April 14th, 2023
Lana had run after the rebel mage before the soldiers and her guardian, but it hadn’t taken them long to catch up and overtake her. The rebel soldiers had run ahead of her, while Cornelia had slowed her down with a hand on her shoulder. “Lana, have you thought about what you are about to do?”
The young ‘princess’ of Syracuse yanked her shoulder forward out of Cornelia’s grip. “Of course I have!” She refused to face the older mage. Cornelia had a way of making her feel small without saying a word. Lana was sure it was the way her eyes glowed, as if Cornelia could see right through Lana’s façade into her heart. She didn’t want to feel small right now. She wanted to feel big!
“Oh? Then tell me what your thoughts were.” Her voice was soft and gentle, but Lana knew what Cornelia was doing. That was a command, even if her tone wasn’t imperious. Lana balled her fist up and for a moment considered refusing, the feelings of defiance still swelling in her chest, but if she did that then it would be taken as if she was acting without thinking! If she explained her thinking, then Cornelia would be able to tear it apart…
Lana started walking faster as she answered. “Mm, I owe that girl and so do you! And my father is crazy. He’s killed more of my pets than I want to think about…If we run now, we’ll be on the run forever. I don’t trust the rebellion, so I want to keep an eye on them…” The reasons spilled out of her mouth, one after another, giving Cornelia no strong opening to rebut. Lana could still see those eyes in her mind, looking at her with that curious smile that revealed nothing. Lana closed her eyes tightly to try to block that image. It helped a little.
“I see.” Cornelia said. Lana could hear her sigh. “Then I suppose there’s no helping it.”
“Helping what…? HEY!” Lana felt Cornelia grab her arms and pin them behind her.
“I’m sorry, Lana.” Cornelia said. Lana fumed as she turned her head around to look at her guardian. The older girl really did seem to be apologetic. Her eyes were normal, imploring her charge to forgive her. Lana glared back.
“What are you doing?!”
“I’m keeping you safe. You can’t go to the palace, it’s too dangerous. They’ll kill you in the chaos…” Cornelia said softly as she slowly and carefully used her magic to bind Lana’s arms and legs. The more Lana struggled, the tighter the bonds became.
“I don’t care! Gah!”
“Mmm, I do. But I’ll make it up to you, Lana.” Cornelia said, rising to her feet when she was satisfied Lana was going nowhere. Lana twisted her head around to see Cornelia heading down the road to the palace.
“Wait! What are you going to do!?”
“I’m going to show the rebels the back way into the palace. Even with a mage, they’re not going to get through the walls if they charge right for it. If I die, then at least I know you’re safe…”
“I’m sorry, Lana…” She said again. “But your life is more important to me right now.”
Lana shouted after her, even as the older mage disappeared from sight. She pulled at the ropes that coiled around her limbs like snakes. “Damn it…” This was so undignified! She’d never forgive Cornelia for this. This was supposed to be her moment to stand up for herself and now here she was, wriggling on the ground like some prisoner. Her puppy was not being helpful either, just taking the opportunity to lick her face to comfort her. Great.
If any rebels were to come on her like this, she would be in serious trouble. Cornelia had at least had the good sense to leave her in an alley off the main road, not that Lana was going to thank her for that either! Her anger and frustration gave her the strength to keep fighting against her bonds, grunting as she forced herself to scoot across the dirt. She would kill Cornelia the next time she saw her!
Lana struggled to get herself onto her feet, with her limbs tied together like they were. She tried pushing herself up with the help of a wall, but the first step she took without its help caused her to fall right back down. Lana groaned to herself.
She couldn’t cast spells efficiently like this. The channels in her body were blocked. Maybe she could find a sharp rock or a piece of glass or anything to cut herself free. She needed to be at the palace!
Lana heard the sound of a person coming around the corner. Immediately, she went stiff, freezing in the alley, not making a noise. Her puppy, however…
“Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!”
Lana shot her puppy a glare, trying to use her mind to shut it up.
A boy with a sword and shield walked into the alley, cautiously. It didn’t take long for him to spot her, tied up as she was. Lana stared wide eyed at him. This could be it. If this rebel recognized her, she was dead for sure!”
“Y-you’re…” The boy stammered, raising his shield. This wasn’t good. Lana started to struggle again, even more fiercely than before. If she could only break free!
The boy stood there hiding behind his shield for a bit, as if expecting a fireball to hit his face at any moment. The fireball never came. He opened his eyes, surprised. The child of the Mage-King was still just writhing on the ground. Like this, she hardly seemed a threat, but a mage was still a mage…
With a shaky hand, the boy approached her, raising his sword. Lana’s eyes went wide with fear before clamping shut as she curled up into herself. An undignified squeal escaped her lips in her panic. This was it. This was the end! She could feel him kneeling beside her, probably to get a better angle.
It was her turn to look confused as she felt the sword cutting the magical ropes at her feet and arms. He was behind her, using his sword like a knife to cut through the binds.
“There…” The boy said as the ropes fell to the ground. “I, I probably shouldn’t have done that, but…You’re free.”
Lana didn’t waste a second to jump to her feet, rubbing at where the ropes had chafed her skin. Her dog bounced around her feet. “Hmph. You got us caught, I’m hardly happy with you!” She scolded the puppy, who whimpered up at her. His tail drooped between his legs until Lana finally sighed and scooped the dog up into her arms.
She turned to the boy. “I guess today is just my day to be rescued by rebels. I’m Lana.”
“I know. Sorry, it’s just…you’re not that low profile of a figure in this city.” As he finished saying that, his eyes went wide with fear again as he raised his shield up slowly.
Lana just stared at him, incredulously. “I’m not going to attack you!” She huffed as she turned her head to the side. They all thought she was some kind of monster just because of her father!
“S-sorry…” He said again. “My name’s Emidio. I need to get going. You should probably hide.”
The force of her exclamation caused Emidio to take a few steps back, reflexively jerking his shield back up before he caught himself. “Excuse me?”
“I’m not running. I’m not hiding. You’re going to take me to the palace!”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Emidio said. His eyes narrowed as he watched her suspiciously. He was looking at her like she was a threat again. That was why she had to be there.
“I’m not going to stop the rebellion. But you aren’t the only ones who have problems with my father!” She stepped forward, poking Emidio in the chest. “There are mages who have as much grievance as you do. We’re people too, so stop looking at me like I’m some kind of monster!”
Emidio blinked at her as he processed what she said. “I suppose you have a point.”
“Now I’m going to the palace. You can escort me there or not, but I’m going.” For the second time this day, Lana started walking towards the looming castle in the distance. She could hear the din of battle even from here.
Emidio jogged after her. “Lana, are you sure about this?”
“I’ve already been chased through half of the city by your friends, who wanted to kill me just because I was a mage! I’ve been left behind ‘for my safety’! You think your rebellion has a monopoly on anger!?” Each step she took grew faster as the fury filled her body. The aura of anger around her grew hotter.
“I don’t fight because I’m angry…” Emidio said, though he sounded a bit unsure of his answer.
“No? Then why do you fight? Mmm?!”
Emidio didn’t immediately respond. Perhaps he knew better than to argue with someone ready to snap like she was. Maybe it was because she was a mage. Lana didn’t know, but right now he was the least of her concerns. He didn’t seem like he was about to stab a blade in her back.
“I’m the daughter of the Dragon. Do you think I wasn’t forced to learn how the process of rebellion works?!” Lana asked.
As she thought, he didn’t say anything. That was fine. She wasn’t looking for an actual answer right now. She needed to get this off her chest. Whenever she talked to Cornelia about things like this, the older girl just took it as an excuse to start giving her a lesson. “The rebellion takes power and then starts pushing everyone else down, just like the old order. So when you kill my father and seat your leader on his throne, he’s going to start doing terrible things to mages to ensure his throne is safe.”
“Vittorio wouldn’t do that. He is fighting for the good of the city.” Emidio said with a strong confidence. His voice was no longer shaking, nor was he watching her with the same suspicion.
“Hah! A regular hero.” Lana rolled her eyes. “My father is the worst. That doesn’t mean your guy is better. Probably try to have me killed…”
“Then why are you walking right to him?”
Lana looked right at the boy, her voice serious. “Because if your Vittorio wants to rule this city and sit on the throne, he’ll need to deal with the mages. And I won’t let him keep us silent.”