i. l a n a

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T h ef l a s h e so fs i l v e r⠀and the shouts of the men who were holding wooden sticks had always entranced Lana from a young age. Even though now she knew that she was not the only one who was watching someone else in those first few months, she had always thought she was so sneaky hiding behind some bushes. She would pretend to hold a sword and mimic the men's positions hoping to be accepted into the army someday even though her mother had said that that was an absurd and insane thought.

And to think, she was moments away from becoming general.

Lana let a small smile grace her lips at the thought as she turned to give one last look at herself in her mirror. An excited girl looked back at her. Lana almost didn't recognize herself. Her usually steely eyes had turned into melted chocolate at the thought of what would be happening in the coming few hours. Her tanned skin from too many days in the hot Eclisian sun was scrubbed clean and her usually frizzy hair had been washed and was now silky and soft to the touch.

The light tap of a knuckle on the door snapped Lana back to reality, and the door opened to reveal the one person whom she had not expected.

He was encompassed in gold—gold chains holding the seal of the house of Eclisa, which were coated in gold as well, weighed down his neck. His graying dark hair looked almost dulled in comparison to the lavish crown placed firmly on his head. Adorning his fingers were multiple rings embedded with rubies and sapphires and the like—each looking heavy enough to affect the wearer's ability to perform normal tasks on any given day. His trailing robe was sown with what looked like actual gold fibers embellished with black embroidery stitched with the steadiest of hands and the most imaginative of minds.

"Your Majesty," Lana said dropping into a swift curtsy.

"Kajal," He said with a small nod of acknowledgment.

Lana's heart picked up speed as she looked up to meet his eyes. His hands were folded in front of him, his eyebrows pulled together and his hard eyes stared back at her. The King had always given her the feeling that she was worth close to the amount a piece of rotten wood would be to a metal smith. Now his presence made her stomach turn—this close to the ceremony that would give her one of the highest positions of power in the country and he was still giving her that look.

"You've done well, far better than anyone else I've known," he started keeping his eyes locked on hers as if he was trying to find a shred of untruth floating in them. "And that is why you've been chosen for this honor. I am not here to change that if you see reason."

Her lips turned downwards in a frown. What more reason would she have to see in order to receive a promotion that would have been presented to anyone else much earlier if they had been a male or one of noble birth?

"You are a woman." Lana had to literally bite her tongue to keep from snapping out one of her many quick replies that being around Magnar for six years had been drilled into her head. "And you are in a man's world. Before you can take this title you must understand a few things—see the world from my point of view if you will."

Her lips involuntarily pursed at the words. She had been the receiver of many 'talks' over the years of being in the King's Army. Every Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel and General that had been her commanding officer or her teacher had given her a very similar speech before they taught her anything or lead her anywhere. She would then promptly tell them to stick it where the sun never shone and duel her on the spot to see if she was messing around—but Lana didn't think that that would be a very wise decision when talking to the King.

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