what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Twenty-Eight ~ Leylina
“Ley, what are you going to say when you get caught?” Konan asked, following Leylina back into the palace.
“If I get caught,” she corrected. “And I’m not going to.”
“You don’t know that,” Konan said. “What are you even hoping to discover?”
“Clues, hints, reasons, explanations,” she said as they walked up the stairwell. “Anything that will help me find out what exactly is going on.”
When they arrived at her bedroom, Leylina pulled the hood over her head. “I won’t be gone long, Ko,” she said. “I promise.”
Konan held onto her arm. “Just...stay out of trouble, okay?”
“We’re already in trouble,” Leylina said. “I’m just going to find out what kind of trouble.”
She smiled at him a final time, and crept out of her window. She leapt onto the tree she had relied on so heavily last time, and climbed down, being careful this time to avoid any unexpected tears in the fabric of her dress.
Once she reached the base of the tree, she checked her surroundings to make sure no one was watching her. Then she ran to her left, until she reached the small, wooden door that Konan had told her about - the once the servants use to get in and out of the palace area. Making sure the hood was pulled tightly over her head, she pulled the latch and opened the door.
She stopped abruptly once she was out of the door, and gasped. In front of her were two palace guards, and they were both facing her, with frowns on their faces, their maces pointed directly at her. Suddenly, their faces relaxed, and they lowered their weapons.
“Ah, sorry Miss,” the one on her left said. “Frauline, isn’t it? Come to do the shopping for the Queen, eh?”
Leylina was confused, but she tried not to show it. She nodded.
“Off you go, then,” the other guard said, and she hurried off.
What had just happened? Were they...just really confused? Or did they not recognise her? She didn’t look anything like Frauline, why would they mistake her for the servant?
She walked down the cobbled road for a good half hour until she reached the bustling streets of the kingdom’s city. She rushed over to a shop window so that she could have a look at her reflection. When she saw herself, she gasped. Had she gone mad? Staring back at her were the same dark skin and brown curls that belonged to the maid, Frauline.
It was so strange. Leylina knew that she was able to perform magic, but this...this was something she hadn’t even imagined being able to do. And she hadn’t even done it on purpose! The most likely case scenario was that her instincts had taken over, and her magical abilities had transformed her into someone whose appearance would allow her to get past the guards.
No matter what had happened, it was highly convenient, considering her current situation, and she continued walking down the streets of the kingdom. No one glanced her way suspiciously even once.
She smiled. This would be easy. The only difficult part would be figuring out how to transform back into herself.
Leylina gazed around. She saw noticed the guards patrolling the streets, walking around with maces and crossbows in hand. She wondered how she would ever find out why they were there.
A hand suddenly gently touched her arm. She spun around. A young woman stood before her, a sleeping baby in her arms. She stared at Leylina incredulously. “Princess?” She spoke softly.
“What?” Leylina asked. She glanced down at her hands, and gasped. They were the same porcelain white as her own instead of Frauline’s dark, almond ones. “N-no, you must be mistaken. I’m not the princess.” She said hurriedly, pulled the hood over her head and fled to the side of the street.
The magic had worn off. Perhaps she had to concentrate more on upholding the spell? She wasn’t sure, but she knew that she needed to conceal herself before anyone else saw her.
She looked up and down the streets, and almost groaned in frustration. To her left, a group of guards were headed towards her, and to her right, the same. She quickly ran down the street, panicking. What should I say to them? She thought rapidly. Oh, I should have listened to Konan!
Something - or someone - suddenly grabbed the back of her hood and pulled her into what seemed to be an alleyway. Leylina’s back pressed against the wall as she ducked down behind a crate of some kind. She anxiously watched as the guards crossed paths and continued walking up and down the street.
Her breath evened out, and she turned to behind her to see who her saviour was.
A boy crouched there, who couldn’t have been less than a year or two younger than her. He had wild, green eyes that were wide open as he stared at her, and hair that must have once been a bright blonde, but was now covered in dirt and grime and looked as if it hadn’t been washed in years. His mouth gaped at her, and she could see his cheekbones against his pale skin. As she looked down at the rest of him, she could see that he was terribly thin, and dressed in seemingly unwashed clothes.
Leylina wondered if she should run now, or beg him not to tell anyone that she had been outside the palace.
“Nia?” He said, in a tone that sounded almost panicked. “Nia, come here.”
A girl who must have been ‘Nia’ came out from the darkness of the alleyway. She had the same green eyes and painful thinness as the boy, and by the undeniable similarities in their appearances, Leylina guessed that they must have been brother and sister, only she was probably a year older than Leylina.
‘Nia’ took one look at Leylina and gasped, her mouth a gaping ‘o’. “Oh my...” She turned to face the boy, an enraged look on her face. “Veska! What have you done?”
“I...I’m sorry,” the boy, Veska, pleaded. “I thought she was a runaway, or a fugitive, or something, and she needed shelter. There were guards coming from both ways and she looked like she needed help and - ”
“Veska,” the girl said, shaking her head. “Do you realise what you have done?”
“Don’t get so angry at him,” Leylina said nervously. “I really did need help. I was running from the guards - ”
“What?” The girl looked shocked. “Why...aren’t you the princess? Or have I made a mistake?”
“No, I am the princess; Princess Leylina,” Leylina said.
“I am Atania,” the girl said. “And, Your Highness, I’m sorry that I acted so rudely, but my brother here didn’t know what he was doing - ”
“I didn’t mean to lead her here,” he said. “But I don’t think she’s going to get us into trouble.”
“Why would I do that?” Leylina creased her eyebrows together in confusion. “You saved me, Veska, and I am so grateful for that. What have you done to deserve punishment?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Atania said quickly after her brother tried to say something. “We haven’t done anything.”
Veska looked up at Atania. “I think we can trust her, Nia.”
“I really do. She is running from something, too.”
Leylina looked between the two of them. Maybe if they trusted her, they would tell her why the guards were patrolling the city.
“You can trust me,” Leylina nodded. “I’m not...I’m not the kind of person you probably think I am.”
Atania crouched down to Leylina’s height. “Why do you say that, Princess?”
“Veska was right - I am running from something. I was avoiding the guards because I ran away from the palace.”
“Why would you do that?” Veska asked.
“I needed...information. My mother is hiding something from me.”
There was a long silence. The siblings stared at her.
“We’re thieves.” Veska said suddenly, almost without shame.
“Veska!” Atania glared at her brother. “I promised our parents I would protect you, and all these years, I have, and this is how you repay me? Dobbing us in? To the princess?”
Leylina stared back at them. “Thieves?”
“Your Majesty, I’m begging you,” Atania pleaded. “Veska and I have nothing, and we have had nothing for a long time. Our parents sent us off when we were only small, because they had nothing for us. We live on a piece of bread each day, please, don’t give us to the guards!”
“I would never dream of doing such a thing,” Leylina said. “You two saved me. If not for you, those guards could have found me.”
“See, Nia?” Veska said, with raised eyebrows. “You have to learn to trust people.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Atania said to Leylina, embracing her. “Is the information you came into the city for something that we can help you with?”
Leylina smiled. “Yes, actually. The guards, patrolling the city - there are so many of them. Do have any idea what they’re doing? Are they keeping something out, or in? Protecting the city from something?”
Veska and Atania looked at each other.
“We don’t know the full story,” Veska said. “Only rumours.”
“The guards began their daily patrols around a week ago, so really recently,” Atania began to explain. “People, of course, were curious and confused as to what they were doing and why they were doing it. They never hurt anyone, just walk around with that superiority they always do. Veska and I are good friends with a group of kids our age who do the same thing we do to survive. They have been investigating it, and one of them said that the guards patrol all the way down to the edge of the city, and further. He told me that some of the guards are on some sort of ‘lookout’ as far as the mountains on the outskirts.”
“And do you know what they’re doing here?”
Atania sighed. “It’s only a rumour, but...apparently the Queen sent the guards out to patrol the city for protection.”
“Protection?” Leylina’s voice was almost a whisper.
Veska nodded. “They’re expecting something. A war is on its way, Princess.”

Keep Reading

Chapter 29

Chapter Twenty-Nine ~ Tasmin

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