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All I remembered was a blur of red. I remembered the heat and the jouncing motions of the horse beneath me. I remembered strong hands roughly push and shove and protect me throughout. I remembered the man's loud voice that rumbled in his chest like dragon's fire and I remembered his fierce green eyes.
But I couldn't for the life of me remember why I was with him and where I was taken. I couldn't find my father and I was no longer in my palace.
But I was as calm as the Glass Sea upon which many pirates had sailed when the weather was still and the sun was high in the blue sky. My mother had given me a level head and my father taught me how to use it.
I analyzed the situation.
I was seated on the cool ground in the middle of a dark forest. I leaned back against a tree and gazed at the stranger before me, studying him as I studied my many maps of this world and the many others that orbited slowly around it.
He sat with his arms folded stubbornly and his chin tilted arrogantly upwards. His nose was long and ridiculous and he wasn't the biggest man I had ever met. His tattered coat fluttered lightly in the breeze and his blonde hair needed some attention from one of my hairdressers. He was less than average and utterly boring. Not to mention incredibly rude...
But if there was something about him I found intriguing, it was his eyes.
They were greener than any emeralds I had ever seen and they burned with something I had only read about in fairy tales. They held all the worlds in existence within and yet showed no knowledge of any of it. They shone with determination and courage and something more that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
But even so he still needed a bath.
I cleared my throat and spoke loudly. I spoke in English, hoping he would understand me. What, with all these rumors of immigrants from other worlds, he might have very well been an alien. But luckily, I'm fluent in several languages of this world and others.
"I demand to know why you have dared to kidnap me." I said, sitting up tall with my hands on my knees. I had been taught to sit like a monk for that is half of what I am. My legs were tucked neatly under me, my shoulders were back and my head was held high.
Higher than the stranger's.
He jumped, startled. He looked at me as though he had just noticed I was there and mouthed a silent "Oh". Was he so unintelligent that he had forgotten about me already? Pity. I quite liked him. He was a rather curious fool.
"I haven't kidnapped you." He said, rubbing the back of his head. "I saved your life, princess."
I felt rage flare within me. "You will address me as 'Your Highness'."
He stood up slowly, wincing. My stone heart softened when I saw blood seeping through a bandage on his arm. He cradled his injured limb gently against his body, looking down at me.
He may have won my sympathy but I could never stand to be looked down upon no matter my height. I was still a child and I had a long ways yet to grow. But being seventy-two years old and looking like an eleven year old human is hard to put up with.
I stood up quickly and faced him with an iron glare. I came up to his waist but I stood several feet away from him. If I was any closer, I would have had to look up to look him in the eye and I would never do that.
Maybe I should have accepted those platform shoes my stepmother gave me.
On second thought, maybe not. They were pink. HIDEOUS.
"Yes, your majesty. My apologies." The stranger said. He looked kind and sincere but I knew he was hiding something. He would stab me in the back as soon as I turned around.
"Take me back to my father." I said.
"Don't be ridiculous. He is being guarded at this very moment by the world's best warriors. He is alive and well as far as I know."
"Listen to me, princess-"
"Forgive me. Please, listen, your majesty. Your father, the king, is dead. I saw him fall with my own eyes."
"Well, you should get your eyes checked. Now, take me back."
The man sighed, obviously frustrated. I didn't believe what he said about my father. But a tiny lump of led had begun to snowball its way from my throat to the bottom of my stomach. What if...?
Nonsense. My father was alive. He was looking for me.
"When my father finds you he'll hang you." I said, folding my arms. "After he's done torturing you."
"You know," as the stranger spoke, he turned away from me. "For an Immortal you really act like a kid. You're sixty plus years old, right?"
"How dare you insult the princess of Lasasista! You skullboned, snarksneeze, fumblelump!"
"Woah, there, princess," he said, backing up a few steps with his hands held out in a gesture of peace. "Did your mother never teach you to mind your mouth?"
"My father is not dead and you will take me to him this very instant!" I shouted.
Before I could turn and run, the stranger grabbed me by the shoulders and whispered urgently.
"I know it's hard to take but your father is dead. Your stepmother is looking for you. I know that's exactly what you want but you must listen to me. We must never let her find you."
"Are you mad? You're going to sell me off to some loafcheese pirates and they'll make walk the pinclown plank! Let go! Unhand me, I say!"
I tried wriggling free of his iron grip. But I couldn't break away.
I gave up struggling and looked at the stranger.
He looked familiar.
I knew this man.
"What is your name?" I asked.
He seemed reluctant to answer. He averted his gaze and shook his head.
"You will answer my question. Who are you? Identify yourself!"
He sighed, letting go of me. "My name is Awatsu."
Awatsu. That name rang several bells in my head. But I still didn't know who exactly he was. But he confirmed my suspicions.
"Your father sent me."
I remembered. My father once told me that if anything were to happen to him, he would send a man he trusted with his life to guard me.
But what about my stepmother?
"Alright," I said. "Why must I hide from my stepmother?"
"Do you still have that necklace your birth mother gave you, Luciolla?"
I wasn't surprised that knew my name. But his question threw me completely off guard.
I pulled the blue gem out from under my night gown. It hung loosely around my neck from a thin silver chain.
"The Moonstone." He whispered, in awe of the grand jewel I held in my palm.
Legend told us that if this stone was held up to the light of a certain star on a certain night at a certain time at a certain angle, it could summon the power to-
The stranger interrupted my thoughts.
"This is what your stepmother wants. Your birth mother gave it to you to keep it safe and away from her."
What would my stepmother want with this stone?