1 The Eye Of The Prey

Ray'ven rolled her eyes as the guard continued to hover over her, his body tense and prepared to attack any enemies that made themselves known.

That was ridiculous however, seeing as they were the only ones, besides the captain and the six other guards on the airship. Her father really did go overboard on the protection detail.

"Relax," she said. "We are only going to go visit my cousin, I don't see why father even insisted on me bringing seven of you in the first place." Ray'ven huffed.

The guard stared down at her with a frown, his brown eyes serious as he spoke. "It is only for your protection Princess, My Lord Ja'ule only wishes for you to be safe."

Ray'ven sighed softly, a warm feeling in her chest as she thought about her father, the king.

He was a strict man and ruled the lands with an iron fist, but he was always gentle when it came to her. Gentle and overprotective.

She couldn't count how many times that a suitor lost interest suddenly and although he would never admit it, she was pretty certain that her father had something to do with all of them.

"My Lady, we are approaching the docks to the Magiano estate." One of the guards informed her, coming below deck where she had been situated.

She gave him a nod of thanks, standing, the skirts of her finely made emerald colored dress swishing against her legs as she did. She took the arm that the guard held out for her, allowing him to escort her above deck.

The sight that greeted her brought a smile to her face. The Magiano estate was truly a beautiful one, overlooking the towns down below and giving an excellent view of the stars when they shone at night.

She remembered stargazing with both her cousin and her brother when they were younger and naming each of the stars.

The thought of her brother, Bynx, brought a small frown to her face. They hadn't spoken much recently and she knew that he was ignoring her purposely.

They were growing further apart each day. It had been this way ever since father had named her heir. They hadn't been that close to begin with, but now Bynx seemed almost hostile.

"My lady?"

The question brought her out of her thoughts and she looked over to the guard who was watching her questioningly. "Yes, My apologies, I was lost in thought. Did you say something?"

The guard frowned slightly before nodding his head. "I was informing you that Sir Rogan is here to see you to the estate."

At the mention of his name, the man came into view, offering her a smile and bowing. Ray'ven giggled, waving a hand at him.

"Now, now. None of that uncle Rogan," she said as he raised from his bow. Skipping over to him she slid her arm through his and grinned up at him. "Let's go, I can't wait to see Strel."

The walk to the estate was short and Ray'ven spent most of the time chatting away with Rogan and trying to ignore the way the guards walked too closely.

The moment they reached the front door, Ray'ven lifted the hem of her skirts and shot forward inside with an excited shout. "Strel!"

Strelitzia was nervous to meet with her cousin once again after such a long period of time. It had been years since the last time her parents allowed company over, especially family.

She didn't remember why exactly but she had missed the princess terribly. They were close as children and it was a bond she felt lasted through the separation, or at least she hoped.

She heard the front door open and someone was calling her name. Her head peeked out of the doorway to the receiving room and her eyes widened at the sight.

There was Ray'ven hurtling down the hallway with a look of excitement on her face. Strel ran to meet her with arms flung open to embrace the taller female. "Cousin Ray'ven! Gods it's been so long. I've missed you so much."

Ray'ven grinned happily as she bent down and hugged the shorter girl tightly before pulling back and taking a good look at her. "My, you have grown since I saw you last, dear cousin. You've come into womanhood nicely." Ray'ven gave her a wink and giggled at the blush that spread on Strel's cheeks.

"And you are the very image of a princess. Come though, we have so much to talk about. Away from the ears of everyone else. You must catch me up on everything." She took Ray'ven's hand in her own, pulling the princess along to her rooms.

With a glance over her shoulder to her parents and the guards who had begun to move as if to follow, "You all may wait until we're done. We are not to be disturbed unless it's the maids with refreshments."

Ray'ven shooed them away with her free hand. "Go, guard something." She ordered them before allowing Strel to pull her the rest of the way down the hall.

She was yanked into the room and the door was shut and locked behind them. Taking a seat across from Strel she saw her cousin frown. "What is bothering you? You look upset?"

Strelitzia wrung her hands amongst the fabric of her dress. She was so excited for this day in the week before it had been announced but she had completely forgotten that her meeting with Eddy Vanguard was the same day.

She had begged and pleaded with her parents to reconsider but they wouldn't budge. The man was her betrothed and she absolutely dreaded every second she was forced to spend with him. He was old, inconsiderate, and only wanted her as a pretty piece to wear on his arm.

"You've heard of my engagement, yes?" She waited for a moment until she received a nod of confirmation from Ray'ven. "That man is truly awful. I don't understand why we can't find men of our own choosing. It's such a bother."

Ray'ven nodded her head in understanding. "I agree. Father has already spoken to me about the possible engagement to Councilman Garvet."

At the mention of his name she shuddered in disgust. That man was the very definition of disgusting, with his droopy eyes and saggy skin. Ray'ven shuddered again. "I think I would prefer Eddy over Garvet any day."

Strelitzia nodded in agreement but still couldn't help the disappointment she felt in their parents. She understood duties and obligations, but wasn't there a line to be drawn? Would they really be satisfied to marry off their daughters to those men?

Their wealth was hardly important considering both women came from the crown and never wanted for anything. Strel sighed, those round green eyes gazing at her cousin in sadness. "Let's talk about something less gross, please. Tell me how you and Bynx and uncle have been. What's the capital like?"

"It's wonderful there, even if I am not allowed out without at least twenty guards trailing behind me, father can be a bit overbearing at times." She said in exasperation. "He is well, nothing has changed with him much. Bynx however…" She trailed off.

"We have not spoken much lately, he is always away and when I do see him he simply stares at me coldly. I feel as if I have done something to upset him but by the Gods I don't know what." Biting her lip, Ray'ven shook her head with a sigh before offering Strelitzia a smile.

"I'm sorry, no need to hear me rant." She apologised before her eyes caught the sight of something out the window past Strel's head. Her brows pulled together in confusion. "What is that?" She pointed.

Strel's gaze followed where her cousin pointed. Outside of her window she could see men scaling the walls around the estate; several of them could be seen disarming guards and slitting their throats.

A hand rose to cover her mouth as her skin paled from the shock. "Pirates.." It came out as less than a whisper. The loud drumming of her heart drowned out everything else. "Pirates!" She said even louder this time. "We need to tell my parents and hide!"

Alarm filled Ray'ven at her cousin's words. Pirates? What were pirates doing here? A loud banging echoed from down the hall causing both girls to jump in fright.

The screams of the servants soon followed and a cold chill ran down Ray'ven's spine. "They are inside!" Her voice rose in her panic and she had to take a deep breath to calm herself.

It'll be fine, the guards are out there. It'll be fine. Her mind repeated this over and over again, but the screams and grunts of pain only seemed to grow louder and closer.

She clutched Strel's hand in her own while reaching for the dagger that she kept hidden in her boot. She had never had to actually use it since the guard always took care of any threats, but today felt as if it would be different.

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