All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Althea sat at the long wooden counter that only held up her elbow that helped her use her right hand as a pillow, a cash register that had been affected by the likes of Cronus, and the ring she whirled around her finger over and over again until it became irritating. Althea frowned at the ring and despised that even after moving in with her grandparents in the city she still could not keep her mind off of her brother. His deep brown eyes that helped her feel better with a single glance, his hair that seemed to be blessed by Erebus to where its blackness captivated your soul with just a side glance of wondering eyes, his gentle words that calmed her even after the murder of her parents, the flawless skin that made every girl that saw him feel her heart skip a beat, his laugh that seemed to come straight from Zeus himself, and the many rings that engulfed his fingers. Althea then felt anguish for making a mockery of her beloved brother’s favorite ring he had given to her before leaving by spinning it in the air where it could become contaminated. She quickly slid the sapphire wrapped in gold back onto her right ring finger with a sigh of boredom. How could the shop be this dead on a Sunday? Usually on this day the whole gift shop would be filled with men asking to orders gifts for their lover or wife for some kind of occasion, but today the only beings in the store were Althea and her sleeping grandparents that stayed upstairs. She finally got up with curiosity and went to the window of the wall that faced the street in front of the building and held the door. Althea noticed that everyone in the town was lining the sides of the street because of something. With a quick movement of her feet she slid out of the store without making a noise to wake her grandparents. Althea’s eye caught a tall, thin girl of her age that’s father owned the store to the right of her own. She went to the girl’s side and gave a side-glance. A smile formed on Althea’s face as she finally spoke, “Is there a riot of some sort?” The girl shook her head and her thick, curly hair moved with her answer. “Then why is everyone out here? Has Dionysus put a spell on everyone but me?”
“The Prince of Ebony shall be heading this way. When word was given of this it spread like wildfire, but how did you not hear of it Lady Althea? Everyone has been talking about it for two days and been anticipating this moment.”
“My grandfather is not well and I have not been out of the shop for days, Miss Belus,” She explained and then fiddled with a black curt of hair that fell into her face as she looked down the road for just a brief moment, “But what business does the Prince of Ebony have with our King Argos?”
“There is talk of King Argos allowing the Prince to come to our fair city to claim a wife from one of the many royal members that live among the commoners here,” She replied and then looked to Althea with uncertainty, “But should you not be at the side of the Princess, Lady Althea?”
She looked to Miss Belus and then back to the end of the road, “She has not called upon me nor has Lord Epirus come to inform me of her summoning so I assume I am not needed at the beloved Princess’s side for now.” Althea replied but her attention was averted when a prestigious black stallion came into sight. Everyone in the road silenced their chatter as the group of six men on horses trudged on. The lead man was shockingly handsome and, by the expense of his clothes, Althea could tell he was the Prince of Ebony. He had a ring on each ear to symbolize his royalty, perfectly cut brown hair to fit his ego, blue eyes that seemed to pierce one’s soul, and clothes of a Prince. Two horsed guards followed the Prince of Ebony on each side of him with the colors of Ebony, two behind those soldiers with the colors of Althea’s king and one in the same colors behind them. Her eyes caught onto the captivating green eyes of the second guard on the right of the prince as he was drawn to hers. Before Althea could move the guard sped up his horse, went past the prince, and stopped in front of her. She looked back to the rest of the group as they stopped behind the guard in front of her.
“What is the meaning of this, Sir Epirus?” The Ebonian guard on the left of the prince demanded as the one drawn to Althea hopped off his horse and walked to her side. He set his strong hand on her shoulder and she looked to him.
“Sir, I informed you before that I had to stop to fetch the assistant of the Princess and that is what I am doing.” Epirus said and the guard frowned at the two while thinking Epirus was mocking them.
“But this girl is just a commoner!” The guard protested as Epirus froze. He was curious to see how she would respond to such a rude comment. Althea went over to Epirus’s horse and hopped on to show she knew what she was doing. Althea held her hand down to Epirus who took it and she hoisted him behind her on his horse. Epirus took the reigns as his arms went around her body to get a firm grasp of control as Althea turned back to the soldier with bravery.
“Believe Sir Epirus or not, Sir, but it is your job to escort the Prince of Ebony to the castle and I suggest you keep to your duties,” She informed him and then turned back to the head of the horse, “Let’s go.” She requested Epirus without looking to him and the horse started moving again. They went down the street Althea lived on, took a right, then a left, and were presented with the golden gates with the royal courtyard within. Althea looked in front of the gate to see a familiar face. She smiled to her friend Cletus who quickly turned to a guard on the other side of the gate.
“Raise the gate!” Cletus hollered to a man a few feet above that controlled the opening and closing of the gate, “Lady Althea and the Prince have arrived!” The large gate rose and they quickly made their way inside. Once they were all in the gate closed again as Cletus ran to the side of her horse and held his hands out to her. She took them and hopped down from the horse, “The princess is expecting you and awaits you arrival in her…” He started to inform Althea, but both of them turned towards the castle when high heals hit the ground. The Princess had thrown the high heal shoes in her hands to the ground and now sprinted to Althea. She opened her arms to Althea and she held Althea tightly like she had not seen her in ages, when she had seen her only a week ago. Her blonde curls flew into Althea’s face but she ignored them and did not fuss since she knew her hair was in the Princesses’ face also. She let go of Althea and looked at her face with approval.
“I thought you were never going to show up! I have been tormented by Cronus with wait for what seemed forever!” She complained to Althea who smiled with apology.
“I’m sorry to make you wait.”
She shook her head, “Don’t worry yourself. All is forgiven,” She turned to the Prince that watched them and smiled, “Oh! Where are my manners? Prince Elius, allow me to introduce my best friend Lady Althea.” The princess announced and Althea curtsied honorably and then smiled to the Prince.
“Please forgive my acts of Ate from before.” She said but he did not reply. He just stared into her eyes with an odd look. Althea’s attention was diverted by the gentle hand of Cletus and turned to him.
“Lady Althea, the King has requested for you to join his daughter at the royal dinner tonight that starts soon. You should go to Princess Cilia’s room and get ready.” He suggested and she nodded. The Princess took Althea’s hand in hers and they ran to the castle. Before going inside Althea picked up the Princess’s shoes and she laughed with embarrassment that she had done that. They went into the castle, ran up the grand staircase in the front of the castle, went down the hall to the left of the stairs, and went to the last door. Althea followed Cilia into her room and she shut the door behind her. She brought Althea to her closet where a maid was organizing. The maid was startled by their entrance, but quickly bowed to them.
“How may I serve you, my ladies?” the maid asked them and Cilia spoke up for Althea.
“Could you please pick out an outfit for Althea to wear tonight?” Cilia asked and the lady quickly nodded. Cilia led Althea into her bathroom that was the size of Althea’s grandparent’s shop, but Althea was used to its extravagance. Cilia went to her counter and sat on it. Althea went in front of her curiously. “Could you do my makeup, please? No one else makes me look more like a maiden of Aphrodite than you.” She said sweetly and Althea nodded. Althea looked down to her makeup and started with cover-up. She gently placed the liquid around her face to make it seem even more flawless than it already was, and then put a soft eye shadow colored blue on her eyelid to match the dress Althea realized Cilia wore. The dress was as long as she was and held up by her breasts that seemed broader because of the corset around her waist. It was a glittery blue silk that was scrunched purposely around her waist and then fanned out with the layers of extra material made by skirts. Her shoes from before sat on the cold marble floor as Althea then put on eyeliner and mascara. The final thing left was lipstick, which Althea chose a peach color that seemed more natural than the rest and when she was finished Cilia turned to the mirror and gasped. “It’s Aphrodite quality, Althea! Thank you!” She exclaimed and Althea smiled broadly.
“It’s my pleasure, Cilia.” She replied but then was called by the maid from before. Cilia and Althea went into the bedroom the size of Althea’s whole home and saw the maid had brought another dress.
“Please take off your clothes, Lady Althea.” The second maid requested and she did so down to her underwear. They first started by wrapping a corset around her waist and breasts. They tightened the strings and she slowly felt the pain of elegance. When the painful contraption was finally tied they pulled out a thick and fluffy skirt that would go under her dress like one did for Cilia. Althea stepped into it and it was tied around her smaller waist. The red dress was slid over her head and brought to her breast line. The dress looked identical to Cilia’s except for the color and that it had no glitter or ruffles. Instead there was a black sash that was wrapped around her hips after the dress was fully zipped up. The maids tied it in a perfect looking bow in the back and then the first maid slipped Althea’s shoes on as the other one put Cilia’s shoes back on her feet. The maids left them after that and they went into the bathroom again. Althea put on her own cover-up, eyeliner, and mascara but turned to Cilia.
“What eye shadow shall I use?” She asked and Cilia pointed to a light, glittery black that she put very little on since it was such a dark color to wear. Cilia then picked out a deep red lipstick that matched Althea’s dress color and she put it on. When Althea turned to Cilia she seemed pleased.
“You look like Aphrodite.” She complemented and Althea laughed lightly.
“I don’t think Aphrodite would enjoy you calling me her since I am no royal member.”
“Nonsense! She would be honored.” She argued and they both laughed before leaving her room. They gracefully went down the way they had come here, but instead of going outside they went to the large dining room to the left of the front door. When they entered everyone in the room stood and bowed to Cilia except for the Prince of Ebony and the King. Two seats were left open for them, which were across from each other and one seat down from the king’s sides. Althea sat to his left and Cilia sat to the right. On one side of Cilia was the Prince of Ebony while to the other side was her young brother, Prince Catreus. To Althea’s right was Epirus and to her left was Cletus. They both smiled to Althea and she did the same to them. Althea then looked to the king and bowed her head slightly.
“Thank you for letting me come tonight, my King.” She said politely and he smiled back to her.
“Of course, Lady Althea. You are my only daughter’s best friend, one of the best followers of Artemis, and the sister of our military commander. You deserve this.”
“Indeed.” She whispered and then looked down to her lap while holding back tears. She looked to her brother’s ring that was on her finger and felt a hole in her heart growing deeper, but was brought from the thoughts of her brother when she felt the gaze of the Prince of Ebony.
“Lady Althea is it?” He asked formally and Althea nodded, “I presume you are blessed with the powers of Artemis.”
Epirus spoke up for her, “Actually, unlike most, Lady Althea’s blessing has not presented itself fully since she shows more gifts than just Artemis’s.”
“Oh? That is very uncommon for someone more than the age of ten to not know their blessing.” The Prince said and she looked directly into his eyes.
“If you do not mind my asking, Prince Elius, what is your blessing?” Althea asked and he looked directly back to her with no fear showing in his eyes.
“I am blessed by Zeus.”
“That is a very uncommon gift, Sir. You must be very powerful.” She commented and he nodded.
“But it is not as uncommon as your bother’s gift Lady Althea.” Cletus commented and the Prince seemed intrigued.
“Oh? What is your brother’s blessing?” The prince asked her directly.
“He is blessed with the inhuman powers of Uranus,” She replied and his eyes widened, “And since we are twins I will most likely be given a very high power also.” She replied and his face seemed to change from rude to hesitant. He did not know what to ask a woman that had a twin of more power than his own. But how could it be that a commoner is blessed with such a wonderful gift? He asked himself and she could tell he was becoming nervous.
“We should start.” The king announced and maids fled from the room with a very direct order to put into motion.
They all exited the dining room after three hours. Cilia left while holding onto Althea’s arm tightly. The Prince was talking with the king, Cletus, and Epirus as the young Prince Catreus came over to the two girls. He hugged Althea tightly like he always did and she did the same. “Shall you be staying the night, Althea?” He asked her in a childish way.
“I’m sorry, Catreus, but I cannot stay. My grandfather is still not well so I must go help take care of him.” She replied sadly and he sighed with understanding.
“But you are coming back tomorrow for our practice since the weekend will be over, correct?” He asked her hoping that she would say yes.
“Yes, I will be here tomorrow morning for both of your practices,” She replied and he was excited.
Epirus walked over to the small group and smiled to Althea, “It is getting late and Cronus will not stop his blessing to give us more time. Shall we go?” He asked her and she nodded kindly.
“I will change quickly.” She replied and then left with Cilia to go to her room. When they got there Cilia helped Althea get out of the dressy clothes and back into to her usual ones. Cilia hugged Althea before she left, but after that Althea went downstairs without Cilia. She found Epirus still talking with the other three men in the front of the home so she walked over to him and set her hand on his arm. All four men stopped talking and looked to her. She smiled to them, “Thank you for the meal, my king,” She said and then looked to the prince, “And it was nice to meet you Prince Elius,” She walked to the door and Epirus followed her, “I will see you all tomorrow morning,” She added, “May Nyx, Selene, and Morpheus be with you.” She then left with Epirus and went to his horse outside. They silently rode to her home in the dark as the people hid from Nyx’s gift. Epirus stopped the horse in front of Althea’s grandparent’s shop. They both got off of the horse and she looked up to him kindly, “Thank you for the ride, Epirus.”
He smiled back to her and nodded, “It’s my pleasure,” He said and there was a silence of feelings for a moment before Epirus gently set his right hand on her face. He caressed her skin and she felt a hot chill slide from her face to the rest of her body. He walked closer to her as his smiled turned from kindness to lovesick, “At the dinner tonight I was surprised Aphrodite did not smite you because you were more beautiful then she could ever be.” He teased and she laughed quietly.
“Oh hush.” She replied and then froze when he got closer. He bent his neck so that his lips touched hers. She felt a fire burning in her body as hormones took affect. He took his hand from her face and wrapped his arms around her. He lifted her off of the ground as she wrapped her arms around his neck. They kissed each other secretly until a cat moved in a trashcan a few feet away. They were both startled and let go of each other, but both quietly laughed as they realized they had been scared by a cat. Slowly they smiled to each other, “Goodnight, Epirus.” She whispered lovingly and he slowly got onto his horse.
He looked back to her in a lovesick way, “Till tomorrow, my lovely Althea.” He whispered and she watched him ride off.
“May Nyx be with you.” She whispered to herself and then went into her home for the night. She closed and locked the store door and then quietly crept up the staircase of creaky wood the best she could. When she got to the top she had a choice of going to the left to her small room or to the right to a larger room that held her grandparents and the kitchen. She went to the right and knocked on the wooden door that had been cursed by the wrath of Cronus.
“Yes?” A low voice asked in a whisper so Althea slipped in with the shut of the door behind herself. She smiled to her grandfather who was sitting up in his old bed and watched as her beautifully old grandmother scurry from the kitchen and into the room. She had on a nightgown and an apron with a fork in her left hand.
“Finally you show up!” Her grandmother complained, “If it had not been for the kindness of Miss Belus we would have thought you had fallen into a hole reaching to Tartarus! You should have told us that you were leaving!” She said as she walked towards her granddaughter and swung the fork.
“Dear, don’t attack her with a fork,” Her grandfather argued and then slightly chuckled, “I would hate to tell people that my wife, given as a gift by Hera, was killed by our granddaughter because she tried to attack her with a fork. It is too embarrassing for me.”
“Shut your mouth, Abas! Or so help me I will use my blessing of Mania on you!” She threatened and he laughed even harder than before.
“Take a joke.” Her grandfather said with a frown as their attention was brought from their quarrel and back to their granddaughter who was in trouble.
“I am sorry, grandmother. The Prince of Ebony was here and the Princess needed me to help her with things.” Althea explained and her grandmother became intrigued.
“The Prince of Ebony?” She repeated, “My, my! What an odd occurrence!” She said and luckily seemed to forget her anger.
“He is here to look at candidates for his wife.”
“Oh?” The grandmother asked and then seemed to smile wildly, “Tell me, my girl. Does Aphrodite bless him? I have heard that he is very handsome.”
“Yes, I suppose so and he has the gift of Zeus which is very interesting.” Althea replied and her grandmother shook her head furiously.
“No! I mean how does he look at you, girl? Has he said a word about maybe accepting you as his own gift from Hera?”
Althea was slightly flustered by the thought of Prince Elius asking for her hand in marriage, “He has not even spoke about the topic and I hope he does not if it includes my name.”
“Oh don’t say that, Althea. It would be magnificent for you to marry a prince.” She said and Althea quickly walked to the door of the room. This discussion was making her feel uncomfortable and she wanted to be gone.
“I must go spend time with Hypnos,” She opened the door and moved outside of it, “I will be leaving early for practice and will be back late, can you handle the shop?”
Her grandmother nodded, “We will be fine.”
“Alright, goodnight then.” She whispered and then closed the door. She went over to her own door and opened it. She changed into cloths dedicated to the time of Nyx and lay in her small bed to look at the ceiling.
A friendly hand waved to Althea as she walked through her street from an older man that was friends with her grandparents. She waved back to him and was back on her way. She was now in a pair of riding pants and a tight, tucked in, white, button up shirt with only her ring, small diamond earrings, and riding boots as accessories. Her black curls were pulled back into a tight ponytail at the back of her head as she fiddled with a short curl that did not stay back and fell into her face. It only took a few minutes to reach the gold gates she needed to get to. A guard she did not know well called up for a raise of the gate and she came in before it shut again. She saw Cletus to the right of the castle and walked over to him. He was taking a brake and sat by himself on the stonewall that was around the royal garden. He smiled to her as she sat next to him and rested her head on his shoulder. “Is the prince and his sister awake?” She asked him and he sighed.
“Yes and they have been fighting all morning for some reason. Finally they were ordered to their rooms and have been there for hours. I’m afraid that Prince Elius now thinks we can’t even control the royal children,” He said with a sigh and then turned to Althea, “Could you try to help?” He asked and she nodded. They stood then and went inside to see Prince Elius talking to Epirus in the hallway. “Epirus!” Cletus called and both the men looked up to Althea and Cletus.
“There is a very strong gift from Hemera today,” Althea commented and then slightly smiled, “It also seems there is a curse from Enyo brought upon the royal children.”
Epirus sighed, “Can you help?” He asked Althea as she felt the piercing glance of the Prince.
“I can try.” She offered and Epirus nodded. He led the group to Prince Catreus’s room and Althea knocked on his door.
“Who’s there?” Catreus demanded with tears lingering in his voice. Althea got closer to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked.
“Catreus, it is Althea,” She sighed lightly, “could you open the door so I can talk with you?”
“Who is with you?” Catreus asked her and she sighed. Althea knew he could tell that there were three others with his blessing of Aether.
“Prince Elius, Soldier Cletus, and Soldier Epirus have escorted me here. Are they allowed to come in with me?”
“No. Only you can enter.” He retorted and she turned to Cletus who sighed with a nod. When she touched the door again it was unlocked so she slid in. She shut the door behind her and went into the dark room. Catreus sat on his bed with a pillow against his chest, his knees pulled to the pillow, and his arms wrapped around himself to make a small ball. Althea sat down in front of him and he kept his eyes from hers as she noticed there were smudges of dirt on his nose.
“What happened between you and Cilia?” She asked with no beating around the bush.
“Well today we were in the garden and I threw a pebble at Cilia while she was checking for weeds. She laughed about it and said to stop but was kidding so when she bent down again I threw another pebble. She laughed again as she told me to stop and so I thought we were both having fun and kept throwing them at her, but out of nowhere she screamed at me and I ran off. I went to dad and complained about her yelling at me and when I left his room I saw her standing there with a basket in her hands. She quickly came over to me and dumped a pile of dirt on me and laughed. I chased after her and my dad got mad so he told us to go to our rooms. Then dad got even madder because he thought that Prince Elius would think we were bad children and yelled at me.” He whispered and Althea stood up. Catreus followed her with his eyes as she went to his bathroom and came back with a damp hand towel. She gently washed the dirt from his nose and then looked to him.
“Are you crying because of what Cilia did or about your father yelling at you or about Prince Elius thinking you were misbehaved?” Althea asked kindly and he finally looked to her eyes, which gave her a slight sense of hope.
“Cilia and I have never fought before. I’m scared she hates me now.” He whispered and Althea sighed sadly. She hugged him with his legs and the pillow pushing against her.
“I’m sure she doesn’t hate you, Catreus. Don’t worry yourself about that,” Althea stood and put her hand out to him, “But everyone is worried about you, so why don’t you come out with me to make them feel better?” She asked and he stared to her hand. He hesitated for a moment but finally took her hand. She pulled him off the bed and he came to her. They stayed there as he hugged her for a few minutes and then slowly left his room. Cletus smiled to Althea with relief and gratitude. A maid took the young boy of only 8 to his father so he could apologize as Althea started to Cilia’s room. When she got there she knocked on the door and there was silence.
“What?” Cilia demanded with anger.
“It’s me, Cilia.” Althea said quietly and then came into the room. She shut the door behind her back and then went over to Cilia who was sprawled out on her bed. She looked up to Althea as she sat at Cilia’s side, “I just talked to Catreus.”
“And I hope you hit him!” She spat and it shocked Althea. Cilia had never been this mad over something so small and Althea became raged slightly.
“Cilia, he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong…”
“He was hitting me with rocks! How is that right?”
Cilia sat up and frowned to Althea, “He’s just being a brother, Cilia. He thinks that…” Althea started to argue but Cilia became angry also.
“You don’t know what it’s like to have a brother so don’t even talk, Althea!” Cilia yelled and without hesitation Althea stood in defense.
“Your brother is all proper and brave! He has barely spent any of his life as your true brother! You don’t know what it’s like to have a stupid brother that only does things to hurt you!” Cilia yelled and without a single thought Althea’s hand slapped across Cilia’s face with power behind it. Althea did not even feel sorry as her friend’s face started to become red because of the tears dripping down her face.
“Don’t you dare talk about my brother like that!” Althea yelled and then threw open the door. She turned back to the angry Cilia, “Just because you are a princess does not mean I will stand around and let you talk about my precious brother like he is just some guy your father controls!” She slammed the door and stormed down the hall and the staircase, but was slowed down slightly when Prince Elius, Cletus, and Epirus looked up to her but she still stormed towards them. Seeing tears coming from such a strong woman captivated them all.
“What happened?” Cletus asked with sincerity. Althea walked to him and pointed her finger at him.
“Get your Princess in check! I’m done with her!” Althea yelled and they were all shocked. She went past them and stormed out to the practicing field. She went to the shooting range and picked up the chosen weapon of Artemis. She pulled back the string, adjusted the arrow, and let go. With the arrow left some of her anger.
The three men came outside and watched her shoot two arrows after the first. Prince Elius started to walk over to Althea but Cletus put his arm in front of the Prince. He looked to Cletus with confusion to see Cletus was watching Althea, “When she gets like this it is best to let her calm down before talking to her. If you don’t you may become a human target even if you are a Prince. Right now anything is a target to her.”
“Does this happen often?” Prince Elius asked the other two men who shook their heads.
“The last time it happened was when her brother left three years ago and that was only the second time we had seen it,” Epirus replied and then sighed, “We should go check on the Princess. Althea will be at this for at least an hour or so.”
Cletus nodded and they started back inside but turned back to the Prince who was not following them, “Are you coming?” Cletus asked and the Prince shook is head.
“I will stay here.” He replied and with a shrug the other two men left. The Prince sat down on the steps that led from the side door of the castle and to the shooting rage as Althea stood.
Althea shot the target made of a bale of hay until there were no more arrows to shoot. She then threw the bow at the target and the hay bail fell over. Althea sat in the grass after that and looked at her brother’s ring. Tears had finally stopped by then and she realized she was being observed. She looked up to the eyes of Prince Elius who then walked over to her, “If you are trying to figure out my blessing, you are wasting your time.” She informed him and he sat down in the grass by her.
“No, I was just going to see how far your anger would take you,” He replied, “I never expected you the kill the hay bail with your bow.”
“I kept imagining it was Cilia’s head.” She admitted and the Prince nodded since he had already figured that much.
“You really should not share that, Lady Althea. It is a crime to threaten a royal person.”
Althea smirked to him, “I slapped her. If I was going to be arrested today it would have already happened.”
There was a silence for a moment, “What did Princess Cilia say to make you so mad?”
Althea sighed, “She said things that were rude towards my brother and I couldn’t take it. She said that I didn’t even know him enough to know what it was like to have an annoying brother, which sent me through the roof,” Althea pulled her knees up, rested her elbows on her thighs, and put her hands on her forehead, “I hit her,” She whispered, “I hit my best friend. Could I have been crueler to her?” Althea sighed once more and looked to her brother’s ring again, “Arles would never hit Cilia. It is against his beliefs.”
“Arles? Don’t you mean Ares?” The Prince asked and Althea slightly smiled to him.
“Do you know what goddess I am named after?”
He nodded, “Athena of course.”
“Athena is the sister of Ares as I am the sister of my brother. We were both named after the gods because of our bond.” She replied and he thought he had asked a very stupid question and understood why she had smiled.
“Ah,” He replied as he tried to get over his buffoonery. They sat for a while and just listened to the wind around them. Althea’s gaze was attracted to running footsteps and she turned to see Cletus running towards them with a look of horror on his face, which made something in Althea ache. She stood and so did the prince as Cletus came to Althea.
“Althea,” He gasped for breath and then went on, “There is a woman here and she demands to see you. She is waiting with Epirus because she seems frantic.”
“Show me to her.” She requested and then ran behind Cletus with the prince behind her. They went to the front porch of the castle to see Epirus sitting next to a girl with her head on her lap while she cried. Althea went near her and the girl’s head shot up to see who was there.
“Oh blissful stars!” The girl cried as she looked to Althea.
“Miss Belus? What is wrong?” Althea asked with a nervousness creeping into her voice.
“They’re dead! They’re dead!” Miss Belus cried as her head went back to her lap but Althea quickly pulled the girl to her feet. Something stung in Althea’s heart.
“Who’s dead, Miss Belus?”
She burst into a crying fit and was having trouble breathing. When she finally gained control of her breathing she looked to Althea, “Your grandparents,” She whispered and Althea froze. She let go of Miss Belus and Belus fell to the ground with more tears, “A man robbed your store and killed both of them!”
Althea’s legs felt like they had been shot off. She collapsed to the ground and just sat there as she tried to process what Miss Belus had just said. The words just seemed to not add up to anything but babble. A spark seemed to flare in the back of her mind and immediately she understood. She understood quite well. She was an orphan. Arles was an orphan. “No,” Whispered Althea as she shot to her feet. She turned to the closed gold gate and then shot a look to Cletus. “Open the gate.” She whispered in a plea and he quickly called for the gate to open. When it did Althea sprinted off. As she ran all she could see was the ground in front of her. The houses and shops she usually past seemed to have disappeared and so did her hearing. All she could think of was one word, no. It whirled around her like a bug until she reached her home. She sprinted up the creaky stairs and threw open her grandparent’s door. Three policemen turned to her as she saw two gray sheets on top of bumpy figures on the old bed. She just froze in the doorway as one of the policemen walked to her slowly. He set his hand on her shoulder. She saw him move to do so, but she could not feel the touch.
“Althea, I’m sorry,” Whispered the familiar voice. The policeman was the one that had a home three down from hers. He had three young children and a wife that had been very kind to her grandparents, “the robber took their lives with two shots of a gun. They are with Thanatos by now.” Her hand was moved but she could not feel the movement, she only saw it. She saw herself standing next to the policeman like she was standing across the room from her own body. Tears were running down her face as her jaw stayed clenched. The policeman looked behind her. Althea saw Epirus gently rub her arm as the policeman recognized him, “Sir Epirus, could you help her with her belongings and then bring her to the palace. Until her brother comes back she will have to be put under the care of the royal family.” The policeman then walked away and Althea blinked. She felt the touch of Epirus’s hand on her arm as he slowly led her away. She was now back in herself and could feel the wetness of tears on her face. Epirus led her to her room and shut the door behind them. He brought her to her bed and sat her down. He gave her a look of sadness and then started packing up her stuff. He kept looking over to her as he worked but she did not move. Once he had packed all of her clothes into a bag he came to her side and sat down. He wrapped his arms around her and she felt his warmth. Without telling her body to do anything her arms went around Epirus and her head lay on his chest. He pulled her closer to him and she cried more as he stroked her hair.
“Althea,” He whispered sadly, “Please talk to me.”
She paused for a second but then opened her mouth, “They are gone.” She whispered the obvious and he pulled her even tighter to him.
“I know and I’m so sorry,” He replied, “But I know Phyche will take their gentle souls to a good place.”
He sighed sadly, “We need to go, Althea. I have your clothes packed so we need to leave. We can come back for the rest of the stuff later.”
“Okay.” She whispered and he let go of her. They slowly left the house to see a crowd forming outside. Epirus pushed through the crowd and brought Althea to his horse. He got on and then pulled her up. She sat on her side with her left shoulder against his chest and her bag by her heart. His right arm wrapped around her to support her on the horse as they started off. When they got back to the castle the gate opened without their asking. Epirus let go of Althea as she was gently taken down to Cletus who just hugged her like a best friend would at a time like this as Epirus gave his horse to a maid. The three of them walked to the castle’s front door with Cletus’s arm around her waist and Epirus’s hand around hers. The door was shut behind them and they went to a sitting area near the dining room. Althea was sat on a couch as the two men sat at each side of her. Cletus left for a moment and she laid her head on Epirus’s left shoulder. He pulled her tightly to him as she realized she had stopped crying. The king came in with Catreus, Cilia, and Prince Elius with him.
“Althea.” The king whispered in an apologetic way even though he had done nothing wrong.
“When will Arles be here? He has been told the news?” Althea asked as she looked to her ring once more.
“I just sent word to him. He will be here by tomorrow morning,” The king replied with kindness towards her, “He wants you to wait for him here with us.”
“That is what the Policeman said also,” Althea looked up to the king and was glad she could not cry any more, “How did he take it?”
“He was upset but was more concerned about you than anything else. He does not want you to leave us until he arrives.”
“Alright, thank you,” She whispered as the gaze of everyone went to her. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to leave, but not go too far, “My King, I can now give Prince Catreus his lessons on shooting.”
“You don’t have to…”
She stood and Epirus followed, “Sir, I need to do something other than sit and regret. I did enough regretting five years ago at the loss of my parents and I don’t want to waste my time feeling sorry for myself,” She looked to her feet only, “My grandparents would not want me to cry over their death more than I have. I know they would want me to get out there and train.”
“As you wish, Althea.” The king said and Catreus walked over to her. He hugged her waist and she set her hand on his head. He took her hand in his and they walked outside. She brought the boy to the hay bail she had destroyed and they pulled the arrows out of it. She picked up her bow and then went to a small shed to the side that held the Prince’s bow. She got it and then went back to the boy who was putting the arrows in a pile. He stood next to it and Althea handed him the bow.
“Show me the way you hold the arrow and bow.” She requested and he nodded. Catreus picked up an arrow and positioned it with his bow. He stood in a ready position to shoot as Althea walked around him. She could tell he was holding it wrong but wanted him to figure it out, “Go ahead and shoot.” She said and he let go of the arrow. It did not even make it to the new hay bail he was shooting at and he was disappointed in himself, “Hold up your bow again, just like you did.” She said and he pulled back the string. She knelt behind him and put her hands over his. She moved his fingers that held the feather end of the arrow and moved his other hand down on the neck slightly. She stood again and examined him. “Shoot again.” She said and he did so. The arrow hit the second marked area only a few inches from the eye of the hay he was aiming for. She smiled to him and he felt good, “You were holding the neck too high and were bending the feathers,” She went back behind him and set her hands over his. She moved his whole upper body up a few degrees and then examined him from the other side. She used two fingers to tap the bottom of his chin and he lifted it slightly, “You are a Prince, Catreus. You must always have your head high and strong. Now shoot with all your power.” She said and he nodded to her. He focused on the eye and let go of the arrow. It pierced the hay right in the middle of the eye and he immediately jumped in the air with a yell of victory.
“I did it!” He yelled and seemed to glow with delight. He then ran over to his father that stood to the side and watched with Prince Elius. “Dad! Did you see me? Did you see my shot? It was perfect!”
The king laughed and nodded to his son, “You were magnificent my boy. If you keep training with Althea you will be a great shooter in no time.”
“I hope so!” Catreus replied, but Althea turned away from the happy group then. She walked over to the hay bail and pulled out the arrow. She brought it back to where it had been to see Cilia looking at her. That surprised Althea.
“Could you help me?” Cilia asked in a whisper and Althea stood there. She did not know how to respond. She wanted to tell Cilia to go away, but knew she shouldn’t. She decided to agree with a nod.
“Draw your arrow.” Althea replied and Cilia quickly picked up Althea’s bow that Cilia shared with Althea. Cilia set up an arrow and looked to Althea for approval. Althea walked around Cilia like she had with Catreus and then went behind Cilia. Althea set her hands over Cilia’s and tightened the grip of Cilia’s fingers on the feathers of the arrow. Althea moved to the other side of Cilia and tapped her elbow that was controlling the arrow hand. Cilia moved her elbow up slightly and Althea just looked at her. The position still seemed wrong, but she was having a hard time figuring out how to fix it. She then realized what to do. She gently pushed the bow and arrow closer to Cilia’s chest. Althea back up and looked at Cilia again, “Shoot.” Althea ordered and Cilia did not hesitate. She let go of the arrow and it went right into the eye of the hay bail. Cilia smiled back to Althea, but were not given a smile back. Althea handed Cilia another arrow with no smile, “Now shoot that arrow into the one you just shot.”
“That’s impossible!” Cilia argued and Althea put her hands out to Cilia.
“Give it to me.” She demanded and Cilia did so. Althea took the bow and arrow from Cilia and set up the arrow in the bow and shot. Her arrow pierced the back end of Cilia’s arrow. Cilia’s arrow split down the middle and stayed there with Althea’s arrow. Cilia frowned to Althea.
“That was just a stroke of luck. You can’t do it again.” Cilia protested and Althea quickly picked up another arrow. Within seconds Althea split her past arrow in half with the new one. She turned to Cilia who was frozen with her mouth open. Althea handed the bow back to Cilia with no smile.
“Don’t stop until you split my arrow in half. That’s an order.” Althea said with no emotion other than anger. Without even looking back to Cilia, Althea walked close to the three men and sat down in the grass. Althea turned when she heard a door close to see the King and Prince Catreus had gone inside, but Prince Elius was walking over to Althea. He sat next to her and looked into her swollen eyes, as he said nothing for a moment.
“I’m sorry to hear about your grandparents,” Elius said sadly to Althea, “But, if you don’t mind my asking, what did you mean by you lost your parents?”
“They were killed in an attack where I used to live.”
“Where is that?”
“Selia, in the capitol. We were all in a store when a guy came in with a large knife. He started stabbing everyone in sight as we tried to hide. Luckily we were towards the back of the store when he came. My parents told Arles and I to hide in a small place behind a stack of boxes. They said they would come get us when this was over and we couldn’t leave until they came to get us. Before they left they kissed us both and made us promise to be quiet. Arles and I were as quiet as we could be and after a while the screaming of people stopped, but we stayed put. A policeman found us a few hours later and when we refused to leave he was concerned. He asked why not and Arles told him what our parents had requested us to do. The policeman’s face seemed to lose color after that as he informed us that we were the only two who survived and that our parents had died.”
“Yes.” Althea replied with a sigh but was diverted to Epirus as he came over to them. She realized Cilia was still shooting and Althea felt in power.
“Althea the king said you should rest. Your brother will now be coming before scheduled and the king thinks you should rest before he arrives tonight.” Epirus said and Althea nodded.
“If Cilia is still shooting after an hour, tell her to stop.” Althea said and Epirus nodded. She walked away and went inside to see the king. He led her to a guest room where the maids had already put her stuff. She was left there in the dark room after that and decided to lie down. She lay on her side, pulled a pillow to her chest and fell asleep with new tears running down her face. The rest of the house worried about how she really was. They all knew she was trying to act strong but she was really in horrible shape.
A knock sounded at Althea’s door so she got up and answered it. Cletus looked at her sadly, “You should come outside. Your brother will be arriving soon.”
“Alright,” She whispered with a voice wrecked by her crying earlier. She followed Cletus outside to see Epirus and Prince Elius sitting on the front steps of the castle. They both looked up to Althea and Cletus when they arrive and Althea decided to sit next to the prince while Cletus sat to her other side. They sat in the silence until it was broken by a holler from a man at the gate a mile from them. When it raised three men on horses appeared and the middle one’s eyes seemed to dart straight to Althea. She stood and felt tears pouring down her face as she watched. He made his horse sprint towards her and then stop a foot away. The tall man hopped off of his horse and squeezed Althea in his arms. She buried her face in his chest and pulled herself so close to him that it was painful for both of them, but neither cared. Arles kissed her head and smoothed out Althea’s hair with tenderness and care. He whispered beautiful words of hope to her and she could feel the hole in her heart closing at a rapid rate. She could not control her tears as she felt his warm grasp that seemed to protect her from the horrible truth of reality; he was her true Uranus, her protector.
“Althea, my lovely Althea,” He whispered and she finally looked up to him. His hair of Erebus was slightly messed up, his eyes of brown still captivated her even with tears swelling in them, and his gentle voice took away her pain, “I pray to Zeus that you will never have to be taken from me again. I can not stand it,” He brushed the tears from her face with his gentle fingers all covered with rings except for one, which sparked her memory. She quickly let go of her brother and he was confused as she took his right hand and pulled the ring off of her hand. She slid it onto him and smiled sadly to him.
“I have been keeping it safe for you. It has not left my hand for the past three years.” She assured him and he smiled as he bent his head down slightly. He slipped a gold chain over his head and put it over hers. He gently set the pendent of the necklace on her chest.
“Your necklace has not left me since last time.” He assured and they hugged again. Everything horrible in the world seemed to disappear for just a moment for Althea and she thanked Zeus for Arles again.
Althea used her fork to move food around on her plate since she had suddenly lost her appetite. Fighting with Arles always did that to her. The whole table was quiet as they ate, but Arles cleared his throat and just like the others, Althea looked to him with a question, “My king, my sister and I must leave today for urgent business. Is it alright if we do so?” Arles asked and Althea immediately dropped her fork.
“My king, only my brother will be leaving today.” Althea argued and Arles stared her down with his radiant eyes but this time those eyes did not stop her. She was too determined.
She frowned to Arles and put her arms across her chest as she leaned back in her chair, “If I had known this would come of your return, you might as well have not wasted your time coming here.” She spat back and he almost hissed at her as the king put up his hand to stop them.
“What is the matter with you two?” The king asked, “Yesterday all you could talk about was seeing each other and now you are yelling.”
“He won’t drop this stupid argument.” Althea protested and stared down her brother like he did to her.
“That is because this has to be dealt with, Althea! You can’t run from it anymore, now your future depends on it!”
“What are you two talking about?” The king demanded in a sharper tone than he meant to use, but it still did not make the two children stop glaring at each other.
“Sir, I must apologize for my sister.”
“She has not been completely truthful to you, but neither have I. Before I left I was planning to tell you, my king, but Althea insisted she would do so.”
“Well go on. Tell me what you must.” The king said and Arles cleared his throat again.
“Althea and I are truly the second royal children of the southern country of Selia. Usually being the second royal children would not matter, but as you know, my king, there are very many more princes than princesses right now and anyone with pure blood is being searched for. This problem does not conflict with me personally, but Althea is to be a gift from Hera for one of the many princes of our countries,” Arles now had the attention of everyone, but they all looked to the annoyed Althea with disbelief, “But my sister has hidden and been very successful in diverting the attention of any of the princes her age, but a few months ago, when I was in the country of Nyarius, as by your orders sir, the great Prince Danarius asked to receive the gift of Hera from my sister and we are to meet him today.”
There was an eerie silence that sat heavily on Althea’s shoulders as she felt the gaze of everyone, but she did not move her gaze from her lap, “Althea, why did you not tell us?” The king asked her and she rattled her brain for an answer.
“I didn’t want anything to come from that stupid title, sir. I have and never want to be a princess and do not want to marry to any man,” Althea pushed her chair back and stood. She bowed to the king, “Please excuse me,” She said and then walked out. She could hear someone following her so she quickened her steps and went to the front of the castle. She sat down on the porch step and looked up as Arles stopped before her. That was the last person she wanted to see, “Can’t you give me a break over this, Arles! You didn’t have to see our dead family like I did yesterday!”
Arles sighed and sat down next to Althea. He gently set her head on his shoulder and wrapped his arms around her body. She knew he did not want to do any of this to her, but that did not make her less angry about it. Truthfully she was not mad at Arles, she was just angry all together, “I know you saw tough things yesterday, dear Althea, but that is why I am strongly urging this.”
Arles looked into Althea’s eyes and showed no sign of weakness. He knew what he was doing. “I’m worried about you, Althea. Even though I don’t want to leave you again, you and I both know I will have to at some point,” He said and Althea knew he was right, “And when that day comes I don’t want to leave you alone. The only way I can assure your safety is to have you marry someone I know will protect you. If I don’t have you a stable home, then I will become worried sick about you every time I leave your side like I am right now.”
“I could stay here with the king and Cilia.” She suggested but her brother shook his head.
“Cilia will be getting married soon enough, Althea. And so will her brother. Then what will you do?” He asked as he looked to her and she had nothing to reply, “I know you have feelings towards both of those guards that protect you so well, but you cannot marry them, Althea. You and I know you can’t. Now that the royal families are trying to find any woman of pure blood you must marry a prince sooner or later and I want to know you are stable and safe before I leave again.”
“Can’t we fight this, Arles? Can’t we talk to the royal families and tell them the circumstances? I’m sure your father of blessing will help us.” Althea asked as she pressed her hand on the middle of her brother’s chest where she knew a black star was tattooed that symbolized his blessing.
Arles sighed and looked to Althea, “There is something I found out on my way back here, sister,” He said and she gave him a look to say go on, “You are the only pure blooded woman that is not a princess and is still alive. There were two other girls but they have both died of natural causes since I left.”
Althea felt tears in her eyes, but held them at bay, “Then that means there are eight princes and only six princesses. Then one prince will not have a pure gift of Hera,” She thought for a moment and realized the full truth of the matter, “All of the princes have become engaged or are promised the marriage of a princess except for Prince Elius and Prince Danarius. And I am the only pure blooded woman left.”
“That is why Prince Danarius is trying to marry you before Prince Elius has the chance to.”
Althea felt an evil smile working its way to her lips, “Then Prince Danarius should come here.”
“Who says I want to marry him? Prince Elius has come here to meet me, I think, so why should I have to leave for Prince Danarius? He should come to me.”
Arles felt the evil idea creep from his sister and to him. He hated that this idea was so cruel but knew it was their advantage in this game of cat and mouse created by the problem. This could work in their favor and make it so Althea held the control of the Prince’s game and could not be manipulated by anyone. This was the only way to ensure Althea gained control of her life. This was their plan, and oh! How evil it was!
They went back into the castle hand in hand and went right to the breakfast room and sat back into their seats. Everyone was curious why Althea kept looking to Arles, and when he would look up she would give an almost evil smile and then resume looking at her plate.
Elius watched her and noticed her eyes seemed to spark a deeper blue than usual when she would look to Arles. But, Elius was caught off guard when her maniacal glace did not go to her brother one of the times. It went directly to his eyes and sent a hot flash through his spine and to the rest of him. Her eyes seemed to read his inner thoughts and for a moment he wondered if Althea was lying to everyone again. If truly she had a tattoo of a swirl to represent the goddess of thought and that she could read all of their minds at this very instant. But then how could she not tell why he was really here? How could she have not figured out that he was trying to win her heart in order to marry the only eligible wife left for him? Immediately Althea’s smile changed as she looked up to him again. Her eyes locked on his and the corner of her mouth moved up slightly. She did know! But why had she not asked him anything? Did this mean she has already chosen to marry Prince Danarius? Her eyes seemed to change from power to seduction. He felt aroused just by her eyes and he wondered why? Was he actually falling for this beautiful killer? He was slightly intrigued to the thought of her mysterious mind. Elius decided right then that he would do anything to unravel her protective shield of armor and see the true woman in front of him. He wanted to sneak in on this animal and make Althea his. He wanted to find her weaknesses and use them to steal her heart. Elius knew right then he was going to stop at nothing to make this captivating woman fall for him like he was falling for her.
In an almost seductive way he winked to Althea to try to catch her off guard, but it did not work. She giggled at the gesture and then looked back to him. Her gaze told him exactly what she wanted to tell him and when she turned to Sir Epirus and set her hand over his under the table in a way that only Elius could see it he knew he had read her silent message correctly. Let the games begin, Althea, he thought back.
Althea could not sleep with excitement she knew she should not posses just because it was June 25th. She got out of bed and knew by the sounds of birds coming from her guest room’s open window that the sun was soon to be brought back to the earth by the lovely Hemera and soon Nyx would be gone. As she slipped on a pair of shoes she looked to her sleeping brother. He lay on his side with his face towards her, his left arm on top of his pillow and the one next to it, and his right arm now lay in the empty spot next to him where Althea used to rest. Althea crept out of the room and made no noise as she also slipped out of the castle. She went to the garden near the shooting range and sat upon a cold, marble bench next to her favorite flower; the rose. Althea set her hand on a blooming red rose and was accidentally pricked by a thorn. She looked down to her index finger on her right hand and saw a drip of blood go from her hand and onto her white night gown. Out of nowhere Althea felt woozy, but she still tried to stand. Everything blacked out after that.
Althea woke to a noise she could not make out. She came to and looked around her. The noise came again and she realized it was someone yelling her name. She used her abs to help her sit up but immediately grabbed her stomach and turned to her side. She had never felt sickness like this. Her insides seemed to be inflamed and she was frightened she was too ill to call back to her pursuers. The sound came again, but this time it was not of the same pitch. A girl had called her name and immediately she knew it was Cilia, but who had called her name before? It was definitely too deep for Cilia. A man called her name this time and she was stunned; it was Prince Elius who called out to her. Another man called the name again and she knew it was Cletus, but she was relieved when she heard the lovely voice that belonged to her twin brother. Arles was looking for her too. By the tone of his voice he seemed out of breath and frantic. He was worried about her. They had just talked about how worried he was for her and she had gone off and disappeared. She hated that she had worried him and decided to risk her own pain to relieve his. She clenched her chest and opened her mouth.
“Arles!” She yelled back and his footsteps came in her direction. He was sprinting with his god given gift and she was relieved when he kneeled at her side. His eyes darted to her chest where she was holding. All the sudden relief turned to gagging and she quickly sat up. She turned her head from him and vomited everything she had in her system into the garden. She was happily surprised when her brother’s hands grazed both sides of her neck and then held her hair back from her sickness. Althea knew he was doing the most he could to help her right now and was thankful. When her dry heaving was over she limply fell back to the ground, but her head never touched the rocks and then her feet and torso lifted off the ground. Arles’s arms were under her and he seemed to fly back to their room with many shouting followers. Althea made an almost vulnerable whimper in the middle of the hall near their room and regretted that she could not keep it to herself. Arles stopped dead in his tracks and seemed to check her body to make sure it was all there.
“Just hold on for a few more seconds, Althea.” He pleaded sadly and she nodded in a regretful way. She hated him seeing her like this and hated even more that she could not even control her body now. Tears poured down her face, as the pain seemed to move up her body slowly. By the time she was set in her bed the burning sensation was now to her breasts. People started to come into the room behind them, but Arles quickly locked the door. Althea heard Cletus and Epirus banging on the door and yelling but all she could really do was hold her chest where the burning screamed. Arles put his hand to Althea’s head and it felt weird, “You’re burning.” He whispered in a sigh and then went to the door, “Just stay here and rest for a while, Althea. I will be back in an hour to check on your fever.” He then left the room and pushed the crowd away with him. He locked the door from the outside with a key and after a while the yelling and pounding stopped. Althea dozed on and off into sleep with the fluctuation of pain. By midday she woke up from a short nap and realized she was not in pain anymore. Now she just felt queasy but could deal with that. She stood up slowly and made her way to her suitcase across the room. She opened it and took out a corset with a knee length navy colored dress. Now that she was going to try to lure in the two princes she needed to dress the part. She slipped off her nightgown and slid on her corset. She used the handle that locked the open window as support to tighten the strings. When she tied it into a tight knot she went over and slipped on her skirt to make the bottom of her dress fluff out. She tied it around her waist and then slipped on the dress. She remembered that this dress has short sleeves, a v-neck that showed off her breasts, and was made of an odd material. Althea looked down to fix her skirt but froze. Were her eyes deceiving her? Was this tattoo an illusion or was it real? Althea set the palm of her hand on the star that had a ring of small flowers beautifully designed to show the most rare tattoo of all; the mark of earths’ creator herself. Not Uranus, who created the gods and the heavens. No, it was more important than that. This was the marking of the woman that created all humans, animals, and plants of all the planets. Gaia, the wife of Uranus, is as powerful as her husband or maybe even more powerful. She had blessed Althea. After all these years of wait Althea was finally blessed! But what were her powers? There have only been three women to posses this gift in the history of mankind but they were never tested for their exact skills because they were so rare. Althea was overcome with joy and had to tell Arles immediately. She sprinted to the door and unlocked it. She flew into the empty hall and went out the front door of the castle with tears of happiness pouring down her face as she clasped her prize so that he would not see it before she showed him. When she got outside she saw Cletus who turned to her and came to her side. Cletus was concerned why Althea was crying and why she was holding her chest.
“Cletus! Where is my brother?” she begged but he just stared at her, “Cletus!” she yelled and he shook out of thought.
“H…he’s inside with the four royals.” He stammered and she flew away from him. She ran in and hysterically started yelling to nowhere in particular.
“Arles! Arles!” she called and the doors to the dinning room were thrown open. Arles ran to his sister’s call and was frightened by her tears, but was confused when she smiled, “It’s happened!” She cried with joy.
“What’s happened, Althea?” He asked curiously as Prince Elius, the king, Cilia, and Catreus looked to her also.
“I’ve been gifted!” She laughed in pleasure and his eyes widened he looked directly to the place her hands covered and looked back to her face before going back to her chest. She removed her hands as he took a step backwards to stable him. He froze and looked up to her teary face.
She nodded in agreement, “Yes! It’s the mark of our great lady Gaia!” She yelled and immediately Arles hugged her and lifted her feet off the ground. He twirled her around as he kissed her cheek and then set her back down. His glace went back to her crest and he seemed mesmerized. All five of the people did. Althea felt light headed and quickly sat on the ground. Arles quickly followed her in horror.
“Althea?” He asked curious.
“I’m alright. Just a little fatigued, that’s all.” She replied and then slowly stood again, “I have to go tell Epirus…”
“He’s at the shooting range.” Arles answered and she quickly ran off. She flew out the doors of the castle as the sun set. Her eyes darted straight to Epirus who dropped his arrow in shock of seeing her up. She ran to him and quickly took his hand in hers and then led him behind the small shed by the shooting range. She took his hand and set it on her chest. He was surprised that she was that willing for him to touch her so greatly but did not resist. When he realized what was under his hand he started laughing with joy and just looked at her tattoo.
“It’s beautiful, Althea,” He said and then set his hand on her cheek, “almost as beautiful as you are.” He said smoothly and then set his lips on hers. She wanted to kiss him forever, but they had to stop when they heard others near by.
Althea finally decided what she was going to do. She knew how much she was risking by the plan she had formed, but knew if the outcome came right the reward would be worth it. She slipped out of her and Arles’s room and crept outside. Howls came from the distance, but they did not stop her. She went directly to the second small cabin like home on the second row of them. They sat behind the castle and were home to all the royal guards. Because Epirus was such high rank he had one of these small homes to himself. Althea quickly crept through the back door and went to the room she knew he was probably sleeping in. She had only been to Epirus’s house once before and that had marked the day they started dating. She gently knocked on the door and a startled Epirus in only briefs opened the door, but calmed when he saw her face. “May I come in?” She whispered and he nodded. He moved out of the way and as she came in he turned on a small lamp in the corner of the dark room. Althea went and sat on his bed and he came to her side quickly. He looked at her curiously.
“What are you doing here so late?”
Althea felt her face burning but ignored it. This is what she wanted. “There is something I wanted to tell you and it could not wait till tomorrow.”
“Oh? What is it?”
She seductively traced the right side of his jaw and then caressed the side of his face. She leaned all of her small weight onto him and kissed him whole-heartedly. He was surprised by the gesture, “Epirus, I love you.” She whispered and he froze. She sighed and sat regularly, “I have loved you for a long time, but tonight I could not stop thinking about it. I then realized that I may be forced to marry soon and wanted to tell you that before I left. And…” she felt her face on fire, “and I want you to have all of me, Epirus.” She turned to him, “I am a virgin, but before I leave I want to give you this precious gift to show you haw much I really feel for you.”
Althea sat there and waited for a response. After an awkward silence she thought he would never speak and stood, but when she got only a step from him she was pulled so that she was lying on her back on the bed with him on top of her. He caressed her breasts as he kissed her, which he had never done before. She was slightly terrified, but trusted this man, “Althea, I love you more than anything and for you to give me such a beautiful gift makes me almost mad with pleasure!” He said and she smiled back to him. He started kissing her again and was caressing her to his full content. Althea knew there was a crack in the side of the window of Epirus’s room and she also knew that there listened Prince Elius who had followed her here. Just for the Princes’ entertainment she let out a moan of pleasure when Epirus slid off her gown and kissed her tattoo. They went on and Epirus led Althea through the steps she had never known before. Althea was shocked, but did not back away when the pain came to her. She squeezed the sheets around her in her hands as the pain kept on. “Are you alright?” Epirus asked as he stopped his movements and brushed her black curls from her face. She pulled herself up and kissed him again, “Should we stop?” He asked with regret and sadness in the back of his throat, but without too much of a pause Althea knew just what to say to please both of them and to irritate the one listening in on them.
“Please,” She whispered in a gasp, “Don’t stop.” She said seductively and Epirus smiled to her. He started moving again and she let out a moan of pleasure every time just for the man outside of the window. Truly this was not for the Prince, she wanted this, but she had decided to give the man outside the window a good show just to show how seductive she could be. He was not going to win this battle and she was going to make sure of it. He was going to fall for her weather he planned to or not.
“Althea,” Epirus whispered as he got off of her. He lay on his side next to her and played with her hair. He pulled the covers over both of them and held her in his arms, “we need to stop. You are in too much pain.”
“Alright,” She whispered, but then turned to him in a sexy way. She kissed him and he enjoyed it, “we will finish this at another date.” There was a silence and Althea waited for his words because of the changed in his facial expression.
“When will you be leaving me to be married?” He asked her in a sad way. She caressed his cheek to sooth him.
“I will try to delay my leave as long as I can, but I have a feeling I will have to leave in the next few months. But there is something you need to know, my love,” She said and he propped his head on his elbow as he looked down to her. She gently brushed his hair from his face, “There is a battle for my hand in marriage.”
“But I thought just Prince Danarius asked for your hand. Has someone else?”
She shook her head but sighed, “No one else has asked, but I found out from my brother that Prince Elius has not been fully truthful with his reasoning for being here.”
She nodded sadly, “He and Prince Danarius are the only two princes without a wife blessed to them by Hera and I am the only pure blooded woman left to marry. I believe Prince Elius is here to try to ask for my hand also, but he has not yet,” She had to keep herself from smiling because of her beautiful plan, “If he does not at least tell me the truth by tomorrow night then I will be accepting Prince Danarius’s proposal.”
“Don’t you think the prince will be angry to find out you are not like goddess Artemis?”
“If my virginity is such a problem for him then he can find another wife. I am the only one left for him so he must get over it,” She said and then looked to Epirus and spoke from her heart, “I’m glad I could finally show you how much I feel for you, my dear Epirus. I love you so much.” She whispered in a way that it seemed like she was trying to keep the words from the Prince outside, but enough so that he did hear her.
“I love you more than anything, Althea,” He whispered and then used his index finger to trace her tattoo, “I’m glad you were finally blessed. I know that bothered you.”
She nodded in agreement, but then slowly stood. She felt weaker than she had in a long time and was thankful when Epirus came behind her. He hugged her tightly to show he was supporting her and she kissed him once more, “I need to go. If Arles wakes up to find I am gone for the second time he will have a fit. I don’t want to make him worry again.” She whispered and he slowly let go of her. She slipped on her clothes and then left him. She went out the back door and knew that the Peeping Prince was hidden behind a bush to her right. She pulled her fingers through her hair and thought of how the end her show. She finally decided and then walked away from Epirus’s home. She turned back and knew the Prince could hear her as she set her hand over her tattoo, “Goodbye, my love.” She whispered and then smiled slightly. She did not move her gaze from the home as she spoke again, “Prince Elius, you should head back to the castle soon,” She said and knew he had gasped, “We wouldn’t want the King to worry about you since the sun is soon to rise.” She then stood in silence and walked away gracefully. She went right back to her room and carefully crawled back into her brother’s arms. She fell asleep at his side and woke to his stirring about two hours later. She rose and so did he. They got dress, but Althea tapped her brother’s shoulder after she had pulled on her skirt and corset. He turned and she noticed he only had on pants, “Could you help me?” She asked quietly and he nodded. She turned around and he tightened her corset strings like he used to do before he left three years ago. When he knotted the strings he turned her to him and set his hand over her tattoo.
“Althea, the gift of Gaia,” He said and then smiled to something that did not exist before turning back to her, “That has a beautiful ring to it.” He said and then let her go back to her suitcase. She slipped on a violet dress that was held up by her breasts, had a tie at her waist, and flowed to the ground from there. She slipped on a pair of silver shoes and turned to Arles. He was sitting on the bed, waiting for her to finish. He smiled to her, “you look radiant.” He said kindly and she walked over to him. She kissed him on the cheek like she used to when they were younger.
“Do you realize what today is?” She asked and he slowly stood with a nod, “Happy 18th birthday, Arles!” She said and hugged him. He hugged her back and kissed her cheek.
“Happy 18th birthday, dear Althea.” He replied and they let go of each other. They left the room but held each other’s hand as they went to the breakfast room. Althea opened the door and walked in with Arles following her. She noticed that there was three seats open as everyone stopped eating and looked to them. Prince Elius is not here? That is odd. Was he scared to approach me because of earlier? Althea thought.
Althea ignored the thoughts and went with her brother. They sat next to each other and kept their hands together. Cilia looked around from the other side of Arles with question. “You two seem very happy today,” Cilia commented and ignored the entrance of Prince Elius who sat across from Althea, “Any reason why you two are so giddy?”
Althea smiled to Cilia, “Today is June 26th.” She said plainly and no one understood, including Cilia. Cilia sat and stared at Althea with confusion but after a minute or so her eyes widened towards Althea.
“Oh!” Cilia laughed and then stood. She quickly ran over and hugged Althea, “Happy birthday!” She congratulated her friend and then turned towards Arles, “Happy 18th birthday to both of you!”
The king smiled as Cilia sat back in her seat, “Today is the 18th birthday of the twins?” He asked his daughter who nodded, “Then happy birthday Arles and Althea.” He said and both of them nodded a thank you to him. Althea felt someone watching her, other than the prince, so she looked in front of her. To the right of the Prince Elius, Epirus looked at her with shock. She slightly blushed towards him and nodded to his nonverbal question. He had been given her gift the day of her birth. She had planed it as so. Last night, as far as Epirus knew, what he was doing was not legal since he was 20 and she was under age. But in truth, last night at midnight, when she went to him, she was legally 18 and it was legal for them to have sex. She could feel his body loosen slightly and they smiled to each other, with the thought on Althea’s mind that only three people understood the true power of that smile. She kept her eyes from the prince who watched her and just ate her food while her brother spoke of their past three birthdays they had spent apart. She felt power coursing through her veins for the first time and she was confused why. Was it because she was now the most powerful human on earth or was it because she had control of her life for the first time? She decided it was both.
Cilia pounced on Althea when they left the breakfast room. Althea turned to the smiling princess who stared at the tattoo on her. “Can I touch it?” Cilia asked in a polite way and Althea nodded. Her friend’s finger traced the tattoo and Althea’s gaze went to Epirus who knew exactly what she was thinking. Last night flooded into his mind and he felt strong. Even if another man won Althea’s hand in Hera’ s blessing, Epirus still held her most precious gift and the key to Althea’s heart. Althea quickly looked back to her friend as Cilia finally had traced the whole tattoo. Cilia smiled to Althea and held their hands together, “I guess this explains why you are so good at archery.” She giggled and Althea smiled back to her.
“Yea. I guess it does.” Althea replied and they both laughed quietly. This is going to work, Althea thought.
Althea walked outside the castle while still wearing her violet dress for her birthday and was happy to finally find her brother, but she was not pleased to see who was with him. She did not need to see him at a time like this. She did not want to think about her devilish plan right now. But she also needed to talk to Arles before she left the premises, but was it worth running into him? She decided to take the risk and went over to the two men at the middle of the walkway, “Arles,” She started and both men turned to her.
“Oh Althea, we were just talking about you.” Arles said in a very formal way as Prince Elius nodded to agree.
“Arles, I need to speak to you…” She started to say, but her brother stopped her.
“Is something wrong?” He asked with full-hearted concern towards her.
“No, I just wanted to tell you I am going to be leaving so that if you needed me you would not be worried to find I was gone,” She explained and both men gazed to her, “I am going back to our grandparents home.”
“Althea…” Arles said with sadness lingering in his voice.
“I need to do this, Arles. For them and for me. I need to go back.” She said with pure confidence.
“Then I’ll go…”
“No Arles you shouldn’t come.” She interrupted.
“I’m not going to let you go by yourself, Althea.”
“Then I will go get…” She started to say but Prince Elius cut in.
“I will go with you.” He said with a smile to Althea.
“Then it’s settled.” Arles said without Althea’s consent on the matter, but she knew this subject was not worth fighting over. She started off on her journey and Prince Elius quickly came to her side. She made sure he did not get too close to her as Arles spoke again, “Be careful out there, Althea!” Arles called after her with concern of a sibling.
She waved her hand back to him, but did not turn, “Yes mother!” She called back with a sigh and then stopped in front of the gate with Prince Elius. The gate was called to open. When it did they quickly went through so that it could close again. Althea walked without any concern for the gaze of the Prince, but finally got annoyed by his eyes on her, “Prince Elius…” She started to say and she caught sight of him shaking his head from the corner of her eye.
“Please. Call me Elius.” He requested and she frowned.
“Fine. Elius, why did you offer to come here?” She asked and knew he was caught off guard by such an upfront question, “Were you worried I would ask Epirus to escort me?”
“How did you know that?” He asked with suspicion, “Can you read my thoughts?” He asked and waited for an answer, but the older man that quickly moved to her diverted her attention. The man held her hands and his and almost bowed to them.
“Oh Althea, I just heard about what happened to Abas and Dia. Are you alright?” The man asked as he looked to her sharp eyes, as they seemed to become kinder.
“I will be.”
He sighed with pity for her, “Well if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask me.” He said and she gently kissed the man’s cheek in a sign of respect.
“Thank you for such kind words. I’m sure my grandparents would truly appreciate your generosity.” She said and then the man slowly walked away from her. She brought Elius just around the corner of the next street and stopped in front of the shop she was hunting for. She brought a key to the door and unlocked it, “No, Elius. I cannot read minds, but I can tell by your actions, your personality, and your expressions what you are feeling and by that I can figure out what it is about,” Althea went to the tipped over cash register and looked at the damage, “You are a very easy person to understand.”
“What makes you say that?” He asked with true curiosity as Althea picked up the cash register and put it in its original place. Althea looked to see if anything was left on the shelves of the store.
“You are much like my best friend in Selia,” She explained, but then stopped walking. She put her hand in front of him. “Take a seat. I will be right back.” She said and then seemed to disappear into another room. Elius sat at the seat behind the front desk and waited. When she came back into view Elius noticed she was carrying a broom, sweep pan, and trash bag. She set the bag beside Elius’s feet and then started sweeping up the shattered glass and pottery on the floor of the store.
“Who was this friend you say I am like?” Elius asked as he watched Althea sweeping.
She did not move her focus from her work as she replied, “His name is Demonice Isaac.”
“That name sounds very familiar…” Elius said as he tried to remember where he had heard that name. Althea laughed lightly to herself and stopped sweeping. She held her broom and looked to Elius.
“I’d imagine so. Demonice is now the head guard of Prince Danarius. He moved to Nyarius right after my parents were killed and I left,” She replied and then went back to sweeping. She brushed a pile of broken things into the dustpan near her and then walked over to Elius. He was surprised but felt stupid for getting his hopes up when she looked at the bag, “Can you hold that open for me?” She asked and he did so. She dumped the load into the bag, went back to the other pile she had made, brushed it into the dustpan, came back to Elius, and dumped the last of the mess into the bag. She took the bag from Elius, tied the top, and set it outside the front door. She then took the broom and dustpan back from where she had gotten them and came back to Elius, “Could you help me bring all the stuff that is still on the shelves to this counter?” She asked and he nodded. They started taking things down and bringing them to the counter over and over again.
When Elius went back to get an eighth handful of antiques and souvenirs he looked over his shoulder to Althea, “Do you speak to your old friend anymore?”
Althea shook her head as she went back to another shelf, “I have only seen him three times since I left our old town and each time was not the place to talk of past things. Anyways, he hates Cilia for some reason and I don’t want to get caught between the two of them. It isn’t my place to speak.” She said and then placed more things on the slowly filling counter. Elius then realized the only things left to bring to the counter were the ones in his hands right then. Althea sat down on the stool by the counter as he brought his last group of things over.
“So does your brother know about your relationship with Epirus?” Elius asked and Althea did not seem surprised.
“He knows I have feelings towards Epirus and Cletus, but he does not know everything. Only you, Prince Peeper, know what happened last night and I intend to keep it that way.” She said with a movement to become more comfortable in the stool that was so small.
“And what makes you think I have not told Arles or anyone else?” He asked with a smile. Althea stood and he was surprised when she leaned against him. Her whole body pressed against his as one arm wrapped around his neck and her other hand played with his hair.
“I know you are not stupid, Sir Elius. If you breathed a word about my secret I would have to tell everyone about your true reason for being here and that you are stalking me.”
He smiled in an evil way as he gently caressed her neck with one hand and put his other arm around her waist to pull her closer to him, “I never said I didn’t want anyone to know about those things, Althea. You have no power over the situation right now, I do,” He said and then moved his hand from her neck and touched her lips, “You will have to keep me quiet if you do not want your brother to know about last night.”
She kissed his lips quickly and then pulled away from him before he could pull her back; “You have no power over me, even if you think you do,” She replied with a smile as she sat back down in the stool, “I am the ruler of this cat and mouse game.”
“Oh? And what makes you say that?” He asked as he moved a step closer to her.
“I have the choice of who I want to marry, Elius, and right now Prince Danarius is looking very suitable. He has wealth, power, grace, and my best friend. But you,” She looked away from him, “You are just some prince with nothing to offer me and I’m not seeing anything to change my mind.” She went past him. She walked up the old stairs and looked back to him, “Follow me, Elius. I need your help.” She said and he did so. Althea led Elius to her grandparent’s room and he sat on the bare bed. The policemen must have taken the sheets for examination; Althea guessed as she went into the kitchen, “Elius, can you grab a box from under the bed?” She asked and he brought a cardboard box to her. She took everything out of the shelves as Elius sat on the ground and watched. She gently placed the small amount of dishes into the box, but stopped when she opened a cupboard she was told to never go into. Her hands went over her mouth as she took a step back. Elius quickly rose to his feet.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Elius asked as he came to her side. He looked to the shelved to see two large, colorful jars that had no lids. They were in the shapes of eggplants and he was curious what they were. He went over to touch the jars, but his arm stopped when Althea grabbed it with both hands, “What are these?” He asked her curiously and realized she was crying. His arms went around her and she did not fight his gentle hold. He hugged her and she set her head on his left shoulder. Tears covered his shirt, but he did not care. He was concerned for her.
“They told me they didn’t find their bodies…they told Arles that their bodies had been taken.” She whispered into his neck and he did not understand.
“You’re making no sense, Althea.”
She sniffled and then looked into his face, “My grandparents…they told us our parent’s bodies were not found after the stabbing…” She whispered and his eyes widened. He understood now. Those jars are her parent’s remains. Her grandparents had told her that the bodies of her parents’ were never found but in truth, their bodies were right here.
“Oh, Althea.” He whispered sadly and then brushed away her tears, “I’m sorry.” He whispered and she turned to the jars. She let go of him and he did the same. She picked up the jar that had purple and pink flowers painted on it and then set it down before picking up the one with waves painted in blue and green.
“Dad.” She whispered to the blue and green painted jar and Elius knew that was her father as the pink and purple one was her mother. She slowly brought the two jars to the box and set them in it. She sniffled, wiped her cheeks, and went on. Elius was surprised by her power over her own emotions. If he had been in that situation he would have never handled it so well. She was remarkable.
A knock came to the door downstairs and Althea looked to Elius with curiosity. “I’ll get it.” She whispered and then crept downstairs. She was surprised to see the policeman she knew that had been with her when she found her grandparents dead. She opened the door and he came in, “Hello, sir Haifa.”
“Good afternoon, Lady Althea. I was just told by Mr. Credo that you were here.”
She nodded, “He spoke to me when I was walking here.”
“I was just coming to make sure everything was alright…” He said and she nodded a second time.
“I’m thinking of selling the home, Sir,” She informed him and then looked to his eyes, “Also I was thinking and I would like to have my grandparents cremated.”
“Are you sure, Lady Althea?” He asked and she nodded for the third time.
“I will be moving in the next month or so, Sir, so I was hoping you would set this home up for sale.”
“Moving?” He asked and sighed, “I don’t blame you for not wanting to stay here.”
She shook her head, “That’s not it, sir. I will be getting married and will be moving in with my husband.”
“Married? Well that is marvelous! Best wishes to you, Lady Althea,” He said and she nodded, “And I will be happy to sell the home for you.”
“Thank you. I am moving the last of the stuff out right now so I will not be coming back. Could you give my regards to the towns’ people?” She asked and he nodded. He had a sad expression, but knew this was the best for her.
“Then I will put it up for sale tomorrow, my lady.” He said and then walked out of the door, but turned back to her, “Goodbye, Lady Althea.” He whispered and then shut the door. She went back upstairs and saw that Elius was packing up the rest of her things in her room. She went over to her grandparent’s room and finished packing, but stopped when she came upon a box she had never seen before. On the top it said, ‘For Althea and Arles’. She sat down on the naked bed and took the lid off the box. The first thing she took out was a piece of paper. She opened it and was shocked to see her grandmother’s writing, but kept on.
Dear Althea and Arles, it started, if you have found this then we have passed on to join your parents in the arms of the gods. We have been discussing what we want to leave with you two when we pass away and have finally decided. In this box we have left the two of you all the pictures we have of your parents with you and of us with you. Along with this we leave the will to our home in Althea’s hands since Arles is on the move so much it seemed fair. Arles, you will receive your father’s watch and your father and grandfather’s wedding rings. Althea, you will receive your mother and my wedding rings and all of our jewelry along with the will. Since both of you were so upset about your parents’ death we have kept a secret from you. Your parent’s bodes were found and were cremated and now rest in the cupboard you were never allowed to open. As for our wishes for your future we would like for Arles to marry his girlfriend of 6 years and because of the princess crisis you two will or have become aware of we would like for Althea to marry the Prince of Ebony. Prince Elius the 4th is the son of your parent’s good friends and he is a very trustworthy man that would make Althea very happy. We have discussed the idea of Althea marrying the Prince of Nyarius, but he seems too judgmental to get along with our angel in life.
We will always love both of you and hope you are happy for the rest of your lives. Please do not cry over our deaths. We do not want to cause you pain. Instead use our memories to keep as reminders of your family and they will make you strong.
Love for you always,
Grandma Dia and Grandpa Abas
Althea brushed tears from her face and then looked into the box. Inside laid a piece of paper below a jewelry box that took up most of the space in the box. Althea realized she had seen this jewelry box before. This was her mother’s jewelry box. Althea pulled the paper from under the jewelry box and went downstairs to see Elius. She could feel her face was warm. If anyone other than her saw this paper then he would be given power in this game and she wouldn’t have that. Elius smiled to her sadly as she noticed he had brought down the two boxes of things with him. She put the jewelry box and the note from her grandparents into the box closest to her and then picked up the box. She walked over to put the other box on top of the one in her hands, but Elius picked it up, “I’ll take it.” He said as he started to carry it. Althea then shut the door behind him, and led him down the road but stopped in front of a familiar home. She looked over to Elius who was at her side.
“I’ll be right back.” She said and then went to the door. She set down her box, fixed her dress, and rang the doorbell. A young woman opened the door and sadly smiled to her.
“Oh hello, Althea. I’m sorry to hear of your misfortune.” She whispered but Althea shook her head.
“Thank you for your concern, but do not feel too bad for me. I do not wish for pity,” She said, “Is your husband home?”
The woman nodded and walked away. The lady never came back, but Sir Haifa appeared. He smiled to Althea, “Hello Lady Althea.” He said kindly.
“Here is the key to the home and the will. My grandparents left it in my hands so you can sell it.” She said and he nodded. He took the key and paper from Althea, “Goodbye, Sir.” She said and then picked up her box. He watched her and Elius walk away, but she ignored his watch. She went with Elius to the castle and the gate was opened for them. They went inside and put the boxes in Althea’s room. When Elius finally left her she lay on her bed and looked at the ceiling. She started to cry and wished she could be with her grandparents right now. She wanted to understand why they wanted her to marry Elius.
Althea felt pain in her stomach and quickly sat up. Arles still slept beside her, so she slowly crept from her room. She went outside to the fresh air and lay on the back porch of the castle on the stone railing. The coldness helped with the pain in her stomach. She wondered if it was because of her tattoo, and that was confirmed when she vomited into a bush below the railing. She lay back down and started to shiver. This pain was not like when she got her tattoo. It seemed not as strong and powerful. After two hours of shivering Althea sat up. Now her breasts burn slightly below her tattoo and her left eye was teary and irritated. She went back inside and went to the bathroom. She shut the wooden door and turned on the light. She walked over to the sink and splashed water into her eye and the irritation lessoned as her burning chest stopped also. She walked over to the full-length mirror next to the bath and froze. Who was this person in front of her? Had she somehow woken up in someone else’s body? The body looked much like hers, except the girl’s hair had darkened to an extreme black, her right eye was green, her left eye seemed to be only a pupil, and her skin seemed a flawless white, more so than Arles’s skin. Althea pinched her arm and realized this was herself. But what had happened? Her eyes were blue before. She walked closer to the mirror to examine her left eye and realized that her iris was a slightly lighter black than her pupil, but it was black! Althea had never heard of someone having black eyes and she had certainly not heard of someone having one black eye and one green. Althea then pulled off her nightgown and checked the rest of her body for differences. She was immediately drawn to her chest. Above he breasts was the symbol of Gaia, but it had changed. Now the vine that went around the star hand lengthened. It now went around the star and then each side of it made a squiggle to each side of the star and linked to two new tattoos. The one on the left of the star was a crescent moon with a small star in the middle of the tips of the crescent. This was the sign of Nyx, the goddess of night and stars. To the right of Gaia’s tattoo was a sun with a majestic bird in the middle of it. This was the sign of Hemera, the goddess of daylight and sun. But why was she marked with two other tattoos? Only a few people had possessed two tattoos, but she had never heard of three! And certainly not of two tattoos that were each other’s opposite. Althea slipped on her nightgown and opened the door of the bathroom near the back door of the castle. She heard the call of birds and knew the sun was rising. Then a sharp pain came to Althea’s left eye and she grabbed it. The pain lasted only a few seconds but she went to the mirror once it was gone. Her eye had changed! The eye that used to be black was now hazel like the sun. She realized this was made because of her new tattoos. Her green eye represented Gaia while her left eye represented the two other goddesses. When it was night it was black to symbolize Nyx and it was hazel when it was day to represent Hemera. Althea ripped the bottom of her nightgown off and wrapped it over her left eye and around her head and tied it. She pulled her hair over the top of it so that only the part of the cloth that was on her face showed. She looked into the mirror and hated to limit her eyesight, but had to. She did not want people to learn of her three tattoos or her color-changing eye until she had this whole thing sorted out. She knew she had to change before Arles woke because he would see her marks. She quickly crept back into her room, slipped on a corset, used the doorknob to tighten the strings, tied a knot in the back of the corset, slipped on her skirt, and pulled on her dress. She chose the only dress she owned that did not show off her chest which had a small round neck cut that did not show her tattoos, had no sleeves, was white, and had pink flowers all over it. She brushed her hair and then slipped outside of the room again with no shoes on. No one would be up for another two hours, so she went to the shooting range and opened the shed. She took out her bow and all the arrows available and brought them to one of the two targets set up from yesterday. As she shot all the arrows she cleared her mind and put all her troubles and problems behind her for as long as she could, but that was interrupted by footsteps on the dew-covered grass near her. She turned to the right to see Cletus who smiled to her. His golden hair glistened in the sun as his blue eyes struck her. He was wearing ridding pants, boots, and a white shirt that had a v-neck cut to show his tattoo of an arrow to represent the god Nike of victory. He had his hands in his pant pockets as he walked over to Althea. She quickly went back to what she was doing and tried to pretend she did not care that he was watching her, but she could not keep her thoughts from him for long. He came behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist as he kissed the back of her neck. She slowly put her arms on his and set the bow on the ground in front of her. He kissed higher on her neck, then higher, then to her jaw, and stopped at her cheek. He turned her around to him and was concerned about the cloth over her eye, “Did something happen to your eye?” He asked with concern and Althea was sure to choose her words wisely.
“It is irritated and bloodshot so I am going to let it heal for a day or so.” She whispered back and he gently kissed the cloth above her eye.
“Is it painful?”
She smiled to him in a naughty way, “Not since you showed up.” She whispered and he smiled too. He then kissed her lips for only a moment as they heard the door of the castle open. Althea quickly let go of Cletus and he did the same. Althea turned to see Prince Elius staring at her. She looked away from him and walked away from Cletus who quickly left them. Althea went over to the hay bail she had shot at and started taking out the arrows when she felt Elius near her.
“Is something going on between you and Cletus?” He asked her, but she did not look to him, “But I thought you were with Epirus.”
Althea felt the anger of everything happening lately rush through her all at once. She almost took all her anger out on Elius but quickly caught herself. She pulled the last arrow out of the hay and stood without looking to him, “Please go away, Prince Elius.” She whispered and tried her best not to hiss. She quickly walked away from him but he followed her.
“I’m not going away, Althea.” He retorted and she quickly pulled up an arrow. She concentrated and tried to take out all of her anger in this arrow. She shot it with all her strength as he watched her and she was shocked when the arrow flew through the center of the hay bail and went further. She quickly dropped the bow and walked past the bail of hay. When she picked up the arrow that stopped about ten feet from the hay bail she could not tell if Epirus was still there because of her eye. She stood to see the Prince was there and now he was speechless by the sight of her covered eye, “Did someone hurt your eye?”
She shook her head and then walked away, but he followed. Finally she had had enough and turned to him, “Stop following me.”
He shook his head to her and she frowned, “I am not leaving until you tell me what is going on. You lost your virginity to Epirus two nights ago, but today I come out here to see you kissing Cletus.”
“It doesn’t concern you, Prince Elius.” She retorted and then walked to her bow but he followed. He followed her when she put away her stuff and when she went inside. Finally she gave in and turned to him, “What do you want me to tell you Prince Elius?”
“Are you in love with either of those men? Or are you using them both, Althea?” He asked and she sighed.
“I would never use them and I love them both.”
“Then why are you doing these things to both of them? If you keep it up they will be hurt in the end.”
“I just want to give them what they want. I love both of them and do not want to make them unhappy,” She replied and then turned back to walk, “There is nothing else for me to tell you, Prince Elius. So leave me be.”
“But…” He started to argue, but Cilia saw them and ran over to them, which stopped him.
“Oh Althea! What happened?” She yelled as her hand gently went over Althea’s eye. Althea smiled to Cilia to assure her it was okay even though it was not.
“It is nothing, Cilia. Do not worry.” Althea said and then quickly walked away before Elius could follow her. She went to her room to see Arles buttoning his shirt. He smiled to Althea.
“What happened to your eye?” He asked and she shook her head as she went over to her bed.
“Please don’t ask.” She whispered as she lay down on the bed on her side in a limp way and he came to her. He lifted her head, sat down, and laid her head on his lap, “It’s only 8 and I am already having a horrible day!” She whimpered as Arles stroked her hair. He stopped suddenly and she looked up to him.
“Your eye’s green?” He asked and she sighed.
“It’s the sign of Gaia, I guess.”
“So when am I allowed to ask about the eye?” He asked as he started stroking her hair again. She sighed again.
“I’ll tell you later, but first I need to show you something that has been bugging me.” She said and stood. He stayed on the bed as she went over to the boxes from her grandparent’s home and pulled out the note and jewelry box. She unfolded the paper and looked up to him, “I found this while packing this stuff. I’ll read it for you… Dear Althea and Arles, if you have found this then we have passed on to join your parents in the arms of the gods. We have been discussing what we want to leave with you two when we pass away and have finally decided. In this box we have left the two of you all the pictures we have of your parents with you and of us with you. Along with this we leave the will to our home in Althea’s hands since Arles is on the move so much it seemed fair. Arles, you will receive your father’s watch and your father and grandfather’s wedding rings. Althea, you will receive your mother and my wedding rings and all of our jewelry along with the will. Since both of you were so upset about your parents’ death we have kept a secret from you. Your parent’s bodes were found and were cremated and now rest in the cupboard you were never allowed to open. As for our wishes for your future we would like for Arles to marry his girlfriend of 6 years and because of the princess crisis you two will or have become aware of we would like for Althea to marry the Prince of Ebony. Prince Elius the 4th is the son of your parent’s good friends and he is a very trustworthy man that would make Althea very happy. We have discussed the idea of Althea marrying the Prince of Nyarius, but he seems too judgmental to get along with our angel in life. Please do not cry over our deaths. We do not want to cause you pain. Instead use our memories to keep as reminders of your family and they will make you strong. Love for you always, Grandma Dia and Grandpa Abas.” She said and then looked to Arles who was searching his hands for something as she slowly opened the jewelry box. She took out a gold watch and the two wedding rings that were his now. She set the two rings in his hands and he finally looked to her.
“How could they not have told us that they had found mom and dad’s bodies? We had a right to know.” Arles told her and she slowly stood. She went over to the boxes again and took out the two jars without lids. She handed them to Arles and he just stared at them. Althea decided it was time to come out with everything to Arles.
“Arles, I put the house up for sale.” She whispered and he turned to her.
She nodded to him, “I couldn’t live there and did not want to leave it,” She whispered but then looked into her brother’s eyes with her one eye, “How could they do that?” She asked him and he was confused.
“Do what, Althea?”
She felt a tear run down her cheek, “How could they tell me to marry Prince Elius! They never even told me about this whole princess crisis or that I had a choice! They just chose my life for me! How could they do that to me! How could they do that to us! They left you and me with so many questions that can’t be answered! They kept our parents from us when we should have been able to choose if they were buried or cremated!” She yelled and then looked away from Arles, “And I am as bad as them! I have been lying to you too!” She pulled her legs to her chest and curled into a ball, “I lied to the only person I can trust in this world! How could I be so mean?”
“Lied? About what?”
“About my feelings towards Epirus, my feelings while you were gone, and my feelings right now! All I have done is lie!” She cried and his hand went to her shoulder.
“I forgive you, Althea. But you need to tell me the truth now.”
She looked up to him and then to the floor, “I love Epirus,” She whispered and he froze but she kept on, “Every night you were gone these past three years I cried myself to sleep and thought about you all the time,” She said and he slightly loosened with guilt, “And there is something wrong with me, Arles. Right now.”
“What’s wrong? Is it your eye?” He asked and she looked to him as she nodded.
“My eye and my tattoo.”
“Did it disappear?” He asked with hope of it being wrong and was relieved when she shook her head. She untied the cloth around her face and took it off. Arles saw her gold eye and was taken back by it, “What happened to it?” He asked and she stood in response. She pulled off her dress and he froze. He saw her three tattoos and slowly stood. He put his hand on the two new tattoos as he looked to Althea for answers.
“This morning I woke up with the same symptoms as I had when I got my tattoo three days ago. I went outside and vomited so when I went into the bathroom the burning that had been in my left eye and my chest stopped so I looked into the mirror to see my eyes. The right one looked just like it does now but…” She paused and felt a tear go down her face, “But my left eye was black. For a while I thought it was my pupil was large, but when I looked closer I realized the iris and pupil of my eye were two different shades of black. Then the sun came up and my eye started to burn and I looked to my eye again to see it had changed from black to hazel. It had changed with the changing of power between the goddesses that have marked me.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before…” He whispered and she hiccupped as she started to calm down.
“I’m scared something is terribly wrong with me.” Althea whispered with pure fear in her heart, but they were both distracted when there was a knock on the door, “Yes?” Althea asked as she pulled herself back together.
“Althea, there is a man here to see you. He works for Prince Darius and insists to speak with you right away.” Cletus whispered into the room and politely did not come inside. Althea slowly put her dress back on, but stopped when Arles grabbed her arm. He stood beside her and kissed her cheek.
“Demonice has come to speak with you. He will not care about your eye,” He whispered, “Do not hide your true self from your best friend.” Althea left with her brother’s words holding her head high even with her odd eye showing. She walked past Cletus quickly and then went outside of the castle. She smiled kindly as the tall man descended from his horse and handed the reigns to a maid. The blonde haired, blue-eyed male in a soldier’s uniform bowed to Althea, but then stood with a smile. He embraced the petit warrior and she hugged him back. He kissed her cheek in a friendly manor before looking down to the woman’s face and stopping.
“What an honor it is to see you, Lady Althea! It has been too long since our paths have intertwined!” He laughed in a deeper voice than Althea expected. He had certainly matured and changed since the last time they met.
“You are curious of my eyes, no?” I asked with a slight smile of compassion.
“Sad to say they are too captivating to miss.”
“In time I will tell you, but now let’s retire to a more suitable meeting spot.” Althea said and then led Demonice in the direction of the back porch of the castle. When they passed a familiar maid she let out a shriek of terror as her hands covered her mouth. Althea looked away from her as her terrified eyes stared at Althea’s mismatched pair. Althea walked faster with Demonice pulled behind her. She stopped at a table with two seats on the back porch and gestured for Demonice to sit in the further chair. He did so as she sat in the seat in front of herself while a sigh with deep meanings came from her lips.
“What in the name of our lovely mother, Gaia, is going on here Althea? People seemed to be terrified of you!” Demonice leaned closer to Althea, “If this is the way people in this area are treating you I must insist you come back to my prince with me. As you friend I cannot allow such rude things to happen you while I can change such!”
Althea shook her head, “It is my fault people are acting in such ways towards me. I have shocked them,” She looked away from her friends’ eyes, “My eyes were both blue this morning, but something has happened to me that has caused me to hide my golden eye in hopes of not letting my true self show. They are just shocked because I hid such oddities from them.” She slightly pulled down the rounded collar on her dress to show her three tattoos that sent Demonice straight to his feet. He ran to her side and traced her marks with his fingers.
“They are beautiful, Althea.” He whispered to her and she slowly shook her head with regret.
“There are three of them! Have you ever seen a being with more than two marks? It is certainly not a natural trait!” She yelled to him and he seemed to pity her without speaking, “And my golden eye turns as black as the night Nyx brings to us every night! I have never heard of someone’s eyes changing with the time of day!”
“They may not be normal, Althea, but that just means Gaia loves you enough to make you unique. It is not a bad thing to hold such a magnificent and amazing trait on yourself, it is a blessing given by our mother. Do not hide such oddities you posses, show your marks with pride!” He announced and she slowly nodded as she stood.
“I shall change into something to preset my gifts.” Althea whispered and Demonice smiled with a nod. He followed her to her room where he waited outside as she changed into a dress made of pink silk that bunched at her breasts and then flowed away from her like a pink stream. She put on a pair of pink shoes before joining Demonice outside of her room and walking back outside. “Now I must tell you something, Demonice.” She started and he nodded with a familiar smile towards her.
Althea escorted Demonice back to his horse so that he could tell his prince of news and he hugged her goodbye before he rode off. Once he was out of sight she went back to the castle and to the dining room. “Althea! How marvelous of you to…!” The king started to radiate, but his spoon dropped from his hand and rattled against his plate before falling to the ground. The king’s jaw froze open as everyone else’s eyes widened and they joined the king in the act of dropping their utensils that made a lot of noise. The only one who did not react was Arles who smiled towards her and offered her the seat next to him with a friendly gesture. She gracefully went to the seat and sat down with a slight bow of her head towards the king.
“Good evening, my king.” She whispered in a sweet way as he finally blinked.
“Your eyes!” He exclaimed, “And three tattoos!”
She nodded towards him, “Yes, our mother Gaia seems to have blessed me with more than anyone would believe. She has given me the mark of her own, Hemera, and Nyx while changing my appearance all together.”
“It is magnificent, Althea!” Cilia exclaimed as she stood. She came to Althea’s side and examined Althea’s tattoo’s and eyes at a closer range, “This must mean Gaia believes you are special! She must be fond of you!”
“Someone just told me that same thing not more than an hour ago.” I commented and Arles looked to Althea.
“Oh, speaking of the past hour, where is Demonice?” Arles asked and Elius shot up, recognizing the name from his discussion with Althea at her grandparents…right before she kissed him for the first time.
“Demonice! Don’t compare me to that jerk!” Cilia complained as she went back to her seat.
“He left after we talked for a long time, just a moment ago actually. He told me to give the king his regards and to tell Arles that they should talk soon.”
Arles laughed lightly, “Shall he finally ask for me to reconsider letting you become his gift of Hera?”
“That was a long time ago, Arles. He is now actually engaged to Prince Danarius’s seamstress,” Althea explained, “Besides, he knows we can only be friends and that is why he is going to deliver something to his Prince for me.”
“Oh? And what did you ask him to give Prince Danarius? An acceptance to his proposal perhaps?”
“It is nothing important,” Althea said and then picked up her fork, “He and I will be going hunting tomorrow, that is all.” Althea did not look to anyone when she said this.
“I am sure Danarius will treat you like a diamond, Althea. He is known for being quite the charmer.” The king added and Althea looked to him with a nod.
Cletus let out a chuckle, “Let us hope our Althea does not dishonor the prince by beating him at a prince’s game.”
Cilia smiled, “Go easy on the poor lad, Althea. No one can keep up to your bow and arrow skills. Use a sword or some other tool to give him a fighting chance.”
Epirus put his hand on Althea’s shoulder since he sat to her right as he laughed, “Oh, Princess Cilia. Do not give her a sword either! I have seen her use such a weapon and she has mastered it more than she has mastered archery.”
“Truly?” Prince Catreus asked Althea with wide eyes.
Arles nodded for Althea, “We were trained for self defense with a sword when we were very young.”
“Our father was a military commander for the past king of Ebony alongside the present king of Ebony,” Althea replied as she felt the gaze of Elius, “He believed that all children should be able to defend themselves, even girls.”
“You both follow in his footsteps when it comes to battle. If women were allowed in war I would set Althea at your side, at the head of our soldiers, in a heartbeat.” The king said as he looked to Arles who immediately shook his head.
“Sir, if Althea was put in front of soldier’s they would never listen to me again! They would be too captivated by a trueborn leader such as Althea. She does posses our mother’s blood after all.”
“But with the power of Uranus and Gaia leading our troops, we would be unstoppable.”
“That is true sir, but what man in his right mind would ever take his eyes off of my lovely Althea?” Arles asked as he took her hand in his once more, but she did not look to him. She kept her eyes at her untouched food as everyone decided to finally eat. Althea did not touch her food for the whole time or look up from her plate to the worried people surrounding her. Althea’s hand squeezed her brothers suddenly and let out a gasp as her other hand went to her eye, “Althea!” Arles yelled as he jumped from his chair. He tried to move her hand from her face but she pushed him away as Epirus grabbed her wrist of the hand that covered her eye.
“It’s alright!” She yelled as she wiped the tears from her face that had quickly formed, “The sun is just setting and Nyx is returning to me.” She whispered in a groan as she doubled over with agony. Suddenly the pain left her and she removed more tears from her face before removing her hand from her face. Everyone gasped as they saw her new pair of eyes. One was green still, but the hazel one was now as black as night. She slightly smiled as a few more tears ran down her face; “I guess there are a few side effects with being blessed by three goddesses.”
“Mania seems to be one of your three blessings by how much pain this puts you through.” Epirus said with a sigh.
“If you will excuse me, my king, I must go wash out my eye. It is very irritated.” Althea whispered as she stood and pushed back her chair. She went to the bathroom and splashed water into her irritated eye, but when she was finished, she did not go back to the dinning room. She left the castle and went out to the shooting range. She picked up her bow and searched it for answers to so many question, “My lovely goddess of night, will you help me guide my arrow straight and true?” Althea whispered and felt her eyelids seem heavier. She knew the goddess was guiding her, so she closed her eyes. She imagined the target’s bull’s-eye that was about 50 feet from her and aimed her arrow in front of her. She let her fingers slip from the feathers of her arrow and heard it pierce something. She opened her eyes to see her arrow in the center of the bull’s-eye, “Is this what you give me, my goddess of darkness and stars? The ability to defy your blanket of darkness?” She could feel a shiver flow through her spine and knew that was the goddess’s answer of yes. She looked to her bow and felt her father’s lips against her forehead before she started crying. She wiped the tears quickly from her face and held her breath for a moment so that she could regain control of herself. Don’t lose to your emotion’s now, Althea. She told herself and then set down her bow. By now it was so dark Althea could barely see anything. She walked over to the shed for things and sat down with her back against the back of the shed where she had kissed Epirus a while back. After about an hour nothing was visible, but Althea did not go inside. Crunching of grass beneath a person’s feet startled Althea, but she still did not move. The person came closer and closer, until the person stopped in front of Althea. The person was too tall to be a woman, and Althea assumed it was Epirus or Cletus. The man leaned down so that his left knee was against the grass and the other was bent so that he stayed a few inches from Althea’s legs. He leaned down and brushed her hair out of her face tenderly before pressing his lips against her. She allowed him to do what he wanted to, but even if she wanted to stop him she couldn’t. His lips and gentleness towards her made her want him to never stop kissing her. A far away door opened and startled both of them.
“Althea! Are you out here?” Arles yelled and Althea tried to get up, but the man pressed against her more.
“I must go now, but we will finish this at another time.” She whispered playfully and then moved out from under the man. She ran to the door and found Arles.
“This was a marvelous outing, lovely Althea,” Danarius said kindly as he took Althea’s hands in his once more, “But next time we hunt you must use your skills and not hold back.”
“I have no clue what you speak of, Danarius.” She joked and he kissed her lips once again.
“I know you held back today, but next time please do not.”
She laughed lightly, “Alright, next time I will go fully out with my skills.”
“Till next time, lovely Althea.” He whispered and then pulled her closer to him and kissed her more.
“Till next time,” She whispered back and then let go of him. He mounted his horse again, “May Gaia bless you.”
Danarius pulled Althea’s hand to his lips and kissed it, “You already have, my goddess.” He whispered and then rode off with three guards that followed him.
Althea went inside the castle, “Lady Althea,” A maid said in a whisper as Althea stopped, “the king left early today with the prince and princess and general Arles to deal with business in Nyarius and they shall not be back till ten tonight.”
“Alright, thank you.” Althea replied quietly and then went to her room. She changed from riding cloths and into a white dress with a v-neck that showed her three tattoos. She left her room and went outside, but noticed that a group of soldiers were practicing archery on the shooting range, so she went to the garden in the back of the property that had been replace by the newer garden closer to the house. Within the garden were overgrowing weeds and the dead flowers that the weeds had taken nutrients from. Althea felt that this situation did not please Gaia and knew she needed to try to save the flowers she knew still barely survived underneath the weeds. She started pulling the long weeds and did not stop till all were out. She then pulled up the dead flowers and found only 5 flowers left that were wilted and close to Hades wrath. Althea went to the first flower and placed her right hand on the soil around the flower while holding the flower up, “My goddess of light, bless this poor plant with the gift of the sun.” Althea whispered and looked up to the sun that suddenly became brighter as scattered clouds within the sky seemed to be deflected from the sun. Light filled the area around Althea and she felt the flower strengthen slightly, “My goddess of earth and my mother of life, please make this soil fertile for these plants.” She whispered and then stood. Althea walked back to the house and found a bowl. She went to a well at the far side of the castle and filled the bowl before going back to the garden. She poured water on the soil around the first flower and then went to the next but jumped when a hand was set upon her back. Althea caught the bowl before it hit the ground and then turned angrily towards Prince Elius, “You scared me!” She complained.
“I did not mean to do such a thing towards you, Althea. I was just curious about what you were doing in this deserted garden.” He replied with a smile of compassion.
Althea turned back to the flower and poured water around it, “I am just fulfilling the wishes of my goddesses.”
“They are making you do this?”
She shook her head, “I am willing to do this and they would like me to. They would never make me do anything.”
Elius looked to Althea like she was Aphrodite, “Why did you not tell me your father was friends with my father?”
Althea moved to the next flower and poured some of the water before moving to the forth and doing the same, “I thought you knew, Elius.”
“I had no idea,” He replied as she poured the last of the water onto the fifth flower, “How was your outing with Prince Danarius?”
“It was…” Althea started to reply, but stopped when she heard someone running. Epirus stopped next to the woman and smiled warmly.
“Althea, would you mind helping me with training of new recruits?”
She smiled to him, “Of course,” She replied and then turned to Elius, “Please excuse me.” She whispered and then walked away with Epirus.
Althea brought a glass of wine out to the back porch and set it down upon a table as she took a seat. She took a drink of the wine and set it back down as she took in the night air. Her eye had finally stopped hurting her and she felt a peace once more. Suddenly a hand touched Althea’s shoulder and she slightly jumped as she felt the breath of someone on her neck. “Shall we finish?” A deep voice asked and Althea felt the movement of the man from last night as he came in front of her. He kissed her lips and she felt her heart race, “I love you, Althea.” He whispered as his lips went from hers and to her neck.
She slightly pulled him away and he was confused, “I cannot even see your face, why do you only do this at night?”
He got off of her, “You would not allow me to do these things if it was in broad daylight.” He whispered and then ran away. Althea followed, but stopped when the man was too far ahead of her to see him.
Althea watched as Epirus shot into the middle of the hay bale target, but then turned when he felt Althea’s presence. He put down his bow and smiled to her, “Examining my posture?” He asked with a sarcastic tone.
“Just examining.” She replied and he came over to her. He brushed a few stray hairs from her face kindly.
“What is it, my love? You seem upset.”
Althea looked away from him, “I have decided to accept Prince Danarius’s proposal.”
His hand dropped from her and he felt limp, “What?”
“I can’t let this go on any longer. I can’t let myself love you anymore or I will never be able to leave you.” She whispered as his gaze left her face and she squeezed her mother and grandmother’s wedding rings tighter in her fists to not cry.
“I know.” He whispered and she immediately threw her arms around him. She started crying and could not stoop as he held her so gently.
“I’m sorry!” She cried as he stroked her hair and pulled her closer to him. He lifted her head and kissed her for the last time before she let go of him, “I have to go. Arles is waiting.” She whispered and then quickly walked away. She did not go to Arles, but went back to the abandoned garden in the very back of the castle property. She sat on the thick brick wall around the garden and pulled herself into a ball as she cried. A gentle hand went to her shoulder and she looked up from her legs to see Elius staring at her face. She slightly jumped back when Elius lunged towards her but she was surprised when he gently brushed the tears off of her face.
“You have won, Althea.”
Elius set his hand on her cheek and slowly got closer to her before putting his lips against hers. She was shocked when she felt like her breath was taken and her heart sped, “You have won my heart. I admit defeat,” He whispered and then looked away from her, “I had almost become crazy with my feelings and kissed you two nights ago even though you thought it was someone else. But I couldn’t stop myself from finding you in the cloak of darkness again and confessing myself to you.”
“Elius…” She started to reply, but he shook his head.
“I know you are going to become Prince Danarius’s gift from Hera. I saw you kissing him two days ago and heard what you told Epirus just a moment ago,” He whispered sadly, “You are falling for Danarius just as you did for Epirus and Cletus,” Elius kissed Althea again, “I will leave tomorrow morning.” Before Althea could respond, Elius walked away and she sat there in shock.
Althea woke up at noon and realized Elius was already gone. She did not leave her room for the whole day and cried continuously. She had only one choice now. She had to marry Prince Danarius.
Prince Danarius came to get Althea two days after she had accepted his proposal. Althea packed up all of her stuff while Arles did the same with his. She put on a long red dress that showed her three marks, but felt lonely even though the three goddesses were with her at all times. When Danarius arrived, Althea was forced to say goodbye to Arles who was going to leave for battle right after she did. She hugged him tightly to her and tried to not cry as the king, Cilia, Catreus, Cletus, Epirus, and the maids watched them. She kissed Arles’s cheek and he pulled her back into his embrace, “Be safe, Althea. I will come back for you soon.”
“Yes,” She whispered as she put her hand on his cheek, “Be safe, my god of the universe.”
Arles slightly laughed, “As you will be, my goddess of life.” He added and then kissed her cheek. She then let go of him and had to keep herself from running back to him. Althea hopped on Danarius’s horse in front of him and they quickly rode off. Althea held onto her mother, grandmother, grandfather, father, and brother’s rings that Arles had told her to keep safe for him as she gave him her necklace once again.
When they reached the castle Danarius led Althea to her room. It was covered in extravagant gifts and she knew he had bought everything especially for her. She turned to him and kissed his lips, “It is perfect.” She lied and he smiled.
“I am glad,” He replied, “Well I will let you get unpacked and settled. A maid will be sent to bring you to dinner later today.” Danarius left her then. Althea quickly unzipped her bag and took out her parent’s ashes. She was relieved to see they were not scratched or broken from the bumpy ride here. A knock came to her door and she turned towards the door.
“Yes?” She asked politely and Demonice came into the room as he shut the door behind himself.
“I was just told you had arrived,” He explained and Althea smiled towards him. He came over as she set the jars down and he hugged her to his chest, “Was it horrible?” He asked and she finally felt tears escape her. She pulled her face into his shirt and cried, “I’m sorry.” He whispered sadly.
“What if he doesn’t return, Demonice? What if he dies! How can I live without Arles?” She cried as he brushed her hair in a lovingly way.
“He will not die and leave you alone in the world, Althea. I can assure you.” He replied and she tried to stop crying as she let go of him. He brushed tears from her face as the still came for a few minutes. When the tears stopped Althea turned towards the two jars on her nightstand, “Is that your parents?” he asked and she nodded slightly.
Althea walked down the walkway in the backyard to see the archery practice field. She noticed Demonice watching Danarius aiming his arrow and bow. When she walked over towards them, Danarius let go of his arrow and it hit the fifth ring from the bull’s-eye of the hay bail target, “That was better, my Prince.” Demonice commented, but then noticed Althea, “Althea, what are you doing out here?”
“I was strolling past and thought I might help.” She replied and Danarius turned to her.
“I need as much as I can get.” He replied and she smiled to him as she walked closer.
“Alright, aim your arrow,” She asked and he went into a shooting position with a new arrow. Althea went behind him and put her hands on his, which he enjoyed. She slid his left hand up a few inches on the neck of the bow and then moved his fingers further back on the feathers of the bow. Althea then moved his right shoulder down slightly and backed away, “Concentrate on the bull’s-eye,” She ordered and he did so, “Now let go.” She added and he released the arrow. It pierced almost in the middle of the bull’s-eye and he turned to her with shock, “I taught Prince Catreus, Prince Cilia, and most of King Argos’s army in archery.”
“You are truly amazing, my love,” Danarius said sweetly, “You are the best at archery and sword fighting, along with your nature, night, and sun connections you are unbelievable.” Althea smiled with a deep hole returning to her heart that was much larger than any from the past.
Althea waited upon the front porch throughout the hot summer day without moving from her seat upon the steps. When the sun started lying low in the sky, Althea heard someone walking towards her. She turned to the right and saw Danarius walk up to her while holding the reigns of the horse following him. She stood, “Danarius?” She asked with curiosity.
“You want to go check on him, do you not?” He asked quietly and she was still confused, “You want to go make sure Sir Arles is alright.”
He shook his head, “You are not needed here tonight. Go find him. King Argos called me to say Arles had not arrived at his house so I would start in Ebony.” He replied and then handed her the reigns. She took them and hugged Danarius.
“Thank you,” She whispered and then got onto the horse, “I shall be back soon.” She added and then rode off. She pushed her horse into a long distance sprint, but did not reach her destination till dusk. She stopped her horse at the front steps of the castle and then grabbed her eye. She kept herself from throwing up until the pain passed. Once it had she went to the front door and knocked furiously. A maid came to the door and quickly bowed to Althea. She recognized Althea’s necklace that represented the next queen of Nyarius and made herself smile.
“May I assist you, ma’am?” She whispered quietly and Althea nodded quickly.
“I must speak with Prince Elius, as quickly as possible.” She replied and the maid allowed her in.
“Please follow me,” She whispered and Althea followed the girl till she stopped at a deep red oak door and knocked before opening the door, “My prince, someone is here and insists to speak with you.” The maid whispered and Elius sighed.
“Send them in,” He said and the maid let Althea into the room. Elius froze as he realized Althea, the love of his life, was standing before him with a worried look, “Althea?”
“Elius, has my brother come to your house yet?” She asked frantically and he became confused.
“No. He was to arrive with my troops hours ago, why? I assumed they went to the castle King Argos instead.”
“He hasn’t arrived at Cilia’s home or yours! Dear Zeus! Where is he?” Althea said as she clenched her fists, “I must go. Please excuse me.”
As Althea tried to leave, Elius grabbed her wrist, “I will help you search for him. I know what route he was taking.” He said and she knew he would be a large help, so she nodded. They went out to her horse and rode towards the route Arles was supposed to take. When they reached 12 miles away they stopped at the sight of hundreds of dead soldiers, some with the symbol of Ebony and others with the symbol of King Argos, so Althea hopped off the horse and started searching.
“This is his army. He has to be around here somewhere.” She told Elius and they both started searching for a living person left in the sea of death. Althea went towards the left and Elius went towards the right of the horse while looking. After an hour of searching Althea found him, “Arles!” She yelled as she ran to him. She kneeled in the blood at his side and put her hand on his chest. He still was breathing, very slowly, “Arles! Answer me! Please!” She cried as tears fell down her face. Finally his eyes opened and he looked to her face.
“Althea?” He whispered and she gasped.
“Dear Zeus! What happened?”
“We were attacked on our way home. There were thousands of them and only a few hundred of us. We had no chance.”
“Arles, where are you hurt?”
He took a deep, painful breath, “My organs are destroyed, Althea. This is it for me. I will be with Psyche soon.”
“No! Don’t say that!” Althea yelled as her tears became uncontrollable, “You promised to not leave me alone! You promised to come back safely!”
“No! You can’t die Arles! I can’t live without you! I can’t lose you like we did mom and dad! I can’t! I can’t!” She cried hysterically as she grabbed his hand.
“Althea! Where are you?” Elius yelled with terror and Arles squeezed her hand.
“Elius is here?” He asked in a whisper and she nodded, “He loves you, doesn’t he?” He smiled slightly to Althea whose eyes widened, “And you love him too,” He laughed then, “yet you are going to marry a man you have no feelings for.”
“You should follow your heart, Althea. I want you to be happy even if I am not here.”
“Please Arles, don’t say that.”
“It’s okay, Althea. I am okay with dying. I just want to make sure you will be happy,” He whispered and she pulled her head to his chest, “I love you, Althea. You are my world and my best frien…” Arles stopped suddenly and Althea looked to his face with a shake of shock. Arles’s eyes closed and he stopped breathing entirely.
“No!” Althea screamed and her head fell to her lap as she shook while crying so hard that she was having trouble breathing. A branch broke off to her side and she heard someone running as she shook harder.
“Althea!” Elius gasped as he knelt at her side. He stopped talking then and pulled Althea’s head up as he embraced her tightly. She shook like a leaf in the fall winds as he thought of how he could help her. They stayed like that till Althea could not cry anymore and then looked up to Elius’s face before standing slowly. He followed her and then helped her walk over to the horse. She did not say a word for the whole ride, but squeezed herself tightly to Elius. When they reached the castle, Elius helped Althea down from the horse and brought her inside. He stopped when he saw a maid, “Send a message to the Prince of Nyarius and tell him Althea’s brother has died and she is in no condition to ride home so she will stay here tonight.” He said and then brought Althea to a room. It was a guest room she assumed and he brought her to the bed, “You should rest.” He whispered and then started to leave, but Althea grabbed his arm. He turned back to her and she pulled him towards her. She stood and kissed Elius deeply like he used to do to her. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest.
“Please, don’t leave me alone.” She whispered and he pulled away from Althea quickly.
“I cannot stay here with you, Althea. I still have feelings towards you.” He said as he took a step back, but Althea pulled against him again and he froze.
“So do I.” She whispered and he pulled her closer to him
Althea pulled her corset on and tied the strings with the help of the door handle that now was unlocked, unlike it had been the whole night before. She then passed the bed and picked up her priceless bundle. She slipped on her dress and her shoes before going to the mirror in the room and fixing her hair. There was a knock at the door so she went to it and opened it. Elius stood there with a grim look to him, “He has arrived.” He whispered to her and she did not look to him before nodding. He then followed behind her as she made her way to the front door. When the door opened Althea and Elius saw the casket being pulled on a cart behind a horse and its rider. Althea went to a horse that waited outside and Elius went to the other. They then followed the rider of the carthorse towards the kingdom of her king. Althea did not look at anything but the mien of her horse the whole ride, which extremely worried the Prince following her.
“Just listen to the steady beat of the horse’s hooves, Althea.” Althea thought to herself until they finally reached the main street she used to live on. She felt the gaze of all that she knew, but kept on until the officer stopped the carthorse and its driver. He then hurried to her horse and she finally looked up.
“My lady Althea, who has died?” He asked with fear lingering in the back of his throat.
“Your countries army general has finally met his demise in battle along with a hundred others.”
“Oh Althea…” He whispered with regret as she looked away and focused on her horse again.
“Please, sir. We must bring him to your king.” She choked out without too many tears falling before the carthorse started moving again. She quickly followed and then made it to the gate. Suddenly the carthorse stopped again and Althea looked up to see the gate was not lifting.
“Who approaches?” A familiar voice asked the cart driver and Althea quickly came to the side of the cart to face the man, “Althea?” Epirus whispered in shock.
“Please, Royal Knight. Let us pass.” She whispered and Epirus turned away.
“Raise the gate!” He hollered and she let the cart pass her before going inside. The king walked outside as Epirus ran up next to Althea and Prince Elius.
“Althea, what is this?” He asked with concern. Althea slowly got off of her horse and brought her priceless bundle towards the king as Epirus stood at his side. She unrolled her brother’s uniform and handed it to King Argos. It took him a moment to take the shirt, but when he did Althea felt tears escape her and flow down her face. She quickly put her hands against her face as she lost control again and cried hysterically. Epirus quickly embraced the woman he still loved tightly to his chest as she started to shake again.
“Why him?” She cried as she shook fiercely, “Why did the gods take Arles! Why not me?”
“Althea…” He whispered regretfully.
“First my parents, then my grandparents, and now Arles! Are the gods trying to kill my heart?” She yelled and then started hiccupping from crying so much, “I could handle my parents and grandparents being gone because Arles was there for me but now that he’s gone I…I…I can’t live without him!” Althea squeezed Epirus’s shirt in her hand as she pulled herself closer, “He was going to be a father! He was finally going to marry his fiancé and become a dad! But now his son and wife will never have him to protect them again!” She heard someone coming towards her but she could not bring herself to let go of Epirus. He reminded her of better times, “He died in my arms…if I had gotten there sooner then he may have been savable but I let him die! I just let him die on the battle field that led to his demise! What kind of person am I? I have all the power possible for a human being yet I could not save my own twin brother!”
“Althea, please calm down. You are becoming hysterical.” Epirus whispered and she finally stopped talking. After a few moments she forced her emotions to disappear once again and let go of Epirus.
“I should go. I just wanted to make sure he got to a good place before I left.”She whispered and everyone seemed shocked as they realized Prince Danarius stood behind them with Demonice behind him.
“What is this, my lovely goddess?” Danarius whispered as he walked closer to Althea and she quickly hurried to him. He embraced her as she made herself not cry anymore.
“Lady Althea and I came upon general Arles right before he passed away in the battle field nearest my home.” Elius explained to the fiancé of the woman he loved dearly.
“Oh, my lovely. I am so sorry.” He whispered as he brushed her hair in a caring way and she felt slightly better.
Althea looked up from her fiancé’s chest when she heard Demonice moving. He walked over to the casket of his once dear friend and set his hand upon the lid, “Rest peacefully, my friend. Prince Danarius and I will protect your sister in your absence.” Demonice said as he turned to Althea for support in his assuring statement. But she could not look at him because she lied to him or her brother’s casket when replying because she knew this is not what he would want her to say.
“Yes.” She whispered, but looked up when Cilia and Catreus ran out of the house. Both looked from Althea and the casket many times.
Finally Cilia spoke, “What happened father?”
The king sighed with regret, “General Arles was killed in battle.” He said and Cilia quickly sprinted to Althea. She embraced her long departed friend as her brother joined in hugging the sad Althea. Althea clutched the back of Cilia’s dress in her hands as she squeezed her best friend as tightly as possible. She lost control once more and cried onto Cilia’s shoulder as her friend cried also. Finally Althea and Cilia gained enough control to let go of each other and just stare at the ground.
“This must be a joke…this cannot be real,” Cilia whispered as Althea looked to her friend’s saddening face, “Arles was all you had left. You two lost so much and now you lose him too.”
“Althea, how can we help you? You must be in terrible pain.” King Argos whispered and she looked to him.
“Inform his fiancé, please. She deserves to know,” Althea whispered and then took a few steps closer to the king, “And have Arles clothed in something more suitable for his burial.”
The king turned towards Epirus, “Inform all of the kingdoms that our general has fallen and an enemy is upon us.”
Elius quickly moved towards the king, “Also inform my father of this. He is out of the country, but he will want to come to his best friend’s son’s funeral.”
The king nodded but looked to Althea as she started to shake again and he became even more unsettled, “My king, please find the men that killed Arles,” She whispered as she looked back to him, “I will see to it that their heads are on a platter before they know what hit them.”
“You are in no condition to fight, Althea.”
“I am more than ready for this, my king.”
“Alright,” He said with a sigh, “Everyone should come inside. It will be raining soon.” He added before walking into the castle. Danarius came over to his soon to be wife and wrapped his arm around her before leading her inside. When they came in Althea was filled with memories of her brother.
“I need some air,” She whispered to Danarius who quickly let go of her. Althea slowly walked out the side entrance of the castle and went out to the shooting range. She found her bow and pulled out a few arrows before taking position where she used to when she would come here. She shot too many arrows to count until there were no more which she then went and took out of the hay bale before coming back to her spot. Rain had already soaked through her dress and her clothes hung on her thin build as if they were made of a metal. Lightning filled the sky as thunder filled the area. Althea shot all the arrows two more times before the rain got so intense she could not see the hay bale and she was forced to quit. If it had been night time Althea would have been able to use Nyx’s power to hit the target, but it was still day. She slowly went inside after putting away the arrows and bow to see Cilia standing just inside the door with a towel. She wrapped it around her friend’s shoulder as Althea was hit by how cold she actually was. Althea smiled towards Cilia who started crying for her and held her tightly even though they were both wet by then. They did not let go of each other till Cilia sneezed and started shaking like Althea. They slowly made their way to Cilia’s room where they then changed into two of Cilia’s dresses. Althea wore a deep violet colored silk dress and Cilia wore a silk dress of a deep green. They made their way downstairs after Althea dried off her hair to find everyone eating dinner in the dining room. They took the two available seats, which was one between Catreus and the king that Cilia took and one between Danarius and Demonice that Althea inhabited quickly. Danarius kissed her hand and then held it under the table in his.
“Althea,” The king started to say and she looked to him, “We have set it up so that Arles’s funeral will be two nights from now. That is sufficient time for others to get here.”
Althea nodded as she looked to her lap, “There are people in Selia that will want to come.”
Demonice placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “Yes, people from our home town will want to come.”
Althea could not bring herself to look at her friend so she looked up to the king once more, “You have informed his soon to be wife?”
He sadly nodded, “They will be attending.”
“Good,” Althea whispered, “Has word reached town?”
The king shook his head, “Not yet.”
“I will go see Miss Belus and the sheriff tomorrow along with some of my grandparent’s friends. They will all want to say their goodbyes to Arles,” She whispered but then almost jumped as she realized something, “My king! You must give this back to my brother,” She whispered as she quickly pulled his ring off of her finger, “I was never able to return it because he never came back…” She closed her eyes tightly to hold back tears, “He should also receive all of the things we have of our parents and grandparents.”
“But they gave those things to you too, Althea.” The king argued but she could not look at him.
“Yes, but I want him to have them. Then he will bring something from each of us to the next world.”
“He has something of yours?” Demonice asked her and Cilia cleared her throat.
“Yes, every time Arles would leave for war he would give Althea his most treasured ring and she gave him her prized possession that was a necklace so that they would be sure to find each other once again.”
“It was my mother’s necklace she received when she married my father and his ring was the one my father received when he married my mother. It is really all we had left from them until we were given their ashes.”
“The saving grace of this whole thing is that you were able to share his last words with him.” Catreus added and Althea wanted to cry.
“Yes, that is true,” Cilia added to her brother as she looked across the table to her friend, “You two were always so close so it is only right that you spent the last few moments together. Uranus and Gaia must favor you.”
Danarius grunted in agreement, “That is why they blessed my beloved goddess with the powers of Gaia and Arles with the powers of Uranus. The gods favor them,” He turned to the king at the head of the table, “But, King Argos, who will replace a magnificent leader such as Arles?”
The king sighed, “There is no one that could compare with his leadership and fighting skills other than Althea, but it is forbidden for her to fight so I will have to choose his successor very diligently.”
“Father, Althea should test the soldiers to see who is most suitable. She would know best.” Catreus whispered as he looked to Althea who looked to the king.
“That depends if Althea believes she can and wishes to do so,” The king replied as he returned Althea’s gaze, “Well?”
“Of course, my king.” She whispered as she looked away.
“Oh! Althea, I have been meaning to tell you that I finally finished your challenge!” Cilia said happily.
Cilia nodded towards her confused friend, “Before you left you gave me the challenge to pierce your arrow with my own. Last week I finally accomplished it.”
Epirus nodded, “She has been training with my soldiers lately and finally reached her goal last Friday.”
“That is very impressive, Cilia.” Althea replied but her vision suddenly weakened and she flew from her chair. She bowed to the king, “Please excuse me for a moment,” She added before running out of the room. She used her only good eye and her hands to make her way down the hall to the nearest bathroom. She washed out her burning eye and returned to the dining room after a few minutes, “I apologize for my sudden disappearance.” Althea whispered as she returned to her seat and Danarius touched her tear-swollen eye.
“Are you alright?” He asked and she quickly nodded.
“Does your change still give you pain, Althea?” The king asked as he looked to the sad girl.
“Not as much as it used to.”
“That is good to hear,” The king said but they all became silent as the first course came out.
Althea waited outside as the king brought all of his soldiers out to the shooting range, “Althea will be testing all of you in order to find who is worthy of replacing her brother.” The king announced as Elius, Cilia, Catreus, Danarius, and Demonice watched from the steps that led from the castle to the shooting range. Althea quickly took a bow and arrow and shot the exact center of the target. She turned to the group of soldiers as the king joined the other observers.
“If you cannot hit a target with accuracy I will not be able to understand why you have been under my brother’s care for so long. If you happen to not be able to shoot the center but have somehow trained with my brother, please leave now,” When no one moved Althea turned to the target again and shot another arrow. It pierced the back of her first arrow and spit it in half. She turned back to the group, “Line up at the targets and wait your turn. You have one chance to accomplish this exact task and if you cannot, you will be taken out of considerations to replace my brother immediately,” She quickly walked over to the hay bale she had shot at and took out the two arrows. After throwing them against the ground she stood between two of the bales of hay, “Start.” She added and the group started shooting. Althea watched and examined the soldier’s posture and ability to do the task as they went. Once everyone had tried she went over to the group of men. She touched the shoulder of 26 men from the 90 or so soldiers and then came back to face them, “If I touched you just now you will be moving on further in the testing. If not, either you were unable to perform the task or used incorrect shooting starter positions that could easily decide your fate in battle,” She cleared her throat, “The 26 of you I have chosen have 10 minutes to get ready to fight. You may choose your best weapon or one you prefer, but you shall be facing an opponent with a sword so choose wisely.” She walked away from the group and went over to the observers who seemed shocked by her appearance.
“You certainly know what you are doing, Althea.” Demonice commented and she nodded towards him.
She directed her attention to the king, “Catreus should teach these soldiers a thing or two about body posture when holding a bow and arrow. He is much better.”
The king let out a small laugh, “I will take that as a compliment towards my son and an insult towards my soldiers.”
“I am not insulting, I am commenting,” She replied as she looked away, “I believe with some practice and teaching they could all become great.”
Danarius suddenly leaned to Althea and kissed her cheek, “You are marvelous, my goddess.” He said with a heart-filled smile that Althea returned, but did not mean like he did.
“I should get back,” she whispered before walking back to the group of 26 soldiers’ who had chosen their weapons. She stood in front of them and they immediately formed a single-file line. She walked over to a man who chose a morning star and frowned, “Soldier, tell me, have you ever set foot on a battlefield?”
She nodded, “You did not need to answer me, soldier. I already knew, but I was curious if you did. Obviously not since you answered the question and chose this as your weapon to use against a swordsman,” She took a few steps back and held her sword to his face as he froze, “A sword is made for fast pace, continuous fighting,” She put the sword down, “While a morning star is made for short, power forced fighting. With a morning star you must hit a swordsman hard and quickly or your fate is sealed. Unless you had been trained as a child to use a morning star it is of no use to you against a swordsman in battle,” She turned to the rest of the line, “All 9 of you that chose a morning star are finished. Please go back to the rest of the group,” The ones still left came closer together in order to fill the now emptied spots. Only soldiers with short swords like Althea’s, spear swords, flails, and maces were left, “Now you will be fighting anyone with the same weapon as you. If you are injured badly, your weapon is knocked out of your hands, or cheat in any way you are out. Whoever from each weapon category is the last left will fight me,” She watched as the soldiers moved into different groups according to weapon and made sure there was fair fighting. The first group to finish was the ones with the spear swords and the winner came over to me, “Rest a while soldier. You do not need to fight just yet,” She whispered to the man who joined her on sitting in the dirt. It took almost another hour for the other groups to finish and once the last group was done Althea stood, “Soldier with the spear sword, come here.” She insisted and he quickly rushed to his feet. He came to Althea with question, “you have had the longest to rest so you shall be my first opponent. Now, one thing you must understand before we start is even though I am a girl, do not hold back. I want you to go fully out on me and if you do not I will immediately take you out of the running. Also, do not expect to win,” She announced before turning and taking 20 paces away from the man before turning back to face him, “You may attack first.”
He came at Althea and all anyone could see from the sidelines was a blur of a moving figure as a human tried to keep up, but was unsuccessful. Althea knocked the soldier’s weapon out of his hand and he gasped before slumping to the ground. The same thing happened with the next two soldiers but when it came time to fight Epirus with the same weapon she felt something burn within her, “Do you want to stop, Althea?” He asked with concern as she looked away for a moment. She centered her thoughts and only focused on her weapon before turning back.
“Attack me.” She hissed and without a skip of a beat he was charging at her. To an observer, this battle seemed like two blurry objects that would occasionally stop for a second but then go back to sprinting. Everyone froze when Althea was hit to the ground and a cut formed on her cheek, but as Epirus stood with horror as he realized he had injured her, his sword was smacked out of his hand and Althea had tackled him to the ground. She sat on top of him as she cried and quickly hugged her good friend. They got up after a few moments of embrace and Althea was handed a towel by a maid. She placed it over her cut before going over to the king and bowing slightly, “My dearest king, the soldier I have found most suitable for my brother’s replacement is the one who was the second person to ever injure me during battle. It only seems fit since the man he will replace was the only other to injure me in battle,” She looked over to Epirus as he came to her, “Just don’t let your guard down when you injure your opponent and you will do great.”
He let out a deep laugh, “I am sure my other opponents will not have such a face that is seems inhumane to scratch.”
“Yes,” She whispered, “Congratulations.”
“I will succeed Lord Arles to the best of my ability.”
“You have made a fine choice, Althea,” The king agreed as he put his hand on Epirus’s shoulder, “Come to my office to receive a new uniform to mark your change in rank.” He said as he went into the house and Epirus quickly followed behind. As the king left Demonice was the first to reach Althea. He brushed his hand across the towel before embracing his friend.
“Your lack of sleep made you slower than usual today. You only ran at half speed.”
She sighed, “You know me too well.”
“I was informed a few moments ago that your cousins were spotted near town. Shall I go to the front of the castle and wait for them while your cheek is tended to?” Demonice asked and Althea nodded. He walked away as Cilia brought Althea inside where a maid waited to treat the wound. Althea received a bandage for her cut along with some healing herbs before she went out of the castle once more. She watched beside Danarius as her eldest cousin, Prince Messene, standing next to his middle sibling, Princess Myrrha, help her younger brother, Prince Minos, off of his horse. Messene and Myrrah looked to their only remaining cousin with sadness as Myrrah set Minos down so his feet touched the ground, but his feet left the ground quickly as he ran to Althea with tears starting down his cheeks. She knelt and squeezed the small boy to her as he reached her open arms. But, to Althea’s surprise, she was able to hold back her tears for the first time in days. She did not know if she had just strengthened or if her cousin, Myrrha, enchanted her with her powers of Elpis. Suddenly thunder filled their ears and Althea quickly looked up to Messene for help. He quickly looked to the sky and pushed the storm away from them with the help of his gift from Aether. When he walked over to his younger brother the boy looked away from Althea and to the angry face of his sibling.
“Regardless of how upset you become, Minos, you must control your gift of Poseidon.”
Althea pulled the boy to her chest, “It was a curse of Ate, right Minos?” She asked and the boy nodded to her, “then you shall learn from it, so do not be ashamed.”
“But he is only thinking of himself, Althea. He is only concerned about how much he is affected by our loss when he should be thinking of you. He did not lose his twin brother or the last direct family member he has.”
“It is alright,” Althea whispered, “Let’s go inside and settle down.” She added before picking up your youngest cousin and proceeding inside.
That night Althea came down to the dining room in a dark pink dress that was cut in a v-neck in the back and front. She opened the doors of the room to see everyone else waiting. Now the only seat open was between the king and Minos that sat across from Messene. She sat with one eye completely consumed by black as the other stayed its constant green. “Your dream served correct, brother,” Myrrha commented as she sat to the other side of Messene and looked to Althea, “Gaia, Hemera, and Nyx bless our beloved cousin.”
“Prince Messene, you are blessed by the gift of Morpheus?” Danarius asked from the other side of Minos.
“He is blessed by Morpheus and Aether,” Myrrha replied, “But in his dreams he only sees what has happened to those closest to him,” Myrrha’s attention was turned towards her cousin, “Last night he saw the last conversation Althea and Arles had before he passed on. He saw it from Arles’s perspective which was odd since he usually only sees things from a third person’s perspective.”
Messene’s gaze went to Althea and she knew what he was thinking. He knew what Arles had told her to do, “Yes, I was overwhelmed by how much Arles did not want to leave Althea and how much he loved her,” He replied, “But I already knew that much from seeing how they grew up together.”
“The only other times Messene has seen an event from a certain person’s perspective was when our aunt and uncle were killed and when Althea’s grandparents passed.”
Messene nodded, “I actually saw the death of our aunt and uncle from Althea’s perspective and the death of her grandparents through Sir Epirus’s point of view.”
“Through my perspective?” Epirus asked from the other end of the table and Messene nodded to him.
“It seems as though you see a lot of Althea’s life, Messene.” The king commented and Messene sighed.
“That is because Althea is the only person I know who has lost so many people she loved.” Messene whispered but was silent as food was placed before each of them. They all ate quietly and Althea made sure Messene’s glance did not go to Danarius or Elius in fear of they may suspect something. When the dinner ended Althea quickly went over to Messene and gave him a deadly look that seemed to tell him to follow her. She suddenly went outside and did not stop walking through the dark till she reached the dead garden she had tried to save so long ago. Messene reached the spot as Althea sat on the rock wall. He sat at her side and looked to her face.
“How much have you informed Myrrha about from the last conversation Arles and I had?”
“Nothing she did not know already,” He replied, “But I made sure I failed to mention the part about the two princes to her. I did not want to say anything until I knew how you felt and what your intentions were.”
She looked away from him, “When Arles left for battle the last time I promised him I would marry Danarius in order to relieve his mind of worry, but I do not know what to do now. I have been trying to forget my feelings towards Elius and try to love Danarius but then Arles tells me only months before my marriage ceremony to leave the man he wanted me to marry and go back to the man I truly love.”
“And to make things worse you slept with Prince Elius that night.” Messene added and she looked to him in shock.
“You knew that also?”
He nodded, “But my dream ended after you told him you also had feelings for him.”
“I’m so confused on what to do, Messene. I don’t know if I should leave Danarius who I am starting to have feelings towards to go back to the man I denied but still love or marry Danarius and forget my feelings towards Elius and the night we shared.”
“It is ultimately your choice, Althea. All I can tell you is Arles truly meant what he said. He had no doubt in his heart that Elius was the right man for you and he had made a mistake when he made you promise to marry Danarius,” He whispered and then looked to his cousin’s upset face, “So what will you do?”
“I still don’t know,” She whispered as she wrapped her arms around herself, “I’m so unsure now that I’m alone.”
Messene put his hand on her leg, “I know you will always feel alone without Arles at your side, but I will always be here for you, Althea. Regardless of whom you choose or what you do in your life, I will always be in Selia waiting for you.”
She looked to her cousin and he quickly embraced her. Althea rested her head in the crook of his neck as he held her tightly against him, “I felt as though I was being attacked by Mania herself when I could not talk to someone about this. Thank you for everything, Messene.”
He kissed her head, “If we were not related by blood I would take you away from those two men in a heartbeat, Althea. You are worth so much more than any man could ever give you.”
“I love you too, Messene. Any woman who marries you is the luckiest woman in the world.”
“Shall we go inside? You are getting cold, correct?”
“Yes,” She whispered but their connection to each other was kept by their conjoined fingers even if they did not embrace each other as they walked.
The next morning Demonice woke up early in order to get some shooting practice in before the others were awake but was shocked to hear laughing when he opened his window before changing. He looked down to the shooting range to see Althea holding her bow at her side as she laughed at Prince Messene who stood a few feet from her and shot with his eyes close. He hit a tree a mile past the hay bales and Althea burst into more laughter, “That is your second time hitting that tree!” She mocked and he opened his eyes to look to her.
“Well it is no fair! You have the gift of Nyx who helps you shoot even when you can’t see!”
She laughed again, “But it is not dark out! Nyx does not consume me right now!” She replied, “You are just below my skill level!” He jumped at her and they tussled on the ground as they laughed. When they finally stopped rolling Althea lay beside her cousin as she let out a sigh. He sat up and looked down to her.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Better,” She replied, “I am thinking less of Arles.”
Messene looked to Althea, “You love both of them, don’t you?” She looked to him in confusion, “Both princes, I mean.”
She sat up and he quickly followed, “The moment Arles told me I should marry Danarius I tried to give up all of my feelings for Elius,” She looked to her tattoos, “But he changed his mind right before he left me forever…now I am not sure on what to do.”
“When will you be marrying Danarius?”
“In two weeks.”
Prince Messene took her hand in his, “If you were not engaged to Danarius and were not ever told whom to marry by anyone, who would you choose?”
Althea thought for a moment, “I would pick Elius,” She whispered, “Regardless of how long I am away from him, the moment I see him my heart race and I feel sick. I have never felt so strongly towards any other man.”
“Then will you cancel your engagement?”
She shook her head, “Unless Elius comes to me and asks me to leave Danarius I will stay where I am.”
The cousins stopped talking when they heard someone and they both looked over to Minos as he sprinted from the newly opened door and toppled over Althea. Myrrah quickly followed her younger brother. “How long have you two been out here?”
Althea smiled to her cousin, “Not very long, an hour at most.” She replied before Demonice closed his window and hurried to tell his prince that he had another man fighting for his gift of Hera.
Althea came outside in pants, a shirt, and boots made for riding to meet with King Argos’s army. The army was already lined up as Epirus talked to them but all attention was diverted to Althea when she walked closer, “Althea,” Epirus said with anger lingering in his voice, “I believe I need your help in teaching one of my soldiers a lesson.”
“What lesson would that be?”
“He believes he is the best swordsman and says that if he had not been taken out of ranking since he cannot shoot an arrow well, he would have defeated you.”
Althea smiled towards the soldier only a year older than her, “Choose your sword,” She replied as she pulled her father’s sword out of its sheath. When the soldier came back to her with a sword she led him to an open area.
Inside the castle, Prince Messene sat at the table with his siblings as Prince Danarius waited for a reply along with Prince Elius. Danarius had just asked Messene about the accusation he had received from Demonice that stated that Althea was planning to leave him. Messene looked up from his book and to Demonice who sat at Prince Danarius’s side, “When one hears someone’s private conversation, they should not speak of what they have heard,” Messene hissed, “Referring to your accusation, Demonice, Althea is not planning to leave your prince. She told me so herself later on.”
Prince Minos looked out the window behind his brother, “Althea is fighting a soldier again,” He stated and then smiled, “He will be lucky to get out of the fight with his limbs.”
When Prince Messene suddenly lurched forward in his chair his sister Myrrah flew out of her chair and to her brother’s side, “Messene! What is it?”
He grabbed his head, “Althea!” He whispered but looked up as Prince Elius flew out of the room without a second to think as Demonice and Danarius followed quickly behind.
Elius ran outside as fast as he possibly could with all the worry of the world on his shoulder. When he saw a soldier fighting Althea, she suddenly coughed and blood covered the ground in front of her. Elius was quick on his feet and unsheathed his sword to stop the soldier from striking the sick woman. Everyone watched in shock as time seemed to slow and showed Althea kneeing on the ground as Elius stood in front of her and fended off from the soldier trying to attack her, “Stop fighting!” Elius hissed towards the soldier before shoving him away from Althea, “You nearly killed a defenseless woman!”
The soldier frowned, “She is not defenseless.”
Epirus swung at the soldier but luckily the soldier got out of the way in time, “You should be beheaded for such fowl words!”
“Althea!” Demonice called as he quickly reached his old friend, “Someone, get the doctor!”
Messene sprinted to his cousin’s side and shoved Demonice out of the way so that he fell backwards while everyone watched. Messene grabbed either side of his cousin’s face, “Althea, calm down!” He begged while everyone else stared as Althea started to cry, “You are making yourself sick with worry!”
She grabbed onto her cousin’s arms as she cried harder, “That soldier dares to talk like that even though Arles taught him better! How dare he! He should die for such rudeness!”
Messene grabbed her hands, “Think of the baby, Althea! You might harm it if you destroy your body with worry!”