As non-traditional as my upbringing was, it’s not all that surprising that I’m not really much for standing on ceremony. Still, I find that there are a few times in life that I really wish people would. For example, when a simple request to see someone sees me drug to the brig for a harsh interrogation. “What is your name?” the young man started in again, bearing down on me with a serious expression. He would be attractive if he smiled, but during these long hours, I had only seen his scowl. Some part of me half-desired to make him smile, but I smothered the impulse. It would be just a bit longer. Just a bit longer. It might be only a bit longer, but that didn’t make me any less impatient, myself. I figured he had to have it in spades. I sighed heavily. “As I told you before, I give my name to no man. I will only speak my name and my purpose to her highness.” “Why won’t you tell me?” he demanded, frustrated. I would be frustrated, too, after as many hours of fruitless interrogation he’d fought through with me. Still, I dare not relent. Names given to someone from one’s own lips bore a certain amount of power, and I dare not give a man that power over me. “Because I don’t matter to you and I never will beyond today. Allow me to speak to her highness and you will never see me again.” A young woman stuck her head into the cell. “Iolaous-onii-sama, you’ve been in here for hours and you still don’t even have her name?” A second face popped in, identical to the first. They even wore their brown hair in the same style and their big brown eyes seemed to gaze into my soul. “Perhaps you should let someone else try?” the second girl inquired. What adorable twin sisters he has, I thought to myself, barely smothering a smirk as the girls retreated from the room at his glare. I now knew more about him than he did about me. “So it’s Ioalous, then. It’s a nice name, a strong name.” The man called Iolaous growled but forced back the rest of his reaction. “What is your purpose here?” “To speak with the one who rules the Iron Tribe, of course, my darling Iolaous. Surely you guessed that.” “Unless you answer some of my questions, she will never even be alerted to your presence.” “Oh, you are so darling. She already knows I’m here –that’s why your sweet sisters have checked up on you.” Smugly, I crossed my arms and reclined back in my chair. “It’s a matter of time.” “Give up, Iolaous. She has you beat,” remarked the tall woman who slipped into the room. Her uniform seemed designed to display her abundant breasts and I wanted to shudder and check my wraps. “Dhianeila is coming down to see her.” “Not… surely not in person!?” he interjected, staring at the woman. “I bear your princess no will-ill, Io-laous,” I sing-songed. “And she can surely sense that.” The door opened again, and the room filled more: first with a blond woman, then with a small flock of what had to be her attendants. “I am Dhianeila Y Leisha Altoria Ol Yunos. I understand that you seek an audience with me.” Rising from my chair only to bow deeply, I thought about the many things I could say before I finally settled on the simplest of words. “Thank you for agreeing to see me, your highness. I beg your pardon, but I shall not give you my name in front of so many people. In place of that, you can call me Ambrose. I… I was born of the Silver Tribe but raised by the Iron Tribe. It is my great honor to make your acquaintance, Dhianeila-heikai-sama. Though the revelation of my heritage had to be a rather shocking to her –after all, it had been to me– she handled it with impeccable ease. “I apologize whole-heartedly, Ambrose, for the way you were treated upon your arrival here. It is unfortunate, but the additional security has become a necessity in my life.” “I understand, your majesty.” Swallowing hard, I wondered how to say it. The words on my tongue did not seem like enough, but finally, I decided I had to spit it out. “I… I am the sixth Nodos, bound to no tribe. I seek the one called Age.” The collective gasp that filled the cell was damning evidence of the fact I’d shocked them all. I was actually rather surprised that that was the first revelation to wring such a reaction from them, but one really had to go with the flow on such things. As far as most people knew, there was no sixth Nodos. After all, there had been the four promised to the Silver Tribe and only one promised to the Iron Tribe. The only thing I could guess was that I might be meant to be bound to the Bronze Tribe, but at 20 years of age, they had not sought for me or even hunted for me. Sadly, it seemed I was an unwanted phenomenon, but at least it allowed me to bounce place to place unfettered. Or, it would have, except… “Do you… do you know our Age?” the princess inquired politely. Despite her calm tone, the stirrings of my alien heritage told me she was more than a bit worried by the fact I needed to see Age. I laughed, the sound hollow and heavy to my own ears. “No. But I need his help.” “May I inquire as to why?” “Because… because….” I sighed, feeling the strain pinching tighter and tighter around me until the room fell dark and all the voices sounded at once.“Because he can save my life.” Before I passed out, I felt warm hands catch me before I hit the floor and I couldn’t help but wonder who it had been. Surely not one of her young attendants… Surely not the princess herself… Had it been my interrogator? Something about the notion pleased me. I felt the sudden surge in concern among all of the on-lookers, so at least… at least I would be safe when I came to. At least I wouldn’t be the freak. And so, for the first time in the two years since I’d learned the truth about myself, I did not fear going into the darkness.