Aeona grabbed the dark jacket on the floor and shoved it on swiftly. Quickly putting on the boots next to it, she fought down a small, but powerful, pang of guilt. She wasn’t supposed to be doing this, obviously, but she knew she had to.
The Gelert nearly sighed, but paused herself. She glanced around in the darkness; her parents hadn’t heard. Mentally, this time, she sighed in relief.
Her home was small and comfortable, and housed her mother, father, and sister. Books, presumably her father's, were jammed into every available space, whether it be the stairs, floor or desks. This made the house look cluttered, and with Aeona’s paraphernalia added, it resembled more of a mess than anything.
Before leaving the dark house, she barely remembered to take the small, top book off of a teetering pile near the coat rack. With the moon shining through a nearby window, she could read the title as Altador- The Royal Hierarchy.
Taking it and putting it in her jacket’s inside pocket, she turned back to the door. She wanted to do this. It would be her only chance.
Throwing caution to the winds, Aeona opened the door, which creaked softly, and stepped into the crisp fall air.
Aeona immediately wished she hadn’t done this; the wind was cold. The encroaching darkness scared the wits out of her- what was that in the alley, over there? All she had to do was turn around and go back to her nice, warm, bed-
“So what do I do?” she whispered, shivering, to herself. “Turn back, or keep going?”
Two parts of her answered. The calm, rational half spoke first:
Aeona! it blasted into her. Turn back right now! The book is probably lying. There is no way the King himself will be at the harbor tonight! It’s unsafe for him! Your parents will kill you if they find out what you’re doing!
Next, the daring, adventurous part of her spoke:
Aeona! it yelled. How could you think of turning back? Look, the book says that on the last day of the month rare weapons are imported to Altador, and that King Altador will be there to supervise! If you don’t go, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. And you won’t be able to do it next month- the snow will give you away! And then you’ll probably talk yourself out of it later.
Aeona knew the latter part of her was right. Ever since she was old enough to understand stories, she loved hearing about King Altador and his creating of the city. How he had dared to challenge anyone that defied him of his dream... how he had searched for such a long time to find the perfect place Aeona now called ‘home’... how he had gathered the most selfless people in the land... the list went on and on.
After going through her father’s books a week earlier, she had dug Altador- The Royal Hierarchy from the bottom of a pile of books. Being fascinated with the country, she read it in a day, and was thrilled at a certain piece of information. According to Altador- The Royal Hierarchy, chapter 12, page 289, paragraph 3, at midnight on the last day of the month the most expensive, incredible weapons were imported. Apparently, Aeona learned, King Altador was present every time to supervise.
Right then and there she had planned her midnight escapade. She would go to bed, the sweet Gelert she was, and rise half an hour before midnight while her family was asleep. The yellow Gelert would then go to the harbor and watch the proceedings.
She had seen King Altador three times before, all in the Colosseum. Living on the outskirts of Altador, by the ocean, she rarely went into the city. But she now learned of its advantages; the harbor wasn’t far at all!
It was her turn to make a decision; not go and make her parents not have to worry, or go and worry her parents to death if she was not back by sunrise, when the family usually woke.
The wind started gnawing at her, so she made up her mind. “Here I go,” she muttered, and started a jog towards the harbor.
Hearing the sound of the waves lap against the land thrilled her like it had never done so before. It rose with her adrenaline; she was nearly there. Running through the cobbled streets of Altador was scary at night, and she couldn’t wait to be in open air. The buildings and shapes seemed to leap onto her every time she turned a corner.
Aeona realized she couldn’t simply wait at the harbor front, or on the dock, so she looked around for a vantage point. Seeing a building with large crates out front and extremely close, she grinned.
She jumped on the first crate. It held, luckily, which meant something was in it. Aeona hoped dearly that she could make the jump from here.
Tempted, she wanted to close her eyes, but didn’t as she leaped to the edge of the roof. Her paws scraped across the tiles, but caught on the gutter.
“Ouch!” she called. Swinging, she hoisted herself up and onto the roof.
Her breath caught in her chest; the full moon illuminated everything below her... including the harbor. She sat on the point where the two halves of the roof met, and waited.
“What are you doing?” growled a voice behind her.
The Gelert barely muffled a scream- someone else had been on the roof before her.
“Quiet!” it whispered with authority. He –it was definitely a he, a Scorchio from his shadowy shape- drew a blade from a sheath at his side. It glinted with the moon’s reflection. Aeona backed away, trying to keep her balance. The stranger was dressed in all black, like her, but when he moved he didn’t make any sound at all. Tiles flew from her scrambling paws, onto the streets below.
“Stop moving!” he whispered again. Shaking, she obeyed.
“Wh-hat are you doing?” she asked. “Who- who are you?”
“I could ask the same thing,” he mumbled and sheathed the dagger. “I’m remarkably sure you’re not an assassin.”
She stifled a yelp- what did he say?
“Excuse me?” she asked again, leaning forwards. Her balance momentarily was caught, however, and for a panicking moment she nearly fell off onto the hard streets below.
“An assassin. Are- are you aware of anything going on tonight?” he replied, calm. She could barely make him out, with no moon behind him.
Meanwhile, when she whipped her head backwards to check for signs of King Altador, Aeona saw that a ship was on the horizon. It was the merchant ship!
“You mean with King Altador?” she whispered, blood starting to flow from shock again. Realizing how stupid she was for saying that, she mentally scolded herself.
“So you know,” he grumbled. “I thought maybe you were here just for fun. Either way, go.”
“Pardon me?” she asked. He was so rude! “I have just as much right to be on this roof as you do!”
“Actually, it’s neither of our rights. This isn’t our roof. So, go.”
She jabbed her head upwards. “And who do you think you are?” she snapped.
“Quiet!” he said again. “My name is Kuin, alright? I’m... ugh, I can’t believe I’m telling a civilian this... I’m a member of the King’s Guard. King Altador has Guards stationed all over Altador, so someone like you wouldn’t show up and try to kill him.”
The sharp wind blew into Aeona’s bones... she wished dearly that she could just go home. Not only was she out late at night, but also getting herself into trouble with the King’s Guard!
“What’s your name?” he asked, breaking the silence. “If you won’t leave, I might as well try and get to know you.”
“My- my name is... Erean,” she lied. That was one thing she listened to from her parents- don’t tell anything to strangers. “I- I really want to see King Altador.”
His shadow nodded, accepting the half of a lie she told him. “How long until His Majesty gets here?” she asked him.
“Not long...” he muttered. “Any minute.”
The harbor was stretched out below them; the building Aeona and Kuin had chosen was the closest to it. Aeona could see the merchant ship with the weapons on it coming to port.
The moon had reached its maximum point in the cloudless sky, although she still couldn’t make out the proper features of Kuin.
Finally, after what felt like ages, voices came from down the alley Aeona had come down to find the building. King Altador!she thought to herself. Walking where I just was!
Needless to say, her adrenaline peaked when the King and two figures beside him came round a bend. She could see the billowing cape trailing after him, and his gleaming hair, and-
Kuin swore to himself. “What is it?” she asked sharply, not taking her eyes away from her hero.
“I forgot to kill you,” he mumbled. It took a moment to register in her mind.
“What?” she whispered, and saw that the dagger was unsheathed and in his paw.
He lunged at her with a grace and agility that shocked her- it was only luck that she dived from the lunge and began to tumble down the roof. Screaming, her paws caught on the gutter, keeping her from falling.
“What’s that?” one of King Altador’s guards shouted. The King was only about ten feet away!
Kuin jumped from the rooftop onto his feet, and brandished the dagger. Suddenly, memory surged through Aeona’s body-
“Wh-hat are you doing? she asked. “Who- who are you?”
“I could ask the same thing,” he mumbled and sheathed the dagger. “I’m remarkably sure you’re not an assassin.”
He wasn’t a member of the King’s Guard, he was the assassin!
The Guards were sharp and jumped on him, but with jabs of the shoulder into their heads Kuin knocked them to their knees. He faced King Altador, who was clearly shocked.
“What- what are you doing?” he asked, aghast.
Kuin answered with a laugh. “You didn’t let me into the Guards... so here I am... getting my revenge. My whole family was accepted into them, but not me! Kuin, the outcast!”
King Altador’s memory clicked. “You weren’t accepted because you threatened your superior officers. Accept it, and move on!”
Aeona knew she had to do something- she was hanging from the rooftop, barely! Looking down, she saw she unfortunately had no crates to jump on. Swinging herself back so she didn’t hit her head on the overhanging gutter, she jumped.
Pain lashed up her paws, and they began to throb when she landed. Her balance was finally knocked out, and she slammed into the ground. She winced and yelped at the pain, but saw that Kuin was advancing on the King.
“Won’t you fight back?” Kuin asked the King, putting the knife in a threatening position.
“I will never hurt a civilian,” King Altador answered, but his face showed true terror.
Gathering up courage, Aeona yelled, “But I will!”
She started running, paws throbbing, but launched herself on Kuin as he jumped to try and stab the Lupe. The added weight brought him face-first into the cobbled stone ground.
Kuin grabbed her and wrestled with her, the dagger knocked out of his hands. She punched him square on the nose, while he kicked at her. The two threw everything they had at each other, neither having an advantage.
Voices and trotting of footsteps brought her attention back to the real world, and not focused on Kuin, which meant she received a punch for her lack of attention. Something grabbed her fur on her back, and she was hoisted backwards, away from the Scorchio.
“Guards!” shouted King Altador. “Arrest him!”
Vision coming back into focus, Aeona saw about twenty guards surrounding them. King Altador had obviously summoned help while she had immersed herself in fighting.
Kuin’s paws were tied behind him with a piece of rope, and the guards held him in front of the King.
“Send him back to the city,” King Altador said with a monotone voice. “He will await judgment there.”
Four guards bowed, and took Kuin down the cobbled streets. Kuin shouted, “The girl! It’s all her fault!”
“Silence!” barked one of the Skeith guards, and Kuin fell silent.
It suddenly occurred to Aeona that she probably didn’t look all too pretty right then. Her fur was –well, her mother would have had a fit- her nose was most likely broken, and she was breathing heavily.
“Wha-what just happened?” she asked nobody in particular. Something shattered in herself; King Altador was right in front of her.
“I believe you should speak first, Ms...”
“Aeona,” she said, jumping at the chance to talk to the King. “You see, sir...” She paused. “Should I bow or something? I mean, I’ve always looked up to you and all and you’re my hero and-”
The King laughed, surprising her as well as the guards.
“Ms. Aeona, there is no need to bow. Please, your story.”
“Yes, sir. I- I read in this book, Altador- A Royal Hierarchy, that you were going to be here tonight! So, because I really really wanted to see you, I came!”
The King nodded. “That book’s been out of print for a long time. I’m surprised you found a copy. Anyways, go on.”
Aeona drew in her breath. “And I knew that building over there was near the harbor, so I went up there. Kuin was up there as well, and he said he was a member of the King’s Guard. I believed him! I know it’s stupid now that I think about it, but it made sense then! But then when he saw you he tried to kill me! But I fell, and I was barely hanging onto the roof, and then I dropped! And then I saw Kuin advancing on you and I knew I had to do something!”
She was becoming more hysterical by the end of her speech- she started shaking. Things like this didn’t happen to her.
“Sir,” she continued when no one spoke, “don’t you have more guards out? I mean, anyone who has read the book knows you’re here!”
King Altador shifted. “There are many guards in the vicinity. They are under strict orders to not come out of hiding unless I tell them to, which, I admit, I forgot to.”
He blushed as much as a king could, and Aeona smiled. Kings made mistakes, too! Just the thought baffled her mind.
“Thank you, Aeona. You have saved my life.”
He held out a paw.
The guards nearby sucked in their breath- the King was reaching out to a civilian!
She took the paw, and they shook. Aeona looked into his dark blue eyes-, which she could clearly make out from the moon.
“Sir...” she searched for the right words. “You are so cool.”
A bark of laughter erupted from him. “Aeona, you are... cool... as well. I will dedicate a ceremony in your name.”
The words flew through the Gelert’s mind.
“Sir?” she asked. “Sir! I didn’t do anything!”
The guards shifted; obviously, they disagreed.
“You saved my life,” he repeated. “And I wish to show my thanks.”
“Your Majesty, with all due respect, I don’t want a ceremony,” she told him, shocking herself with her words. “I-I just wanted to meet you. And I did. So I thank you, sir. You had best be seeing to the merchants, now, sir. They must be waiting.”
King Altador was thoroughly surprised.
“And believe me, sir, if my parents knew I was here-”
The Lupe held up a paw. “Do as you wish,” he softly told her.
She smiled. “Thank you, sir.”
Aeona dusted herself off, and sprinted back home.
It was only a day later that the shock of Aeona’s adventure began to wear off. Her parents and sister had been none the wiser- although it was extremely hard to explain the broken nose to them. They finally believed that, due to an extreme case of clumsiness, she had fallen from her bed.
When Aeona was reading her book of Altador- A Royal Hierarchy again that day, a knock came from the door.
She quickly got up, and opened it. She yelped at whom she saw.
It was King Altador, dressed in civilian clothes.
“May I come in?” he asked.
The Gelert, with a jaw wide open, moved to let him in.
“Aeona, who’s at the door?” asked her mother from the kitchen. When she came to the door herself, she dropped the spoon she was holding.
“Kin-King Altador?” she whispered.
He nodded, and turned to Aeona.
“Ms. Aeona,” he started, “I don’t believe I paid my respects to you well enough. I tracked down your house from your name alone to give you- this.”
He held out a pouch, which Aeona took with trembling hands. This belonged in her dreams, not reality.
Opening it, she saw that it held a fortune of jewels and small treasures. She closed it with the strings, and held it back out.
“Sir, I am very sorry, but I cannot accept this,” she told him. “My instincts reacted. Nothing else.”
King Altador sighed and accepted it. “I knew you’d say that. Please, take this, though.”
He dug in one of his pockets to show her a bronze bracelet. “Show this to any Guard, and they will allow you to see me. I hope to meet you again, Ms. Aeona. There is always a spot for you in Altador city.”
Aeona held out a paw, and took the bracelet. It shimmered, and turned a pale green.
“It means you’re a personal friend of the King,” he told her with a wry smile.
“I-I would be honored to call you my friend,” she whispered, staring directly into his eyes.
“Excellent,” he said with a clap of his hands. “I’d best get going. And, it’s very nice to meet you, too,” he directed to Aeona’s mother.
He opened the door and left. It was over.
“Oh, my,” breathed her mother. “What was that about?”
Aeona stared at the bracelet, which continued to shimmer each time she moved her wrist.
“To tell you the truth, I really don’t know,” Aeona told her mother truthfully. “I mean, really, I only saved his life, nothing else...”
Her mother raised her eyebrows.
“Really, I have to keep my eye on you,” she told Aeona. “I need an explanation on why the King himself came here.”
So they both sat down, and Aeona told her everything.
King Altador, outside Aeona’s house, paused to admire the glorious day. One of his generals came up to him.
“Sir,” the general told him, “Is everything all right?”
The King smiled. “Everything is perfect,” he replied.
As he went down the cobbled streets, King Altador whispered, “I’m not done with you yet, Ms. Aeona... you have an interesting future.”