what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Twenty-Six ~ Leylina
“To...to keep something out?” Leylina stared at him. “What could possibly be threatening the kingdom?”
Alistaire shrugged. “As I said, Father didn’t give me the details.”
“Then what did he tell you?” Leylina asked harshly.
He frowned. “Calm down, calm down. No need to get feisty, Princess. He just told me, one night, at supper that we needed to visit the Queen, in your kingdom. He said that she had requested his help in a matter. I tried to ask him exactly what this matter was, but he simply said that the Queen believed her kingdom was in danger. He would not tell me anything else.”
Leylina said down on Alistaire’s bed and pressed her fingers against her temples. “This all makes no sense. Why would Mother keep something like this from me? If the kingdom was in danger, why wouldn’t she tell me?”
“If your mother didn’t tell you that this was the reason for our coming,” Alistaire looked at her curiously. “Then what was the reason she gave you?”
“I...” Leylina felt her cheeks become hot. “She didn’t give a reason. She simply stated that you were due to arrive, this morning actually.” The lie gave her relief as it crept from her lips.
Alistaire sat down beside her, causing their legs to touch. “Well,” he took her hand, and clasped it in his own. “Seeing as we can’t go back downstairs, perhaps we should do as we told our parents we were going to do.”
Leylina peered at his hand, holding hers, out of the corner of her eye. “And what was that?”
“To get to know each other,” Alistaire said. Leylina slipped her hand out of his grasp.
“Unless first impressions don’t show one’s true self,” Leylina stood. “I have no desire nor intention to get to know you any further, Alistaire.”
She walked in the direction of the door, and put a hand on the handle.
“Princess Leylina, please,” he stood, and faced her. “The truth is...my father wants me to choose a wife some time in the foreseeable future.”
Leylina sucked in a breath, and shut her eyes. Apparently the Duke had told his son the same thing as the Queen had told her daughter.
“And he...he said that you would be a preferable option, seeing as Caelum and your kingdom are so near each other. They could unite in perfect harmony.”
Leylina turned to face him. It was so similar to what her mother had said to her. “Sir,” she took a deep breath. “I am not an option. I am a girl. A young woman, who hasn’t even seen the world yet. And if I marry someone like you, I will never see it.”
She pulled the door open and slammed it shut behind her. She ran, down the hallway, down the stairwell, to the middle storey, and then into her bedroom. She locked the door behind her as she ran into her room, and sat on her bed, looking out of her window.
She couldn’t get the feeling of Alistaire’s hand holding hers, so possessively, or his face so close to hers, like he was going to grab her. She shuddered. Someday, there will be a man in her life who will feel that he has the right to do that, that he has possession of her, that he can do whatever he wants with her, just because of a ring that will be on Leylina’s finger.
Surely there was more to the world than this. She thought back to Konan, and what he had said to her that morning, about running away, about being a dove trapped in a cage for the rest of her life. She looked to her left. The book of poetry still sat there, on her bed. Leylina reached over and grabbed it, turning the pages until she found the one with the poem she had read earlier. Carefully, she tore the page out of the book so that it wouldn’t look like a page was missing.
She then walked over to her vanity, and opened up her ink jar. Pulling out her quill, she dipped it in the ink. The back of the page was blank, so she began to write on it, her impeccable handwriting sweeping across the paper.
I am not an option.
That night, Leylina dreamed.
She dreamt that she was in some kind of thick forest, and was walking along a stone path that wound through the trees. Ahead of her was Konan.
“Never look back,” Konan said to her, peering back at her, that lopsided grin plastered on his face. “We’ve left the kingdom now - we’ve left a life you could have had, a life as a possession, and now we’re starting a new one. Together.”
Suddenly, she heard a voice calling her name from behind her.
“Leylina! Ley! Where are you going, darling?” It was her mother. “Come back!” The queen was running after her, her dress flailing out behind her. “You need to lead a life that is good for everyone, Leylina!”
“Leylina!” It was Konan. He was holding out his hand, ready for her to grasp. “Hurry!”
Leylina ran towards Konan, as hard as she possibly could. When she reached him, she grabbed his hand. She looked up. Instead of Konan’s face, it was Alistaire’s, and that distinctive grin was on his face. She tried to pull away, but his grip was too tight.
“Leylina,” he said, in his alluring, low voice. “Don’t do this. This life was meant for you.”
“Let go of me!” She said, desperately prying his hand away.
“Princess, what would your father think of you, running away like this?”
She looked up at him. “It doesn’t matter, he’s not here anymore. He left us. He left me.
“Leylina!” A voice screamed, from further up the path.
Leylina looked, and saw two guards, dressed in black, dragging Konan further away from her. Each had one of his arms, so that his legs were sliding across the ground.
“Help me!” He screamed, flailing his legs desperately.
“Konan!” Leylina called. She finally broke free of Alistaire’s grip, and began running towards him.
The guards stopped dragging Konan and pushed him onto his knees. Suddenly, her father appeared out of nowhere, sword in hand, facing Konan.
“Father!” She screamed. “Stop!”
But it was too late. Her father took one look at her, and then thrust the sword into Konan’s chest.
Leylina woke, screaming, clawing at the sheets in her bed, tears streaming down her face.
“Just a dream, just a dream, just a dream,” she muttered to herself, over and over again, in an attempt to console herself. Her hands quivered as she put on her robe and opened her bedroom door.
All of a sudden she was running, but she didn’t know where to - she was going wherever her feet were taking her. Leylina darted down the hallway, the stairs, and then through the hallway on the ground floor until she came to the small, arched, wooden door that led to the servant’s quarters.
A cool blast of air hit her face as she opened the door. She peered upwards, and saw the full moon, glistening above her. The path was lined with tall hedges, so that nobody could see it unless they climbed the hedge. She walked down the pavement until she came to a stone arch, big enough to fit probably three people lengthways and two people high. Past the arch were four small, stone buildings. These were the servants’ quarters. Leylina went around the back of the far left building. She glanced inside one of the windows, which was conveniently open.
It was a small room, with a table on one side, which was covered in a variety of belongings, as well as clothing and other everyday necessities. A rug had been thrown over the stone floor. On the other side of the room was a bed, and in the bed, was Konan.
Leylina climbed skilfully onto the window ledge, slipped through and landed softly on the floor. She had done this so many times when they were little - whenever she needed someone to talk to. She remembered that after her father disappeared, around a year ago, she had spent every night for almost two weeks visiting Konan, just so he could hold her and tell her that everything was going to be all right when she cried.
Her landing on the floor made him sit up, startled.
“Who’s there?” He demanded, throwing off his blanket.
“Hi, Ko,” Leylina said.
There was a silence. Konan lent over to get something from the side of his bed, and then a warm light filled the room. Leylina blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light - he was holding a lamp, with a flickering light inside.
“Leylina?” Konan was evidently surprised. He quickly covered his toned, bare torso with a blanket. “Wha - what are you doing here?”
“Sorry,” Leylina sat down on the bed, next to him. “I know it’s been a while.”
He laughed. “You can say that again.”
She nodded. “I just...I needed to talk to someone.”
He sat up straighter. “How’d it all go with the Duke’s son?”
“It was horrible,” she sighed. “He sort of half asked me to marry him at the end of it all.”
“What?” Konan shook his head in disbelief. “What did you say?”
“No, of course. I mean, you’re not supposed to refuse - in fact, you’re not even allowed to refuse if you’re a woman. But it wasn’t even a real proposal. If he wanted to marry me, well, you know how it all works...”
“I can’t say I do,” he shrugged. “I haven’t exactly been fully exposed to the world of nobles my whole life.”
“Well, if a man wishes to marry a woman, they consult the parents of the woman. They don’t even have to ask the woman’s permission. If the parents approve, then they become betrothed. At least, I’m fairly certain that’s how it works. That’s not how my parents got married, though. They married for love.”
“Really?” Leylina nodded. “How did they do that?”
“I...I don’t even know,” Leylina realised aloud. “Mother never told me.”
There was a silence.
“Anyway, that’s not exactly what I came to talk about.”
Leylina explained to him about how strangely Alistaire had behaved, and how he had told her about how the kingdom was in danger, and how he had shown her the guards roaming the streets and guarding the castle.
“Leylina,” Konan said after it all. “Have you ever considered that perhaps the guards are trying to keep something...in?”
“What could they possibly want to keep in?”
He stared at her with raised eyebrows. She gasped.
“You don’t think...you don’t think they’re trying to keep me in, do you?”
“Maybe,” he shrugged. “Maybe the Queen saw you going on your little stroll before and - ”
“What? Okay, firstly - how do you know about my ‘little stroll’? And secondly - that doesn’t make any sense. Why would me going out into the streets be endangering the kingdom?”
“I suppose you’re right. And yes, I saw you. I saw how you climbed the tree to get back in, as well.”
Leylina was shocked. She hoped and prayed that he didn’t ask her why she was out on the streets. As much as she trusted Konan, she hadn’t told him about her powers. And if she was being honest with herself, she didn’t think she would ever tell him. She couldn’t risk losing him.
“Oh.” Was all she said.
“I hope you don’t consider it an invasion of privacy,” Konan said quickly. “I just...I noticed you sneaking past the gates, and I didn’t want anything to happen to you, Ley - ”
“It’s fine,” Leylina dismissed the matter with a wave of her hand. “It doesn’t matter.”
There was another silence.
“Maybe there’s some kind of invasion the Queen is expecting,” Konan suggested. “Or maybe there’s a fugitive on the loose. Perhaps that’s why the guards are patrolling the streets.”
Leylina thought about this for a moment. “I think I’m going to have to go on a ‘little stroll’ again. I need to find out exactly what is going on, and why Mother kept this from me.”
“How will you get past the guards?”
Leylina smiled mischievously. “Don’t worry. I’ll find a way. I need to do this. The thing is, a few nights ago, I overheard my mother and another woman discussing something in secret.”
“What were they saying?” Konan leaned forward, intrigued.
“They were talking about something they didn’t want anyone else to know,” Leylina quickly thought about what she could and could not tell Konan. She couldn’t tell him about her mother saying ‘when do you think she’ll discover her abilities, Kinari?’ “They...they also mentioned my father.”
“What did they say about him?” Konan asked, his voice as quiet as a whisper.
“They said...” she breathed deeply. “They said how I was ignorant of the truth behind his disappearance.”
Leylina had no willpower left to stop the tears as they rolled down her face silently. “Why do you think he left, Konan? Why would he leave? It’s so unjust, and selfish, and heartless, and...”
Konan crawled out of his covers and sat down closer next to Leylina, wrapping his arms around her protectively. The warmth she received just from his presence was enough to stop a snowstorm.
“It’s okay,” he said, stroking her hair. “Everything will be okay.”
“Will it?” Leylina asked doubtingly.
“I promise.”
And as they lay down on his bed together, her head rested on his warm chest, sleeping until dawn, as they had done when they were only children, it really felt as it everything was going to be okay.
For now.

Keep Reading

Chapter 27

Chapter Twenty-Seven ~ Tasmin

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