Chapter rating: PG13 for language and violent themes. Author's note: I changed the formatting, so hopefully this'll be less confusing. Loveya! And gimme reviews!





"I won't let him do it, Serenity," I said to my sister. Serenity turned her pained blue eyes on me. She knew how I felt. After all, when my sisters and I had first been given to Carlos's band of thieves, she'd been sixteen: the age at which we would each have to become that bastard's personal mistress. Serenity had put up with it for seven years, being forced to give him whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Now it was my turn.

"What can you do to stop it, Millerna?" she asked softly. "It was the agreement Papa made with Carlos-"

"Damn him! Don't you dare call him Papa after what he's done to us! Giving his daughters as whores, and for what? To bend the 'no-sons' curse that was put upon his ancestors by Carlos's own family?! I'll kill Carlos, then I'll make our father sorry!"

"Millerna, please don't speak that way," Serenity begged. "If Lilliana and Dana were to hear you talk of murder..."

"You would keep them ignorant of what's been done to us?" I demanded in outrage. "Carlos has raped you every night since your sixteenth birthday, Serenity! How can you not want him dead?"

"I don't want my little sister becoming a killer, Millerna," Serenity said, tears welling up in her eyes. "Not for Carlos."

"I would chose to be a murderer rather than to be bedded by that filth! I'll slit his throat before I let him have me! I'll slit mine!"

"Millerna, no," she cried. "To take any life is to go against the gods, and to take your own life...Why would you do that to us? To your sisters? What would we do without you? You're the strongest of us all." I felt tears begin to stream down my own face now. I looked away from my sister.

"I'll run away," I said. "I'll escape from here. Just as Ayden told me to."

"I'm sorry about him, Millerna," she said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "It shouldn't have happened. I'm sure his spirit is watching you." I buried my face in my sister's shoulder.

"He was the one male I trusted, Serenity," I sniffed, trying my hardest not to really cry. "He was my best friend. Why did he have to be-?" What had happened to Ayden those years ago had only made me despise Carlos even more. Ayden was his cousin! How do you justify 'accidentally' firing an arrow through your cousin during a raid?

"Life's not fair," Serenity said. "Especially, it seems, for a woman. But what can we do? Like it or not, it's a man's world." I hated hearing her talk like this. Serenity had always been submissive, like our mother. If she didn't like something, she usually just put up with it because she felt that was what she was supposed to do. 'A lady's job is to do what she is told, nothing more, nothing less,' she had once said to me. I remember slapping her as soon as the words were out of her mouth, and cursing her subservience.

I had always been Serenity's antithesis. I'll admit, I've had a bad attitude all my life. Ayden used to say, jokingly, that I could get downright bitchy at times. He saw that as a good thing, he'd said, as a meek girl would never have learned the things he taught me so well, much less have had the guts to use them: Ayden had taught me how to fight. Not just with daggers and swords and traditional weaponry, though. He had taught me how to fight with whip chains, steel fans, throwing knives, staff weapons, and my own body in martial arts. During my training sessions, we would plan our eventual escape from the thieves.

"When we get out of here, Millerna," he said once, "we'll live as warriors. We'll creep around in the shadows, fighting crime, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. We'll live in a dragon-guarded lair full of our treasures, and we'll bow down to no man! We'll be free to do as we please, until you marry, of course. Then it'll just be me, your poor, lonely confidante, living by myself as you're far off, pleasing your husband." I had then told him, in no uncertain terms, that if I ever hit my head hard enough to actually want to marry, my husband would have the duty of pleasing me, not the other way around. Ayden had laughed and said,

"Just watch, Millerna. You'll marry one day, probably to some charming, heroic outlaw. Me, I've got my eyes on the girl who lives in there," he'd said, pointing to the castle many miles in the distance. "A lot of money in it for me if I pull that deal off."

"You mean Zelda of Hyrule? Forget it. She's probably some spoiled, pompous brat, and not as pretty as they say she is. Most royals aren't, you know, at least the ones where we come from. I'll bet you couldn't win her over if you did manage to meet her."

"You mean, my charm, finesse, and devilish good looks might not do the trick?" he'd asked, feigning shock. True, Ayden was the handsomest man I'd ever met. He'd had curly black hair, black eyes, skin the color of brown sugar, and perfectly chisled features. "Well, I'd better use plan 'B', then," he'd said. His plan 'B'? "I'll climb onto her balcony and seduce her, like the swashbuckling romantic hero I am." I wasted no time in telling him that his plan probably wouldn't work. He'd just laughed.

I missed my friend so much.

***

A bit later that evening, I was instructed to bring refreshments to Carlos and a guest of his. A perfect opportunity to ensure the success of my escape plot, I thought. Being the genius I took myself to be, I used a handy little trick my Aunt Miranda had taught me: I mixed just enough poison into Carlos's wine goblet to render him unconcious for, oh, about twenty-four hours after it had worked its way into his system. He would just assume that he'd gotten incredibly drunk. God, I hoped he'd have a splitting headache for the next week after he woke up. Oh, I suppose I could've just kicked him in the head as soon as he got me into his tent, but poisoning his drink was much more appealing at the time.

"Take that, you son of a bitch," I muttered under my breath, laughing maniacally inside my head. Anyone with half a brain would've noticed that I looked way too cocky under the circumstances, and figured that I was up to something, but since we were talking about Carlos, I wasn't too worried about that. He'd never been much in the way of brains.

As I made my way out of the tent, smirking and marvelling at my brilliance, I noticed my younger sisters spying on Carlos and this guest of his.

"What are you doing?" I demanded of them. They jumped in surprise and stared innocently up at me.

"We were just looking at Carlos's friend," Lilliana said. She was thirteen, and Dana was ten. Both looked like shorter versions of Serenity. Only Aunt Miranda and I had green eyes.

"He's cute," Dana agreed.

"You shouldn't be looking at men, either of you," I snapped. "Especially ones he associates with. Stay in here." I heard Dana mutter something about me being "so mean all the time" as I pushed past them and made my way to where Carlos and his new 'friend' sat. The other man had his back to me.

"Ah, Millerna!" Carlos said upon my arrival. Don't you dare smile at me, you vermin, I'll gut you alive. I walked past his guest and forced an incredibly fake smile as I handed him his goblet. I wanted to make sure the poison hit him as soon as possible.

"Enjoy," I said, the fake smile turning into a very real smirk.

"Thank you, my little beauty," he said. Must be pretty damn drunk already not to notice this big evil grin on my face, I decided. "Now turn around, girl, so our visitor can see you. A terrible crime, not to show off such loveliness." I'm going to kill you, you know that? I thought pleasantly as I obeyed. I'll rip your heart out and leave you for the scavengers.

It was then that I caught my first glance of the other man. He looked about twenty, with long blonde hair and beautiful, dark blue eyes. Dana and Lilliana's proclamation that he was cute was a severe understatement: he was absolutely gorgeous! Somehow, he made me think of my old Spirit Guide, Amara. I hadn't seen her in several years, though, so anyone with blonde hair and an air of innocence probably would have reminded me of her. I shook it off.

I noticed that he was looking at me, too. No need for that. I didn't have an unattractive face, but my favorite features, my muscular legs, were hidden under the tightly corsetted dress I'd been instructed to wear. Worse, the dress was fuschia. I detest fuschia. He was still looking at me, but strangely, I didn't mind much.

"A prize, this one, don't you think?" Carlos prompted, grabbing my hips and pulling me to him.

"You will take your hands off me, Carlos, or I will take them off you," I informed venomously.

"Oh, you would speak to me in such a way, even tonight?" he purred, stroking my hair. The younger man shot Carlos a look that said, quite plainly, "Are you insane?" Carlos took no notice. I was very aware of the dagger I had hidden in the bodice of my dress. There was such a temptation to drive it to the hilt in his chest. "Remember, tonight you become a woman." I yanked myself out of his grasp.

"You contemptable bastard!" I spat. "You will not so much as touch me! Not tonight, not ever! That is a promise!" That insufferable jackass laughed!

"There's some of that spirit!" he crowed. "I do love a fiery young lady, don't you, Link?" Ah, so that was the insanely attractive man's name. Link opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it and remained silent. Carlos found this amusing.

"Left you speechless, has she?" he asked, chuckling. "I don't blame you, it takes a while to get used to a girl of her vigor."

"You stupid son of a..." I muttered a long line of obscenities under my breath as I walked away from Carlos. I noticed an amused smile on the handsome young man's face as I passed him. He'd heard what I said, and nodded slightly in agreement.

And despite everything, the fact that he didn't like Carlos either made me smile.