Sunshine infiltrating the room of Longstead Castle was an immense distinction to the bleak, dismal, darkness that swallowed the castle and the entire kingdom of what once was Bregonna before the war before the turmoil that would cause a cosmic drift between two brothers and two connected families.
In the beginning there was but one kingdom that joined together two families: the Monroe and the Matheson clan. The two youngest sons at the time, Prince Sebastian Monroe and Prince Miles Matheson were inseparable. They two formed a bond so strong that it could not be separated. Instead of separate kingdoms, they wanted to merge their kingdoms and rule together in a dual partnership when the time came and they were crowned as kings.
Neither of them parents could come up with a plausible reason as to why this was not a good idea. Joining families meant joining forces, making their kingdom one of the strongest and most well fortified in all the land. Money flowed more freely throughout the villages, people flourished under the first few years of their reign. It was almost a magical time, but magic always comes with a price.
When you ask someone about what happened, leading up to that tragic battle in which the kingdom would forever change, no one can confidently tell you. Sure there is a lot of speculation as to what happened, but there has never been a definitive answer. Princess Charlotte herself didn't know the real reason behind the kingdom falling to pieces, splitting off to form two very distinct kingdoms: one that would be ruled by King Miles, Charlotte's father, and one that would be ran by King Sebastian.
The only thing for certain is the rift between the two former brothers caused such a drift amongst them the kingdom could no longer remain unified.
Going down in history as one of the most grueling battles, it was characterized as long, hard, brutal, and financially draining for both sides. Countless numbers of poor souls lost their lives that day, serving who they thought was the true and rightful king of the kingdom until a proposal was made by the higher council. The proposal would secure both of their titles as kings, but to differing kingdoms. King Miles would remain where the unified Kingdom of Bregonna once stood, dubbed the Kingdom of Gallia, where his legacy had began many, many years ago.
Longstead Castle in Gallia was one of the most enchanting castles ever to be built. Constructed out of stone, due to its resistance to heavy weight and compression, the castle walls stood 213 feet from the base to the very tip of the keep.
The castle could be seen for miles, due to its splash of whitewash and it's elevation on one of the highest hills, lifting it over top of the surrounding villages and towns.
During times of peace the castle would be home to somewhere between 10-12 knights and their family, living separately from the King and his family. If a threat came about, more Knights would be brought in to secure the castle and the King. In some castles, interaction between Knights and members of royalty was a rarity, but in Longstead Castle, everyone was family and they were treated as such.
There was no drawbridge, King Miles got rid of that stating he didn't want to feel trapped in his own home. He also wanted the people to feel there was no barrier between them so there was no outer layer or barbican. The only remote blockade was the man made colossal forest, its crenellate wall like structure circling the castle as if daring an enemy to penetrate.
As for King Sebastian, he would abscond to a place that would be christened as Kairos. Seemingly on the other side of Gallia, he would reside in Malgrave Castle almost identical in size and magnitude to Miles' Longstead Castle.
Neither of them wanted to succumb to the treaty proposed by the council, not particular fans of theirs nor fans of governing bodies in general, but they also knew that they couldn't afford to drag the war between them on any longer. Two years had gone by and neither of them was closer than the other to taking over the kingdom as sole ruler. It cost them their men, money, friendship, and a bit of sanity.
The past must be remembered so that we are not doomed to repeat it. Princess Charlotte Matheson knew that phrase very well because she heard it so often from her tutor, and from her father. He placed a high value on learning all that could be learned about things in the past, no matter how boring of a subject Charlotte thought it to be. And if it wasn't boring, it was depressing, gloomy, and dreary, especially when it related to the war and what really happened between them.
Charlotte had tried for many years to get a definitive answer from her father but was only met with the same grunt of dismissal every time she brought it up or the subject came up on its own accord. She knew that history was important to learn, but how could one make sure they don't repeat it if they don't have all the details?
Basking in the glow of the morning sun, Charlotte sighed, taking a deep breath in as her eyes remained closed and warmth flooded her body. She stood, roasting in the sun streaming from the window of her room until sweat started to bead on her brow. There was nothing she loved more than feeling the sun radiate as it made its way up her body, starting at her always frostbitten toes, all the way to the very crown of her head where she was sure to be nursing a sunburn tomorrow.
The warmth of the sun from her window was as close to the outdoors she got most of the time. Her father and mother, Queen Rachel Matheson, kept her so busy with studies and festivities that she hardly had time to play outside anymore.
As a child it was vastly different. She was encouraged, and spent the majority of her time outside, always accompanied by her father's favorite guard, Knight Nora Clayton. Highly unusual during that time in Gallia for a woman to be apart of the King's army, her father never cared about rules and regulations. She fought valiantly during the war, enough to catch Miles' attention and want her for his on personal guard when the war was over. He caught hell for months after appointing Nora, but knew that she was well qualified for the job and wouldn't trust anyone with Charlotte, more than he did her.
And Charlotte very well knew why, she had caught glimpses of Nora fighting from time to time as the years went on. She was a gazelle in battle, swift, quick, always on her toes. Of course, all of the other men in the army were just as skilled as she was, but there was something different about her other than her impressive battle skills. She was also very smart, highly logical and often could think things through in her head before the time arose. It was those sharp skills demonstrated motivating King Miles to appoint her as Charlotte's own personal guard.
Nora at first was not as happy with her new position, but she quickly grew to love it and as well as Charlotte. She was a spitfire child; Nora couldn't imagine what she would be like when she got older.
Reflecting back on it, childhood had been one of the happiest times in her life because she was allowed so much freedom and time to spend outdoors. It was when she got older things changed. She was often forbidden from going outside without warning, and often without reason. So much so, that a point came when she demanded an explanation. Miles knew he couldn't give her one, so he went back to letting her go outside more until her 15th birthday when he informed her that they would be focusing on her studies more.
That was the reasoning behind keeping her inside. Every time she seemed to finish her work, he found new things for her to try that included music, dancing, painting, and even some sculpting…all of which she hated.
She saw the other kids around the castle, mostly boys that were learning to shoot bow and arrows, fighting, and helping with building. She wanted to do those things, but was often told that it was too dangerous for her.
Finally when her 18th birthday appeared she made it known her interest in learning how to fight, and how to shoot. Rachel was up in arms, immediately saying no to every reasonable request she made.
That infuriated Charlotte, most things that Rachel did infuriated her to be quite honest, but this especially. Miles could see the determined look in Charlotte's eyes; it was something he knew very well.
Asking Rachel to leave them, he got a better understanding of why she wanted to learn those things. Honestly she wanted to learn anything that meant she wouldn't be defenseless if the time came. That was a highly practical reason, and one that Miles couldn't argue with. He made her a deal that she could train with Nora, if she agreed, as long as she kept up with her studies.
It was partially due to Charlotte's pristine reasoning abilities, and also partially due to the fact that Miles couldn't help but beam with pride at her wanting to learn more physical, hands-on activities.
Miles was never disappointed a day in his life that Charlotte came out to be a girl. From the moment he held her in his arms, he couldn't imagine a more perfect being in his life, sentiments which carried on through the years as she continued to grow into his replica. Not even the birth of his second child, Prince Danny, could diminish his love for his only daughter.
He would've been lying if he said he wasn't excited for her to start training, as long as Nora agreed to it.
That's how Charlotte wound up running around her room in a tizzy when Nora rapped lightly on the door, calling out to her, "Princess Charlotte, are you dressed for training yet or are you still skulking by your bedside window?"
Charlotte laughed, throwing on her training gear, prepared to usher Nora in before her eyes landed on a still bloodied sword standing beside her bed.
Cursing under her breath, she looked around the room for somewhere safe to stow it until she had time to clean it and return it to the casemate, the artillery and musketry storage.
Finally she decided upon hiding it up under her bed on one of the wooden planks where it would be safe and out of eyesight.
As soon as it was away she yelled out, "come in Nora, and how many times do I have to tell you, it's Charlie."
Laughing as she entered with her arms crossed over her chest, she shook her head as she watched Charlie flitter about the room, "Charlie or Charlotte makes no difference, both are tardy, forgetful girls with their heads in the clouds."
Dressed in baggy, ebony breeches, she tapped her boots against the cement floor. Even wearing a raggedy white flowing shirt, gaudy spiked belt accentuating her midsection, Nora was a goddess. Her long chestnut hair was pulled up and tied tightly to secure it out of the way, something that Charlie never did and almost always regretted. She couldn't help but feel a rush of adrenaline through her veins when she could see the sunlight reflecting off her light brown hair, the bits of gold catching nicely in the sun's rays.
Once she forcefully shoved the last boot onto her foot, she stood up proudly and smiled, "yes but I always keep my feet on the ground. Besides, never can you find yourself unless you get lost."
Rolling her eyes playfully, Nora ushered her out of the door, checking to make sure the hallway was safe before she resumed her place beside Charlie, "okay Aristotle, save me the philosophy lecture will ya? I joined the King's army so I could avoid all this talk of school."
She pretended to yawn as if she was bored, but Charlie knew better. Nora was incredibly smart, smarter than she let on.
Following, matching Nora pace for pace, a comfortable silence came over them as they turned the last corridor, opening up a winding staircase for them to descend.
Sometimes the castle felt like her oppressor, changing, turning, and shifting every so often so that she would never have a firm grasp on her surroundings. During those times it felt like a place of entrapment and isolation.
Other times like right then when she was on a familiar path, the same path they had taken for almost four years since her 18th birthday, to the training grounds, she felt at ease. Like she was at home…in her own home, a rare feeling.
Rounding the bottom of the staircase, a smile broke out on Charlie's face as she felt the warmth on her skin for real this time, no barrier between her and the outdoors, just the way Mother Nature intended it to be experienced.
Blinking her eyes, she repressed a blush when she saw Nora giving her a feigned annoyed look. Quickening her pace, she chuckled when they arrive to where Nora had diligently laid out swords earlier this morning.
For the first two years of training, it felt like more schoolwork to Charlie because it was all about mechanics of the weapons, learning to read your opponent, and learning your own body.
The year after that was focused mostly on strength specifically because it did a warrior no good to know how to fight with a sword if they couldn't physically hold one. It was also during that time Nora taught Charlie one of the most important things she had ever learned. If there came a time when you were outmanned, outgunned, and could see no possibly way of winning, leave your pride and ego behind and run like hell.
She never encouraged her to run when there was another option, or if her fellow comrade needed help, but she also told Charlie that there were some times when running was the only option.
"Are we actually going to get to use these on one another?" It was intended as an actual question, the majority of the time she saw the others training with the pell until they mastered the art of swordsmanship. But Charlie was known for making sarcastic comments, it was no wonder Nora thought she was being facetious.
Back turned to Charlie, she bent down to pick one up in her hand, pointing the tip at her, "keep sassing and we'll go back to running hills. Your choice."
Charlie looked out to the hills, going for miles off to the side, hills she very well knew were the reincarnation of the Devil himself.
Shaking her head vehemently, she turned back around, "no that's quite alright, I've hit my sass limit for the day it appears."
Satisfied, Nora smirked as she watched Charlie grip the weapon in her hands firmly, and just the way she had demonstrated numerous times. If anything Charlie was an excellent student when it came to things she was actually interested in, and she had a knack for picking up things dealing with weaponry.
"Be careful not to tear any article of clothing, father said if I rip anything else he's going to make me wear those vile, hard to breath in gowns that all the other women are wearing," the loathing dripped off her voice as she all but spat.
Remaining stoic, Nora only kinked her eyebrow, "well then I suggest you stay focused and don't get distracted, little daydreamer."
She had no time to offer a rebuttal before Nora was advancing on her, just in time to raise her sword as Nora's made contact. Forcing as much pressure as she could, Charlie propelled Nora's body far enough away, allowing herself to get a better handle on the sword before Nora struck again.
Nora continued her relentless encroachment and assault, never letting up because she knew that Charlie could handle it. She had spent years with her and knew that the best way for her to learn was to be pushed, and that's exactly what she was going to do, especially without the watchful eyes of her dear father.
Miles came to training sessions once or twice every year to see how things were progressing, and during that time he even taught Charlie a little bit himself though he refrained from saying much, knowing that Rachel was still unhappy about the whole ordeal.
Rachel was also discontent because it should've been Danny out there training and bonding with Miles, but instead it was always Charlie he could see himself in. Danny was the total opposite of Charlie, he liked painting and sculpting whereas she thought that was beyond boring.
Both Charlie and Miles tried to encourage Danny, and even Nora got in on the game. He came to a few training sessions to learn the basics, but it was obvious where his passion lied. After that both Miles and Charlie gave up trying to make him interested in something he clearly didn't like.
Once again her head floated to the clouds and she heard the rip before she could prevent it. Backing away she was met with a smug, self-satisfied Nora, "looks as if you've been doomed to a life of frivolous gowns from here on out Charlotte."
She wasn't angry with Nora by any means, but she was angry at the thought of having to wear either of those things. That anger fueled her rage as she swung her sword before Nora could get hers back up to defend, cleanly cutting her on the arm.
Blood started to pour out, but Charlie didn't lower her weapon in shock like she would've in the beginning. Instead she raised her sword again, knocking Nora's out of her hand while she was preoccupied with trying to stop the bleeding. Pointing the tip at Nora's throat, a self-satisfied grin stretched across her own face as clapping broke out from behind her.
There he was in all his glory, King Miles Matheson, "looking good there kiddo, I see Nora has taught you never to drop your weapon until your opponent is out."
Charlie beamed with pride as she finally lowered her weapon, signifying that the match was over and she had been victorious.
Turning back to Nora, she had tied a piece of ripped cloth, binding the wound, "of course sir, nothing but the best for my protégée."
Miles cringed, "I couldn't imagine anything worse than a mini-me, until I just pictured a mini-you."
Charlie snorted when Nora scowled, until Miles took in Charlie's tattered appearance. A frown formed across his forehead, wrinkles of disappointment evident, "why am I even surprised?"
It came across as more of a rhetorical question, plus Charlie knew better than to incriminate herself any further.
She remained silent as Miles sighed, "as wonderful as this display was, Charlie your presence is needed. There is a gown waiting for you in your room, and one of your ladies will help draw you a bath and make you presentable."