter how much you coax them.
But the worst part was that I was the Queen of Oria. My parents, the late King and Queen, had passed away when I was 16, leaving me to run the kingdom by myself.
As my parents’ death was quite sudden, I hadn’t had time to pick a suitor to rule beside me as King. But I would have to soon.
I was never the heir that my parents wanted me to be, I always did the wrong thing. But it was hard living up to their expectations, as they were the best King and Queen to have ever ruled over Oria.
The flat-side of the hit against my exposed skin, but I didn’t wince, knowing that I would just be hit again if I did.
“Stand up straight! Eyes forward! Do not hunch over! Oria does not want a hag as their Queen!” Mother scolded, the ruler in her hand posed to strike again as soon as I messed up.
“Yes, Mother,” I gritted my teeth.
The Queen tsked. “You are such a disappointment, Merille. I would be surprised to see you make it past your second year of being Queen.” She walked out of the room, leaving me glaring daggers in her back.
I could feel my powers pulsing inside of me, summoned by my anger. They hissed at me to unleash them, but I refrained. The Queen of Oria dying from a sudden gust of wind seemed quite suspicious, as much as I wish I could.
I could still feel the place where the ruler stuck me. But I will prove them wrong, I will be an even better leader than they were.
Which meant that I had to hide my powers. I had the powers of the enemy, and I’m sure that they would find another Queen if they ever found out the truth about me.
Four sharp knocks startled me from my thoughts. I smoothed out my hair, which had become quite messy.
“Come in!” I called.
“Your Majesty,” an elf in the servant uniform bowed deeply, and I nodded at him, allowing him to continue.
“Ezlynn has requested for you.”
“Alright, tell her that I will be down shortly.
“Yes, my Queen.” He backed out of my room, closing the door behind him.
Ezlynn, a satyress, was my tailor, and I left her in charge of making a dress for me to wear at the upcoming ball. I decided to host one to lift everyone’s spirits.
There were rumors stating that a Princess from Aeros was kidnapped, and they were blaming it on Oria. Which wasn’t exactly surprising.
Even after the Cogadh Mór, Aeros and Oria were still sworn enemies, and barely kept the peace treaty. But now that Aeros had a reason to be angry, people are afraid that history would repeat itself in the form of a war.
I glanced at a mirror, making sure I looked presentable, and left for the fitting room.
“Your Majesty.” Ezlynn immediately dropped into a curtsy as soon as I entered the room. I nodded my greetings to her.
“If you would follow me, my Queen, I have picked out the perfect dress for you.” A smile toyed on her lips, making me raise my eyebrow.
Ezlynn didn’t say anything else, but a knowing smile appeared on her face.
She led me to the back of the room, where all four sides of the walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I’ve only been here a few times, and each time shed an unpleasant memory.
“You need to look your best for this ball, and be on your best behavior. I cannot let you run around and ruin the ball. Do you understand?” Mother reprimanded me like a child in front of Ezlynn, even though I was already 14. I gritted my teeth, barely keeping my thoughts from escaping from me.
“Good. Now, when we get back, you will memorize the names and titles of each nobility in Oria. Once you have done so, practice your posture.”
“Yes, Mother,” I obediently replied.
“You also have to stop eating so much, all that food is going to your thighs.” I lowered my head, nodding. But an inferno ragged inside of me, swirling all my thoughts and emotions into one: I will prove her wrong. And maybe then my parents will finally accept me.
Of course, that never happened because the King and Queen were assassinated 2 years later.
“Here is your dress, my Queen,” Ezlynn snapped me out of my thoughts, holding up a beautiful, navy blue dress.
“This looks lovely. Thank you.”
“Would you like help putting it on?”
“No, thank you.” I nodded at her, and she curtsied again before leaving me and the dress alone.
The rough fabric scratched my skin as I slid it over my head. I called a bit of wind to tighten the corset, fumbling with the strings. I sucked in my already nonexistent stomach, and then released the breath after pulling my last string.
I glanced at the mirror, taking in the dress.
It was a ravishing, azure dress that matched my sapphire blue eyes. Starting off as a rich, dark blue, it melted into a lighter shade, the hem of the dress fanning out around me. The tight corset accented my slim waist, a string of diamonds running from each side. Decorations made out of gold swirled around it, the official symbol of royalty in Oria, and off-the-shoulder sleeves completed the look. My red hair fell in curls around the dress, a striking contrast against the dark blue.
I looked gorgeous, but I couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t enough. I could almost hear my Mother scolding me, or my Father telling me how I would never make a good Queen, and would have to rely on the King to run Oria.
I sighed, and walked out of the dressing room.
Ezlynn gasped. “My Queen, you look lovely.”
“Thank you, Ezlynn. This dress will be perfect for the ball, you have done a wonderful job.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
“I shall get going now, I have a few things I still need to sort out for the ball.”
“Of course. Thank you for stopping by,” Ezlynn curtsied.
After I changed out of the dress, I headed to the throne room. I was scheduled to meet with a few suitors today, and I was dreading it. I hated the idea of a King, especially when I was capable of ruling my kingdom. Having a King just complicates things.
I shudder to the idea of falling in love. Love makes you weak, and a Queen cannot afford to be blinded by love.
But it would still be my duty to attend.
The hard edges of the golden throne cut into my back, but I was used to it. My Father had made me sit on this throne for hours, in preparation for when I became Queen.
“My Queen,” an elf with golden blonde hair and piercing blue eyes kneeled at my feet. I nodded at him to get up.
He stared right at me, his blue eyes penetrating into mine.
The nerve, I thought. I was going to call him out on it, but decided to hear what he had to say first.
“My name is Ermir, and I am the Duke of the northern side of Oria. I would be the ideal choice for the King, because I am used to making hard decisions. I will never criticize you, and I will stand by you and support every decision that you make. I will make you happy, and even as King, I will not overpower your status as Queen. Merille…” He used my name, “I want only the best for you.”
I was shocked at his courage, and somehow, he spoke the exact things that I wanted to hear. But something was off.
“You said you were the Duke of the northern side?”
“Yes, my Queen.”
“I thought that his name was Duke Terran,” I raised my eyebrow.
Ermir’s eyes widened the slightest bit, so small of a change that I started to think that I had imagined it.
“Yes, that was my father’s name. He recently passed away, and his dying wish was for me to be a better leader than he was.”
“Mm,” I had thought that Terran was a wonderful leader, beloved by my people. But maybe I was wrong, I never met him before, anyways.
“Thank you. Next!”
The trickle of men slowly flowed by me, all of them wanting a chance as King.
But all of them mashed into one, none of them stood out to me.
Except for Ermir. I could still remember how clear his blue eyes were, and the kindness in them. I felt my cheeks heat up. Something was wrong with me. I wanted to get to know him better, but that wasn’t possible, was it?
I work better by myself, that way I wouldn’t have to worry about betrayals.
But, I found myself scheduling an appointment to meet with Ermir again. And the scariest part was, I was looking forward to it.
“You requested for me, my Queen?” Ermir asked.
“Yes, I did. I… want to get to know you better, to see if you will be a good King.”
He smirked. “Alright. May I call you Merille?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but what came out was the opposite. “Of course.”
“Would you like to take a walk in the woods?”
“That would be lovely, thank you,” I smiled up at him.
I stood up, and immediately my guards stiffened.
“Your Majesty, would you like us to come with you?”
“No, thank you. That is not necessary, I will still be on castle grounds.”
“As you wish.”
“Shall we get going, then?” Ermir offered me his arm, and I took it.
We walked in silence for the first few minutes.
“I’ve always loved the Oria palace.” Ermir murmured, almost like he forgot I was here.
The palace of Oria was very beautiful. It had strong, sturdy columns in the front, supporting the golden palace. Vines curled along the sides, swirling into a natural, intricate design. In the summer, flowers bloom all over the vines, covering the palace in bright red flowers.
But something in the way Ermir said it was nagging at me. Almost like… he wasn’t from Oria.
I narrowed my eyes. That name… Ermir… nobody in Oria would name their child something that means air. Especially not a Duke.
“Is something wrong, Merille?” He frowned at me, realizing that I had stopped.
“You’re not from Oria.” I accused him, hurt in my eyes.
Ermir laughed. “Where did you get that idea from? The only reason I am here is because I want to make you happy, I don’t want to see you suffer anymore.” He sounded sincere but…
“How did you know I wasn’t already happy? I’ve also never seen you before…” My parents always complimented me in front of other members of nobility. My mind flashed to all the Dukes and Duchesses that I had memorized, but Ermir was not in the list. I had every single nobility’s children and even distant relatives stored in my brain, but the name Ermir didn’t belong anywhere.
He froze, but before he could speak, someone fell from the sky, landing in front of us.
“YOU COULDN’T HAVE CHECKED THE PARACHUTE BEFORE EXILING ME?! THE-” He stopped midway, noticing us gaping at him.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“Not important. Well, I shall get going now,” he smiled, turning around to leave.
“Pardon?” I felt shocked. Nobody dared speak to me that way!
“Hm?” The boy looked confused. Does he not know who I am?
But before I could say anything, he spoke again.
“Wait… Ermir? What are you doing here?”
I whipped around, facing Ermir. “He knows you?”
Ermir looked around frantically. “N-no! I’ve never seen him before in my life!”
The boy stared at Ermir for a minute, and then he started laughing. “Oh, that’s funny! You definitely don’t know your childhood best friend!”
The boy who just landed in front of us was definitely not from Oria, and if Ermir was his childhood friend…
“What is your name?” I asked him calmly.
“And tell me, Aloysius. Where are you from?”
Aloysius hesitated, but must have seen the furious look in my eyes, because he relented.
“I’m from… Aeros.” His words froze me in place. An enemy from Aeros in Oria? I thought back to what he said when he landed. He was probably exiled.
Only Aeros would exile their criminals to their enemy kingdom.
“You said you knew Ermir?” He nodded, and then narrowed his eyes at me.
“Oh God. Alize?!” He stared at me in shock.
“Alize? Who is Alize?” I furrowed my brow, confused.
“Stop playing games! Everyone thought you were dead! What are you doing in the enemies’ kingdom?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My name is Merille and I am the Queen of Oria.” He has some nerve talking to me like that.
“No, no you’re not. I’d think I would remember you, your looks are quite exotic after all.” When I still didn’t look convinced, he leaned in, concern lining his face. I instinctively backed away, ready to call for my guards. But his next words chilled me to the bones.
“Are you feeling alright? You’re not from Oria, in fact, you hated Oria. Alize, you’re from Aeros.”