Come back to me.
The words whispered in her mind. Gabriella moved in her sleep, a smile on her face.
She took a deep breath and brought her hands to her face and found she could not. She woke fully and tried to look around. Pain overtook her thoughts and she remembered being hit on the head. Gabriella groaned and took deep breaths until the pain faded. She then lifted her head carefully and looked to her hands. They were tied with rope. The rope led to the bedpost. She looked down her body and saw that her feet were tied together to the footboard. She sighed.
“You’re awake then?”
Gabriella’s head shot up and she grimaced in pain. She heard someone moving closer and waited until they were in her line of sight. She glared at the man in hatred.
“What am I doing in this room, in this bed?”
“Well, I wanted to lock you in the dungeon. Father refused when he found out you were a woman. At least he allowed me to tie you up.”
“Your father? King Gerard, you mean?”
Prince Stuart stared down at the young woman and only managed to make himself angrier. She wouldn’t look away and only raised an eyebrow. “What were you doing in our realm?”
“Untie me and I’ll tell you.”
He didn’t say anything, but turned and left the room. He came back in with three guards. Once the guards were positioned, he went to the bed, pulled out a knife and cut the rope. Princess Gabriella sat up as she rubbed her wrists and ankles.
“What were you doing here?”
“Meeting someone. And don’t ask, I won’t tell you.” She gave him a sly grin. “And as I am certain your father won’t allow you to torture me, you’ll just have to leave it at that.”
“All right. What was the meeting about?”
“We were talking about ending the war.”
He snorted laughter. “How?”
“My father has four daughters. Your father has three sons. Do I really need to say more?”
“Why in the world would we allow a union between our realms?”
“To end the war? To bring peace for our people?”
His hard stare was answer enough.
“Oh, right. Because we allow our women to fight and join our army, you can’t possibly have anything in common with us.”
“Kapren started the war.” He glared at her. “And women shouldn’t fight. It’s unseemly.”
She wanted to show him how unseemly it was but shook her head instead. It was a useless argument. Most of the men in this realm thought the same way.
“You were meeting someone.”
She shook her head. “Already said I wouldn’t tell you who.”
“No one in this realm would meet with you.”
“Since I was meeting someone, then you’re obviously wrong.”
Prince Stuart nearly growled at her as he advanced towards her. His thin face and narrow eyes came within inches of hers. She merely raised her eyebrow again. “You will tell me.”
She gave an amuse laugh. “Or what? You’ll act more upset?”
He raised his hand but moved away before he could strike her. It was not right to strike a woman. When she laughed at him, he fled from the room. It made her laugh harder. The guards followed him out of the room and locked the door, leaving Princess Gabriella on her own.
By the end of the first day of her imprisonment, Gabriella knew there was no way out of the room. The room was on the top floor of the castle and there were not enough sheets or other fabric to tie together and form a rope long enough to reach the ground. Though she had been trained as a soldier, and knew how to take a fall, it was too far up. The door was locked, but that was easy to pick. There were too many guards in the outer room. When she picked the lock and opened the door, one of the guards had the audacity to wave to her and smirked. The others were astonished that she had been able to pick the lock. With ten guards watching the room, Gabriella knew she had no other course of action then to sit and wait for something to happen. She hated that.
Gabriella was the youngest of four daughters. Her aunt, a general in King Fredrick’s army, raised her. Gabriella’s mother was very sick after her last child’s birth. Francine stepped forward to take care of her niece and the two bonded quickly. Even after Marcia was well enough to take care of her youngest, Gabriella gravitated toward her aunt. Her mother was a little put off, but once she realized her youngest didn’t like the same things as her other three girls, she allowed the separation. When it became clear that Gabriella was far happier learning to be a soldier, King Fredrick saw it as a sign she would never marry. He found that a relief. He had enough trouble with finding suitable matches for his other three daughters.
From a young age, Gabriella learned how to fight. She knew more hand to hand combat and could use more swords then most of the men she knew. Her aunt trained in Lillisthad to be a Guardian. Though she had never been assigned a dragon or cave, she learned everything she could. When it became obvious to Lillisthad that the war between Kapren and Quion was escalating, they asked Francine to go home to try and stop the war.
Francine was in fact King Fredrick’s aunt, but as time in Lillisthad is different, by the time she returned, she and Fredrick looked about the same age. He accepted her into his army and made her his general. She tried to convince him of peace, but he would not hear of it. The war started when King Gerard of Quion attacked a village near the boarder between the two realms in an attempt to invade and take over Kapren. King Fredrick now wanted to take over Quion. Francine was unable to convince her nephew to start talks. She therefore turned to his daughters, as the dragons of Lillisthad told her that one of them might be able to help.
It wasn’t until Gabriella was born that Francine saw the youngest would be able and willing to help. She not only taught Gabriella how to fight, she also taught her how to be a diplomat. It didn’t seem to matter though. No one in Quion seemed to be willing to talk, until about nine months ago, when Gabriella started sneaking into the realm. Now that she was prisoner in King Gerard’s castle, she doubted the talks would go any further.
Prince Stuart, King Gerard’s second son, visited her everyday for four days before her attitude made him angry enough to act rashly. He asked her everyday who she was talking to. She refused to tell him, knowing full well he would never torture her. The realm of Kapren was not above torturing women, as they knew that women were not the ‘weaker sex’ as Quion believed. Women were able to fight in wars, as were men, and often times, were able to withstand torture better then some men. Kapren believed in equality between the sexes, Quion did not. It made Gabriella laugh. They thought her too weak to torture? So be it. Even if they did torture her, they would never find out who she was meeting. She was trained better than that.
On this day though, after four days in captivity, and after four days of laughing at the Prince, he finally let his anger show. Instead of hitting her, he grabbed her by the arm and dragged her down to the dungeon. Gabriella laughed the whole way. He locked her in the dungeon and her laughter simply rang louder.
“What will your father do when he learns of your actions?”
Prince Stuart banged against the door with his closed fist. “He will not learn of this! You will be stuck in here until you talk! You will be fed gruel instead of the fancy dinners my father and older brother insist on feeding you. See how that suits you!”
She burst out laughing. “Do you really think these conditions will make me talk?” She looked out the tiny window in the door. “You really have no idea who you’re talking to, do you? You should do your homework, Prince. This type of treatment is mild in comparison with what I’ve lived through.”
The Prince gave a laugh as he walked away. He didn’t believe a word she said, but he didn’t believe a Princess would have been allowed to train as a soldier. He thought she had private training. She didn’t.
When Gabriella was old enough, she joined the army, as any citizen could do, and learned with her people. They didn’t know who she was. She gave a false name and trained with the regular army. She lived in a tent, and learned how to survive on little to no food.
The army was well fed, but they trained their soldiers to be able to sustain themselves on the bare minimum of rations, as the soldiers on the battlefield sometimes had no other choice then to fight hungry. She also trained in all weather: rain, sleet, hail, snow, and sun. To be locked in a dungeon and fed gruel while out of the elements did not worry the Princess.
As Prince Stuart left the dungeon, a voice stopped his angry movements along the hallway. “You should let me take care of her.”
Stuart stopped and stared at his younger brother. “What would you do to her?”
Isaac shrugged. His expression showed hidden secrets. “Whatever needed to be done.”
Stuart frowned. “She’s a woman.”
“She’s a soldier.”
“She a Princess.”
“She’s a spy.”
Stuart stood a little taller, trying to be imposing. His younger brother was taller and wider than he was, and it was hard to feel superior around him, but he tried. “Father-”
“Will never know.”
His eyes grew wide. “What will you do to her?”
The smile grew quite nasty. “Make her scream.”
Stuart licked his lips. “Yes. Show that prissy bitch that we mean business.”
Isaac smiled. “Oh, I will. Keep her in the dungeon a few days, then take her back to her rooms and have a bath drawn for her. Find women and assign them as her attendants. Lull her into a false sense of security. Make her think we’re sorry for throwing her in the dungeon. Once she’s feeling smug, I’ll have her escorted to my rooms and the fun will begin.”
“Yes.” He nodded vigorously. “Yes. Excellent. When she talks, you’ll let me know what she says.”
Prince Stuart wrung his and in excitement. “Excellent.”
Isaac smiled devilishly as his bother walked away.