Martin and Anemone stumbled into the entry hall; his arms were wet with his niece’s tears. “Shush, Anemone. Please,” he breathed. Martin felt his heart pound within his chest. He dared not look at his wound. He dared not look behind when there was a crash at the door. The guardsmen lowered the manor door’s brace and locked it in place.
“Father!” Martin looked up and saw Mistress Amelia’s skirt dart around the corner of the second floor hall.
“Mistress!” he shouted, but she was gone.
Anemone beat at her uncle’s arms. “Let me go!” she shouted through sobs, “Let me find Papa!”
A tall, black arrow crashed through the rosette window above the manor door and landed directly in front of Martin. Shouts and the clash of steel roared outside. Martin brought Anemone close to his chest and he ran up, following the Mistress.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Martin spied an ajar door down the corridor and rushed for it. “Father! Please be reasonable!” heard Martin, “Think of your people!” it was Mistress Amelia’s voice. “We have to give her to her-!”
Martin reached the open door to witness his Lordship strike out, causing the Mistress to fall weeping to the floor. “Mistress!”
His Lordship scowled and turned from Amelia returning to a bedside. Martin gingerly walked up and helped Mistress Amelia to her feet. “Mistress,” he said in a hushed voice, “What is going on here? Shouldn’t we go? Where are we?”
Mistress Amelia held her crimson cheek with one hand, holding back the stinging tears. “We’re in Lady Siran’s chambers.”
Martin glanced up at the four poster bed and saw the Lord holding the hand of his beautiful elven wife. The white tresses of her hair were brushed out to lay gently over her chest and her eyes were shut in slumber. Flanked on either side of her bed were flameless candles producing steady narrow streams of smoke.
“Isn’t Lady Siran very sick?” whispered Anemone, eyes still damp, “Like Papa? Can we move her?”
Mistress Amelia nodded. “Her Ladyship has been in a deep sleep for a very long while, Anemone.”
“I won’t let them take you,” murmured the Lord, “Never. Never. Master brought you back to me…”
Anemone gasped. “They’re coming!”
The door flew open to reveal… nothing, but Anemone stared out in horror.
Martin held Anemone tight as he quickly brought himself and Mistress Amelia to the wall. It was then that Martin felt the cool touch of steel hover closely to his neck.
“Don’t…” and with the first utterance of words, the first of the elven soldiers appeared before them, it was he who held the blade, “…move.” Six other elven soldiers appeared out of thin air. The armor that each elf wore was marked with the emblem of fire on their chests.
Taking point was an elven woman with an unraveling white braid. “Marcus!” she shouted. “Step aside.”
His Lordship kissed Lady Siran’s limp hand. “Princess…” Lord Marcus kicked the chair he had sat upon back into the Princess’ legs. She stumbled giving Lord Marcus a moment to draw this sword. “Siran would be so happy to see her dear sister. She is still resting though, Rehan, you are quite inconsiderate to barge in like this.”
Princess Rehan drew her sword and pointed it at Lord Marcus. “You keep her chained as she is. I demand you release her.”
Lord Marcus’ blade tapped the point of Princess Rehan’s. “She lives, Rehan. Do not make me kill my wife’s sister.”
“No…” breathed Mistress Amelia.
With a snap of Princess Rehan’s wrist, Marcus’ blade was thwarted down and she took her stance. “Not being dead isn’t the same as living, Marcus!” Princess Rehan charged forward, more toward Lady Siran than Lord Marcus. Her soldiers stood at the ready behind her.
Lord Marcus stood his ground, sword in hand. “The Master of Death has spared her, Rehan. You are the one who condemns her to death!” Marcus caught Princess Rehan’s blade and kept her where she stood..
“You begged your Master to keep Siran from dying and condemned her to a life of wakeless sleep!” She said through gritted teeth. “Let her go, Marcus! Let her into the arms of her Lady Vitalia where she can find life again!”
Lord Marcus spit into Princess Rehan’s face and shoved her back. “Death is the only God with any real power here! But if you’d like I can help guide you into your Goddess’ arms!” He lunged.
And then he froze in place, his sword falling from his hand. A dark arrow had lodged itself in the middle of his chest. Mistress Amelia cried out. Princess Rehan glanced back, first at Amelia then glaring at her soldier with the bow.
Mistress Amelia stepped forward but the soldier blocked her. “No,” said Rehan, “Let her tend to his wound. He may be saved yet.” Mistress Amelia rushed to her father’s side.
Princess Rehan did not look, her eyes rested on her sister. Martin could not see her face, he only saw Rehan’s hand tuck Lady Siran’s long hair behind her ear tenderly. The warrior princess brought up her sword and Martin hid Anemone’s eyes from the sight.
Princess Rehan withdrew her blade from her sister’s body, wiped it and stepped away. She looked to Mistress Amelia. “I’m sorry, Amelia,”
Mistress Amelia did not look up, but Martin could tell the redness of her eyes from the sobbing as she spoke. “I knew he was mad… I knew I should have done something…”
“A husband should be brave enough to let the ones he loves go…” whispered Rehan.
Blood stained Mistress Amelia’s velvet cloak. “What now, Aunt Rehan?”
“I have no interest in taking your lands, Amelia,” sighed Rehan, “Rule as you wish.”
Her head snapped up glaring defiantly. “Rule what!?” demanded Mistress Amelia. “How many of my people have you killed?!”
Stone faced, Princess Rehan replied, “I did not harm anyone who was not in my way. I’ll have my men clean what blood has been spilt and we will leave and return past the wall-”
“WHAT OF MY PAPA!?” Anemone had wiggled her away out of her uncle’s grasp and charged at Princess’s Rehan shins.
“ANEMONE, NO!” he shouted.
“…What is this?” Princess Rehan asked Mistress Amelia.
Mistress Amelia sniffed and reached out to Anemone with her bloodied hands. “Anemone, child, come here.”
Anemone pounded at the armor on the Princess’ legs. “Did you kill him?! There was fire! Why did you kill him!?”
Princess Rehan nodded at her soldier and Martin was allowed to step forward. “Come here, Anemone. Hush now.”
“But, I saw it-”
“Hush!!”Martin pulled a trembling Anemone behind him, before daring to look up at the Princess Rehan and nodding a thank you.
“Wait,” said the Princess, “Hold still, man.” She reached out the Martin’s chest.
“Martin, step back!” hissed Mistress Amelia. “Don’t hurt him!” she pleaded.
Princess Rehan pulled back at the hole in Martin’s shirt, the hole where the elven arrow had landed. She pressed her lips together in a frown as she looked at his face. “You suffer a fate worse than my sister, sir Martin. Death is not without spite…”
Martin trembled, holding himself up as best he good. He finally gathered the courage to look down and he felt his heart leap up into his throat. There was a small hole in his skin, but blood did not seep from it, only a small wisp of smoke. “I-I don’t understand.”
The look on Princess Rehan’s face told him that she truly did pity him. “You are Unclaimed.”