On a bright spring day, just after the sun had reached its peak, a girl made her way to the castle. A dark cloak pulled tightly around her, she entered the gates. The guards nodded at the cloaked figure, giving her permission to enter the castle. The huge doors opened and she stepped inside. It wasn’t the first time she had been in the castle, in fact, she was a frequent visitor, but its beauty still amazed her. With its looming columns and colorful drapes illuminated by crystal chandeliers, it almost seemed magical. Figures caught her eye, and faint bickering grew louder as a group of three began to head downstairs to see her.
“Is this how royalty is supposed to act?” Celia teased as they approached her. A tall, slender boy with ebony hair grinned at her sheepishly.
“Probably not,” he admitted. Kai Lynx, a.k.a. the most beautiful boy she had ever seen, and the only other person who could teach her to control her magic. Magic was strictly forbidden in the kingdom, despite him being the prince. He had sworn to her,
“As soon as I’m king, magic will be legal. Then we won’t have to run.”
For all of her life, the constant fear of being found out by the royal court weighed down on her. Kai didn’t have a say in their decisions yet, not until his coronation.
“Well, I guess it’s good that you aren’t king yet.” His sister, Kayla bumped her shoulder with his. Her dark hair matched her older brother’s. “The kingdom would be in chaos.”
Celia grinned. These were the only people who accepted her for her magic, besides her father. She almost felt guilty for spending so much time at the castle and leaving him alone, but he insisted that it was for the best.
“I guess you two should start your lesson.” Ah, yes. The youngest sibling of the trio. The sassy, sarcastic, dirty-blonde-haired Princess Miriam. She was thirteen, and at the small height -compared to the rest of them- of 5’3”, she was a force to be reckoned with. She practically forced everyone to call her ‘Mi,’ which quickly led to confusion. Not to mention her many devious schemes to get Kai and Celia together. “You wouldn’t want to waste time,” she added. “Besides, it’s good for you guys to spend some quality time together.”
Kai shot her a glare as she smiled innocently back at him. The pair were either thick as thieves or each other’s ‘worst enemy.’
“She’s right,” Kayla sighed. “I’ll take her away so she can’t bother you.” Kai nodded his thanks, and led Celia out a side door to the castle gardens.
The pair hiked down to their usual place, each pulling the hood of their cloaks over them. A single tree marked the meeting spot. She had actually begun to feel sympathy for it. With the number of times it had been crumpled to ash and regrown, she couldn’t help it.
Kai pushed the hood of his cloak back so she could see his eyes, and she did the same. Pushing a few stray locks of her fiery orange hair back into the cloak, she asked,
“What will we be doing today?”
He hesitated, biting his lip before responding. “You know what I said about leaving the harmful spells for later?”
“Yeah,” she answered, a knot of worry forming inside her. He hadn’t spoken a word on the walk here, and even now his emerald eyes seemed to be in a different world. “What about it?”
There was something he wasn’t telling her, and she could see it in the way he fiddled with his wand, turning it back and forth. “They’re looking for you. The Court has started to put posters up. They’re asking for your arrest. And,” he paused again, as if debating to tell her. “They don’t care if you’re dead or alive. But they want you. They’ve already set up a daily search patrol for you around the castle.”
She stared at the ground, anger boiling up inside her. It wasn’t right! They didn’t even know her, yet they wanted to punish her. It wasn’t her fault that she had been born with magic! She forced a calm expression onto her face. “Okay,” she breathed, trying to calm her nerves. “Okay.”
“Let’s not concentrate on that,” Kai suggested, and she nodded in agreement. “But I still want to teach you the harming spells.”
She doubted it would be good to try to hurt the people that were hunting her, but she trusted his judgement. Pulling out her own wand and gesturing toward the scraggly tree, she asked, “Shall we begin?”
Okay, I’ve got this. After many tries -and fails-, she had finally gotten the hang of the Splicing spell. The spell was meant to cut your opponent, and fend them off. She aimed her thin wand at the tree -which was already covered with gashes of varying size- and concentrated. She felt someone gently adjust her hand, and looked to see Kai fixing her movements from over her shoulder. He looked up and met her eyes. His hood had fallen away, revealing soft black locks.
“Sorry,” he murmured, moving her fingers to hold the wand a certain way.
“It’s okay,” she breathed, internally frowning at the way her heart fluttered inside her.
“This should help, though. Now try it,” he instructed, leaning away. And she did, the words to the spell barely a whisper. A bright light flashed out the tip of her wand and struck the tree. The force blasted her backward. She hit the ground a few meters back, dust blowing onto her. This ‘crisis’ wasn’t too bad, until there was a voice from behind her.
“Well, it seems as if we’ve found the witch.”
She looked up to see a middle-aged man with a gray uniform standing a little ways away from where she had landed. She started to scramble to her feet, fear filling her, but the man barked an order.
“Stay down! Or else we’ll have to cause your pretty little face to have a few marks.” She noticed a sword swinging at his side. “And you,” he turned to Kai, who was already standing. “Stay where you are. I saw you helping the witch, and you’re not out of the woods yet.”
Kai’s eyes narrowed, glancing between Celia and the man. She knew what he was thinking.
Don’t, she mouthed to him. If he attacked the man it would only cause more problems. She felt a sharp tug on her wrist, and yelped as she was roughly dragged to her feet. The cloak was pulled off her shoulders, and she shook her hair behind her shoulders.
“You’re coming with me to Court, young lady.” And he dragged her through the courtyard. She dug her heels into the ground, trying to stop him, but he was much bigger and stronger than she was.
“Please don’t,” she begged. “I won’t hurt anyone-”
“Then why were you practicing ‘harming spells’ on that tree?” he challenged, a triumphant look in his eye. She looked back to see if Kai was following, but two more men were bringing him along -although at a much slower pace, due to his attempts to twist out of their grip. It almost made her smile.
“We will have order!” a judge shouted. His black robes reminded her of those at a funeral. The entire room had an aura of bad. Columns, much like the ones in the castle, went from floor to ceiling, but they were much shorter, making the room seem smaller. There seemed to be too many benches crammed into the room, and they were all filled with curious spectators. Why did there have to be so many people? Kayla and Mi had come, along with an older woman whom Celia knew to be the siblings’ mother. They had looked confused at first, and unwilling to be there, but understanding soon dawned in their eyes.
She sat at the front, chained to a table. Kai, although unchained, sat next to her. His hair was slightly disheveled from earlier, and he looked paler than normal, which was a feat, considering how pale he actually was.
Everyone quieted as the judge called for attention once again.
“As you know, the witch has been found. Unless there are any opposing arguments, she will be executed at dawn.”
She felt sick.
“I will now ask for any people who disagree with this judgement to stand.”
The trio of siblings stood, along with their mother.
“Do you have an argument?” the judge quirked an eyebrow at them.
“Yes,” Mi immediately spoke up. “I think it’s unfair to murder people-” The crowd broke out in shouts at the word ‘murder.’ “QUIET,” she shouted, and the crowd’s talk grew to soft murmurs. “As I was saying, I believe it isn’t right to kill people who haven’t done anything to offend you.”
“She has broken a severe law set by the king.”
“A king who is now DEAD.”
It was as if the crowd was waiting for that specific moment to burst out in shouts once again. Disorder filled the room, people standing up and moving around the room. Many of them were trying to get the judge’s attention. She made out a few words they were saying.
Doom to us all.
She turned to Kai desperately, and she was the only one who noticed: he still had his wand. She didn’t even hear him say the Unlock spell, when the latch on her chains clicked open. She wriggled out of them as discreetly as possible. Kai held out his hand to her, and she took it. They skirted the edges of the room, toward the back doors. Kayla and Mi caught them.
“The Eastern Kingdom,” Kayla breathed. “We can go there.”
The Eastern Kingdom hadn’t outlawed magic, and they were their (the Western Kingdom’s) allies. Sneaking out the back door, they reached the streets. They didn’t care if they were seen.
Through the town.
Past many confused villagers.
They didn’t look behind them, not until they reached the outskirts of the town.
Then they stopped.
And everything seemed to slow down.
They didn’t talk for a few minutes, trying to catch their heaving breaths. Once they had mostly returned to normal, they went a few more meters into the darkening forest. No one spoke, until-
“Does anyone know which way East is?”