“Well, I’m glad that’s finally over with,” Princess Anya said as she walked into her bedroom trailed by Anne and Samantha. It surprised Anne to learn that the prince and princess had separate bedrooms, but the Avalonians considered it perfectly normal. From what Anne had gathered, it was traditional than an indication of any marital problems between the prince and princess. Avalonians had some weird customs. 

From Anne’s perspective, the royal couple looked like they had been cast in the roles. Prince Rupert was six-two with the lean, muscled lines of an active man. His blonde hair and blue eyes were perfect accent to the handsome face and tanned skin. The prince reminded Anne of that Aussie who starred in the *Thor* movies. The princess was also tall, around Anne’s own five-nine. She was slender, but not thin, with soft curves that reminded Anne of the young professional women that worked in the city’s financial district. The princess’s heart-shaped face was dominated by large, brilliant blue eyes and elegantly-styled curly brown hair. Anne could certainly see how Erik had fallen for this woman.  What Anne couldn’t figure out was how this woman had fallen for Erik. If she got the time, Anne wanted to hear that story. Erik and Samantha refused to speak of the relationship. 

“I hope we have enough time for me to explore your lovely city,” Princess Anya said to Anne as the princess lounged on the couch. 

“I’m sure we can arrange something, your highness,” Anne replied. Samantha curtly nodded. Princess Anya’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Samantha. The Avalonian psychic just stared back. Anne could feel the tension ratchet up between the women. 

“I’m getting very tired of your attitude, Samantha,” Princess Anya said. “You’ve been treading the line between barely proper and outright insubordinate since I arrived.”

“What did you expect when you asked me to be your personal gofer, your highness?” Samantha asked, not bothering to hide her sarcasm. “I thought I made my feelings very plain the last time that we talked.”

“That was over a year ago, Samantha,” Princess Anya said, “I had hoped your initial anger over what happened had cooled a bit. Samantha, you were one of my best friends. I don’t want what happened between Erik and me to come between us.” Samantha’s brown eyes blazed to the point Anne almost thought they had turned red. 

“I spent the better part of the last year trying to put Erik back together,” Samantha said through gritted teeth. “Do you have any inkling how badly he was torn apart by what you did to him?” Princess Anya took a step back at the sheer fury in Samantha’s voice. 

“He seemed fine when he called to congratulate me on my wedding,” Princess Anya said. Anne couldn’t stop the bark of laughter from escaping. The princess spun to face Anne with a look of anger and betrayal marring her pretty features. 

“Your highness, I’ve known Erik for less than a year, but even I know that he is a master at showing someone only what he wants to see,” Anne said. 

“I know that,” the princess snapped, “I saw exactly how much he had hidden from me during the Winter Solstice party.” Anne had no idea what the princess was talking about, but whatever it was incensed Samantha even more. 

“When he saved your life?” Samantha nearly screamed, “When Erik took on twenty armed men to save you and your family?” Samantha stopped and her eyes hardened. “That’s what happened? He killed the man holding you hostage, and it horrified you?” 

“Stay out of my mind,” Princess Anya nearly shouted.

“Right now, that’s like asking me to stop listening to you while you’re shouting at the top of your lungs,” Samantha shot back. 

“Maybe we should all calm down now,” Anne said, stepping between the two women. Anne traded harsh looks with both of them. Normally, Anne would have been all for getting things out in the open, but neither Samantha nor Princess Anya seemed ready to more than just argue. Before Anne could say anything, one of her phones rang. She froze as she recognized the ringtone. 

“Get up, both of you,” Anne said, in a command tone, “Samantha, get the go bags. Get her highness into something less observable.” Samantha was already moving. She knew what that ringtone meant as well. There was a yelp of protest as Samantha grabbed Princess Anya and pulled her over to the wardrobe. Anne swore as she cautiously stuck her head out in the hallway. 

“Well?” Samantha asked, as she finished dressing the princess. The princess was in a causal creme dress suit. It was something Anne might have worn to court, but on the princess, it looked downright casual. Samantha was putting on her sidearm when Anne joined them. The psychic handed Anne a messenger bag. Anne slipped the bag over her shoulder and grunted at the weight. 

“Hallway’s clear,” Anne said as she repositioned the messenger bag. “We use the stairs to get down three floors and into the safe room. Samantha, link us up. Just us for right now.” Anne felt the familiar slight push in her mind as Samantha established a telepathic link between the three women. 

What is going on? Princess Anya asked over the telepathic link. 

Someone is coming for you and security is compromised, Anne answered, We’re going to get you to a safehouse. The princess nodded with understanding. Anne was both surprised and grateful that the princess didn’t bombard her with dozens of questions, most of which Anne didn’t have the answer for. 

The three women walked out of the room with the princess between Anne and Samantha. Anne had to force herself to walk casually as she led the trio to the emergency stairs. Her own questions were swirling through her mind, but she clamped down on them. They were less than a dozen paces from the metal fire door when a pair of Imperial Guardsman stepped into the corridor. Both looked like they were straight out of a casting call for Secret Service agents. The only noticeable difference was one was slightly taller than the other. The two Guardsmen held up their hands. 

“I’m sorry, your highness, but there’s been an incident involving his highness,” the shorter one said in a calm baritone. “We need you and your aides to return to your room until this has been resolved.”

“Where is my husband?” the princess asked in a commanding tone. 

“We’re sorry, but–ARGH!” said the shorter one. Both Guardsmen grabbed their heads and grunted in pain. After a few seconds, they were on the floor. Anne just looked at them in shock. 

Anne, we need to get down the stairs, Samantha said. They’ll recover fast. Anne slipped a key in the alarm and disabled it. Pushing the heavy door open, Anne motioned Samantha and the princess through.

What did you do to them? Anne asked as the three women hurried down the stairs.

Stimulated their pain memories, Samantha said. They were remembering the worst pain they’d ever felt in their lives. Anne gave the psychic a cautious look. She’d never seen Samantha doing anything use her powers so offensively before and wondered why 

Anne reached into the messenger bag and drew out the small submachine gun. Holding the weapon at her side, Anne opened the door. The corridor was clear. Anne motioned for the other two to follow. The room was only a dozen paces from the stairwell. If things were going according to plan, Kurt would be waiting for them with changes of clothes, new IDs, more weapons, and hopefully, answers as to why he made the “go to hell” call. The “Do Not Disturb” sign was hanging on the door handle. Anne could spot the small identifier mark saying that the room was clear. 

Kurt wasn’t waiting for them in the room. Instead, Free-Elf Veritas was sitting on one of the beds with a dark expression on his too-pretty face. 

“So, butterfly, exactly where did you think you were running off with the princess?”