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Kidnapped

By Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

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Tabitha rolled over on the stone floor of wherever she was-- it was too dark to see-- and carefully checked herself for injury. Her body ached and her head pounded, but otherwise she was fine. She wasn’t even bound. Odd. People usually made sure she was tied plenty tightly when they kidnapped her.

Tabitha had been kidnapped six times as a baby, and stolen twice during her early childhood. Even as a young woman she’d faced abductors on several occasions, all hoping to use her against her father in some way or another. Fools were always dead within a week, and Tabitha back in her father’s strong arms.

After her family’s deaths, the kidnapping had stopped for a few months. At first, no one thought the Dark King’s daughter would matter without him. Later, killing her seemed much more useful than anything else, when she actually had the nerve to press her claim to the throne. She was only seventeen, and many seemed to think that she wasn’t suited to rule her father’s bloody, militaristic empire on her own. Nevermind that, as his favorite child, Tabitha had learned everything her father knew, from how to fight and command an army to how to make certain the servants made her favorite food how she liked it.

Well, she had plenty of time to prove herself to all the irritating lords and princes she ruled, and her father’s generals all adored her, so she was never too afraid of losing her place as Empress. But she'd really hoped that she could have moved past the kidnapping part of her life. Apparently she wasn’t so lucky.

A sound drew Tabitha’s attention, and she forced herself to sit up just as a door slammed open, revealing a bright flash of torchlight that she had to shield her eyes from to avoid going blind. As soon as her eyes began to adjust, Tabitha squinted up to get a look at the man who held the torch… or, actually, the woman. One of those pale faced island girls who the Dark King had conquered when Tabitha was six. They were always trying to rebel, even though they lacked even half the resources they’d need to win. And she didn’t look much older than Tabitha herself. Maybe eighteen? Nineteen years? The young empress let her head tilt to one side, studying the girl. Surely this wasn’t her captor, was it?

“You’re awake,” The girl said, standing with the torch raised in one hand and a dagger in the other.

“Awake and hungry,” Tabitha agreed, rubbing her head and shifting positions so that she could rest her chin on her knees. “What do you want?”

As expected, the girl didn’t seem to have any idea what to do with that response. She just stared at her prisoner for a moment, her mouth open, before shaking herself and pointing the dagger threateningly. “I am Areyea,” she said. “Niece of Karatono.”

“Am I supposed to know who that is?”

Areyea grit her teeth. “Our ruler, you fiend!”

Oh. In that case, she really should have known him. Was it the island’s prince her father killed? Or maybe it was his son. Tabitha nodded. “Right. Of course. And you’re here to get revenge or something? I have some bad news for you, Areyea.” She climbed to her feet, careless of the girl’s weapon. “My father is dead, and I had nothing to do with his conquest. So you might as well get over yourself and let me go before my generals find you. Some of them can be quite creative in their punishments, and they’re very loyal to me and my family.”

Once again Areyea opened her mouth and then closed it, confusion and anger blending into a violently perplexed storm on her face. “I-- no,” she said. “I know that. I’m not here for… I’m not an idiot! I know what your monsters would do to my people if I killed you!”

Well, that explained the kidnapping anyway. Just a more direct blackmail than the other ones. Tabotha sighed, dusting her dress off. “Well, what DO you want then? I have meetings to attend, and I don’t have time for this.”

“... Stop acting like you don’t care,” Areyea scowled. “You’re my prisoner!”

“I do care.” Tabitha raised an eyebrow at her. “I’m just rather used to this. It happens when your father is the most terrifying man in the continent. So? Are you finished waving that thing around?”

For a moment the girl just glared at her. But finally, she sheathed the dagger. “You were crowned empress four months ago” she stated. “We weren’t allowed to attend. If you won’t accept us as part of your empire, why won’t you just let us go? Your father is not here to force you to keep us prisoner any longer.”

“And you thought the best way to make your complaint was via abduction?” Tabitha demanded. “I never ordered you to be kept out of the coronation, you probably just assumed you couldn’t come. Idiots.”

Aeyera’s face reddened. “We did not! Uncle tried to request an invitation months in advance, and we were turned down!”

“Well, I didn’t turn you down.” Why would she? Their islands were a part of the empire. Them wanting to come was actually a good sign after all their struggles to separate themselves from the mainland. “You could have sent in a letter of complaint or something.”

“They wouldn’t talk to us,” the girl growled.

“Who wouldn’t? Give me a name,” Tabitha countered. “I’ll have him executed for interfering in my business, if you can prove your words. Not from in here, of course,” she added, pointedly glancing around the room. It was small, stone all around with no windows and only the one door. A cell of some kind; not unique enough to tell the young empress where she might be.

“...” The girl hesitated. “You… you’re just trying to get me to let you go.”

“You’re right. But I really will do as I say,” Tabitha promised. “My people don’t have much respect for me yet. If someone’s getting between me and my work, they’ll ruin my chance of winning any kind of trust from them, and I will kill them to keep that from happening.”

“Respect? You want us to respect the daughter of the invader?” Areyea scoffed.

“Yes.”

“... you’re mocking me,” Areyea accused.

“I’m not.” Tabotha smiled at her. “My father is dead, Areyea. I didn’t kill him so that things could keep going as they have been-- I intend to gain proper respect from my empire. And I’ll start by seeing that your people have a representative in my palace, if that’s what you want. Oh, but if you poison me again, I’ll let my generals have you for punishment. Are we done here?”

They stared at each other, the empress with a cool smile and the island girl with a disbelieving gape.

“You-- you killed the Invader?!?!”

Tabitha shrugged. “He was a monster. I knew that.”

“But-- but everyone says--”

“That I was loyal to him?” Taboth interrupted. “That I inherited his bloodlust? Oh, or is it the thing about me being angry when they insult him to my face? People always act as though I should be delighted to be rid of him. It’s insulting.” She shook her head. “I loved my father, Areyea the niece of… Karanoto. I really did. But after he killed my mother and all four of my brothers, I couldn’t really afford to sit still anymore.” Tabitha was his favorite-- he taught her all he knew-- and he never expected her to turn on him. It was easy, really. That didn’t mean she needed people to tell her what he was. She knew he’d been a monster. She also knew that he’d personally come to rescue her every time someone stole her away from him, and that he’d tucked her in and sang her to sleep at night. Violent, murderous snake that he was, he was still Tabitha’s father.

“It was you,” Areyea said, and Tabitha had to shake herself to remember what the girl was talking about. Her gaze was on the ground, and the torch lowered. “We wrote to you, and your name was on the reply. That’s why I stole you. I- I didn’t think you’d see me if I came to you at the palace. But we can’t just keep living like this! We’ve lost everything, we can’t just-- just sit back and let you treat us like dirt too!”

Tabotha watched a tear roll down the girl’s face. “Where are we?” she asked.

“... Lord Savvis’s manor,” Areyea murmured. “Uncle has been in contact with him for years. He said he would help us find our place in the empire, if we agreed not to rebel again.”

“Brilliant. He’s the one who lied to you.”

Areyea looked up sharply. “What? No, he’s our ally!”

“He’s the one you’ve been communicating with, he’s near enough to intercept the letter, and important enough to think he can get out of punishment if he’s caught.” Tabitha looked around again. “Unless you ‘ve been allying yourself with multiple suspicious lords in the capital?”

The girl hesitated. “No… only he’s been willing to talk to us. The others say we’re savages.”

“We're all savages,” Tabitha chuckled. “Humanity is too savage to avoid it. Are you going to let me out now, or do I have to fight you? I’d rather not. I’m tired, and I’d rather be able to send you home with a message about this mess; if you attack me I’ll have to pin the blame for this fiasco on you too.”

“...Too?”

Tabitha cracked her knuckles. “You don’t think I’m going to let Savvis get away with manipulating you into kidnapping me, do you? I bet he was hoping to get me killed. He could use your people to support his own soldiers and try to take control, or have you framed and slaughtered to try to prove I’m just my father again, and gain support from the common people against him.”

Areyea hesitated a moment longer, staring at her prisoner. Then she stepped out of the way, and Tabotha strolled past her.

Honestly, this was such a pain. But at least she could get rid of a threat in Lord Savvis.

“You really won’t take revenge on my people?” the girl called, following behind her. “You’ll let us come to the palace?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“... Thank you,” Areyea said. Tabitha paused, looking back at her. That was… surprisingly genuine sounding. People weren’t usually very honest to the young empress.

“Why did they send you, anyway?” Tabitha asked. “You’re awfully young to be playing assassin or whatever.”

Areyea’s face went red and she looked away. It was funny how many shades pale-faced people could turn, Tabitha thought with amusement. So colorful.

“They, um… didn’t send me,” the island girl admitted. “I came on my own. Lord Savvis let me stay here because I showed him my uncle’s mark, but he said we weren’t ready to act yet and was gonna send me home… he doesn't exactly know you’re here…”

He didn’t know? Tabitha found herself laughing, pausing in her walk to lean against the wall, her hand over her mouth. “No wonder you’re such a mess! By the bloodless, Areyea, you’ve sure done me a favor!” She whipped tears from her eyes. This was so ridiculous-- the empress kidnapped by a confused teenager with no idea what she was doing politically and held in the castle of a traitor who didn’t even know he was holding his enemy. “If your uncle still has that false letter with my name , I swear, I’ll make you a lady in court,” she promised. “I need more messes like you around me. Maybe next time you’ll get over eager and accidentally unveil the leader of that stupid rebellion in the east, too!” Finally straightening, she gestured for the startled girl to give her the dagger that hung on her belt. “Come on. Let’s go arrest a lord, okay?”

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About Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

Genevieve is an aspiring author who has been dabbling in the arts of storytelling and writing for almost as long as she remembers. She writes mostly in the fantasy genre, and has received an Honorable Mention in the 'Writer's of the Future' contest for her short story 'A Faerie's Will'.

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