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A Story by Korteni Free
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A girl runs away from home after she's been kept inside her whole life.

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You might wonder who I am. I can’t tell you, at least not yet. You’d have to hear my story first.

            Not that there’s much to tell. My whole life has been sheltered, hidden away from the world for God knows how long. Nothing interesting ever happened. Every day was just wake up, eat, read, watch a movie, and sleep. Over and over and over again. I was about to tear my hair out in frustration when I met him. He was nothing special. Just another boy, coming through the house to talk to my brother that never did anything, yet always seemed to have a lot of money. Just another boy.

            Yet, it was this boy who smiled at me. Asked me my name, if Conrad, my brother, was actually my brother. I answered him, surprised that someone had actually talked to me. No one ever talked to me. And then he asked why I never went outside. “You seem like such a nice girl,” he had said. “It seems like such a pity that you’re trapped here.”

            Trapped? But I wanted to live here… didn’t I? I loved this house, didn’t I? I had lived my whole life inside. There were no windows, so I never saw anything outside. Various tutors came and went, none of them very nice, or caring, and no one seemed to want to come near me except my brother. My mother didn’t care, and my father… well, I had no idea who, or where, he was. He seemed to be someone important, from how my brother talked about him, but Mother never mentioned him. His name was like a taboo, and every time I asked I was brushed off and sent to my room. I never thought of much of anything, so it was a wonder anything made me question this existence at all. But as soon as I talked to that boy, everything I was happy with was blown away.

            What was it like outside? Were there more books? How many people were out there? Was the whole world lit by lightbulbs? And where was my father? Who, or what, was he? I wanted to know, more than I ever had. So three years later, on the same day that I had first talked to that boy, I crept downstairs when everyone was asleep, gathered some food, and left the house.

            I shivered as I shut the door quietly behind me. It was like someone had turned on a giant fan that had a faulty connector or something. Air pushed against me, picking up my skirts and making them dance playfully. I turned around and found myself confronted by open space as far as I could see. I let out a yelp and started to run, hitching up my skirts. I kept staring at the sky in wonder as I ran. So many lights! So many sparkles in that lovely, deep blue sky! How did they get so high in the sky? How were they so close that you could almost touch them, but always just out of reach? More questions sprouted in my head, fresh and new. These whispering sheathes I ran through, what were they? They were so thin, bending at the slightest touch, yet they never broke. It was wondrous, seeing all the things outside. I never wanted to go back in.

            And it seemed like no matter how far I ran, there was nothing around. Just the strange plants, the sparkling lights, and the big, white, round orb that seemed to stare at me from its place in the sky. There were no people, no signs of life. It seemed totally silent at first, but if I listened, I could hear chirps and the sighing of the wind. It was so peaceful. I stopped running, figuring I was far enough away by then. Flopping onto my back, I stared at the sky as the strange plants formed a cushion around me. Where were all of the people? My brother had someone new coming in practically every day, but I hadn’t seen anything or anyone yet. In fact, if I had looked back then I could probably still see the house, a small smudge on the horizon. It seemed like there was nothing around for miles. I sighed and closed my eyes, tired from my run. Within minutes, I was fast asleep.

I awoke to rough hands grabbing me. “Come on, girlie,” a mean voice came from near my ear. It sounded male, but I couldn’t really tell apart male and female voices back then. I heard him laugh. “This one will get a good price,” he called to someone farther away. Bright light was burning into my eyelids, and I finally opened them.

I cried out in surprise. The beautiful sparkles and dark blue sky were gone. In their place was a porcelain blue sky with things that looked like cotton balls stuck to it. I tried looking around to see where the bright light was coming from, but the man holding me grabbed my long hair and yanked me around to face him. “She’s pretty. Maybe we should keep her for ourselves.” He leered at me, a dirty face with white, white eyes. He was rough and ugly, with stubble on his face and green teeth. His breath stank horribly, and the rest of him smelled no better. I recoiled in horror, but he didn’t move.

“Now, now, Aman,” a younger voice said from somewhere beyond this horrible, ugly man. The man, whose name I guessed was Aman, turned to face someone that was walking towards us, taking me with him as he did. It was another man, younger than the one grabbing me, and surprisingly enough, quite handsome. He had brown hair and deep emerald eyes that seemed to widen slightly at my appearance. He was tall, but slender, and artfully dressed in a dark blue suit the exact same shade of the sky I had been running under just hours earlier. “You wouldn’t want to scare her, would you?” his voice was rich, and smooth as honey. He stopped and offered me his hand. “Forgive my vulgar assistant. He is fairly uneducated, and rather rough.” Aman let go of my hair and I stepped shakily forward to take this captivating man’s hand. I was only fifteen at the time, but that was plenty old enough to appreciate his looks and intriguing personality. “Allow me to introduce myself,” he said, bowing over my hand. “I am Theman Dolce, businessman and Duke of His Majesty’s Imperial Court.” He couldn’t have been much older than me, but acted like he was at least ten years my senior.

“His Majesty?” I asked. “Is there a king?” I hadn’t known there was a king.

Theman looked surprised. “Why, yes. King Lose II. Have you not heard of him?”

I shook my head slowly. “No…”

He raised an eyebrow. “Then we have much to teach you before we get to court.” He led me over to a curious vehicle nearby. It wasn’t a wagon, or a carriage, or even an automobile like those I had read about. It was shaped rather like a balloon with wheels, and was made entirely out of cloth.

“Court? You mean we’re not selling her?” the ugly Aman asked, following us.

“Selling me?” I jerked away from Theman, shocked. I had heard mention of a price, but I never thought it applied to me!

Theman rounded on him. “Do you not see her hair? Or her eyes? They are clearly marks of the royal bloodline, running through the veins of the king himself!”

My hair and my eyes. They had always been oddities. My mother had black hair and brown eyes, and my brother the same. Neither of them had my soft, silver hair, nor my vibrant purple eyes. All of the tutors I had took one look at me and never came back. Eventually, I took to wearing my hair pinned up when they came, hoping to learn more before they left. It worked, for a time, but in the end they always saw the color of my hair and left. It was frustrating, but I was able to teach myself as well, so I still learned plenty.

“Wouldn’t looking like that just raise the price?” Aman said. Wow. He really wanted to sell me.

“No,” Theman countered firmly. “I am under a duty of obligation to the king as a noble and a Knight in his service. Anyone with royal blood must be brought before the king. It is the law.” Aman was silent, and I could only stare. A knight? This handsome young man was a knight? Where was the shining armor I had so often read about? The noble white horse? All Theman had was a blue suit and a queer looking balloon-car. It was much less than awe-inspiring.

“You’re a knight?” I burst out. It was just too strange.

He looked surprised again. “Why, yes. I am.” He opened the door to the balloon-car. “Now, if you please, young miss. We must be going.” I hesitated, doubtful, but I stepped into the car anyway, scooting over to the other side of the bench-like seat. Theman stepped in after me and shut the door behind him.

“What about Aman?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“He’s the driver. He sits in front.” Theman motioned to the small cabin in front of us. There was a sheet of glass separating the two spaces, and I could see the ugly man behind it, holding onto some sort of wheel. There was a jerk, and the car started to move.

“What does this thing run on?” I asked in wonder. My nose was pressed to the window as I watched everything go by, blurring together as we picked up speed.

“Helium.” His voice sounded slightly amused, and I turned to see him resting his face on his hand and watching me with twinkling green eyes. A lock of hair had fallen carelessly onto his face, but he didn’t seem to mind, and didn’t brush it away. “We burn the gas, and it makes quite a good fuel.” I blushed, embarrassed by his staring, and turned back to the window just in time to be blinded by something large and extremely bright.

“Ow!” I exclaimed, blinking the red ad black spots out of my eyes. “What was that?!”

This time he seemed truly startled. “What was what?”

I waved wildly at the window. “That bright thing in the sky. What was it?”

“You mean the sun?” he sat up, staring at me in astonishment. “You don’t know what the sun is?”

“No!” my eyes still hurt. “I’ve lived inside my whole life!” I blinked a few more times, and the spots finally cleared. “Phew… ow, that really hurt.” I shook my head, still blinking.

Theman grabbed my wrist. My head shot up to look at him, and I sucked in a breath. He was staring at me with the wildest expression in his eyes, sitting ramrod straight. “Could you be…?” he breathed, his gaze traveling over my clothes, my hair, and fastening on my eyes. “No… it couldn’t be…” he sat back, letting go of my wrist as a thoughtful expression captured his face.

“Theman?” I asked, looking at him. He didn’t respond, too deep in thought. “Uh… never mind.” I turned and stared out the window again, careful not to look at the sun. More questions filled my head. Why had he done that? What was he thinking about? I had been outside for less than a day, and I had so many questions it felt like my head was going to pop.

We were traveling at a steady pace now, scenery flashing by. There were a few trees (I know about them because I had read about them), and some houses. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone had been forced to stay inside them, like I had been. Every so often, I would see a person walking alongside the road, or outside a house. They seemed happy enough, and none of them had silver hair. Perhaps Theman had been telling the truth.

About an hour later, Theman straightened again and looked toward the front of the car. “There’s the capital.”

“What?” I took my nose away from the window and looked past Aman out the front. A city rose up in front of us, splendidly massive and massively splendid. Light seemed to reflect off of every building, and it made the city shine like the sun itself. Thankfully, it was less blinding. “Wow…” I gasped. “It’s amazing.”

Theman smiled at my reaction. “Wait until you see inside the walls.” I nodded eagerly and continued to watch as it grew larger and larger. We passed through a big gate in an even bigger wall, and then we were inside. “Welcome to Roce,” he said, sweeping his arm about in a movement far too large for such a small car. “Capital of the kingdom of Thalia.”

The city took my breath away. The first thing we saw when we entered was a large, graceful fountain-statue of an angel, water pouring out of her stone mouth. Buildings rose up high above us in that tiny car, forcing me to crane my neck to spot even a glimpse of the top of them, and the people. Oh, the people! There were hundreds, thousands even, all of them going somewhere, meeting each other, and jostling for space in the crowded streets. There were short people, tall people, and so many different colors! Brown hair there, black there, and a flash of red over there. Oh, it was glorious! Seeing those people living their lives uninhibited, unhindered… I was so jealous of them. I had never been able to live my life. And what makes me angriest now is that I never wondered what was beyond those walls until that boy had asked me. All of that is behind me now, though. I’m free now. But that is a story I need to finish.

We drove through the city, moving a lot slower now, until we came upon another gate with a palace rising behind it. Aman drove up to the gate, and Theman rolled down his window. “Theman Dolce,” he said, speaking with the guard. “I have someone of interest with me.” the guard looked past him, at me, and I waved. He looked startled and quickly waved us through.

“Why is everyone so surprised when they see me?” I asked, watching the guard vanish behind the closing gate.

“Your hair and eyes are the mark of the royal family,” he replied. “It’s only natural that they would be startled. I frowned. I didn’t feel very royal, but I kept quiet and watched a lush garden unfold in front of the car, backed by a sweeping green lawn. The palace stood behind them at the top of the white, pebbled drive we were on. We stopped in front of the palace doors and got out. I stretched, glad to be out of that cramped balloon-car. Theman got out behind me and stretched as well, cracking his neck. “Shall we?” he offered me his arm. I blushed, embarrassed, but took it anyway. He led me up the steps and into the palace. Aman drove off behind us, most likely looking for somewhere to put the car. A servant opened the palace doors, and I was greeted with the most elaborate sight I had ever seen. There were statues everywhere, and all of them were gold or marble. The carpeting was a lush burgundy that my feet sank thankfully into, as they were sore from all the running I had done the night before.

I paused for a moment. Was it really only last night? So much had happened since then, it was hard to believe. I had met Theman, and been taken to the capital of kingdom. Not only that, I looked like a member of the royal family. Could this get any weirder?

“Come on.” Theman tugged my arm gently. I followed his lead, heading further into the palace. Every servant we passed started, then bowed. It was awkward, because I knew it was me they were probably bowing to. I wasn’t used to it at all, and it felt extremely strange. Finally, we reached another set of doors. A servant opened these as well, bowing as he did, and we found ourselves face to face with the king.

“Enter,” he boomed. He, like me, had silver hair and purple eyes, though they were a darker purple than mine, and he wore a stubbly beard.

Theman stepped forward, letting go of my arm, and knelt. “Your Majesty.”

“Sir Dolce, what brings this unexpected visit?” the king asked, seeming surprised to see him.

“My liege, I was traveling on the outside edges of your kingdom when I found a girl that looked curiously like a member of your family,” Theman replied, gesturing to me. “Allow me to present her.”

The king leaned forward, studying me. “I see…” his face deepened in thought. “Young lady.”

“Y-yes?” I stammered. I was talking to the king. The king!

“What is your mother’s name?” he asked, his voice darkening.

“Um… Alarice,” I replied, curious as to why he was asking.

His face darkened as well. “A traitor to our country,” he said quietly, before straightening and glaring at me. “Girl!”

“Yes?”

“Are you aware of the nature of your birth?” A strange question, if I do say so myself.

“Uh, no, sir,” I replied, confused.

He raised himself up to his full height. “Your mother was a traitor. A vile, despicable traitor that seduced me and attempted to take my own life!”

“What?” I gasped. Mother could be cold sometimes, yes, but never kill someone! Never!

“After she failed, she ran, obviously carrying you,” the king continued, heedless of my outburst. “She has been hiding these past fifteen years, afraid of the punishment awaiting her.”

“My mother would never kill someone!” I burst out. Theman stared at me, shocked that I would speak out against the king. “She may be rude, and mean, and cold sometimes, but she would never try to kill someone!”

The king’s gaze darkened. “So you would speak for her?”

My eyes were firm. “I would.” Even though she locked me away for most of my life.

“You side with treason,” he said. “Therefore, though you may be a member of my house, I banish you from this kingdom.”

“What?!” Theman was on his feet in a second. “My Liege, I beg of you!” he bowed his head. “You can’t possibly banish her! She is your only heir!”

“Nonetheless,” the king replied, closing his eyes. “She is allied with a traitor, and must be punished.”

“She is no traitor! Her mother is, but she isn’t! If she was comfortable with that life, she would have stayed in the house where I first found her three years ago!” Theman continued.

Wait, three years ago? “You were that boy? The one that first talked to me?” I asked, incredulous. I couldn’t believe it.

He whirled to face me and nodded, taking my hand. “Yes. I was that boy. When I saw you this morning, I thought it was my imagination. Then you asked me about the sun, and I knew.”

I stared at him. “You were the one that inspired me to one away. The one that inspired me to question how I lived.”

“A touching reunion,” the king interjected. “I am sorry, Theman, but she must be banished. And as a knight in my service, you are obliged to stay in the capital.”

“But-“ he whirled to face the king.

“Theman,” I touched his wrist. “It’s okay. I never really wanted to be a princess anyway.” I smiled. “You have no idea how grateful I am to you for freeing me. This city is wonderful, but I find I like being under the sky among all those weird plants a lot better.”

He tilted his head questioningly. “You mean grass?”

I frowned. “Is that what it’s called? That’s an odd name.”

He shrugged. “I didn’t come up with it.”

I smiled again. “Okay. But I really am fine with being banished, as long as I don’t have to go back inside and stay there.”

“Even if it’s your own father banishing you?” he couldn’t believe it.

“Yes,” I replied. “I never knew him. Why should it affect me?”

“Ahem,” the king interrupted again. “A group of my soldiers will escort you to the border, where you shall cross. If you come back, you shall be killed.”

I met his gaze without flinching. “Understood.” I turned to walk out of the throne room, and Theman grabbed my wrist.

“I’ll find you,” he promised. “I swear.”

I nodded, a small smile on my lips. “I’d like that.” He smiled too and let go of my wrist. I walked out of the room, leaving behind no regrets, and taking none with me.

 

And that’s my story. It’s nothing too special, nothing too elaborate. It is what it is, and it changed my life forever.

Oh, my name? Yes. Well, I can’t tell you what my name was back then. It was a symbol of my imprisonment inside that house. A symbol of my ignorance. I have a new name now. One that I chose myself, that is a symbol for everything I have gained.

Kelcien.

Freedom.

© 2010 Korteni Free


Author's Note

Korteni Free
credit to oolau of deviantart for the wonderful picture!

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Added on December 1, 2010
Last Updated on December 1, 2010

Author

Korteni Free
Korteni Free

Ann Arbor, MI



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