Elise started reading at age three. She doesn't remember it, but that's what Leon tells her. She wanted him to play with her, but he was ignoring her for some books, so she was determined to find out what was so interesting about them.
On her tenth birthday, Marcus gives her a horse, Camilla promises to teach her to ride it, and Leon gives her a set of a dozen riding dresses. As exciting that it is that her family acknowledges she's old enough to ride, she's even more excited by the book Kamui gives her, "Anya Oukoku: The Shaping of the World". She sees her other siblings are disappointed about her reaction. She does not see her father's pensive stare.
The book turns out to be a history of Anya's conquests to build its empire. With a country as dark and barren as hers, conquest was taught as necessary for survival. Take what you need from others if you can't provide for yourself. Like a wolf, hunting down stray animals in the forest.
But some of the stories disturb her. In one city far to the north, a young man started to lead a resistance effort against Anya. He wasn't trying to take down the country, but he and his friends would attack carriages carrying food and supplies the city was paying in taxes, then return them to the city.
The king at the time directed his crown prince to destroy the resistance, so the prince headed north with a battalion. In what Anya literature recorded as a magnanimous gesture, the prince told the city: "Hand over the leader and return what you have stolen, and Anya will extend the hand of forgiveness." The city did not comply, so the prince ordered his soldiers to raze the meager fields the city had. The youth rose up and fought the best he could, but was struck down in battle. And after the battle was over, the prince ordered his soldiers to "Clean up the trash." They then proceeded to indiscriminately slaughter the inhabitants.
Elise placed a pressed leaf in the book to mark her place, then shut it, picked it up, and went to find her sister. She happened to be the wyvern stables, paying attention to her beast.
"Camilla-nee-chan, do you know about the Grimheld Uprising?"
"You know, Elise, I've been worried about you, and according to MacBeth, so has Father. We think that you might be studying too much. Why don't you leave the hard thinking to the men, and we girls can just enjoy ourselves? It's been nearly a day and you haven't come to beg me to teach you to ride yet! Kamui was so cute, jumping into my arms and almost crying until I said yes."
Elise doesn't want to disappoint her older sister, so she hastily agrees, and she returns to her room to put on one of the new riding dresses. She leaves the book on her bed, since she won't have a use for it outside. She decides to go and thank Leon while wearing the dress, so she heads over to the room where she knows he's always practicing magic.
He compliments her about the dress. She then poses the same question to him as she did to Camilla.
"Leon-nii-chan, do you know about the Grimheld Uprising?"
"Of course. It happened about 200 years ago. Prince Andrew put down a rebellion in a city of the time called Grimheld. The history books talk about how gracious the offer of forgiveness was, but I think the important part was the message the reprisal sent. Partially because of the severity of the punishment, Anya went for over two years without another uprising throughout the kingdom."
Those lives... bought two years of peace. And the way Leon talked about it, he thought it was a good thing. She opened her mouth to question him further, but then Camilla's voice popped into her head. "Leave the hard thinking to the men." Elise had no intention of doing that, since she was pretty sure she was smarter than Camilla and maybe even Leon. But she didn't want to be late getting back to Camilla, so she changed what she was going to say. "Over two years? That's great!" She hoped that he wouldn't call her on it, because she wasn't totally sure she was smarter than him.
He didn't. A soft smile graced his face, and he said, "I wish more of our subjects felt like you. Because of lowly rabble rousers like the one in Grimheld, we do occasionally need to make such displays. But peace is worth it."
As she left the room, she bumped into Kamui. He seemed surprised, and then he frowned. He muttered a quick "Sorry for getting you that present" before going to talk to Leon. Elise was confused. She was sure Kamui knew her well enough to know she'd been more than a little excited to be considered mature enough to read a book like that. But she pushed it from her mind as she went to meet Camilla.
When Elise returned to her room, she saw a violin case lying open on her bed. There was a note attached to it, written in her father's blocky script. "A beautiful gift for my beautiful daughter. You will learn to play as well as your mother did, and the court will be joyful to hear you."
The book was gone.
She didn't see Kamui for three months.
Elise didn't stop reading, but she did stop reading openly. She wasn't entirely sure why her family seemed uneasy about her love of books when they were so supportive of Leon. But the end result was that she had to sneak into the castle library after dark and avoid getting spotted. One of the books she read talked about the ninja of Byakuya, and it made Elise giggle to think that her current actions were similar to those of one of Anya's most bitter enemies. But her cause was just; she needed to educate herself if she was going to understand their country.
She heard a high pitched voice from down the hallway, followed by a much lower and gruffer one, that sounded like her oldest brother. Elise never saw much of Marcus. He was always busy training, studying, and going on missions for their father. So him appearing late at night with a strange woman with blue and pink hair wearing too much makeup, she was more surprised to see him at all, rather than at his choice of companionship.
Elise ducked behind a pillar and waited for them to pass. As they came closer, she was able to grasp a bit of their conversation.
"When does Pieri get to kill more people? It's not fair. IT'S NOT FAIR!" The woman started softly, but ended up shrill very suddenly, and seemed to have started crying.
Her brother took it in stride. "Don't fret. The king's orders for tomorrow say there is no need to leave survivors. He's even added in a competition to boost morale." At that point he trailed off. His voice was a bit rougher when he resumed. "The soldier with the highest kill count will awarded five thousand gold." Elise couldn't see from behind the pole, but she thought he was frowning. Leon's voice always got lower when he was displeased, so maybe Marcus had the same habit.
The two passed without noticing her, but it took Elise a minute to gather her breath before she could continue back to the room with her own spoils.
Elise found out that frilly dresses were great for hiding smaller books in their folds. Since Camilla was always trying to get her to wear cute outfits, she didn't think anyone would notice her change in preference from the less adorned dresses to the more eye catching ones.
One book she enjoyed, a rare find from a faraway country, said that a king could never rule without knowing the mind of the common man. While the likelihood she would become queen was very small, she thought that some of her siblings could use the advice, and Camilla had been out of sorts lately at Kamui's absence.
So Elise organized an outing into the capital, where they would go walking around and checking out points of interest as a family. A last minute meeting pulled away Leon and Marcus, but Elise still went out with Camilla.
They watched a few street performers, then stopped at a bakery. They picked up some pastries and bread to have the cooks use, and they were chatting pleasantly when she felt a tug on her dress. A thin boy a little bit younger than her started to talk to her. "Can I have-" and then he stopped. She heard the wind snap behind her, and suddenly blood spattered across her dress. She turned her head and saw Camilla's steely eyes and pursed lips. She turned back and saw the boy, blood seeping through his clothes near the axe blade embedded in his chest. She saw the axe pull out, and she saw the boy crumple to the ground as the axe stopped supporting his weight. She then fainted, but not fast enough to miss the chorus of shocked gasps and the anguished cry of a man nearby.
When she woke up in her chambers, Camilla was by her side, smiling. Her sister's hand started threading through her hair. Camilla spoke in a reassuring voice. "Don't worry. I'll kill anyone who tries to harm my beloved little sister. There's nothing to be afraid of."
Elise was heartbroken when she heard of Kamui's death. Hearing later that he was alive and well (if captured by Byakuya) was an immense relief.
Then she heard him on the battlefield. He told Marcus that he was going to stay in Byakuya because he thought Anya's way of doing things was wrong.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Elise prided herself on how well she could read her siblings compared to how well they could see past the childish mask she adopted. Hearing Kamui say out loud the things she was powerless to say herself made her cry in frustration. She realized that she was also probably crying because she knew what was going to happen.
Father would order Kamui's death. Marcus would obey him for the good of the country and set out to hunt Kamui down. Kamui would fight back, and Camilla would jump to defend her older brother. And when Kamui's corpse fell to the ground afterwards, Leon would say how helpful it was for the country to see treason rightfully punished. And she herself would be standing right there with her siblings, holding back her tears, hoping that no one heard her agreement for a lie.