She ran back into the woods, slipping stealthily from tree to tree. It didn't take her long to reach the edge of the forest where a girl wearing a nearly identical uniform to hers waited. Her hair was in a looped and pinned braid instead of in a bun, and a spell book was attached to her right hip as opposed to swords at her back. They grinned at each other beneath their masks as the first girl approached. Her waiting partner greeted her warmly. "Hey, Kianna. How'd it go?"
Kianna removed her mask and put it to the side, letting her hair down and removing her signature violet. "Oh, you know. It sucks when you come and they're asleep, but he really didn't deserve remorse after what he did. He killed two children in his attempt to take over my father's kingdom. Were we cleared, Lenna?"
Lenna nodded. "I talked to my big brother. Excuse me, Captain Alexander. They both rolled their eyes. "The body will be taken care of." Lenna muttered an incantation under her breath and their normal clothes appeared.
The pair started to get dressed in the clothes that Kianna had designed. Kianna was taking a huge risk in being there, not only because it was a dangerous job, but because it was illegal. Noble born women were not allowed to even learn how to fight. They were supposed to take up a hobby to take up the time that would have been spent learning to fight or working, hence the clothing design. It was a tradition that went back to the very beginning of the kingdom. Kianna never believed in it. She wanted to help her kingdom in every way she could. That was part of why she decided to become an assassin. Even the king didn't know the identities of his assassins. The only people who knew of her secret life were Lenna and Alexander. She would've never taken this path if she had never met the pair of siblings who were her best friends.
A young Kianna walked through the kingdom with her mother and father on the day of the carnival. Theirs was a peaceful kingdom well guarded by the king's assassins, so the monarch's decided it would be safe enough to let their young daughter run around and play with the other children like a normal kid would. The young princess was extremely excited. She had "friends" in the children of the other nobles, but they all wanted something from her. She would hear the whispers of the nobles to their children. "Make friends with the princess while she's young. She'll remember you later." "Go make friends with Princess Kianna. It'll help our family's standing. You know how important it is to Mommy." Kianna had always been an amazingly attentive child, and very little went beyond her notice.
That's why Kianna was so excited for today. These children had not been trained from a young age to have an agenda. They would like her. If there was anything to actually like... She was suddenly nervous. As excited as she had been to earn friends on her own merits, it was now painfully nerve-wracking. Kianna doubted her ability to make friends on her own merits. Did she even have any besides princess of the kingdom?
Kianna glanced up at her dad with panicked eyes. He seemed, as always, to be able to easily ready what was behind her deep, liquid-gold eyes. The king knelt down in front of his five year old daughter and smiled kindly. "Don't worry, my little flower. They'll love you. I know I do." She smiled at her nickname. She had earned it one day defending a small violet in their garden that one of the other noble children wanted to step on. Her father beamed proudly at her for her defense of what she claimed was "an innocent life that he had no right destroying." The boy had been deeply offended, but her father couldn't have been prouder. He had called her his little flower from that day foreword. "Now go make some friends!"
She ran off grinning, confidence restored. Kianna couldn't wait to make friends. She ran off into the crowd and up to the first group of kids she could find. She looked up at the boy a few years older than her and grinned happily at him. "Hi! My name's Kianna! Wanna be my friend?"
The boy laughed at her. "What are you, three? No. I don't want to be your friend."
Never having faced rejection before, Kianna teared up almost immediately, but she refused to allow them to fall. "Well you know what? You're just a big meanie head!"
Face scrunched up in a childish anger, the boy shoved Kianna harshly. "Oh ya? I'll give you something to cry about, big whine baby!"
At this point Kianna really was crying. She had lived a very sheltered life in the castle, and this was not the sort of treatment she was used to getting. But before she could get too upset, she heard another childish voice come to her defense. "Hey! Leave her alone!"
The boy sneered down at the other little girl who was no more than a year older than Kianna. "Ha! Who's goanna make me, you?"
The girl nodded, and before he had time to relax, she kicked him in the chest. He fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of him. Satisfied that the problem had been taken care of, the girl turned and helped Kianna up. "Hey. Are you alright?"
"Y-ya," Kianna replied shakily. "I'm okay. Thank you."
"Don't mention it! I don't like meanies like him." The little girl grinned. Her big blue eyes sparkled happily.
Neither of them noticed the boy get up, but an older boy did, and he stopped the kid with one hand as he started to run towards the girls. "This guy bothering you, sis?"
Kianna's savior turned at the voice, her long brown braid bobbing with the motion. "Alexander! A little bit. I took care of it, though."
Alexander shoved the kid off with a warning look that let him know to leave the girls alone before turning back to Kianna and his sister with a smirk. "Ya, I bet you did, kiddo." He ruffled his sister's hair, dislodging a few of the strands from her braid. "Who's your friend?"
At the word friend, Kianna's heart started racing. Was she really this girl's friend? "Oh ya!" The girl stood next to her brother and turned back to Kianna. "I'm Lenna, and this is my brother Alexander. He's nine," she stated with some pride. "What's your name?"
"Kia," Kianna stuttered out nervously, looking back and fourth between the nice girl and the roguish boy with dark brown hair pulled into a ponytail and blue eyes sparkling with mischief. She had never gone by the nickname before, but she was suddenly very self conscious about who she was. Would these kids not want to play with her if they knew who she was?
Lenna smiled happily back at her. "Kia. Wanna come play with us?"
Kia grinned happily. "Ya."
The king watched on happily as his daughter ran off with the other children.
It had been many months later when the children all learned of the true identities of their friends. It had come as a great shock to all of them. It was one of the most terrifying days of any of their lives, second only to the day they made the pact to become assassins. Even assassins didn't usually know each other's identities, but they were an exception. Since they decided to join together, they obviously knew each other's identities, and with a small bit of luck they ended up making up a unit.
Kianna rushed eagerly down the streets of the kingdom. She was going to meet with Lenna and Alex. The young princess had only grown closer with the two siblings after the day of the carnival, and she was now making her way into town on a bi-weekly basis.
She rounded the corner and found Alex and Lenna standing in their usual meeting spot; the place where they all met that day at the carnival. "Lenna!" Kianna ran at her best friend without reservation.
"Kia!" Lenna returned the gesture and the two kids crashed into each other, each holding onto the other tightly as they fell to the ground laughing.
Alex came up behind the two of them and ruffled their hair, chuckling at the antics of the younger kids. "Get up, guys. We have something really cool to show you, Kia!"
Kia had since grown very used to, and fond of, the improvised name she had given the day they met. It felt special to her. Only Lenna and Alex were allowed to call her Kia. It was something special for only her true friends to call her, and she loved it.
Lenna perked up at her older brother's mention of their surprise for their friend. "Oh ya! Come on Kia! It's super awesome!"
Grabbing her arm, Lenna pulled Kia up before running after Alexander in the direction of whatever surprise it was they had in store. They ran for a long time until they neared the very outskirts of the kingdom. They pressed on further, and Kianna got a bit nervous. She had never been that far from the castle, which was located at the center of the kingdom, before, but she brushed the feelings aside.
They finally reached the small section of woods within the kingdom limits and pushed a little further. Kianna gasped. It had definitely been worth the run and the small bit of anxiety that had welled inside her as they ran further and further from what she knew. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. There was a small clearing in the tiny forest dominated by a small lake that was fed by a waterfall that went somewhere much farther. There were large boulders all around the clearing that were begging to be climbed on. Finally, Kianna managed to utter out, "Wow..."
"I know," Lenna cried, thrilled with her best friend's reaction. "I said the same thing when Alexander showed it to me!"
Alexander grinned triumphantly at the excited girls. His little sister and his "little sister". Even if they hadn't told her who they were, they considered her family, and if they weren't so scared of losing that, they would tell her their last name. "I found it when I was out practicing sword fighting with the guys. I knew you girls would love it."
The group of friends spent hours running around playing any games they could think of. Tag, hide and seek, you name it. It was during one of these games of hide and seek that disaster would strike and carefully kept secrets would be revealed.
It was Kianna's turn to seek, an experience that she was thrilled with. When she played with the noble children, she was never the seeker, as it was a task most of them detested and they had all been instructed by their parents to keep her happy, but she loved seeking. Every turn around a corner, every possible hiding place thrilled her. She searched for any clues she could, small shuffling sounds, bent down plants. The game for them had soon turned from Hide and Seek to Hide From Kia. She was very good at seeking and it added an extra element of excitement to the game.
This time Alexander and Lenna had done an exceptionally good job of hiding, and Kianna was at a loss. She decided to climb to the top of one of the tallest boulders to get a bird's eye view. It was a good idea, and while she was up there she thought she got an idea as to where one of her best friends was hiding. Unfortunately, while she was up there, her balance failed her, and she fell off the boulder, yelling for help as she plummeted downward.
Briefly the siblings considered if it was a trick, but they knew Kia wouldn't try to cheat, so they both dashed from their hiding places just in time to see Kianna smash the side of her head off of a boulder as she fell into the churning waters of the lake.
To his credit, Alexander reacted immediately. He ran forward and dived into the lake, fighting with the relatively weak current as he struggled to pull Kia out. When he finally managed to tow her to shore, she was barely conscious. She had lost a lot of blood, and her breathing was labored by the water she had inhaled before Alexander rescued her. She could hear her friends voices, but fuzzily, as if at a distance.
"You have to do it..." Alexander's voice broke through the haze urgently.
"I don't know if I can... Haven't had much practice." Lenna's nervous reply.
"...have to... She might die..."
"She might die..."
The words weighed heavily on them all. Even Kianna, who could barely comprehend anything, could comprehend the devastating message those words conveyed. She was going to die. Unless Lenna did whatever it was Alexander was trying to convince her to do, she was dead. Gone forever, lost without a trace...
She heard Lenna take a deep breath, and then she could see hazily through slitted eyes a soft blue glow appear. The glow intensified and the pain in her head disappeared. The process repeated and the pressure removed it's self from her lungs. Kianna could breath easily again. She opened her eyes and sat up unsteadily, looking carefully between Alexander and Lenna. "What? How?... Magic. Len, did you use magic?" There were very few in the kingdom with that capability.
Lenna nodded slightly, looking nervous. "Ya. I did. I'm getting pretty good with healing magic."
Alex took a deep breath before coming clean. "Kia, we're Nightlocks."
Kianna gasped in surprise. The Nightlocks were one of the most powerful families in the kingdom. They weren't technically nobles, but they had about as much power and influence. People with the ability to use magic were scattered all over the world, but the Nightlocks had the highest concentration of magic in their blood ever recorded throughout history. "Wow..."
"Ya..." Lenna looked to the ground, once again worried her best friend would turn away. A lot of the other children didn't want to get involved with them. The Nightlock name had a lot of influence, and young magic users were reportedly unpredictable. Sometimes they had difficulty controlling their powers which could lead to dangerous situations for all involved.
"My real name's not Kia," Kianna blurted before she could really think about it. Her friends had trusted her with their secret, and she thought it was only fair that she did the same. Their heads whipped in Kianna's direction quickly, shock and curiosity evident in their expressions. "Well, it is. But I never went by it before I met you. It's just... My full name is Kianna."
Alexander caught on to the implication first, being the oldest and therefore being a little more politically aware. "Kianna as in... ?"
"Princess Kianna," She said, answering the unfinished question that hung in the air, affirming Alex's suspicions.
For a while they all sat there staring at each other, the air heavy with a contemplative silence that belayed the young age of the clearing's occupants. Slowly, almost hesitantly, someone chuckled. No one was sure who started it, but soon they were all laughing as hard as they could. Suddenly the months of worrying and carefully keeping secrets from each other seemed ridiculous. Absolutely hysterical. Who their families were didn't matter. They were still just Alex, Lenna, and Kia. Best friends. And to them, nothing else mattered.
Kianna smiled softly to herself. From that point on things had been perfect. That day Alexander and Lenna brought Kianna back to their house for the first time. Their mother had been shocked to see that the Kia her children talked about so fondly was actually Princess Kianna, but she took it in stride. They had brought her over to make sure Lenna didn't make any mistakes in her magic that would prove detrimental to Kianna in the long run, and their mother was glad to do the job. As it turned out, Lenna had executed the spell perfectly. Everyone was beaming with pride for her, and Lenna herself couldn't keep the grin off of her face. Not long after that, Alex and Lenna slept over the castle with Kianna. The king himself even spent some time playing with them, glad to see his daughter with some real friends.
"What are you thinking about, Kia," Lenna asked, pulling her friend out of her thoughts.
"Just remembering," Kianna replied, and Lenna smiled at her knowingly. "Ready to head back?"
The partners, best friends, and sisters walked next to each other to the edge of the woods overlooking the giant hole in the ground that held the kingdom. From here they could see everything from the castle in the center to their quiet spot in the clearing in the exceptionally small forest. They smiled at each other one last time before heading down the large hidden staircase side by side.