Rated M for adult themes, alcohol, drug use, and violence.
I had been 8 years since he had witnessed his family killed, and Damanius had gone into hiding as Diana. The take over by Sinal had been ruthless and efficient, his strange new magic of fire and thunder having torn through the troops and even castle walls had been nearly unstoppable. The screams still echoed in his mind, the vision of flying bodies etched into his eyes anytime he closed his eyes. Damanius allowed a sigh to slip out as he sat in front of the mirror, allowing his maid, Grueta, to apply the fresh layer of makeup to his face, the image in front of him having grown into comfort for so long. Today was a day that would leave a mark in history, for the better or worse, as both panic and hope burned deep in his eyes. News of the announcement had already been spread through the kingdom, but today would be the official announcement.
“Now, do ye remember ya part?” Grueta asked him, drawing his attention away from the less than pleasant thoughts. With a sigh, Damanius nodded his head, keeping the movement subtle and soft as the finishing touches were applied to his eyes and lips, washing away the traces of himself again. While Sinal had been the one to spread the news, it would be his words that sealed the message out to the kingdom. It wouldn’t be until noon that the announcement was made, but already he could feel his stomach twisting into knots. Already he knew, today was his chance to escape the castle proper. During major events, security had always been light on the outer edges, and today would be even more so with how world breaking this would be.
“Grueta, promise me, no matter what, you’ll stay safe.” Damanius made the older woman promise him. The woman, startled by the seriousness in his eyes, gave him a minute nod. The two had become close as family, sharing a secret that would have killed them both. Damanius knew that she would be left behind tonight, but there was no way the both of them could escape together. The punishment she had endured from his own misgivings had left her hobbled and scarred. He held her hands tight to his, feeling the missing fingers with a heavy heart as he let silence comfort them both for a moment, before the guard called them to the courtyard. Giving her a tight hug that surprised the old maid, Diana moved from the chair, Damanius buried once more as she answered the guards' summons. It was time to put on a show again.
Noon, City Square
“People of Hymnascal, may I introduce your King, Sinal Balaser.” The herald called into the waiting crows that had gathered around the raised Dias, drawing quiet discontent from the crowd. The mad king took no time taking the stage, his heavy armor glinting in the sunlight as he moved to the center, his hand resting upon the sword at his side. He smiled down at them, cold and harsh as he allowed them to soak in his presence.
“My loving people of Hymnascal, I come bearing great news for you all. Over the past few months, I have been hinting at news that would bring great peace to this broken land. Many have been spreading the rumors of a princess of the late king Aminan. I wish to confirm that these rumors are true, but that is not the announcement I have gathered you here to say. To mark this momentous day, I shall let the princess herself make the announcement. If you would please, Princess Diana.” Sinal spoke the last part to the carriage still waiting in the guarded envoy.
Diana let out a held sigh, steeling her nerves as the driver opened the door, flooding the carriage with light, mixed with the crisp air of fall. Building herself up, she allowed herself to be guided out, one hand holding up her dress so she could step out, the other taking the offered assistance of the guard. She stood tall, her jaw set with a polite smile as she looked upon her people for the first time in ages. Her eyes locked with several of them as she moved forward, registering both shock, hope, joy, and dismay. Already she could feel the anguish and dismay at the announcement she would make, but didn’t dare breath a word as she moved onto the dias. She took her place besides the bastard and rested her hand gently upon his own, repressing a shudder at the intimate gesture.
“My dear subjects, I am Princess Diana, daughter of the late king Aminan and his Royal Mistress. I beg your forgiveness as to my secrecy, but it was done with the utmost care to not bring shame upon the late king and current king.” She began, eyes roving the people, feeling bile rise to her throat as she lied about her heritage and father.
“I come before you all today with an announcement. In three months from the day, on the eve of my 17th birthday, the king and I shall be united as a couple under the blessings of the church and our lord.” She began, already having to raise her voice as dissent and anguish washed over the crowd, several people letting their rage known with vicious words and gestures.
“As the last living child of King Aminan, our union shall bring the lineage of Sinal and Aminan into one, bringing the..” The words barely left her mouth as the rock nicked her scalp, pain pulsing through her as the crowd grew even more violent, the words sickening them. Pandemonium broke out then as more people began to take up the response, stones and other projectiles joining the air targeting the two of them. Diana didn’t let this phase her as the kings men moved then, several ushering her back into the carriage while others began moving into the crowds, striking down those who had started the actions, scattering the crowd as the royal procession began. Diana dabbed carefully at the bleeding spot that now dotted her head, feeling that the announcement had gone well enough, trying to shut out the cries of panic and pain that swam around her as they moved.
That evening, Engagement Party
The smells of rich food and heavy music flooded the castle grounds, a huge party having been announced in celebration of her engagement to the King. Diana sat quietly in the chair, following decorum as she looked out upon the people, forming allies looking for riches, and new faces there for the hope of gaining favor of the king. She could still feel the pulsing pain in her forehead, a white cloth having been applied tactfully to the spot that she had been hit. Her fingers rested in her lap, coiled tight as she watched the people moving around her, false laughter broken by the consumption of food. The night air could be seen through the open castle walls, the firelight spilling out onto the grounds, competing with the half moon to light the night.
“Your majesty, if you pardon my absence, but I feel I must lie down.” Diana finally began her move, looking to the rather sauced man sitting in the large chair next to her. He looked to her, lecherous eyes, roving her body through the liquor.
“Are you still fearful of the people who attacked you earlier? Fear not my sweet rose, those men have been punished dutifully for attacking.”He spoke to her, resting a hand upon her shoulder, his thumb brushing against her collar bone. It took unimaginable willpower to resist socking the man hard in the throat.
“It is not that, your majesty. The blow has still left me disorientated, and my vision has begun to swim with the sounds and sights around me. I beg your forgiveness, but I do not feel well.” She lied while letting out a soft groan, both at his tightening fingers and heated breath that had moved to close for comfort.
“Ah, my apologies.”
“You, servant child, escort my lady to her chambers to rest. Make sure no one disturbs her rest.” Sinal demanded of a nearby servant, snapping his fingers to get the girl to move. She responded quickly, taking Diana’s hand in offer and helped guide her through the well lit castle to her room. Diana was quick to dismiss the woman once they entered her room, requesting silence as the woman left her, closing the door tight and locking it, caution having born the need.
From there, Damanius moved, steady feet striding to the dresser as he pulled the bundle of needs he had secured earlier, a satchel of gold and jewels from the kingdom's treasury, knowing they would not be missed. An oiled bow and new arrows sat in a leather tube hidden behind his dresser as he began slipping out of the tight fitting dress, feeling the chilled air strike his form. Tonight, with his presence now announced to the kingdom, was his chance to escape. Knowing that he couldn’t reveal his true self to the world, Damanius began pulling the riding dress quickly into place, a deep blue that would blend well enough into the darkness, hoping to rely on drunken guards and the passing clouds to allow him the cover to make it to the southern wall.
“Ancestors, please watch over Grueta and me as I leave this accursed place. Most importantly, do not let harm befall her for my actions tonight.” Damanius allowed himself a small prayer as he moved to the castle window, looking to the long drop. Pulling the bundled sheets he had been sneaking from the castle laundry, he let the tied ends fall to the ground before securing it to the sill. While not the best climber, and even more so in a dress such as this, he made his descent to the ground, his plans now in full swing for his escape.