The sun shone gently down over them from a clear blue sky. Some seagulls circled over the rooftops and every once in a while uttered a cry that mixed with the cheerful voices of the citizens below while they bargained for better prizes or just chattered without a care in the world.
“Such a beautiful day,” ___ mused while continuing her walk to the next stand, only to stop when she felt something tug at her skirt.
She turned around with a surprised look, but soon lit up in a smile as she saw the face of a young girl smiling up towards her.
“Why, hello there,” ___ said while squatting down to the girl’s level. “How are you today?”
“I’m well, thank you.” The girl suddenly looked nervous and she fidgeted with something behind her back. “I… I have something for you...”
___ raised an eyebrow, “Really?”
The young girl nodded and then pulled out a small flower from behind her back. The petals were white with blue spots and were surrounded by tiny, green leaves from the stem. The middle of the flower was a bright yellow, which almost made the flower look like a resemblance of the heaven — the petals being the sky and the middle being the sun.
___ looked in amazement at the little flower and carefully took it from the girl’s hand. “Thank you. It’s really beautiful.”
“But not as beautiful as you…”
___ looked surprised for a few seconds before she suddenly wrapped her arms around the girl and gave her a warm embrace, causing the young girl to look shocked. But when ___ leaned back the girl was once again smiling, pride radiating from every fiber in her being.
“I will take good care of your gift.”
The girl could just nod in reply and suddenly a chuckle could be heard from above. The sound came from a soldier with curly, dark hair and gentle, amber eyes. He had some stubble on his chin and a grin decorated the tanned face as he patted the girl’s head.
“I think it’s time to go back to your mother now, little girl.” He pointed towards a woman a few steps away and the little girl nodded eagerly.
“Yes, sir Roma. Bye Princess!” The little girl waved at them before she ran over to her mother to tell her about her meeting with the princess.
“You’re too nice to them, Princess,” Roma said while ___ stood up
“You can never be too nice to your people, Roma. It was you who taught me that.” ___ turned towards him with a smirk and then took his arm, letting him lead her away through the market, towards the road leading to the castle.
Roma let out a laugh and nodded. “Indeed I did, but your friendly talks with the people have left your counselors waiting. They’re starting to get impatient.”
“Since when did we care about that, Roma?”
Another laugh left the big man’s lips, a laugh she couldn’t help but to join.
“The Turks are getting closer. Several kingdoms in the east have already forfeited to their army. I’m afraid that we will be next unless we do something.”
___ looked at the map to where her counselor had pointed, showing her the different kingdoms that had fallen under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and its fierce army led by a certain Sadik Adnan. She had heard a lot about this man, that he was a ruthless commander who wouldn’t spare anyone that opposed him. But how would her peaceful country be of any threat to the great Ottoman Empire?
“These countries that have been conquered, did they have a big army?”
“Where they peaceful countries?”
“No, Princess, bu-“
“Counselor… I can understand your arguments, but from my point of view a small country with a small army and no other resources than what we grow and fish would be of no interest to the Turks.” She made a pause to look up at the men surrounding the big table. “We have lived in peace for many years and they have no reason to attack us now. But if it would make you feel better we will send them a letter telling them of our wish to stay out of war. The Sultan should be reasonable enough to listen to this.”
The men listened to her words and after a few seconds of thought they nodded. “As you wish, Princess.”
“I’ll start with the letter immediately.”
All the men except for Roma left the room to start with the tasks that needed to be done. Although ___ had no intention to start a war they still needed to be prepared, and she knew that. Hopefully the letter of peace would be enough to stop the Turks from invading.
___ turned towards the window and watched as the sun started to set behind the mountains in the west, starting to cover the land in darkness. Why would anyone want to invade this peaceful land?
“Roma… Have I done the right thing?”
The tall soldier stood quite for a few seconds, thinking through the conversation that had taken place just a few minutes earlier, and then nodded. “No ruler should wish war upon their country, negotiating for peace should always be the right thing to do. Your parents would have been proud of you.”
___ slowly turned to look at her friend, a faint smile curving her lips as she nodded. “I do hope so… I really do.”
The smell of smoke and blood filled ___’s nostrils together with the stench of fear, fear that filled her heart as well as the hearts of the men around her. Luckily they were the only ones left. She had done her best to get their people out of the village while the men held back the invading army. But they had been outnumbered, their swords no match for the fiends skills; they were lucky just to be alive.
___ looked at the men around her. Their eyes shone of fear and their clothes and faces were covered with blood, some from the enemies, but mostly their own. She probably didn’t look much better. Her face was also stained by the red liquid and she had some cuts on her arm from a knife, but luckily none of them were particularly deep, so she could still wield her sword.
She peered around the corner of the house they were hiding behind, looking at the men on the streets, going on a rampage, plundering and destroying the houses further up the road. They laughed and shouted to each other while they carried out everything of value out of the houses, piling it up on the streets, creating an even greater mess than before. And in the middle of it all this she saw him, Sadik Adnan.
His clothes were spotless. The white fabric shone brightly against the dark background but got a more orange glow every once in a while when he passed a fire or a torch. The red robe he wore matched the saber in his hands that was covered in blood. His masked face turned from side to side as he walked down along the street, as if he was searching for something, just coming closer and closer by the minute.
“We must stop them,” one of the men next to her murmured, clenching his hands even harder around the sword.
“They’re too many! We don’t stand a chance!”
“Hush!” She turned back towards the men, reluctantly letting him out of her sight. They stared back at her, waiting for her to say something.
“Flee…” The men flinched.
“Flee. You have families waiting for you. Flee into the woods, protect them.” She gave them a harsh look.
“But what about you?”
“I’ll stay and fight.”
They just gawped and stared at her. They couldn’t believe what she what saying. She was their leader, their princess. It was their job to protect her, not the other way around.
“No buts! I don’t want to make your wives widows and your children fatherless. Go to them and help them flee up in the mountains. You can hide there; start new lives in the hidden valleys. I’ll stall them and then come after you.” She tossed a quick glance over her shoulder to see how much time they had before the enemies came to their house — which wasn’t that long.
“Please — do as I say.” She turned back to them with pleading eyes and one after the other they nodded, some more reluctantly than the others.
“Good. Take the backstreets and the alleys, stay hidden. I’ll lure them towards the castle and then take the hidden path to the woods. I’ll meet you at the foot of the mountain.” While she was talking she stood up and put her sword back in her belt. She then pulled her [h/c] hair back under her hood, creating the illusion of a man, just as Roma had taught her since childhood.
The men got to their feet around her and gave her a short nod before they disappeared in the shadows between the houses, all except one — Roma.
“Please Roma… Just go. Your grandsons are waiting for you.”
Without a word he walked over to her and pulled her into strong embrace.
“I’ll wait for you by the cliffs. You better be there,” he mumbled before he pulled back to see her nod. He then loosened his grip of her, almost painfully slow, before he joined the men that had disappeared in the shadows — just as she was about to do now.
___ had grown up on these streets. She knew every hiding spot and every alley. Roma had trained her in the arts of combat, teaching her how to use the city against invaders. When she had been a young girl it had all seemed like a game of hide and seek, but now she understood what it had been and how she could use it.
Her mother had never approved of Roma teaching her how to use swords and daggers, saying that their country hadn’t been in war for centuries, but her father had always claimed that it was necessary. All the rulers should know how to use weapons, even if they never would have to use them.
“Father… Mother… Keep me strong.”
(A/N: Alright, ___ is a princess in a small kingdom in Eastern Europe. It’s not any real country, so you can call it whatever you like. And I know almost nothing about warfare or how the Turks conquered land, so this is just my interpretation and not necessarily historically accurate.)