"Shush, its over," she whispered softly into the last soldier's ear as he blade came to his throat and made a even slice against the skin.
The last soldier opened his mouth in protests, but no voice came out as he silently slid down. As he fell, Zara stood up from the bushes. The blood started draining out the body as she quietly waited for it to die completely.
After a few moments, she gave out a signal. About twenty back up bandits slid down the ropes attached to the trees. From the tree closest to Zara, came down a girl with striking blonde hair with grey eyes. She had a rose in her hand and a dazed expression was permanently sealed in her eyes. She put a thumb in her mouth and walked towards Zara, observing the dead body at her feet.
"So what did you think about today's lesson, Jean?" Zara asked the thirteen-year old with a smile, wiping some blood smeared on her face.
"Neat work, Your Highness," the girl replied smoothly, still not looking away from the body.
Zara chuckled. Jean was certainly the most interesting kid she'd ever seen. The Krewita herself could select a student who she would personally mentor every 5 years. Zara remembered how she'd observed Jean, who had fearlessly faced and killed a panther in her sessions, but ran and cried when a kitten was nearly trampled under a cart.
Zara gave out another signal and all the bandits gathered around her and motioned them to evacuate the area and head home. The soldiers all made a line behind her.
"Jean," she whispered softly to the little girl, "time to go. Next week, you will be assigned a group for yourself."
Jean did not reply. She put a hand on the trunk of the tree and climbed up.
After the session with Jean, the main problems for Zara at that time came flooding back to her. Tomorrow was the day. The day. Her plan had been drafted out for tomorrow and was possibly again in action, but the worry was engraved in her mind permanently. If it didn't or if one thing was even slightly messed up, the plan would fall to pieces. And possibly, she would--
"Your Highness," Gerald's voice spoke through her thoughts and shook her back into reality, "the Assembly starts in fifteen minutes. Perhaps you'd like to clean up a bit."
"Of course," she muttered and walked towards the chamber. She did not have any maids, neither did the Krewita ever need any, after all, they weren't like the snobbish princesses of the court. She quickly cleaned up and dressed herself in a elegant cream gown for the feast and looked in the mirror.
She was young, so young, especially for a position like that of a Krewita. Being seventeen, she had been declared the Krewita the previous year only after she had managed to overpower every single girl in the arena for the selection after the death of the previous one. Her striking green eyes were wide and she could tell that they weren't going to shut that night. Her hair were black, wavy and silky, and fixed in a stubborn plait for the fight. Her countenance was resolutely fixed in a neutral one, intent on not showing too much of any emotion. She knew she definitely did not look seventeen.
She quickly stepped into some embroidered shoes kept beside the dressing mirror and untied hair down from the plait, letting it flow down her shoulders. With one last look at herself, she stepped out of the room and started walking down to the Assembly Hall. There were two maids waiting for her outside the door as she neared the entrance. The one on the right quickly put a crown on Zara's head as the one on the left opened the door for her.
"All hail the Krewita, the Queen of the Krew!" Gerald's voice blared in the room on which a blanket of silence had fallen when Zara stepped in.
Then everyone put a hand on their heart and with the other in line of their shoulder, they bowed low. Zara was on a balcony that was above the hall. The balcony had a throne, two maids and Gerald. The hall was at least 50 feet down from the balcony and was huge as it accommodated up to five thousand bandits.
"Allow yourself to rise," Zara spoke, her voice rich with dominance and strength, "As you all know, tomorrow is the day we will write an incredible piece of history," Zara felt her mouth go slightly dry as the people looked up to her, "the capture of the Crown,"
There was pin drop silence in the court.
"Our tribe has been suppressed and oppressed for too long. We all know that. Some of us had been sentenced to death just because we were the part of the krew. Some have actually died, but as many of you have known, we have tried to save many of the sentenced prisoners, " she paused and took a breath and closed her eyes, "The ones who are lost await to be avenged," she opened her eyes and a certain ferocity accompanied the next sentence, "Tomorrow, we capture the crown," even though the fact was well known by everyone, it didn't stop the stream of mutterings that followed.
"We have a plan, of course. Only fifteen selected krew members will be a part of it. They have been informed of it. And you all will continue with your daily routine," she paused and took in a deep breath again, as if she was reassuring herself, "ten years ago, the Ghaeyins killed all our krew members because we proved to be a threat to their empire. By our very existence. Just because we refused to give up our land to them, they killed us. Just like that. Tomorrow, we take away their priceliest possession," she gestured towards Gerald who gave signals to two maids standing in front of Zara. They picked up a cloth like huge carpet from beneath them and hung it down, exposing a magnificent picture of the crown. The crowd broke into a triumphant noise which tugged at the corners of Zara's mouth.
"But for now, let's just feast." Zara drew her arms out casually and the people let out a final cheer as they moved towards the counters of foods set on the margins of the halls. The halls were brimming with noise as Zara settled down on the throne. Hardly had she sat on the seat when she was tapped on the shoulder by her attendant.
"Your Highness," Gerald whispered again in her ear, "the soldiers have arrived with the Princess,"
"So this is the girl." Zara muttered to herself as she looked down at the Princess who was sitting on the ground with her hands tied behind and cloth across her mouth. Her attendant was similarly slouched beside her and Zara assumed that the rest of the soldiers were successfully killed.
"She's perfect, Gerald." Zara observed, "same body posture, black hair, green eyes and fair skin. She's the perfect girl for me to impersonate at the court. Take her clothes' trunk from the carriage. That's what I'm going to wear."
The Princess pushed and pushed aggressively as Zara spoke. The attendant was no less and was on the verge of shouting if he only had the power. Zara smirked at their expressions of total helplessness.
"Take the rag off her mouth." Zara ordered. The soldier went over to her and took the rag off. The Princess quickly bit him and the soldier yelled out in pain. He made a move towards her with his sword up when Zara held her hand up.
"Wait," and he waited.
"You're a fierce one," Zara smirked and crouched down, "What's your name?"
"Princess Arabella Asquith of the Green Vales," Gerald announced to the soldier at the gate. "and I'm the attendant in charge, Marc Hempher."
The guard peered at Marc suspiciously and then ducked in through the window to have a better look at me. Zara prayed silently in my head that she looked similar to the scroll received by the court for Princess Arabella. The guard looked at her for another five minutes and then finally stepped back, looking a little pink which she had a certain feeling had nothing to do with suspicion.
"All right, yer clear," he said, and Zara flashed him a dazzling smile. The guard winked back at her.
A few moments later they were asked to evacuate the carriage and wall their way to the Palace of Ghaeyin. The garden of the Palace was magnificently lavish, adorned by water fountains and sculptures that were too posh and costly for Zara's taste. Several other ladies of all ranks were there for the Selection. Her mind drifted back to Gerald's speech about the Selection after Zara had returned back the act disposing of Princess Arabella.
"The Selection is the grandest event in the entire century. Last year the Ghaeyins lost their stupendous queen, Queen Aelia. We all know that it was us who killed her because she was dangerously close to finding our haven. But it is very fortunate that the people are unable to trace the identity of the Queen's killer. For a year, the King had ruled over the Eauros Kingdom, but the citizens believed in the power of women. They rebelled and fought for a queen. However, the extraordinary crown which is in their possession is the true chooser of the heir, as deemed by myths and legends. The crown is said to fixate itself on the head of the ruler and ultimately give the lady the superior power of ruling the kingdom."
"For this, thousands of esteemed princesses, duchesses and empresses will attend this marvellous ceremony. But it is not the power we want. It's the crown. The gems in that crown will give us the power of money, the money will give us weapons, which will guarantee us a spot in the Royal family of Eauros Kingdom. We have been silenced for too long. It is our time to rule. Together we all we take down the Ghaeyins. Together we will win."
"Arabella?" a voice shook Zara from her thoughts. A man stood in front of her. He looked very ordinary, probably a servant in the Palace, with his slimy hair and round, squinting eyes and pointed face.
Zara didn't know how to react. What was the reaction this man was expecting? Did Arabella know him? What should she do? If the man got suspicious-
"Bella?" he enquired again. Then she saw it, the lucky item. The name tag, stitched on his uniform.
"Oh, Laim!" Zara gave out a breathy smile and put a hand on her heart. The man's face broke into a smile and he inched closer to Zara. Before she could protest, he had already placed his head on her shoulders and his arms on her waist. "Oh, Bella! You're finally here!"
Zara retreated instantly in surprise and the man looked affronted. She coughed, "Laim, I will come back to meet you later. Long journey." she said, bowed hastily and started walking away with an equally surprised Gerald.
"Who knew that the princess was so well acquainted with that downrat servant?" Zara scoffed, shaking away the dust from her dress.
Zara had received a date, which was two days from the day she arrived. She was given a room, with additional quarters for Gerald and her five servants were sent to the servants' quarters. All the people were allowed only five servants, Zara noticed. Probably they were also wary about such a huge event going unnoticed by bandits like them.
For two days, she managed to eat, sleep and breathe and talk like a princess and also mastered the skill of avoiding Laim, who was obviously in love with the princess, since he came way too frequently to her quarters to check up on her. The most difficult part was dressing up like a princess. The heavy gowns were particularly hard for Zara to manage because being a bandit, the armour was very light so that they could fly and climb from one tree to another and move without much inconvenience. But the 30 pound heavy gowns were chaotic for Zara. Also, she had to tie her hair in a ridiculous bun everyday, which also made her feel like ripping her hair out.
Finally the day arrived. Some of her fellow servant-bandits got her ready and with Gerald as her company, she strolled down the halls of the Palace towards the waiting room for the princesses. As they were walking, Zara heard Laim calling out to her. She mentally palm-faced herself and gave orders to Gerald, "get rid of him for me. God, I should just kill him for Arabella's sake, that stalker."
Gerald went behind to stop Laim and Zara hurried her way to the room.
The room had only fifteen other ladies, who were given large spaces. None of them were talking to each other, all of them were way too busy having their noses up in the air. Zara placed herself at a seat where her name was engraved. Gerald entered the room a few moments later.
"How'd you make him go?" Zara asked.
"Told him that you had to come here, and how important that was and I also scheduled you a stroll with him this evening," Zara threw him a sour look, "what? That poor guy looked too dejected."
Zara rolled her eyes.
"Princess Arabella Asquith?" the attendant standing between at the door called out to Zara.
"That's me," Zara added delicacy and finesse to her tone and gathered her skirts as she rose up. Gerlad stiffened beside her. This was it.
"Your Highness, go walk down this hallway and at the end is a room where the crown is kept. Go there and pray in front of the crown for fifteen minutes and it will make its decision. I will come to call you back. If you're selected by the crown, there will be drums beating to announce your discovery." The attendant was obviously bored by his monotonous schedule, Zara thought as she walked down the hall.
"This never struck me till now," Gerald said suddenly, "What would've you done if the crown would've selected the girl before you."
"The question is stupid, Gerald. We obviously would've killed the girl and scraped the gems off that crown. Once the ruler is dead, the crown is a vulnerable state before it reissues itself to find its new leader. Someone was very stupid to leak that piece of information," she paused, "we also have killed the Queen Aelia, so I doubt it would've been hard,"
They reached the end of the hall. The door was there and Gerald pushed it, revealing a chamber. The crown was on a elevated platform in the centre of the room and soldiers had margined the room. They looked straight ahead. Gerald shrank, obviously not anticipating this. "What do you do now?"
"Calm down," Zara said, observing the soldiers, "in three, two, and one..."
Fifteen massive iron balls connected with the skulls of the soldiers standing there and all of them fell flat against the floor, some with bleeding heads. Gerald stared at them with horror.
"They had these booby trap passages in case someone attacked them. But they didn't know thy the persons for these traps," she wiped a sweat off her brow, "were under my influence."
"Now we have exactly ten minutes. Listen to me, there's a invisible thread connected to a gong that will ring. These walls are thick, so the iron balls wouldn't have that much sound, but that attendant might be suspicious. So take this ink," she gave him a bottle, "and throw it near the glass case of the crown. It will expose the thread and then cut it with your blade."
Before Gerald could turn, the door crashed open. In came the last person Zara expected.
"Not so fast, traitor," Laim snarled as he headed straight for Zara.
Zara swore under her breath. This damn servant. She gathered her skirts and ran towards Liam, dodged his punch and kicked him perfectly in the shin and once hard in the face. Then she knelt down and grabbed his collar, "I should've killed you."
"Too late for that," he smirked and let out a whistle. Zara felt dazed as about twenty-thirty men entered the room, all with rifles in their hand. Laim steadied himself and pulled himself from her grip and went with the group.
"Hands up, traitor," Laim said and pulled out a pistol of his own.
Zara's mind was numb as even Gerald was brought next to her and forced to kneel down. She looked down at the floor when a question struck her. "You knew Arabella that well?"
Laim looked at her, then ignored her and turned to the soldiers. He gave out a few orders and then a dreadful realisation struck Zara. He wasn't a servant. He was a Commander.
Laim looked at Zara, "Arabella is my fiancée. She didn't look at me like you do. She didn't treat me like dirt on the dress. She didn't look like you. And most importantly, she didn't come here for Selection," he paused and gulped, "we were going to elope."
So many things could go wrong in a single plan, Zara thought. So many. They didn't bother to find out her history. They should've captured the Princess earlier. They should've bothered to know more about her. But the Krew were known to be quick. But Zara never realised their quickness had developed into careless hastiness.
But now, all was done.
The handcuffs had cuffed her hands back as she had completely slouched down on the floor. She had lost everything. Her people. Her tribe. Her power. Her title. Her home. And herself. This was all over. Because of her recklessness, the Krew would never rise.
Laim started to drag her to her feet. She let out a hug and strangled cry, which made him back off a bit, but he continued pulling her with more aggression. Zara stretched her throats with her shouts, but they didn't go away. They just came.
Until, when she opened her eyes, a bright white light was all that was she could see. The room was covered in white. Everything was white. She couldn't see the soldiers. Laim. Gerald. Only white.
Then the light disappeared. Everyone was too shocked by it to notice Zara. Laim was standing close to her, but his hand was no longer on her arm. He towered over her, but he was no longer even looking at her. No one was looking at anyone.
Everyone was looking there.
The crown had shot through the box and shattered the glass. It was floating mid-air. Suddenly, it started completely disintegrating. The gems started floating and moving in a particular direction. They started flying towards the crowd, and before they could realise it, the crown gems were like a halo over their heads.
She was too much in shock to notice how the gems were starting to fall slowly toward one person. How it slowly moulded back to a crown as it touched the person's head. How it integrated back in the most magnificent way on the head of the person who was acquitted as the ruler of the Eauros Kingdoms.
That's when the drums started to beat, announcing the discovery of the new ruler.