Chapter One [Princess Cyrvil]

After bolting up the great oak door of her high-ceilinged room, Cyrvil crept up to the enormous window, looking through the West Tower of the Gorgedin Castle. The grounds were dim and unguarded, making the first phase of her operation easier. The only light came from the faint flickering fire from the lamp posts on the other side of the wing.

Cautiously, she dropped the knotted the rolls of blankets down to touch the ground. Then, she heaved herself to the sill, facing the bricked wall.

She cast her gaze to the inside of the enormous bedroom she had used for seventeen years. She would never forget the warmth of her satin- lined oblongated bed and the antiquated furnishings of a place she could safely say was her own. Also, she knew she'd sorely miss the fancy overdresses and petticoats she used to wear.

Pulling a deep breath, she muttered, "This is for the best."

Giving the blankets a tight grip and a huge tug, she hoisted herself ready to rapel down the wall, feet in between the cracks of the bricks.

Slowly, she began climbing down, hardly daring to look where she was going in fear of what fate might befall her upon seeing the height. Arms shaking, cold sweat pouring down the face, Cyrvil reached the first window, about three yards away from her own. After all, it was no joking matter if she fell down. The lawn was still twenty five feet away ; one small step and she'll find peace no one in the right mind would wish for.

It was a tad unexpected that things would go hard. Her father's knights have always made it look so plain and simple. Thankfully, she had managed to nick out a pair of bloomers, a loose shirt and a pair of sandals or else, her escape would have been impossible. Ha! Imagine trying to go down a tall tower in a gown and spiked-heel shoes.

A little bit later, she landed softly on the cold earth. Brushing off soil from her clothes, she got back to her feet and headed for Roemin Forest at the South. It was the only unwalled part of the castle grounds. In the dark, Cyrvil walked through the woods with the light of the moon as a guide, crunching dried leaves and twigs on her way. The hair at the back of her head rose to its ends as she heard the noises of the cicadas, hoots of owls and soft hissing as she ambled her way.

Finally, she reached the small stable where her strawberry roan saddle horse was kept. The only thing she saw were the illuminating eyes of her gaiting friend. The horse, upon recognizing her, scrambled to its feet and gave out a neigh.

"Shhh." hushed Cyrvil, pressing her fingers to her lips. "Yam, come on. we have to leave."

Yam, sensing the urgency of her tone, stood still and allowed her to mount freely until she took the reins. Gently, Cyrvil squeezed her legs to Yam's sides and loosened her grasp.

In a moment, yam was trotting along the damp forest floor. Cyrvil's ears were open to any noise. If anyone in the castle was alerted, she'd order Yam to gallop at full speed. Fortunately, the only things she heard were the rustle of trees and creatures slithering on the bushes beneath,. She could vividly make out that everyone was lying low at the palace.

Saddled to Yam, back propped straight and hands on the leather around the horse's neck, Cyrvil wondered how things would go after she ran away. Being the princess of Gorgedin, she knew, was not at all very easy. It was not about grand balls and frolicking around. Neither was it something that told her she would get everything she wanted. It was always the responsibilities. the BURDEN. that made her wish shere born to another family as a Plain Fellow. She was, indeed, an heiress to the royal throne but she also was a prisoner for life. Now that she informally denounced her crown, who would come after King Amanoul Fenblith? Who, now, would rule Grogedin?

Sadly, Cyrvil lowered her head. She loved her country and he people, but if it weren't for her parent's demands, she would have o give up her rights, her beliefs, her life.

"Cyrvil, daughter," she saw Queen Anamere's face, kindly yet somehow cold, in her mind's back eye. "The time has come."

"What time?" her own confused words fluttered along.

"Dear, now that you have come of age. there is one special task your father and I ay upon you."

Puzzled, Cyrvil looked up to her mother.

"YOU have been betrothed to a crown prince of another kingdom and the time was set two months after your seventeenth birthday-"

"But I have not even met this prince!" said Cyrvil in a suddenly raised voice. Her mother was pulling her leg off again.

"That,:" pointed the Queen,, "Is a part of the agreement."

"This is preposterous!" burst Cyrvil, face burning in anger. "I can not marry a stranger-"

"That is your duty," said Anamere coldly. "Nothing is more preposterous than denying your people of decent lives because of your selfish wishes!"

Nothing more was said before the Queen turned swiftly away.

Sighing heavily, Cyrvil thought of her mother as t a pretentious woman whose beauty masked the putrid personality. To Cyrvil, she was as heartless as a boulder right ashore. Both her parents were. She could sense that Anamere and Anamoul wanted to give her the same doze of misery they both have taken in when they were younger. She knew her parents never truly loved each other. They were forced to exchange oaths for the reconciliation of Upper Gorgedin (Haidemin) and Lower Gorgedin (Roemin). But it was not her fault that they did not stand up for themselves.

Cyrvil turned to the path she and Yam were tracing. She was sure they will reach the port before daybreak, before anyone realized that the princess had gone missing. Before the King could send out his troops, she'd already be out in the sea. She could live far away from the horror of the castle.

The sky was already turning treddish orange when Cyrvil pulled on Yam's reins. The horse halted at once and held still at the harbor, which was just at its wake. She dismounted and got herself to the ground.

"I'll miss you, Yam," said Cyrvil, giving the horse a soft tap at the back.

Standing in the middle of the very busy street, Cyrvil watched wistfully as Yam became smaller and smaller along the horizon.

"Move over, girl!" snarled an edgy-looking man, trundling past her, carrying two wooden barrels on his shoulders.

Awkwardly, Cyrvil jumped to the walkway and accidentally treaded on some-one's foot.

Weeling around, she murmured an apology to a girl who seemed to be of her age, hair in a loose bun, wisps dangling at the face. Btu the girl did not answer and turned back to the cartons of freshly -picked and sweet- smelling flower varieties and began arranging them into bouquets and corsage.

Fascinated, Cyrvil tore her eyes around her. All these people were bustling with such speedy and fumbling hands. Never had she been out in such a place with the Plain Fellows before. She let her eyes feast until she recalled what she was after.