Now, at a glance anyone would think; who is this undernourished, scrawny looking kid standing nervously at a table? He doesn't look like the kind of guy who'd enjoy nightclubs; he even looks frightened of the other people who are here.
Would you believe it if you were told he's a prince? No..? Didn't think so, but there you have it.
Would you believe that he's not afraid of the other tenants, but that he's on his last nerves waiting on an old friend?
How about if the friend in question were female?
His name is Sidus. Sidus Dietrich, prince to King Galt Dietrich who is the current ruler of the Ünde'khraken and their planet; it's rare to see him outside the fortress walls.
Odd that he's without bodyguards.
He'd been planning this meeting for quite some time. As much as he loved his father, there were some things that he despised about him. He had been forbidden to leave the fortress by the elder male, and he had to convince the guards that he was perfectly safe on his own. His mother, Queen Enrica, had discovered him brooding in his room after failing to do so.
The elder female loved her son more than anything in her world, and felt awful that her son had been reduced to a prisoner in his own home after what he had been through, but seeing his brooding had piqued her interest, and she did what all mothers do at times when they are interested in something involving their children; be nosy.
She'd asked him what was wrong, and after almost an hour of pestering he'd cracked and confided that he'd arranged to meet an old friend on this day. A female friend, who had helped him keep his life and his sanity through the most difficult time of his life.
As a mother, she found it wonderful that her 'little boy', as she put it, had found a girl. As a female, she found the rather romantic idea he'd cooked up darling, and went out of her way to make sure he'd arrive safely, with undercover guards tailing him at a discreet distance.
Though he seemingly wore little, he was in some of his finest. Ünde'khraken don't wear much, their tropical climate not allowing them the luxury of heavy clothing. To any outsider, he appeared to be standing around in his underpants and a vest, but to his own kind, and most tourists who knew his species well enough, he was actually rather smartly dressed. If he had- no, he did have straps wrapped around his forearms, the equivalent of a human wearing a tie, he was really dressed to the nth. He smiled faintly as the female he had been waiting on entered the club and nervously walked over to him, a smile that faded from his lips when he noticed her clothing.
Her name was Maia Airstrorm, and she was of a furred mammalian race that was reminiscent of felines from Earth. Her ears were larger and not pointed, but her race could hold a graceful poise and had balance and coordination to rival ninjas. She had been a kidnapped victim alongside Sidus, and she was his only true friend. He kept his attitude pleasant and warm towards her as she approached, her nodding to him, him tugging her into an embrace. She nervously returned the hug, breaking from him and sitting at a table and returning to looking about the room nervously as he disapprovingly eyed her clothing.
For the woman he prized more than any, seeing her in these... dishevelled and dogged clothes did not do her justice.
"Thanks for coming, Maia; it's been a long time." He said to her warmly, getting an ear swivelled in his direction.
"... Yes, it has..." She replied quietly. "Almost too long."
"I've missed seeing you these last few months." He admitted, putting a hand on hers. "Would you like a drink? I'm sure they've some fresh-"
"I'm fine." She snapped.
Sidus blinked at her sudden sharpness; she'd always been warm and rather fluid in conversations. Her short snap was as unexpected as an ice cube down one's shirt. He grumbled and clasped her hand tighter.
"No you're not." He hissed at her. "You're stressed, your clothes are savaged and you're denying hospitality from me." He rose a little from the table and loomed over her slightly. "What's wrong?"
She cringed, one hand moving quickly to the necklace around her throat as she glanced back at him slightly fearfully.
"Your clothes are filthy and tattered, you look harangued and stressful, please tell me; seeing you like this... I'm worried about you." Sidus said calmly, worriedly looking in her eyes. "Please."
She sighed and turned to the table, looking down at the marble sadly.
"I... these are the last clothes I own." She said.
"After you freed us from the slavers, I returned to my family." She mumbled. "My mother had died in a traffic accident while we were still slaves, and my father was in the hospital with terminal lung cancer." She sighed and clutched the locket around her neck. "He... he told me that I could have this locket to remember them by, it has photos of them inside. After he died, their will left everything to me, it's all safe in an account somewhere, and the only access card is in my wallet. But, after his funeral, people showed up at my home...
"They said that they had been searching for me, 'lost property'. I hurriedly packed what I could and fled, getting the police of my world to look after my home while I ran. Every time I stopped to rest, I'd lose something. First time it was the clothes I'd been wearing before I showered, second it was my communicator..." She chuckled a little, though it was a sarcastic action. "I've not had my suitcase for weeks. This is literally all I have right now, and I've been too busy trying to hide to even bathe. They won't stop, Sidus; they keep coming, and I don't know if I can run any longer.
"They're probably waiting for me outside this club, hoping to ambush me." She mumbled. "Even here I am not safe."
Sidus laughed a little at this comment.
"Maia, you know that you will always be safe with me." He said, again putting a hand atop hers. "They came looking for me, too; never have my parents seen me fight so hard, even in the ring." He stood, tugging Maia from her seat. "Come; let us show these goons why you do not mess with the friends of a champion gladiator."
She nodded up at him and let him lead her from the club.
Just outside the doors, Sidus led her over to a civilian, who turned out to be a royal guard in casual clothes. The guard alerted the police and other guards that Sidus was on the warpath and not to interrupt him should he fight someone. Sidus, now content that they would be following, started to stride towards the castle.
"WH-how have you got the Royal Guard following your orders..?" Maia quizzed with a mumble.
Sidus smiled and turned to her, lowering himself awkwardly to one knee. "I don't think I've properly introduced myself before," he said calmly, "my name is Prince Sidus Dietrich, only son of King Galt Dietrich."
Maia seemed a little flabbergasted. "Wha..?"
"I'm royalty, Maia." He stated. "I'm the only heir to the Ünde'khraken throne."
She still stared at him in shock, going over this information in her head. Sidus stood back up and tugged her arm.
"C'mon, it doesn't do a prince to keep his friends in such a poor state, does it?"
She nodded faintly; plodding along behind him trying to digest the information she'd just been given.
She was best friends with a prince?
Soon enough, Sidus and Maia strode along the main road of the royal town, the castle's gates looming high at the end. As they approached the gates, a group of men stepped out of alleys and stood in front of them.
"That's far enough, Maia." One said. "Be a good girl and come with us."
Sidus shifted Maia behind himself. "She's not going with you."
"She's our property, and she will do as she is told!"
"Over my dead body, you slaver bastard!"
"It can be arranged, boy."
Sidus grinned a little, looking up over the castle gate where a guard held a package ready for him. He turned his head to Maia.
"Find cover with the guards behind us." He hissed to her.
It was now she noticed that the two royal guards they had talked with earlier were beckoning to her from a nearby shop.
"Go." Sidus hissed. "Now!"
He raised his hand up, catching the wrapped object that the guard on the battlement had been holding and had thrown to him, and Maia ran for cover. Sidus spun the objet by the spiked handle sticking out from one end, managing to get the rags wrapping it to release their hold and fall to the cobbles. A flame burst into life near the end of the blade, in a little crook crafted into the top. Runes glittered, shining brightly along the sides.
"Sidus Dietrich, eh?" The slaver shouted, allowing a laugh to accompany his words. "It's my lucky day, two of our most valuable pieces of lost property on one planet!"
"I would not call this your lucky day;" Sidus snarled, his glare boring into the slaver hatefully, "Firewire Fury shall carve you like a Sunday roast!"
Sidus leapt from the pavement, dust swirling from the force he kicked the ground, and his swing only narrowly missed the slaver, leaving a deep gash in the ground below.
"My blade can cut through anything;" Sidus snarled, swinging it around and carving clean through a nearby thug effortlessly, "Though I shall have to properly clean it after slicing up your filth!"
The thugs charged at him, and Sidus simply dodged every attack thrown his way. He ducked and weaved and sidestepped, parrying kicks with the flat of his blade. He took a fierce punch to his face, allowing it to roll him up into a standing position. Slowly he turned his head to the gang around him.
"Are you finished?" He snarled, before adjusting the grip on his sword. "It is my turn."
In one swoop he knocked half of the thugs to their asses, and he rolled over them before plunging his sword through one behind him. He grabbed one of the thugs struggling to stand by his hand and swung him into his still standing allies. Another swing of his sword, and a pair of Sidus' opponents were without their lower halves. He grabbed one, impaled him, and dropped him to the ground. Now he was standing in a puddle of blood, and his anger seemed to steam off of him as he glared at the remaining three.
Sure enough, the three fled, unwilling to be his next victim, and he turned on the one remaining slaver, who had originally spoken at them. Slowly and deliberately he strode towards him, backing the male into a wall and grabbing the scruff of his clothes.
"You," Sidus snarled, "You will return to your masters, you will tell them what has happened this day; that their past champion struck down a half dozen of their best men. Tell them that, should they harangue those who they wrongfully stole, their champion will find them!" He thudded the male against the wall forcefully, anger dripping from his voice thick as mud. "Now go!"
He released the male, who scampered away from him with all the fearful strength he could muster and fled back down the street. Sidus huffed in fury before letting his anger cool and turning to Maia.
"Come, let's get you cleaned up." He said, holding out a hand.
Maia gingerly took his hand, and he led her through the castle gates, stopping only to hand his sword to one of the guards behind the gates before leading her on up into the castle.
Maia was in awe the moment she stepped inside the castle doors. The roof was dozens of metres above her head, each inch intricately carved and exquisitely painted; the walls were also carved and highlighted, but paintings hung from most space, making it seem more crowded. Pillars towered up, holding the ceiling above them and hanging banners featuring the royal crest and colours. She squealed a little when another female approached wearing fine silks and a tiara of diamonds, emeralds and amber, and ducked away putting Sidus between herself and the new female.
"I am home, mother." Sidus said calmly, giving the female a peck on her cheek.
"That you are, Sidus." She replied, giving him a firm slap across the back of his head. "You've caused quite the ruckus, if the guardsmen are to be believed."
"Kidnap slavers, mother;" Sidus grumbled, "the very group who forced me into the ring for so many years; they should count themselves lucky that I let any of them live at all."
His mother grumbled, but did not argue with him. She herself had put out laws that not only forbade slavers to operate in their systems, but that any caught were to be put into solitary imprisonment for as long as possible. Naturally the city's own gaol had a wing dedicated to those who had decided to pursue her son, and the wing was housing a healthy population already. She looked past her son at the cowering female.
"And who is this young lady?" She asked cheerfully.
"This is Maia Airstrom; she's a friend I made, well, the only friend I made, when I was in the rings." Sidus replied, stepping to one side a little to let his mother see her. The feline female cringed a little.
"Greetings, Miss Airstrom, and welcome to our home." Enrica chirped cheerfully. "I'm Enrica Dietrich, Queen of the Ünde'khraken royal throne, but you can call me Enrica." She held out a hand, and Maia nervously returned the handshake. Enrica tugged her up from her cringing posture and gave her a stern look over.
"Let me guess;" She began calmly, "you've been without a secure home in about, ooh, two months?"
Maia nodded shyly.
"No clothes but those you have on your back?"
"I see..." Enrica mumbled, before turning on her son. "If your father were to be the one giving her accommodations, she'd be in the servant's quarters without even a mattress." She hissed.
"Yes, mother." Sidus grumbled. "I know how he feels about me socializing with anyone who isn't a billionaire aristocrat. Quite frankly he can jump off a balcony, I'll choose who I do and don't socialise with and not him. I don't worry about our family image, and I doubt that me having 'commoner' friends would hurt it at all. I don't think he cares about me as a person that much either; he could have mobilised our armies and fought to rescue me from the slavers, but instead he left me there for ten years to fight for my own survival. And before he tries to argue with 'I had to struggle to survive in my younger days', I'll point out that he's been royalty as long as he's lived and the only thing he's ever struggled to do is get out of bed in the morning."
Enrica sighed and tapped her son's chin gently. "But he's not the one giving her a room." She said. "I am, and I'm issuing her the Bronze suite. She looks like she's been through hell, and I'm going to trust that you'll make sure she's cleaned up and given fresh clothes; I shall send one of our maids to get something she can wear from town quickly. Go on now, shoo!"
Maia now stood in one corner of the room she was being given, looking about in a worried daze as Sidus tried to coax her into the bathroom.
She couldn't possibly be expected to stay here, could she?!
Bronze, or at the very least the colour bronze, was everywhere, polished to the nth. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, about ten feet over her head, which made everything practically glitter with the light it gave off. The bed was huge, king size at least, and it too was a mixture of bronze colours, each inch immaculately clean. A few paintings hung from the walls, a large pot plant in one corner, and a wardrobe were the only other features, and the pot had been glazed in, you guessed it, bronze.
It was like walking into a room made of glistening, fresh toffee.
Sidus sighed and took her hand, leading her into the adjacent bathroom. Things were more normally coloured in here; white porcelain and clear mirror, but the tiled floor and walls were still a bronze colour, and the plumbing had been glazed in the orange alloy. Every inch of metal had a coat on it to stop oxidation, to allow for the near-golden colour to radiate.
"S-Sidus, I-I can't stay h-here!" She whimpered.
"Hmm, why not?" Sidus asked nonchalant. "Don't like the colour..?"
She looked at him as if he'd gone mad.
"Th-this is a castle and I'm but a commoner, barely even bottom class!"
Sidus gave a calming chuckle.
"Maia, you have been invited into this home by the youngest occupant, given a room by the lady of the house, and you're the best friend of the prince of an entire planet." He said calmly. "You're about as common as bird's teeth. Remember what I said to you the day we parted?"
Shyly she nodded.
"'If you ever need anything, I shall never be far.'" She quoted quietly, from the depths of her heart. "I will never forget those words."
"I'd like to add to them." Sidus said. "If you ever need anything, I shall never be far; should you need protection, I shall be your knight; for, though you come from humble roots, you shall always be my princess."
Sidus smiled warmly at her, and returned her affections when she embraced him in tears. Quietly he cooed to her, calming her slowly. Eventually he pulled from the embrace, brushing a tear from her cheek.
"Now, you have a shower and get cleaned up. There's a can of sheen and a hairdryer in the cupboard under the sink. One of our maids will leave the clothes that are being bought for you on the bed neatly folded; lock the bathroom door when I leave, and, if you wish to keep this jacket, make sure to hand it to a maid with strict instructions to restore it, else they might throw it out. I'll leave a micro-fibre cloth in the closet for you to polish your choker." Sidus said, moving back to the door. "I'll be just down the hall in my own room should you need me. You are welcome here, Maia," he added, moving to close the door, "always welcome here."
With that he closed the door, leaving her to bathe.
Down in his own room, Sidus closed the door and sat on his bed roughly, deep in thought. His room was clean, but not from lack of trying; the maids kept everything clean and neat. No matter how messy he became, it would always be neat and tidy after the maids had been through.
Sometimes they left a note asking him to be tidier.
He sighed and stood again, taking his towel from the hook on his bathroom door and moved into the bathroom to have a shower himself.
A knock on the door to his bedroom startled him as he stepped out of the bathroom, only a towel to keep his decency. Hurriedly he pulled on the bare essentials before opening the door with his towel around his shoulders. Maia stood waiting, concealed in but a towel.
"Maia..!" Sidus hissed. "What're you doing here like that? Get in, get in; before someone sees you!"
He practically pulled her through the door, closing it tight behind her and locking it. With a sigh he turned to her, eyeing her wearily.
"What's the trouble?" He asked. "Has the maid not shown up with your clothes..?"
"Sh-she did..." Maia mumbled shyly. "But I've never seen clothes like these before, how do I put them on..?" She held up what appeared to be nothing more than a pair of long lengths of fabric, but the larger black one had a clearly defined bust piece sewn into it.
"I can't help you with them," he said, "for one it's bloody embarrassing, and secondly I've no idea how to dress you in them either. Tell you what, go back to your room and I'll send my mother, she'll help you into them."
Maia seemed very unnerved by this proposition, squeaking quietly at the thought.
"Never mind that she's a queen, Maia." Sidus said warmly. "She's still a mother, she'll help you out; you'll find that, unlike my father, my mother and I are much less... formal, than one would expect of royals." He ushered her to the door, unlocking and opening it slightly. "Go on, my mother will be with you soon."
Maia nodded shyly, and hurried back to her room, making sure not to be seen, while Sidus went and found his mother.
Eventually, there was a knock at Maia's door, and she gingerly let Enrica in. The elder female, moving with the air of someone who'd done this dozens of times before, locked the door behind herself and picked up one of the two pieces of clothing off the bed.
"Alright," She began, "turn away from me, hold this end and let the rest dangle down."
It only took a minute for her to tie the loincloth like garment, turning Maia around and adjusting the front to neaten it up. She then turned the feline around again and held up the larger article of clothing with her arms through Maia's own.
"Drop the towel, hon; I won't peep."
Maia shyly did as she was told, and as her towel dropped to the floor Enrica pulled the chest piece into position before tugging the excess fabric around and tying it off neatly behind her back. She spun Maia on the spot and neatened up her front for a moment.
"There we go all done hon." She chirped, reaching up and rubbing Maia's head, as if she were scuffing up her hair. "Though they're a bit touristier than I'd had in mind, we can work on your wardrobe tomorrow; dinner is to be served in the main dining hall tonight, you are welcome to attend."
Again Maia seemed to shy away.
"For an arena fighter, you're awfully flighty." Enrica mused playfully.
"Not so much a fighter..." Maia mumbled. "More an assassin; most of my fights would be the thrill of who or where I would strike next and the anticipation of such. As your son has a powerful weapon, I had cloaking technology. I... don't know what happened to it, though; I think it's in the hands of my world's police."
"My point stands." Enrica replied. "And you don't need to worry about proper etiquette if you join us, just make sure you can use a knife and fork, don't talk with your mouth full, and ask for things to be passed across the table rather than reach and you'll be fine." She gave a sarcastic giggle. "While my husband may be up his own ass with the etiquette, posture and crap like that, I'm not that fussed, and neither is Sidus; everyone needs to eat, why should it matter that we hold the fork in a certain way or for certain meals?" She sighed and shook her head. "I digress; back on the subject of dinner, if, at any point, my husband offends you, you are perfectly allowed to get up and leave, neither Sidus nor I shall hold it against you." She rummaged around in her hip bag for a moment, sparing Maia a glance between rummages. "Hmm, you don't seem to be much a floral..." She mumbled to herself, before pulling out a small glass bottle with a spray. "Something a bit airy methinks." She mumbled, handing Maia the bottle. "Here, this should suit your scent well."
Maia considered the bottle wearily.
"It's only perfume, hon; you've no need to be worried. I didn't think that you'd be well versed in choosing a fragrance that would suit your person, so I brought a few of my old spares." She smiled and held up her wrist, motioning for Maia to smell it, something she did with reluctance. "See? I tend to choose a fruity scent; each woman is accented best by a different fragrance, and knowing my stocks as I do, I thought that this one would suit you best."
Maia nodded shyly.
"Just apply a little," Enrica said, taking the bottle gently and spraying a few points on the feline's body. "Too much is overwhelming, a little is always more." She sniffed at Maia faintly, blinking at the way she smelled, before sniffing again. "Odd, I remember it smelling quite different..." She mumbled, taking a rag from a nearby drawer and checking the smell. "Yes, that's right, so why do you..?" something clicked in her head and she sighed.
The feline cringed. "Y-yes, Enrica?"
"Are you in season?"
Maia, slightly stunned at the question, gabbled away for a moment or two before sighing. "Yes." She mumbled. "I... my first was before I was kidnapped, but my second after; I have had to endure them, and I'm not seriously affected by any mind altering hormones anymore. My mother helped me endure my first, and hardest, season; this is the last day in any case and I can control myself physically, you need not worry about kittens..."
Enrica took the younger female's chin in her hand and lifted her eyes. "And what about this kitten?" She asked. "You can control your physical self; stop yourself from accidentally taking advantage of your fertility, but what about mood swings? Can you control them?"
Maia shook her head faintly. "My mood is always something I have trouble controlling at this time of year." She replied solemnly. "I... I can keep myself in control, I notice when I'm swinging one way or another, but if I'm pushed..."
"It's alright, hon." Enrica reassured. "We all have trouble. Don't fuss too much; again, only my husband will throw a fit if you need to leave, and he will be handled should he do so."
Dinner wasn't going well.
Maia had known a few things about royal procedures, and she had waited for Sidus and his parents to sit before sitting down herself, had stayed quiet unless questioned directly, and had deliberately avoided direct eye contact with King Galt. She was seated close to Sidus, and it was but the four of them at the medium sized table eating food that she had found amazing to smell, marvellous to look at, and satisfying to taste. She was avoiding alcoholic drinks, preferring juice to help her keep her nerves.
Currently she was staring at her food, shifting it about the plate half-heartedly while the King kept up racist comments. She'd heard them all before; jokes about yarn and rodents, about disliking water and scratching up furniture. They, alone, were enough to make her miserable, but his attacks on her social standing and person were downright vicious.
She'd been in battles fierce enough to make even the audience feel sick from the gore and violence, taken blows strong enough to rupture her stomach and dislocate limbs, had to watch fellow captive slaves she called friends die before her eyes and in her arms; but these words and the manner in which the King said them made each of these scars on her psyche ache and her heart tear at itself.
His next snide remark and she could take no more, standing from the table abruptly before nodding to both Sidus and Enrica and sweeping from the room in tears.
"What in the world is her problem? Humph, rude little-"
Sidus had been biting his tongue. He knew that what his father was saying was, indeed, hurting Maia, but he didn't want to speak up lest his mother did. If he put a stop to his father's belittling before his mother could he'd never hear the end of it.
He, however, got a nod from his mother across the table, a look of fury visible even in her practiced poker-face of calm, and he slammed the table with a fist, interrupting his father mid-sentence.
His father gave him a shocked, slightly outraged look. "I beg your pardon?"
"That is enough, father!" Sidus snapped, rising from the table. "If you want to, in some way, tell me that you disapprove of who I befriend then you go right out and say it; don't hurl insults at them and pretend they don't exist while you do it! You tell me to my face!"
"You will watch your tone with me, boy!" Galt growled, rising from his own chair angrily.
"Or what; you'll banish me!? Never see me again!?" Sidus shouted back. "Do you have any idea who she is, where she comes from!? Or are you just being racist because you can!?" His father went to shout back, but Sidus would have nothing of it. "Or are you just insulting her because she's not a noble of whom you approve!? Well guess what? I don't give a shit where she's from or what her background is, she's my best friend; you may be my father, and the King, but I will not stand idly by while you attack her verbally to the point of tears!"
He moved to leave, stopping only to tell a maid to bring a plate of tonight's dinner to the Bronze suite before hurrying out of the room. Galt sat back down and grumbled angrily.
"If you think him an insolent little shit, Galt, you might want to know I'm on his side here. You deserved that." His wife hissed at him. "She's a fine young woman; she went out of her way to be here for dinner, obeyed the least of our royal protocol, and even put up with your tongue lashing for half an hour." She gave him a spiteful glance. "If we were any other family, I'd have slapped you for many of the things you said. You leave her well alone; king or not, you have no right to say the things you've been saying the last half hour."
Galt growled. "I don't want him diluting-"
"Diluting our gene pool? Is that what you were about to say?" She snapped. "You listen to me, Galt Hanswar Dietrich," he cringed slightly, she'd used his full name in an angry tone, never a good sign, "you cannot control who he befriends or loves, no matter how much you'd like to! Put him in a room full of aristocrats and upper class of his age and he'd alienate himself from them all in a matter of minutes, befriending no one, and he'd hate you for it. They kept each other alive for ten years, keeping one another sane, and no matter what you do you will not be able break the bond those two have.
"Besides," she continued, her tone cooling a little, "it'd be nice to have a fresh face about. So what if she's not of our species or swimming in assets? She's managed to win your son's affection, let her be."
Sidus knocked worriedly at Maia's door. He'd not seen her that upset before, and he was worried she'd do something crazy. When she didn't answer, he asked a passing maid to unlock the door for him with her key and stepped inside. She was huddled on the bed crying quietly to herself, and he silently closed the door and shifted over to her, kneeling at the side of the bed where he could see her face.
"Maia, I'm sorry." He breathed slowly. "I'm so sorry; I should have defended you from him before it got as far as it did. He's been like this since I can remember, always rather vile towards anyone without high social stature."
"You weren't there for me." She sniffled.
Sidus sighed. "I'm sorry, Maia, I truly am; I should have done what I did after you left before he got as spiteful as he did. Please, forgive me, I'll do anything."
She huffed sadly. "Just... leave." She breathed. "We'll do something tomorrow."
Sidus gave the floor a glum gaze and nodded, standing and moving to the door.
"On of the servants will be here with some dinner for you soon." He mumbled. "Please don't pass it up; you need to get your strength back."
And with that he left, quietly closing the door as he slunk to his own room to brood over his father's actions and his own lack of.