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  • Writer's pictureKaitlyn Moss

Oasis Warden Part 2

Leila tossed and turned in her sleep her legs entangled in the soft silk sheets. The salt soaked air caressed her cheek and she awoke with a groan. What has it been, 15 years since I have seen him? And yet, I still dream of him coming to find me. How I wish that were possible, Leila thought as she began her day as she had every day before for the last 15 years, by making the bed and preparing herself for the Empress Dowager’s inspection. Putting on her thin green dress that matched her dancing eyes, she wondered how her life would have turned out if she hadn’t been taken by the Ionians of Attica to be one of the emperor’s potential brides. Upon the death of Emperor Xuthus 18 years before, the Empress Dowager Melanie had declared a search for eligible women across the 6 known lands surrounding Attica. 3,000 soldiers searched far and wide for women that would be suitable brides for the young emperor. This took 4 years and the requirements were thus, that the woman must be between the age of 16 and 24, be beautiful externally, able bodied, unmarried, and meek in nature. Stature, race, and height were not considerations for the Empress as the rigorous training and diet would solve any complaints of body and mind. By the time they were through, the soldiers had gathered 750 women and the “competition” had begun. The women were not asked to come, their families were not informed and most like Leila did not want to leave. Leila had been betrothed to Anthony Fletcher, the chieftain’s only son and heir. The day that she was taken still haunted her dreams and the memory of Tony’s smile made her heart ache. What the Empress had not anticipated in her scheme was that her only son and heir would die at the age of 23, just 2 years into the women’s training and during the first elimination process. Due to this minor complication, and having no other heir, the Empress decided to choose from the pool of women to be the next ruler. Leila was one of 3 women left, and once the decision was made, would either become Empress and marry a suitable Ionian duke or she would become an advisor to the new Empress. The other women who had been taken had become brides to other noble families or had become servants of high ranking throughout the empire. None had been returned to their homes. Leila did not care which position she would hold at the end of the year as she had come to love the other women as her sisters and knew that no matter what happened she would make the best of her situation, if only to honor Tony’s memory in her mind. His happy go lucky demeanor and gentle ways still influenced how she operated, and she refused to live a life full of self-pity. She brushed her hair as she analyzed her reflection in the mirror, warm chocolate hair, kohl lined eyes, and adorned with gold jewelry, she reasoned she was still the same woman that Tony had loved, if just a bit older and more refined than the tribal girl she had been. She slipped her feet into her gold sandals, unbolted the heavy wooden door, and smiled at the guard in her usual manner, all thoughts of Tony and the Kharakana desert leaving her mind as she walked through the palace to the Dowager’s chamber.

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