omg the first post (with many more to come) is finally here, this is that thingy that tore me away from Alexandria the Curious if you read that
So uh, definitely excited about this. Super different from my last piece, so don’t think it’s gonna be similar at all 'cause it’s not!
That said, what to expect with it is a fantasy world. If you read Eragon and you were always like “omg i wish arya would somehow get stuck in a diaper” or whatever like I did, you’ll probably like this? I dunno. But that said, if you’re the type that says “oh, fantasy is stupid” or you didn’t like all the violence in Eragon or you think Game of Thrones is waaaaaaaay too hardcore for you (like, this isn’t as bad as GoT, at least not yet lol, but it’s a genre thing because I can’t compare it to other diaper stories!) then you probably won’t like it.
Also, italics don’t transfer from Word to this, which is so freaking frustrating, but they’re too important to my writing style to not use, so -hopefully- I don’t miss any spots when I go through and add italics in the forum thingy. But if I do (it’ll be like, a sentence that’s obviously a thought because it’s in first person but there are no italics so it looks freaking ridiculous) then do let me know so I can edit and fix it, lol. Also, inconsistencies… stuff you want me to spend more or less time on… that kind of stuff. Other comments are awesome too - there are few things as exciting as checking my e-mail and seeing that people are saying stuff to me, because normally nobody wants to talk to me and I’m alone and sad and pathetic ;-; uh, anyways…
I think that’s it. If you’re unsure, give it a shot - but basically, (TL;DR) what I’ve tried to get at is that it’s a story that can stand alone without diapers although there are diapers in it (and there’ll be more in future updates).
The city of Croloft had been silent for hours, all its people asleep, yet the young girl continued to sing. Her voice carried out the window, over the courtyard of the manse in which she was captive.
“The shadows grow taller,
The nights do grow longer.
The lights seem so somber –
They grow dimmer… smaller…
And so the birds take flight,
And yet, try as they might,
They shan’t escape the night.”
On and on she sang, melodic and light, until she grew so despaired she fell to her knees and wept.
Bitter tears stung her eyes; more bitter still grew her heart as she awaited her sister, her savior.
A sharp knock resounded at the oak door, drawing the gaze of Alouette as she awaited the intrusion.
There was no second knock – such a privilege was reserved for the noble-blooded men, one of which the young foreign girl was not.
Instead, the oak monstrosity swung open, slow and heavy – even the doors of the Croloftian nobles had grown lethargic and decadent in the wake of the unrivaled Aventinian Empire’s absolute conquest of the land.
A thin man entered, staring at the girl as she sat under the open window. He was dressed in fine velvet, a rapier hanging from his belt. I wonder if he’s any good with that, Alouette thought to herself with disdain.
“It would seem that you are the last of kin in your family, girl.”
The words hit her like an arrow in the heart. Last of kin?
He was wrong – she knew he was wrong, and she figured he probably knew and was bluffing. It would get him nowhere. So long as her parents, sister, and brother drew breath, he had no power over her.
“How does it feel to be a princess? If only you were home… then you’d be coronated as the ruler of the Queendom of Veina. It’s quite the shift, going from the runt of the litter to the big dog, eh?” came the taunting.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, venom dripping from every word that slithered between her clenched teeth.
He answered by handing her a letter. She took it and stared at him, imagining all the ways she could gut him if only she had a dagger in her hands.
“Aren’t you going to read that?” he asked impatiently.
He must be eager to get on with his peacocking.
“I can’t read Aventinian, you fucking degenerate,” hissed Alouette.
When his boot met her stomach, she doubled over and gasped. When it met her side, she crumpled to the floor like a broken mutt. She took a long moment to recover her breath, savoring the silence as he let her fume and recover. “It’s not in Aventinian,” he finally said coldly.
Suspicion washed over Alouette as she opened the letter and surveyed its contents. It was in her own language, though she was sure he had gotten it translated before he gave it to her.
“Sister, little dove,” the letter began, clearly in her sister’s handwriting. “I ask for your forgiveness. Before I continue, you must know that all I have done is for your own good. I cannot lose my little sister, and so it must be that you are too important for them to kill you. I know I have played into their hand, but the end of our homeland was inevitable, and if I can at least save you, then the sacrifice is worth it.”
“I write this letter to you for many reasons, none of which you will like,” it continued. “The first is to notify you of deaths within the family. Shortly after your capture, several human knights bearing the sigil of the Aventinian Empire attacked Mother and Father on the road at the same time our dear brother and I were attacked by assassins who bore the same marks. Only I returned to the capital. The second of which is to inform you of my abdication as Queen and my self-imposed exile. Do not seek me, for it will only endanger you. The final reason is to warn you to seek self-preservation, for you have inherited a queendom that shall soon be ashes and dust.
And just like that, the frail little girl sitting beneath the window lost her entire family and jumped up a few notches in the line of succession that then included only her.
There were no tears. There were no words. She sat in silence for a long moment, looked to the window, and decided jumping would not be sufficient means of suicide. “You will sign a document written by the man who translated this letter for me. The document will enact the surrender of the Kingdom of Veina –”
“Queendom,” she corrected without emotion.
Whether or not he realized how hard he hit her, she would never know, as she crumpled to the floor, unconscious and broken.
The horses’ hooves padded quietly in the sand as Prince Zaelon and his two-dozen mounted knights approached the man with whom they were treating. “Who are you?” the foreign man demanded of Zaelon in the flowing tongue of the Veina.
“Call me Zaelon,” the prince responded in kind. “I have been sent for the purpose of delivering surrender.”
The man laughed heartily, though his companions did no such thing. “Are you already tired of roasting in your metal suits? Begging for mercy, Zaelon?”
“Your surrender. Not mine. It has been ordered by your Queen Alouette de Vylleine. She has seen the wisdom in submission. Your people will be given amnesty so long as they assimilate into –”
The man drew his scimitar as he sat atop his camel, as did his companions. Zaelon’s mounted knights moved to draw their swords, but Zaelon signaled them to stand down. “There will be no bloodshed here,” he said coldly.
“You speak of a pretender whose legitimacy does not exist until she sits upon the throne. Return her to us, let her speak with her advisors, and we will come back to you with an answer,” the foreign man demanded.
Zaelon smiled softly. “We are not negotiating,” he politely reminded the man. “I am delivering you the news that you have surrendered. Congratulations. You can now return to your people with the news and open your gates to our peacekeepers and tax collectors or you can force our hand. It is your choice whether or not to break the treaty, but it is in place.”
The man grimaced as he sat atop his camel. “You have tried to throw our country into turmoil,” he began. “We do not fight each other; instead, we stand united. The princess will be saved, the royal family restored, and the invasion by Aventine repelled. For thousands of years, these deserts have known no sovereignty but the wise queens and the mighty warlords who serve them. Our noble blood gives way to sorcery more potent than humanity has ever witnessed. You should be proud to be in our presence.”
“You should really read the treaty,” Zaelon offered.
“The princess is a child, and what a frightened child does when a dagger is to her throat is of no consequence to this glorious country. She will be saved and crowned. Until then, every man who touches her will lose his hands.”
It left a bad taste in the prince’s mouth as he left empty-handed. He did not want to bring genocide to those people, but they would not accept their own surrender. He thought of the princess with her black hair and violet eyes. She stirred a passion in him he had never felt before. He could understand why they would fight for her even as she would surrender; alas, it brought him no great comfort, and only served to darken his mood as he gradually accepted what essentially was a declaration of full-scale war.
Is the blood on my hands?
The templar stood, watching in admiration as the man and woman she was set to guard stood in front of the great crowd in the bleak city of Croloft. Since the foreign princess’s arrival, the gray, cobblestone city had received a bit of color and life. People were talking and they were excited; it seemed that the fire in them had been rekindled. The nobles even clamored to convince Prince Zaelon to appeal to the Emperors to ally with the Veina instead of waging the war he had been charged with by them.
The girl was heard about, but rarely seen, for weeks and weeks until she finally made her grand appearance with Prince Zaelon on the day of what people were calling the speech of a century. Her long, straight hair, black as sin, spilled down her back and shoulders, clashing with the pale lavender silk dress she had been given. Her violet eyes could cut diamond, and the points of her Veina ears further set her apart from the average human in that city. Talk had it that she was a grand sorceress. Prince Zaelon was no less impressive, however; clad in black and crimson lamellar plate armor, a hand-and-a-half sword on his back, the man was the visage of war.
Xivali stood and watched as the people cheered for the two as if they were king and queen. She smiled from behind the helmet that completely covered her head. She wore silver armor with the blue cross banner of the Templar Order on her tabard. A warhammer rested on her back, ready to smite the wicked and restore order and justice if need be.
She was proud to be a templar, even if it meant that she sometimes acted as a glorified bodyguard for particularly prestigious nobles at particularly prestigious events. The Order was famous for their crusades against dragons and their utilization of holy magic, but they did often serve purposes unrelated to magic.
“Thank you for your applause, my adoring subjects!” cheered the prince as the princess stood next to him, glaring the entire time he spoke. “It is an honor to be before you here today. Over the past ten years, we have expanded the borders of our empire, and I am proud to announce that our southern border now is the river that divides this land in two. We have come a long way from being an average kingdom hundreds of years ago. To the east, you can ride for weeks and see the Imperial Eagle flying. To the west, you can ride for five days and see the Imperial Eagle all the way to the Crystalline Wasteland. From the mountains in the north to the river in the south, we are supreme! Even the dragons quake in fear of our united might!”
The crowd roared as he rallied them. There wasn’t a soul in the empire who didn’t know the story of the Aventinian ascent from humble origins to absolute greatness and domination.
“There exists only one threat to our great empire, and our two beloved emperors have seen fit to name me Marshal in quashing the threat; today, our troops begin mobilizing for war with the Veina Empire, and here beside me stands their princess! She has seen reason, but her people are not so civilized. Even now, they gather like rats in the sewers. They flock together and deny her orders in a hopeless resistance. They shall crumble before us, and once they do, our sovereignty will be unchallenged! I dare not call them equals, or even rivals, for despite their skill in magic and their knowledge of the desert, we are technologically superior. I have coordinated with one of the commandants under my command, and today we are ready to unveil the newest innovation our most intelligent engineers have come up with.”
The sound of the excitement was deafening as a servant approached the prince and gave him a rather odd-looking contraption that looked similar to a cannon, but was held in the man’s hands.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hand cannon. Those Veina haven’t even discovered standard cannonry. With that, we will fell their walls, and with this,” he said, holding it up for all to see, “we will shatter their magical wards. The time has come where innovation and engineering surpass the wicked practices of zealots and cretins!”
Xivali stood and stared in amazement. It was an impressive little thing, but she wondered if it worked. If it did, it could be the end of the invincibility of plate armor and magical wards. It dawned upon her that the crowd also wanted to know; they had adopted the chant, “shoot the princess.”
She could see the prince’s charming smile fade. Zaelon looked at the little girl next to him, cannon in hand, and grimaced.
Xivali’s blood ran cold. Is he going to kill her? Is he going to butcher her in front of this crowd that was supposed to host her?
She looked shocked. Her eyes rose up to meet his, and instead of defiance, there was fear. Her knees looked as if to buckle, and her hands were trembling, yet she looked over the crowd and spoke. “You pride yourselves on slaying what you say are monsters,” she began.
The crowd quietened as her voice grew louder. “You are proud of dragonslaying, yet did the noble creatures ever lay waste to your land and your homes? You are proud of conquest, but did those you subjugated ever once act in aggression? Tell me, people of Aventine: when you hold your swords to the throats of the innocent, do you not expect them to lash out in fear? Do you not expect them to defend what they hold dear? Yet your fervor persists, even in the face of murder. Your prince unveils a new tool meant for massacre and destruction, yet you cheer and shout his name and ask for a demonstration? You view yourselves as lions and eagles, you paint yourselves with sigils to show your pride, and you celebrate anguish. You would have me die here? You all know pride and profligacy, and… and…”
Her voice cracked, her knees buckled, and she began to fall. The crowd was buzzing as the girl’s words hung thick in the air. Xivali felt the urge to move to help the girl, yet she felt angry and more than a little ashamed at the accusations and their validity. In just a moment’s time, as the girl collapsed, Zaelon caught her, grabbed her, and held her in his arms. “My lovely subjects,” he began, pacifying the crowd. “The princess needs to be returned to her chamber for the time being; it would seem she still needs some working on. The demonstration of the invention will be delayed one fortnight, to the first day of the lunar celebration.”
That’s a shame; the demonstration is after the deployment of the city’s forces? That hardly makes sense. How powerful could the thing be that it’s really that important to celebrate it like that?
Xivali sighed as she kept her post. It had been a rather exciting speech, though she wasn’t sure she would call it the speech of the century. Perhaps if it had not been cut so short.
She and three other templars followed Zaelon back to the royal apartments of the city of Croloft as guards cleared the square.
The princess seemed so fragile and small – she hardly seemed a woman at all, but rather a child as she was carried effortlessly by the prince. Alas, such was the stature of the Veina’s queen-to-be.
They reached the apartments without incident, where Zaelon laid the girl down on his bed before turning to Xivali. “The princess will need fresh clothes befitting sleep. Such a task is a servant’s, but they are not expecting my return and will be scrambling right now to try and compensate for my earliness in returning. As a result, it falls to you, madame templar, if you would so kindly serve me.”
She bowed before her prince. “Your will is my command.”
“You have my thanks, and I’m sure she will appreciate the help as well. Templar-captain Languedoc, will you keep watch at my door while she fulfills her mission? Furthermore, I have no task at hand for your other two charges,” the handsome prince stated kindly.
Xivali turned on her heel and left the room, happy to be following the prince’s commands rather than the commands of Templar-Captain Languedoc. It wasn’t that she disliked the templar-captain – it was more that he viewed her as incapable of autonomy due to her being a woman that frustrated her. Despite the famous doctrine allowing woman to theoretically hold the same posts as men that had been instituted almost a hundred years ago, strong prejudice existed particularly within the ranks of the Imperial legions and the Templar Order. Besides that, the doctrine did not account for the line of succession that kept women out of positions of noble power most of the time.
As Xivali rounded the last corner before entering the servants’ quarters, she ran into a young boy, knocking him right off his feet and onto his backside. He scrambled to his hands and knees, begging forgiveness, and so Xivali smiled behind the helm that took away her visible humanity. “Are you headed somewhere?” she asked him politely as she helped him up.
“Y-yes, m’lady. To-to the prince’s chamber, m’lady. I’ve a message for 'im,” the boy managed.
“Perfect,” came her response. “The princess is with him and needs what I believe was described as fresh, suitable clothing.”
The boy looked down at the letter in his hands and then behind him at the door before looking up at the templar. “Her usual clothes… I can show you… I can show you where you get 'em, m’lady…”
“I’ll follow you, then. It looks like you know where you’re going, right?”
He led her through the twists and turns of the servants’ quarters until he reached a large chest and retrieved one small stack of the many small stacks within. “I-I can show you the quick way to the chamber, m’lady,” he offered. “If it pleases you.”
Xivali smiled and wished he could see that she wasn’t so scary. She wished for people to see her for what she was supposed to be: a protector, a defender of justice and liberty, and an inquisitor against evil. Alas, people trembled in fear when templars got involved; instead of making them feel safe, the order made them feel threatened. Where it all went wrong, Xivali would never know.
The return trip was far shorter than the initial trip, thanks to the shortcuts the little servant boy knew. “Hey, thanks for helping me out,” Xivali told the boy as they entered the room, passing Languedoc with his steely, silent presence.
“Yes, m’lady. Of course, m’lady.”
The prince sat next to the girl, no longer clad in armor and no longer equipped with weapons of war. Instead, he wore a simple, traditional nobleman’s coat, showing off his sharp features and curly brown hair. His hand continued petting the girl’s nightshade hair even as she stared up at him with her big eyes.
Xivali knelt before the prince as the boy knelt and delivered the clothes and letter. “Your will is done.”
Zaelon smiled. “Rise. At ease,” he ordered softly as he looked back at the princess. “Little dove, have you met a templar before?”
“Templars captured me,” she replied tersely, her grip on the blanket tightening nervously. “They’re good at anti-magic.”
Zaelon smiled. “Yes, quite good at what they do. But have you ever met one? They’re people, just like you and me, isn’t that right, miss…?”
“Xivali. No last name. Lowborn, my prince,” Xivali responded, walking closer to the bed as the servant boy left.
“It is wonderful that in the Empire, even those who are born without privileges can become great, if they have the talent and the will to do so,” the prince remarked. “Wouldn’t you agree, little dove?”
Xivali wondered why he kept calling her that, and why he was so close to her as to hold her hand and stroke her hair. Has the prince taken a mistress? That would be absolutely scandalous.
“I guess so,” she conceded, still shyly hiding behind the prince and the blanket.
She really is just a girl. I can only imagine how much she has suffered at the hands of humans. I only hope she can learn to love the Empire despite its flaws.
“Do you have a face, Xivali?” Alouette asked, genuinely curious.
The question was absurd to her. “I’m sorry, princess – could you repeat that? I think I misheard you.”
There was no misinformation at hand. The prince smiled as the two talked. “Back home, people said the templars don’t have faces behind their helmets. Is that true?”
“Remove your helm, if you do not mind,” Zaelon requested. “There is no threat to guard your visage against.”
Xivali did as she was asked, revealing her icy blue eyes, silver hair, and argent-blue lips. Her skin was fair and light, but it was unmistakable by her glow and her features that she was dragon-touched. “A frost dragon gave you his blessing,” Alouette noted immediately. “I thought templars killed dragons.”
Xivali nodded. “We fight dragons. We defeat dragons. I defeated the dragon Fylnir and spared him. He returned to the mountain’s peak after lending me his power. When I fight, he fights with me, through me. It is an accord of honor among rivals.”
“You don’t have to hurt them to get them to help you,” Alouette jabbed defiantly. “But… at least you have a face, I guess.”
Anxiety gnawed at the girl’s stomach as she talked to the foreign mage-killer and the prince who had been so gentle to her. On and on her nervousness grew, her stomach tightening and her chest contracting. “This letter… Xivali, if I may step out with you for a moment and discuss its contents with you, it would give the princess a chance to get comfortable,” the handsome man suggested, much to Alouette’s relief.
She still couldn’t believe she was princess of the Queendom of Veina. She could still remember the letter she received that seemed like so long ago. Had it not been her sister’s handwriting, she would not have believed it. The loss still gnawed at her. But then, in that moment, she was alone as the two stepped into the hall and closed the door.
She had a chance for escape, but the desire had long been extinguished within her. They had broken her within days of her capture, and the regular draining of the magical energy in her veins had pushed her body to a constant state of barely functioning, to the point where she couldn’t give a speech or swim or run.
In her weakness, she learned to trust the prince, perhaps even to care about him. He never was rude or condescending to her. He protected her when others would persecute her. He even comforted her when she woke in the night from horrid dreams, crying and sobbing. She didn’t exactly want to leave, but she knew she couldn’t stay in the royal apartments forever.
For the moment, regardless of her desires, she would be right there, and so she dutifully obeyed the prince’s orders to change into the clothes she was given, which, upon surveying them with a curious gaze, Alouette determined to be a simple yet elegant emerald-colored silk dress and a soft white rectangle that she had become accustomed to at night.
She remembered the first time she woke up drenched in a puddle of her own making, that night the thin nobleman had beaten her. She remembered the shame, the humiliation, especially when she was found. By the time Zaelon arrived in Croloft after treating with her people to no avail, it had become a nightly occurrence, and he solved it by introducing her to a rather peculiar human invention he called a diaper that was meant to capture her mishaps. It was similar to the cloth garments the newborn Veina wore back home, but the material was different and there was no washing them after usage. She wondered at first why they would replace a renewable item with a disposable one, but the conveniences and quality afforded to her explained that rather quickly, particularly given that the average Aventinian couldn’t afford quality hide undergarments.
The broken girl she was when Zaelon offered the solution to her did not resist; instead, she was thankful, as her nights weren’t quite as bad anymore and her mornings were far less humiliating despite the lack of an actual solution to her problem.
I’d rather just not be drained every day like they’re milking a cow, but I suppose that won’t be the case.
Thanks to her practice, it only took a couple of minutes before she was in her pretty dress with the fresh diaper hidden under it.
She began to grow lonely and afraid, however, as she continued to have privacy in the prince’s bedchamber. She could faintly hear him talking to the templar girl and her captain outside the room, but she wanted him next to her again. She wanted the day to be over and the night to come so he would sit with her and read her books and teach her things nobody knew back home.
When a tear rolled down her cheek, Alouette decided it was time to seek him.
She padded softly to the door, pulling hard and finally opening it to reveal the prince standing alone, staring down at the letter in his hands. Her presence alerted him, and he looked up as he smiled softly. “Hey,” she said, breaking the silence awkwardly.
She stood right in front of him, wringing her hands as she searched her mind for something to say. “Princess,” he responded. “Is there something you need?”
She shook her head meekly and looked at the letter in his hands, unable to read its contents. “What… what does it say?”
“I’ll explain later. I need to think about some things first. But… how would you feel about leaving Croloft?” he responded, much to her surprise.
Excitement and dread filled her at once, but above that was her fear of being separated from him. “No,” she immediately answered. “I don’t want to escape. I promise. I-I’ll be good, I’m sorry, I-”
She immediately began trembling as she remembered the torture she had endured, particularly on the road to Croloft from her point of capture in the Plains of Renshire. The last thing she wanted was to be caught escaping from the city. Besides that, she knew she couldn’t physically handle it – her fainting when she got too emotional in her speech was all the proof that she needed and only a fraction of the proof she had.
She felt warm as he embraced her, holding her close and shushing her until she calmed down. “I’m not talking about anything like that,” he said. “Remember, you’re safe with me. You aren’t a captive in my eyes. You’re a guest and a companion of mine for the time being.”
For the time being? But after that…
The thought of the future made her shiver – at that point, he was the closest thing she had left to family, and she knew her people were pitted against his in a mortal struggle. “I meant,” he continued, “that I will be traveling to the desert to try and treat with your people before our forces arrive. I’d like you to accompany me.”
“No,” he answered. “But not many people, and any who threaten you will return to Croloft and send for a replacement. Any who act… I will have their heads.”
“I can’t,” she said with a weak breath, “the weariness is more and more taxing every day. They’ve taken everything from me…”
In Zaelon’s eyes shone empathy. “I’ll protect you, and I’ll let you recover a bit before we head out. I think there’s not much point in keeping you weak anymore anyways, hm?”
His offer seemed too good to be true. She would get a chance to help her people see reason and wisdom in surrender, she wouldn’t be so damn helpless anymore, and she would get to stay by the prince’s side without staying in a city that wanted her dead and her people massacred in a bloody genocide. Her consent was implied, as one of her rare smiles had stolen her lips from her as she hugged him.
The man smiled. “Good. We’ll head out in a few days. In the meantime, I believe the Great Hall is expecting us. We’re late for the feast, little dove.”
The feast was loud, festive, and huge – Alouette felt surprisingly little fear or anxiety in the company of all the drunken men and women eating together in celebration of the Empire’s innovation and expansion. With the prince protecting her and nobody else paying her any mind, what had she to fear?
She ate and drank, though the dark liquid she was provided was bitter and made her stomach feel hot. She made a face with every sip, which drew knowing grins from Zaelon. She blushed and glared at him every time, to no avail. As she did every night, she felt her strength coming back to her; generally, the draining was done just after dinner, but she knew that night her energy would not be stolen away. The more she ate and drank, the better she felt, and when people took turns singing, she knew she had to have a turn at it. Once a man finished a song about the Battle of Dragon’s Gate, Alouette stood admist the laughter and clapping.
“Oh, ho-ho-ho! Look what we have here!” a man exclaimed. “I hope she sounds as good as she looks, eh?”
With a blush and a glare, Alouette dignified herself before beginning the song that had helped her make it through her captivity.
“The shadows grow taller,
The nights do grow longer.
The lights seem so somber –
They grow dimmer… smaller…
And so the birds take flight,
And yet, try as they might,
They shan’t escape the night.”
The whistling and noises of approval amongst the feast was enough to motivate her to continue. She looked to Zaelon, who smiled at her approvingly, and she began to sing the song he had sung to her each night – it was a song of prophecy, dark prophecy, and it pierced her heart like a knife.
“Sweet children, little children, born of the green,
When the shadows grow dark and tall and lean,
And the night seems to cast o’er all Aventine,
Only then will you know for what we sing.
Sweet children, growing children, born of the green,
When the green lands turn black and red and fi’ry,
And the plump little children turn thin and wiry,
Only then will you know for what we sing.
Sweet children, poor children, born of the green,
When the skies weep snow, sulfur, and suffering,
And the air seems to ring with crying and bleeding,
Only then will you know for what we sing.”
Apart from her haunting, angelic voice, the hall was silent. The sound, tremulous and smooth as silk, carried throughout the room and filled every corner, every crevasse, with the prophecy no man in Aventine was foreign to, the same prophecy Alouette’s people knew and feared.
“Sweet children, bloodied children, born of the green,
When your breath is thick with smoke and ashes,
And tears cease to fall from beneath your lashes,
Only then will you know for what we sing.
Sweet children, burning children, born of the green,
When the sun shines to burn you and sear you,
And the moon shines to set the shadows upon you,
Only then will you know for what we sing.
Sweet children, damned children, born of the green,
When They take your heart and your soul and your innocence,
And They move your movements and They breathe your breaths,
Only then will you know for what we sing.”
As she finished, she looked at Zaelon again and noticed his gaze. The prince watched her with a certain fondness in his eyes; it was so easy to forget that she was his prisoner, so easy to forget the horrors she had faced. In that moment, those men felt like her people.
Is this what being queen will be like? Will these be the gazes I receive from my subjects, or will the gazes be of suspicion and disregard?
The silence was broken by a deafening explosion as the wall of the Great Hall burst open, stones tumbling to the floor. Alouette’s ears were ringing as she turned to face the source of the interruption.
Men and women of the Empire flocked to the intruders to meet them in battle; templars, guards, and feasters alike took up arms against the Veina spellcasters who were attacking so suddenly in the evening. The princess felt her wrist seized as she was led out of the room by the prince. They fled the scene as the bells began ringing.
Alouette’s hearing began to return to her as the two rushed through the halls, and she could hear footsteps and shouting behind her. Still running with the prince, she looked behind them to see a Veina man with a scimitar chasing after them.
Uncertainty threatened to consume Alouette as she hesitated, not knowing where her loyalties were in that situation or who would come out on top. Do I try to escape? Do I stay with the prince? Are they going to take the city or is this a small force?
Her questions remained unanswered as she tripped, falling to the floor and rolling, losing her grip on the prince’s hand in the process.
He did not help her up; instead, he stood over her, his back to her, and drew a dagger from his belt. The scimitar-wielding rescuer approached them cautiously. “Hand over the princess and we’ll be on our way. If you do not, your city will burn,” the man threatened.
“That will not happen,” Zaelon stated.
Alouette stood, but she hesitated and hesitated, waiting to see what would happen before she made a decision on what to do.
The Veina man swung his scimitar at Zaelon. “Princess Vylleine, run to the Great Hall; our forces will have overwhelmed theirs by now. They’ll take you home,” he said in their native tongue, grunting as he forced Zaelon back against a wall.
The scimitar made a final swing at Zaelon’s neck, but was stopped by his dagger just inches from his demise.
The two were deadlocked for a moment, and it seemed Zaelon was losing. A dagger is no match for a scimitar…
Alouette’s veins on her arms and in her hands glowed violet as she touched the Veina man’s back, just where his heart was.
The man seized up and gasped, but he could not react; the princess channeled ice into his heart, stopping it and killing him quickly and bloodlessly.
The man fell to his knees as Alouette stumbled backward, dizzy and light-headed. The man breathed in repeatedly, but it did not seem to be doing him any good as he twitched in a final seizure before collapsing limply onto the floor.
Alouette fell and began breathing rapidly as she panicked. I-I… I just killed a man…
She felt a burst of warmth between her legs as her eyes widened and her breaths grew more shallow.
Her vision darkened, and she felt so cold. In that moment, she knew she would die that night.
She would rather it be herself, after all, than the man she had killed.
As her vision finally cut to black, her body failing her, Alouette felt a spray of blood splatter her face.
“Commandant, they’ve entered the royal apartments. The prince is in danger,” a man told Maliri Velnawel as she made her way to the attackers’ position with two dozen Imperial Guardsmen at her back.
“And the princess?” she asked with suspicion.
If that savage hurts my prince, I’ll gut her myself.
“She disappeared with the prince when the attack began,” her squire explained to her.
“Then for now we need to assume she’s a part of the invasion of Croloft. Hopefully her wicked magics haven’t tainted our prince, but we should be careful and suspect him as being a conspirator given their mutual disappearance,” Maliri ordered.
When they arrived at the top of the steps leading to the royal apartments, Maliri issued the orders. “Usinea and Adam, take your squads and go find Templar-captain Languedoc. He’s on detail for the building tonight, so he’ll be able to tell you where the fighting is thickest. Varl, take your squad and head to the Great Hall to reinforce whomever is left there. If I’m not in the Great Hall in two hours, I want you all to assume I’ve been captured or killed. If you see spellcasters, do not engage them. If you see the princess, kill her. If you see the prince, accompany him and make sure he isn’t working with the enemy.”
With her forces scrambled to the tension points of the city, Maliri took it upon herself to search the contested territory of the royal apartments alone. She walked through the vast halls for several minutes before seeing two dead Veina on the ground. She inspected the corpses, finding that one had no visible wounds and the other seemed to have been stabbed repeatedly. A sword was not responsible for either of these corpses, so it wasn’t by the hands of a soldier or a templar. The woundless man suggests that there’s magic afoot, but we don’t have any in the city right now besides the templars, which have already been ruled out. Looks like Nightingale’s work. But why would she be here?
Maliri Velnawel feared few things; she had seen corpses rise and walk, seen dragons burn villages, seen shadows possess her own men. The famous Nightingale, however, was one of those few things. Someone or something had been leaving suspicious scenes in the city ever since the princess’s arrival. The crimes had been anything from multiple unwounded corpses to complete dismemberment of an infamous local noble.
She continued on, resolving that she had to accept the possibility that she might not make it out of that night alive if Nightingale was around.
As Maliri rounded a corner, she saw a woman in the traditional snakeskin armor the Veina wore; more disturbing, however, was the massive war-cat that stood next to her, tearing at a servant’s corpse. “In the name of the Imperial Guard of Croloft, do not move or you will be struck down with extreme prejudice!” Maliri commanded as she drew her sword and shield.
The woman spun on her heel as the cat turned and prepared to pounce. Within seconds, an arrow buried itself in Maliri’s shield. They don’t speak Aventinian. And here I was going to spare this particular savage.
Maliri bashed the cat’s head against the wall with her shield when it leapt at her, but it immediately swiped back as an arrow buried itself in Maliri’s forearm. She grunted and thrust her sword into the cat’s side as it sunk its teeth into her shield arm. She screamed in pain as she twisted her sword to and fro in attempts to get the cat off of her.
After some wrestling and after a third arrow lodged itself in her shield, Maliri made it past the cat.
The Veina woman’s arms turned the same green as her eyes as she put her bow on her back, pulled out a trident, and heated the three prongs with sorcery until they glowed. Maliri hesitated and took steps back farther and farther until she couldn’t back away from the red-hot trident any longer.
Maliri spun past the tip of the trident as her opponent thrusted and swung her sword at the woman’s shoulder.
The woman stepped to the side, used the pole of her polearm to swipe Maliri’s feet out from under her, and stopped suddenly in the middle of a thrust as a hammer crushed her skull.
When the Veina collapsed, dead before she hit the ground, Maliri realized that Languedoc stood with three other templars, one of whom wielded the hammer, and that the sixteen soldiers of hers between Usinea’s and Adam’s squads accompanied them. The templar who saved her offered a hand to help Maliri up.
She winced in pain from the wounds, particularly where the cat bit her arm. “Hold still,” the templar commanded before her.
A silver-plated hand grabbed Maliri’s arm and a glow of light shone over it. A tingling, stretching, burning sensation plagued Maliri as her wound closed by means of holy magic.
“Thanks,” she said to the templar. “Maliri Velnawel, Commandant of the Imperial Guard of Croloft.”
“Xivali. Templar. Let’s go.”
“Have the prince and princess been found yet?” Maliri asked Templar-Captain Languedoc as they walked.
“I saw something suspiciously resembling Nightingale’s work on my way here. Two dead Veina. Both men. One without wounds, one with multiple stab wounds.”
There was no response. “Adam, go to the Great Hall and notify Varl’s team that I’m with Languedoc right now.”
“Aye aye, Commandant,” he said, taking his seven soldiers with him as he left.
Soon, they came upon the prince’s bedchamber. “Xivali, attend Commandant Velnawel and her troops as they continue the search. We received reports of spellcasters in the prince’s bedchamber, awaiting his return there. This is a templar fight,” Languedoc ordered.
The woman nodded and walked alongside Maliri as they continued their search of the halls. They opened multiple doors, but all they found were corpses or cowering servants. Eventually, they came upon a seemingly dead Veina girl propped up in the corner next to open doors leading outside.
“That’s her!” Xivali exclaimed, rushing over to her and checking her vitals. “She’s alive, breathing, stable. Probably collapsed from exhaustion again. Where’s the prince?”
“Stay here,” Maliri ordered to Usinea and her squad.
The troops complied as Xivali and Maliri walked outside together, surveying the area. The two walked around for a bit until they found a man standing over a corpse, catching his breath. “Zaelon,” Maliri confirmed with relief and excitement.
She ran up to the man and he turned. “Xivali, Maliri,” he said with familiarity and exasperation. “Thank the gods you’re here. What’s the status on the city’s defenses, Maliri?”
“As far as I know, the Great Hall is secured, but I haven’t received word from them yet. The royal apartments have been cleared out. There’s no army at our gates, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be soon. What’s important is that it seems their rescue attempt failed. We’ve retained control of the city, my prince.”
“I wouldn’t declare victory just yet. Can you dispatch troops to the armory to make sure they don’t get in? If they get their hands on our technology, this war is lost,” Zaelon requested as they walked back to the royal apartments.
“Yes. Usinea can handle that – she and her squad are currently guarding the princess,” Maliri explained.
They entered the building to find the eight Imperial Guardsmen kneeling in a circle around the princess, who remained unconscious, chest rising and falling peacefully, despite having been relocated to the center of the hall.
“Stand up! What are you doing?” Maliri demanded.
There was no response.
The three walked up to the guardsmen slowly as the realization dawned upon them that they were all dead with bloodshot eyes that stayed open, stuck by some foul sorcery, with no visible wounds on them and their swords still in their sheaths.
As she opened her eyes, Alouette realized that Zaelon, Xivali, and a woman in red, intricately detailed armor were standing over her. Upon looking around her, Alouette realized that eight people in black armor were kneeling before her, cold, dead, bloodshot eyes cast upon her.
Alouette’s eyes widened in horror, her bladder contracted, and her heart began pounding.
“Princess,” came Zaelon’s voice as he picked her up and buried her face in his chest. “Don’t look. You’re okay. It’s not your fault. Everything’s okay. You’re safe, all right? Nobody will hurt you. Just breathe. Xivali, can you calm her with magic? She’s going to have a heart attack at this rate.”
The templar obeyed, and after several minutes, Alouette even managed to stop shaking. Still, she clung to Zaelon like a child to her father. The red-armored woman stayed silent, but her gaze was not nearly as nice as Zaelon’s. If anything, Maliri probably wanted her dead like the rest of the city.
She felt hopeless. Despair gripped her – she had missed her chance to escape, missed her chance to be accepted by the Aventinians, and caused a night of excessive bloodshed. Tears rolled down her cheeks freely. “Hey, little dove,” Zaelon offered, “we’ll leave tonight. It’s not safe here anymore. How does that sound? We can go to the capital, we can take you home, we can take you wherever you want.”
“My prince, would it be wise to let her go home after an act of aggression by the Queendom of Veina like this?” the red-armored woman asked skeptically.
“Maliri, the princess posed the question earlier today as to whether or not we should be surprised when countries we attack lash out at us in defense. They attacked because we have their queen, not because they’re aggressive,” the prince responded with patience.
“But to return her would take away our only hostage and provide them with a ruler; during an interregnum, they will be disorganized and chaotic, unable to make centralized decisions. The moment a disagreement comes up as to military movement, they’ll stall. We can use that,” Maliri argued.
Alouette wriggled and was set down, much to her satisfaction. She stood defiant even as proof of her weakness sagged between her legs. “I would be willing to sign a non-aggression pact so long as the terms were favorable,” she said. “I do not wish for war.”
I’m a queen, not a child. I’m a queen, and this is my foe. She would have me chained up in the dungeon…
They moved in silence until they reached the doors of the Great Hall. “Stay here with Xivali and Maliri, okay princess?” Zaelon requested.
Alouette nodded obediently and stood outside the Great Hall with the two women. In that moment, she felt like a child – despite being a fully-grown girl who had just come of age, her stature as a Veina had her standing several inches below the two fairly tall, heavily armored women.
As they stood waiting for Zaelon’s return, Alouette grew increasingly uncomfortable with the soaked mass under her dress. She cursed herself silently for her loss of control and looked around impatiently, shifting from foot to foot in her gross discomfort.
“Are you in pain, princess?” Xivali asked respectfully, much to Maliri’s disdain.
“N-no,” she responded with confusion, realizing only after a long moment that the woman must have caught on to her discomfort.
“Princess Vylleine, what will you do?” Maliri asked suddenly.
“After tonight?” Alouette asked.
“Well… I don’t know. I can’t stay here – if there isn’t another attempt of rescue by my people, there will still be the threat of people seeking vengeance against me personally for whomever they lost tonight. I’m worried – the people in the streets here… they’re willing to have me killed in front of them in a demonstration. That’s… that’s not okay,” she said, shaking her head. “But I don’t know where I’ll go. I’ll follow Zaelon, I guess.”
“Let me go with you when you go,” Maliri requested.
“What? I don’t know you – why would you want to come along?”
“I have faithfully served in this city as Commandant. I have done a lot of good and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve reached my peak here. If I can serve the prince and help him in his conquest of… the desert, then perhaps my station could be reevaluated. I cannot do that when I’m guarding Croloft,” the woman explained.
Alouette narrowed her eyes. “You are asking me for permission to attend your prince in war against my people?”
The templar laughed at that. “I will ask him to relieve me of duty as Commandant and to appoint me to serve him personally,” Maliri explained. “He will seek your approval, and it is clear that he will let you decide.”
Their conversation was cut short by the doors to the Great Hall swinging open to reveal Zaelon, armored and equipped with his hand-and-a-half sword. “Alouette, servants are currently gathering supplies for our journey. We will have a horse readied for you. Do you know how to ride?”
“I’ve only ever ridden camels,” the princess admitted. “But it’s similar, right?”
“I don’t know,” Zaelon admitted. “I think you’ll do just fine. If not, I can teach you or you can just ride with me and your horse can carry extra saddlebags. Thank you for your help, Templar Xivali and Commandant Velnawel. You are dismissed. You may attend to your own affairs.”
“My prince,” the red-armored woman began, kneeling before him. “Allow me to accompany you in your journeys, wherever you may go. I have served my time as Commandant here, and it is high time I left this city.”
The templar, surprisingly, knelt as well. “I would be eternally grateful to you, my prince, if you would be so kind as to order Languedoc to send me abroad with you.”
The prince looked to his little princess, who smiled and shrugged. “Granted, both of you,” he said, “but we leave at dawn. Say your goodbyes, gather your belongings, and saddle your horses. I will make the arrangements.”
Once all the business had been conducted, Alouette finally found a time to talk to the prince. As the two sat alone outside the Great Hall, she leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder, and sighed. “I killed a man,” she said softly.
Zaelon put his arm around her and held her close. “Death is a terror, and I’d be worried if you weren’t so distraught over it. But do not blame yourself, princess. You saved my life – the preservation of life is the most justifiable reason for killing.”
They sat in silence for a long moment. “Do you want to wear something more practical for the road?” he asked. “We can even outfit you with armor if you like. I’m sure there’s some leather around here, though it won’t be snakeskin like you’re probably used to.”
“I’m used to velvet. We have a lot of it in the palace. But… yeah, something practical, and maybe a… you know,” she responded, blushing and looking away with shame.
“Anything you desire. What is it, princess? If it is within my power, I will grant it.”
The girl shifted and rubbed her legs together nervously. “I… I um…”
How do I even ask for it? Why can’t he offer it so I can just accept it and say okay?
“Oh… do you need a fresh diaper? I’m sorry, princess – I forgot. I got a little distracted with the night’s events.”
Alouette secured the tapes on the fresh undergarment as she dressed after her bath. She was lucky enough to have been provided some practical leather armor – nothing overly protective, but it was light and that’s what she wanted. They even gave her a cloak with a hood, to avoid being recognized as they prepared to travel the country.
Alouette looked in the reflection of the water in one of the baths in the bathhouse. She looked different – she looked like a thief, and she could even pass as human so long as her hood was drawn over her head. She smiled at herself. I’m a woman now.
With that sentiment, she realized she was peeing as warmth spread throughout her fresh diaper. Frustration and anger washed over her, and she let out a string of curses in her native tongue, attracting the attention of a couple of servant girls who promptly rushed over to her. “Yes, my lady?” one asked.
The princess swallowed her pride and braced herself for embarrassment. “I need another diaper…”