Fallen Crowns

•Three kingdoms, one prophecy

Two will fall but only one will rise•

Adonia is from Exortitan, the kingdom known for its richness and royalty. Aleka lives in Sveltorm, an island that produces enough seafood to feed all three kingdoms. Arete is from Gordona, a small but beautiful, mountainous and heavily forested area.

By chance they meet, which causes a chain of events to happen, and truths to be told. Their very different worlds are soon turn upside down as they try to survive and keep things as they know them to be. But the prophecy says two kingdoms will fall, and prophecies are always true. Or are they?

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4. Chapter Three

Chapter Three

-Arete-

 

    For once, Arete didn’t speak. Instead of her mouth going as fast as light, her brain was. Something wasn’t adding up. There was no possible way of her being a third child. But they were convinced otherwise, meaning there was no chance of Arete getting out of this.

Her only hope was her brother, Quan. If he could provide evidence proving she was not a third child, she might go home alive. Even if he had any evidence, Arete knew deep down, he wouldn’t try to save her.

They had never gotten along. For as long as she could remember, they were always arguing over ridiculous things. Over time, as they got older, the fighting slowly became about who was the better warrior, and who would be taking over their father’s head warrior position. Quan was bloodthirsty and wanted to see others in pain. But Arete just wanted to be the best role model for the young that wanted to be warriors. It was clear that Quan and Arete had never and would never see eye to eye.

Guards had come and taken her and her brother while they were asleep. Gordona was only a night’s journey away from the large kingdom of Exortitan. They had remained sleeping until day break. Before either of them could scream, the guards had covered their mouths and quickly explained. Secretly, Arete enjoyed the traveling experience. They had taken the two down a route she had never seen before.

“What are you looking at?” Arete snipped as Quan flicked his head in the opposite direction, away from her. “I mean it, Quan!” she hissed. He had a tendency to stare, and not for the right reasons, either.

“You know exactly what I was looking at, so why ask?” he argued.

“Because a girl is not something to gawk at like a wild animal! We are people, too!” she exclaimed back at her brother. His silence proved his defeat and Arete continued her thoughts.

Within an hour, they arrived at the back of a castle, presumably the place Arete would die. The siblings were quietly rushed into small rooms close to where they had entered. Thankful for it having a window, Arete sat down in a huff.

“This is where I’m going to die…” Arete said to herself. “Fantastic. My life is going great!” she continued sarcastically.

“So you’re one of the third children?” a voice much softer than her own questioned. Looking up, Arete found the voice belonged to a girl, probably around her age. The girl’s hair was similar to her own, a dull brown, only curlier. Arete could tell the girl lived here. She was wearing a beautiful, flowy dress. Arete glanced down at her pantaloons and tunic. She suddenly felt as though she didn’t belong.

Not sure what to say, Arete shot back a question. “Who are you?” It came out harsher than she had intended, but now wasn’t exactly the time to be polite.

“My name is Adonia. I’m second in line to rule.”

“So you’re a princess?” Arete snorted. This girl had no chance of being a good leader. She could sense it. Her eyes widened, as though surprised by Arete’s rudeness. For a moment she could’ve swore she recognized this girl, but they had never before met.

“Actually no, I’m an empress. We don’t have princesses. But that’s not why I’m here,” Adonia dismissed her comment. “My mother and father have requested that you change and get ready. We will be hosting a dinner before the ceremony. I have extra dresses if you would like to-”

Cutting the girl off, Arete hissed, “I’m not changing. You can leave. I don’t want to talk to you!”

Hurt, Adonia nodded and slipped out of the room and shut the door. After a few moments, a door opened next to Arete’s room. She could faintly hear Adonia’s voice. She was doing this for everyone, Arete was nobody special.

A wave of emotion fell over her. She was going to die. And the only one there for her would be her brother. Quan was the last person she would’ve chosen. But there was nothing Arete could do about anything now.

As day fell to night, there was a knock on her door. “What? I told you to leave me alone!” Arete shouted.

The door opened and a boy stepped in. He had a clean cut look to him. Curly brown hair lay on his forehead, perfectly in place. “I’m sorry if Adonia angered you. I’m her brother, Tapani. Dinner is about to start and it is mandatory that you join.” He was clearly kind. But at the same time he was blunt and cut to the point. He would be a far better ruler than his sister ever would be.

“Fine,” Arete grumbled, standing up.

“Follow me,” Tapani directed her down the large hallway. Once she caught up to him Arete saw that he was much taller than her. He then turned to the left. The hall opened up into a grand dining hall. The beauty of it shocked Arete. She was again speechless. “Choose any seat you would like. Dinner will start momentarily.” Before she could say anything to thank him, he was gone. Most likely getting more of the supposed third children.

Arete scanned the hall, trying to find a seat far away from anyone. Unfortunately, they were almost all taken. She spotted an empty seat next to a girl with straight, brown hair that was around her age. She looked friendly enough. Even though it was unlike Arete to try to be nice, she figured she might as well attempt it seeing as how she would soon be dead.

The girl saw her moving towards the empty seat beside her and smiled. Arete saw right behind the smile. This girl was sad. Maybe not sad enough to be the one dying, but definitely sad enough to have someone she loved die.

Arete had always been able to sense others’ emotions. She had been able to since she could talk. This special skill always came in handy when her father would have her battle strong components. It was her favorite thing to do, show off her fighting skills. Now, she would never be able to again.

Slipping into the seat, Arete whispered, “Is it you or someone you know?” Thankfully, the girl understood the question.

“My brother,” her voice was drenched in sorrow and pain.

“I’m sorry,” she replied, trying to sound genuine.

“What about you?” the girl asked, flipping the conversation onto Arete.

Instead of trying to be nice, she just laughed. “Me! As if these idiots could ever prove that I am a third child!” The girl shrank back in surprise. “What’s your name?” Arete knew she needed to lower the rudeness.

“Aleka,” she answered bluntlly. “Your’s?”

“Arete.”

Aleka gave her a tiny smile. “That’s really pretty.”

Before any snide remark could shoot out of her mouth she smiled back and forced the words out of her mouth. “Thank you. Your’s is too.” The words almost made her gag. This was far too much politeness for Arete.

“Thank you all for joining us!” a well dressed man shouted as he stood at the end of the long table. Arete realized he was most likely the emperor of Exortitan. And of course he would be happy. He soon would not have the threat of destruction of the kingdoms looming over his head. “There will soon be food being brought out to all. Then after dinner, you all will be split into groups which you are required to stay in. We’ll go from there then!” The emperor gave the group a victory smile. Arete instantly hated him. But what did it matter who she liked or didn’t. She soon would be dead.

Aleka glanced over at Arete and gave a weak attempt at a smile. “I’ve always heard the food here is exceptional.”

“I’m sure it is,” Arete responded, thinking back to the few times she’s traveled outside of Gordona.

Servants suddenly streamed into the dining hall, each carrying as many trays as they could hold. They placed a platter on the table for everyone seated. In front of Arete was an array of exquisite jams and jellies and three beautifully baked rolls. Her mouth watered at the site of the food.

Quickly she picked up the roll and scooped a bright red jelly onto it. A scent of berries floated up to her nose as Arete took a bite. If this was her last meal, she would certainly going to die happy.

Minutes of silverware clanking passed before the servants returned to take the empty plates away. As soon as there an empty spot on the table, another servant set the main course down in its place.  “Lamb and seasoned potatoes,” the servant stated, reaching around Arete to set the plate on the table in front of her. She licked her lips and picked up her fork.

The majority of the visitors ate in silence. Maybe it was because of how good the food was, or perhaps it was because of the thought of death looming over everyone’s heads.  The only group talking were the people sitting at the end of the long table next to the emperor. Arete glanced at them for a moment and wasn’t shocked to see Tapani or his sister chatting away as if nothing out of the ordinary were occuring.

The dinner soon ended and Arete was rushed back to her room like all the others. After a few moments of peace to herself, there was a knock on the door, again. Instead of waiting for an answer, Adonia slid into the room.

“I told you I didn’t want to talk to you!” Arete grumbled.

“I know, I know,” she waved away the comment. “But this is important. You are supposedly a third child, correct?”

Rolling her eyes, Arete lazily said, “No, I just wanted to die! Of course I am!”

Adonia sighed as she sat down next to her. “I hate these hangings. I always have, and I can’t stand the thought of witnessing another hundred. You look so similar to me! I’m feeling this pull to you that I can’t explain. It’s like my brain is telling me to be friends with you and I have no clue as to why!” This all came out fast and mumbled but Arete picked up the general idea of what was being said.

“I’m not sure I understand,” she rolled her eyes at what the empress was expressing, unsure if she did this with everyone.

Adonia frightfully gazed at the door and whispered in Arete’s ear, “Earlier today a strange man told me the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.” She leaned into the words coming out of Adonia’s mouth, starting to get interested. The empress looked at the door once more, saw that nobody would enter, and continued, a little louder. “He told me my brother has a power, but I don’t have it. The man said that Tapani can change the world, but if he hasn’t in two fortnights, the man will come back and… and…” she stopped talking slowly, but Arete could only guess at what Adonia was thinking.

“Will he die?” Arete inquired.

The girl’s eyes lifted to meet the others, and nodded.

“I’m sorry,” Arete pushed out, not really sympathetic at all. Her brother meant nothing to her, clearly unlike Adonia and Tapani. “Have you told him?”

Again, she shook her head, this time indicating no.

“Umm, so, sorry if this comes out as rude, but,” Arete hesitated. Adonia seemed like she was deeply affected by this. “Why are you in here?”

Her head shot up, now alert. “Oh gods! How could I be so forgetful?” Jumping up, she grabbed Arete’s hand. “I want you to come with me, please?” Adonia’s chocolate eyes pleaded with her. Not knowing what else to do, Arete nodded, and stood. Arete was almost a full head taller than Adonia, but it was clear that that didn’t stop her from having the presence of a much taller person. She was obviously in charge in this situation and place.

Not knowing what this girl was thinking worried Arete. Being trained to fight all her life had not prepare her for this. And the only way Arete was going to somehow survive was to know the enemies moves in advance. If she didn’t, there would be no hope for her.

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