Kagerou453: Hello, and Welcome to my first story on fictionpress. I don't have much to say other than I hope you enjoy my writing and please tell me what you think.

Note: At the bottom of each chapter will be little footnotes about characters, places etc. introduced in the chapter that may be confusing so you can check there if you need clarification on anything. If I've missed something that you're still not sure about, please tell me and I'll add it in.


Chapter 1: May I Introduce

Daybreak is one of the most beautiful sights one can ever see…even more beautiful than sunset. Wouldn't you agree?

Staring up at the sky, awaiting the sun's rise, is like watching an artist at work with his canvas…

The clouds, lighter than their dark, infinite background, drift around the moon…they make the world seem as though it is covered by a large dome, and they are the milky swirls brushed into the glass. The stars also, the shivering lights of the night sky, illuminate the world below with the full moon, who shines down from her embedded position within the dome upon the hills below…

Finally, the dark canvas is brushed with new color…very simple at first, only a light gray. The paint gently begins to conceal the stars behind its dye, veiling more with each coat. The clouds, determined to remain a highlight before the heavens, grow even lighter so as not to suit the background.

The gray suddenly begins to blossom into the lightest of pinks and oranges, for if the gray were to pursue as the sky continues to grow lighter and lighter, it would only become white. The pinks become bolder as they outline the clouds…such an inspiration the artist must have to create a pallet like that upon his canvas…

The pinks and oranges do not last very long. Beginning in the east, like a halo surrounding the point where the sun will rise, a soft blue quickly spreads across the heavens, washing out the warmer colors that previously held its place. The clouds, also, are cleansed of their rich outlines and fade into a snowy white.

This is my favorite moment…a prolonged pause that takes place only after the last pink hue from the dome recedes and just before the sun appears…the world itself is thrown into a gentle, blue light. Everything it touches is suddenly covered with a soft, colorful film…the world is still quietly asleep, and the air still smells of the crisp, cool night before…it is one of the most tranquil things I have ever experienced.

Finally, the blue light pales as the sun approaches. It outer rays rise from the hilltops like a crown, and then the sun itself peaks up at the world, throwing the hills in front of it into silhouette…

Daybreak is a sight worth seeing.

OoOoOoOoO

My eyes slowly blinked open, staring up at the sky in a glassy drowsiness before I finally registered what it was that I was looking at. Large, fluffy clouds sailed across the blue expanse above me. There must have been a strong wind up high; they were moving very fast…

"Lady Paige! Lady Paige! Where are you?!"

Ah…that must have been what woke me up. Rose was looking for me again…it wasn't as though I was hidden anywhere. In fact, I was lying right on the other side of the hill in the open grass. I always wondered how she managed not to find me…of course I never told her that. I wanted to see just how long it took her to figure it out.

"Lady Paige! Where is that girl…"

I groaned before slowly rolling over onto my stomach. Bracing my arms under me, I used them (and a surprising show of will) to push myself up into a sitting position. After rubbing my eyes, I halfheartedly looked around for where the voice was coming from exactly and yawned deeply, unfurling my arms upward and arching my back.

My yawn wilted and veered into something between a growl and a squeak as I felt each of my muscles, having grown stiff and idle after a few hours of not being used, stretch to their full extent. I held the catlike position for a moment before relaxing, letting my arms drop limply to the ground at my sides. That always felt so wonderful in the morning…

"Lady Paige! Please answer me!"

After stretching my legs as well, I hopped up (stumbling slightly before finding my ground) and leisurely walked across the hill towards the seemingly tireless voice, brushing strands of grass from my hair and shoulders.

"Lady Paige! There you are!"

I didn't even have to look up to know that Rose was hurrying towards me, holding her skirts up to keep them from getting dusty. Rose was a few years older than me and my personal maidservant. Of course, all the servants in the household were to attend to me as though I was royalty, but Rose was always there.

She was pretty at twenty-one, with sandy blonde hair that seemed eternally tied back in a neat bun that was proper for a maid. She had fair skin, characteristic of those born in this region, and gentle green eyes…like lily pads. She was wearing the uniform of the maids of our household. Since it was early spring that meant a plain, long-sleeved white shirt, a black vest, and long, burgundy colored skirts.

She was one of the few people in the household that I could really talk to…I supposed that she was something of a friend, though she always discouraged my escapades. She believed that I should act more like the gentlewoman that I apparently was, which I heartily disagreed with. Even still, at least she never told my aunt or uncle of what I said.

Rose pulled up next to me and, though we walked at the same pace, she somehow managed to appear as though she was hurrying, "Lady Paige! Where have you been? You know that it is not proper for a young lady such as yourself to come sleep on the bare ground in the middle of the night!"

I didn't reply, instead looking out at the town from over the rooftop of the manor that I lived in and those of the other nobility that we lived around. It looked so inviting today…I could see the children playing in the streets near the baker's shop already and the temple bells were ringing loudly, echoing through the hills. Maybe I could go visit…

Besides, I still had time to enjoy my surroundings. The hills behind the manor were so beautiful and lush at this time of year. I always preferred nature to the sculpted columns and polished tiles of the house. They were grand in their own way, I supposed…but I would still have chosen the rustling trees and the grass beneath my feet. There was something about growing by their own design and not being sculpted that I could appreciate.

"Lady Paige! You have missed breakfast!" Rose wailed in distress, once more trying to gain my attention.

"I've told you not to call me Lady, and don't worry. I'll just snatch something from the kitchen," I responded airily, waving off her concern. My thoughts drifted from the town to this morning's sunrise. It had certainly been a sight worth seeing…if only Rose had seen it, maybe she wouldn't fuss so much about sneaking out…

"Your aunt and uncle will be most displeased when you arrive back home. And in such clothes!" she continued in a frenzied manner. What was she getting so worried about? It wasn't as though this was anything new.

I had no doubt that my keepers would be furious with both my actions and my attire. I was wearing men's clothing. It was really one of the stable boys' outfits that I had filched a couple years back…I was finally growing into it. It was only the slightest bit large on me now.

As we arrived at the parlor doors, Rose peaked inside to make sure that my aunt and uncle were not present (almost like a spy) before bustling me through the rooms to my chambers to get me cleaned up.

My name was Paige Kilrea…or at least, that's what it should have been, and what it was at one time. I had recently turned seventeen just a couple months ago. Although I was a "noblewoman," I came from a very notorious and exotic background – what most considered mysterious and alluring, even those miserable, snooty people of the nobility.

My heritage was notorious mostly because of my mother…Mairead Kilrea. Her gypsy caravan was part of a traveling faire. My father, Sir Liam Calthor of Asternly, was a young noble knight looking for nothing more than to escape his life. One day he joined the faire as a merchant. He actually had quite a talent for it. He met my mother and, well…I'm sure you could figure out what happened from there.

We lived happily in the faire. I could honestly tell you that it was nothing like the life that these upper classmen live – it was far better. It was like having one large family; everyone knew everyone, and the times that we shared…the warmth that we received from each other was so much more real than these wretched galas that supposedly brought nobles together, hiding their thoughts and emotions behind stony masks and dancing through an eternal masquerade…

I remembered the nights in the caravan, after the festivities were done for the day. Our faire was composed of all sorts of people, not just gypsies; anyone who wanted to join our family was welcome. There were bonfires all the time, and around each one you could find something different happening: bards playing their instruments and singing songs, gypsies telling old, mystic tales, and all other merriment that only a people so close to each other could share…

I remembered the day, nearly seven years ago, when our caravan was attacked by rogue mercenaries near the country's border…I lost my parents. I was ten. For a while it wasn't sure what was to be done with me, but my aunt and uncle eventually heard word and decided to take me in. I wasn't sure why…my father had renounced any familial ties other than those with my mother and our caravan. They couldn't have been pleased with that.

I was shipped halfway across the country. I learned that I was to be brought up from then on as a proper young lady, and my name was to be changed to that of my father's family. Lady Paige Calthor of Asternly. The name that my father had renounced.

For nearly seven years they had tried to force lessons and life on me proper for a blossoming young woman, hoping that it would make up for my unruly childhood…and for nearly seven years I had refused to give them the satisfaction.

As a young girl who had never experienced such things, I was willing enough at first, of course…but I soon became sick of the rules that restricted me from acting in any way like the child that I still was. I was not allowed to show emotion – I had to be polite and maintain proper space and distance, not run around like a wild animal. I was not to speak so casually to those below me – the maids and butlers were there to serve me, they were not equals. I was not to partake in such inappropriate tasks – the cooks were there for a reason, I should not pester them and I should certainly not try to help them, and the same with the gardeners. Those were menial chores.

My happiness and my life were effectively being cut, blunted, and shaped into what "society" expected of me. It was when I began to meet other nobles…people that my aunt and uncle told me were despicable and tedious. Imagine my surprise when those people appearred and my guardians were all smiles and laughs as though they were good, old friends. All of them acted so fake, trying to out-polite each other and subtly throw insults that the others could not help but smile at if they wanted to stay in the game. It was disgusting.

It was when I finally saw the hypocrisy of it all that I began to rebel. I would not…I could not allow myself to become like that. To live with a mask over my face and shackles on my wrists, always seeing the worst in others…I could never live with myself.

I used to wonder when my guardians would finally give up on me, until I realized that they probably wouldn't, no matter how painstaking the process was. They had no children of their own and my aunt was too old to bear. I was the last of my line and they were determined to make me into an eligible young lady.

Ha!

"My Lady, please hold still," Rose said as she weaved the strings of my dress together.

"I can't help it, this thing is so uncomfortable…I can barely move in it," I complained as I tried to adjust the shoulders. I always hated the way dresses hindered my movement. I felt so stiff inside of them (which was probably the intent of the dress maker. "Good posture" and all) and I could not do so much as run when wearing skirts – hell, I could barely go outside.

I supposed the dress was pretty enough, on the rack. It was a very light chocolate brown color of varying shades, somehow appropriate for the early spring months. It had long sleeves and a square neck and the skirts puffed out slightly…I couldn't stand it. I wanted my boy's clothes back.

Looking in the mirror, the first thing that stood out at me were my eyes…I had my father's eyes. My mother had always called them topaz blue. A friend of ours who made jewelry in the faire had once shown me a ring of hers with a blue topaz stone and I was surprised to see that my mother was right; my eyes were the same light shade.

Almost all my other features came from my mother. My hair was a deep chestnut brown that swept to my shoulder blades and I had the same coppery highlights. My complexion was a light olive-brown; I was not tan enough to be called dark, exactly, but I was certainly far from fair. Though I had my father's nose and ears, my face was still sharply chiseled and heart-shaped as opposed to the soft, round faces of most girls in this region. I was rather small, being only 5'5" and having few curves (if any), but I actually found this very useful at times. Especially for fitting well in men's clothing and sneaking around. I just didn't appreciate being called a shrimp by the boys in town.

There was a knock on the door and I turned to it (Rose had finished tying my dress up), "Come in," I called in a most un-ladylike fashion.

Joseph entered the room; he was one of our butlers. I never learned his exact age, but he looked to be somewhere around forty with graying hairs and a small beard, and he was very reliable. I didn't know his precise stance on my infamous antics, but I swore that sometimes after I'd been caught I could see him smiling in amusement.

One thing that I especially liked about him was that between the three titles of "Mistress," "My Lady," and "Miss," he always called me Miss. He knew how much I didn't like the other two.

"Miss," he began with a small smile as he entered. See? "I have come to inform you that your aunt and uncle request your presence in the parlour when you are suitable."

…What?

"…What?" I decided to voice the very question on my mind. I stared at him for moment, and I was sure that behind me, Rose was doing the same. Something about his message sounded…off. The sort of off where you couldn't pinpoint exactly what made it so, but it instantly stirred suspicion nevertheless.

"Er…thank you Joseph," I said uncertainly. He probably understood that we were confused because his smile broadened, and all he did was nod and back out of the room once more.

Usually when I pulled one of the little stunts like I did last night, my aunt and uncle would simply wait until I showed up for myself to scold me on my atrocious behavior, maybe throwing in one or two pathetic guilt attempts somewhere. I was not thankful that they took me in after my parents died or that they were trying to give me what they thought was best.

"Do you think…" Rose pondered slowly and I turned to her. She seemed to be on the verge of saying something, but faltered for a moment. I raised an eyebrow and she quickly said, "That there is someone here?"

I had thought of that. If there was company, then certainly my guardians would wait until after the person had gone to reprimand me, and they would want me to show up in my best state possible. After all, they had to appear as though they had no problems and were the zenith of civilized life in front of their "friends". But something in the way that Joseph had delivered the message still seemed…peculiar…somehow. Why didn't he mention who was here?

I had a feeling that this was not normal company…and that Rose knew it.

OoOoOoOoO

"Ah, Paige! There you are, darling!"

…The shock that engulfed me in the moment that I walked through the parlour doors was immense. It was much tighter than the delicate hug that my aunt ambushed me with, which was, in fact, what caused it.

My aunt was at about sixty years of age with distinct graying hairs among her faded golden locks. She was a true beauty when she was younger, but it had wilted until all she could do was sustain a handsome elegance. Her wrinkled skin, once a fair peach color, was now pale and worn as she hardly stepped in the sunlight at all. I had always thought that her icy blue eyes were carved of stone and the illusion was not helped by the amount of expensive jewelry that she always wore, glittering in their dark depths.

"A-Aunt Aurelia," I stuttered out. My voice must have been full of the surprise that I felt, since her bony fingers momentarily tightened on my shoulders like eagle's talons. That was a cue…one that I understood perfectly.

We had very important company.

I quickly (though with an invisible effort) relaxed as much as I could with her in such close proximity. I returned her dainty hug and my next words flowed out easily to cover my first ones, "Good afternoon."

Now don't misunderstand, I would have liked nothing more than to embarrass my "family" in front of whichever friends had come for a visit. Whoever was currently being blocked from my sight, however, was no friend. Whoever it was, was someone that my aunt and uncle desperately wanted as a friend. Someone very significant.

I had learned the hard way, years ago, that if I ruined this for my aunt and uncle, I would be severely punished; it would be much worse than a simple reprimand.

I was suddenly not only suspicious, but nervous. If this company was so important, I was sure that my aunt and uncle would have much rather confined me to my room rather than have me out where I could humiliate them, unless I was specifically brought up.

I was standing precariously and I had to be careful.

Aunt Aurelia finally released me from her dainty grip of death and stepped out of the way to present our significant company. I saw a young man, perhaps a year or two older than me, standing in front of the couch.

He was tall…at least 6'. His raven black hair was combed back and fell past his ears in such a smooth wave that would probably make most girls envious. He had a nicely suntanned complexion that only came when someone fair spent much time outside, and his piercing gray eyes were staring straight at me. He was what Anne (another young lady such as myself – heh) would call gorgeous. I honestly just expected another arrogant nobleman.

My uncle stood next to him. I supposed they'd stood up when I entered the room. It was only polite. Uncle Nicola, a large man of over sixty with silver hair and a thick mustache that looked more like a hairy caterpillar, cleared his throat and extended his hand to indicate me.

Looking at the guest with a warm smile, he spoke to him, "May I present my lovely niece, Lady Paige Calthor," there was my full name…I had to refrain from sneering. "Paige," he looked at me, "May I introduce to you his Royal Highness, Prince Hadyn Silharte III."

…the Royal Prince. The heir to Auran's throne. The pillar for everything that nobility stood for and worshipped, the object of such undeserved praise simply for being that pillar, and my personal nightmare was standing not ten feet from me and staring at me with what could only be described as a cunning smile.

…oh how I wanted to hit him.


Paige Kilrea: (kil-REE-ah) The main character of this story.

Asternly: The region that Paige's aunt and uncle reside in and where they hold power.

Aurelia Calthor: (aw-REH-lee-ah) Paige's aunt

Nicola Calthor: (NEE-coh-lah) Paige's uncle

Hadyn Silharte: (HAY-din seel-HAH-R-teh) Crown prince of Auran.

Auran: (OW-ron) The country that they all live in.

Kagerou453: I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my story. Please be sure to review and tell me how it was. Don't be afraid to criticize either - criticism is a writer's friend and I welcome it wholeheartedly if you think I could improve on something.