Thick heavy cuffs with red glowing runes are clamped around her thin wrist the moment she is dragged outside of her cell. They prevent anyone who wears them from doing magic. Even though her magic was weak and not worth even mentioning it seems her jailors weren’t taking a chance. Strong metal chains weigh her arms down with one guard on each end, yanking her forward.
“Hurry up!” One of them barks.
“Crazy lunatic, we can finally be rid of you,” The other grumbles.
Livia keeps her head down and her steps quick, but she peeks through the thick mess of her purple hair to get a look around.
Thin fingers cling to metal bars as gaunt faces watch them pass with dark envy. Some of her cellmates even dare to call out, to plead with the stoic guards, but their voice falls on ears who refuse to hear them. At the end of the cell block is a deceptively normal door that goes unguarded. As they draw closer, a small sheen of light wraps around the edges of the door, outlining it briefly before it opens.
Even a few feet away, the light outside makes her flinch a bit and causes her to squint. The prison had little to no light. It was a strain on her eyes to step outside, but she was quick to breathe in the fresh air of the night. The two sibling moons were at full mass above her head and lit up the courtyard in a soft glow.
It hadn’t even been that long since she had been thrown in here.
That’s how long it took to decide her fate.
She was no longer wearing her ball gown. She was dressed in grey rags like all the other prisoners.
Livia stumbles a bit when she is tugged outside, her arms aching and turning red from the rough treatment. The prison, small as it is, was still encased in large stone walls with only one entrance at the front of it. Straight ahead is a wagon that has a large cage attached to the end. A few other prisoners were already slumping inside of it.
She was finally being transferred.
To my death or to my exile?
She didn’t know.
After being forcefully removed from her own party with her sister's pleas still ringing in her ears, she had been deposited in a dank cold prison a few hours away from the Aster Academy.
Livia hadn’t gone quietly. She had struggled and rage like the original would have. She had made arrogant demands and threats while grappling with her captures. She got a large swelling bump on her temples for her troubles after one of the guards got fed up and rammed the end of his sword upside her head to quiet her.
It was now a dark purple bruise that still throbbed after going untreated. Along with her persistent headache from the flood of memories she had gotten at the debutante, Livia's head felt like a volcano that could erupt at any second. She likely was suffering a concussion but refused to beg for help. Instead, she suffered in silence, trying to fight off the grip of sleep for fear she wouldn’t awaken from it ever again. She also had tried to swallow the vile stuff they called food, but all it did was make her feel sicker, and so she hadn’t had a proper meal since her debutante.
Since the three days, she had been taken she hadn’t been told anything. Instead, she was made to stew in worry over her fate while suffering from sleep deprivation, hunger, and her injuries and now she was being moved.
Rough hands shoved her into the cage where she nearly tripped over one of the prisoners. She glared at the guards but they were already retreating. Before she could get her bearings the wagon lurched forward.
“W-wait! Where are you taking me?” She tried to yell but her voice comes out weak and hoarse.
How barbaric! At least have the gall to state what my fate is to be to my face, She thinks with gritted teeth, straightening herself into a sitting position by an elderly man.
“You don’t know?”
“Know what?” Livia snaps, looking to the woman straight across from her who had spoken.
She should probably be nicer. She no longer had an act to keep up after all, but she couldn’t help but be prickly. She was in the worse shape she has ever been in her entire life as Livia, and it was a harsh change of pace. From being pampered and waited on to suffering from a simple affliction as hunger.
It took some adaption.
She wasn’t going to magically be okay.
Livia hadn’t even begun to truly analyze her newfound memories, not when just the thought of her old life brought a deep sense of regret and loss. No. That was something to think about later. When she wasn’t in the middle of her own bad ending.
“We are being exiled to the rural area at the edges of Wisteria Kingdom. They announced it last night right before the meal was served,” The woman says, looking her over with kind hazel eyes.
I must have passed out at some point then, Livia thinks grimly.
A dim part of her is happy, it really is. She managed to dodge her own death flag. She does feel relief. The crown prince had shown her mercy in the end, and she has little doubt that it was her sister that swayed his mind. But another part is just still overwhelmed. Stunned. The fictional stories she once read made it seem like being in another world would be more thrilling in exciting. Livia couldn’t even focus on that. She could only put all her energy in move forward mechanically to her own end goal.
Oh, by the way. She remembers what that was now.
Step One: Trigger my death flag as soon as possible.
Step Two: Avoid the said death flag.
Step Three: Be exiled.
That was it.
That was the grand plan.
She didn’t know. She just knew that was what she had been striving for since she was a child. Even before her memories returned. She somehow acted towards her goal on her own subconsciously.
She tenderly touches her head. The lump has gone down, but the small brush of her own fingers still had her grimacing in pain.
“Dear, are you alright? You should have gotten one of the guards to call a medic...the journey to the edge of the kingdom will be a long one and we won’t be stopping,” The woman says, moving a bit closer to her.
Livia holds out her hand to stop her, “Then there is nothing to be done at the moment, is there? It is just a small affliction that is already healing. Now, what did you say about the edge of the kingdom? Do you know where they plan to dump us?”
Livia had no information after this point. She had known her original had a few varying endings that ended with her death. She knew that she could avoid them if the crown prince showed mercy. She also knew that only the crown prince would grant Livia mercy. The other targets never did or had a reason to. Livia knew that she could be exiled. She focused on that only and threw out everything else.
I needed to avoid death and leave.
That had been the main focus of her plan.
Not once had she considered seducing her ex-fiancé to her side. To make him fall in love with her. Not once had she thought about the other targets. Not once had she thought about evading her fate by being nice and kind or just generally evading the plot of the original story.
No, Livia had steered clear of all of that.
Instead, she focused on being exiled. It was somehow very important that she was exiled.
But when the original Livia was shown mercy and sent away after being stripped of her title and her engagement was annulled, that was it. She was dragged away by guards and was never seen again.
Livia has no clue what happens after this point, but she knows by the time she arrives at her destination she plans to.
“We will likely be dropped off in the small town of Zinnia outside the borders of the Wisteria kingdom. It is a relatively poor farm town but lovely nonetheless. I know it isn’t much for someone of your class, but you can start anew there,” The woman explains and smiles warily.
That does not sound all that bad. I know nothing of farming, but how hard could it be?
Livia nods but stops, “Someone of my class...’ Do you know who I am?”
The woman laughs, “Of course I do. You shouted your name when you first arrived, remember?”
Livia feels a tinge of embarrassment but easily shrugs it off. She had been in the middle of a performance. It was completely intentional that she made of fool of herself. That was the type the original was.
She pretends her face isn’t heated up in a blush and pushes on ahead, “Well, it was rather rude how they handle a lady of my status. It was best they knew who they were dealing with,” She says primly.
The woman just looks amused, “Yes, well the whole cell block knew exactly who you were.”
Livia sniffs, “Well, it is impolite that you know my name and I do not know yours...”
“Oh! Your right. How rude of me. My name is Beth. Beth Gilbert. I doubt you would have heard of me,” Beth says lightly.
Livia's eyes widen, “No, I think I know exactly who you are. You are the woman who caught her husband in bed with another and things got a bit...violent.”
It had been broadcasted in all the papers and gossiped about for months.
The old man next to Livia lets out a mean laugh, “That is a nice way you wording that little lady. We all know Beth over there murdered both her husband and his mistress on the spot in cold blood. It is only her status and her powerful father that saved her from death.”
Livia ignored him, but couldn’t help but feel unnerved...by the fact that she wasn’t. Anyone else would be alarmed and even fearful of being locked in a small space by someone who could just snap like that.
But Livia didn’t feel even a hint of fear. No, by the look on the woman’s face...it was something she regretted but didn’t actually feel guilty about. Plus, Livia knew who exactly Beth Gilbert had been married to. He was a man that no one would miss, not even his own mother.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, I’m sure, but let’s get back to the topic we were discussing. This little village, what exactly will happen once we get there, hmm?” Livia asks Beth.
She could feel the old man stare of disbelief and see it mirrored in the eyes of Beth, but she just tilts her head and raises an eyebrow.
She needed answers and she intended to get them. Livia wasn’t the type to step into the unknown and think that somehow and someway everything was all going to work out. No. She needed to think out her next plan of action and to do that she needed information.
After getting over her surprise, Beth tells her all that she knows.
Livia finds out that there isn’t much to find out.
Exile was very straightforward.
They were to leave the Kingdom of Wisteria and would be dropped off into the small neighboring Kingdom of Salvia in the first town they stumble on which was Zinnia. From there, it seemed the Kingdom of Wisteria could care less about what happens. They would all be given a bracelet that would activate and send out a magical signal to soldiers the moment they step foot back in Wisteria and that was it.
She would be on her own the moment she arrived in Zinnia.
“I know it may seem daunting now, but I’m sure you will adapt to your new life. You don’t even have to stay in Zinnia if you don’t want to,” Beth tries to reassure her when Livia remains silent.
“You won’t be able to leave right away. It’s best you earn money, get a job,” The old man grumbles next to her.
When Livia continues to be quiet, Beth moves a bit closer to her and places a gentle hand on her shoulder, “I know it is a lot to take in, but trust me, it will get better. I can help you adjust and soon all of this will behind us. Who knows, maybe you will find something you are passionate about outside the stuffy restrictions of high society.”
Livia nods absently in agreement, lost in thought.
Beth was right. This wasn’t entirely bad at all. The world of Ethetia was brimming with magic and creatures of fantasy.
Livia had only lived a sheltered life from this point and never made direct contact with the monsters that normally roam outside the capital of Wisteria. She also never really bothered to learn much about magic since she wasn’t gifted in it. Her life had been entirely focused on being groomed into the wife and future queen of Wisteria. She hadn’t the time to think about becoming a great adventure, becoming some inventor or discoverer in the wondrous world of Ethetia, but now she does. For the first time, she realizes she is in a world where unicorns and dragons exist!
The unknown scared her and gave her pause, but her curiosity was a thing of great power.
She wanted to explore her new world, to dig up all the secrets it had to offer! She could put Wisteria and her old life behind her and live a new one full of wonder and excitement. It was a bold and very scary move, but Livia had nothing to lose. What better way to start over than to live out a life you only dreamed of?
But what of the odd memories? The ones that don’t belong to the life of modern times? The ones of an unknown forest?
Livia pushed that thought down and buries it under the sand. It didn’t matter anymore. She wouldn’t let it.
Her plan worked and now it was time to move on with her life.
Feeling very optimistic, Livia tentatively smiles at Beth, “I think I would like your guidance if it isn’t too much trouble.”
Beth beams, “No, it isn’t at all, Miss Livia.”
As the journey continues her optimism only grew, and her plans quickly sprouted out. She continued to chat with Beth and becomes very fond of the older woman and even the grumpy old man. The wagon made no stops as Beth had predicted but they were given stale bread and water in a wooden cup as the cage rattled along the lone road. Livia managed to eat the food and her headache abated just the tiniest bit. Hours pass and she quickly lost feeling in her butt and legs but grew closer with her cellmates. They all agreed to stick together and help one another out. They made a pack. As the journey came to an end, and a town could be seen in the distance, everyone was smiling and laughing as if they were sitting by a warm campfire and not huddled together in chains.
Livia had hope.
She drifted off on the old man's shoulder and dreamed of fighting monsters and farming. The next time she wakes up, she expects to be in the small town of Zinnia and one step away from her new life.
Livia wakes up to the sound of waves crashing, crying, and a rolling stomach.
When her eyes snap open, she is met with darkness and a faintly blurry vision. Her head spins and her stomach gives a great heave as the surface she rests on rocks in a way that makes her nauseous. She barely refrains from seeing the stale bread she ate early and realizes that she is laying down on a surface that is hard and unforgiving. She tries to make sense of where she is, and absently feels at the space where the old man should be, but her hand meets empty air.
She still hears crying.
Who the hell was crying?
Her chains were still on. She could feel the weight of them and hear them rattle as she tries to move about but her movement was restricted. All she could do was sit up and get her knees under her before she couldn’t move further.
“Where?” She slurs, her voice barely a murmur as her eyes adjust to the darkness that surrounds her.
She could make out vague shapes, some unmoving, and others were.
“B-Beth? Old Man?” She calls out to one of the shapes, but she does not get an answer back.
The crying gets worse. The person was outright sobbing and wailing at this point.
Not just one.
Livia could feel a deep pit of dread start to form as her thoughts slowly cleared. The sound of the sea was unmistakable. She was on some kind of ship, and given how little to no lighting could be seen, she was in the cargo hold. The figures in the darkness were in fact people, but all of them were no doubt women. They were chained just as she was, and lay or sit on a piece of thin fabric. All of them wore drab clothes and looked as if they hadn’t seen the sun in weeks.
She sees the answer to the question before she could even think it. The silver stands out in the darkness, a thin band that wraps around the slender necks of all the women.
Livia scrambles back as much as she is able, her eyes widening in horror.
She mouths the words as she shakes her head in denial. Her hands come up to grasp at her own neck, and it easily finds the thin band around it.
No, no, no! He wouldn’t! Rodale would never be so cruel! Livia thinks in utter panic as she claws at the thin piece of metal, trying to break it.
She couldn’t, of course.
Her sharp nails do more damage to her own skin than they did the silver choker still wrapped securely around her neck. It would take magic to break it, and her meager amount was already sealed away by the chains on her wrist.
Small and insignificant as it was, she knew the small piece of silver around her neck was basically a death sentence. Her fingers turned it until she found the small crest carved into it. Her fingers traced it over, confirming her suspicions.
The crest was made up of two Es overlapping another as small serpents wrapped around the letters possessively with a fierce look.
It was the symbol of the empire.
Livia felt tears sting her eyes as her heart sink into the pit of her stomach.
There was only one empire that used such brands.
The Eastern Empire.
It was one of the most corrupt places in all of Ethetia.
It was also where she was being shipped off too.
The silver band around her neck marked her as a buyable slave, merchandise to be purchased, and used by whoever had enough money to afford her.
It was a fate worst than death.
Livia had no illusions about what her fate is to be. As a young, beautiful female, it was obvious just what her use would be.
If she was naïve, she would think that on her way to Zinnia, they had been intercepted by slave traders and she must have been taken then. She might think that it was just a matter of very rotten luck.
But she wasn’t a foolish girl.
There was no doubt in her mind. Only one person could orchestra such a thing. After all, it was no easy feat to snatch up someone and ship them off all away across the ocean. No, that would cost too much time and money for slave traders just to have a few pretty faces they could get a lot closer. Not unless they were properly motivated.
Was it the Rodale or Orin? She thinks numbly.
She sits there, staring into nothing with a face devoid of emotions as silent tears stream down her face. The small tentative light of hope that she had nurtured over a few hours shatters into nothing, leaving her cold and listless.
Which one would have done this to me?
Which one of them would have me think I escape death only to condemn me to an even worse fate?
Which one of them hates me more?
It starts at the center of her chest. A single ember that sparks up into a blazing fire. With each throb of her beating heart, it spreads. It chases away the cold, the numbness.
Orin or Rodale...Rodale or Orin...
The waves continue to crash against the ship, the sense of the ground below her moving and shifting with waves in which it floats on continue to disturb her. The women around her all have come to the same conclusion as she has. She can see it in their eyes. They had already given up. Some stare with soulless eyes, eerily quiet, while others curl up and just cry.
Which one...which one...?
No one will come to save them.
Why do this to me? I was already gone from your lives.
They were as alone as she was.
Do you really hate me that much?
In the middle of the ocean, chained up, branded, and unable to do magic. They could all try to fight, but that was hard to do with limited mobility and with a crew that likely outnumbered them.
There was nowhere to go and nowhere to run or hide.
It was hopeless.
She tried to avoid her fate and only incurred a worse one.
Maybe it would have been better if I had just died?
“NO!” Livia screams, slamming her cuffed wrist on the hard floor with a loud clang that startles the other women.
She does it again, and again, yelling and screaming like a lunatic, tears burning down her eyes all the while. Her screams grow louder when the binds around her wrist grow a bright red, burning them. She doesn’t stop though. She can’t. She rages until her wrist and fist are bleeding and her throat goes hoarse until she can’t move another muscle.
Livia eventually collapses on her side, breathing heavily.
She angrily wipes at the tears on her face, keeping her mouth firmly close so a sob didn’t dare escape. Her jaw is tense and her teeth begin to ache from the force that she grits them, but she refuses to utter another sound.
She wasn’t sad.
She wasn’t crying from despair.
It was rage.
A fury that is so great that it makes her body tremble with it and her eyes water from it.
Never before has she been so angry in all of her lives.
It seems she had underestimated the hatred they had for her.
It was a mistake she would never make again.
It does not matter if it was Rodale, Orin, or both of them together. What did matter is that they Got. In. My. Way.
I only wanted one thing. Just one little thing. But they couldn’t even let me have that!
She would make them pay. She would make them suffer.
Livia knew she was too weak to stop the course her life has turned. She could think of nothing short of her own death that would stop her dark fate from happening, and she refused to take her own life.
She would survive if it was the last thing that she did. She would get stronger and then she would return.
As her vision begins to fade, and the noise around her becomes distant and faraway, Livia forms a new plan a new list. It is as short as the last one.
Step One: Survive no matter what.
Step Two: Get stronger.
Step Three: Return and seek vengeance.