By the time the Captain finally let her go Ilona's face was red with exertion and she was dripping with sweat.
"Not bad Ilona," she had almost forgotten he was there. The girl turned around slowly to face the Prince. He had risen from his chair and was watching her intently. "You are excused." Without another word the Prince sent a dismissive gesture the Captain's way and sauntered from the room. Ilona watched him as he left, not able to do much else. Her breath came in weary pants and her head pulsed from over excersion but she felt stronger than she ever had in her life. It was strange, how could she feel so good when–there was a sudden weakness in her knees as she thought of her humilating defeat and even more degrading position. She was rocked to her core and the Captain glanced at her curiously as she swayed in her spot.
Without a word to her the Captain turned and walked out of the room. With nothing else to do Ilona scurried after him hoping that he would take her to wherever she was supposed to go. He didn't seem to be waiting for her to follow as he walked purposefully down the hall and Ilona felt slightly awkward following him, but she was really too tired to care much for the repercussions. All she wanted to do was sit down and have something to drink.
The girl was led down a hallway and they stopped at a doorway that she recognized. The Captain opened the door and nodded to her. Ilona slipped past him and back into the familiar room. She heard the door close behind her and the lock click but she didn't bother to look back at it again. She knew exactly how it would be because it had been that way earlier.
With a sigh the dark haired girl turned away towards the washbowl and the water pitcher. Pouring water into the bowl she washed her face, neck and arms relishing the coolness of the water for a moment before toweling it off with the washcloth she found besides the stand. She stared at her face in the mirror for a second. She looked like Ilona. Still, she found that hard to believe because for a moment she had felt other...ness. Was she still herself?
Her musings were interrupted by the lock on the door clicking open and the door itself sliding slowly open. Varco poked his head in, grinned roguishly at her, and then shouldered the rest of the way in. He was balancing two plates and a tankard in his arms, and Ilona rushed forward to help him with them. The man shooed her off, placing the plates down on the table before grabbing a chicken leg off one of the plates.
"I brought food," he said through a half masticated mouthful of chicken flesh.
Ilona bit her lip to keep from both laughing and making a face at his terrible manners. She might not have exactly been a fan of manners, but she'd been raised with them all her life and Varco's crudeness made her cringe and laugh in the same instance.
"Thank you," she finally managed to choke out before she sat in one of the chairs and pulled a plate gently towards her.
"Oh, right." Varco fell into the other chair casually. "I forgot you're a lady," he teased.
Ilona made a face at him before she studied the food hesitantly. Varco hadn't brought her any fruit, and the drink in the tankard was ale. He watched her hesitate before she finally began to slowly eat.
Varco's mouth turned upward at her cautiousness. "You're right to be wary," he said after a while, swallowing down a mouthful of chicken before he tried to talk this time, "but no worries. He's not the countess," the man shrugged as Ilona turned to stare at him.
"So I'd noticed," she replied dryly, gently placing her fork on the edge of her plate and flexing her fingers as though they were stiff. They felt strange absent of that rush of power. Varco noticed but said nothing, taking a drink from his own tankard.
"How did practice go? Only got to see a bit of it myself. You looked pretty good up there," the lieutenant said grinning roguishly.
Ilona frowned. "I lost."
"I'd say you did pretty well. After all, the Prince is a marvel with a sword," Varco responded.
"I know," the loss made Ilona rather snappy. " Euan- I mean, the Prince, was my teacher," she tilted her head up. "I don't know why I ever thought I had a chance."
Varco frowned. "Come girl," he leaned forward, his face all seriousness. "You beat me didn't you?" and then his face split into a grin ruining the illusion.
The boyish girl had to stop herself from making a face at him. "Don't even joke like that," she sighed and pushed some of her food about on her plate.
"What's wrong?" Varco was studying her intently.
"Nothing," Ilona lied, but Varco continued to stare at her in an unconvinced fashion and she eventually caved. "I've never felt so," she trailed off with a frown, "powerless and yet powerful at the same time."
Varco nodded as though he understood, and of anyone, he probably did.
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. Both Varco and Ilona jumped to their feet as the door swung open and a servant stood in the doorway. "The Prince wishes to see you Miss Ilona," the man said glancing curiously at Varco before focusing on the girl again. "Immediately."
Ilona raised her brows and glanced at Varco before heading for the door to follow the servant.
The tomboy was starting to get a feel for the winding halls of the Prince's domain. She followed the servant silently wondering what could possibly be so important that Euan would want her to come to him right that moment. Though, he was a prince, Ilona supposed he would be used to getting his own then and there.
She stopped as soon as the servant did, pausing outside a doorway for half a second before the servant turned and went inside. Ilona followed him.
"Ah, Ilona," the Prince was smiling at her in the fashion a person would smile at the last piece of a puzzle they had been missing for awhile and had just found. "Good of you to join us," he said as if she'd had a choice.
Ilona glanced behind her and found the servant who had brought her here was gone.
"Come closer," the Prince gestured and Ilona obliged her feet seeming to have a will of their own. "For someone who isn't your friend you seem to spend an awful lot of time with that lieutenant of yours," his expression turned into a smirk when he saw her face go red. She opened her mouth to protest but he held up a hand. "It's good to be around him, isn't it?"
Ilona didn't know where this was going but she was pretty sure she wasn't going to like it.
"He makes you feel complete," Euan stood up then, moving closer to Ilona, circling her like a predator. "Admit it. You love him."
"I do no-!" Ilona burst out but was silenced by a glare from the Prince. She crossed her arms over her chest and whispered fiercely to herself. "I do not love him."
"It's hard to be away from the ones you love," the Prince continued like she had said nothing. "Would you like me to send the lieutenant away?" Ilona stiffened. "Would you like to know the heartache I felt when my darling bride was kidnapped and taken away from me?"
"This," he gestured to the beating stone in his chest, the blood stained front, "will soon hurt no longer. Do you want to know why Ilona?"
The girl most certainly did not want to know why, but assumed he was going to tell her anyway.
"You are going to bring Corrine back to me," he smiled.
"I can't betray my friends!" Ilona looked a mixture of angry and horrified.
"Don't you remember Ilona?" asked Euan with a smile. "You haven't got a choice."