“Again!” yells King Tor as he watches from the balcony high above the courtyard. The courtyard looks more like a lush jungle. Oak tree’s spring up from the mossy covered ground every few feet. Boulders and thorn bushes look as though someone threw them out and they landed in random places. Off in the distance in every direction you can see the castle walls and above them sits the castle and towers built so high it’s as though they are reaching for the stars. This is the kingdom of Torgon. King Tor the VI watches over the land not with an iron fist, but with love and the people love him for it. It’s a small kingdom, but still a kingdom none the less. But a problem has arisen. Many years ago King Tor was blessed with a daughter named Ashnic but lost his wife and queen due to labor problems. King Tor never remarried stating that he’ll always be in love with his wife even in death and one day will be reunited in the high heavens. Not having a son to carry on the family name, he never treated Ashnic differently or put blame on her. The gods have reasons for taking his wife. If anything it’s only made him stronger and the desire to push the princess to be the best as she can be. Princess Ashnic now in her tenth year practices sword techniques with Captain Benzo. Slash, slash, parry, block, jab. Over and over again she practices every day. Everyday getting stronger and faster. Captain Benzo grew up with King Tor. Childhood friends, his father was captain of the guards for Tor’s father. Following in their father’s footsteps was the only logical choice. The correct choice for the land and its people. Benzo always practiced and fought with a claymore, but Ashnic preferred two short swords. Lighter and double the fun as she likes to say. But this was practice and both were using wooden swords just in case. Their real weapons always close by. Jab, parry, slash, and slash. Again Ashnic swung both her swords at Benzo, blocking one but the other slipped by and popped him on the nose. “You are getting better Princess. You even managed to draw a little blood from me,” states Benzo as he wipes the blood from his nose. “That is all for today. You can retire to the library and work on your studies.”“Thank you captain,” she says as she bows, “but it is my birthday and I’d much rather relax today. Go to the markets and meet the traders.”They both look up at King Tor who smiles and gives a nod of approval. As the princess and the captain walk inside from the training grounds an unfamiliar voice emerges from behind the king. “King Tor, it is time.” “Give me till nightfall so I can spend one last day with my daughter,” quietly says the king.The mysterious voice says, “Agreed. When the moon is at its highest, we’ll be back.”As quickly as they were there, they disappeared. The king sighed and stares at nothing. He knows what he has to do. He himself set the contract. He turns and strolls back inside his chambers and stops in front of a painting of his wife. What a beautiful woman she was. The long brown hair and eyes like emeralds. “My lovely wife Anna, I shall be with you soon. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. Please forgive this stubborn man,” Tor whispers.Ashnic changes out of her leather tunic and pants and slips on something more lady like. A long summer dress the color of the sea. It was her favorite dress and her friend Kali, the house maid, made it for her. She didn’t leave to castle much. Just on certain occasions or special days like her birthday or when the kingdom has its Festival of the Seasons. It just happens to be the Spring Festival. Traders from all over gather and swap items, sell things they crafted or just enjoy the food and music. As she finishes getting dressed, she runs down the hall and into the slave quarters to where Kali is sewing another dress for Ashnic. She waves for her to come and Kali just smiles. Kali neatly places the needle and thread down into a drawer and runs to Ashnic to give her a big hug. They begin running down the stone hallway when suddenly Ashnic stops and glances back from where they came. “What is it Princess?” Kali curiously wonders.“I thought I saw someone standing in that corner,” she says pointing to a wall by the doorway. As she was about to walk back and inspect, Benzo rounds the corner and says, “There you girls are. Let’s go, the King is waiting and he seems rather impatient today.”They walk in a group down two more long hallways and reach their destination. The Greeting Room. It’s the room before you enter the Throne Room. It’s filled with paintings of previous King Tor’s and a long green rug leading all the way up a few stairs to the throne. The throne room was equally impressive with benches lined along the walls, tables and benches near the center of the room with a huge fire pit in the middle. The king and queen’s throne is made of a rare white ash wood. Legend says it can only be found on a mysterious island that moves. Behind the thrones hangs the banner of Torgon. A dark green background with a white tree and a shield in front of the trunk. As the group walks up to the king, Ashnic notices a single tear running down his cheek. “Is everything okay father?” she asks.He quickly wipes it away and nods yes. The princess gives her father a big hug and walks out hand in hand to the stables. They all saddle up and begin the short ride out the gates and into town.The two guards posted at the entrance see the king and his entourage arriving and swing the heavy iron gate open. As they pass, they both bow in respect. When they pass through, the guards close the gate and drop the dead bolt in place. Standing side by side with their swords in their hilts and shields in hands ready for anything to happen. It’s a short ride to town. The giant oak trees litter the side of the road. Flowers of almost every color cover the ground. The princess always loved the purple Rockfur flowers. They are common flowers found everywhere, but only seems to grow from under boulders. Their petals have such a soft feel to them, hence the name. The closer they get to town the worse the road gets. Grooves are cut into the ground from wagons hauling their inventory. Animal tracks embedded after a heavy rain. And just before they get to Torgon, the tree’s clear giving way to a beautiful ocean scenery. Another reason why the citizen’s love living here. Torgon isn’t a big trade city, but more of a stopping place in between the two major supply cities Sani to the south and Rition to the north. Sani is known for their leathers, fur and meat. While Rition is known for their ore and elemental spheres. While they are two very different civilazations, they get along strictly for survival. King Tor on more than a few occasions became a mediator to settle their differences. The king leads them to a nearby stable and tie up the horses, giving the boy working there a few gold coins to keep them fed and clean. The boy smiles and gladly accepts. The boy’s father steps from behind the counter and does a small bow. “Captain,” the king says, “I’m sure the girls will want to enjoy the festivities on their own. Keep watch but from a distance.”“Yes sir,” Benzo says honorably.Ashnic and Kali smile at each other and run off, Benzo not far behind. The king, last to leave the stables, sighs and walks slowly greeting every person that comes up to him. The market place is centered in the middle of town. Stalls line the outside while a stage was built in the middle with a band playing. Couples dance on one side of the stage while on the other side other groups of people are sitting enjoying the different types of food and ale. As they walk by the stalls, the traders yell out trying to lure them to sell them some of their wares. Jewelry from Nositi, exotic fur and leather from Sani, ale from Aleson Bay, and always a crowd favorite the elemental spheres from Rition. The traders obviously know the princess and always give her a sample. They stopped at the stall from Nositi first. What girl doesn’t like jewelry. After a few minutes of looking over, the princess picks two necklaces from the counter and gives the trader two gold pieces. She slips one over her head and hands the other to Kali which she takes gratefully. The necklace is made out of silver with a hint of gold in the pendant. The pendant is shaped like a tree, just like their symbol. Knowing they are too young, they pass by the Aleson Bay stall and run straight to the Sani traders. As young as Kali is, she is great at creating any kind of clothing from just about anything, so Ashnic purchases a few exotic hides and leather. Kali smiles then looks down and says, “Thank you princess, but I cannot accept. You are doing too much for me. I’m just a slave.”Ashnic replies, “you are more than that. You are my friend and when the day comes when I’m queen, I’ll set you free. I promise you that.”Kali looks up at her, eyes watering. She bows, grabs the leathers and furs and runs off. Ashnic strolls by more slowly now, looking for nothing in particular. Then she arrives at the stall with the biggest crowd. Elemental spheres. It’s amazing what a small little orb can achieve. The traders behind the counter were doing presentations. “With one orb of fire, you’ll never have to use a flint and tinder to build a fire ever again.” The trader closes his eyes and concentrates and out of nowhere a small ball of flame appears in his hand. He opens his eyes and smiles. The crowd cheers and applauds. The trader continues, “Ahh I see we have someone special with us today. Princess Ashnic, would you like to do a trick?”“Yes sir, I’d love to,” she says. He hands her a aqua blue orb and places it in her left hand.“Okay, now hold out your right hand and close your eyes and I want you to imagine the sea, but a small sea. A sea so small you can hold it in your hand.” So she closes her eyes like she’s told and concentrates. The crashing of the waves. The dolphins jumping from place to place. As she does this she hears the crowd start the clap. When she opens her eyes, in her right hand, is a small orb of water. It looked amazing. She’s never done anything like this before. When she smiles at the crowd, the orb shimmers and disappears. “You lost contact with your elemental spirit. But you did good on your first try. You have skill princess.” Says the trader. She looked back in the crowd and Benzo is clapping with the rest. She sees her father whisper in his ear and he turns and walks off in a distance. The trader notices this as well and grins. He says, “let’s try this one more time with a special sphere.” He hands her a pure black sphere. As it lands in her hand she was surprised at the weight. It was as light as a feather and as cold as ice. She closed her hand and her eyes once more. Concentrating on nothing this time. Her mind empty. A few moments passed and she started to get scared. She could no longer hear the crowds or the band playing, nor people laughing and talking. She opened her eyes and was in a dark room with two huge men looking at her. Before she could scream they grabbed her and tied a long piece of leather across her mouth. They sat her down and tied her to a chair. The first man looked at Ashnic and said, “Your father will give up plenty of money for the release of his only daughter.”She looked up at them both and gave them an awful look. The second man not liking her look raised his hand and slapped her across the face. Both men laughed and walked out a side door. Tears ran down her face, but the man slapped her hard enough that the piece of leather fell out of her mouth. She dared not yell anything out just yet. When her eyes got used to the dark, she looked around to see if she could use anything. Nothing. It was just a bare room. Off in the distance she could hear Captain Benzo yelling out for her. Good that she was still in town and decided now was a good time to yell out. So she let out a ear splitting yell, “Captain! I’m here! Help me!” The two men rushed back in and quickly tied the leather across her mouth but it was too late. They could hear the marching of Benzo and the guards. The first kidnapper looked at the other and said, “Get out there and hold them off while I take her away. I’ll send the signal when we are safely out of here.” The other nods and runs out. Ashnic looks up at the first man and does her best to show a small grin. He looked at her and slapped her again. She let out a loud cry and was sobbing quietly. As the kidnapper knelt down to untie the princess from the chair, out from the dark corner appeared a figure. The same figure she saw in the castle. Ashnic just stared without any emotion on her face. The figure wore a black leather tunic and pants, black boots and black hood. The hood hung so low that Ashnic could not see the eyes of the figure but saw the nose and lips and appeared feminine. The female figure gestured her index finger across her lips, telling the princess to remain quiet. She nodded and remained quiet. The kidnapper got up blocking the view of the hooded figure. When he moved behind her to untie the last bound, the figure was gone. Just as her hands were free she heard gurgling. She quickly jumped out of the chair and pulled a hidden dagger from under her dress only to see the hooded figure standing over the kidnapper. The gurgling sound came from the kidnapper. He had both hands putting pressure on an apparent neck wound. The hooded figure spoke, “Feel free to deliver the final blow or not. He won’t live anyways.”“Who are you?” asks Ashnic.“Just your guardian angel princess. I’ll explain more at another time.” She says.“Wait! What’s your name?” Ashnic asks again.From behind the door, battle could be heard. The other kidnapper screams in pain and then Benzo yelling out for the princess. The guardian angel walks back in the shadowed corner and disappears. Then a whisper forms in Ashnic’s ear. “Names Avori.” By this time the guards are banging on the door, the wood starting to splinter and break. Ashnic yells out and Benzo is the first to come crashing through the door. He gets to her and gives her a hug. She hugs him back crying. He looks down at the second kidnapper and stares in amazement. He says, “Good job dealing with this one. Looks like you can handle yourself.” She just looks up and smiles but knowing the truth of what happened in the dark room.