Fae stood solemnly in her dimly lit quarters and stared down at the parchment of scribbled text in her tightly closed fist. When the messenger boy delivered it the day beforehand, she certainly did not expect what she had read, yet she was hardly surprised.
Tossing the note after some time of contemplation across the small room into the dying hearth, her patience began to wear her to the bone and using the cheap wooden chair for support she leaned over to finish slipping on her armoured boots; wriggling them slightly to ensure a tight fitting. The blades of her twin daggers glistened in the small light provided and, having already been sharpened, she returned them to the sheaths built into her armour between her shoulder blades.
She stood straight, her eyes, full with fierce deliberation, watched as the fire crackled away in the corner. How long had she been kept waiting? A frown penetrated her composed features.
Her quarters were nothing to be impressed with, she realized as time continued to drag. A small wooden table and chair that would always leave her with splinters; a single bed made as close to the military’s expectations as possible; a fireplace that continued to offer the underground chamber a small glow and a few rats. It was a typical room for a typical soldier.
She sighed heavily as her door creaked open and close behind her yet she did not bother to face her visitor. “I hope you have a good reason for keeping me waiting?” She asked with an uninterested tone.
Fae finally turned when she grew too impatient for the answer she was being refused and was met with another equally amour clad chest. She tilted her head back to take a closer inspection of the well built man and stared stubbornly into his deep brown eyes. His mouth, which forever seemed frozen in a perpetual sly grin, smirked back at her and Fae’s brows furrowed at the man’s untendered beard.
“You look like you’ve had your hands full. If the emperor saw that mug of yours I believe he would drop dead from embarrassment. Was your mission such a success that, in your triumph, you forgot to shave?”
Her curt comments were met with a smooth chuckle. “Has my absence caused you to forget your manners, Fae?” He retorted alluringly.
Fae snorted unattractively, “If I were to ever address you formally, it would be out of utter satiricalness, Commander.” Her lips twitched at the corner briefly at her own humor and she turned to drop backwards into the chair. “When I received your letter yesterday I was rather taken aback; I didn’t think you capable of such a feat, Cryton.”
Cryton leisurely leaned against the molding stone wall, crossing his arms around his broad chest. “If I didn’t know you so well, Fae, I’d think you were complimenting me.”
Fae allowed a cheeky smirk before glancing in the direction of the fire; the last place she’d seen Cryton’s note. “When will you tell the others?” she asked apathetically.
The commander followed her gaze and simply assumed what she was speaking about. “The Elite Force is busy today; the Emperor’s birthday is nothing to take lightly. I’ll tell them after you’ve done your job.” He tilted his face and stared skeptically at her. “You are prepared, aren’t you?”
Fae scoffed and came to her feet. “This isn’t my first assassination, Cryton. Besides,” she strode towards her bed and, reaching underneath, dragged out a dilapidated hood and cloak. “If you want to save Concordia, the sympathizers must go.”
As she threw the cloak over her shoulders, pulling the hood over her brown locks and dropping it low enough to conceal her facial features, Cryton wrapped his arms around her hips and pulled her into an embrace.
She felt nothing. Even as he lowered his lips to her brow nothing stirred within her. Cryton’s coarse hand cupped her chin, drawing her gaze to his, leaving no space between them. Fae could feel his breath tickle her full pink lips as he murmured softly the few words that could bring her the slightest of joys.
“I knew I could trust you.”
EloraErimere, the small farming village boarding on Odessa’s doorstep, was alive with enthusiasm. Children dressed in their Sunday best ran about the town full of laughter and excitement as the various adults rushed to finish their daily chores. It was the Emperor’s birthday which only meant one thing; the elaborate annual public festival was finally here.
The famous festival, run at the expense of Concordia’s royal coffers and throughout its city's streets, was an event created many years ago to encourage the public’s love and devotion to that of its leaders and country. Various activities were on offer catered towards both the young and the old; even the nobility of Odessa mingled among the commoners on this day.
Elora leaned against the aging wooden fence boarding the small farm house with a basket full with wheat from the fields. She watched fondly with a smile as the small children scurried around the empty meadow in the distance. Elora giggled softly as she listened to some of them laugh and scream proudly of the amount of daisies they had found, while others sat in the long grass intensely hypnotized with making flower crowns to wear at the parade.
Turning, she dropped the basket over the fence and nimbly climbed the debilitated timber to the other side. Picking it up again, she walked towards the house and skilfully opened the door while balancing the basket with one leg. Getting inside, she managed to nudge the door close with her hip before placing the basket down.
“I saw that.” A firm elderly voice spoke up and Elora wheeled around to face the man who had taken her in many years ago. The years had not been kind to Theodore as they had to Elora. His once young, and considerably handsome, face was now caressed with wrinkles; his significantly bright blue eyes seemed to grow heavier with time; his scalp was littered with thin patches of white hair and he’d gained some weight despite the lethal illness threatening to claim him at any moment.
However, despite his often brash demeanour and rough appearance, Theodore had a fighting spirit that was much stronger than his disease, and, as much as it shamed his tough guy persona, Elora had experienced firsthand the gentle old man inside.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She finally answered casually and strode towards the small kitchen in the corner after adorning a dirty apron.
A chortle of laughter broke from between his cracked lips and he leaned against his chair at the table. “You best be careful with those powers of yours, girly. What if somebody catches you one day?”
Elora could hear his concern even through his humour but she continued to chop up vegetables and throw them in the boiling pot hanging above the fire place. “No one’s going to catch me growing daisies in a meadow full of children. They enjoy it, so why is it such a horrible thing?”
Theodore sighed in exasperation and brushed back his thinning scalp. “Your father would curse me from his grave if anything happened to you.”
The mention of her father brought a small, reminiscent smile to her lips. Although his death, as brutal and terrifying as it was, would remain a traumatic memory for Elora she refused to ignore the twelve happy years they spent together. “Papa coddled me.” She complained half-heartedly over her shoulder; paying more attention to the cooking than her father’s faithful friend.
“And for good reason! Why are you in such a rush, girl?” He lost his train of thought as he finally took notice of Elora’s work with a frown. “I just had me lunch, what are you cooking for?”
Elora, having finished tossing all the ingredients into the pot, turned and wiped her hands down the front of the apron before placing it back on its hanger. “I’m not sure when I’ll be home later so I’m putting rabbit stew on for dinner. You’ll just have to stir it every once in awhile and it’ll be ready to serve when you are.” She smiled up at Theodore as his thrown deepened and his mouth curled into a snarl.
“I keep telling you not to baby me; I’m more than capable of taking care of myself. And where do you think you’re going? You better not be thinking about going into the city.” Again, Elora could read more than just scolding in his words and she giggled walking over to him; he was never truly mad at her.
“To believe you never had a child yourself; you’re just like Papa. But even he took me every year to see the parade.” She leaned over him and pressed a kiss to his cheek while ignoring his growl of indignation.
“All I’m saying is the Elite Force will be out in numbers today; more so than any other day of the year. They’ll have sharp eyes on the lookout so it’ll be safer if you stay home again this year.” Theodore tried to plea with Elora however even he knew he sounded defeated.
Elora smiled at him and began for the door. “I promise I’ll be careful. I just want to see the parade, like I used to with Papa, then I’ll come straight home.”
As Theodore let out another growl, Elora knew it was his way of offering his reluctant blessing and she smiled ear to ear. Bouncing on her toes, she waved an enthusiastic good-bye and shut the door behind her before racing towards Odessa’s large main gates.