I recently introduced you to Princess Ariyanna. Today I am introducing you to Ariya, an aloof village girl who gets caught up in fulfilling the Prophecy of Peace. We met the princess at a party thrown in honor of all of the girls in Khoya Asa who had or would be turning fifteen that year. We now meet Ariya at that same party....
The party wasn’t a total disaster. “Okay, fine,” Ariya admitted, the party was pretty amazing. Nearly everyone in the kingdom was in attendance wearing their finest clothing. Even she was a wearing a midnight blue gown that had been her mother’s, which her Aunt Natori had altered for her. Lights and ribbons were strung throughout the courtyard. A large dance floor had been laid down in the center. Tables filled with delicious foods, including pastries and a massive cake made by Fiamma Angelo, lined the outer edges. It was beautiful. No one in Khoya Asa had ever seen anything like it before. More importantly, no one had ever felt anything like it. Life there was about survival. Citizens woke up wondering each day whether they would have enough food and clean water to survive. If they did, then they wondered if today would be the day of the next raid by Guardians, or if perhaps, a pack of hungry volphe might tear through the village. They had recently even come to fear an attack from one of the kingdoms who fully support Azuras, as there had been rumors of such things happening to other kingdoms known to resist his rule. So this party with its music, dancing, acrobats, and delicious food had done something amazing to brighten the spirits of the people of Khoya Asa.
Ariya marveled in the idea that somehow the thrill of this celebration had let them all revel in the joy and forget the fact that they were basically celebrating certain death for one of them. “Okay, obviously not all of us have been able to forget. I certainly have not,” she thought. Even so, her mood had been lifted as she saw all the happy faces around her. Especially Yanna. Nothing could make Ariya put aside the dread for a few moments and actually feel real joy like the smile on her friend’s face. The smile had appeared the day before when Princess Ariyanna had presented her with the gorgeous green silk dress she’d had made for her, and that smile had been on her face ever since. Ariya had felt like a detestable fool when she found out the princess had wanted the silks made into a dress for Yanna and not for herself. By way of apology, she made it her mission to see that the dress was made. She realized she probably still owed the princess a real apology, but hadn’t worked up to that yet. In the end it had taken convincing Ore to promise the seamstress’s daughter, Riann the first two dances at the party to get the dress made. It was something he would have done only for his sister. He had dreaded making good on the promise tonight until seeing Yanna laughing and dancing, looking more beautiful and graceful than almost any other girl here.
At this point in the party Yanna had danced with every boy in the kingdom with the exception of Prince Rohan who had steadfastly refused to dance with anyone. Ariya could not blame him as she wished she had been able to do the same. She had danced once with Ore early on in the party as he made an effort to get away from Riann. A bit later someone had called for all the fifteen-year-old girls to come to the dance square to be acknowledged. Men were then invited to join them in a dance. Ariya was asked to dance by a handsome young court guard to whom she had grudgingly agreed. At the end of the dance he seemed quite pleased with her company and would likely have asked her to dance again had he not first asked for her name. When she replied that her name was Ariya Gillecroids, his eyes widened and he glanced around nervously as though her father may be lurking in the shadows waiting to impale anyone who dared dance with his daughter. The guard quickly excused himself and she watched him dash off to where many of the other guards stood and, she assumed, told them who she was. Offers to dance were non-existent after that. She supposed she should have been bothered by that, but as that was actually her intention when giving her full name, she was instead pleased that it had worked. Their fear of Fa meant she didn’t have to make any excuses to get out of something she really didn’t care to do anyway. She had no desire to dance and so she did not blame the prince at all for not wanting to dance either.
*** (part of scene deleted because, come on... I can't give away too much here)***
The prince turned to her and was about to say something when she was caught up in a whirl of green and black. It took a second to get her bearings and realize the beautiful whirlwind that had swept her off her feet was Ore, looking more gorgeous than ever in a shirt made from the same green silk as Yanna’s dress. “Dance with me,” he said as she pummeled his chest and demanded to be put down. “I will absolutely not dance with you,” she growled.
“Come now Ariya, you can’t be so predictably boring forever,” he said with a laugh.
“I can as long as you continue to be predictably rakish and annoying.”
Closing one eye and cocking his mouth into a half grin he looked at her in a mischievous way that she knew meant he is about to do something stupid. “Do not even think about dragging me out there Giatore!” He only laughed and began to reach for her.
“I can order him to leave you alone,” Rohan said casually. And then just as casually added, “I can also order him hanged or beheaded if you prefer.”
“My, my Ariya. I never thought I would see the day when you would need a prince to step in to rescue you,” Ore simpered with a shake of his head. Reaching into a hidden pocket on her dress, she pulled out a small dagger which she then threw into the air where it spun before she caught it and returned it to the hidden pocket as way of telling him what she thought about that particular statement. He merely laughed and kissed her cheek, before bowing to both her and Prince Rohan. He spun on his heel and muttered something about finding better company as he sped off through the crowd pushing aside the line of boys waiting to ask the princess to dance before whirling her out onto the floor.