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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, '11, 3:04 am
The Layans Seek Their Prettiest Flower

Cille soldiers who were looking for the princess found two strangers lost in the small forest to the south of Cille castle. The strangers looked afraid and exhausted. In fact, they were tired from walking for hours in the unknown woods, fearing an encounter with aggressive wildlife, human predators, poisonous insects, dangerous terrains or hostile humans. And they feared more an encounter with that mysterious and dangerous woman. They were thirsty, feeling pains in their joints, hungry and terrified with the idea of having to spend the night in the wilderness. The sight of the soldiers made them feel somewhat afraid, but they were somewhat relieved as well. If the soldiers were not so hostile, they could get some food, a shelter for the night and some way to return to their homes.

The soldiers were pleased to find the strangers because they immediately suspected the strangers could have something to do with the princess disappearance, as they were clearly foreigners. No one would be roaming inside those woods. The leading officer stopped the strangers.

“Halt! Hands up! Identify yourselves!”
“Oh...” The two sailors slowly raised their arms. They were somewhat shocked.
“Who are you, strangers? Better open your mouths if you don´t want to end injured.”
“Well... we are castaway sailors...” The man who had been attacked by the princess said with an unsure voice.
“Where are you from? What are you doing here, in this forest?”
“We were sailing, lost our course and anchored in the southern shores. We were attacked and our boat was stolen...”
“Where are you from, strangers?” The officer was losing his temper.
“From Agoe...”
“Orakians! Guards, arrest them! Let´s take him to the king!”
“Hey... wait...”

The sailors tried to shyly protest against their arresting, but they felt that it would be much more dangerous if they tried to fight or run, as they were unarmed and the soldiers looked to be really excited in arresting them. They were sure now that they were on hostile Layan lands and that made them much more afraid. Their kingdom was not in good terms with the neighbor Kingdom of Shusoran, a Layan kingdom. They frequently engaged in some skirmishes on the border. They knew that the fact of being Orakians was enough to make them be arrested.

The soldiers handcuffed the sailors and took them back to the Cille castle. They tried to not talk in order to not alarm the prisoners about their suspicions, but they were really happy to have found the Orakians. The king was very upset for the disappearance of his daughter and he was putting a lot of pressure in the guards to make them work harder in order to find some hints of his daughter whereabouts. He suspected that she had been kidnapped, so the capture of the Orakians would entertain the king for some days, even if the Orakians were not to be blamed.

As Cille island was isolated, the princess would not have regular ways to leave the island. The soldiers have conducted extensive searches for the princess, but she wasn't found anywhere. The sailors were the most logical option to explain the princess disappearance. Though they didn't really find the princess whereabouts, the soldiers felt they were on the right track and that made them confident enough to not interrogate the Orakians themselves. They knew the king would love to interrogate the suspects himself, so they sent one of the guards ahead to announce the news to the king.

The king was locked in his room, mourning the loss of his daughter, who was not only his only child but also the only relative left on his household. His wife and parents had died many years before. He almost rejoiced when one of the palace guards announced that the soldiers were returning with two suspects. He didn't really rejoice because he felt that ambiguous feeling that only those who had loved ones disappeared can understand. Part of him wanted to know the truth about his daughter, even if that meant that she had been killed, so he could have some peace of mind and not torture himself with everlasting doubt. Part of him wished that she'd never be found, so he could always hold some irrational hopes in his heart that she was alive, safe and sound, leading a happy life wherever she was.

As the soldiers arrived at the castle, the king had already instructed the guards to take the prisoners immediately to the palace, where they'd be interrogated. The leading officer joined the guards to present his report of the arrest to the king. The Orakian sailors were deadly scared; if they were to be taken to the king, they were really screwed. They wondered why their arrest was so important since they haven't done anything apparently wrong in Layan lands. Besides, if it was a common Layan custom to kill every Orakian prisoner, as they believed to be true, they would not be taken to the king. Though the prisoners were not allowed to speak, their faces showed them that they had more or less the same thoughts in their minds.

The prisoners were taken inside the castle. The king was waiting for them inside a poorly-lit chamber. The chamber was menacing, with many weapons and weird instruments inside the weapon cabinets. The king was seated behind a strong wooden desk. The prisoners were taken to the presence of the king. The king's countenance was impassive at the sight of the prisoners. The prisoners became more scared with the odd appearance of the room and the menacing look in the king's eyes. It seemed to them as if they were taken to a torture chamber.

"Here they are, majesty." The leading officer bowed. "Do you want me to report the circumstances of their arrest?"
"It is not necessary." The king dismissed the officer with a wave of hands and turned to the prisoners. "Orakian spies, eh? Better start talking now or you will be rewarded with our special Layan hospitality." The king grinned.
The sailor who was wounded swallowed hard. The other sailor was in shock.
"Won't you say anything, eh? Where is my daughter?" The king is very angry and has his fists clenched.
"I... I... don't know... We.. don't have... nothing... to do... with that..." The sailor who was in shock stuttered.
"Liar! You are a liar!" The king hit the wooden desk and briskly stood up. "I'll ask you just once more. Where is my daughter?"
"Majesty... we don't know... who is... your daughter..."
"Eh? Don't you know my daughter?" The king's voice was filled with sarcasm. "My daughter is the woman you had kidnapped, scoundrels!"
"We... we haven't seen no woman..."
"Wait!" The sailor who was wounded started speaking. "I'll you tell you what happened!" The sailor was angry.
"Really?" The king was surprised by the sailor's reaction, shocked by his impertinence, but tried to keep a cool expression, to show them he had everything under control. "So tell us what happened."
"We were cast adrift in the ocean and, after some hours, we sighted this land. We have landed in this island looking for help. Then a cyan-haired young witch, who was standing by the shore, attacked us and stole our ship."
"Witch? Do you dare to call my daughter a witch?" The king lost his artificial coolness and punched the sailor's mouth.
"Witch! She almost killed me and was sucking my soul from my body! If she is your daughter, then she is a witch! She stole our boat!" The sailor ignored the blood in his lips and shouted back at the king.
"Scoundrel!" The king punched the man again. "If you ever call my daughter a witch, you will die the most terrible death a man can die! Now, guards, take them and show them the special Layan hospitality."

The sailors were held up by the guards and dragged to two wooden boards that were placed in one of the corners of the room. The boards are a bit elevated in one of the extremities. The sailors had their feet strapped to iron bars in the elevated extremities and lain on the board. Guards wrapped their faces with pieces of cloth, covering their mouths and noses. After some minutes of hesitation, some guards returned with large buckets filled with water. At the king's order, the guards started pouring the water over the heads of the sailors, making them feel as if they were being drowned. They struggled to set themselves free from the board, but their effort was futile, as they ended hurting themselves. After half a minute, the guards removed the clothes from their faces in order to let them breath for some seconds and resumed the waterboarding torture. For ten minutes, the sailors were mercilessly tortured. Then, the king ordered the guards to stop. The sailors were desperate, gasping for breath. The guards untied their feet and took them back to the king, forcing them to kneel.

"Well, well, well... gentlemen. Do you have something to tell me?" The king's tone was sarcastic, making the sailors very angry.
"We... don't... have... anything to... add... We have... told you... the truth..." The sailor who talked first answered, frightened.
"Filthy Orakians! You are natural-born liars! Why don't you tell me where did you take my daughter?" The king hit again the desk with his fist.
"Because we don't know where she is! She stole our boat and we don't know where she has gone! Why don't you stop this pointless questions and start looking for her?" The sailor who was wounded by the princess was not afraid of the king and still defied him.
"Damn! These scoundrels will not open their mouths!" The king turned his back to the sailors. "Take them to the dungeons. Maybe some hours there will refresh their memory! If not, give them our special treatment again! I'll not waste my time with those vermin anymore!"

Before they could protest, the sailors were already being dragged to the dungeons. The sailors were desperate, but they were much more weary and hopeless, so they seemed somewhat resigned. They haven´t done anything wrong. In fact, they had been attacked and their ship was stolen by a wicked woman. Now they were being tortured and arrested for crimes they did not commit. But as they were Orakians in Layan hands, they knew they would not be treated with justice and no one would would help them.

The king retired to his private room. He couldn´t stop thinking about his beloved daughter, who was missing. He feared that she could be dead or being tortured, though he could never imagine to which extent she was being tortured. She, who had always been a sweet and kind girl, who was always just and good-hearted, didn´t deserve to suffer. Besides his sadness, he felt a bit of regret of having the Orakians tortured. “My daughter would never let something like that to happen in this palace. If she knew that there is a torture chamber in this palace, she would never forgive me. But I can´t stand the thought that someone has done harm to the prettiest flower of Cille. My beloved daughter... where are you? I need you! I love you!”

The king stayed either crying or in a depressive mood for a long time. He couldn´t get any sleep that night because both the sadness and the anxiety. He wanted to discover something, any hint that could lead him to find his daughter whereabouts. He couldn´t stop thinking of all the suffering his daughter could be undergoing while he was seated comfortably at his chair. He would give anything to be on her place, to know she was safe and sound, the same sweet girl as she had always been.

During the night, the soldiers tried to press on the sailors, making them reveal everything they knew, but the sailors stood for their original version, accusing the cyan-haired girl of stealing their boat. The soldiers tried some kind of psychological torture, threatening to kill them, but they were unable to change the sailor´s minds. Soon they came to the conclusion that the sailors had nothing to hide, so they sent the sailors to the dungeons again and agreed on telling the king they gave up trying to obtain relevant information from the sailors as soon as the day had dawned.

When the day had dawned, the chief officer of the royal guard went to the king´s private room and knocked lightly. After one minute passed with no answer, the officer was about to leave. Suddenly, he heard the sound of the door being unlocked. As the door was opened, he met the king with a weary appearance. His eyes were red of crying during the whole night. In all those years, the officer had never seen the king in such a sad state, neither when his wife had died from plague.

“Majesty, forgive me to disturb you. We all share the same feelings as you.”
“Thank you for your sympathetic remark, but pious words and empty phrases won´t bring my beloved daughter back again.” The king was in a very bad mood. “Do you have something to tell me?”
“Oh, my Lord, we have tried very hard, and when I say very hard, I really mean it. But nothing will change the minds of those damned Orakians. They keep repeating the same story over and over again.” The officer was embarrassed. He avoided the stare of the king.
“Damned liars! How can they say that my dear daughter has tried to kill them and stole their boat? They are not only lying, but also mocking us. They deserve a painful and slow death for their impertinence.”
“My king, forgive my frankness, but we tried everything and, from my experience, I´m inclined to believe that they are right...”
“What? Are you saying that you think my daughter is a witch who stole their boat?” The king was losing control of himself, so insulted he felt at the officer´s remark.
“No, no, my king, I´d never think something like that of Her Royal Highness Princess Marlena le Cille. That Laya blesses our dear princess! She is surely the purest woman in this whole world.”
“So what do you mean?” The king was less irritated.
“I mean that the sailors don´t have anything to do with your daughter´s disappearance. Maybe they were attacked by the person who kidnapped Princess Marlena. Maybe his companions betrayed them and took her away. The leading officer of the patrol which arrested them reported me that the suspects were found exhausted and starving, so I´m sure they are not taking an active part in this plan, if there is a plan.”
“Of course there is a plan, otherwise my dear daughter would be by my side now. Well, looks like she has been abducted by Orakians and we are helpless. Looks like I´ve lost my daughter...” The king returned to his depressive mood.
“Well, majesty, I share the grief with you. We will send the sailors to Shusoran and try to exchange them for Layan prisoners of war. If you need something else from me, I´m at your disposition. Now I ask permission to leave.” The officer countenance betrayed an urge for leaving the king as soon as it was possible.
“Shusoran... well, I have no better alternative. Could you please send a letter asking for my nephew Lyle to come?”
“Prince Lyle of Shusoran?”
“Yes, I´d like to have a talk with him. With some urgency.”
“As you wish, majesty. Anything else?” The officer was anxious to leave.
“Just leave me alone! I know you are dying to leave me. Go now, traitor! You are all a bunch of traitors! You are not worried with the safety of my daughter, you are only worried with the safety of your own jobs.” The king turned his back to the officer. "Oh, Marlena... where have you gone, my daughter? Oh, Laya, help my poor child..."

The king remained locked in his room for the remainder of the day. The officer did what the king had ordered him and sent a message for Prince Lyle of Shusoran, asking for his presence. Shusoran was a city in the biggest island of the continent. In the past, it used to be linked to Cille by a sandbank, but the sandbank had sunk in the ocean. It was not a long trip by boat, though. The sailors were taken to Shusoran with the letter.

Prince Lyle, a young man in his late teens, received the news with worry. The letter didn't inform the prince about his cousin disappearance. It was just asking for the prince's presence to deal with most serious matters. The presence of Orakians on Cille, though, was already something to worry about. Though Shusoran guards were used to fight Orakians in small skirmishes in their borders, the sea made Cille virtually unreachable by Orakians. Cille's warships were much superior than any other warship available; they would capture of sink any Orakian ship that approached the mainland. If Orakians were able to sneak into the city, that most probably meant something really wrong was going on.

Shortly after the sunset, a dragon was seen flying over Cille castle. The dragon landed on the roof of the palace and then it wasn't seen anymore. A green-haired man, wearing a white cape, suddenly was inside the palace. Some guards were standing in every corridor and large hall of the palace, as a security measure taken after the princess was kidnapped. The guards were startled by the sudden appearance of the man into the palace, but as soon as they recognized the mysterious man, they let him go unharmed. The mysterious man stopped by one of the guards.

"Where is the king?" The man demanded dryly.
"Oh, highness, he is locked in his private room." The guard was anxious.

The mysterious man left the guard and walked through the corridors. The man seemed to be familiar with the palace, as he walked through the many rooms and corridors without stopping or asking anyone for directions. The guards were uneasy with his stealthy entrance, but they knew the man obviously meant no harm in a situation like that. The man stopped in front of a wooden door and knocked. A hoarse voice came from inside.

"I've already told you to leave me alone!"
"It is me, uncle!" The mysterious man didn't seem concerned about the aggressive tone of the king.
"Oh, Lyle?" The king's tone changed immediately. Soon afterward, the door was open.
"Lyle, dear nephew. You came!"

Prince Lyle was shocked at the seeing the king's face. His eyes were red and his cheeks were wet. It was obvious that he had been crying. His appearance was terrible because of the deprivation of sleep and sadness. He had never seem his uncle in such a state. That meant the problem should be more serious than he expected.

"Please, Lyle, enter the room and take a seat." The king was trying to be friendly, but his face denoted deep sadness and worry.
"What happened, uncle?" Lyle was worried and didn't want to seat.
"Marlena... disappeared..." The king's eyes were wet once more.
"Maia? Disappeared? How is that possible?" Lyle is shocked.
"She just disappeared..."
"But how?"
"I don't know. I've heard her scream... then I found a bloodied knife on the floor..."
"Oh, by Laya! How could such a thing happen inside the palace?"
"I don't know... some people claim they have seen her running through the streets... but then she disappeared."
"By Laya! I can't believe! Poor Maia..." Prince Lyle was shocked.
"We searched for her in every corner of this kingdom... but there were no signs of her... not even a hint..."
"I can't believe... my cousin..."
"Listen, nephew!" The king tried to recompose himself. "I need you for a most important task."
"Really?" Lyle was somewhat surprised.
"Have you seen those Orakians we sent to Shusoran?"
"Yes, I did."
"We are sure they have something to do with my daughter's disappearance. They claim a cyan-haired girl attacked them and stole their boat."
"Maia? Why would she do something like that?"
"I don't know. It makes no sense. No sense at all."
"I really makes no sense. I can´t even imagine cousin Maia attacking someone."
"Of course the damned Orakians are lying! No Orakians ever venture on our lands. Of course these two are lying. They came here on purpose and they are surely linked with my daughter's disappearance."
"So what do you think?"
"Well, we interrogated them, but they wouldn't tell us anything else. We tried to extract more information by force, but even so they would not tell us anything else."
"Extract information by force? Oh, uncle, don't tell me you keep the barbaric custom of torturing the prisoners..." Lyle's countenance is a serious one.
"Who are you to tell me how to rule my own country?" The king got angry his nephew's impertinence. "Well, anyway, that is not under discussion. What I want to tell you is that we really believe that my daughter is in Orakian hands. I wish I could break those damned Orakians in the Catherine Wheel! Then they´d tell me the truth."
“How can you use that name to such a terrible device? You insult my beloved aunt's memory!”
“It wasn´t me that has given that name to it.”
“Even so it is sick. Seems like you love the torture device. It is disgusting and revolting!”
“Oh well... let´s resume our conversation. I´m almost sure Marlena is on Orakian hands.”
"Well, sounds logical. If she was in Layan lands, she'd be either here or at Shusoran."
"So, I have a special task for you, my dear nephew. Find your cousin."
"Me?" Lyle was surprised.
"I beg you. Find Marlena and bring her back."
"Uncle..." Lyle scratched his head. "I don't think I'm up to this task..."
"I beg you! I let you have everything. Just bring Marlena back!"
"I may try, but, you know..." Lyle was unsure. "There are many dangers around there. All the surrounding lands are Orakian.. I can't promise you I'll be able..."
"Do it! Please, I beg you! I give you anything. If you want to marry my daughter and become the king of both Cille and Shusoran, I'll give you my blessings. Just find her."
"Marrying Marlena?" Lyle was puzzled.
"What is the problem?" The king was frustrated with his nephew's reaction.
"It sounds odd. I've never thought about that."
"Come on, who are you trying to fool? Don't you think I've never seen the way you look at her since she was ten?"
"Don't you know that we all have seen you take her to the empty rooms of my palace in order to try to kiss her? She was barely at puberty and you were already flirting with her."
"Uncle!" Lyle was embarrassed. His cheeks were burning.
"Now you come here and tell me you never thought about marrying my daughter. Lyle, I didn't expect treachery from you."
"Hey, wait!" Lyle's tone was one of an angry and embarrassed man. "It is true that I tried to kiss you daughter many times, more times that one would consider sane, as she never surrendered to my attempts. But I was just a teenager, she was the prettiest girl I've ever seen and, besides that, she was also my beloved cousin. Of course I'd feel attraction for her, but that doesn't mean I seriously considered marrying her."
"Really? I thought you would like to marry her, as I know you were not only trying to kiss her..." The king's tone is sarcastic.
"Come on, uncle, sometimes it looks like you live in ancient ages. As I've told you, I was a teenager and it was attracted to your daughter."
"What are you telling me? Attracted to my daughter? What kind of man are you?" The king was getting angry again.
"A normal man. Where do you live, uncle? In the land of fantasy? Come on, as a teenager, of course I'd feel lust for your daughter."
"Lust?" The king was mad.
"Yes, lust. L-U-S-T! Like every man in this country. Every man that lays his eyes on your daughter feels lust for her. You are right when you say she is the prettiest flower of the world, so what would you expect? Get real! You suffocate her! You treat her as if you possessed her, as if she had no feelings, no desires of her own. Can't you see your daughter is a woman? She may feel lust for someone as well. And though I feel lust for your daughter, I've never seriously thought about marrying her. It is not an easy decision."
"What? Are you implying that my daughter is good for your filthy desires but not good enough to marry? How come you come here and tell me that, bare-faced? You talk of my daughter as if she was one of those smarty girls you spend your time with. She is not! She is a princess! She is pure and honored!" The king had his fists clenched and was doing a great effort to not punch his nephew.
"No, you know it is not like that. Stop being a fool. Your jealousy only harms you and her. Luckily, for you, she is very prudish, but it would still be alright if she wasn't. Maia is sweet and kind girl. I don't doubt her qualities as a wife, a mother. Besides, you are the one who is trying to sell her."
"What?" The king was so shocked that he became speechless.
"Hell, yeah, you are offering her to me and you don't know even if she wants to marry me or not. You are just using her as part of a negotiation."
"Wha...?" The king was too shocked to say anything.
"You know I love my cousin, but to marry her is a completely different matter. It is not something that can be decided like that. You treat her as if she was an object!"
"Fool! I know you have other women in your mind! That is why you don't want to have my daughter. You know I've always considered you as the best suitable husband for her, but now I'm starting to change my mind. I don't want my daughter to marry such a pervert."
"Enough! I'll be looking for my cousin because I love her and I'm deeply worried about her safety. As for you, uncle, you are mad. Completely mad. Poor Maia... I'll forgive your insults on the grounds you are too shocked with the last events." Lyle, with a defiant air, turned his back to his uncle and left the room.
"Hey, you boy..." The king tried to protest, but he was both physically and emotionally crushed to keep the discussion going.

Lyle retraced his steps back to the palace roof and disappeared. A dragon could be seen leaving the palace, heading south to Shusoran. Lyle was feeling very sad for his cousin. He was determined to search for her no matter where. He was very upset with his uncle as well. He didn´t want to argue with his uncle, but his behavior was unacceptable. He wondered how his uncle could think so different from his father. And mostly, one thought could not leave his mind. "To marry Maia... To marry Maia... My cousin... should I?"

As for the king, he locked the door again and stayed a long time crying. He was not crying only because of his daughter's disappearance. He was crying because his nephew's words had a deep impact on his weakened spirit. He started considering alternatives for the princess' disappearance. "Could it be that she ran away with someone else? I can't stand the thought. I can´t even imagine my little daughter, the purest girl in the world, feeling lust for a man, a commoner, an wretched fellow. No, not her. It is impossible, I just can´t accept that. But could my nephew be right about me? I always thought I was doing my best to protect my beloved daughter, but could it be I was just doing her harm? Could it be that I am an utter failure as a father? All I wanted was to protect her from all evil, protect her reputation, her honor, her modesty, her feelings. My dear daughter, my beloved, the prettiest flower in the world... Marlena..."
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