The world was pitch black, the only source of light the crescent of a moon, and that barely illuminated the surroundings. My body felt heavy, cold and bruised. The sensation of moisture suggesting to my mind that it was a mixture of sweat and blood on my skin, clogging my pores and making me feel dirty.
I ignored my imagination, which conjured up images of what I probably looked like. The dress I wore, which used to be a beautiful pearl colour, was probably soiled with blood and dirt, and torn, if the sharp branches that scraped along my calves said anything.
I couldn't breathe.
My throat was closed tight, the stress helping me forget that I could breathe through my nose as well as my mouth. It made my vision swim whenever my lungs screamed for oxygen, demanding that I attempt to inhale the thick, forest air. It reminded me of a horrible fog, heavy and disgusting. It left a bitter, repugnant taste in my mouth.
I didn't know how long I had been walking, or where my destination was, but the pure panic, and hatred kept me going. Memories of people screaming in terror, houses crumbling, the earth splitting were all I could think about.
The terror and disdain I remembered in my Father's eyes was enough to make my heart throb with pain. Other than that, I could sense I had injuries, but it didn't hurt. It made me think I was hypothermic, or very close to it.
I felt numb.
My movements were short, my stride akin to baby animals' first steps. I stumbled, swayed and sought support on the rough texture of the trees surrounding me. I wondered vaguely, in what part of Fiore I was, but then again, it didn't matter.
As long as I was far away from where I had come from, it was good.
I was good.
Determined to walk until my feet were raw, I kept on my way, tripping and trampling through the heavily forested area.
A small cough rose from my chest, the noise weak and nasally. I rubbed my fingers together, but felt nothing.
It had been dark for so long now.
And it only seemed to be getting darker.
My toe snagged on a root, and I fell forward, missing my chance to catch myself on the trunk of a tree. I landed on my hands and knees, the sharp pain momentarily taking my breath away. It soothed me for a silent second, a sense of relief coursing through me as I realised, that I still had nerves left.
But then I remembered, I had no right to feel relief.
I crawled for a little while, my knees scraping the dirty forest floor before they met something softer. I could barely see in front of me, but the reflection of a large body of water made things a little easier. The grass was damp, and cool against my skin, causing the pain to flare suddenly.
A staggering breath left my lungs, as I got to my feet, senselessly moving towards the lake.
As I got closer, the sound of something in the distance made me look up. It was a heavy, pulsating beat, and through the dim lighting, I saw a body descending from the sky. It landed a few metres away from me, two large wings, black in the night, stretched out on either side.
I recognized human-like features, legs, arms, a torso. But on the head, two masses stuck out, that I soon identified as horns in my weary state.
"Who are you?"
His voice was deep, dangerous and almost a drawl of words put together. Despite that, it was clear, I had to answer. His presence demanded it.
My brain struggled to catch up with me, working slower than normal, and I opened my mouth to inform him of my name when an overwhelming pressure crawled up my throat. All that came out was a whimper as I shut my mouth immediately.
He took a step closer, red-eyes glaring at me as I clenched my jaw, the pressure evolving into a pain that almost made me scream. But I couldn't. I wouldn't speak, I wouldn't utter a word.
And I certainly wouldn't scream.
"Answer me, human. Who are you?"
I shook my head, desperately willing him to understand through my eyes. I wasn't human, and I wasn't going to utter a sound, not if I could help it.
He didn't understand, instead he stormed over to me and grabbed my shoulder in a firm, almost bruising grip. I stumbled, the heat from his hand signifying enough power that it burned through me, increasing the agony that threatened to rip my mind apart.
"If you do not answer me, I will be forced to kill you. We don't accept trespassers on our land without some sort of payment and explanation." I couldn't give him an explanation, not with my ability to speak properly vanishing before my eyes but I could give him some sort of payment.
I brought my other hand slowly to my hip, wondering if it had fallen off the small sash I had attached it to, and his eyes followed the movement suspiciously. They weren't red like the demon-kind I had met before, they were a different sort. Warmer almost, with veins of gold, creeping out from the iris.
His grip tightened when I felt the smoothness of the tiara under my numb fingertips. It had been on my head. Somewhere along the way, I had taken it off to get rid of it, finding it useless. But I couldn't bring myself to do it.
Firstly, it was priceless. Secondly, it held memories.
And now, for a third reason, it might just save whatever was left of my life.
I flinched at his grip and held the diadem up, the gold glinting lightly, the diamonds and emerald decorating it lending a hint of sparkle. His eyes narrowed further, and with his other hand, he plucked it away to examine the offering I presented him.
Then he glanced down, looking me over. I wondered what he saw. A simple woman, bruised and bloodied?
His eyes widened and he snatched his hand off my person, a noise leaving his mouth. It sounded distressed, and I looked down, wondering what he saw that would incite that reaction.
"Lift your dress." His words shook, still deep and full of danger, but a little more cautious this time. I took that as a good sign and fulfilled his request, using my battered hands to grasp the fabric. I pulled it up a little, and his eyes flared.
He took a step away, and I only then remembered the tattoo marking my thigh. The royal crest of my Kingdom, the one I had fled.
Each royal kingdom had one, a design that was unique to the Royal Family of their nation, appearing at birth on the skin to show their blood.
Instead of soothing my nerves, that he knew I was royalty, it frightened me.
Would he take me back to my kingdom?
Where I would be killed for a curse I couldn't control?
I gazed at the marking inanely, eyes tracing over the long spirals that wrapped around my calf and finished at my knee, stars flickering over the pale skin. I winced a little when I saw the bloody gashes and stripes, slightly annoyed that I only felt it because I had seen it.
"You…" He breathed, before bowing quickly, and I noticed his hair wasn't as dark as the rest of him. I tilted my head, wondering what colour it was in daylight, before focusing on his words.
"I apologize for my attitude. I hadn't realised that a Princess would be travelling through our lands."
I took a deep breath in, and dropped my skirt as he seemed to process the state I was in. His eyes grew sharp.
"Is your kingdom under attack? Where are your guards? Have they died?"
Aquarius and Leo hadn't died. I had briefly seen them in the mayhem I created, knowing they would be looking for me. I shook my head and he questioned further.
"What caused you to flee? Are you being hunted?"
I thought about his question before looking down, knowing I had no way of explaining it. I wasn't sure if I even wanted too.
"Princess, please." His voice was softer, a smooth drawl that was probably used to coax out many people. I was shamed it say, it almost worked on me. I kept my jaw locked, my eyes averted.
It was quiet for a few seconds before he jolted, "It's one of the coldest nights of the year. You are injured."
To that, I nodded, admitting that I was hurt, and cold.
"I don't have a jacket." He cursed roughly, as if he was admonishing himself for not bringing a jacket, even though he couldn't have known he would bump into me. He brought his hands together and I watched, jumping in surprise when they lit on fire.
With the light, I could make out his features. Tanned skin, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. Hair that resembled a duller shade of baby pink. I tilted my head a little, before moving closer, the warmth of his flames caressing my skin.
My eyes traced his neck, where a scarf sat. Suitable weather for a scarf, but the black marks on his skin underneath it peaked my curiosity. I raised my hand slowly, waiting to see if he rejected my movements, but he just watched me. I tugged the scarf down and my eyes widened.
A black tattoo sat at his neck, winding one way towards his jaw, and the other towards his shoulder. The design of a dragon shocked me, and my memories from learning about the other royal families had me snatching my hand back.
With no real thought of my injuries, I curtsied out of respect. My ribs sung with pain, causing me to stumble forward, hands flying to the spot. The flame vanished and those warm hands were on my shoulders, the touch gentle but steady.
"My name is Natsu Dragneel, I am the Prince of the Molten. Will you accept my request and let me take you to the castle?"
I didn't think it was a good idea. If he knew of my kingdom, or found out, he would contact Father. I didn't want to face what was back at my home, if his expression had said anything about what I had left behind.
I shook my head, trying to move back so I could steady myself, but he just held onto me, ducking his head so he could look into my eyes, the red almost entirely gone, melting into a deep green almost as warm. I already knew what sort of creature he was, from the mark on his neck, to his name and current physical form.
"Please. I know you are frightened and hurt. But I promise you, no harm will befall you."
I almost wanted to say don't make promises you can't keep, because if his father, -King Igneel, if I recalled correctly – figured out who I was, his treaty with my own father, would make him call the one person who definitely didn't want me alive.
I shook my head again, this time firmer, and pulled myself away from his arms. I stumbled again but managed to turn around, intent on leaving and continuing to go North.
He made a slightly panicked noise, but he didn't have to worry. I didn't get far. The conversation with him -albeit one-sided- had distracted me from the pain, but the minute I was turned away from him, it came back with a vengeance.
My eyes rolled back in my head, and I crumbled forward, losing all sense of sight and consciousness on the way down.
Low murmurs of a discussion woke me, and I found myself in a soft bed, my body no longer wailing in pain. When I looked around, my eyes still adjusting to the light, I saw gold and red tapestry and the stone walls of a room with a large brown door that was slightly ajar.
I glanced down at my body, finding it to be clean. Even my wounds had been cleaned and treated.
Where was I?
"Listen to me. If she has run away from her home, then we are under a duty to call her father and give her back."
"Dad, listen to yourself. She isn't property. She's a being. You didn't see her out there, she was barely walking." Natsu Dragneel's warm voice sneered back, and I remember everything.
I wish I didn't.
Choosing to remain quiet, Natsu barely kept his anger contained, "She didn't want my help. The only reason she is here, is because she fainted. I doubt any Princess is stubborn enough to refuse help, unless there's more of a reason behind it."
"Family matters with other royals are none of our c-"
"It became our concern, when she walked into our land!" Natsu snapped and the other voice, who I assumed was the King, sighed slowly.
"Natsu… We mustn't act rashly. I know you feel the need to save everyone, but perhaps she doesn't need to be saved. You have run away from the castle before."
"Because you tried to eat Happy!"
"I was drunk." King Igneel sounded unapologetic, and I felt my eyebrows furrow in confusion.
Who was Happy?
"I don't care. He is my friend, and you, are a cruel tyrant."
King Igneel showed no insult to his words, and just let out a booming laugh that shook the bed I was in a bit.
"I am still concerned that the only friend you will admit to having is a cat."
"We aren't talking about me here." Natsu bristled, clearly annoyed with his father's flippancy.
"Oh! You're awake!" A voice chirpily exclaimed, and I turned my head to find a young girl with long blue hair I hadn't noticed standing beside me. She smiled at me, and I took note of the fangs. She curtsied smoothly, and stated, "Princess Wendy Marvel, it's a pleasure to meet you."
I wished I could return the sentiment, but I didn't like how young she was, it reminded me of how young I used to be. I felt like I had aged twenty years. She walked over hesitantly, "I healed all your injuries. Prince Natsu said that you were unable to speak. I could not find anything wrong with your throat, though."
I shook my head, unable to explain and she simply smiled innocently, "Perhaps, it's just the stress from all those injuries." She handed me the paper and feathered quill sitting on one of the bedside tables.
The door opened a bit further, and Natsu walked in, wearing a pair of long brown pants, and an odd, open shirt. His wings and horns were gone. I assumed he was accustomed to walking around in this form when he wasn't patrolling.
King Igneel followed him in. He had eyes the same colour as his son's and long red hair twisting down his back. He was only a few inches taller than Natsu, but his impressive build and kingly presence was enough to put me on edge.
His smile was polite, perhaps a little suspicious.
"Princess Heartfilia. I welcome you to the Molten Lands. Although, I am curious about your travels here."
I winced, and picked up the magically inked quill, scribbling down a sentence. I handed it to him, watching his reaction to what I had wrote.
"You will go?"
I simply nodded, almost pathetically wishing he would leave it at that and let me go on my way. But he didn't.
"Home, I assume?"
I hesitated, before nodding again. His sharp eyes caught the lie, and he handed the paper back just as he began speaking.
"Shall I contact King Heartfilia to retrieve you? I'm sure that would lessen his burden, lest anything happen to you on the way back." His words may have been politely spoken, but the threat was there. He didn't believe me, he knew I wasn't planning on going back.
I waited a few seconds, wondering how I should negotiate this before writing down my next statement.
I do not wish to trouble my father. If you keep this to yourself, I will mention your cooperation to him when I see him next.
As he read it, his eyebrow raised and his next words were as calm as the sea before the storm.
"How long do you plan to lie to me?"
I didn't react to his words, and simply held out my hand for the paper. He handed it back and I wrote slowly, ignoring the eyes pinned to us. Natsu had yet to say anything, which spoke for his respect for his father.
I used to respect my father in kind, but I found myself lacking it now.
For as long as it takes for you to let me go.
My response made him chuckle and he placed the paper aside, my eyes following it stubbornly as he crossed his arms over his chest. I recognized that stance. It was the 'I'm a King so let me intimidate you' stance. My father did it all the time.
"Perhaps you could explain to me why you are so ready to leave." When I glanced at the paper pointedly, he stated with a smile that was definitely not friendly, "Without the aid of your paper. I have heard you speak before, Princess Heartfilia. I will not play such games with you."
"Dad!" Prince Natsu hissed, rearing up and King Igneel simply raised his hand to silence him, eyes focused on me.
At that moment, I wanted to speak. Partly because his intimidation technique was working, partly because I wanted to see what would happen. I opened my mouth, and Princess Wendy visibly brightened.
The minute I formed words in my brain, the crushing power climbed my throat. I choked on whatever words I was planning to say, a grunt of pain leaving my mouth as I snapped my jaw shut.
The dangerous vibe vanished from King Igneel immediately as I pressed a hand to my head, the power rising to my head, trying to force me to scream. I wouldn't.
"What has happened to your voice, child?" King Igneel's voice softened subtly, his eyes losing their sharpness as I felt tears of frustration and pain well up in my eyes. Natsu, who had been fidgeting wildly, reared up again with a growl.
"You are making her cry!"
King Igneel ignored his son, using that soft voice on me once again, "Wendy has said there is nothing physically wrong with your throat or voice box. But, it causes you pain when you try to speak."
I almost crumbled there, seeking comfort from the pain and horror in my mind when a familiar voice stated firmly, "King Igneel, I applaud you for taking Princess Heartfilia in at this trying time. But I would appreciate if you backed away from her. Now."
The only person who was brave enough to do that was…
A sob left my closed mouth as my eyes found the woman in the door, her scarlet hair plaited into a braid. She wore the same armour as the day I had seen her last, vines of black twisting up her arm, and taking the shape of a fairy somewhere around her covered shoulder.
I barely noticed the servant who tumbled into the room breathless, "My King, Princess Erza Scarlet, along with her betrothed Knight Jellal Fernandez, have arrived."
King Igneel stared at the servant in amusement, probably finding his huffing state amusing before stating, "I hadn't requested or heard from your kingdom informing me there would be a visit."
Erza ignored him entirely, and instead looked at me. The tears I had struggled to hold back fell, and she rushed over, gripping my shoulders to pull me into a painful hug. She delivered the comfort I had wished for.
Crushing my ribs whilst doing so.
"Lucy." Erza's voice wavered, and I heard Jellal, her fiancé, state, "We apologise for our sudden arrival, King Dragneel. We had sent word ahead of our coming, but we seem to have arrived an hour ahead of schedule."
When Erza pulled away, Jellal was walking towards us, his guard, Ultear, following silently. She smiled at me softly, eyes as calm as ever.
King Igneel grunted, probably at the fact Jellal had said his last name instead of his first – from what I remembered, he preferred King Igneel to King Dragneel – and turned to Erza.
"What prompted you to visit so suddenly?"
Erza sighed, before straightening, keeping a hand on mine.
"As of today, Princess Lucy Heartfilia, is wanted for treason and genocide. My mother, Queen Eileen, is currently fighting against the order. She has already broken her treaty with the Star Lands."
My whole world stopped.
Prince Natsu jolted back in surprise, eyes flying to me as I pressed a hand to my mouth. Erza turned to me, her eyes full of kindness, "I do not know what happened Lucy, but I know you are not capable of such a thing."
Another sob left my body, because I was capable. I had done it.
She sat on my bed and clenched my hand tightly, shaking her head, "Mom is trying her hardest to get it overruled, but King Heartfilia has evidence. I don't know how, but…" I stopped her with another sob, grinding my teeth together as the pressure increased.
Princess Wendy, rushed over, dodging King Igneel's hands to hold her back and grabbed the paper and feathered quill for me. Through the pain, I scribbled down four words.
Ultear. Memory. See it.
Ultear had the special ability to pull a memory from someone's mind if the person agreed to it. She could then display it as a sort of hologram if she wished. Erza had to know the truth, I doubt she would have such conviction for her cause if she knew what had really happened.
Erza read the note, her eyebrows scrunching forwards, "Lucy… What has happened?"
"She can't speak." Wendy stated softly, "There's something wrong with her voice. Not physically, to my knowledge."
The beautiful red-head understood and called over Ultear, who came without hesitation. She assured me,"Princess Heartfilia, I will help whatever way I can." I gave her my hands and closed my eyes. The memory was still fresh, and the pain of it made me flinch, but I transferred most of it to her. She took a few seconds to collect it fully, before pulling away, her hands replaced with Erza's once more.
"Shall I show it now, Princess Scarlet?"
"Yes." Jellal stood beside the bed, placing a hand on my shoulder. I had always liked Jellal, he was a kind man. Who cared for Erza, and had fought his way to Knight status for her.
"Princess, your hair is getting awfully long." Virgo teased, running a brush from my roots to my ends as I smiled back at her through the mirror.
"I suppose it is. Do we think it is ready for a little snip?"
"Do not let Cancer hear you say that. He might just die of excitement." Virgo began to twist and pull my hair into an up-style. Her hands moved skilfully, years of practice guiding her, from her long time spent as my hand-maiden and closest friend in the palace.
Today I was to meet my betrothed. A Prince from the eastern lands, by the name of Dan. I struggled to remember his last name, making a note to ask Virgo when she had finished.
"The Kingdom is very excited to meet this Prince. Hopefully, he is more acceptable than the last."
I breathed a laugh, remembering the numerous failed attempts I had suffered through before. Dad was confident in this one. But he had been confident in the last three also.
"I am also excited. His lands might not be big, but he could bring in a lot of food and trading with other Kingdoms." I stated thoughtfully just as she finished my hair, and sprayed it lightly with my favourite floral scent.
"It is good you see this as a business exchange, but do remember, you must be happy as well." Virgo cautioned, waiting for me to stand so we could put on my dress for the event.
I smiled at her, careful not to touch my hair or my face, "How could I not be happy? I will be surrounded by a happy kingdom and my closest friends."
Virgo smiled a little, "You flatter me Princess."
We spoke of other matters as she helped me to dress. Luckily, I was able to go without a corset, the bones embedded in the seams of the dress instead. I had a good enough figure that I could wear these sorts of dresses, and still look presentable. Once she was done lacing up the back, she helped me into my shoes.
We began making our way towards the banquet hall slowly, knowing my father would want a word with the Prince before we met.
"Perhaps we should visit Princess Erza, if this goes well." I mused, before smiling, "She would probably have some good advice on how to deal with a fiancé."
"She is one of the lucky ones, Princess. Her betrothed fought for recognition and for her."
"I suppose that does have its appeal." I giggled and she struggled not to smile, sticking beside me. Whenever we were around my father, she would trail behind me as law dictated, but when we were alone, she would stand beside me and keep me company during our walks.
We had turned the last corner, the entry to the hall open where I noticed Aquarius and Leo, standing a bit away from my father, who was with a tall, heavily muscled man. He had brown hair, and from a distance, I could assume he was handsome.
I hadn't met many princes that weren't.
"Are you nervous, Princess?" Virgo asked when I halted my steps, but I just shook my head, a funny feeling in the bottom of my stomach.
"No… I just suddenly am not feeling well."
Virgo's voice was worried the next time she spoke, "Is the dress too tight? Do you need to sit?" It felt as though a tight band slithered over my chest, constricting and I pressed my hand to my heart, feeling nothing but a steady heartbeat. My throat went dry and I saw my vision spin a little, as the unsettled feeling grew.
"No. I think I'm fine. Perhaps I am nervous." I mumbled, and she remained quiet, but I could feel her eyes stuck on me. As we grew closer, the feeling practically vanished and when she noticed my confident stride, she relaxed.
Then I heard it.
A whoosh of air soared towards me, and before I knew it, Virgo jumped in front of me. She staggered back into me with a cry of pain and I fell with her weight, my heart dropping to my stomach at the sight of an arrow in her chest.
"Virgo…" I whispered, crawling over her as I heard Aquarius and Leo begin to run towards us. Pain etched her features, her deep blue eyes filling with tears as she gasped out shakily.
"I-I am f-fine Princess."
"No, you aren't." Nothing could stop the tears streaming down my cheeks as I clutched at her dress, pulling her onto my lap, noticing how her eyes began to roll slowly backwards, her eyelids drooping.
"No!" I cried out, shaking her, "Don't fall asleep. Help is coming!"
She barely managed a smile as she whispered, "I am fine."
I watched as her eyes dulled, and her body grew lax in my arms, my sobs loud and echoing. Leo and Aquarius were almost to us, but time grew slow. The feeling of a band appeared around my chest again, but instead of constricting it snapped. It brought power, so much power, tumbling from my lungs to my throat.
Then finally, I screamed.
I watched in horror, as the memory replayed in front of me. The scream made me clench my jaw, the sound so frightening, I couldn't believe it was coming from me. But I knew it was. It was a shriek of magical power, uncontrolled, wild and rampant. Full of grief, and darkness. Pain.
I watched as Aquarius and Leo were flung back. The palace walls began to crack and shake at the wail. The delicate glass windows shattered apart, and the noise of my scream echoed through the kingdom.
Through my own eyes, I saw my scream grow more powerful as more people died. It was a never-ending sequence of pain through my system, my body soaking up all the death and expelling it in that one cry.
I remember seeing flashes of people's homes tumbling apart, killing them in the wreckage. Some just died because the noise was so full of magic energy, their bodies couldn't cope. And the more people died, the louder and longer my scream went.
The only thing that managed to stop me, was Dan's body, my possible future husband, sinking to the floor, blood rushing from his ears.
I took in a stuttering breath, sitting in the middle of the floor with Virgo held to my body, the large crack in the foundation shifting. The walls were demolished, barely holding everything up, outside was worse. Shouts of pain and anguish filled my ears.
Aquarius and Leo groaned from the floor, but my eyes were on my father's.
He stared at me in shock for a few moments.
I flinched before my hands reached out and shoved Ultear, stopping the projection before they could see the hate in my Father's eyes.
The room was quiet, before Erza whispered, "Lucy…"
I closed my eyes, grinding my teeth together as a voice I hadn't heard before spoke, "Holding in a scream, can cause your death."
My eyes flew open at the wise statement, a woman with pink hair and a scowl on her features slowly walking in. She assessed the room before turning back to me, "Even though it wasn't a true scream - simply a projection - you managed to break some of the palace windows and fixtures. It's no surprise that your first scream demolished your kingdom."
"You know what she is?" Erza stood up, hand going to her sword as King Igneel cleared his throat, holding his hands out.
"This is Porlyusica. She is one of the travelling healers that come by every now and then."
Erza relaxed, only slightly, as Porlyusica crossed her arms, "Your kind has been dead for generations."
"Her kind?" Jellal asked, voice serious and a little dark.
"An Angel of Death, the White Lady of Sorrow, the Woman of Peace."
My mind spun as Porlyuscia walked up, looking down at me, with almost pity in her bright eyes.
Just a note: I have tweaked the Banshee's power a little bit. In Irish lore, they simply scream when somebody is about to die or dies. But, with this story, Lucy's scream or wail can cause real destruction and devastation.
This one is going to be a wild ride, so I hope you guys enjoyed the first chapter!
Reviews are always appreciated and I'll see you guys next time!