Kaelynne covered her eyes and tried to block out the memory of the man's screams as he was thrown into the Abyss. His twisted, blue-black horns and talons being slowly dug out using a rusty knife, his calls for help, the impassive, slightly amused expression on her father's face as he watched. She had to suppress a shiver as it ran through her body, from her scalp to her wing tips to her toes. She knew her father had always had a tendency towards the dramatic, the radical, but this... this was going too far. She would go talk to him about it. Her black, diamond-studded heels clipping gently on the crystal tiles, she gathered her skirts around her and walked delicately to her father's office. On her way, she passed Nan, her old governess. "Good afternoon, Nan," she greeted her as she pulled her into a tight hug, the rough gray fabric of Nan's uniform grating against the smooth silk of Kaelynne's dress. "How have you been?" She pulled back and inspected her. Nan looked a little more tired than usual today. Her light blue eyes seemed sunken, and wrinkles had appeared on her face. Her hair seemed to have a bit more gray than before, and her beautiful rowan wings were drooping ever so slightly.
"I've been well, thank you. Just busy doing work for the King," replied Nan, smiling sadly, "And you, my dear princess?"
Kaelynne immediately understood the words she wasn't saying, for fear of a spy overhearing her. Nan was anything but well. She was scared for her life as well as angered and saddened at the casual destruction of so many innocent souls. "I am also well. I am now on my way to speak with my father." She smiled but her eyes asked for good luck.
"Ah," said Nan, "Then I shall let you on your way and hold you up no longer. I wish you a good day." Nan curtsied, bobbing her head and holding the skirt of her ill-fitting dress.
Kaelynne nodded back and curtsied as well, lifting the dark violet of her dress ever so slightly off the floor. "Farewell."
With that final word, she continued on her way, passing several other servants, all of whom stopped to greet her as she was quite popular among their ranks. Unlike her father, who scorned them and punished them harshly for the most trivial mistakes, she was kind and forgiving, and even gave them little presents for the holidays. They complimented her every time they saw her, and they did this not because they feared what would happen if they did not, but rather because they spoke the truth. She embodied the very essence of the ocean, one of the people's most praised wonders. Her eyes were the color of sunlight glinting off its ever changing waters, a bright green with hints of blue depending on the time of day. Her hair was long and fair, the bright white of the sun-bleached sands of summer. Her mouth was a coral pink, and nails shone like pearly shells. But more praised than her looks was her voice, high and clear like songbirds, and like the birds, she sang and laughed beautifully.
Finally, she reached the door to her father's room. I really, really hope this goes well, she thought, I mean, he's my father, after all. He wouldn't do anything. After taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she knocked on the door.
"Who is it?" came a deep booming voice, tinged with annoyance.
"It's just I," Kaelynne said meekly, "Kaelynne. If it is a bad time-"
She was cut off as her father growled, "Of course it is a bad time, but since you have already interrupted me, I suppose I will have to let you in."
The door swung open, revealing a breathtakingly beautiful room. Kaelynne felt her breath catch in her throat; after all these years, she was still enthralled at the beauty of the palace. "Good afternoon, Father," she murmured as she curtsied, averting her eyes from the King's face.
"Get up, and tell me what it is you want," he ordered impatiently, "I have stacks of papers to go through yet today."
"I only wanted to speak with you about you most recent... project," started Kaelynne, "I believe there is a better way to go about cleansing the population than killing so many souls off." Her father sat on his throne staring down at her, a bored expression upon his face. "We could move them to another location, or we could convert them. There are so many other options. We don't have to destroy them."
"That's nice," said the king, "but that would give them too much potential power, and we don't want that. We would have to spend so much of our time and energy to monitor them."
"So we have to kill them in such a brutal way?" countered Kaelynne, "We can't simply break their neck or give them fast acting poison? Why do we have to torture them and not even kill them, but throw what is left of them into the Abyss?"
"My dearest daughter," her father said, in a way that was not benevolent in any way, "We are sending a message. 'If you don't destroy yourselves, then it will be up to us to destroy you. And you don't want us to do that.'"
She felt what was left of her patience dissolve. "I can't stand all of the screaming, all of the pain being caused here in this place. Our world is called the Homeland. Home is supposed to be a place where you can be safe, and yet you choose terrorize these 'Anomalies' simply because they do not look like us." Here, she flexed the beautiful, golden-feathered wings on her back. "Just because their souls have no feathered wings, but scales or horns or, κόλαση, a third eye, doesn't mean anything. They are just as worthy of having a place to go, a home, as we are."
"They do have a home," her father snarled, his patience snapping as well, "It's called the Abyss, where they will fall forever. Don't tell me they deserve better, because they don't." He paused as an idea came to him. "Actually, I agree with you. They do deserve as much as you do."
Kaelynne felt a spark of fear ignite in her gut. "Father, you don't understand-"
But the king went on, "And you don't deserve much at all, as you are no longer my daughter." He held his hand up to ward off Kaelynne's protests. "Leave, and do not grace me with your presence ever again, I swear, I will have those wings torn off your back as you are thrown into the Abyss with the rest of those Anomalies." He spat the word as if it were poison.
"Father," she begged, getting down on her knees, "Please."
"You shall refer to me as King Theós from now on. Good day." Finished with his outburst, he gestured for the guard. "Kindly escort this lady from my room. My audience with her is over." The armored man walked stiffly and grabbed her arm in a steel grip. Dragging her past the servants, and even good old Nan, he threw her outside and locked the door.
"Goodbye, princess," he sneered, then turned away, never to follow an order from her again.
Outside, Kaelynne sat on the dusty road for a moment, the rest of the world not registering her dilemma. "Hey, sweetheart," called a man's voice, "How much for a couple hours?"
She turned, confused. "I'm not quite sure what you're talking about," she said in the soft, clipped accent of the Royals.
"How long'd it take to master that accent, honey?" The man was scraggly in his dress and in his manner, his wings a tattered, dishwater gray.
"I don't know?" offered Kaelynne, hoping that the man would leave. I should have learned more about the outside world, she thought ruefully, I don't know the least about these people.
"Oh, well. That's alright. It won't keep you from performing your duties." He leered at her, the few teeth he had left were yellow and broken.
"What duties, sir?" she asked, figuring that if she were polite, he might take some pity on her. She couldn't very well tell anyone of her problem; they wouldn't dare help her for fear of the King's wrath.
"Ah," chuckled the man, "Playing innocent, are we? I like that. Why don't you come home with me, and I shall teach you, hmm? A place to stay for the night, food, money..." He trailed off, seeing the hope in the girl's eyes. "But," he added, "For the whole night you must stay. I can't have you wandering off in the middle."
"That sounds wonderful," Kaelynne smiled, thinking about how especially kind this man was being to her. "Just tell me, how much money will you give me?"
"Only as much as you earn," he replied, "So I expect a... thorough job." He chuckled at the catch he made.
Kaelynne laughed nervously with him. She had no idea what she was walking into.
The next morning, Kaelynne was sore all over. The man had done unspeakable things to her, and she hadn't been able to call out a word around the thing he shoved down her throat. It had been hard enough to breathe as it was. She doubted she could ever remove that memory from her mind. "Here, sweetheart, we will share a bed." It had been all fine until he touched her. She was unused to this kind of contact, but as she had grown up removed from the common people, she thought it might be normal. Then it had all gone downhill. He seemed to think her protests were a joke and that she was "playing innocent." She shook her head. It was over, thank her soul, and she now had money, food, and water.
She went to the clothing store first. "Good morning, ma'am, I would like to buy a new dress." She gestured at the one she currently wore. "This is hardly fit to be seen."
"Which style would you like?" asked the plump old lady who was currently at the register. She gestured towards the many dresses hanging about the room.
Kaelynne counted her money. If there was anything she learned growing up as a Royal, it was finances. That was mostly what her father ranted on and on about. It was also partly the reason for her current situation. "I'll just have a simple one." She glanced at the dresses. "Perhaps that teal one right there."
The landlady pulled it down. It was made of satin and had hardly any embellishments, only a bit of white lace at the collars and sleeves. "That will be ten."
She counted out ten silver coins and handed them over. "Thank you. Is there anywhere where I might change?" She gestured towards some curtains against the wall, and Kaelynne went inside a cubicle. She quickly pulled on her new dress. The sleeves were a tad too long, but she had no money to spare to get it tailored. I am lucky enough that my shoes are still intact, she thought thankfully, They would have taken a considerable chuck from my savings.
Walking out, she heard the woman gasp. "Oh, it looks beautiful on you! You could be the Princess."
"Thank you," she responded with false cheerfulness, "We can all dream." Kaelynne knew what happened. The King, as supreme ruler, has erased her memory from the population. I wonder if Nan still remembers me? She shook her head sadly. Perhaps he had taken the time to cleanse their memories, perhaps he didn't. There was no use in knowing now. "Have a nice day," she called as she exited the store. Once outside, she went over to a bench under a large tree. She carefully sniffed her water, another thing she learned to do. Even though the Royals were always held in high respect, there was always the odd person who wanted them destroyed. Many Royals were killed because of poisoning. Once finding nothing wrong with either food or drink, she carefully took a sip. She waited a few minutes to make sure nothing was going to happen. Then she took another sip, this one slightly larger. Satisfied, she made a plan to escape this world. She thought back to a conversation she overheard a few weeks ago.
"There are so many souls up here," her father was saying, "We need to start sending them away. Perhaps the lower class could be moved the Wastelands?"
"What are the Wastelands, Father?" she asked, curious.
"It is another world, less organized than our own. They have no supreme ruler to keep everything in line, and their inhabitants vary greatly in both intelligence and physical appearance. We occasionally send the stray misfit or criminal along there. I have no wish to deal with them here."
"Oh," little her had said, "That sounds reasonable. Perhaps they will lose control completely and die out."
"Oh, no," her father said, shaking his head, "Then their souls will come back here. Don't worry, Kaelynne, I send them right back."
That gave her an idea. What if she volunteered to go to Earth? One lifetime at least wouldn't hurt anything. Maybe by then she will have corrected her way of thinking. Checking her reflection in the store windows, she fluffed her hair. She would do this now.