Part 4

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Danna didn't fight. She didn't protest. She didn't try to run. The one thing she did do was give up.

It was over. She'd been given the most shocking reality check of her life. Everyone was going to hurt her. Everyone wanted to use her for their own selfish reasons. True love didn't exist, not the kind she'd always dreamed of, not the kind she'd given up everything for. She'd left her family, her country, her friends, her home, her life—she'd given up the past year, waiting and dreaming and hoping that her true love would find her.

Well, it had. Danna had truly loved Nobelle. Nobelle just had not loved her back. People didn't betray the ones they loved; they didn't use them for their own personal gain. By that simple logic, no matter what Nobelle said or Danna felt, Nobelle didn't love her. Not truly. She loved what Danna could give her: power, riches, absolution. But she couldn't give Danna what she needed in return: love.

Danna trudged slowly behind the mounted knights. The one request she'd made had been granted; she'd asked to be allowed to walk to her doom. She wanted to be as alone as possible. She didn't want to feel the heat of a horse beneath her, the strength of a knight behind her. She wanted to feel the hard, unyielding ground beneath her sore feet, the endless sky above her, making her feel small, insignificant, and trapped.

In a day's time, they would arrive in the capital. Her mother would cry and welcome her home; her father would honor and congratulate Myron. How long would it take to plan a royal wedding? How long would it take for Myron to make her his wife in practice? Her entire life was unraveling before her eyes, but she no longer cared. All the fight had gone out of her. She would marry Myron as her father had decreed; she would have his babies, as their marriage decreed. She would love her people, as station decreed. She would be the most dutiful woman in all of history and put her past frivolity behind her.

She took a deep breath, trying to relax her tight chest. This was her life now, and she'd best get used to it. It was easier to be a dutiful wife, mother, and queen than to cry over her wounded heart and pride.

*~*~*

Nobelle lurked outside the camp after nightfall. The horses were asleep on the far side of the camp. She couldn't see them in the dying firelight, but she could hear their snorting breaths. The two guards on duty were half-asleep at their posts, and beyond them, two more snored in their bedrolls. A small tent had been constructed, and she could only assume Myron and Danna were inside, hopefully sleeping and nothing more despite the faint glow of light inside the tent. Her stomach rolled at the thought of Myron so much as laying a hand on Danna.

She adjusted her grip on the cloth in her gloved hands. It was soaked in a chemical that would knock someone unconscious if they inhaled it; she kept a small bottle of it on her person at all times. It only took moments for her to hold down the first knight and keep the rag over his mouth until his struggling went limp. The second followed after, and then she made her way through the camp until the only two left were Myron and Danna.

Myron was sitting awake in the tent, watching Danna lying beside him in a way that made Nobelle sick when she burst in. It took just a moment for Nobelle's eyes to adjust to the flickering lamps in the tent, and they did so in time for her to see Myron's eyes widen in fear.

"Guards! Guards!" he cried, his voice filled with false bravado. He was short. That was the first thing Nobelle noticed, and she had to assume his cockiness was overcompensation for both his height and perhaps the size of other parts of his anatomy. He was stocky too, and his voice was reedy, higher than a man's voice typically was. He was dressed richly, and by his tone and posture, he was accustomed to getting his way.

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