what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Twenty-Five ~ Leylina
The birds call to me, from far up above,
Yet I am still in this prison, a mourning dove.
My wings are clipped and torn and broken,
My imprisoners took my heart as a token
Of the torture they unjustly inflicted upon me.
They are blind to the pain that I can so clearly see.
Leylina marvelled at the piece of poetry. It was so similar to what Konan had said to her that morning: “...you’ll live your life as a beautiful dove whose wings have been clipped, locked up in a cage that, on your deathbed, you’ll know you put yourself in that cage. You chose not to spread your wings when you still could, you chose not to fly away when you still had the chance.”
There was a knock at her door. “Princess?” Spoke a muffled voice from behind the old wood.
“Come in.”
Wéline entered the room. “The Queen requests your presence down in the Banquet Hall.”
Leylina looked up from her book of poetry. “For what reason?”
“The Duke of Caelum has arrived, your Highness.”
The Duke and his son were already seated at the huge dining table in the hall by the time Leylina entered the room. They sat across from the Queen, who looked up as soon as she walked in through the colossal double doors.
“Ah, Leylina, my darling,” the Queen gestured for her to take a seat beside her. Leylina obeyed politely. “Leylina, this is His Majesty, Duke Vedron, the Duke of Caelum, and his son, Sir Alistaire, who is next in line for position as Duke.”
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Princess Leylina,” Vedron held out his hand. She placed her hand on top of his, and he kissed it lightly. Alistaire imitated his gesture, holding her gaze the whole time, which made her uncomfortable.
She looked over the two men with interest. Duke Vedron was middle-aged, with grey hairs beginning to appear on his dark, brown beard, and his eyes the colour of charcoal.
Alistaire was an entirely different story. She couldn’t be sure of his age, but he was definitely at least a couple of years older than her - perhaps eighteen, or even nineteen. His face was almost clearly shaven, although there were traces of stubble along his chin. His hair was dark, but not as dark as his father’s, and was swept back into a small ponytail. And his eyes were a startling amber. They seemed to be looking for a hole into her soul in her eyes as he gazed intently at her.
“It is an honour,” Leylina spoke softly, still staring at Alistaire. A subtle smile crept onto his face.
“We thank you, again, for your hospitality,” Vedron said, looking at the Queen.
“It is my pleasure,” Fayone said, smiling. “It is important that we discuss...these matters, at some time or another.”
“I completely agree,” the Duke’s eyes travelled to his son, and then to Leylina and then back to the Queen.
“Leylina, would you please show Alistaire to his room?” Fayone placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “I have already sent his belongings up with a maid.”
“May I ask why a maid cannot complete this task?” Leylina asked.
The Queen gasped. “Leylina! Please, do be polite in front of guests!”
“It’s perfectly all right,” Alistaire spoke now. His voice was surprisingly low, and somehow alluring. “It’s a fair question, Your Highness.” He turned his head towards Leylina. “I think your mother is implying that we should get to know each other, as acquaintances.”
“What a grand idea,” Vedron said, nodding.
Fayone gave Leylina a disapproving look. “Yes. Off you go, Leylina.”
Leylina sighed in annoyance, but quietly, so no one could hear but herself. “Which room shall he be staying in, mother?”
“The guest room at the stop of the West Stairwell, darling. The one with the window facing out onto the city.”
Leylina stood up and bowed her head politely at the Duke, then gestured for Alistaire to follow her with a forced smile. She walked out of the hall with her head held high.
Alistaire kept safely behind her as Leylina walked down the hallway, past the kitchen, the door to a path that led to the small building where the servants’ quarters were, and the Lounging Room, where her mother usually took guests, or where the Queen would rest after supper.
They reached the stairwell, and she swiftly climbed the stairs, past the second floor, where the master bedrooms were, and onto the third floor. She walked down the Guest Hallway, and turned to open the first door to her left.
“Here we are,” she said softly, and opened it. The room was huge, with a massive window at the back which had white, silk curtains that were drawn to either side. The big, king-sized double bed had an elaborate canopy over it, and a fire was blazing in the fireplace in front of a table and a set of chairs. On the table was a bowl of ripening fruit, as well as baked goods that had been piled up onto a plate. Delicious-looking sandwiches had also been placed on the table, and what Leylina presumed to be Alistaire’s baggage was placed on the far side of the room.
“How delightful,” Alistaire muttered, and walked in after her. He began to take off his coat and place it on the back of a chair.
“I hope you enjoy your accommodation,” Leylina said, and began to walk out of the room.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The Duke’s son called after her.
Leylina stopped, her back still facing him, and gritted her teeth. “Back downstairs.”
He laughed. “You can’t go back down, princess.”
“And why not?” Alistaire was beginning to frustrate her. She spun around to face him. “It is not your place to tell me what I can and can not do, where I can and can not go.”
He held up his hands in surrender, and began to walk towards her, slowly. “Correct. However I didn’t realise you were so ignorant and...oblivious.”
“Oblivious to what?” She didn’t want him coming any closer.
“The situation your kingdom is in.”
That startled her. And Alistaire seemed to notice. A mocking grin crept onto his face. “That shocked you, didn’t it, Leylina?”
“What are you talking about?” She demanded sharply.
He put his hand behind his back, and began pacing the length of the room. “There is a reason they sent us up here. And that is so they can discuss certain matters. I didn’t realise that the Queen hadn’t informed you of what those matters were.”
“Tell me,” she began walking towards him, and soon she was close enough that she could reach out her arm and touch him. “Tell me what the situation is.”
He grinned again. He knew that he had her in his grasp. He took a small step towards her, so that their faces were only inches apart. Leylina tensed. She wanted to get out of here.
“You’re very beautiful, you know,” he spoke quietly, tantalisingly. “You’re sort of a myth, back in Caelum. A legend. You are the princess whose father mysteriously disappeared, without any explanation. You are the princess who is said to have the face of an angel, and eyes that shimmer like stars.”
Leylina swallowed nervously. “And...and did I disappoint?”
He laughed. “No. No, definitely not. You’re more than I could ever have imagined. More beautiful, I mean.”
His eyes were frighteningly beautiful, like fire. She wanted to dive into them, to uncover the mystery that lay beneath their depths. She glared into them. “You haven’t answered my question. Stop distracting me.”
Alistaire sighed, and began to walk towards the window. He stopped when he reached it, and gestured for her to join him - she obeyed hesitantly.
His view was magnificent - you could see most of the city from up in his bedroom. The cobbled streets, the houses, the hills in the distance and the roads over them, the carriages, the horses and carts, the large houses where the nobles or more superior people lived, and all the hundreds of people who roamed around the kingdom.
“The reason my father and I came here,” Alistaire began. “Was because your mother called for help.”
“Why would she do that?”
Alistaire pointed down onto the streets. “Look down there. You see all those people?” Leylina nodded. “Look closer. Some stand out more than others.”
So she did. She peered down at all the people, at all the anonymous faces, but not seeing anyone who stood out. And then she noticed one. He was dressed in some sort of uniform, and walked around with obvious superiority. When she looked closer, Leylina noticed that strapped to his back was a crossbow and a mace. She then recognised the uniform. It was a palace guard. The next thing she realised was that he wasn’t alone - a group of about half a dozen of them stood, walking with him around the streets. She then noticed another group, and then another, and then two more, until she realised they were everywhere.
“The guards,” she said aloud. “There are so many of them.”
Alistaire nodded, and pointed to the palace gates. “Do you usually have that many guarding this place?”
“No,” she breathed. At least three dozen of them surrounded the walls and the gates. “Where did they all come from?”
“That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is - there’s a reason there are so many of them.”
“Why?” She asked desperately.
“I don’t know exactly, Father wouldn’t tell me. All I know is that those guards are either keeping something in, or...”
“Or what?”
He looked at her, his amber eyes piercing her soul.
“Or keeping something out.”

Keep Reading

Chapter 26

Chapter Twenty-Six ~ Leylina

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