Pangea Probert pulled on the green dress her maids had so kindly sewn for her, anticipation making her actions quick and precise. Fitting that she should wear green, today of all days. They were to meet for the group date at the entrance to the palace's gardens, which Pangea supposed was just fine. It didn't really matter where they were, as long as she was moving.
She strolled through the hallways, head held high, feeling strangely exposed without her usual hood and face covering. Of course, she couldn't wear such a thing in these treacherous castle halls, but she still felt strangely exposed, as though she was somebody else entirely without it.
But then, Pangea Probert was Pangea Probert no matter what; she did not need accessory or security to be who she was.
She found her way easily enough to the entrance of the garden, where Obsidian, Danya, Zaire and Mel were waiting for her. Gea leaned nonchalantly against the archway that lead into the garden and waved.
"Well, hello everyone! Were you waiting for too long?"
"Not at all." Obsidian smiled and Gea observed, not for the first time, that he wasn't half bad-looking.
But Gea wasn't here to gawk at pretty aristocrats. She was here to infiltrate the royal family. And what would happen later today was a very integral part of that.
Zaire smiled, big and unguarded. "Gea! Good to see you again!"
Gea honestly didn't know what to make of this larger-than-life girl with her sunbeam smile. She wasn't too fond of Earthens, really, the pitiful weaklings who just sat around and let themselves be invaded. But, well... Zaire was just so nice. Gea hadn't exactly expected to like the Artemisians, and she didn't exactly care how they perceived her, but still... she'd hoped to at least make friends. Gea prided herself on her outgoing, likeable nature; you didn't get the support of an entire resistance by being offish. But she hadn't had the best luck with girls so far, and Zaire had been the closest to treating her kindly.
"Hey, Zaire," Gea said, offering a relaxed smile.
If Zaire wasn't in the Selection, Gea thought that she might just make a fine addition to the resistance. But she shouldn't be thinking those things, or getting too comfortable with the other Selected. They were competition, after all, in more ways than one.
"Shall we, then?" Obsidian said, and they began walking, falling easily into step with one another.
Gea looked around furtively for Remi Stellar, who would give her the signal when it was time to let the revolutionaries in, but she didn't see him. Hopefully he was just following them from a distance. Gea had a knife hidden in her boot, though she'd much prefer to have a crossbow. Oh well, the thing was just too bulky and she'd be caught out immediately.
Gea turned her attention to the prince, who kept reaching up to push his hair out of his eyes. He looked uneasy as he walked, and seemed to be deep in thought. Gea pitied the poor fool, of course, but that didn't mean she respected him. He was not her end goal. No, Gea wanted Levana off her throne. She wanted rights. She wanted justice.
And she was going to get it.
Obsidian seemed to feel her stare, because he looked up. He seemed a little lost, once again, on what to say.
"You seem stressed," Zaire said gently, addressing Sid. Her eyes were filled with concern. "Are you alright?"
"Oh, of course," he said quickly. "I'm sorry for being distracted."
Danya spoke up next. "That's alright," she said quietly. "You're allowed to think."
Unlike the people that lived oppressed in the sectors. Unlike the guards being torn from their families.
But Gea pushed those thoughts away. Staying in motion was keeping her from becoming too restless, but she couldn't escape her bitterness against the crown. They deserved everything they got, Levana the hag and her weak-minded husband. In Gea's opinion, doing nothing in the face of injustice was a crime. But she forced herself to focus on the luminous garden in front of her, with the fine petals and shiny pomegranates on low-hanging branches.
She caught Danya admiring the garden as well, and while Sid and Zaire were speaking with Mel, Gea approached the other Selected. There was something mysterious about her, like a puzzle just begging to be solved.
"It's a pretty mirage, isn't it?" she found herself saying.
Danya looked up. Her eyes were soulful, seemingly endless.
"What do you mean?" Danya asked cautiously, falling into step beside Gea.
"Well, this whole palace, really. But I was thinking about the garden. The light's artificial, and most of these aren't real, but instead the product of Lunar glamour."
Danya paused, face unreadable. "What are you trying to tell me?" she asked softly.
Really? Gea was just trying to get a good read. But she'd never tell her that.
"You're part of a royal family, right?" said Gea, keeping her voice neutral and soft. She didn't want to scare the girl.
Danya clenched her dress in her hands, and Gea noticed that one of which was metal. She couldn't help but gasp a little upon seeing it, but Danya didn't seem to mind. She looked anxious and jittery, and didn't respond for a long time, long enough that Gea's patience ran out.
She didn't know why, but she saw this girl as somewhat of a challenge, the ultimate objective being to get her to open up. When Gea got nervous, she talked, and she sure was nervous at this very moment. She didn't really want to talk to Sid, and Zaire was talking to him, and Mel was just so quiet... so that left Danya. She inhaled, and spoke her next words all in one breath.
"Well, I can tell you that I'm sure not part of one. I was born in the Agricultural sector, to parents who loved me very much..."
As they walked, Gea talked quietly to Danya, telling stories of life in the Sectors; the drudgery, the dismay, and the rare moments of camaraderie stolen in between. She told Gea of her friends, and of Meridian, who was engaged to a rich Lunar. She steered clear from topics like revolution, despite that making up much of her fabric. Talking of that would be like hanging up a sign right above her that read 'Guilty.'
But Gea didn't lie. That wasn't in her nature.
Danya seemed engaged, riveted even, leaning in a little closer at certain parts to hear Gea speak of her adventures—or at least, the ones that didn't include her being a convict. The other girl seemed enraptured, which made Gea feel good. At least her life was interesting to someone. She just never expected that that someone would be an Earthen.
So involved was she in her regaling that she didn't notice Remi until he was right next to them. He passed them as if on regular rotation, walking by with his back turned. But a single lock of his hair had fallen into his face, just in front of his right ear. It was the signal.
"And this was real fun," Gea interrupted herself, "but I have to go now. Tell Sid I'll see him soon, and that I'm not trying to offend him by skipping out early; I've just got some things to attend to."
Danya smiled and nodded. "Of course."
She knew that this put her under a suspicious light, but she was counting on Sid's ignorance here. He probably wouldn't connect the dots, and if he did... well, she'd find a way. Because Pangea Probert was famous for never getting caught. And this would be no exception.
They walked in the garden for another few minutes, just talking and breathing in the air. They walked and everything was peaceful. Until the gunshot.
They were close-close, sounds that rent the air in two, sounds that were louder than thunder. Obsidian gasped and clutched Zaire's hand, who was certainly the closest anchor that he could've snatched on to. Zaire screamed. Danya froze.
And Mel? She didn't know what to do or feel.
Zaire was the first to lead them. She grabbed Mel's hand, and Sid grabbed Danya on his other side, and they ran in that unbreakable chain, four wildly frightened people. One was a Lunar royal, and one was an Earthen royal. One was a Sector girl, and one was a small-town girl.
But those labels didn't matter right now. They were just four people with beating hearts, connected and running with nowhere to run to.
Obsidian was gasping for breath, but the three girls knew very well how to run. They rushed to the garden gate, closer to the gunshots, for running away was the coward's move in their eyes, even if they wanted to. Sid was thinking of his girls, his father and, despite himself, his mother. Zaire wanted to make sure that the other three were alright, and was simply following their lead. Danya knew a place of no escape when she saw one.
And Mel didn't want to let go.
The screams almost rivaled the gunshots. Everything was in a wild, panicked frenzy. The smell of gunpowder hang heavy in the air. The shots were finally dying down, the cacophony fading into echoes. The queen was nowhere to be seen.
Guards flanked the group, and if anybody was looking, they'd realize that Sir Remi Stellar was not present. They herded them into the palace, past the impenetrable walls. But the sounds of mutiny continued outside the palace: that magical sound of many people yelling at once, punctuated by gunshots. Such a strange thing, for a rebel attack to sound like a song.
The queen appeared suddenly like a magic trick and rushed past the Selected, Obsidian trailing for a moment in her wake before she tossed a scathing look over her shoulder at the prince. Obsidian returned to weave through the Selected, murmuring soft condolences and reassurances. Everything would be all right.
Levana clicked through the entryway, in time with the gunshots, and opened the palace doors, letting in the sickening scent of gunsmoke and paint. The rebels were inside the gates, that was certain. Selected swarmed close to the prince like moths to a flame, and the palace doors swung shut with a resounding clang.
It was a thick silence, seconds staggering past. A few Selected succumbed to emotion, their fear causing tears to chase each other down their cheeks. There were those Selected that looked outward instead of inward, embracing each other and getting tangled in the many layers of fabric that separated them. Guards stood sentry at the doors, in case any Selected were crazy enough to slip past. And Pangea Probert stood, looking like the calm eye within the storm around her.
The gunshots died suddenly, only a quarter of an hour later. The silence after was enormous and precarious, each person in the entryway leaning across, trying to see the other side; but to no avail. Mere moments later, Levana breezed back in, accompanied by her thaumaturges and looking ethereal as always. She smiled at the Selected as if nothing was wrong.
"My dear subjects, I apologize for this ′ruption in our everyday lives. One part of the royal life is the occasional dissatisfaction of our citizens. A few protesters are certainly nothing new for us, and if you're not suited to such things... well, maybe it would be prudent to consider other options." She paused, staring at the Selected until nobody was left meeting her gaze. "It is my duty and my goal as a queen to ensure happiness for my people, and I will make every effort to stamp out this small-minded resistance. Do know that you are safe in this palace. Nobody in their right mind will dare try anything like this again. Wouldn't you agree, girls?"
Levana waited until she saw each girl nod, their chins laden down with fear.
"Now. Please return to your everyday activities, and if you feel yourself starting to question whether you are strong enough for this royal life, see me and we will arrange a trip back to Earth... or, wherever you came from." She smiled, a predatory gleam in her eyes; almost a jealous gleam. "And remember: letting intruders into the palace is punishable by death. This should have been a given. No real harm was done, fortunately, but if I were you girls, I'd tread very carefully."
She let her voice trail away in the echoing hall before marching away, leaving a shell-shocked group behind.
Nobody was allowed outside the palace, but if they were, they'd have seen the words in careful paint, like graffiti over the palace door, glamoured quickly into nothing by a thaumaturge not minutes after they appeared. The only people who knew what they said were Pangea Probert and her crew. Gea had commanded the rebels to paint them herself:
"If you're smart, you'll watch your step, my queen. We're coming."
Oh my gosh, hi. Hello. It's been a HOT second, but like a wave returning to shore, AIT will always come back, albeit after quite a long hiatus. I want to apologize again for the inconsistency. My inspiration comes and goes, but we are here with the most recent chapter, in which a group date was interrupted by a bit of a protest. At long last, we've heard from our dear friend, the famous Gea Probert; what do you think of her? Also, we're abolishing the rule that all stories have to be in the same tense and format apparently because we got a lil bit of third person limited? I thought it fit well with the POV though so I hope no one minds; I will keep to third person at least, don't worry... oh, except that one journal entry from Ariella. That's just AIT, apparently: a little of everything!
Man, it felt so nice to write this chapter. Never have I taken so long on a project, and never have I been so emotionally attached to one. It's been a long journey, and yet I fully intend to continue writing it, however long it may take, because I enjoy writing it, and I think I'll be so proud when it's finally finished... whenever that will be. Yes I said when! I am determined.
That said, I do appreciate you all bearing with me, it must be frustrating to have to deal with such sporadic updates, but I hope the wait was worth it. It's been a while, so I hope you all are doing well and still as obsessed with FanFiction and these characters as I am! :) Just a general thank you to all my readers, y'all are fabulous and amazing. I'll see you next chapter, where we'll take a closer look at the aftermath of the protest (and also Levana being Levana.) I'll see you... when I see you! (I'm making no promises, though I will say with certainty that I'll be writing AIT every day. Maybe if I write it, it'll happen?)
Oh by the way, I was looking at my outline and it's like 70 chapters?! I will not be keeping you all for that long, in fact I may have to shorten this a bit. We'll see how it goes. Okay now I'm really done. How did I end these?