In the land of Alister, there are two warring countries. When Princess Ashelia's brother dies, she takes his identity as to make his dream come true. But what happens when she get's caught into the enemy's army, and falls in love with Lucas, who is the general, and Prince, of the country she is supposed to hate?


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chapter Three

Days drearily went by. Tyrus and Stephen, the two guardians who had been with her since nearly birth, followed and accompanied her to Admes, a large valley in the very northern border of their country Marcellus. No battles had been reported here, for the thick dangerous forests surrounding the border between Marcellus and Amicah were edged with dangerous wild animals, ready to kill.
            Admes was where the training for the new soldiers was to be held. Since Aeson was now eighteen, and healthy, he is ready to be sent into combat training like every other boy in the world of Alister.
            “You are not staying, Tyrus?” asked Aeson, tone a little sad. Ashelia strained to keep the sadness away. “What about you, Stephen?” Both Tyrus and Stephen had been Ashelia’s and Aeson’s Guardians since the twins had been born. Tyrus, already being middle aged, had already been a faithful guardian towards their father before they were even born. Stephen, being about a decade older, had been assigned so they could grow up together.
            Either way, it is painful to part from either of them.
            “I am to stay with King Ezio,” Tyrus said. “But Stephen will stay with you, as Second Sword.”
            Aeson looked over at Stephen, who was readying his armor and sword from the carriage. “Stephen! I did not know you are of that high of rank.”
            “My lord,” bowed Stephen. “I have been raised to protect you. Why would I have no military training?”
            Aeson frowned, but looked back at Tyrus. “Can you not disobey my father and stay?”
            Tyrus shook his head. “Forgive me. But the moment I can, I will come return for you. Just keep in mind, whatever you need to do, stay alive.”
            Stephen looked over at Tyrus in the corner of his eye, knowing that was also directed at him.
            Alive, Ashelia thought, I need to stay alive.

            “I would not call this fair,” murmured Aeson as he sat down on a comfortable cot, filled with pillows and sheets. He looked around at the tent, which was way too big for the usual standards of soldiers.
            “You are the prince, it cannot be fair,” said Stephen. He set down his helmet on a table set beside the cot. He had already dressed in the army set for him, with the badge of insignia of the Second Sword.
            “But right now I am but a lowly soldier. Just training,” said Aeson.
            “Permission to speak freely, my lord,” said Stephen, his eyes becoming distant.
            Ashelia looked up at him, uncertain. Stephen and Aeson were pretty close. They were more like friends than actual Guardian and Guarded. She recalled many times when they would speak freely among themselves, but she also knew that she was never meant to hear any of their talk either.
            No, I am Aeson now.
            “Of course,” said Aeson.
            Stephen turned to him, his eyes hard, and maybe a little angry. “Why, Aeson?”
            Aeson blinked at him, confused. “What do you mean?”
            “You leave your city of Marcel, and leave Nicia behind? To actually listen to your father and go to the army?”
            Shock ran through Ashelia. He knew about Nicia?
            “You’re goals and dreams you speak of, you won’t tell me, which I understand, for I have no right to. But you told me that after everything, you will leave with your sister to make a new life. And then take Nicia with you, did you not?”       
            Aeson’s feelings darkened with sorrow, and he looked away from Stephen. “I did,” he said. “But things are different now. Ashelia is dead.”
            “There is still Nicia!” Stephen spat. “Do not give up on her! I did not do just that for you just so you would also!”
            Ashelia whipped her head around towards Stephen. “What?”
            “Do not act clueless,” said Stephen, looking away and towards the fire in the lamp on the table. “It was already hard enough. And I do not wish for you to give up your only source of happiness left in this world.”
            Ashelia continued to stare at him.
            Too much, she thought, all these secrets I had not known. There is too much.
            “My dreams,” Aeson murmured as he got up from the cot, heading towards the tent’s entrance. “I have many. But there is one I will have known, whatever it takes. I will have my name carved into the history of Alister. And with that, I will take down the crown of our enemy city, Mica, for which he had drawn my mother’s blood.”

            Though Ashelia did not wish to, she took every special treatment she could get. Things she needed, like the separate tent, and separate baths, she had to take advantage of.
            Life in the army was completely harder than she thought, for which she had barely lifted a finger before. She did not want this. But she would do it, for Aeson. She will live out his dream for him.
            “Put your whole weight into it, Prince Aeson!” yelled Philo, a friend Aeson had managed to make here over the course of the month he had been here.
            “I know!” Aeson growled, and pushed himself harder. Finally, he managed to knock the stationed wooden weight down, causing it to fall on the ground with a loud, thunderous thud.
            Aeson stared at it in dissatisfaction.
            Philo came up to him and patted him in the back, causing Aeson to snarl in slight pain. “Well, you finally did it.”
            Aeson continued to stare at the one he had just knocked over, and then looked at the dozens of other wooden weights that had already fallen to the ground. “I was the last one to do it, though,” he muttered.
            “Don’t get yourself down too hard, prince. You’re speed matches up for your lack of strength.”
            Aeson scowled at him, drawing out a bark of laughter from Philo. “Well, let’s go eat now,” laughed Philo, heading towards the large tent filled with the aroma of food. Not the type of food Aeson would prefer, but still food, nonetheless. “You’re as delicate and skinny as a flower; let’s get some meat in you.”
            “I am no flower,” muttered Aeson as he followed Philo to the tents.

            “My prince,” said Stephen as he approached Aeson and Philo at the table they sat at while eating. “I had gotten word that High Prince Spiridon had been engaged to Noble Hyacinth Ala Campi.”
            Aeson continued to eat, the information having no effect on him. “That’s great,” he said dully.
            Stephen nodded and headed off, starting towards his soldiers training out in the field at the moment, their shouts still very much audible in the cafeteria tent.
            “Look at that,” murmured a soldier at a table nearby. “Didn’t even call the Second Sword the proper title of sir.”
            Philo glanced at Aeson, and whispered, “Ignore them, Aeson. They don’t know their place.”
            Aeson shook his head. “It seems I don’t know mine,” he murmured. “I’m too used to just calling Stephen by his name that I forget his title right now.”
            Philo smiled a little, swallowing down the remains of his food. “Well aren’t you a noble prince,” he laughed.
            Aeson feigned a smile. “No.”
            After eating they headed back outside. The sky was already turning red and orange. Ashelia still couldn’t believe the sky there, it was too beautiful. The colors overlapping one another, the sky for which she always saw blue or black, now changing from red, to orange, to purple, or pink. She saw it sometimes over at Adora when she stayed with her brother as he recuperated, but not this close. Here there was no pollution. For awhile she forgot all the lives that leave this world every day.
            “Formation!” called Captain Linus. He was the highest ranking officer here. His appearance frightened Ashelia to some degree. He had a scar that across his whole left face, causing a white streak of skin to appear. A battle mark, she noted.
            Philo and Aeson ran to their formation. Unfortunately, Aeson was put in the front lines, as an honor to his father. Ashelia didn’t want to be there, but as Aeson, he just bowed in thanks for the position.
            “For the next two hours, we are to march!” yelled Captain Linus, in his hard, booming voice. It was one of power, for which every soldier fell down to.
            But it didn’t stop the complains.
            They marched around the whole area of tents, so much that Aeson lost count, having lost concentration to even try after awhile. His feet hurt so bad that they were numb, and no doubt blisters were there, along with blood.
            In the course of the previous month here, Ashelia’s hands had gotten hard was calluses, something utterly unspeakable as a princess. But then again, she’s not a princess anymore. Prince Ashelia is dead.
            “Faster!” yelled Captain Linus. Even though he was already in his forties, he was in way better condition than most of them there, including Aeson. The soldiers there were only in training, and they ranged from ages eighteen to maybe about twenty four.
            Deep in thought, Aeson’s ankle accidently buckled from under him, and he slightly tripped, causing a slight delay in the formation. Hissing of disapproval spread around him, and he quickly regained his position as fast as he can.
            “Royalty that never worked a day in their life do not belong here,” murmured a man from somewhere behind him, his voice having a bitter edge.
            Ashelia knew what came of this life, after taking her brother’s identity and accepting to go into combat training. This was what Aeson was going to. He wanted to earn his way up the ranks, gain advantages, and find his way towards Mica, killing the crown there.
            But right now she wanted to do nothing but cry. She was so tired. All the training is so hard, and the man was right. She did not belong there. There is a rule where women aren’t allowed to fight, especially not a princess, who has had someone else do everything for her.
            No. It doesn’t matter if I belong here or not, what matters is that I am here.
            They finally finished the two hour marching, and by the end, the whole Company nearly fell to their knees from exhaustion.
            “Aeson,” called Philo, running up to him.
            Aeson looked to him from the rock he was resting on, downing the water in his hand. “Philo, how come you are not even tired?”
            Philo shrugged, smiling. “I am from the country, remember? I used to go on runs longer than that just to try and get some sheep to behave.”
            “Ah,” murmured Aeson. “That’s right.”
            “Well,” said Philo, hauling Aeson up by the arm. “Let’s get back to the tents with everyone. Only a few yards away, now.”
            Aeson groaned. “Too far,” he murmured.
            Philo laughed, helping them get back to the tents. But that’s when it all started.
            A loud booming sound erupted from east, straight left of them. It was too far to see clearly what exactly was going on, but anyone from miles away would have seen the huge explosion of flames exploding at the tents in that area.
            “What’s going on?” breathed Philo, staring at the flames in disbelief.
Ashelia’s eyes glazed over as she stared at the flames. She suddenly felt hot. A heat so intense it felt as though her whole body was going to explode into steam, or that she might melt right then and there. The sight of the flames brought her back to that night, and the fear struck her so hard it was as though she was reliving that night again, seeing everything again flash before her eyes.
“Aeson?” called Philo, worry creasing his brow.
Aeson gained control of himself, taking deep breaths. He then hauled himself to stand straight up by his own strain, and headed towards the commanding tents in the middle of the rest.
            “Aeson?” he called from behind him.
            “Get your weapons ready, Philo, my friend,” said Aeson, doom foreboding in his voice. “I will dare say we are under attack.”
            Aeson and Philo quickly went into action, just as everyone and everything else did also in the base. As they headed towards the tents, arming themselves with the swords they already carried, they saw the rest of soldiers that had just marched beside them do the same. It was dark, but near the hungry flames in the east, they could see their own soldiers, running, already in full armor.
            And there were others too.
            They were also soldiers, that much Aeson could see, but they weren’t wearing the normal blue and gold colors of Marcellus. Instead, it was the colors of red and silver, the colors of Amicah.
            “The enemy is here,” murmured Philo, distaste in his mouth. “How did they get here? And why here, of all places?”
            “Most likely through the forest,” answered Aeson as they closed in on the base, the flames growing and the light reflecting off their faces. “And for the other questions, I do not know.”
            They got to the edge of the camp, and the screams and yells of pain became apparent. Horses’ whinnies were echoing through the night, and so were the sounds of clashing steel.
            Aeson and Philo turned to see Stephen, mounted on a horse, ride towards them.
            “Prince!” he repeated. “Come with me now!”
            “What?” asked Aeson, confused. “We are under attack! I am to stay and help!”
            “No!” stated Stephen. “Think, my lord! Why would they come here? Why would they risk lives to go through that forest, knowing to lose lives, just to get to a camp of inexperienced training soldiers?”
            Though it was hard to hear him, even through his yells, Aeson knew what he meant.
            “They are after me,” he murmured incredulously, almost inaudibly.
            Stephen held out his hand to both Aeson and Philo, and they both took it, hauling themselves up to the horse.
            “Wait, what? I’m coming too?” exclaimed Philo.
            “Do you prefer not to?” asked Stephen.
            “That’s not it!” corrected Philo, as they sprinted off towards the west, hoping to round towards the south and off to another city. Thought the closest was maybe one or two hundred miles away.
            “Stephen,” yelled Aeson, through the shouts and crackling of fire spreading around them. “What do you plan to do?”
            Stephen was silent for awhile, and Aeson and Philo glanced at each other worriedly.
            “To you which me to be honest, your highness?”
            “Of course!” exclaimed Aeson.
            “More than likely, we will get caught.”
            Aeson stared at him, and then looked at Philo, whose eyes were wide and filled with fear.
            “W-what do you mean?” Aeson stuttered.
            “This attack,” Stephen said calmly, “was not expected, not at all. No one would have guessed this would happen. The captain and the rest of the officers are off trying to defend everyone. A messenger had also been sent on mount to send word for help…but it will take him days to get any.”
            “It’ll be too late,” murmured Philo.
            Aeson looked at him, worried at his distant expression, but then looked back at Stephen. “So what will happen? Say all, Stephen. Please.”
            “We are to get you to a tent,” he said.
            Aeson frowned, and then realized that they weren’t heading south to escape at all. They were shooting straight through the other tents, trying desperately to get to somewhere. “Why?”
            “King Ezio…your father, did not expect this either. But I had precautions set up for you, just in case something happened where the target was you.”
            Aeson’s expression pained. “You did?”
            He nodded. “I had the captain put in some extra cloth for you there, your size. Cloth of that of a commoner, one that will hide your identity. You are to wear it.”
            “What?!” Aeson exclaimed in disbelief as they stopped in front of a regular standard soldier tent, one of which was empty. The three of them jumped off and ran inside.
            Philo went to the entrance to stand guard, staring outside with an unidentifiable expression.
            “Here,” said Stephen, throwing Aeson clothes and such he had just gotten from a drawer. Aeson stared at the regular soldier clothing, the ones that everyone else wore. The one he had on now was filled with the blue and gold embroidery, but this one was just empty and hastily made.
            Aeson felt another weird texture and pulled out what looked to be like blonde hair.
            “A wig?” asked Aeson. It seemed that everything could not be believed at that moment.
            “Your silver hair will give you away as much as if you were wearing a sign saying your name,” said Stephen, walking to where Philo was by the tent’s entry. “Now change. Philo, stay here and guard watch while I get more weapons and shields.”
            “Yes ‘sir,” said Philo, saluting.
            Philo continued to look out at the burning camp, seeming to be at a lost.
            Ashelia quickly started changing, desperately hoping that he wouldn’t dare glance. Though at the look of it, it seemed that nothing could get Philo’s gaze away from the fire outside.
            When Ashelia finished changing, and reluctantly putting on the wig right, Stephen came back, holding sword holsters, two daggers, and two shields. Behind him she could see two more horses standing by the other one.
            Philo and Aeson both got themselves equipped and headed out, jumping onto the horses. Some enemy soldiers had gotten near already, and they could see some, fighting their own not thirty feet away.
            “How do we know they will not kill me?” asked Aeson as they headed back south.
            “They will not kill you if you turn yourself over to them, but that is if they managed to get you. There’s still a chance you can escape from here,” said Stephen.
            The three sprinted out south, escaping the camps and through the dark empty fields.
            Philo looked back to see some mounted soldiers’ eyes wander towards them, and then start riding towards them as well. “They’re coming,” he warned.
            “Faster,” commanded Stephen, and Aeson flicked the reins, making the steed he was riding go faster than was probably possible for it.
            “They’re gaining on us,” said Philo. He looked back to see more soldiers coming. The camp was nearly all destroyed into nothing but flames, and only saw the enemy soldiers there, with but a handful of their own. “There’s maybe twenty coming for us.”
            Stephen cursed, his face falling into a scowl of frustration. “Listen to me, you two. I will stop and hold them off for as long as I can. You two make sure to get into the forest and try to hide yourselves. And no matter what happens, Aeson. Survive.”
            Aeson looked at him. “What? Stephen don’t—”
            Stephen buckled and halted, abruptly turning around. As he sped past them, he quickly murmured to Philo, “Do you must, Philo. The hope of Alister is right in front of you.”
            Aeson was very close to stopping and following him, but Philo gave him a hard look.
            “Prince, you heard him. You must survive.”
            As they continued to ride, Aeson shouted in frustration. “I can’t just leave him!”
            “You must,” Philo said. “And you will.”
            Aeson and Philo stared at one another for a few moments, and finally Aeson nodded, slowly. He looked back to see that Stephen had encountered the enemy soldiers closest to them, buying them time.
            “Stay focused on what’s ahead,” said Philo.
            Slowly Aeson drew his gaze away, and focused on forest before them, which was quickly approaching.
            The forest darker than was outside in the empty space, the light of the fires of the burning camp having difficulty to get through all the wild branches and leaves. Aeson and Philo quickly filed in, though they soon figured out their horses were starting to have difficulty going over twisting roots and low branches.
            “They’ll catch us soon if we go on like this,” hissed Aeson.
            “If we abandon the horses, they’ll catch us soon anyway.”
            The two of them continued on for about an hour. At times they heard gallops, and many branches snapping. At times they also heard horses whinny far off in the distance behind them. The exhaustion overcoming the two was also taking its toll, and there was also the issue of water.
            “We need to stop soon,” said Aeson. “We’ll die of dehydration.”
            Philo stopped his horse for a moment, and Aeson stopped also.
            “I have a bad feeling about this, Aeson,” murmured Philo, his eyes scanning the area. “I have told you about how I am from the country right? Well, this forest here…it doesn’t seem right.”
            “This forest is wild. No humans have domesticated it,” said Aeson. “Of course it’s different.”
            Philo shook his head. “That’s not it. Does it seem very wild to you?”
            Aeson paused, staring at him for a moment. Then he realized it. This whole time, they have been going through wild undergrowth and shrubs. But where were the wild animals?
            “It’s as if—”
            “They’ve been scared off, or hunted,” nodded Philo, finishing his sentence.
            Aeson looked around. It was too dark to see clearly, and only a few streaks of moonlight managed to shine through. “What do you think it is?”
            “Usually wild animals stay away from cities or anywhere with humans really. How far is the nearest city from here?”
             “Maybe two hundred miles,” Aeson answered, the feeling of dread flowing through him.
            “Then there are humans camping nearby. Not us…but others.”
            Aeson stared at Philo’s distant gaze, his eyes narrowed around him.
            “Maybe it’s an ally camp?” suggested Aeson, optimistically.
            Despite everything, Philo laughed softly. “You always have been optimistic,” he muttered as he kicked his horse forward. Aeson followed and they headed off in a trot, careful not to make too much noise.
            They continued off for awhile, until Philo abruptly stopped, his eyes going wide.
            “What is it?” asked Aeson, coming to halt.
            Philo jerked his head, gesturing for Aeson to looked to forward in the distance. Aeson focused to look at what he was getting at, and then found stumps of trees.
            Stumps and stumps of trees.
            “Someone is camped here, and their using the wood from the trees.”
            Philo nodded, and then murmured. “Unfortunately Captain Linus had mentioned that we were the only army out here. That is not Marcellus troops.”
            Aeson looked over at Philo with worry. “What do we do—”
            The two of them suddenly froze with tension as hard gallops became audible in their ears. Philo and Aeson whipped their heads back to look behind them.
            “Let’s go!” hissed Philo, quietly.
            Aeson and Philo trotted quietly away, for maybe thirty yards, until they came across large, twisting trees. Their shoots shot up from under them, and Aeson and Philo dismounted.
            The gallops became louder and Aeson and Philo nodded in understanding.
            They took off the horses’ reigns and set them down, then softly pushed the horses forward, causing them to gallop away.
            Aeson and Philo quickly filed under the roots of one tree, hiding in the shadows. They peeked over to see some of the enemy soldiers coming into view, their gaze at the horses now running away.
            Aeson looked away, resting his back against a wall of dirt and part of a root. “It seems we’re going to get caught,” he murmured.
            Philo ducked his head down away from view, resting his back against the root like Aeson. “You’ll survive though. Just surrender.”
            Aeson nodded, a little sad. “We will manage to find a way to escape, though.”
            Philo feel silent, and Aeson looked up to look at him.
            “Philo?” called Aeson.
            Philo pulled his knees up to him. “I never told you everything, Aeson.”
            Aeson waited, staring at him.
            “My name is Philo de Fieruilla. I am a son of the Fieruilla that lives in the country lands of the city Ruella, over in the very west of Marcellus.”
            Aeson scanned his head. Ruella was the very westernmost city In Marcellus, over beside the border between Marcellus and Amicah.
            “My whole family was slaughtered by this war,” Philo continued. “Our home was on the very border, and we saw many battles near there. But that was it. We just witnessed…except for that one night.
            “The Amicah soldiers and Marcellus soldiers were in battle, right on our land. Our house ended up getting burned, along with my little brother and sister. They had been sleeping at the time and had no time to escape the flames. My mother, father, and I managed to escape, but we were caught in between the fighting. Some Amicah soldiers came and got us, taking us by chains. But my father refused to let them have us, and he fought against them.
            “My father was a good fighter; he had served for five years in the army. But he was up against a Lieutenant, and was no match.”
            “Philo,” Aeson interrupted. “You do not have to tell me this—”
            “My mother and I didn’t know what to do, so we surrendered, and somehow convinced them that we would be of use,” he continued, his eyes distant again. “They took us to the nearest army camp. I was left there to be trained, but since I was only sixteen at the time, I was not allowed to see battle. Instead I had to help with the other needs of the camp. My mother though, being a woman, was sent away to the city, no doubt for slavery. I haven’t seen her since.
            “But one day, I ran away. It was when most of the soldiers had left for another battle, and there were only a few there. That was when I took my chance and ran away. I ended up back to my home…though there wasn’t a home to get back to. So instead, I went to away from the country and into the city, finding work there to survive.
            “But I had made up my mind long ago. When I’m of the age of eighteen, I will come here and fight. For my siblings I have lost, and for my parents. One thing I have known my family had hated the most in the world is this meaningless war between the Marcellus and Amicah.”
            “The dispute between the families of Camuilla and Serennio, my family, you mean…” murmured Aeson, finally understanding everything that Philo had just said.
            Philo nodded. “It’s nothing against you, nothing at all. It’s just the idea that this whole war between the families is unnecessary. And that people are dying for no reason.”
            Aeson was silent, staring at the ground before him, and then murmured, “I am sorry.”
            Philo shook his head again. “You are my friend Aeson. And I trust in you. I believe that you can change things.”
            Aeson whipped his head toward Philo. “What?”
            “You can change things,” Philo repeated, leaning his head back against the root of the tree. “Stephen believed in it too. That’s why he fought so hard, and probably still is, to make sure that you survive. So that you can change things.”
            Aeson blinked at him. “Me? Me?! I am not even the heir, how can I possibly change anything?”
            Philo shrugged. “I don’t know, and Stephen probably wasn’t so sure on it either, but it was true. He said that you are the hope of Alister, and I believe it too, somehow.”
            Aeson shook his head. “Do not believe in me so much, I will only disappoint you!”
            Philo barked out a soft laugh, one genuine, and Aeson couldn’t help but feel the contentment it brought to him. “Aeson, I cannot help what I feel.”
            The horses’ gallop became louder, and soon a loud voice called, “We know you are there, come out!”
            Aeson and Philo paused, staring at one another. Philo started to stir, getting up a little and into view. Aeson followed. As they were getting up, Philo whispered to Aeson. “Forgive me, my friend, but I will die soon.”
            Aeson froze for a moment, stunned, but calmed down and followed Philo out of the roots to face about six men mounted, red and silver as their colors.
            “What do you mean?” Aeson whispered, though more than panicked.
            “I believe in you,” Philo responded.
            Aeson gave Philo a sharp, worried, panicked look.
            “What I feel is the least of your worries,” said Philo as they came fully out of the shadows and started to hold their hands up. Philo narrowed his eyes at a soldier, but Aeson couldn’t get his gaze away from Philo.
            “Soldiers of the army,” murmured a soldier, “the cowards who were trying to run away.”
            Philo looked over at Aeson, and gave him a slight smile. He reached down to flick some of the blonde wig’s hair away from his face. “You have too much to worry about, isn’t that right, Ash?”
            Ashelia froze.
            Did he know?
            Everything was spinning a mile a minute and she realized he did. Probably had known.
            Sudden tears started to well up, and Ashelia gave it everything she could to not let them drop.
            She needed to be strong.
            She whipped her head towards the soldiers, giving them a hard, confident look.
            “You can’t escape us,” said a soldier who was dismounting. He unsheathed his sword and walked over to Ashelia, but froze to look at Philo. At his hand, to be more specific.
            Ashelia never truly knew what it meant, and had never really bothered to ask, but Philo had this odd scar on his hand. It looked like a scar from a burn, more than anything, randomly shaped, and skin there purple and brown.
            “The mark of Amicah soldiers!” scoffed the enemy soldier. He was in his forties, but it seemed he wouldn’t have trouble with any strength or speed, the way he was built. “Yet you are wearing the armor of the Marcellus? You are a traitor!”
            Many soldiers quickly dismounted, running towards Philo with their swords raised.
            Aeson started to move, but Philo stepped in front of her, holding his hand out to stop her. “Survive, Ashelia. Survive.”
            Ashelia’s vision started to spin in circles, slowing down and then speeding up. It seemed like a dream almost.
            No. A nightmare.
            The men ran towards Philo, pulling him away. Philo managed to pull his sword out, and start engaging some of the men in battle. Metal met metal, and the loud bangs of each other through the night.
            Ashelia couldn’t see clearly what was going on, for her vision became blurred. What she knew though was there was four of them, and one of him.
            Then came the excruciating grunt of pain, seemingly louder than anything Ashelia ever heard, though she was sure it was no louder than a wolf’s soft, sad cry. Before she knew it, Philo lay on the ground, hand still on sword, blood staining the leaves beneath him.
            A man cursed as he pulled away, his arm had been cut badly, and two other men lay on the ground, dead from Philo’s hand.
            The middle aged soldier still standing in front of Ashelia looked hard at her.
“Kill him too,” he ordered as he mounted back on the horse.
            Ashelia’s mind flashed, and instantly she yelled, “Wait! I surrender! I surrender!”
            The soldier continued to scowl at Ashelia as the other soldiers started heading towards her. “There is no need for cowards to be in our military. Kill him.”
            The other soldiers started heading towards Ashelia, swords in hand. Ashelia started backing away, fear screaming in every part of her.
            “Now hold on a minute, Andrew,” said a melodic voice. Ashelia looked up desperately to see the man that had sat on his horse in the back of the group trot forward. Her eyes widened at the recognition of the clothing and emblems he wore.
            He wore the traditional soldier uniform, though much more extravagant. Now that she thought of, the middle aged soldier yelling out orders did too, and he wore a badge with two more swords embroidered on than the tradition single sword of a regular soldier. The middle aged man was a Lieutenant.
            But the younger one that had just spoken up was of maybe twenty years of age, only two years older than Ashelia herself, yet he had five swords.
            A commanding general. The highest rank in war.
            “P-prince Lucas! Sir!” stuttered the lieutenant.
            Ashelia stared, her eyes wide.
            Prince Lucas. He is real.
            There were rumors from others that Mica’s king, King Evander, had a son that went straight into the military. There were no details, but all that was known that the son, Prince Lucas, had risen knowing how to fight, and continued on. He had fought and even led most of the biggest battles between Amicah and Marcellus in the last few years.
            He is real.
            “You know we are to not kill those who surrender,” said Lucas, looking at Ashelia. Ashelia couldn’t help but avert his gaze, for his eyes were too blue and striking, it seemed as though he was looking straight through all of her lies.
            “But that is waste. You saw it also. The other boy had been one of us, and then ran off the get back to Marcellus. This boy could very well do the same thing.”
            Lucas never looked away from Ashelia. The night seemed silent as he stared at her, the other soldiers unintentionally shifting their weight from the discomfort. After a moment, Lucas dismounted from his horse and walked over to where Ashelia was.
            Without thinking, Ashelia’s hand reached for her sword.
            Lucas looked down at her hand as she did, all the while his thoughtful.
            “You plan to fight me, soldier?” he questioned.
            Ashelia slowly retreated her hand away from the sword, raising both up in surrender.
            “I surrender,” she repeated. It seemed to her that that was the phrase she had continually been saying. And probably will still.
            Lucas stepped closer. “Do you plan to betray us?”
            Ashelia stared at him, eyes wide. She had never really lied before, and she didn’t want to.
            Survive, Philo’s voice echoed. You are the hope of Alister.
            Ashelia set her expression straight and calm. “Yes.”
            “May I have your name, soldier?” asked Lucas, his expression and tone complete with authority. Ashelia couldn’t help but cower under it.
            “My name…” murmured Ashelia. Slowly she regained the rest of her sanity, clearing the thoughts. Her gaze shifted to her dead friend on the ground, and couldn’t help but be thankful his face was turned away from her.
            Though it didn’t ease the pain.
            “My name,” said Ashelia. “is Ash de Fieruilla.”

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