Chapter three

Nyala fought the second prince in a way that often made many of their warriors jealous. She moved like the wind; silent, lethal, elegant, deadly. She was the role model for every child in their village. And she fought beautifully. Only this fight didn't end the way that most others did. Many ended with her standing over her opponent with a bored look of quiet pity; not this time.
This time, as they were locked in a hand to hand struggle, the prince took out her legs and straddled her, ending the fight with a finalized smile and a shocked hush from their party. Sure, all of them had known that she would ultimately choose the second prince, but no one had expected him to be as strong as her. The silence lasted -on their side anyway- until the prince helped her to stand. Then there was a flurry of hushed whispering in their ranks.
"B-Bravo. Well done Prince Zolan. Congratulations for your victory, and welcome to our family."
The queen stuttered, her eyes on her daughter as 'Prince Zolan' helped Nyala up. She looked a little shocked, though highly amused. That was what cued Ari off. Nyala looking amused. When a man had just beaten her? Stepping forward only a little, Nyala took the small movement as her cue and pulled away from the prince, her eyes closed off a little as she bowed her head respectfully.
"I commend you, Zolan. Thank you for the battle."
She spoke with the appropriate amount of respect and dignity that was required, her eyes betraying nothing, and Ari stepped forward further. One of the younger girls in the guard brought her Nyala's fur cloak, and she draped it over the princess's shoulders with care. The rest of the women had quieted down, but that didn't mean that the Balvedarians had. They were still whispering over the battles with excitement, as if they thought that their second born prince 'beating' the princess of the Sha'at signified something great.
Ari remained quiet as Nyala and the queen continued with the arrangements, shoving all mention of the first born out of it and focusing only on Zolan and Nyala. While that went along, the 'guards,' who Ari was beginning to wonder about, all fell silent when their eyes landed on a collection of horses that stood in the path that they had traveled to get to the meadow. Ari tensed for a split second, until her eyes focused on the Balvedarian insignia on the armor.
She retunred her attention to the royal gathering as the 'guards' packed up their things, and Ari finally realized why they had seemed odd for guards. They weren't really. They were just men within the army that had been chosen to escort the royals until the real guards could arrive.
'They must have been fighting another war or something.'
She mused with little interest. Despite what she knew people said of the Sha'at amazons, they did not start war where ever they went. Her people had been staying peacefully in the land surrounding the mountains for generations, and the Balvedarians were the ones that had started the war between her people. They had tried to take their land, and their village, and the Sha'at had dropped their peaceful ways and donned their violent ones.
"Ari, watch close. Those men are the elite, they will be the ones to help you watch over myself, and my future husband."
Nyala whispered to her, their language never sounding more beautiful on her tongue after Ari had heard her speak their enemies language. She nodded, her gaze instant returning to the horse-men. It was hard to tell if the riders upon the set of pitch black stable horses were men or women -though she doubted any of them were women- from the unbelievable amount of armor that they wore. She wondered how they moved at all.
When the eight men had dismounted and the guards from the beginning had all started away, Nyala and Zolan's marriage was announced to the helmet-bearing newcomers. One or two them flinched back in shock, but other then that, she could tell nothing of them. When the conversation turned to who would be guarding the couple and where they would be living, Ari actually bothered paying attention.
"Now, when she comes to live with us, we suspect that you will want one or two guards with her. That is absolutely fine of course, but these men here will be the main guards. Everything they say goes."
The Balvedarian king announced, making Ari freeze. Nyala and the queen did the same, their gazes locking a split second before both turned to Ari, who had no doubt that she looked ready to murder.
"Ari my dear, what do you say to this?"
The queen asked, looking just as peeved as Ari felt. She stepped forward, her arms sliding up to fold over her chest, and she didn't have to turn her head to know that her seven sisters -her fellow royal guard- followed her lead and separated from the main unit. The king looked nervous, though he didn't budge from his stance, and the queen slipped a step behind him. Their eldest son ducked behind his father like the coward he was, and Ari finished formulating what she wanted to say. They were lucky, she rarely spoke, and she was being so kind as to grace them with a tongue lashing.
"Let me just start by saying that you must be out of your flogging mind."
She announced, narrowing her eyes at the king. Before he could respond, she continued on.
"The agreement in this marriage was that it wold be a joint living. The couple will spend one to two weeks in your land, and the next in ours. Our princess -our queen after this marriage- will not 'be coming to live with you,' as that would not be possible. The queen-ship, as I'm sure even your little mind can comprehend, goes from mother to daughter after a battle to decided loyalty and strength. Nyala earned the title of queen when she was much too young to bear the burden. Further more, you must be daft to think that we would let her wander around your lands with only two guards. Your people hate us, and we know it, and you can't pretend that they don't."
She let the words sit, her eyes sliding over the king, the queen and the eldest son with a suppressed fury. The queen dared to speak.
"What makes you think you have the right to speak to us in such a way you filthy little-"
She started, but soon stopped when Nyala let out a fierce growl and stepped forward, her beautiful features turning cruel.
"You will respect my high guard! She is not only my right hand, but my closest friend. She was chosen at our births to be as such, and holds a higher title then you will ever have."
She didn't raise her voice, but she did look ready to rip off limbs at the insult to Ari. Ignoring the usual reaction from Nyala every-time someone insulted her, she waited patiently for her friend to finish.
"Further more, she is the one who holds the final decision on this marriage. If I -or rather you- have her blessing, the marriage takes place. If not, then we will probably be working on it for the rest of our lives to make it work."
With that, she seemed to settle down and step back, letting Ari take the floor once again. She waited for the king and queen to protest, but they didn't seem to know what to say. So she spoke instead. Turning to the men, she glowered at them all one by one, until her gaze landed on the tallest, who was easily two heads taller then her.
"Remove your helmets. They insult us."
She ordered, watching as each of them slowly looked to the tallest man. When he slowly complied, she had to repress the urge to drool like a starved warrior too long on the field.