Okay, so I disappeared off the face of the earth. I decided to delete all of my stories and revise them all except two, which can both be found in the Vault. Then I got into a writer's block slump and now I think I got it back. I've always wanted to write a high fantasy and I found this perfect picture of Nicki Minaj as a medieval queen on a throne and my muse nagged at me to write. Even though I feel like I am not a very good writer right now.
This story will not be the traditional romance. Basically, the theme is something that is no often explored: even powerful controlling men want to relinquish control behind closed doors.
Love you, guys. Missed you, guys. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, there was a young princess named Arcadia who had to grow up too soon.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The noon sun loomed high in the cloudless blue sky, spreading its illuminating warmth over the kingdom of Ocirene. The winds came from the close shining turquoise seas in gentle timely breezes, stirring the lukewarm and damp salty air that lingered everywhere. The capital of Ocirene was Urlea, a bustling medieval metropolis carved from a mountainous rock island. The kingdom of Ocirene was compromised of nearly a dozen similar tropical mountainous islands, but Urlea was the largest of them all. At the very top of the capital-island was the Summer Palace, which glistened in palettes of white marble and gold, and was encased by an impressively tall gate-barrier.
Within the perimeters of palace gates, dual shallow pools were situated on either side of the gold tile path that led to the monstrous double-entrance doors of the actual palace. The palace itself consisted of nearly three-hundred rooms and all of the trimmings of a proper dwelling fit for a royal family. Behind the palace was its crowned jewel, the Hanging Gardens. A massive lush green garden of dotting ponds of various sizes, sprawling stoned paths, and most importantly, rare fruits and flowers.
Another crowned jewel lounged peacefully on a soft pillowy raft-bed that drifted on the second-largest pond in the garden. Princess Arcadia lolled her head to the side and snuggled it into the soft cushions of the raft-bed with a pleasing sigh slipping from her lips like a gentle breeze. She wore a cream airy summer gown with ruffled straps that purposely hung off her shoulders. Her long black hair was free and loose.
She felt free and loose in her own little bubble of paradise.
Free of royal responsibilities.
Free of worldly bothers.
“Your Highness,” a familiar elder feminine called from a distance, slicing through her prospect of a peaceful afternoon.
Arcadia’s eyes slid open slowly. “Spoke too soon,” she sighed to herself.
“There you are,” Helena, her snowy-haired robust nursemaid, huffed at the edge of the pond with her hands on square on her hips. “Hiding from the world, are we?”
“Obviously not well enough,” Arcadia called, not wanting to move from her delicious spot.
“You cannot spend your days in the gardens, attempting to drift away from your responsibilities,” Helena spoke to her in a motherly tone that carried across the pond water.
Arcadia sat up and asked, “What could possibly have drawn you out of the comforts of the palace to grace me with your presence?”
“There is a special visitor that has arrived on the palace grounds,” Helena said, a smile spreading across her face like a wildfire.
“There are always special visitors,” Arcadia said, waving her hand dismissively in her nursemaid’s direction as she laid herself back down on her floating raft-bed.
“Aye, that may be true, but this one in particular has traveled across a wide warm green sea to the icy waters of the north and now he is back with many tales, treasures, and one request. To see you in the throne room,” Helena replied, spinning her words in such a clever way that Arcadia’s lazy disposition livened vastly.
She popped up like a green sprout from damp rich soil. The raft-bed wobbled from the suddenness of her actions. “Orpheus is here?”
“Indeed, he is,” Helena nodded. “Will you keep your dear brother waiting?”
Arcadia swung her legs over the raft-bed and slipped into the pond waters. She hurried through the waist-deep waters, ignoring the mouthful of protests from Helena. “You have ruined your dress!”
“A ruined dress is nothing compared to having your brother come home from the Wild North in one piece and not in many,” Arcadia said as she reached the pond’s edge. She ran as if her life depended on it, leaving her faithful nursemaid in the wake of her watery tracks colored the white stone path towards the palace. When she was inside of the palace, she rushed through the maze-like hallways until she reached the throne room.
Orpheus stood at the foot of the small progression of steps that led to their parents’ golden thrones.
“Brother,” Arcadia called as she lifted the ends of her light summer dress and rushed towards him. He met her half-way and they collided into a tight much-needed hug. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he holstered her up at the waist, swirling her around, which earned a good laugh from the both of them.
He settled her onto the polished stone floor. “You’re soaking wet,” he said as they parted from the hug. He gave her a mock look of disapproval at her tarnished attire.
“And you’re alive,” she said.
Orpheus grinned, “Did you doubt your dear brother wouldn’t survive the snowy hellish landscape of the Wild North, sister?”
“Surviving landscapes were never listed within my set of doubts, brother. I spent too much time worrying whether the Wild King and his barbaric subjects chopped you into little pieces and sent you back here in a wooden box for our family to mourn you.”
His thick bushy eyebrows shot upward at her words. “You have quite the morbid imagination, but I arriving here in one piece has disproven your theory, sister. The king and his subjects took good care of me.”
“My imagination and my thoughts are the only thing that keep me sane in this palace,” Arcadia said with a weak smile.
Orpheus cocked his head to the side, a thoughtful look dripping on his face. “You needn’t worry, Arcadia. A pending prescription for a change of scenery is well on its way.”
Arcadia arched a delicate eyebrow. “A change of scenery? Do you know something I do not know?”
“It is a work-in-progress and surely not definite. I mustn’t say any more until I have polished out the details with our dear father-king,” Orpheus said. “I believe everyone, including you, will be thoroughly satisfied with the potential outcome.”
Arcadia pouted, “Your secrecy on descriptive details has piqued a hunger of curiosity within me.”
“There is nothing wrong with a healthy curiosity,” Orpheus said.
She gave an unladylike snort and crossed her arms over her chest, turning her attention away from her brother to look at a white marble pillar engraved in gold designs.
“Do you trust me,” he questioned.
There was a lingering moment of silence. “I do.”
“Good. I promise what is to come will be in the best interest for everyone,” he said. “I think it is best that you change your attire for dinner in the meanwhile. Green and brown stains are not very becoming of you, dear sister.”
He finished in a teasing tone, in which Arcadia playfully slapped her brother’s arm.
Arcadia sat on a cushioned stool in front of her vanity. She watched her reflection wince as Helena brushed with a rough touch through her tangled raven hair, still damp from the bath she had taken earlier.
“Was your reunion with His Highness all you had hoped for,” Helena questioned.
“Aye, I suppose,” Arcadia said, her voice dripped with a little uncertainty.
She watched in the mirror as Helena cocked her head to the side with a slight worried look on her face. Briefly, she stopped her task. “Did something happen?”
Arcadia bit down onto her lower lip for a moment before she finally spoke to the woman who had cared for her since she were a mere baby. “Out of all of my siblings, Orpheus and I are very close. Pierus always has his chin tilted up at everyone because he’s the eldest of us all therefore it is he who will inherit the throne. Thalia was Mother’s favorite, so she attached to our mother at the hip before she was married off. Urania is more kind and lively, but she preferred being around suitors than flesh and blood before she accepted a husband. So it was only natural that Orpheus and I formed such a close bond being the two youngest. We used to tell each other everything before Father shipped him off to the North as an ambassador, but now that he’s back, he was quite secretive and cryptic. He says that he must polish out details with Father before anything else can be said.”
Helena gasped. “Oh my.”
Arcadia’s eyebrows scrunched together. “What is it, Helena? Are you well?”
An odd smile spilled across her lips as she gave Arcadia a knowing look in the mirror while she continued to brush her hair. “Oh, I am quite well, child.”
“Do you know something I do not,” Arcadia asked with a frown.
“Well, prior to the decided departure of your brother-prince, there were whispers amongst the servants,” Helena trailed off.
Arcadia furrowed her brow. “Whispers of?”
“A union between Ocirene and the Wild North to strengthen diplomatic ties,” Helena said in a hushed voice as if someone would hear them inside the closed doors of the princess’s luxurious bedrooms.
“The one of the only ways for Ocirene and the Wild North to create a union is through,” Arcadia paused before widening her doe-like eyes, “marriage.”
“Aye,” Helena nodded with a smile. “Though the Wild North has an unwed fierce king, his sister-princess is still but a maiden in his care.”
“You think Orpheus is to marry the sister-princess of the Wild King?”
“Why else would your father send his unattached son and not his wed heir apparent?”
Arcadia pondered at Helena’s question. Pierus would have been a more fitting traditional choice to be sent as an ambassador. Her father always groom him to be a proper ruler and the planned visit to the Wild North was a good task for practice. However, Pierus was married with a firstborn inside of his wife’s swollen belly. It would have made more sense to send Orpheus, for he was not attached to any maiden or wife, and he had a reputation of being more charming and impressionable than their stiff-backed elder brother.
A smile eased onto Arcadia’s face and she let out a breath of relief. Her brother’s cryptic riddles of the potential arrangements and announcement to come made absolute sense with her loyal nursemaid’s words in mind.
It would make sense that he would be the next to marry, as of course he is the fourth oldest out of the five siblings.
“Are you at ease now, Your Highness?”
“Yes, very much,” Arcadia nodded.
“I believe this dinner will be an interesting one,” Helena said.
The palace dining hall was the liveliest it had ever been. King Aratus and Queen Clio sat in their rightful places as were their offspring and consorts. High Council officials, dukes, duchesses, lords, ladies, and other blue-bloods deemed as close allies and friends of the royal family were stationed around the lengthy dining table chatting and celebrating the return of Prince Orpheus.
Plentiful platters of roasted meats and vegetables, freshly picked and sliced fruits, breads, cheeses, and desserts were installed at the center of the dining table for all to reach and sate their hunger. Servants walked around pouring crisp cold water and sweet red wine from gold pitchers into the goblets of the thirsty.
Under normal circumstances, Arcadia loathed attending dinners such as this. Her senses were always overwhelmed with the loud chattering and laughter, the live stringed music, and the strong aroma of food and alcohol. However, this dinner wasn’t normal by any means. In any moment’s time, her father-king or brother would announce to all about the union of Ocirene and the Wild North through a marriage union between Orpheus and the sister-princess of the Wild King.
Arcadia retrieved her goblet and took three deep gulps of the red wine within.
“I hope that was water, dear sister,” Urania giggled beside her, “or I have underestimated your palate for fine wine as well as your ability to hold it.”
“Underestimated me you have indeed, Urania. My tolerance for wine increases with every celebratory occasion that occurs within the halls of this palace,” Arcadia teased in return.
“Aye, if you drink a few cups of wine for our brother’s return from the Wild North then I can only imagine how much you could bear to swallow drink on your wedding day,” Urania said.
Arcadia took another sip before she said with a clever wink, “A barrel, of course. It will take me that much to bring myself to walk down the aisle to whatever poor fool that has had the misfortune of wedding a mental maiden such as myself.”
Together, they erupted into a small fit of wine-fueled laughter.
“I think you have had a bit too much wine, my love,” Duke Hyas of House Ivolany, Urania’s husband, said as he leaned into their light-hearted conversation though his demeanor and voice showed no signs of worry. In fact, he seemed most amused by the antics of his wife and sister-in-law.
“Or,” Urania held up her index finger to emphasize a point in a slightly slurred voice, “there is a possibility that you haven’t had enough, dear husband.”
“Aye, how can I argue with that,” he chuckled as he waved a servant over. “Fill our cups to the brim.”
“Cheers to that,” Urania said with a warm laugh. The trio lifted their goblets for an offering of wine from the servant’s pitcher. Thalia and her husband looked on with disapproving looks on their faces from across the table, but no one paid them any mind.
The hearty sound of a customary royal horn slit the throat of the celebration and everyone felt deafly silent. The music stopped as well. All eyes were on King Aratus, who sat in his seat with a rather pleased look on his face for everyone’s compliance.
His loyal servant, Mentes, pushed back the king’s dining chair for him to raise. The king stood in one swift motion.
“It pleases me to be surrounded by my family and friends to celebrate the return of my second eldest son, Orpheus. There has been much speculation as to why I sent my dear son to the Wild North. It would be foolish of me as a ruler of this bountiful kingdom to not strengthen ties with a kingdom such as Valelith. Becoming allies with Valelith will increase this kingdom’s presence in the trading industry for Valelith is vast and much more populous than Ocirene,” King Aratus began.
Arcadia straightened up in her seat and listened carefully, hanging onto her father’s every word.
King Aratus continued, “My dear son, Orpheus, agreed to become an ambassador of Ocirene to the Wild North and after many months of braving the harsh weather and customs of the Valelithian people, the king of Valelith saw reason in my son’s words and agreed to the proposed benefits of our union!”
He lifted a balled fist of triumph in the air. The occupants at the dining table clapped and erupted with cheer for a few moments before silence fell upon them once more.
“It is only fitting that a union between two mighty kingdoms is sealed by a bond as old as time and just as true,” King Aratus said and briefly looked at Orpheus before the two both looked at Arcadia.
“A wedding will be occur between the king of Valelith and my beautiful maiden daughter, Arcadia,” he said with a proud smile.
A collected gasp occurred around the dining table. Arcadia widened her eyes at the announcement. Her heart stopped in her chest. Urania pulled Arcadia into a tight celebratory hug while everyone’s attention turned to her with claps and cheers that were slowly drowned out by a buzzing sound that filled her ears.
“I suppose you will be drinking that barrel of wine sooner than you thought,” Urania said before she untangled herself from her distraught younger sister.
Arcadia quickly stood up with her goblet in her hand and flung the dark red liquid onto Orpheus’s face, who sat across the table. She tossed the cup onto the table and fled the room. Her heart felt as if someone had pierced a knife through it. She lifted the ends of her burgundy dress and ran as fast as she could until she reached the Hanging Gardens.
She raced down the white stoned paths, taking herself deeper and deeper inside of the lush garden where not many wandered. This garden was her home. The only place where she felt she could be herself and now she would be ripped away from it to the cruel Wild North where she would be consort to the cruel Wild King that her father and brother spoke so admirably as if they had forgiven him for the horrible things he and his bloodline were famed for.
Finally, she moved off of the path and wandered through the tall thick trees and bushes until she reached her special tree, which had all of her siblings initials including hers carved deep into the trunk of it. They did it when they were all younger after they played a game of hide and seek. This tree was once their home base and now it was forgotten except to her.
She had made a rope ladder and attached it to the tree. She climbed up it as she usually did and settled herself onto a familiar thick branch. The full branches dense with board leaves covered her presence from the naked eye.
Arcadia stiffened as she heard a scattered chorus of voices calling her name. Her father most likely made good use of the guards and the guests of the party to search for her.
Hot tears fell freely from her stinging eyes and she choked a sob.
She was only nineteen summers old. Every one of her married siblings wed their spouses well into their twenties, even Orpheus would have the fortune of marrying into his twenties for he was twenty-three summers old. However, she would be the exception and not just that, she was to be a queen of a country.
Pierus was born to be king. Thalia was more suited to be a queen than she. At least, she had the experience of governing one of the lesser islands with her husband.
Arcadia stiffened as she heard rustling noises and branches snapping.
She peered down through the leaves as Orpheus came into the small clearing in front of the tree. Anger filled her. She wanted to throw a rock at his head!
No, she wanted to bash his head in with a rock!
“Arcadia, I know you’re here,” he said knowingly, looking up into the tree. “Father is furious and Mother is thoroughly worried.”
“Go away,” Arcadia hissed loudly.
“Not until you come with me,” Orpheus said.
“Oh, least of all with a lying bastard like you,” Arcadia said.
Orpheus sighed, “You’re angry at me.”
“That’s an understatement of a century. You lied to me. You stood there in my face and told me that the details of your arrangement with the Wild North would benefit everyone, including me, and that was a lie. It doesn’t benefit anyone except yourself and Father.”
“You’re not thinking clearly.”
“Oh no, my thoughts are very sound and clear, brother. It is you who was not thinking clearly for where exactly in your arrangement were you to tell me that I am to be the future queen of Valelith? Or more importantly, how I would feel about such an arrangement,” Arcadia shouted. “I was led to believe that you were to be wed to the sister-princess of the Wild King.”
Orpheus frowned as he looked up into the tree. “You are correct. I was to go to the King of Valelith with a proposal of union between our two kingdoms by asking for his sister’s hand in marriage. It was only fitting since I am the next in line to marry. She was rather receptive to the idea as well, but he refused which is why I stayed there much longer than expected it. Trying to convince him of the benefits of our countries’ union, but he was not convinced until I spoke of you. It was only then he agreed.”
“You threw me to the wolves!”
Her words made something snap inside of her brother. She could see his face contort and change.
“I did what had to be done for the best of Ocirene! You wander these gardens to escape your responsibilities as the daughter of King Aratus and Queen Clio. We do not live in luxury with no just cause. We must sacrifice things for the good of the people, Arcadia. Pierus is no fit to be a king, he has too much a weak chin to handle the responsibilities and yet Father grooms him as he is the apparent heir,” Orpheus raved irritably.
He ranted on, “Thalia is married to a husband with deep pockets but no restraints towards gambling and a poor island in their governance that is falling apart. Urania is barren and unable to produce an heir. I am nothing more than a messenger boy for our dear father-king as Pierus cannot bear the thought of getting his hands dirty. As for you, you are the only one who can make a difference. Do something bigger than any of us can do.”
“You have so much faith in me, but how can I make a difference with such a wild bloodthirsty husband-king?”
“He has rough edges,” Orpheus agreed, calming down.
“Rough edges,” Arcadia snorted. “Is that what we are calling the very recent Crimson War now?”
“Every kingdom has a dark past, even Ocirene. The Wild North is no different.”
Arcadia steadied herself as she climbed down the rope ladder.
She walked past him and he went to touch her arm, but she slapped his hand away from her. “Don’t you dare touch me, Orpheus! I might not have a choice in marrying the bastard King of Valelith, but I do have a choice in this. I do not trust you anymore. In the eyes of our father, you are an acclaimed hero. In my eyes, you are nothing more than a coward.”
Okay, the first chapter is done and so Princess Arcadia's adventure begins. I think high fantasy provides you more opportunities and creative freedom than realistic fiction. So this will be a refreshing journey for me!
Feedback is greatly appreciated! :)