Sophina was as beautiful a woman as there ever was. She carried herself with such grace and purpose that any onlookers fell instantly in love. Sophina could capture the attention of just about any onlooker. She was charming, that one. With a simple shrug of her shoulder, she let her audience know that she had nothing to say. “You’re the only one who can do this,” Angel insisted, approaching the girl with a stride that spoke volumes. She was the alpha in this situation, not Sophina.
“What you’re asking is impossible.” Sophina clicked her tongue. “I can’t just summon a god. It doesn’t work like that, and I don’t have the power even if I wanted to help you.”
“Oh, I’m aware of your shortcomings,” Angel said with a smirk. “But you know of the man who can summon a god and I’d like his divine intervention.”
“Divine intervention for what?” Sophina asked, raising a brow. “You claim you’re here to make the future a better place. But I hardly see how doing this will help your cause.”
“It’s simple,” Angel began. “We’re competing with a lot of big forces and I need all the leverage I can get. Your little boyfriend is the one who can help level the playing field.”
Sophina stiffened at the word boyfriend. “If you did your research, it wasn’t well enough. I no longer commune with him. Haven’t for thousands of years. I doubt he’d welcome me with open arms and summon a god because I asked him to. And to clarify, I would never ask him to.” Sophina dusted off her dress. “Are we done here?I haven’t survived for thousands of years just to end my life staring into the future you filthy criminals create.” Sophina hopped down from the messy desk she had made herself comfortable on.
Angrily, Angel grabbed the girl’s arm. “Oh, I wouldn’t be talking about criminals if I were you, Missy! What you did trumps them all.”
Sophina let out a bitter laugh. “And I’m still paying for my mistakes. Heed my warning. You do not want to play with gods. They are not benevolent forces to be weaponized. They will almost never bend to your will.”
“Let me see that for myself,” Angel said. “I’m sure they’d want to see the same future that I do. A world where begins like us can exist. Not some pathetic weak humans, but us supernaturals. Us powerful dimension shifters and time travelers. A world where you can’t be persecuted for being who you are!”
Sophina clenched her fists tightly. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. A gods will is of their own. They will never falter to someone beneath them. Someone like you. Besides, I already told you that I cannot convene with the divines and the man who can is fighting for the opposite side.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, sweetie,” Angel mocked. “There are no opposing sides. We all want the same thing. A world with peace for our people. But you see, some of us want it more than others and will fight for that basic right. You can walk out right now, but you will regret ever doing that.”
Sophina shook her head and began to walk away. “The only thing I regret is ever walking in here to begin with. You…you and your little organization will be the ones who regret having me walk out of this room. Mark my words.”
“Sophina dear!” The woman’s voice was loud with authority. Sophina would never get used to the shrill voice of her step mother. The older woman patted the girl’s head as if she was a dog. “You mustn’t move around too much, you’ll get dirty.”
“Mother,” Sophina said with disdain. “With all due respect, I am no doll. Do not treat me like a show piece.”
“No one will marry you if you don’t act as one,” The woman said dryly. “We women are showpieces to be lusted after and gazed upon. It is a fact of life that we cannot escape.”
“No, that isn’t true,” Sophina spoke plainly, much to the women’s chagrin. “Women who act as showpieces are treated as show pieces. I am a person with hopes and dreams for my future.”
“A person whose future is already destined,” The woman spoke harshly. “A woman who mustn’t speak out of turn for it doesn’t fit her position. You may dream all you’d like, but keep it behind closed doors. You are a princess…a lady to be won by a handsome diplomat.”
“I am your bargaining chip!” Sophina cried. “A bargaining chip that you and my father are waving around to all of the potential political prospects and I don’t much care for it.”
Sophina’s step mother delivered a slap across the young girl’s face and let out another shrill cry. “As I said, you do not speak out of turn and with such horrendous words. Up to your room. You will not be receiving supper tonight. Keep this up young lady and you should soon starve before even taking your rightful place as lady of a palace.”
Anger danced in Sophina’s eyes but she knew better than to waste her breath on a woman whose sole purpose in life was to weasel her way into a spot of high power and influence. If you asked lady Bethany how she felt, she’d tell you she was at the top of the food chain. Her dreams of devouring the peasants below her to reach her rightful station had come true. But Sophina wanted none of that. She had no dreams of marrying a man of her status. She had no dreams of marrying at all. What Sophina wanted more than life itself was an adventure. She wanted to be the one to pull the sword fromt he stone of legend. She wanted to vanquish the dragons. Sophina wanted to find the treasure.
Funny, how none of the stories were about women leading the charge. Why wasn’t she allowed to do as she pleased? Down with the patriarchy, she said. Who needed men in charge, and scheming women who lived to please them. She would not fall into that trip. Heading up to her room, Sophina’s mission was clear. She was to pack and leave this stifling place. She would see how her wretch of a step mother’s desires of political prowess would proceed with no bride. For, there would be no marriages in the name of politics, or love, or anything at all. Starting tonight, she would no longer be Lady Sophina, but Sophina the Great. Sophina, vanquisher of men and fighter of legend.
Lost in thought, the brazen girl hadn’t noticed the giddy girl standing by her door with books in hand. “Lady Sophina!” The light pink haired girl cried, outstretching her journal. “You said today you would teach me how to write fancy like a princess.” Though the girl wasn’t much younger than Sophina, she was a servant of the house. Briella knew beautiful words but she couldn’t express them on the page or read for that matter. Sophina felt bad for the girl and had decided to take Briella under her tutorship. It had to be done in hiding though, as Lady Bethany despised the servants leaving their stations.
Sophina knew that the servants were people as well. They deserved any rights that Sophina herself had. “Not today, Briella,” Sophina said with a frown. “I…”
“But, please! I want to write home and impress mama and papa with my fancy writing. Please! Please!” The girl dropped to her knees and stared up at Sophina. “It will only be for a few minutes. I promise.”
How could she look into the eyes of the begging girl and decline? Tonight then, Sophina told herself. She would pack up and leave at moon down when everyone was still asleep in their quarters. She would not disappoint Briella who’s parents lived in a remote elven village not too far from the coast of the kingdom’s domain. They sent her to the kingdom for better opportunities. Reading and writing being one of them, and Sophina would provide that. “Will they be able to read it?” Sophina asked, as she pushed open the door to her chambers. “Your parents.”
“No ma’am,” Briella said, but her smile didn’t leave her face. “But they’ll see the fancy writing and know that I am learning and getting real smart. They’ll be proud for sending me away and not be so worried as I know they are.”
“I’m happy to provide this service then,” Sophina said with a kind smile of her own. “I hope that one day you will leave these castle walls and make a name for yourself out there. Not Briella the servant, or Briella the wife to some lowly man. But, Briella something else.”
“I never thought of it, your ladyship.” Briella looked up at the sky as if in thought. “What would I be?”
“Perhaps Briella the wise, or Briella the beautiful,” Sophina mused.
“Or Briella the lady!” She exclaimed in wonder. “How I would love to be a lady like you, your kindness.”
“No Briella,” Sophina replied. “That is no life for you.” When the elven girl frowned, Sophina patted her head. “No, you are worth much more than being any man’s show piece. You can be something greater than even I.”
“I could never!” Briella bowed. “You are truly remarkable, my lady. I am but a servant.”
Halina was a backwards place, Sophina resolved. It’s people were mired in their obsession with nobility, tradition and namesake. If Sophina was anyone else, she’d be able to kindly decline any offer of marriage presented to her. Rumor had it the youngest prince of Auguria was interested in her hand. Rather, his father was. How could he be interested in her if he never met her? Sophina remembered Lady Bethany telling her to hold out for the eldest son, for he would be the one getting the crown. All the younger brother was due was some gold and land. He wouldn’t be overseeing the people. Briella was awarded a freedom Sophina could never have. Sure she was a princess and had riches galore, but what she didn’t have was the ability to go as she pleased. Briella could run away from this life and no one would care. Sophina knew once she left there would be backlash of some kind.
Briella looked up at Sophina with eyes as wide as porcelain serving plates. She had admired the face paint that the young girl never took off. Markings of her tribe. Ragnarok- a strange and almost depressing name. The Ragnarok was the ending of the world in legends and myths. Surely naming a tribe that had a meaning…Sophina didn’t understand it at all. “Have a seat at the table,” Sophina instructed. “I will teach you how to write proper.” Sophina herself sat down and Briella pulled up a chair. “Just follow my brush strokes. See?” Sliding her inked feather upwards, Sophina drew an elegant D followed by -ear. “Dear. See?”
Briella was focused on the hand movements and nodded profusely. Sophina handed her the pen and the stationary that had been lying around on the princess’ desk. “Like this?” In one swift movement, Briella had formed a near perfect word. Dear. Sophina gave a thumbs up and a small shriek. “By gads, Briella! You’re a fast learner.”
“Er…” She blushed and looked down at the floor. “Tis’ what my mother says too. I think it’s important to pick thigns up fast, in case I ever need it….” She bit her lip. “Er, it’s not as good as yours my lady!”
“Nonsense!” Sophina shook her head. “Don’t sell yourself short, ever. Next word. Let’s try it…” Together, the girls sat like that until Briella had a perfectly crafted letter to her parents and a wide smile on her face. Perhaps this sort of privilege, helping others learn from her own vast knowledge afforded to her by her lavish education, would be the only thing Sophina missed about this life.