The first time Lal ever saw the Empress, it was after the last war their country was part of. Lal was still young and the Empress was so bright and untouchable, her blood red armour beautiful and threatening, the golden wings as accent gleaming under the sunlight.
Lal was in awe.
From the on, there was only one thought in her mind: to become a knight in Empress Daniela’s army.
Lal trained harder than any other recruit and when he try outs came, she felt ready.
This feeling only held until Lal saw the Empress, who was watching the try outs to pick someone for her personal guard as well.
Lal caught the Empress’s eye.
Empress Daniela’s gaze was cool, but benevolent.
Lal felt her face grow hot.
She turned her gaze elsewhere, to the announcer, who called the names of those who had made the cut.
Lal’s name was among them.
She had never felt prouder and the happiness filled her to bursting.
“Greet the newest members of her Imperial Majesty’s guard.”
The watching crowd cheered and Lal straightened her spine.
From the corner of her eyes, she could see the Empress clap, a pleased smile on her face.
Lal was floating with happiness.
The next day, the Empress had called Lal to offer her a place at her side.
“I need someone strong. Someone unwavering. Someone I can trust.”
Lal nodded. She had heard rumours, everyone had.
The prince was a good man, but had fallen into circles that grew restless waiting for the Empress to die.
When she bowed, it was with reverence and respect.
“I am yours.”
She meant it with her whole heart.
If the Empress pointed her to kill the traitors, Lal would be her sword, and if necessary take the fall.
Empress Daniela was still an impressive woman. It disquieted certain people in the court that she had never taken another husband after her first one died in the war before. She one she ended.
Lal dared to raise her head and nearly drowned in her Empress’ eyes.
The Empress smiled down at her. “Good.” She held out a hand for someone to hand her a sword.
Lal could not look away.
The Empress stood, as beautiful as an avenging angel, and touched Lal’s shoulder with the blade.
“I raise you into knighthood, Sir Lal. May your services be great.”
Lal felt her breath catch. “I swear to you my body and my soul. May you use it well.”
Lal looked up again and saw the Empress’ gaze had softened.
Her Imperial Majesty waved her guards away.
“Now that this is out of the way, let us talk about your duties.”
Lal shivered and hoped against hope that her total devotion would not make her look like a complete fool.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”