This is a re-write of Embers in the Snow. Hopefully you all enjoy this version of the story. Please do read or at least skim through the new chapters because I've made a lot of changes. New characters, new dialogues and new plotlines have been added :)
I sincerely hope you like this because I love this version of the story :p
So, backdrop: It's set in a modern world ruled by kings. Imagine our present day world without any form of elected government but with aristocratic rule. The aristocracy, in many ways, are a blend of old and are many archaic laws prevalent like the system of arranged marriage, betrothals,multiple marriages for kings and so on.
Set in Alternate Universe, all human and pure Romitri.
DISCLAIMER: All the characters are owned by Richelle Mead
My footsteps echoed through the narrow alleyway as I walked on the cobbled path. It was strangely quiet here, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I welcomed the tranquility, for it was so hard to come by these days.
Especially if you were the princess of a nation.
Oh, it does have it's perks. But nothing like what they show you in Disney movies. Being a princess does not mean twirling around in beautiful gowns, singing to your heart's content and generally leading a blissful life.
Or at least, it does not mean that for me.
Being a princess is so much more.
It means responsibility, honor and above all, an unflinching devotion to my duty.
But I have to agree with the movies on one aspect. They did manage to get one thing right.
Slipping away from the guards and exploring on your own is always one hell of an adventure.
Did I mention? Slipping away is the hardest part.
It hadn't been easy to dodge the head guard, Mason and the other guards that my father had assigned to me. Yes, as a princess and a member of the royal family ruling over the country of Loha, my safety and security is a matter of importance but assigning six guardians to watch over a twenty year old is just absurd.
Especially if the said twenty year old is a trained soldier herself, having practiced with the soldiers since the age of ten.
Everyday, I thank my lucky stars that my father had assigned just six guards to watch over me. He'd wanted a dozen but I hadn't given in.
But today, dodging those six guards had been tough. After a meeting with the Commander of the Lohan army, they've been extra alert. One of these days, I'll have to find out the reason.
I wouldn't have been bothered by the extra security if not for my weekly visits to the city.
My city, the capital of Loha.
Aptly named Devagiri, meaning the "Abode of Gods", the city is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Loha, on the whole, is a beautiful country. And I'm not just saying that because it is my country. It's a widely acknowledged fact.
Devagiri is the epicenter of Lohan beauty.
It's my job to preserve that beauty; to look after my citizens.
It's important to oversee the development work and to make sure the needs of the citizens are met. Just passing laws and designing welfare schemes aren't enough. The implementation must be ensured.
Hence my weekly visits.
I never visited them as their princess, of course. Each week, I dressed as a commoner and escaped the Palace grounds to roam the city.
My father wouldn't be happy if he ever found out about my visits. He worries enough about me as it is.
My father, King Ibrahim Mazur, is fair and just; always striving to ensure that the citizens aren't left wanting for more. That's what he's always taught me. To treat one's subjects as one's children.
They come first.
It's the Mazur family motto.
I'm merely following what he'd taught me.
Most of the time, my tour of the city would be uneventful. I use the opportunity to clear my head and soak in the beauty of the city. But sometimes, these visits would be damn interesting.
Seems like today would be one of those rare 'interesting' days, judging from the sudden disruption of my peaceful surroundings.
A high pitched scream pierced the air, following by several raised voices. Drawing my scarf closer around me, I hurried past buildings and turned a corner, only to come to a standstill.
A young girl lay on the ground with a thickset man standing above her. It was obvious that he'd just pushed her down. Another man stood to the aside, attempting to pacify the burly man who raged and shouted at the fallen girl. As I watched, he pulled her up and shook her before slapping her hard.
A wave of anger rose within me.
Ignoring the people gathering around curiously, I went up to the young girl and helped her up, checking her for wounds. Satisfied that she wasn't seriously injured, I turned and glared at the man.
I was in jeans and T-shirt with a scarf wrapped around my head so that only my eyes were visible. It concealed my identity, yes, but it made me look ridiculous.
Which is why I added an extra dose of anger behind my glare.
Being my strict mother's only daughter, I'd inherited her fierce glare. It came as no surprise to me when the burly man took a step away at the sight of my glare.
"What's going on here?" I asked gruffly.
Unfortunately, he seemed to recover his wits. "That's no business of yours, kid. Leave now. It's a family matter."
"Family matter?" I scoffed, ignoring the uncomfortable feeling of speaking from behind a cloth. "You've brought your family matter to the streets, sir. And that makes it my business."
"I'm telling you girlie, go away!"
I ignored me and turned to the girl again. "Did he hurt you?"
The girl looked stricken at being addressed. She started fidgeting and didn't answer.
"What did you do to her?" I asked the man, barely suppressing the anger roaring inside me.
"Look, miss. I'm not going to tell-"
I turned to the crowd gathered around us. "Listen to him! He pushes a girl onto the streets in broad daylight and tells us it's not our business. We all saw him slap the girl. No one abuses a woman in Loha! No one!"
Lohan tradition and culture gives a high status for womankind. Females are revered and respected. No Lohan can tolerate the abuse of a woman.
Which is why the crowd started shouting at the man to explain himself. Satisfied, I stood beside the shaking girl and narrowed my eyes at the man, daring him to not say anything.
He caved into the crowd's demand. "All right, all right!"
"She cheated on me!" he pointed at the girl next to me. "She cheated! I found her on our bed with another man!"
The crowd grew silent before turning accusing eyes on the girl. If there's something the Lohans absolutely hate, it's disloyalty. In a matter of seconds, the crowd went from supporting the trembling girl beside me to looking at her in disdain.
"What's wrong with you all?" I shouted, looking at the people gathered. "Yes, unfaithfulness is a sin but so is abuse. In fact, abuse is a lot worse than disloyalty."
"She made her mistake and she should pay for it!" The burly man bellowed.
"How do you intent to pay her back?" I asked coldly. "By beating her up? What sort of Lohan beats up a woman?"
The crowd made agreeing noises, convinced by my words. The man, realizing that the he'd get into trouble, tried to run. But the people didn't allow him. A few men in the crowd came forward to restrain him as one of them whipped up his mobile phone to contact the police.
I had to escape before they arrived. They'd surely recognize me.
But I had to make sure the girl would be okay.
"Are you going to be alright?" I asked the girl gently.
She nodded, mustering a small smile for me.
Patting her shoulder, I weaved through the crowd and walked away before the police could arrive at the scene.
As I walked, I pulled out my own mobile phone. Fourteen missed calls?
One was from my mother.
I was in trouble...deep trouble!
Quickly, I dialed Mason's number, asking him to send a chopper to the Drupa Military base. I was close to the base and was confident I'd make it there before the chopper arrived.
The only reason I'd asked for a chopper was that I'd wandered to the part of the city dead opposite to the Royal Palace. And I had to reach the Palace soon, if fourteen missed calls were any indication.
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the Royal helicopter. Ignoring Mason's questions, I tried to make myself look presentable by combing my hair and wiping my face with a towel. Once I shrugged on a jacket, I settled into my seat and looked out of the window, fascinated as usual by the aerial view of the city.
From the helicopter, I could glimpse the far off Meru mountain range, outside the city limit, with its peaks almost touching the clouds. The river Treva, which originates in the Meru mountains, flows down the mountain range, forming a waterfall. Then, the river flows through the city before moving further west and joining the ocean. Devagiri is bound to the west and south by Meru mountain range, with Farishta forest in the north and the east.
Devagiri is a well developed and a well planned city. Trees grow along the broad sidewalks, providing relief from the sun rays during summer. Gardens are maintained in each part of the city. The banks of the river Treva, which flows through the city, is almost always full, gushing along with force, creating translucent vapors above the surface of the water. The smell of flowers, sunshine and wood-smoke is typical in Devagiri. In winter, with heavy fog and mist, it would look as if the clouds have descended, making the city look more heavenly than usual. For me, it was heaven on earth. My home.
We reached the palace grounds in about five minutes. I jumped down from the chopper, taking a deep breath of fresh air. Swiftly, Mason and I made our way to the palace entrance only to be greeted by my best friend Vasilisa Dragomir.
Mia Rinaldi, another one of my friends, was with her. She was grinning while Vasilisa, or Lissa as she insisted on being called, wore a subdued expression.
"What's going on?" I asked as I approached them.
"King Mazur just finished the Court session," Lissa said, still not smiling. "He had an important announcement to make. He wished us to inform you about it."
"Well?" I questioned impatiently.
Lissa's behavior was putting me on the edge. My best friend, Lady Vasilisa Dragomir, was known for her gentle disposition. She was almost always smiling. Her grim expression alerted me to the fact that something was wrong.
"Nothing to worry about, Rose." Mia replied, shooting Lissa a look. "We called you many times. When you didn't pick up, we figured you'd be busy training. But we couldn't wait to tell you that-"
"Lets go over to the gardens, shall we? We can talk there." Lissa said, interrupting Mia.
I narrowed my eyes at both of them but led the way to my car, intent on reaching the Royal garden quickly to find out what they wanted to talk to me about. I'm a curious person as well as an impatient one. This combination isn't ideal for a princess, of course. But I'm rather good at slamming on my princess mask and acting like a picture of serenity when required.
Mason sent Ray and Alok, two of my guards with me, instructing them to stay outside the garden. He knew when he had to leave me be.
After a quick word with my driver, I followed Lissa and Mia into my Mercedes Benz which my dad gifted me for my eighteenth birthday. Our destination, The Royal garden, also called Madhuwan, is the pride and joy of my mother, Queen Janine Mazur. It's beautifully structured, filled with a vast variety of flowering plants of all shapes and sizes and colors, typical for a tropical country like mine. Here, in Loha, we have an abundance of natural wealth. Trade flourishes in this country, making it one of the most prosperous countries in the world. There is no scarcity of food and water. Trade laws put in place by my family ensures that fair trade is conducted. All citizens are treated equally. Loha is also quite high in human development index.
It was mainly due to my father's efforts. He does his best for the citizens. That's what he's always taught me: to treat one's subjects as one's children. That's what I, Princess Rose Mazur, believe.
It's the duty of the ruling class to ensure that their subjects are always taken care of.
Hence, 'they come first' morphed into the Mazur family motto. It's inscribed everywhere in the city, in Sanskrit: the language of the gods in my country and one of the most ancient languages in the world.
I let my eyes skim over these words etched into the arch at the entry of the garden.
The garden was fairly isolated, save for a few gardeners. I led the way through the marigold garden and arrived at the banks of the Angara lake. Coming to a stop in the shade of a banyan tree, I turned to face my friends, silently demanding answers.
"You wont believe it." Mia gushed. "When your father announced it, your mother almost cried of joy."
"Announced what?" I asked, unable to imagine my mother crying over anything.
"Your betrothal." Lissa said quietly.
My betrothal? Marriage?
I stood there, stupefied, as Mia went on to say something else. I couldn't hear her. Only one word echoed through my mind.
I don't want to get married. I don't want to be sent off to some foreign country. I don't know how to be a wife!
All I knew was swords and warfare, not household duties.
Most importantly, I don't want to married to some stranger who would, more likely than not, cut off my freedom and confine me to the Palace. Or keep me as a trophy wife. Now, I have no illusions of finding my true love and all that crap. No. I knew I'd have to marry one day. But I'd figured that 'one day' was in the future. At lease five to six years in the future. At twenty one, I believed I was safe from being married off. Apparently not.
"To whom?" I asked, my voice sounding bleak to my own ears. I needed to know who was to be my future husband.
"Dimitri Belikov," came the reply. "King Dimitri Belikov of Russovia."
AN: How was it? Did you like it? Leave me a review and let me know :)