Sophie D'or And The Land Of Forget Me Not
Sophie D'or And The Land Of Forget Me Not
Sophie D’or lived in the enchanting domain called “Forget me not” beyond the Land of the asters and north of the tricky pathways near Shadow Court. And as per its name it was truly…remarkable. One would simply not get enough of the abundant ruby treasures, called “bloody tears”, a medicinal plant used for combating memory loss and also a very quaint choice of decorative purposes.
Each and every day, our certainly not dainty princess, used evasive maneuvers on her distraught castle guards, who had developed the bad habit of biting their nails in frustration. Sophie considered it a worthy venture, however, if she got to rebel against the archaic system her doting father believed in, which said she must learn embroidery like a well-behaved, young broodmare. Because according to her instructor, her kingly, future husband will consider her sweeter than wild honey and berries if her embroidery was appealing to the eye.
Well, Sophie has never heard of such utter inanity before. Unless her future husband was a simpleton, he will not take notice of her embroidery.
She can already picture the scene. Her future husband and she, staring intently at one another, measuring each other’s worth, wolfish grins on their faces.
“How are you willing to serve the kingdom?” the pompous husband would ask.
“I have studied war tactics and botany…” She would start saying.
“No, no, no, no. Gracious, that is not work for a young princess such as yourself. Why don’t you embroider our war flag? It seems much fitting for the weaker sex” he would suavely say.
“Shall I embroider ‘we surrender’? That seems more fitting for the boastful sex, as you know pride comes before the fall” she would answer back, flawlessly, not battling an eyelash.
Ah, such dreams. She would bring down a peg any man who would try to humiliate her. But today, today is not that day. She is single and loving it.
After careful analyses and deduction, she managed yet again to escape her nannies, the palace guards. She was running, heart beating out of its chest, grin present on her sunlit, oval face, half-hidden by her wild ebony curls. She was feeling free, completely careless in so harsh a world. And it was intoxicating.
She was sneaking out to meet her most diligent of friends, the Sly Fox in person. No one, except Sophie, knew who his real name was, although it made sense that she was aware of it. They were, after all, the best of friends. Aubrey, for that, was his aforementioned name, was by no means a simple swordsman, nor a witless baboon engaged in mindless slaughter.
He was a man of culture and a stellar samurai who only killed when innocent lives were in danger. For all his impressive attributes, he was not hired by the king to become one of his guards, even though he had long dreamed of utilizing his skills in the service of good. He was almost as trusted as the king’s advisors, almost as treasured as a beloved son.
He deserved the praise and adoration too, with how many times he had used his cunning to steer the king to victory. So much that Sophie liked to believe some of his cleverness had rubbed off on her.
Important he may be, but for Sophie, he will always be the boy she played shadow tag with, who used to steal pastries from the palace and to bring them to Sophie when she was in a melancholic mood.
“What mysteries doth bother my fair maiden today?” a soft voice could be heard from a little above her.
Sophie looked up. It was Aubrey, perched in a tree like a languid cat. His sapphire eyes glittered.
“Aub, I scattered like stardust in the embellished night, and now, kind sir, I only wish one thing…”
“Pray tell, my princess, and it shall be done” Aub answered in a rather mocking tone.
Sophie smirked “Tell me a story of the old, when Forget me not was but a babe in a land of giants, tell me of its marvelous history”
Aubrey got out of the tall oak tree and bowed while Sophie’s eyes flashed with mirth.
“A long time ago, before the morning dew graced the perfumed bloody tears, there existed a boy with grand aspirations who decided to form a kingdom from scratch. Mad with desire of his predecessor’s success, and with a dreamy twinkle in his eye…” Aubrey started to say the familiar words that put Sophie to sleep.
And sleep she did, but only for a moment. When she woke up, her eyes widened up and her face heated up because Aubrey’s hand was stroking her cheeks. His face was flushed and his sapphire eyes looked like the darkest of seas. He quickly retracted his hand and said gingerly “There was a butterfly on your face, Soph” while trying very hard to look away.
Strangely enough, she did not see any insect at all.
Meanwhile, in the tricky domain called Shadow Court, trouble was brewing. Near elegant soft cushions, in a throne adorned in rubies and emeralds sat a most fearsome figure. The Dark Pheonix, as they called him, a shrewd king in his early twenties, was smirking up at his terrifying subjects. The guards’ knees were trembling. The advisors felt faint and the cupbearers almost wet themselves in fright. It was the usual facial expression before someone ended up dead.
Th reason for such an outcome, someone had yet again tried to poison the king, this time with a tasteless and odorless concoction. Unfortunately for the assailant, such poisons caused flowers to wither at the same time and that is why the king had detected it in the first place. Also it must be procured fresh, otherwise, they had no effect and as luck would have it, their blooming period has just started this month. King Claudius was questioning his guards first.
“Dear, dear guards. Which one of you could have betrayed me? Was it you, Faustus? You always sleep on the job, perhaps you were fearing retribution” Claudius said in a sugar-coated tone.
“N-no, my king, I would never..”
“Silence! I decide whether you’re guilty or not! You incompetents!” the king bellowed.
He fixed his eyes on everybody, everybody was a suspect and anyone could wish him ill will and attempt to murder him.
‘The kitchen stuff looks weary, but really they are an empty-headed bunch of quims, not smart enough to come up with such complots. The guards do not have the means of procuring such a poison, with how expensive and how hard it is to find. It must have been an advisor’ Claudius deduced.
Reginald looks awfully frightened, so Claudius called him up, to frighten him some more.
“Where were you this past month? You took a free day last week. Why?” Claudius’s eyes narrowed as he questioned him sharply.
“I was visiting my ill niece, Margaret, my King” Reginald paused before answering.
“Come here” the king ordered.
Like a viper about to strike, he took Reginald’s hand in his. His pupils were dilated, his pulse was spiking up and his palms were wet. All signs of fright. It could be because of the death threat hanging upon him but it could also mean he might be guilty.
“Where were you that day?” the king asked again, a little louder.
“A-as I said my King I was visiting Margaret, she’s my niece, because she was ill. She-she was ill that is why I had to go to her t-that day” Reginald stuttered while looking at the door and gesticulating wildly.
‘Gotcha’ the king though while smirking.
“I see” Claudius said before he told Reginald “You are free”
The advisor looked so relieved.
“Thank you, my king…”
“Free to enter hell!” Claudius shouted as he took his sword and decapitated Reginald like one would cut through butter.
The maidens were screaming and the guards looked a little ill. Claudius paid them no mind and used a silky white cloth to clean his sword before saying to one of his maidens “Clean up the filth”
The usual assassination attempt did not startle the king too much, if anything it amused him. But he knew he did not have time for such childish endeavors. Not when he was at war with the Land of the asters, one of the most efficacious and ruthless military domain that there is. It was second to none, well, if you asked Claudius it was second to the Shadow Court, of course, but he might be a biased source, after all this was his childhood home.
If only he could have a way to gain an advantage and fresh new resources. He has waged war on all he other lands out there, all were like an unwanted draught in the spring, well, all except Forget me not. It was rumored it was nothing short of a legendary paradise with plenty of accessible ground. Yet he had never been there and never met its famous king.
‘Such luscious land of pleasure will have plenty of educated scribes to write my incoming victory’ Claudius thought.
Now the insidious plan was formed. He must dethrone the king, and to play it safe, completely get rid of him. It wouldn’t do if he joined forces with the enemy.
Now he just needed a pretext…
“Your Grace!” a random soldier said after just entering the scene. He seemed young, only a boy.
“Speak!” Claudius ordered.
“The king of Forget me not has invited you to the ball made for the occasion of his daughter’s sixteen-year-old birthday” the guard answered, a little out of breath. He must have run all the way to the courtroom.
“Is that so?” Claudius asked with a dark cackle “Tell the king I will not be able to make it, unfortunately. But send the princess my regards and well wishes”
His entire court looked at one another in bewilderment. Their king has never missed a sumptuous party before.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA” Claudius’s mad laughter was the last thing heard.
In the land of Forget me not, Sophie was having the most horrible of time. She had broken her gray corset, in order to once again be able to breathe. After being scolded for her self-preservation she stuffed her face with creamy confections as a further show of insubordination and rebellion against the so desired hourglass figure.
Now she was fuming at the mouth. She knew why her father had thrown a ball in her honour, he wanted her to meet her possible intended there.
“Hello, beautiful Sophie. Why so glum a face?” asked her trusty friend Aubrey, who had most likely climbed her ‘brooding’ tower.
“If there only was a way replace myself, Aub” Sophie moaned.
“Ah, but you would miss the festivities” Aubrey answered with a small grin.
“A price I’ll gladly pay” Sophie answered curtly.
“What about the horror of not seeing my charming face tonight?” Aubrey asked suavely.
“An even better circumstance” Sophie answered in a playful tone while Aubrey put his hand to his hard and looked as if she had stricken him.
“How you wound, my darling princess” Aubrey answered back in the same tone before both of them dissolved in a fit of giggles.
Suddenly Sophie admitted “I don’t even know how to dance properly”
“Well, we can’t have that” Aubrey answered and started to twirl her around the room, their pearls of laughter uplifting the castle.
The time for the famed ball finally arrived. There were suitors from all over the world. Gaunt, rotund, well versed in the art of war or even green lads, just appointed squires. While they admired Sophie’s beauty, they each came with a lady friend, not that the birthday girl was complaining. She was overjoyed that she would not be fawned over like the delicious roasted pork with creamy patatoes, the cooks had prepared tonight.
It all became too much for her when her father started telling a clearly engaged young men how much lovelier his daughter was.
So much so that she went outside to get a breath of air. The misty and fresh air chilled her bones in an appealing way. She was looking at the crescent moon and the lovely way it illuminated her hometown when a sword flew by, near her head. She let put a gasp of terror as she soon found herself cornered by four larger masked men, all with sharp-pointed swords.
She might have been defenseless but she was not about to let herself become the victim. So, against her better judgement, the first thing she did after screaming was…punch the closest assailant in the face. He looked just as shocked as she was.
The two masked men from behind her decision to stop playing nice and immobilized her arms. That is when a young man dressed in white garments cartwheeled around the scene, prompting Sophie to ask ‘Where in the thirty-one levels of hell did he come from?’. While Sophie’s mind was reeling, the mysterious young man fought against the masked perpetrators, sending venomous daggers at them, and barely managing to miss Sophie. One enemy remained.
Tired of being held captive, Sophie stepped on the masked guy’s toes, who let out a startled breath and softened his hold on her, just enough for her to escape his grasp. Then when he was about to attack her again she remembered one of the warrior tactics Aubrey taught her in secret and, using her opponent's weight against him, she flipped him over.
The mysterious young man in white dropped his jaw.
Her scream from before must have finally alerted the castle guards along with Aubrey who almost flew to the scene by how fast he was running. When he found her he stood protectively in front of her, and glared coldly at the young man in white who found himself surrounded by the castle’s guards this time.
“Stay behind me, Sophie. I will skewer anyone who dares think they can hurt you” Aubrey said through clenched teeth.
“Aub, he saved me” Sophie confessed.
“What?!” Aubrey asked than looked around the room, finding samurai corpses everywhere.
‘Sophie couldn’t have taken all of them’ Aubrey thought grimly and schooled his face into a friendlier expression. After that, he asked the guards to halt.
The bewildered guards obeyed, knowing he was the Sly Fox and that his opinion was of utmost importance. Well, all but the general, Kuroi Tori who demanded an explanation. The sly Fox just gesticulated around the dead black-clothed ninjas and suddenly, the general understood.
“You have saved our beloved princess,” Kuroi Tori said, even though Sophie thought he was speaking for himself only. She’s never been close to any of the guards despite their games of hide and seek. Kuri Tori was the only guard who took the time to visit her, tell her war tactics and play chess with her.
“Come with us to the king” the general continued to say.
The white-dressed man acquiesced with a tiny nod.
As he was moved towards the king’s court, he could hear the decadent whispers like a faint buzzing In his head.
“I wouldn’t mind to imprison him to my bed” one of the treacherous whispers said. The white-clothed young man found the face that belonged to the voice and glared hard.
The king rose from his seat, his anger seeming to melt when he saw his daughter safe and sound.
“You missed the cake for a chance to fight samurais, sweetheart?” the king asked in an amused tone.
“No, I missed the wedding plans for a chance to breathe” the princess replied while grinning like a naughty schoolgirl.
“Plenty of air here too…” the king said while gesturing to his courtroom and his invited guests.
“Ah, but love is in the air here, makes me want to vomit” she responded playfully and Aubrey’s lips twitched in amusement.
The guests started to cackle amiably before the king hit his scepter on the hard, ancient throne and said, addressing the white samurai “Capital punishment is too kind for you, you…”
“Father, no, he saved my life!” the princess answered and retold the story.
At the end of it, the chubby king was embracing the white samurai in a grateful hug while saying “Even if you ask me for half of my kingdom, it shall be given to you”
The murmurs started their genesis.
“Your Honored Majesty, I only desire one thing on this earth. To become the sword shield of your prestigious grace. Serving the Kingdom of Forget me not, the land of my mother, with blood and sweat if I have too” the white samurai said.
The murmurs intensified.
“Why, of course, dear boy. Someone of your talents would serve me well as my sworn shield” the king answered, not knowing that he had invited a snake into his nest, the king of Shadow Court.
After the king’s decree, Aubrey pulled Sophie to the garden with him.
“You could have been hurt, I want you to stay by my side from now on!” he shouted.
“Like a five-year-old in need of a nanny? Fox!” she screamed, using his nickname like she did when she was angry with him.
“I almost lost you!” he screamed before his soft lips enveloped hers. They were sweet and gentle yet there was also a hurried edge to them. He was kissing her like a thirsty man in the desert, her lips signifying an enchanted oasis and sweet like marmalade.
She found herself kissing him back, savoring his manly scent. He smelt like peppermint.
Unbeknownst to them, Claudius was watching from afar noting “The king’s weakness is his daughter and it seems it is the legendary Sly Fox’s as well”
After that little spying incident, he retreated to his appointed luxurious room, where he started murmuring “The plan went off without a hitch, as my plans always tend to do. Now I only have to wait for an opportunity to get rid of the blubbery buffoon…hmmm, how I wish I would have strangled him with my bare hands. To put his dirty paws on me! And that insipid princess, singing my praises like I were a god. HAHAHA. I expected more from the Sly Fox, ultimately it seems he is a love-struck buffoon as well. How disappointing.”
Suddenly he decided he felt a little homesick so he retreated outside the castle where he started exercising some moves inherent to his natal country. Arrogance was his night cloak.
Meanwhile Sophie, after awkwardly pushing Aubrey away and running out of the garden, found herself on the balcony. It allowed her an excellent view to spy on their enigmatic guest. Everything seemed normal. He was still in his white uniform, his amber eyes glittering in the night when…were those…shadow moves? They were! And not usual moves you can pick up after visiting the country, they were the ways royals were usually trained, Sophie read in the pictured books.
Quiet as a mouse, she ran back in the palace and searched for Aubrey who was still in the garden, doing a good impression of a marble statue.
“Aubrey!” Sophie screamed while shaking him.
“My princess” he answered in a melancholic way, avoiding her eyes “I understand if you want me sent far away”
“No! What we did…I liked it too” she answered.
“Then why did you ran?” Aubrey asked mildly confused.
“It was so sudden and…we don’t have time for this Aubrey. Our kingdom could be in danger!” Sophie said with a finality in her tone and Aubrey snapped back to attention.
His face morphed into a cold attentive visage and his eyes were calculating. He was transforming into the Sly Fox.
“What have you found out?” the Sly Fox asked.
“Our new guest…he practiced Shadow Court moves” she answered.
“Curious. Perhaps his father and mother separated and so he was raised in the Shadow Court” Aubrey answered and Sophie shook her head.
“Those were the royal moves,” she said in almost a whispered tone.
“He could be a spy. Why did he want to become the shield of the king? Most man would have given their hands and legs for half his kingdom? Could he be…”
“He could be the Shadow king’s son, he looked too young to rule himself. Perhaps he wants another objective, mayhap the entire kingdom” he deduced.
“But why save my life? If the king would have been overwhelmed by sadness, surely he would have been an easier target” she asked.
“What if he staged everything?” he wondered.
“What must we do?” she asked concerned.
He smiled and put his hands on her shoulders “Know the enemy and know yourself in a hundred battles you will never perish”
“You’re speaking in riddles again” Sophie sighed with a small smile on her lips.
“Keep your enemies closer..” he continued in a teasing voice while she started playfully hitting him.
The next day Sophie and Aubrey insisted on following Claudius around.
“Is there a reason you are sticking to me like mold on cheese?” he practically spat at them.
They exchanged twin grins while Sophie said “It is considered a delicacy here, you know?”
They started talking and both of them were impressed by his historical knowledge. When it came to training he was vague ad lied saying he had been trained by the Land of the asters where his father resided.
But one couldn’t help but memorize his last slipped remark “Father’s beatings have made me stronger than my enemies”. It did not seem like a lie.
Sophie threw him a pitied look but Aubrey looked cautious.
“And who are your enemies?” Aub asked.
Claudius’s eyes widened, surprised he had actually divulged that part of his childhood to his current foes. It wasn’t his fault, damn it! They were talking so much and the questions changed rapidly, he should have made a script beforehand.
Sophie’s heart went out to him but The Sly Foxes’s eyes looked cautious, there was no hint of mercy.
Later they went together to the library, the smell of dusty books gladdening the heart.
Claudius went to get a book about the Arts of war, by Sun Tzu, but when he noticed the company, he put it back on the shelf.
“What’s wrong?” Sophie asked.
“I wouldn’t want us to not be able to hold a conversation. How about we talk about my favorite poet, Tagore?”
“So just because I am a woman there is no way I could fathom battle tactics, even though my library is full of them. What do you think I collect them for, to gather dust?” Sophie asked enraged.
Aubrey smirked and Claudius almost shivered before answering “Well, I…”
“Don’t patronize me”
The Dark Pheonix started to get mad in return before he asked “Which are the virtues a commander stands for?”
“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness” Sophie answered.
Claudius looked taken aback. A woman who knew Sun Tzu’s teachings…
“And which one do you think is the most important?” Aubrey asked, genuinely interested.
“Benevolence” Sophie answered and Claudius snorted and said “Then you are a fool”
“I beg you pardon?” Sophie asked, surprised he dared to insult her. No one had done that before.
‘Go on, beg’ Claudius thought maliciously.
Aubrey’s fingers were a centimeter away from his sword and they were shaking.
“Wisdom is by far more superior, princess” Claudius answered.
“Oh. Well isn’t a good commander benevolent and unconcerned with fame?” Sophie asked with a touch of disdain.
“Perhaps, but the greatest commander uses wisdom to win the greatest battle of them all, the battle not fought” The Dark Pheonix answered coolly.
“Hard to win when all your allies stab you in the back for being a humongous berk don’t you think?” Aubrey said sweetly.
“Not if you are strict, strict enough not for neighboring rulers to take advantage of your weakness” Claudius continued.
“How are you going to make your soldiers loyal if you only show them strictness?” Sophie asked while Aubrey said in a sing-song voice “And we come back to benevolence”
“But…” Claudius tries to say before he gets interrupted by a fed-up Aubrey “Enough! There must be a balance between them!”
Claudius found himself liking his foes. How strange.
That night Sophie and Aubrey started discussing their future plan.
“I say we kill him,” Aubrey said while Sophie said at the same time “We must save him from himself”
”What?” Aubrey asked.
“He’s a product of his environment. There might still be a chance to…”
“ I don’t like how he’s looking at you” Aubrey interrupted her.
Sophie sighed when she saw how completely inconsolable Aubrey was, so to make him less worried she stood on her tippy toes and pecked him on the lips.
“I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself”
The next day the king along with Claudius, Aubrey, and Sophie too, went into the woods to make a camp there and admire the resplendent nature.
But from behind Claudius, an alluring keelpack, slithering in waves was baring his fangs, ready to take a savoring bite.
Sophie saw the terrifying image and sprung in action, pushing Claudius out of the way.
Before the snake could attack Sophie, Aubrey got up his sword and decapitated the wretched thing. The king saw that everyone was alright, and his heart gladdened.
‘They’re my enemies. They don’t owe me anything and yet they saved me’ Claudius thought “Why? That dreaded girl with her insurmountable kindness and that confusing boy…what do they want?”
In the dead of night, the king climbed the stairs, the ochre light of the candles widening his imposing shadow. He glided until he reaches his purpose…visiting Claudius to make sure he young man was alright. He seemed off yesterday, staring into space for long intervals of time.
“My boy, are you awake?” the king asked while knocking on the door.
‘I am now’ Claudius thought snidely.
“Yes, my king” he answered with forced reverence.
“Young man I have been through many challenges my entire life, including dangerous animals…” the king trailed off, his back open, defenseless. Claudius always kept his sword under the pillow. Now he could strike. But something was holding him back. Imagining Sophie’s crying visage, Aubrey’s disappointed stare, it was too much. Why was he becoming this soft creature?
“I am always here for you if you need my help my boy, think about it, whatever is plaguing your thought I’ll gladly help” the king said, ending his speech.
“Thank you, my king” Claudius answered while thinking ‘The girl must get her insufferable kindness from him’
The next day arrived. Sophie greeted him with a friendly embrace and Aubrey patted him on the shoulder…he could take it no more.
“I lied to you” he said.
“Oh” Aubrey said amused.
“I, I am from the Shadow Court” he answered expecting to be interrogated and then killed in a most gruesome of ways.
“We knew that already” Sophie answered with a smile “You must be the prince”
“King” Claudius said.
“Why have you come?” Audrey barked, though his eyes were soft.
“I, I needed the resource to fight against the Island of the Asters, so I had to shed blood, I had to…the king” he stammered
“Well, now you don’t” Sophie said in droll way “You’re my friend now, and my friends don’t assassinate my father”
“You needed your resources, correct?” Aubrey asked.
“Why didn’t you ask for an alliance, instead? We would have helped you. We are at war with the asters also” Aubrey continued, and Claudius could hear the unspoken You’re an idiot.
“I regret” Claudius started to say, tears forming into his treacherous eyes before Sophie spoke “You better and…we forgive you”
The dark Pheonix did not expect to be enveloped in Sophie and Aubrey’s arms.
They were his friends and they forgave him, that was what mattered.
They let go of him and in his jubilance, Claudius couldn’t help but ask them “So when are you two getting married?”