What is fate? I’ve heard that fate is something that’s going to happen, no matter what you do. Some say that fate is just the future. You can change it with whatever you do, whatever choice you make.
Is fate fixed? I wouldn’t know, from birth on everyone kept telling me what to do, what to think and what to say. So was my fate to be decided by my parents, or by their ideals?
Can you change fate? If there was any way to change my fate, I would do it. If there was a way to change my life, to change my position, I would do it! Would it work to change my fate if I would stop doing as I was told? I couldn’t tell for now what would happen if I just jumped out of my pattern and left my home, my family and my entire life.
Is there a way to prevent things from happening? If there was a specific fate, was there a way to actually change the things that could happen by changing the already decided things?
Why were things the way they are? Was there a special reason for everyone being who they are? Was there a reason for a murderer to be a murderer? Was there a reason for me to be a princess? Not an especially important princess, I had a few older sisters and brothers. But still, my parents planned to sell me off to some old crown prince or just a regular prince just to connect our kingdoms.
But what could I do? I was only a child, at least referring to my age. From birth, I had been trained, or rather drilled to be a perfect doll, a perfect princess. That included not only manners and knowledge but also strength. A princess’s body had to look perfect at any time. Even in the middle of the night would a princess have to look as perfect as if she had just left a beauty treatment!
Was there any way to just live the way I wanted to? To play with the other kids whenever I wanted? Or at least at appropriate times such as after studies or after lunch?
I was only ten years old! What was the reason for me to be ready at my age to get married? Normally I still had at least four years until I would marry. That’s why I didn’t understand my parents rush to prepare me and my sisters to get married, although nobody had come to propose to any of us yet. Not even Dionne, who would be fifteen in the summer. Only our oldest sister, Madison was promised to marry a crown prince only a few hours on horseback from our kingdom.
Our brothers, Darius, the oldest, and Callum, the second oldest, had a fiancé already, but neither of them was closer to actually getting married than Madison. Would I ever be able to change my fate?
My time to change my life came about five years after I had started to think about fate and about all the things I could do to try and change it.
By the time I was thirteen, I got married to a prince from a surrounding kingdom. He was rarely at home since he was a Commander in some far away place to lead an army in the war against the enemy. I couldn’t even tell who the enemy was or what they were fighting for.
In his absence, I took my time to study whatever I could in this new home. In a home that had barely any books or scrolls. Instead, I had a servant to instruct me in fighting skills. My excuse for doing so was to get one reason to worry, off my husband's shoulders, as I would be able to defend myself.
My mother didn’t know of any of that, and she would never know. After only one year of marriage, I had to say my farewells to her, as she had caught a disease and passed away too soon. My father stayed behind, heartbroken and with the task to find a suitable daughter in law for Adriano and Lisandro and to look over the rest of us, to help us and to support us and to keep the connection for a stronger bond between our allies.
Soon after that, my husband had ordered a special instructor to teach me, in confidence of course. Since a princess’s job was to look pretty and to support her husband, not to fight. But since he knew he’d be away a lot throughout our marriage, he thought it was only considerate to have his princess well able to defend herself and to know she was safe.
Sure, I did have quite a lot of free time compared to my childhood, but I was still the first lady and the highest authority in my husbands’ absence. With his absence I had to learn to take over his duties and responsibilities, that’s when I first understood the importance of being a perfect princess with a good education before we got married. That didn’t mean that I liked it, but I understood the reasons.
You probably couldn’t say that I loved him, but he was good to me, he let me do as I pleased inside his castle, but outside I was his princess and responsible for everything around me, especially his image. Since that was clear to me it wasn’t much better than at home. Here I had a little more freedom, although I didn’t like to be alone here all the time.
Suddenly I wished for my sisters and brothers to be here again, to be here to spend time with me and to keep me company. With a sigh, I returned to my room and changed my clothes for my training sessions. My trainer was the only one to come here except for the servants. My siblings had their own responsibilities, their own kingdoms or country estates to look after.
All I had was a lonely estate and a husband who was at the front for almost our entire marriage. That day, that fateful day, I had my instructor teach me how to handle a dagger. The day when the messenger came when I broke down in tears for the first time in my entire life and if it hadn’t been for my teacher, I would have killed the messenger to make him take back those words he had said.
My husband had fallen at the front.
He wasn’t there anymore! How could that be? Why did he leave me here? Why? “Who did it?” was all I screamed, through my sobs and tears, “Who killed him?” I couldn’t tell if the messenger answered because my instructor pushed me down to the ground so I couldn’t jump towards the man who had told me about my husband.
The next thing I remembered was that I woke up in my bed. With a dry throat, I stood up and stumbled over to the water basin beside the window. Cold water splashed in my face, washed away the salt from my tears, and washed away every emotion that had shaken me. I went to my wardrobe and put on my robe, I needed a black dress. A dress that would express my feelings that I had to lock up deep inside of my chest, so deep that no one would ever find a way to open it.
Only a few hours later I had to go out into the streets wearing a simple but beautiful black dress, hear the sorrowful words, the condolences and see the sad, worried and pitiful looks the people looked at me with. All day long I had to stand there and listen to their words, see their faces, smile and nod at everyone and thank each of them for their sympathy.
All I wanted was to be alone. I wanted to have my mother here with me to hold me, to console me and to tell me everything would be alright. But instead, she would probably be with my husband now, watching over our family. The days that followed were lonely and sorrowful. Since I was alone now I had to make sure the people would still do their work, I had to become the authority, as my late husband had been. It still took me a lot of training to overcome the sadness and to fight those torturing feelings back into the deepest depth of my heart. From that day on, the only colour I wore was black. I went to see my husband every day, sat at his grave and talked to him, tried to forget that he was gone.
Almost a year after he had passed away I didn’t know what to do anymore. I didn’t understand why of all the things I had to lead the reins of this city. Why did it have to be me? Couldn’t just somebody else do that for me? I didn’t even know these people! I had no reason to live. I had lost my belief in fate. How could it be my fate to lose everything and just make sure the people here kept doing what they did all the time anyway? How could that be my fate? Could I change this fate?
After hours of waiting for an answer, I got tired and laid down on the tomb. My black dress hung over the edge, as I pulled my knees closer and rested my head on my left arm. How could I go on like this?
Suddenly I knew what I wanted. What I needed! I wanted revenge! I wanted to see those guys bleed who did that to my husband. I wanted to see every single one of them dead. My heart started to beat a little faster, as the adrenalin pumped through my body. In a fluent move, I sat up, jumped down from the tomb and ran back to the estate. I knew what to do! I knew where to find them! The enemy!
As I reached the estate I slowed down and walked back in a normal, elegant speed, back into my rooms. I had my servants prepare a bath and washed my self. I washed away all the doubt that had overwhelmed me in the year that had passed and filled myself with new energy. I’d need that for what I had planned. For all the things I had in my mind, for my plans to succeed. I asked my maids to use a good lotion for my skin and to bring my jewellery. “I need to go on a journey. I need to see my family.” I said as I instructed her to pack my things. I also called in one of my husbands’ most loyal counsellor and instructed him to supervise the estate in my absence.
In a carriage, I drove off towards my family’s home, but as soon as we were far enough from the estate, I changed the direction and had the coachman drive me to the front. As we were close enough to actually see the camps I felt my heart beat even faster. The coachman slowed down and stopped. “Hey! What are you doing here? This is a warzone!” shouted a soldier and I opened the curtain of my coach before the driver could say a single thing.
“My name is Marlessa; I am the widow of Duke Ashton, Commander of this company and I wish to pay my respects to his troupe,” I said with a loud and clear voice. The soldier immediately saluted and let us pass, as we drove by, I recognized him from the wedding ceremony. His name was Edward, a common, but good old name.
With a deep sigh, I let Edward lead me into a tent, to meet the Commanders. “Our deepest sympathy, princess Marlessa!” the tallest amongst them said, “Duke Ashton was a good man; it is a great loss to us that he is gone now.” I nodded, “I heard he was a Commander with his heart and soul, Commander.” “He most certainly was, princess!” the Commander said, “What brings us the honour to deserve your visit here, your highness?”
“I am here to see for myself what my husband had achieved, if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.” I said calmly, “But the main reason for my visit is because I want to see the faces of those who killed him.” When they heard my words they burst out in laughter and looked at me with amused eyes, “What do you think you want to do here? It is by far too dangerous for a lady such as your self to be here in the first place! We’ll get their heads and send them to you with a messenger if you wish. But I think I speak for all of us if I say go home princess, in honour to Duke Ashton, we let you come here, but it would dishonour him to know his wife walked amongst simple soldiers.”
“If that is what you find most suitable, I shall mount the horses and leave.” I said and turned towards the exit, “I’ll be waiting for your messenger, Commander!” The men stopped laughing and stared at me as I left the tent and returned to the carriage. But I didn’t plan on leaving just yet.
I wouldn’t leave this godforsaken place until I had the men responsible for my husbands’ death in front of me, dead.
“I need to get into the forest on the other side of the camp!” I commanded the driver and sat back into the coach. He didn’t object and led the carriage around the camp towards the woods. This was my time, my time for revenge and my time to make my own destiny, my own fate.
As we reached the forest I instructed him to build a camp. As for myself, I went out into the woods to explore. Soon I found my first target. He had the uniform of a general, an enemy general. They sat around a fire, drinking wine and laughing about stories that another one told them. For a while, I just watched them, observed what they were doing, counted how many of them were there and waited for my chance.
After midnight I sneaked back to the carriage and opened the box with my things. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. The servant sat by the fire, he’d put blankets in the carriage and looked at me very confused as I walked back into the forest. I had brought my dagger. I would need it. Those men were strong. Even if they were drunk, they were still men and very much stronger than me. But still, this was my chance to change my fate.
As the first of them left for their tents again I dared to sneak a bit closer. With each man leaving I sneaked closer until only one man was left. He had red cheeks, grey hair and his eyes didn’t really look straight anymore. Carefully not to pull his attention to myself, I stood up, fixed my hair and hid the dagger in my dress.
After another few minutes, when I was sure nobody would come back to the fire at the edge of the camp, I walked out of my hiding place and tried to look helpless and lost. “Help! Help!” I said with a weak voice and the man immediately turned to me and watched me as I stumbled towards him. “My carriage, a wheel broke and some men killed the coachman and my maids! Please! Help me, Sir! Don’t let them take me away!” I whined and let myself fall down behind the wooden log. “How many men were there?” he asked and came closer. “It was only one! But we are no soldiers! We cannot fight! My maids sacrificed themselves for me! Please protect me!” I begged as he came closer.
“Tell me, Sir, who is your Commander?” I asked weakly and looked at him with big teary eyes, “Maybe if I know him he can send me home! I’m so scared!” “Our Commander is Marcus!” he said proudly and bent down to me, “But if you wish, I could bring you home as well, or you could stay with us, I’m sure the men will be delighted!”
“I’m sure this is the wine speaking, otherwise you should be ashamed of yourself!” I protested, pulled the dagger out of my dress and stabbed it into his chest. He didn’t even have the chance to see the blade coming since he was so close to me already. Blood splashed all over me, soaked my hair and my clothes and my skin. The man coughed blood and fell backwards over the log and didn’t make another sound.
My heart raced and I couldn’t breathe properly, so I quickly ran away from the camp, back to the carriage, back into my hiding place. “Milady, what happened?” asked the coachman as he saw blood on my dress. “Nothing, you didn’t see anything and I was here all the time, do you understand!” I commanded and went into the carriage to change and get some water to wash my self.
My first target was Commander Marcus! With a smile, I cleaned the dagger and went to sleep without another word.
The next day I spent my time exploring the surroundings, looking for good hiding places and got familiar with the area. If I had to run, I wanted to know where I was going and to know places to hide out. Commander Marcus was my goal, my first real target. Of course, I wanted to see all of them dead, all of our enemies, but they would get suspicious too soon and kill me before I had the chance to finish my business. I had to stick with the Commanders!
When the sunset that night, I went back to my camp to get my dagger and a pretty, clean dress. Since my next target was Commander Marcus, I’d need something more convincing and better than only a helpless damsel in distress. When I reached the camp I watched them again as they sat by the fire and chatted. Patiently I waited until he stood up from the fire and walked towards the shadows. It didn’t take long until he saw me, so I walked towards the river, slowly so he would follow, but fast enough so he wouldn’t catch up to me.
From time to time I looked over my shoulder to see if he was still following me and to give him a little motivation to keep following. When I reached the riverbed I slowed down so he could catch up. My heart started to beat faster again, as he approached me. “Who might you be?” asked the Commander calmly. “My name is Marlessa,” I said and looked at him, “Commander Marcus!”
“Marlessa,” he repeated and asked, “Are you an angel or a ghost, beautiful Marlessa?” “If you want me to be that, I’ll be an angel or a ghost.” I said in a mysterious voice, “Tell me about the other Commanders in your camp and towards the front! Tell me about them, Commander Marcus!” As he visually undressed me with his eyes, he started to blab.
Slowly I came closer, fumbling with the band of my dress. The Commanders’ eyes almost popped out of his head, as I stood in front of him and let my hand brush over his chest, while I walked behind him.
“Were these all the Commanders?” I asked still standing behind him after he told me all too willingly about his colleagues and reached out for my dagger. “Yes, those were all our Commanders,” Marcus said with a sigh when I let my fingers run over his neck. “Thank you, Commander Marcus!” I whispered in his ear and slit his throat with the dagger.
For two weeks I continued this pattern and worked through my list. I used different methods to lure them away, but those men were all the same. They were weak with beautiful women.
The next Commander on my list was a man called Cedric. We had moved our camp further into the forest, further down the river to be closer to the other camps with the remaining Commanders. Commander Cedric was probably the youngest Commander I’d had on my list so far. He was a handsome man, tall, dark hair, dark brown eyes and a playful, but a masculine way of messing with the other men. He seemed to be a trustworthy man towards his subordinates.
All day long I observed him, tried to find his weakness and a way to approach him without anyone seeing me. It had been quite a commotion with all the dead Commanders. Nobody had seen anything but still, there were dead men and they feared more men would go missing and reappear dead. But the men were brave and soldiers, they took it as a test of bravery to go out into the forest alone.
Commander Cedric had a habit. During my observation time I found out that he was a devoted soldier, but every day he went out into the forest to think and to plan strategies, all by himself. Usually, he would go to the same place around the same time.
The next day I dressed up in a clean simple red dress with a blue sash and tied my dark hair partly up and let the long curls fall over my left shoulder. I took my dagger along and hid it close to me, but not visible.
Quietly I sat down on a rock and looked at the water and the current in the river. When I finally heard the footsteps I turned around and put on a surprised face. “What’s a beautiful lady doing all by herself in the forest? That should not be allowed, milady.” Commander Cedric said and stopped several meters away from me. “I was only enjoying this lovely day,” I said with a vague smile and backed off a little. “Nothing to worry, milady, I’m a man of honour and I would never touch a lady without her consent, unlike other men. That brings me back to my question, what is a lady such as your self doing here without any protection?”
“I ran away from home,” I said and looked at him. He didn’t come any closer. “What is your name, little runaway?” he asked with a smile. “My name is Marlessa. What is yours, Sir?” I asked shyly. “My name is Cedric, milady!” the Commander said, “Do you need anything? If you wish I could send off one or two of my men to escort you to a safe place or back home if you changed your mind. You would have my word that those men will not touch you either.” Quickly I shook my head, “I don’t think I want to go home. I… I…” I pretended to lose my consciousness and let myself fall sideways towards the grass.
The Commander dove towards me and caught me before I fell on the ground. Instead, I fell on top of the Commander. Carefully he put me down on the ground to check for injuries but obviously didn’t find anything. He took off his coat and put it under my head and sat down about a meter apart and watched me in my pretended unconsciousness.
He really didn’t do anything! Was he not attracted to me? Wasn’t I pretty enough for him? Or did he have a wife already? Maybe even a family? What did I do? I realised that I had done the same to their wife’s and kids and families as what they had done to me! But they were doing this to protect their families, and me? I did it for revenge, for hatred!
Shocked over what I had done I opened my eyes and sat up. Surprised the Commander looked at me, “I’m glad you’re awake, lady Marlessa. Are you alright?” Irritated I looked around myself, looked at him and his brown, warm, curious and honest eyes, his sweet smile and my heart began to race again.
As fast as I could I stood up and started to run. I ran as fast as I could and as far as I could, away from him and these confusing and depressing feelings. I had never felt like this before, I just knew that what I had done was wrong! Those were not my enemies! These men were the same as everyone else! They only tried to protect what was important to them and they followed orders!
Suddenly someone grabbed my arm and pulled me around, “Where do you think you’re going, missy?” A bunch of men had surrounded me, they all had knives and swords with them, but they didn’t look like soldiers. Fear grew in my stomach, in my heart as they came closer. The one who had caught me laughed and held me close to his chest, held onto my arms. What should I do now? Was this my punishment for killing those soldiers?
This must be my end, but I wouldn’t cry. This whole dilemma was my fault from the start, so I didn’t even have the privilege to defend myself. I had changed my fate and this was my punishment, this was the fate I had chosen for myself.
I was about to give up on my life and my regrets when I suddenly heard a blade crashing against another blade, sword against sword. The man who held me turned around to the source of the noise and I got a glimpse of the Commander, attacking the men before the man pushed me hard to the ground, where my head hit the ground and I really lost my consciousness for a few minutes.
When I woke up again everything was shaking, when I opened my eyes, I saw the Commander carrying me back towards his camp. Quickly I struggled and protested and he stopped immediately. “Marlessa!” he said, “Are you alright? You hit your head when the mercenary pushed you!” I nodded quickly and said, “You shouldn’t have saved me. You don’t even know me! It would have been the right thing to let them kill me!”
“It is never right to let someone kill for fun,” Cedric said and put me down carefully. “That is the exact reason why it would have been the right thing to do!” I said as tears flooded my eyes, “I was about to kill you!” “But you didn’t do it. Why?” he asked and slowly let go of me. “I realised what I had done was wrong, it was horribly selfish to think it would change anything if I killed those who killed the man I was married to! So please, I have no right to live!” I started to cry and started to run again, away from the camp and away from the Commander.
But this time Cedric was faster, he caught me after only a few meters and pinned me to the ground, “Please, I deserve to die!” “And whom would I murder for your death? To think that you deserve to die because of such a thing is absurd!” he said and looked at me with his hazel eyes, “Stay with me and I’ll protect you from all of this! Stay with me and I’ll make you forget about what happened before!”
Tears kept running over my face as I tried to understand the reason for his actions, as I tried to understand myself. “Why?” I sobbed and stopped struggling. Why would he help me? Why would he be so nice to me? “Because I fell in love with you the second I saw you sitting on the rock next to the river!” he said with sincere eyes.
Love, was that what people were supposed to feel? With a sigh, he closed his eyes for a while, when he opened them my tears had stopped and I could only stare at his concerned expression and his warm eyes. Then he stood up and pulled me up into his embrace, “I will protect you from everything and everyone, including your self. Stay with me Marlessa! Marry me and become my wife!”
A sudden joy flooded my heart and one word couldn’t have it fast enough to leave my mouth, “Yes!” For that moment I had entirely forgotten why I had been crying and why my heart had felt so heavy all this time. Within the week Cedric had organized a wedding ceremony close to the border and had a messenger send to our families, to come and celebrate with us. My father was more than delighted with our bond since Cedric appeared to be a prince in his country and with our marriage, he had a justified reason to have the war ended.
Maybe fate wasn’t too bad after all. It gave me Cedric after all, I had quite a few wrong turns, but now everything was good again. All that happiness I’ve had throughout my life starting from the day I had met Commander Cedric was thanks to him.
Fate and destiny are things you can never predict or control, but you can enjoy the time you have and love the ones close to you. With my life, I had learned that for myself in a very painful and traumatising way and I had hurt so many people on the way, but I was still fortunate enough to get the chance to live a happy life with Cedric and our own family.