***The West Province- Wilderness Outside the Citadel, Summer Year 2518***
There is silence all around as a field of flowers flow in the breeze. Nearby, a stream flows and is so clear that the fish can easily be seen swimming. On the edge of the bank sits a single man; his legs and arms crossed in front of him, as his head bobs up and down in his slumber. To his side sits a simple rod, dug deeply into the earth such that it will not be easily removed and a small, red cooler ready to hold a multitude of fish. It’s a peaceful moment, a life of content.
However, the man is not alone. From behind the cover of the tall grass and bushes, something watches. It slowly, quietly creeps up behind the unsuspecting sleeping man, being extra careful not to alert him of its presence. Once it’s close enough to strike, it gets into position and pounces.
“Arghhh!” It lets out a ferocious roar, certain it’s got him, but then the man turns around.
The man isn’t a man at all, but a monster. Its eyes are bright yellow with an orange speckled center, it’s skin looks scaly and its teeth contain sharp fangs. “Grrrrr!” It growls deeply.
“Ahhhh!” The predator becomes prey as they let out a high pitched scream. As the monster lurks forward, the predator trembles in fear, frozen; unable to move. With death seeming imminent, the predator starts to cry, no longer wanting to play this game and calls out, “Liam! Help!”
Seeing this thing in front of him, the monster decides the game is over and rips off the mask, he is no longer a monster and the predator returns to its normal form, a little girl. “Elli.” The girl continues crying, unaware that it’s already over. “Ellisia! Calm down, it’s me Liam. Look!”
The girl slowly opens her eyes and finally realizes who’s in front of her. Through her tears; she can see the familiar ash colored eyes that have always watched over her, being soothed by their inviting warmth. The grotesque face has now been replaced with a pale, broad one, whose forehead is just slightly occluded by the man’s wavy charcoal hair. Around his smiling lips, light prickly hair sits, connecting to the similar patch along his jaw. Yes, she knows this man well, as it’s the face of the man she’s loved all her life; the man who raised her.
“Big Brother Liam!” She bounds into his arms and buries her head in his chest, fresh tears falling down. “Stupid Liam, why did you do that? I was so scared! I really thought you were a Kree.”
“I’m sorry Elli, I was just messing around. I guess I went a bit overboard. There’s no way I’d be a Kree though, I’m far too good looking.” He laughs at his own lame attempt of a joke, but she doesn’t bite. “Ok, I get it. I really am sorry. Don’t cry anymore, ok? Pretty please?”
She looks up at his pleading face and can see he’s being genuine, so she finally gives in. “Fine, but only if you let me have two cakes tonight; with extra icing.”
“Two cakes and extra icing? Wow, what high standards you have. I didn’t realize I had a princess as my little sister, please forgive me your excellency.” He has a cheeky smile.
Elli puts on a smug expression and plays along. “Well, now that you know my excellence, I expect that you’ll spoil me in the finest of riches and treats.” She strikes a pompous pose.
“Why you little….” He grabs her and proceeds to give her a tickle attack, causing her to laugh uncontrollably. “I’ve already spoiled you all your life, I’m sure to regret it, I just know it!”
The tickling continues for another long minute until Elli has had enough. She leans against Liam’s chest again to listen to his heartbeat and they sit quietly together in that position for several minutes. Elli finally says, “I love you Liam. You’re the best big brother in the world.”
“I love you more Elli, like seriously more than I ever thought I could love a girl I wasn’t trying to date. You made a man out of me Elli and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. You gave my life purpose. I’m always going to protect you Elli, even if I have to die trying. I swear on it.”
Elli looks at him with concern and shouts, “don’t say stuff like that! You’re never going to die Liam; I won’t let you. I’ll be the one to protect you! So promise me you won’t die ok?!”
Liam looks at the girl in front of him, as the wind blows her curly mahogany hair and her flower print dress. Her skin almost glows, with the early morning sun shining against her tan completion, giving her the most alluring, exotic look. This beauty matched only by her eyes, which almost appear to sparkle, her rusted-orange eyes with their scant yellow-tinged speckles. Now more than ever, he wants to see the strong and beautiful young woman she will become.
“Ok, I promise. Now, let’s get back to work. These fish aren’t going to fish themselves!”
“I’ll catch a bunch right now!” She runs over to the stream and jumps right in, never minding her dress. She doesn’t grab the rod, but instead goes in bare. She focuses in on the water.
“Aww Elli, your dress is going to get ruined! If you want to be a wild child and play in the stream and grass it’s ok, but I don’t know why you always insist on wearing your dresses rather than your pants, which would be more appropriate for the occasion.”
“It’s ok, I can just wash it. I like wearing my dresses, I want everyone to see how pretty I am!”
Liam shakes his head in defeat. “What a confidently strange girl you are. Ok, have it your way.”
As Liam grabs his rod, Elli locks in on her targets. With impressive speed and agility, she dunks her hands into the water and one by one, she pulls out various fish and tosses them onto the bank. Liam watches in awe, never quite able to get used to it, though it no longer freaks him out.
“Done! Is that enough fish for today?” She stands triumphantly next to a pile of fish.
“Let’s see how many you got today…Wow, ten today, that’s a new record I think.”
“Sweet! So can we go home now?”
Liam begins to place the fish into the cooler as he says, “sure we can, but why the hurry?”
“No reason, I just want to get home.” She smiles innocently, but Liam knows better.
“Ok then, I guess we can get going then.” He decides not to push, assuming she had her reasons.
They approach the gate, where Phil alone waits. “Welcome home Liam, Elli. How’s it going?”
“Hi Phil! I caught a bunch of fish today! I’m kind of in a hurry though, so can I go?”
He laughs. “Proactive as ever I see. Ok then Elli, go right ahead. You’re cleared.”
“Thanks!” She runs through the gate and shouts back, “I’ll be home for dinner Liam, bye!”
She runs off and is lost behind the buildings of Armenia. “That girl….” He smiles slightly.
“She’s really something isn’t she? I remember when she was just a tiny thing, and now….”
Liam turns his attention to Phil. “Yea I know, she’s something indeed, but still not nearly as reckless as me when I was a kid. She’s a bit wild at times, but also super elegant and girly when she wants to be. She’s a princess with attitude, which can rub some people the wrong way.”
“I see. I take it she still hasn’t been getting along very well with other kids? I remember you said that she’s often alone and even when she goes out to play, it’s only with herself.”
“Yea. I don’t know why, but the other kids just won’t give her a chance. I mean yea, she’s a bit strange at times, but that’s not her fault. She was born with her unique features and personality. I don’t know why, but it’s like the other kids are unsettled by her. But I just know if they’d give her the chance, they’d see the sweet, compassionate and nature loving girl I know.”
“Yea, I know that struggle man, I guess we both do. I’m sure she’ll find her way through; she’s got a good support behind her with you. Maybe if we’d had that we wouldn’t have been such rowdy kids. I guess you acting out was reasonable though, you’d lost both your parents within a year of each other and was left to fend for yourself at just about her age. I had my dad even after mom took Dina and left, but we both know that wasn’t a comfort. God rest his soul, but him dying was the best thing he could’ve done for me. Now I can be my own man and free.”
“Yea, I guess we’ve both finally grown to be our own men haven’t we? You getting settled in the guard, me a successful shop owner and royal gardener. How far we’ve come right?!”
“Yea, you’re totally right man, though I’ve got one up on you because you may be a royal gardener, but I’ve got a wife and I’m happy to announce, I’m a soon to be father.”
“What, no way! Philly Willy is gonna be a dad, get out of here! I’m still shocked you could land a girl like Serena, but to get her to want to have your kid…I’m speechless! Congrats man!”
“You say that like I had no chance or something, but thanks anyway. How about you?”
“Ah well you know, I’ve always been more of a free agent.”
“Or more like you can’t get a girl to commit. Sweet as she is, kids are a hard bit of baggage for girls our age. Being with you seriously means they’d have to commit to Elli too, a bit much for most 24-year-old women who just want to be young and have some fun. But that’s the job.”
“Yea, I guess that’s part of it, but honestly it goes both ways. Not only do the girls have to be willing to commit to her, I need to be able to trust that she can commit to them. I’ve had a woman come between Elli and I in the past, where she was one way around me and another with her. What’s worse is I doubted Elli at first, but then I saw it for myself. After that, I promised her that I’d never let someone like that come between us again. So I’ve been very selective of who I’m with since then. I’m sure I’ll find her one day, but for now, I’m just happy having Elli.”
“Good on you man, seriously. I should get back to my post now, so I’ll see ya around.”
“Yea of course, see ya around Phil. I’ll stop by to see you and Serena real soon. Take care.” He waves and then begins walking home, feeling oddly optimistic for the future.”
***The West Province- The Forest Outside the Citadel, Summer Year 2523***
Elli runs through the trees at an impressive speed and doesn’t stop until she reaches a small hut. The foliage of the trees is much thicker this far into the woods, such that the sunlight cannot pass as readily through the trees, making the surrounding area dark. This used to scare her, but now she knows there’s nothing to fear, because she’s got her guardian angel. “Evani!”
There is silence, but after a few seconds, someone speaks, though it’s only a whisper. “Child.”
Elli turns around and sees a figure in the shadows, occluded by the trees, but she’d recognize her anywhere. “Evani!” She runs over to the open arms of the woman and hugs her tightly.
“I’m so happy to see you child, I was worried you wouldn’t show. I missed my girl.” Her long raven hair flows over Elli, as though it may suck her in as she holds her close and caresses her.
“I’m sorry I was late, but we started later than we normally would. I caught all the fish though. I focused in on my targets and swiped, just like you taught me. I can run faster too!”
“That’s my girl, I’m so proud of you.” She reaches up to pat her head and Elli notices her slightly yellowed complexion staining her normally tanned skin. Her eyes also have a darker yellow tint than normal in contrast to her burnt-orange pupils.
“Are you feeling sick Evani? You look a little different than normal. Your eyes don’t look the same as mine anymore. It’s not fair, why do I have to look so different from everyone?”
“Oh child, you’re just fine as you are. It’s a fact that people fear what they don’t understand, but in time you will see, your difference is your beauty and your strength. As for me, I’ll be fine. Just let me hold you a bit longer.” She wraps her body around Elli, almost like a cocoon.”
“Evani, sing me your song. I want to hear it, just a little bit. Please, please, please?!!!!”
“Well when you plead like that, how could I possibly refuse. Lie back now and relax.”
“Ok, but I won’t fall asleep, for sure!” She lies against her such that she is almost engulfed. Evani begins to sing a beautiful lullaby and Elli listens with glee. She’s come here every day to see her and because of that, she’s become something like a mother for Elli, similar eyes and all.
As she sings, Elli’s eyes start to get woozy as sleep slowly sets in. However, before she falls into a complete sleep, she notices that Evani’s changed again. She now looks like she normally does, with her raven hair flowing, tanned skin glowing and the same kind of eyes as hers once again.
Evani watches as Elli falls into a deep sleep, smiling so peacefully. She lives for moments like these, moments that were so ruthlessly stolen from her by that wicked man, the puppet of his majesty himself. What’s worse, he stole her darling daughter’s birthright, or so he thought. But she will have the last laugh, as be it on her throne or his, she will rule and liberate her people.
“Sleep now little one, the darkness calls you home. Left cold and abandoned, but you are not alone. I am here beside you, I’ll teach you all I know. I’ll make so much stronger, unleash the power that you hold. You will release my vengeance, upon this cursed land. Once you’ve become a woman, you shall understand. For now, just listen to the darkness, that drags you down to sleep, you may run my darling, but you can’t escape the voices underneath. You shall pledge your loyalty to no one else but me. Sweet dreams my darling daughter…my precious Angeli.”
As the sun begins to set, Elli starts to stir. “Evani….” She sits up quickly and looks around, but there is no one. “Evani…!” She’s normally not scared, but she also never stays here this late alone. She wants to cry and the tears start to form, but then she hears a voice.
“You can’t cry!” She’s startled by this voice and quickly turns around to see a…boy?
“Who are you? Who are you to tell me I can’t cry? You’re not my boss! I don’t answer to you!”
The boy looks stunned, but then smiles. “Maybe not, but you don’t want to cry anymore do you? Now you’re just angry because I told you what to do. I’m surprised, I thought you’d be weaker.”
Elli is angry, just as he said and now stands up tall and faces him head on. The boy almost seems to be enjoying her feistiness. “I’ll have you know I’m eleven years old! I’m not a baby!”
“I never said you were! I was just trying to help you. I saw a pretty girl about to cry and so I knew I needed to step up and help. It’s ok now though. You can’t cry alone, but now that I’m here, you can cry on my shoulder. That’s the rules, never cry alone. That’s what Mama says.”
Elli feels her blood boiling at the nerve of this boy and can’t hold it in. “I’m not weak and I certainly don’t need a boy to save me! I’ll save myself and everyone else too, including you!” Her eyes become intense and the boy notices their uniqueness for the first time.
“Wow, you’re so confident and extremely strange. You aren’t at all how you look to be.”
“Yea, well you’re…you’re a jerk!” She is extremely feisty and the boy is instantly smitten.
“Your beautiful. I think I love you.” Elli is shaken by his sudden confession and turns away.
“I’m going home!” She starts to walk away in a hurry, but the boy is just a step behind.
“Why are you running away? I wasn’t confessing or anything, I was just stating fact.”
“I’m the weird one? Who tells a girl she’s beautiful after having just insulted them?”
“Clearly you haven’t met me. My name is Ame-…Ame. I’m eleven too, what are the odds?”
“Obviously too high. Stop following me!” Elli picks up speed, but the boy doesn’t falter. Elli quickly runs to a large bush near the wall to the citadel and climbs inside, disappearing from sight. She crawls through her private opening and is back inside the walls at last. As she covers the hole, she sees no sign of the boy, so she thinks she’s finally lost him. “Thank goodness.”
“Hey, what took you so long?” She looks up, to see the boy standing ON the wall.
“Hey, how did you…? Get down from there, you’ll get in trouble with the guards!”
“With those guys…? I think not. Besides, I prefer being on the top, not the bottom.” He grins.
“You’re the most repulsive boy I ever met! Are you really eleven?”
The boy looks at her as though she’s said something strange, and jumps down. “You’re eleven too aren’t you? You’re using some pretty mature words there yourself.”
“Yea well that’s because I’m a girl, it’s a proven fact girls mature faster than boys, so there!”
He laughs. “You really know nothing about me, but it’s ok, because I’m going to teach you. In return, you’ll tell me everything about you. Do we have a deal?” She finally notices the boy’s maple hair, tied up in a ponytail and his very regal looking outfit. His green eyes are piercing.
“No! I want nothing more to do with you, I’m going home! If you follow me, I’ll get my big brother on you!” She power walks away, glancing back slightly, to see he isn’t following her.
“I’m so scared...not! I have a big brother too you know! I’ll see you again, that’s a promise!”
Elli shakes her head, no way. She will never see that boy again, she guarantees it.
***The West Province- Flower Fields Outside the Citadel, Fall Year 2524***
Elli lies in the flowers of the field, enjoying the soft Fall breeze. Somehow she feels lighter when she’s laying among the flowers and the earth under the shining sun, as though her body becomes energized from them. Evani says it’s important to do this as often as possible and so she does, but mostly just because it’s so relaxing. There is a sudden tone, alerting her that it’s time to head back home. “Guess that’s all for today, thanks for your company flowers.”
She quickly makes her way through the gates, but as soon as she does, she’s ridiculed by some neighborhood boys. “Look, it’s the field rat! Oh wee doesn’t she stink! Look at her dress all covered in dirt and grass. How could such a pretty girl act so much like a boy. Gross.”
They all laugh and Elli feels a bit sad, but mostly mad. “Laugh all you want, I don’t care!”
She starts to walk away, but their ring leader, Shingo decides to escalate things. “Hey, we weren’t done talking to you bitch!” He grabs her hair and tugs, pulling her down and making her fall on the ground. They all laugh some more and then become even meaner. “Maybe we should check under her dress to be sure she really is a girl.” He crouches while as friends hold her down.
“Stop it! I’ll tell my big brother on you!”
“Oh we’re so scared. Your brother is nothing but a delinquent man whore probably gets off on little girls. Why else would he want to raise you? Does he make you do it with him? Don’t worry, we won’t tell…if you show us what you do that is.” They laugh some more.
“Don’t bad mouth my brother! He’s a better man than any of you will ever be! He’s never done anything like that to me and I’m going to beat you just for saying it.”
“I’d like to see you try.” He starts to reach for her dress as she squirms. If it weren’t for the other boys holding her arms, she’d easily be able to fend him off alone. However, in this moment she’s trapped and she thinks to call out for Liam, but what actually comes out is, “Ame!”
“Ame? Who the hell is that? Your brother’s name is Liam isn’t it? Is that your boyfriend?” He starts to laugh, but then suddenly his head jerks to the side and he falls to the ground.
The other boys are so stunned, they let go of Elli and lean back as the boy who hit Shingo stares at them with ferocity. “You wanna go too? I’m always up for a game of punch the rag doll.”
“No-, no thanks! Sorry Shingo, but we’re out of here!” They run off, leaving him alone.
“You cowards!” Shingo sits up, rubbing his neck. “Who the hell are you and who do you think you are kicking me like that? If you want to fight, I’ll take you on. Just try me!” He stands.
“I’ll take you up on that, but don’t run home crying when I kick your butt.”
“As if.” He takes a good look at the boy in front of him, his regal outfit, long maple hair in a ponytail behind him, peach complexion and smoldering green eyes that could kill. However, he notices a very important detail and finally says, “wait a second, you’re not a bo-.”
Ame kicks him hard in the chest, sending him staggering back. “Yea, that’s right, I’m not a boyfriend. However, this girl will be mine and so I won’t let you touch her ever again!”
“Seriously? Wow, so not only are you like a boy, but you’re a total lez-.” Ame kicks him again, this time in the jaw, knocking him backwards. Steaming he says, “you bitch! I’m gonna-.”
“Hey what’s going on here?!” A guard comes running over, having finally been alerted.
“Shit! I’m out of here. You bitches better watch your backs. I’ll get you back!” He runs off.
“Hmph, what a loser.” Ame turns to Elli. “Hey, are you ok? Oh and, told you I’d see you again.”
Ame holds out their hand to help Elli up, but she slaps it away and gets up on her own. “No thanks. I can help myself thank you.” She brushes herself off and then proceeds to walk away.
“Wow, I can’t even get a thank you? How rude. You say you didn’t need me, but who was the one who called out to me then? I could’ve sworn I heard you call for Ame.” She follows behind her, totally ignoring the guard who responded.
“I guess I’m chopped liver. Darn kids.” He returns to his post.
“I didn’t mean to say it, it just happened to slip out. Don’t get full of yourself.” Elli walks quickly, Ame following close behind, but saying nothing. Once she finally reaches near her apartment, she starts to say something, but then another voice interrupts.
“Oh there you are Elli; I was just wondering what happened to you.” She shrinks down, wishing he hadn’t noticed her. He then notices Ame. “Oh who’s this? A friend of yours?”
“No way! This boy is just an annoying stalker who won’t leave me alone. Make him leave!”
She stomps off and inside, leaving Liam confused. “Boy?” He looks at Ame, who simply smiles. “Uh, I’m sorry about that, she’s not very good with people. I hope you’ll stick with her though.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. It was a pleasure to meet you, but I should be going.”
Ame runs off and Liam just shrugs. “Well whatever, I’m sure things will work out somehow.”
***The West Province- District of Armenia, Winter Year 2525***
“Ugh, curse this winter season. It’s always that penny pinching time of year for us. But don’t you worry Elli, I’ll take care of us. Wish me luck.” Liam pats her head and kisses it.
“I don’t want you to go Liam. It’s dangerous to go out of the citadel during this season since the Kree thrive in cold weather. Not to mention you could freeze out there in the snow.”
“Aww. I’m happy you’re so worried for me Elli, but I’ll be alright. I have to go out and fish for those rare cold water fish, or we won’t get by. It’s not like I can rely on my gardening duties either since Garmin’s garden is in hibernation for the winter. This is the only way.”
“Ok, then I’ll come with you and together we can-.”
“No Elli.” He’s stern. “I won’t put you in danger. Thank you, but this is my responsibility. Just focus on being a kid for now. I’ll be back soon. I love you.” He smiles and then walks out.
Elli waits right there by the door, for hours, for her precious big brother to return, but he doesn’t. She wakes up on the floor, having fallen asleep and it’s a new day where her brother has not returned. Another night passes and he’s still missing, causing Elli to think the worst. No longer able to resist, she decides to trek through the snow herself to find him.
“Liam! Liam, are you out there? Liam! Please answer me if you are! Please! Liam!” Shout as she might, she hears no answer and finds no trace of him around the area. It’s a though he vanished. Feeling as though everything is ruined and her world is over, Elli collapses in the snow, no longer caring about what may happen. Though to her surprise, hours pass and she feels fine, not cold at all. However, by the following night, hunger takes over. Despite its gnawing ache she has no desire to try and make it back. She no longer cares if she lives or dies as she closes her eyes.
She wakes up slowly, feeling very warm. She can feel someone’s arms wrapped around her as she leans against what she thinks is their chest, but it’s strangely bumpy. “Liam…?”
“S-sorry, afraid not.” Her eyes go wide, suddenly recognizing the voice. Elli shoots upright and looks at the person in front of her. The chest in front of her has two very distinct, though small, breasts attached, definitely not Liam.
Looking at their face, she can see that it’s the same face that has been haunting her dreams most nights and leaving her breathless. “You…Ame…?!”
“In the flesh…oh come on, that was a good one.” Elli isn’t laughing. “Darn, I had hoped we could play our game a bit longer, but I guess the time for the truth has come. Yes, I am this hot. It’s not an illusion. Though by comparison, you are far more appetizing.” She grins.
Elli realizes that she too is completely naked and after the delay, finally screams. “Get out!”
“I’m sorry to say that I can’t, it’s cold out there. The storm is raging too. Why do you think I brought you in here and have us both stripped down to nothing? Though I can’t lie, I’m enjoying this quite a bit.”
“You pervert!” She looks around for a place to hide or for her clothes, but there is nothing. She realizes that they are in the little hut she always meets Evani but, but due to the weather, she hadn’t in weeks. “Where are my clothes?”
“They were totally drenched, so I left them out there. Besides, we needed to be in contact to adequately warm each other, that’s why we’re like this. I’d never do something so unsavory to a girl otherwise, unless she asked me of course.”
“Fine, but stay over there and don’t look at me.”
“We’re both girls, what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that you’re not a normal girl. You keep saying gross things.”
“Not a normal girl? What defines normal? What about you, are you normal? Did you only like me as guy or will you admit that you still have feelings for me even now?”
“I won’t, I don’t, I will not! Boy or girl, I don’t like you at all!” She turns away from her.
“Fine, be like that if you want, but if we’re gonna make it through the night, we’re gonna need to get closer. I hope you can live with my death on your conscious.” She turns away too. Elli looks at her in remorse, feeling she was a bit rude, but her pride gets the better of her, she says nothing.
Time passes, though Elli isn’t sure how much and although she was fine before, she’s finally starting to feel the cold and so she is concerned for Ame, since she’s probably not as resilient to the cold the way Elli is, though why she is at all is still a mystery to her. “Ame, are you ok?” She doesn’t answer. “Ame?” Still nothing. “Ame!” She sits up and looks over in fear. “Ame are…?”
“No-not yet, bu-but I’m no-not sure how mu-much longer I’ll l-last.” She shivers intensely.
Feeling responsible for their situation, as she’s certain Ame only ended up out here saving her, she decides that she could make an exception for her just this once. “Fine, we can cuddle.”
Ame sits up in excitement wearing a huge grin. “Seriously? Alright!” She opens her arms.
“Don’t get so excited, this is all for survival. You can put your arms down too. I’m not lying against your chest again, you pervert. You can lie against mine instead, then we’re even.” Elli scoots over to her and takes her head into her arms, pushing it against her chest and then the remainder of her body follows behind such that they are fully cuddling. Elli can feel extra warmth against her chest and thought it was Ame’s breath, but just as she looked down to yell at her, she saw that her face was beet red and embarrassed. “So you can dish it but can’t take it.”
“Well, believe it or not, I’ve never had the pleasure of being this close to a girl’s bosom before, but I’m glad you were my first Elli. Even if we die out here, I’m happy it can be with you.”
Elli blushes deeply and attempts to cover up her embarrassment with humor. “Oh, how charming. Who do you think you are, a princess or something?” Ame is silent. “Ame?” Elli looks down to see Ame is already asleep. “How unfair. For you to fall asleep in a place like this so easily.”
Elli is still terribly worried about Liam and fears the worst, but she oddly feels relief being next to Ame. She thinks that perhaps she’s not so bad and that perhaps she could like her more than she initially thought. As sleep finally starts to pull her down, Elli joins her hand with Ame’s and soon after falls asleep.
Ame opens her eyes, done feigning sleep, to gaze into Elli’s sleeping face. “I really do love you Elli. I don’t think I’ll get to see you again for a while, but I promise you, I will return. When I do, I won’t let you go ever again.” She leans in and in that moment, under the roof of that small forest hut, they shared their first kiss. Though to Elli, it was just the start to another sweet dream.
***The West Province- The Forest Outside the Citadel, Spring Year 2528***
As she has almost every day since that night, Elli lies inside the forest hut, playing with a hair tie. When she woke the next morning, she was in her bed and Liam was at her side, as though he’d never been gone. It turns out that he’d taken shelter somewhere further away, and returned late that night, to see Elli wasn’t there. He asked the guards for help and the next morning, they found her in the hut alone, with nothing but that hair tie around her wrist. They told her they received an anonymous tip and that’s how they found her. Elli knew better though, she knew it was Ame that saved her and sent them to find her. She had always been saving her, but it wasn’t until she was gone that she could finally realize her feelings.
It’s been three long years, but Elli refuses to lose hope and believes she’ll return, just as Ame promised in her dream. She begins to hum Evani’s lullaby and as though to summon her, Evani calls to her from outside. “Darling child, are you in? I’ve come to see you once again.”
Elli laughs and walks out. “Evani, it’s always funny when you rhyme your sentences like that.”
“Yes well what can I say, it’s a habit. Come child, I wish to hold you tight.” She opens her arms.
Elli obliges her and falls into her arms, still finding comfort, even at sixteen. “I always feel so warm when we do this, but also very sleepy. I wonder why that is?”
“Well, perhaps it’s because it’s so comforting, your body becomes completely relaxed.”
“Maybe. It’s not the same though.”
“Hmm? What do you mean child?”
“I mean, when I was lying in Ame’s arms, I felt really warm and energized. When you hold me, I feel comforted, but also very drained. It’s really weird.”
Evani scowls at her heightened sense of awareness. She realizes she’s starting to become more aware of the differences. “Well, that’s probably just because you have those pesky feelings for her, though I don’t know why. Such a crass girl is certainly not good enough for you. Besides, she’s been gone for three years now. It’s best to just forget about her and focus on your training. You’ve gotten so strong since we started and you’ve become quite skilled in battle if I do say so myself. A girl like that would only drag you-.” Elli becomes angry at Evani’s words.
“Don’t talk about her so negatively! She’s not a bad girl. So what if she’s crass and arrogant and a total jerk, she’s still the person I love and I won’t let you or anyone talk bad of her!”
Evani can see she said too much. “I’m sorry child, I didn’t mean to offend her or you.”
Elli calms down a bit. “I know, I’m sorry. Um, I don’t think I’m up for training today. Sorry.”
Elli runs off deeper into the forest, needing some time alone. Evani has an aggravated expression. “I’m so close, but every time I make the move, she’s pulled back. That girl is a problem.” She frowns and retreats back into the hideaway from which she came to make a plan.
Elli runs far into the deep woods, deeper than she’s ever been before. The atmosphere seems to be different here, not as pure as the area around the citadel. Perhaps the SPGI team hasn’t made it this far into the woods yet. That means that if the impure elements have been purified, she’s at a greater risk to run into…the Kree. She shivers just thinking of it She decides she’d best get back, but just before she makes a move, she hears a hiss. She whips her head around just as a figure is charging towards her from behind and narrowly jumps away.
Now behind the figure, she can see it in full view as it turns to face her and she feels as though she might faint. “You’re a…you’re, you’re…no, stay away from me!” The creature standing in front of her is none other than a classic Kree. It’s yellowish, scaly skin, bright yellow eyes with orange speckled pupils, fangs and the thirst for the Carbon, Nitrogen and Iron in human blood. It stares directly at her, hissing and snarling and ready to pounce.
As it starts to move towards her, she tries to pull all the lessons she was ever given on coming face to face with Kree. Liam always told her that running won’t work, because they’re fast. They’re agile and strong, so hand to hand combat won’t work either. However, their skin is basically impenetrable to anything but the blade of a Valkyrie, so even ranged attacks won’t work. Playing dead of course isn’t an option, because they’ll happily suck your blood anyway. So what can she do? What option does she have but to admit defeat and give up? The Kree gets very close to her now, so close that she can almost touch it and she realizes she’s out of time and options. Like she’s that six-year-old girl again, she feels the tears forming and she wants to cry like a baby. Tears start to fall and although she is prepared to face her doom, the Kree doesn’t attack her, but rather stares at her strangely, as though it can’t decide whether to attack or not. She’s never heard of Kree hesitating like this before, so why would this one be doing so?
“I said no crying alone!” With a loud voice, Elli feels her hope return in an instant. She looks up just as Ame lands in front of her. “I’m here now, so it’s ok, cry all you want.”
Elli sees her standing there, in her dashing regal outfit, looking like a true prince. There’s so much she wants to say, but as tears stream down all she can manage is, “you cut your hair.”
Ame flips her hair suavely, which sits neatly like a longer pixie cut, almost like a boy, but not quite. “Well, I’ve always been a tomboy, so I thought it’d be best that I start looking the part. Well that and my mom wouldn’t allow me to cut it until I turned sixteen, so here I am.”
As though to remind them it was still there, the Kree let out a loud hiss snarl and charged at Ame. “Oh no, look out!” Elli screams out, scared that Ame will be killed and it’d be all her fault, but upon opening her eyes, she sees that Ame has successfully jumped out of the way and is now face to face with the Kree. “Ame, we need to get away from here. I’m sure the Valkyrie Queen-.”
“Hey, what’s the deal trying to steal my thunder? The queen is off duty today, so I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to settle for the princess. Prepare to be amazed.” Ame raises her arm and reveals something that looks a bit like a bracelet. She presses a button on it and suddenly, like plastic wrap being spread, Ame is covered in what appears to be a latex body suit, starting from her limbs and ending at her head with a headpiece that looks something like a tiara, but each connection point sits against her head on electrodes. Elli realizes this must be the neural-linked battle suits she’s heard of. But as far as she knows, the only people who wear those are the….
“No way….” She finally has the realization, Ame must be the new Valkyrie Princess. The Kree charges her again, but Ame easily avoids it. She keeps the pace with it as they flit around, swiping at each other. Elli looks around, but she’s got no sword or weapon. So how is she going to fight it? However, she soon has her questioned answered because after one final failed charge attempt, Ame jumps up and flips around, her hand angled behind its head. Suddenly, a blade protrudes out of the wrist area of the suit and with heavy force, Ame impales the Kree right where it’s brainstem would be and it instantly dies, collapsing to the ground.
With the press of a button, the suit returns into the bracelet and Ame is herself again. She looks over to Elli and sees her staring in awe and with a grin she says, “pretty awesome right?”
Elli is at a loss for words. “You, you are…no way! I can’t believe you’re the Valkyrie Princess!”
“Well believe it. I guess the secret is finally out. I mean, I wasn’t exactly trying to keep it a secret, but I kind of liked having you see me as any other girl. I mean, no one has ever talked to me the way you do, they’re all too scared. I liked being Ame for you, I don’t want it to change.”
Elli finally understands that she is talking to the princess of their province. The daughter of their queen. Their Valkyrie Princess. “Princess….” She automatically starts bow as a reflex, but Ame pushes back on her shoulder. Her face is dark and serious, like she’s angry.
“Don’t you dare. I’ve come to accept it from everyone else, but I will not accept that from you!”
“So what if I happen to be the princess, that doesn’t make me any different does it? I’m so sick and tired of everyone always being so damn prim and proper and walking on eggshells around me so not to disrespect me in some way. I’d expect them to treat my mother that way, but she’s queen. I’m just a princess, I’m not the queen yet. I don’t even want to be, but I don’t have a choice do I?! I know that. I’ve always known that! But I still have time! I was willing to accept my responsibilities as the unfortunate birthright I was born to have, but then I met you.”
“I met you, and all that changed. You were so rude and disrespectful to me. You called me out on my foolishness. You stood up to me in a way no one ever did. You made me feel normal! For just a little while, whenever I was with you I could feel normal. I envy your freedom. You can be whoever you want, you can do whatever you want and you don’t have to answer to anyone. You are the only piece of normal I have so please, Elli…please don’t ever do that to me.”
Seeing the tears in her eyes, Elli realizes that she’s finally seeing Ame for the first time, the real Ame, not the persona she’s created for herself. Not sure what to say, Elli simply hugs her and holds her close. “I’m sorry Ame. I never understood your pain until now. I’ll never do it again.”
Feeling Elli’s arms around her, Ame feels as though she could fall apart right there in her embrace. She grabs her arm and starts to pull her along. “Come with me.” She runs into the forest.
Eventually they reach a sort of hideaway overlooking the sea. “Ame is this…?”
“Welcome to my island retreat, or home away from home. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.”
The view from above is breathtaking and Elli realizes that she’s witnessing Ame’s private place. “It’s so beautiful here. Have you been here all this time?”
“I’ve been here for a while. I found it when I started exploring this area. It’s how I was able to hear you that night when you were calling out to Liam and find you. I’ve been here since then, but as often as I almost went to see you, I couldn’t bring myself to do so because I was afraid. I mean, I also started heavy duty training at that point too, so didn’t have as much time, but I was mostly just scared that you’d reject me. I was worried that you’d preferred Ame the boy and that you’d be turned off by my title as Valkyrie Princess. I guess I was a coward, only you could make me that. I think I might have been afraid of my feelings for you too and that you might not feel the same as I did. Maybe I wasn’t good enough for you. It’s stupid but…it was my thought.”
Elli laughs. “You really are stupid, but I that’s what I love about you. Yes, I love you Ame.”
Ame looks at her in shock. “Did you really…are you really saying you love me too?”
“Come on now, don’t make me think you’re an idiot for real, that’s what I said isn’t it? Here, I’ll say it clearer. I, Ellisia Clara Almont love you Ame! Is that good enough for you now?”
“Ellisia…so that’s what Elli is short for. Yup, it’s as pretty as I thought it’d be.” Elli blushes. “Ok, I guess I can believe you now, but you’ve got to do it right to be official. Here, let me show you. I, Amelia Diane Mangier love you Ellisia Clara Almont! Full names or nothing.”
“Oh, so Ame was a fake name. I kind of had a feeling after that night. It’s pretty.”
Amelia blushes. “Thanks, but I kind of like Ame. You can keep calling me that if you want.”
“Hmm…maybe, but Amelia is so pretty, it’d be a shame to waste it.”
“Well I could say the same about Ellisia.”
“Maybe we should come up with new nicknames, like a fresh start, since we’re dating and all.”
Amelia is surprised. “Dating? Do you really mean that? I mean I know we just basically confessed, but I was sure I’d have to work a bit to get you to be my girlfriend.”
“No, no more waiting. I’m tired of waiting. I’ve been waiting three years for you to come back you big dummy and you’ve been here the whole time. I’m going to make you go all in now. No special treatment. I’m going to treat you like any other girlfriend would be as I promised, got it?”
“Yes Ma’am!” They laugh together for seemingly an eternity and then Amelia finally turns to Ellisia and says, “so what do we do now? My experience only goes this far in the books.”
“I don’t know either, I’ve never even had friends let alone a girlfriend, so beats me.”
“Why wouldn’t you have had friends? You’re amazing. Armenia people are really dumb.”
“It’s not all the people, it’s just some think I’m strange. I mean, even I have noticed myself that I am kind of strange. I have really strange abilities and resistances to things. It’s just weird.”
“Well we’re all a little weird. People think I’m weird for wanting to dress as I do and for my personality. They always ask me, “do you want to be a boy or something?” It’s annoying. It’s not that I don’t want to wear pretty clothes, I mean I do at compound, but I also like to dress like a guy, especially when I’m fighting. There’s nothing wrong with that is there?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I love wearing girly clothes all the time, yet I’m rough and rowdy and wild like boys. There’s no rule that says girls have to be cutesy and tame at all times, that’s just the societal norms people have formed. We should be rebels against it.”
“Yea, I’m down for that. We’ll start our own gang, the rebel angels. How’s that sound?”
“Kind of dumb, but also very much like you. God, I seriously like you. I love you.”
“So what do you want to do now? We could talk some more, I can make more stupid jokes, we can discuss your trauma from facing that Kree, we can stare at the ocean or we could….”
“Smooth, very smooth. I like how you just let that hang there as if I wouldn’t catch your drift.”
“So then…what do you want to do? What do you want me to do might be a better question?”
“Well…I want Amelia Diane Mangier to kiss me, hold me tight and never let me go again.”
“Well then…if that’s what Ellisia Clara Almont wants, then that shall be what she gets.”
Amelia takes Ellisia’s hand in hers and then leans in to kiss her. When their lips touch, it feels as though firecrackers have been released between them and they enter their own little world of bliss. With the passing of seasons their love blossomed and in the spring of their 16th year, its came into full bloom. Thus marks the beginning of their perilous fight against pride, prejudice, circumstance, time and of course the Kree, as they start on this journey of their tragic love.