what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Thirty-Two ~ Leylina
“A war?” Leylina asked. She took a shaky breath. “Are you positive? I mean, it could be anything, right? What...what makes you think there’s a war coming?”
Atania sighed. “Princess...what else could it possibly be? All the evidence points in that direction.”
“We found this yesterday,” Veska pulled out a worn piece of paper from his pocket. “It was mailed to every doorstep in the kingdom by the order of her Majesty the Queen herself.”
“What?” Leylina took the paper from his hands. Her eyes skimmed over the writing.
To the faithful citizens of the kingdom of Queen Fayone,
Due to recent events, the Royal Court has made certain arrangements for the kingdom in order to increase safety and protection within the kingdom. We trust that you have observed the outcome of these arrangements being executed, in the increase of patrols throughout the city’s core and outer rim.
We acknowledge and take into consideration that these arrangements may come as disturbing and somewhat disconcerting, but we wish to assure you that these preparations in no way imply that the population of this kingdom is in any sort of danger at the current time.
However although that we can satisfy you with the reality that no harm is to come to the kingdom, we wish to emphasise that these arrangements are indeed preparations and precautions for the foreseeable future.
To aid us in ensuring the safety of the rest of the kingdom, we request that no individual depart from or enter the kingdom’s grounds at this current time. If you happen to have expectations of a visit from anyone, or if you know of a citizen who is not in the kingdom at this time but shall be returning soon, we wish for you to attain the knowledge that no individual will be excepted from this policy. As much as it saddens us, no one has the allowance to enter the kingdom until we can ensure your safety.
If an individual does endeavour to cross the border, however, there will be unfortunate consequences. Guards are positioned at every possible entrance to the kingdom, and have been given demands to execute appropriate punishments to anyone who has the will to cross the border either way.
Although it is unfortunate that we must make these arrangements, we wish for you to know that they are appropriate and necessary in order to ensure your safety.
We express our gratitude to you thoroughly for your understanding in this matter.
Her Royal Majesty Queen Fayone & The Royal Court
“Oh my,” Leylina gasped. “This is...this is serious.”
Veska nodded. “It just has to be a war.”
Leylina put her face in her hands. “Why didn’t she tell me about this? This is why the Duke and Alistaire are here. Mother probably wants to establish an alliance between Caelum and our kingdom.” She realised. “And now they can’t leave.”
There was a silence.
“So...you ran from the palace so that you could find out what was going on, huh?” Atania said. “That takes courage. You’re definitely not what I expected you to be.”
Leylina smiled. “This is very strange for me. I don’t usually make any sort of contact with anyone from the city. I want to thank you, again, for everything.”
“It’s no problem,” Veska shrugged.
“Just please don’t notify anyone that I was outside the palace walls,” Leylina said.
“As long as you don’t hand us in to the guards,” Atania said, grinning.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Leylina said, smiling again. “I wish I could make it up to you. It must be so hard, living like this...”
Veska sighed and took a seat next to Leylina. “Don’t worry about us. We’ve lived like this basically our whole lives. It gets easier as time goes by.”
“Although,” Atania added quickly. “That does not justify any of our actions. We steal to survive. Even so, we aren’t thieves all the time.”
“Atania is right,” Veska nodded. “On good days, we are fortunate enough to notice a grocer throw out any bruised vegetables and fruits he has not been able to sell.”
“And sometimes we find pieces of fabric lying around the streets, or material that people have thrown out. When I was small, my mother taught me how to sew.”
“And she’s very good at it,” Veska continued. “Our family never had much of anything - that’s the reason our parents sent us off to begin with. But one of the few things Mother and Father gave to us was a needle and thread. Nia can make clothes and blankets out of anything.”
Leylina was fascinated by how these two people - only children, at that - lived their lives, and how different it was to her own.
“Where do you get the thread from?” She asked.
“You would be surprised how little people sell thread for nowadays,” Atania said, proudly. “You see, I have a job, washing clothes for an elderly woman who lives up the street. I only work there six hours a week, because I have to look after Veska, and I don’t earn very much, but it’s enough to buy thread and sometimes a couple of slices of bread a week.”
“But where do you sleep? Do you have beds?” Leylina asked.
Atania and Veska smiled at each other, and then beckoned for her to follow them as they walked further down the alleyway.
They came to the end, where nothing but a small crate was placed, and stopped. Leylina was about to express her confusion when Veska knocked the crate to the side. An old door was revealed, built into the wall. Well, you could hardly call it a door. It was almost a metre high, and the wood was worn and splintering. There was no handle, but Atania pushed it open with her foot, revealing a dark room.
Atania crawled inside, but Veska did not follow her. He looked at Leylina, and gestured with his hands for her to go first.
“Is it safe?” Leylina asked hesitantly.
Veska laughed. “Yes, princess - very much so.”
Leylina bent down and made her way through the gap.
Inside was a fascinating sight.
The room was a surprisingly large space, dark and musty, the only source of light a round window on the far side of the room. The ceiling was made up of wooden boards, and was just high enough that Leylina could stand up without a problem, but she feared that jumping into the air was probably not the best idea if preventing a concussion was one of her intentions.
A mattress lay beside the window, with a large piece of comfortable-looking cloth thrown over it. Two sacks with some sort of stuffing inside seemed to serve as a pillow, but judging by the concrete walls and floor, Leylina guess that cloth and two pillows would not protect them from the cold that probably swept into this place at night.
Various items and belongings were strewn around the place, including a large bucket full of water in one corner. Leylina guessed that the bucket served as a source of fresh water. She saw that there was a lamp hanging from one of the boards in the ceiling, but did not see any matches to light the gas inside.
“This is where you live?” Leylina asked, astonished.
Veska nodded. “Yep. We found this place a year after arriving in the city.”
“And it’s a lot more cosy than it looks,” Atania added quickly.
“I think Mother and Father would be proud of us,” Veska said after a while.
Leylina and Atania both looked at him.
“What?” Veska looked back at them. “Nia, we’ve gone all these years without getting arrested or anything. We have food, and friends, and shelter. I think our parents would be happy to know that we’re still alive, but more than that - that we’re doing well.”
Atania put an arm around her brother. “Me, too, Veska.”
Leylina smiled at them both. “I wish I could do something to help. Yo know, with your situation. I’m sure that if I tried really hard, I could eventually find your parents.”
Veska smiled back at Leylina, but shook his head. “Thank you for the offer, but there’s really no need for that. Our parents are sure to find us soon enough, right Nia?”
Nia looked down at him, not saying anything.
“They told us, when they sent us off, that they would come and find us soon. That soon they would have enough money and food and stuff to support the whole family. Isn’t that right, Nia? I mean, surely it’s getting close to soon.”
Atania gulped. “Soon means different things to different people, Veska.”
“Yes...but ‘soon’ to Mother and Father might mean something different to what ‘soon’ means to everyone else. I promise, Nia, they’ll come for us. Not too long now.”
Atania removed her arm from her brother’s shoulders and started pacing the room. “Veska...what if ‘soon’ has already passed? Have you ever considered that?”
“What are you saying?”
“What if ‘soon’ was a long, long time ago. What if ‘soon’ will never come?”
“It will come, Nia. Mother and Father promised that - ”
“People don’t always keep promises,” Atania’s voice became louder. “They don’t keep them for most of the time. Do you understand? The world is just a deep, deep pit of broken promises, and ‘soon’ is just one of them.”
Veska looked obviously hurt. He tried to interrupt her, but Atania wasn’t in any mood to stop talking.
“We’re all swimming in this pit, Veska. This pit full of promises that were never kept. We’re drowning, drowning because of the hope that these promises gave to us in the first place. But now that they’re broken, that hope is nonexistent. I’ve been telling myself for years that you were too young - too young to understand, too young to grasp the concept. But the fact is, we’re all too young. Too young to be exposed to this world of failure and fictional hope and betrayal. Our parents aren’t coming back for us, Veska.” Atania placed her hands on her brother’s shoulders. “This is our life now. You need to accept that.”
Veska’s eyes shone with tears that were dangerously close to spilling from his green, green eyes. “You just gave up on them.” He whispered, almost inaudibly. “They will come back for us. I don’t care if you don’t have hope. But I always will.”
He stepped through the doorway, closing the door behind him.
Atania sighed and sat on the edge of the mattress, her face in her hands. Leylina, perplexed, contemplated the events that had just unfolded before her eyes. She sat down next to Atania.
“They got rid of us, Leylina,” Atania spoke through her hands. “They left us to fend for ourselves. They claimed that it was for our own good - but, really, it was just so that they wouldn’t have to spend money on us. So that they could begin a new life without us.”
Leylina placed a hand atop hers.
“Family is the most important thing. Family comes first. That’s what people are always saying, Leylina. And yet my parents decided that money was more important than being a family. Everything would have turned out okay eventually if we had just stuck together, I’m sure of it.” Atania squeezed Leylina’s hand.
Family is the most important thing. Family comes first.
Those words kept replaying themselves in Leylina’s mind. They reminded her of her father, how he had just disappeared, leaving her and her mother behind.
They reminded her of how selfish it had been of him.
They reminded her of how if she was ever to see him again, she would never be able to forgive him.
They reminded her of the burning hatred she felt for him, the one that made her chest feel like it was on fire, setting ablaze her heart and turning it to ashes.

Keep Reading

Chapter 33

Chapter Thirty-Three ~ Leylina

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