"Let's stop here." said the knight. Her voice was low unlike the high pitched squeals of delight that escaped her subordinates' throats.
Alicia and Lavian quickly tied their steeds by the bar then sprinted into their haven of rest without delay. If only they were that enthusiastic during training. She was already dissatisfied with the mission that was assigned but being with those two amateurs made it worse.
After the rope was secured, Agrias proceeded to the swinging doors and the moment she walked in, every corner of the bar had their eyes on her. She knew she intimidated them though never understanding why because there was always this part of their ogling that baffled her. It was neither fear nor disgust but it always made her feel as if they were all mocking her. However, the reason was not important because it was annoying either way.
Ignoring them as usual, she walked towards the table where the girls sat. One of the customers stared just a little too long and the knight shot him an icy look. Not a glare but just a glance that warned him effectively without words.
"You scared him, Captain." Whispered Lavian with amusement.
"That's the point." She replied.
"You might as well scare the bartender as well. He just might give us a discount!" added Alicia.
Another meaningless and ridiculous comment. Agrias ignored her as her companions giggled and chatted about a certain "cute passing guy" or "handsome stable boy". Why did they have to do this to her? She should be out there, helping with border patrol, fighting rebels or aiding the famine in Lesalia. Not here, wasting her time to baby sit two ditz and protect some princess in a monastery.
Princess...she shuddered at the thought. She considered herself loyal to the royal family and served them the best she could, but their attitudes were a royal pain in the ass. Her last experience with royalty was not a bit pleasant for Queen Ruvelia was demanding, commanding, dominating and irritable as rumours had said. Worse yet, she had mistaken Agrias as male and actually tried to flirt with her. The queen didn't stop until Alicia addressed her as "Lady Agrias". As for the King, though he had passed away recently, his image still ran clearly in her head. The man was indecisively dominant while lacking in knowledge. He'd want her to stand on the left side of him one second then command her to stand on the right the next because the other side was considered "sinister".
Sighing, her mind wandered off as Alicia and Lavian waved to be served.
"I want an ale with meal A!"
"Make that two ales and a meal D!"
"Two ales, one A, one D!!!!" yelled the waiter for the cook at the back to hear.
"And what could I get for you, sir?"
Her eyebrow twitched but decided against explaining; it would save a lot of breath and embarrassment for the both of them.
"Is that all, sir? A tough knight like yourself will need a lot more." He encouraged.
"Yes." Replied Agrias stoically as Alicia and Lavian giggled.
A panicking youth hurried through the quiet halls of Ilica Monastery. She gripped her dress high to allow larger strides and though running was considered very "unlady-like", she never paid much attention to such restrictions especially when her sanity depended on it. Once at the door of her destination, she knocked then barged in without acknowledgement from the owner within.
"Hide me, Ovelia!!" Huffed the youth while slamming the door behind her.
The princess showed no sign of surprise, but calmly turned around from her writing with a knowing smirk.
The girl nodded as her friend pointed to the closet. She dashed in without another word, which she had done so many times.
Another set of knocks rang from the door with pressed impatience. Ovelia gave her permission and the guardian of the monastery entered, bowing low with his eyes down for respect.
"Excuse me for intruding your highness but did you happen to see Lady Alma passing by?"
"I'm afraid not, Ophion."
Alma, after all, did not "pass by" so technically she wasn't lying.
"Oh, dear. You see, your highness, I really need to see her. That child needs much practice on her instrument, especially on manners and hiding from her classes is not doing her a favor." Said the priest, just a little louder with an emphasis on 'hiding' for the concealed lady to hear. He knew full well his student was hiding in the closet but since the princess was defending her, there was nothing he could do.
"That's sad to hear. But I'll inform you immediately if I see her."
Ophion expected the pathetic excuse and came prepared this time. He was determined to stopped this charade and teach both the princess and that hooligan that he was no pushover.
"Did you hear something, your highness?" he faked.
"No." replied Ovelia, feeling a little uneasy.
Ophion stood up, slowly walking towards the closet as if examining the invisible source.
"It came from there."
Ovelia panicked and tried to discourage the priest's exploration as his imagination but under his insistence, using her safety as reason, he continued towards the closet. Alma felt his footsteps nearing towards her and involuntarily shook. The priest smiled with his hands around the handle with triumph.
Ophion opened it but was attacked. The top drawer became loose when Alma moved and it fell upon the old man's head. Infuriated, he yelled his disdain.
"You have gone too fa--"
The priest stopped dead in his words finding the contents of the drawer around him. The corsets and undergarments made both Ovelia and Ophion incredibly embarrassed but recovering faster, the princess decided to make use of the situation.
"Ophion!! There weren't any sound coming from the closet was there? You, a Holy man, purposely opened my wardrobe just-just to..."
"That's not true, your highness! It just fell out! I had no intention on intruding your privacy!! I'm terrible sorry! I swear before St. Ajora that it was an accident!!!"
Ovelia stifled a giggle from the flushed and embarrassed priest, fumbling with his reply.
"Don't worry, Ophion. I trust your honor as a priest but may you please leave so I may...clean up the mess..."
"Of-Of course, your highness. Thank you, your highness. Good day, your highness..."
Forgetting about Alma, he left immediately, apologizing with every step.
"You could come out now, Alma."
Within the midst of dresses emerged the troublemaker.
"That was close. Thank you so much, Ovelia! You just saved my sanity!!"
Though skipping classes was not an appropriate thing to do, she entirely understood Alma's disobedience. Everyday, Ophion would drone them with never-ending lectures of court manners, literature and music which would somehow lead to his boasting of personal achievements; it was pure torture. Alma, being the rebellious one, always took the chance to escape his lessons whenever possible while Ovelia would quietly accept her fate. Sometimes she really admired her friend's defiance.
"Don't thank me. Thank my undergarments."
"Oh thank you, brave corsets! How may I repay you for your courage?"
Ovelia laughed. Alma was always cheerful and exuberant and she was glad to have a friend like her. Women of high ranking were expected to live a life of isolation in a monastery until marriage. It was the way to train their mind and spirit to become the perfect bride and not be tainted by the outside world. Alma, being part of the renowned Beoulve family, shared the same fate and they were both lonely before the other came. She was the first and only one to ever address her by her first name and treat her equally with real friendship.
"By the way, I overheard that you're getting a new bodyguard!"
"I'm so thrilled." Replied the princess, sarcastically. "But I'll be happy as long as he's not like Recon."
The two friends groaned at the thought of the last bodyguard. Obnoxiously arrogant with an ego large enough to cover Igros castle. He even tried to approach Alma to gain her affection which they perfectly knew was just a scheme to marry her for her name.
"He's probably some hot-shot knight, thinking he's all that, running my life. " continued the princess.
"There's still hope that he might be a kind, gentle and handsome knight! He'll sweep you off your feet with his enchanting eyes. Hold you close and warm with his strong arms as he professes his never-ending love under the mystic starry night. Oh, how romantic!" Exaggerated Alma, in a mock romantic tone.
"That's probably the last thing he'll be. No man alive could match that description."
"I could dream, couldn't I?"
"Dream all you like, just don't be disappointed when reality catches up with you."
"Don't think I won't. Reality is going to be just as great."
Alma crossed her arms defiantly while Ovelia giggled. Her friend's confidence in her words was encouraging but the princess knew it was far from the truth. Neither of them will get to choose, especially herself.
Shaking her mind off the future, they started to chat about rumors going on in the outside world and their ideal knights in shinning armor.
To be continued...
Ilica Monastery ~ (ill-ick-ca) remember when Ovelia was pouring her heart out to Agrias and she mentioned Alma being her best friend back in another monastery...well, Illica is just a made up name for it.
Ophion ~ (O-fi-en) high priest and guardian of Ilica Monastery, similar to Simon's position but lower in status and achievement. He's also Ovelia and Alma's teacher in court manners, literature and music.
Left in latin means sinister and children who were left handed were actually forced to use their right hand.