Roxanne slumped back into her saddle. "I still don't see why we're here." She stated.
Her friend Audrey glanced over at her. "Roxy, come on. Kylaia wanted us to deliver this message. Anything to get away from training, weren't those your exact words?"
Roxy groaned. "Remind me never to speak without knowing again!" Audrey laughed. "Roxy, you would never talk."
Roxy sat up, and indignant look on her face. "And what's that supposed to mean?!"
Roxy started to bicker with her best friend until the palace came into view. Audrey gaped up and it and Roxy rolled her eyes at her friend. "It's just a palace, Audrey."
Audrey looked at her friend in wonder, then realization. "Oh yes. I forgot you were a princess before you came to Shang." Then, Audrey snickered. "Spoiled little rich girl...."
Roxy stared at her. "Shut up!"
Roxanne of Lient and Audrey Mason were students at Shang. Roxy was a princess that had run away from home; Audrey was an amazingly agile peasant from Maren. Their teacher, Kylaia al J'maa had sent them with a letter for the Shang Wildcat. Kylaia was going away on a journey, and she was requesting that Eda Bell take the two girls under training until their ordeals. The girls' good points and bad points were included in the letter, as well as their academic studies.
Roxy turned her bay mare, Emerald Stars, into the palace courtyard. Audrey followed along behind on her gray gelding, Torrent. Roxy rode over to the groomsman who looked to be in charge, pushing black hair out of her brilliant green eyes. Audrey dismounted and walked up to him, long gold hair rippling down her back.
"Hello. We need to see the Shang Wildcat." Audrey stated.
The groomsman looked them over. "What would ye be needing with Mistress Bell?" He questioned suspiciously.
Roxy grinned and dismounted. "We're in training at Shang. We have a letter for the Wildcat, from the Shang Unicorn."
The groomsman looked a bit surprised, and then reached for the horses' reins. "I'll be taking your mounts, milady's. The Wildcat is out on the practice courts. They're over to your right."
Roxy dismounted Stars, giving her one last pat. "I'll be back in a little bit, beautiful." Roxy walked off, Audrey one step behind.
Keladry of Mindelan watched the Shang Horse, Hakuin Seastone, and his partner, Eda Bell, the Shang Wildcat, with rapt attention as they flipped Faleron over Hakuin's shoulder. Hakuin reached out for Kel's hand.
"Try as you like." He advised. Kel's years of Yamani training took over once again. Hakuin went flying over her shoulder.
Kel bolted upright. "Oh my....." The boys all gaped back and forth between Kel and Hakuin. Suddenly, laughter broke through the air.
"Mithros, Hakuin!! Taking flying lessons again?!" A girl's voice laughed. The entire class and the two Shangs turned. Two girls of about fifteen walked towards them, a golden haired girl and a black haired girl. The black haired girl was doubled over in laughter while her more composed friend suppressed a smile.
Hakuin scowled good-naturedly. "Roxanne and Audrey," he said, shaking his head. "And what brings you two mischief makers to Corus?"
The black haired girl straightened up. "Kylaia sent this for The Wildcat." Eda took the envelope from Roxanne. Roxy turned to Kel. "Hi! You must that girl squire person. I'm Roxanne of Lient; Roxy. This is Audrey Mason. She doesn't have a nickname 'cause she's not special."
Audrey grinned. "I feel so wanted."
Roxy grinned. "That's okay Audrey! I still love you!" The two started laughing again.
"Audrey, did you give Roxy sugar again?" Hakuin demanded.
Roxy grinned. "Heheheheheheehee."
Hakuin groaned. "Oh great. Just great."
Eda Bell walked over. "Roxy, Audrey, pay attention. Class, back to your exercises."
Roxy turned to grin at Kel. "Go help Hakuin with his flying lessons." She said with a wicked smile.
Eda gave Roxy a hard look, which shut her up. "Now then. Kylaia wants me to finish your training...." The three walked off, talking.
Kel stared in amazement as Joren entered the mess hall. His normally white blonde hair was now a bright pink.
"Mithros," Neal swore quietly. "Who did that to him. I want to find out how to do it! The Stump would look good in pink." Kel turned to face her friend, who gave her a big lopsided grin. Again, Kel felt that strange feeling in her chest. Then, "Don't you just love Joren's hair?" A voice said with exaggerated enthusiasm.
Kel turned. Roxy stood behind her, Audrey looking over her shoulder. Kel smiled. She already liked the enthusiastic Shang trainee. "Sit down. Did you two do that?"
Roxy grinned. "But he was shoving Audrey around. Or trying to. It's really easy to do." Joren turned and glared daggers at the two young Shang. Roxy glared back at him, while Audrey turned back to her food, trying to look innocent. "Well, I thought it was funny." Roxy grumbled. Kel laughed and returned to her lunch.
Roxanne of Lient bent over Audrey Mason's shoulder, looking on intently as Audrey ground up a very nasty smelling mixture of herbs and dyes. "So, what color will it be this time?" Roxy asked, giggling energetically. Audrey grinned. "I believe I am in the mood for.....uhm.....Purple!!" Roxy grinned back at her friend. "We are evil, ya know that?" Audrey grinned back. "Yeah, and we're good at it too!" Then, someone knocked on the door. Roxy bounced over and swung it open. Kel stood there. "Hey Kel! Come on in!!!" Kel narrowed her eyes at Roxy. "Okay, who gave you sugar? Or is it some kind of chemical imbalance?" Roxy grinned. "This is a natural high, thank you. This is an I'm-gonna-get-Joren-good kinda high!" Kel grinned. "How did you guys dye his hair pink? Neal wants to try it on the Stump." Audrey held her mixture out to Kel. Kel took it, sniffed it, and threw it quickly back to Audrey. "Mithros Audrey!! What in the name of the Goddess did you put in that?!" Roxy grinned. "We made it pretty smelling for Joren this time. Let's see, what's in there Audrey?" Audrey smiled wickedly. "Clothing dyes, poison ivy, blue berries, some plant dyes and.......skunk odor!" Kel broke out laughing. "You guys are horrible!!" Roxy nodded vigorously. "We know!!" "Did you guys hear the news?" The three girls spun around. A very depressed looking Merric stood in the doorway. "What news?" Audrey asked, pouring her mixture into a bottle. "The King is holding a Pages, Squires, and Knights ball and dinner. So the Court Ladies can get to know us better!" Neal appeared behind Merric. "And you three have to wear gowns!" He grinned at Roxy's disgusted expression. "Gowns?! I haven't had to wear a gown since.........oh Mithros!! Neal, did they mention anything about a Princess Diahann coming?" Neal looked at her in surprise. "Yes. Princess Diahann is with the escort from........Lient.....hey, wait a second...nah...you can't be......you're a princess, Roxy?!" Roxy grimaced. "Only when I can't avoid it. Goddess, I was hoping I would have to deal with Diahann again! She is the biggest......." <Audrey walks over to Meaghanne. 'hey, little kids might be reading this!! No R-rated language!' Meaghanne grins guiltily. 'Sorry, got caught up in the moment.' Audrey holds up a fist. 'Get out of the moment before I...' 'Hey, I'm the author, shut up!'>........ "Diahann's your sister? Will you introduce me to her?" Neal begged. Roxy caught the look of dismay and jealousy on Kel's face as Neal asked. 'Whoa! Neal and Kel. There's something I've never even thought of!' She thought. Then, Roxy grinned, a plan forming in her mind. "Neal, Merric, out! I've got some planning to do, places to go, people to see, drugs and poisons to make......" Neal's eyes bulged out. "P...p..p..poisons?" Roxy grinned. "Opps, did I say that last part out loud......." "I...I...I..." Neal began. Audrey narrowed her eyes. "Did you recently develop a stutter, Neal?" He turned red and backed out the door. "I was just going...uhm....bye!" Roxy laughed as she watched Merric and Neal bolt away from the room. Then, she turned to Kel. "You like him, don't you?" Kel's mouth dropped open. She quickly shut it. "Yeah, of course. Neal's one of my best friends." Roxy leaned in, coming closer to the bright red Kel. "You like him like him, don't you?! Kel has a crush on Neal!!" She practically shouted. Kel clamped a hand down over Roxy's mouth. "Shut up Roxy!!!!" Audrey grinned. "Yeesh Roxy. Be good or I'll tell Kel about your little crush on Cleon." Audrey hand flew up to her mouth. "Oh, my bad." Kel grinned and Roxy, who was now the shade of Joren's new hair. "Cleon, hmmmmm......" Roxy turned to Audrey. "Yeah, well what about you and Faleron, huh Audrey babe?" Audrey flushed. "So what if I like Faleron. It would never happen...." Roxy threw an arm over each of the girls shoulders. "This, girls, if why we invented a little thing I like to call makeovers."
Keladry of Mindelan woke up to a soft knocking on her door. She glanced at the window. The sun wasn't even up yet! Kel rolled out of bed and opened the door. A grinning Roxy stood there, dressed. Kel peered into the darkness and saw Audrey slumped against the wall, half asleep. "C'mon Kel!! We have to get out of the palace before the boys wake up, otherwise we'll be interrogated and they might guess what we're planning!!" Kel looked over at Audrey, who she knew was not a morning person. Audrey shrugged, yawning. Roxy dragged Audrey into Kel's room and they sat on the bed while Kel got dressed. "C'mon Kel!! You'll realize this is all worth it when you see Neal's eyes pop out of his head at the sight of you!!" Kel glared at her. "How can you be this awake all ready?! It's not even 5:00am yet!!" Roxy giggled and Audrey groaned. "She found my hidden stash of sugar. She ate it. All of it." Roxy bounced up and down on the bed impatiently. "Come on Kel!! I wanna go!! Now!!" Kel finished dressing and let herself be dragged out the door by the hyper Roxy.
Roxy peered around the corner of the hall. "Okay, it's clear." She whispered. Kel and Audrey crept around the corner, both carrying big black bags. Roxy follows behind. (The Theme of Mission Impossible is playing!) The three are wearing black capes. Roxy ducks and rolls over and lands beside Kel's door. She quickly opens it for the two other girls and looked out into the hallway. "We made it!" Roxy slammed the door and pounced on her bag. The girls had been dragged on a ball shopping spree by the energetic Roxy. Kel had never seen someone who could bicker with a merchant and get a great price this early in the morning. Kel had ended up getting a pale yellow gown that set off her eyes, gold embroidered yellow slippers, a gold hair ornament and matching makeup. Audrey had gotten a sky blue gown that had white embroidery on it and matching slipper, as well as a pearl hair net. Roxy yanked out her prize. She had gotten a modestly low cut deep green dress that same color as her eyes, silver embroidered green slippers, and a silver and diamond bracelet and necklace set. She had already decided that she would wear her silver circlet from her days as a princess. "Guys, we are gonna blast those boys!" Roxy announced, holding her dress up to herself in front of Kel's mirror. "We are definitely late entrance material." Audrey agreed. Kel looked at her two friends nervously. "Oh great. What are you two planning on doing?" Audrey grinned wickedly at Roxy. "Diahann and Joren deserve each other, don't you think?" Roxy groaned. "I had forgotten she was going to be there! Dang!!" Kel looked up from her wardrobe, where she was hanging her dress. "What's so bad about your sister? I like my older sisters." A pained look came over Audrey's face. "No! You just had to ask it, didn't you?" She moaned. Kel looked at her in surprise. "What's wrong?" Audrey groaned. "We're going to hear 'The List' now. Prepare yourself. It takes her several hours to go through it." Roxy looked thoughtful. "Diahann is the most stuck up, pompous, self absorbed little bimbo I know. She......" Kel stared as Roxy began to chatter off a seemingly endless list. She leaned back on the bed beside Audrey, who was all ready asleep. 'Good idea.' Kel thought as she drifted off to sleep, Roxy still talking. 'I can't wait until tomorrow. The ball. Finally.' Then, Kel was asleep.
Neal, Cleon, Faleron and the other pages and squires crowded around the group of ladies. Neal sighed, gazing at the beautiful red head sitting at the center of the group. "She's beautiful, huh?" The other boys sighed as well, staring at the girl: Princess Diahann of Lient. Cleon grinned. "She and Roxy look absolutely nothing alike." Diahann let out a high pitched giggle as a knight made a joke. Cleon winced. "Don't act like each other either." He stared into space, a dreamy look on his face. Neal grinned. "You like her, don't you?" Cleon blushed deep red, but did not deny it. Then, he grinned. "Yeah. And you like Kel, huh?" Neal flushed and was about to answer when Faleron cut him off. "Mithros!" He swore breathlessly. "Who is that?" The two other boys turned and saw three ladies walking towards them. The herald stood and announced their names. "Squire Keladry of Mindelan, Shang Trainee Audrey Mason and Shang Trainee Princess Roxanne of Lient." The three young men's mouths dropped open. "Oh my......" "By the Goddess.." Curses and gasps filled the air and the three girls approached. Roxy stopped in front of Cleon and twirled. "You like?" She looked stunning. The dark green gown hugged her slim figure and black hair tumbled in waves down her back, held down by a thin silver circlet. Her piercing green eyes sparkled. Kel was just a beautiful in a pale yellow gown and gold all over. Audrey wore all blue and white. Cleon stuttered for a moment and Roxy grinned. "Cleon, dear, I do believe you are blushing." Neal laughed. "Yes, I do believe he is." Then, he turned to Kel and did some turning red of his own. "You look.......stunning......" Kel blushed and grinned. "Thank you." "Roxanne." A cold voice said. The six young warriors turned. Diahann was standing, glaring coldly at her younger sister. "Hello Diahann." Roxy said, just as cold. Diahann gave a fake smile. "Still fifteen and unmarried, am I correct, sister? Will you be trying for the convent, then?" Roxy flushed and balled her hands into fists, barely controlling her anger. Diahann was publicly embarrassing her. On purpose. "And no one even interested in courting a Shang trained princess. Maybe Father will marry you off to that King of Dalic, eventually." Audrey glanced at her friend, eyes full of pity. Roxy's father had tried to marry her off to a forty year old man. That was one of the reasons Roxy had run away. "No one interested?" Cleon repeated Diahann's words haltingly. 'A beauty like her, I would have thought Roxy had millions of suitors.' He remembered her smile at him. It wasn't just full of friendship, but full of love as well. He stepped up beside Roxy. "Roxy, you did promise me a dance and I intend to hold you to your promise. Excuse me, Highness." He bowed to Diahann and dragged off a startled Roxy to the dance floor. She blushed. "You didn't have to do that, Cleon." She looked up and saw him grinning. "I wanted to." Roxy grinned and felt a return of her old spirit. "Well, then. You wanted to dance, Cleon. So let's dance." Cleon grinned as Roxy got an adrenaline rush. "Tango!" She exclaimed loudly, laughing. The two ran across the dance floor with an exaggerated stride.
Audrey looked up at Faleron. He extended his hand to her. "Shall we?" Audrey grinned. "But of course....hahahahahahahahahaha......" She burst out laughing as Joren entered the hall. "It worked!" She heard Roxy exclaim from somewhere in the middle of the dancers. It was true: Joren's hair was a nice, bright shade of violet. "Joren, you look....uhm....." Kel couldn't finish her sentence, she was laughing so hard. Audrey looked at her quizzically. Joren's hair couldn't make anyone laugh that hard. Audrey glanced around and gave a started giggle. Cleon and Roxy had climbed up onto a nearby set of tables in the middle of the room and were doing a Tango, carefully avoiding peoples' hands and drinks. "Is she smashed or what?!" Audrey, Neal, Kel and Faleron heard a voice exclaim from behind them. They all turned to look at a pretty young girl that looked to be about eleven. "Hello Aria. How are you?" Audrey said politely. She turned to the rest of her friends. "This is Roxy's younger sister Ariadne." Ariadne smiled shortly and curtseyed. "I am sorry, but I must be off to grace others with my presence." As Ariadne strutted off, they heard Roxy laughing. "You mean ungrace!" She called after her little sister. "Are you like anyone in your family?" Kel questioned. Roxy shook her head vigorously. "Nope! I am one of a kind." Audrey grinned. "And thank Mithros for that!"
Roxy and Cleon ran, laughing, out into the palace gardens. "Did you see the look on her face? It was too perfect!" Roxy giggled. Cleon grinned. "I sitll cannot believe you just smashed an entire cream pie into the crown princess of Lient's face!" Roxy smirked. "She deserved it. Audrey said that after the way Joren was flirting with Diahann, they should be an item in no time." Roxy shuddered. "If they marry, I think I'll disown myself !" Cleon grinned. "So, what was this whole thing she said about you having no suitors?" Roxy sighed. "It's a long story." Cleon motioned to a bench nearby some roses. Roxy sat down at it, frown set on her face. "When I ran away to Shang, it was for two reasons. I wanted to be a fighter, and my country wouldn't allow me to be one. Also, my father had an arranged marriage for me without my consent. To a man forty years older than me. He wanted it for the sake of Lient, and he didn't care what I wanted. I ran away the very night he told me, and ran into Audrey out on the Plains. We decided to go to Shang. When we got there, the Shang Unicorn, Kylaia al J'maa took us under her wing and trained us. We grew up together. Then, Kylaia had to go away on a quest that took her far away from Shang. So she sent us here, to finish our training with the Wildcat." Cleon stared at her. "A forty year old man ?!" Roxy smiled. "Count Josef was horrible. He even tried to steal Stars from me." "Stars?" Cleon asked. Roxy grinned and punched him playfully in the arm. "Cleon! Emerald Stars! My horse, remember?!" Cleon grinned. "Of course. Roxy, I......" "Milord! Milady!!" A weary looking messenger ran up. He had been shot through the shoulder with an arrow. Roxy and Cleon ran to his side. "What happened?!" Roxy started to tear off the bottom of her petticoat. The man shook his head. "Don't bother. The arrow was poisoned. The Black God be waiting for me. Lient has attacked the Northern border with thousands of men. They..." The man's voice drifted off. Cleon looked over at Roxy. She was leaned back with an expression of horror on her face. "Why would he do this....." Roxy's expression deepened. "It was all a lie. Sending Diahann here for 'peace'. He just wanted his favorite daughter in on his secret. The traitorous......." To Cleon's shock, tears began to stream down Roxy's face, which she quickly buried in her hands. Hesitantly, Cleon put his arms around her. "Roxy? What's wrong? What happened to my bouncy hyper Roxy?" Roxy looked up, shocked. "You don't hate me?" Cleon looked at her puzzled. "Why? Because you're from Lient? You're Tortallan now, Roxy." Then, he grinned. "Whether you like it or not." He pulled her to her feet. "Let's go warn the King."
Audrey was spun around by Faleron yet again. Both were grinning at the pie covered Diahann. "That was great." Faleron grinned. Audrey smiled and giggled. Faleron raised and eyebrow and Audrey pointed. Before she had left, Roxy had bent some metal into the shape of a triangle and positioned it right above Joren's purple hair. (Tinky Winky, anyone? :-P) Both laughed. Then, Audrey saw Roxy run in with Cleon. Her best friend was ghostly pale as she ran up to the King and drew him aside. Audrey saw Roxy talking rapidly as the king's mouth dropped open. Cleon spoke once, and the King clasped Roxy on the shoulder, eyes comforting. Then, he walked to the front of the room. "I need all warriors in the room at the War Council now. Lient has attacked. Lord Raoul," Raoul looked up at the King. "Keep an eye on Princess Diahann. We don't want any accidents." Raoul nodded and grasped Diahann by the arm. Joren walked over and stood by her side. Audrey, Faleron, Kel, and Neal all ran up to Roxy's side. "Roxy? Are you okay?" Audrey knelt by her friend's side. "This will be the end of Tortall!! My father will destroy...." Diahann's screech was cut off by Raoul's hand over her mouth. Roxy's eyes widened and then she stood. "Audrey, it's time to bring in the big ammo." Audrey stared at her. "You mean....." Roxy nodded. "We have no choice. We have to go tonight." The King walked in. "We leave at dawn, warriors. Gods bless." Roxy looked up at Cleon. "Be careful Cleon. Come back to me alive. Audrey and I are going to get help. I promise we will return." Cleon gaped as Roxy leaned up, kissed him on the cheek, and followed Audrey out of the room.
Cleon mounted up on his horse, staring off into the distance. 'Is Roxy okay?' He wondered. He hated this. Roxy didn't tell him where she was going, or what she was doing. When she left last night, Cleon felt his heart just break in two at the feeling of losing her. 'She'll be back,' He told himself. 'She promised.' Cleon grinned. 'And I'm going to shock her when she gets back. I wonder how she'll take my proposing to her?' A hand waved in front of Cleon's face, drawing him back to the courtyard and out of his daydreams. Kel was next to him. "Hel-loooo! Cleon! Come in Cleon!! We are moving out now!" She shouted into his ear. Cleon grinned. "Okay, okay. I'm not deaf. I..............." Joren rode by, his hair a lime green color. Cleon laughed. "Feeling okay, Dipsy?" (Roxy: Is the green one Dipsy? Oh, I like the Big smiling sun person!!! Meaghanne: Okay, Okay! I don't know all the teletubbies, just their names and the bunnies! I love the bunnies! Anyways, go along with it!) Joren glared at him. Kel laughed. "Oh, Cleon. Roxy asked me to give this to you." Kel handed him a small note that had big green splotches all over it. Cleon grinned and opened it.
Don't you just love Joren's hair?! This dye changes colors every five hours, so Joren's going to be one happy smiling rainbow. Audrey and I are going to the country of Viento. We have an old friend there that might be able to help us in the war. Be careful, and make sure Kel, Neal and Faleron are too. My father fights dirty. Aren't I just soooo nice when it comes to him.... Anyways, be careful!! I promise I'll see you soon. Audrey sends Faleron her love.
The Roxy formerly known as Princess
Cleon grinned down at the letter. That was his Roxy. They would survive this, and think up even more jokes along the way.
Roxy walked around the bend in the forest, bow and arrows ready. Emerald Stars pranced beneath her. "Roxy? We're almost there." Audrey commented from behind. Torrent was just as excited as Emerald. The two girls rode into a large courtyard. Loud neighs filled the yard. "Hi Lady! Hi Duchess! Hi Cinnamon!!" Roxy called to the horses. They neighed in return. Roxy grinned. "They still love me!" Audrey rolled her eyes. "She's talking to horses. I......no, I refuse to even think about it." The girls heard a door swing open and footsteps on the cobblestone yard. "Audrey?! Roxy?!" A slim girl with dark brown hair and hazel eyes ran out to them. "What are you two doing here?!" She exclaimed, hugging them. They hugged her back. "Hi Callista. We....we, uhm....sorta need your help." Callista grinned. "What did you do now Roxy?" Audrey grinned. "I'd just like to quickly put in a small comment here, Roxy. See how Calli directed that at you, not me? Now why do you think that is?" Roxy glared. "Ha ha. And also a bonus, just for today. Ha." Callista laughed. "Guys! Come on! What's wrong?" Roxy's face fell. "Lient attacked." Callista's smile fell from her face. "Oh no. Tortall?" Roxy nodded. "Yes. We were there when it happened." Callista looked thoughtful. "And you came to me for help......" Roxy looked at her old friend. "Please, Calli. Cleon's fighting for his life out there....." Callista grinned. "Cleon? Who is Cleon, Roxy, dear? I see you have some filling to do. Well, of course I'll help you in any way I can. Come inside so I can get you two some weapons." Roxy smiled. "Thanks Calli. This means a lot to us." Callista grinned. "Hey, I still owe you guys for sneaking me back into the palace that night I saved Duchess. Besides, you guys are my friends." Smiling, Roxy and Audrey followed Callista inside.