In a world where people are subjected to the rules of a rather unfair hierarchy, it is hard for anyone to break out of the mould which has been fashioned for them from birth. The country of Arkonia is divided into 5 distinct social classes, which have been coined after the reigning Queen’s love of jewels. Golds - the royal family, Rubies - the aristocrats and the incredibly wealthy, Emeralds - the soldiers, military men and high skilled workers, Sapphires - the businessmen and low skilled workers and finally Opals - the runt of society. Where you belong depends entirely on your family circumstances. Though it isn’t unheard of for Opals to claw their way out into Emerald and Sapphire territory, no one has yet to infiltrate the privileged classes; the Rubies and Golds. Yet.
Run. Just run.
A flurry of blurry, hazy shapes flew by as Evelyn ran, as fast as her stupidly high heels would let her, trying her hardest not to trip over her own dress. Not daring to look back, she fervently hoped that her pursuer, whoever he or she was, was affected by some ailment or other, which would give her at least some slim chance of escaping. The deafening echo of her heels slamming onto the cold, hard marble floor certainly made sure she was easily traceable. No time to remove her shoes though. Spotting the blurry outline of a long, red velvety curtain encasing a set of French windows before her, she darted across the big room her mad dash across the palace had led to, and wasted no time hiding behind them. Pointing downwards the gun she had removed from the library wall a few minutes ago, Evelyn tried as best as she could to remain motionless as a statue. A panting, horrified statue. There was no way her breathing couldn’t be heard, and she was positive the curtain swayed with every heaving breath she took. Still, she had a gun, and that was reassuring.
She held her breath as she heard the echo of footsteps approaching her. She desperately wished she hadn’t dropped her glasses before this all happened. What terrible timing. She has always had terrible timing anyway, to the point where she was sure the heavens were playing some sort of cruel joke on her. Without her precious glasses, the world around her was a hazy, shapeless mess. It was a miracle she had even managed to get this far without running at full speed towards some hard inanimate object, and subsequently knocking herself unconscious. Tentatively, she peeked ever so slightly out from the curtains, hoping to catch a glimpse - be it a blurry one - of the footsteps’ owner.
Blue. That was all she gained from that risky manoeuvre. Fat lot of good that would do her. The one thing she did see, apart from the blue, was the unmistakable shape of the hat all guards were required to wear as part of their ridiculous and unnecessarily fancy uniform. Evelyn tried to control her breathing to no avail. The same words kept repeating in her brain, please god don’t let him notice me. Oh god oh god oh god. As her luck would have it, the more she repeated this to herself, the closer the guard’s footsteps were. Of course this made her already deafening breathing more erratic and soon, the guard made his way towards the curtain, wondering why it was breathing and quivering.
‘Who goes there?’
Not wanting to dig herself further in what was already a fairly large hole, Evelyn stepped out from behind the curtains, then promptly panicked, and before her brain could assess the wisdom of what she was about to do, she pointed her gun at the guard.
‘Move and I shoot.’
This statement did not get the response she had hoped. The guard seemed to be surveying her for a few seconds. Had she been wearing her contacts, she would have seen that his green eyes were devoid of any fear. Gingerly, he crossed his arms, a smile creeping slowly on his face, before saying,
‘Yes, really. I will shoot.’
‘I’m sure you will.’
‘Then why are you laughing?’
‘I’m not I assure you. I’m taking your threat very seriously.’
His relaxed, almost insulting demeanour underlined by the obvious sarcasm in his tone made Evelyn second doubt herself. Why was he so unafraid? She gripped the weapon tighter as he took a step towards her.
‘I said don’t move!’
Before she could pull the trigger, an alarming ringing of bells suddenly resounded out, scaring the wits out of her.
Taking this opportunity, the guard deftly took hold of her outstretched arm, one hand on her wrist, the other twisting her around, so that she found herself with her right arm behind her back, and his hand clasped firmly on her mouth. Whispering, he asked,
‘Just out of curiosity, you know that gun is just a collectable right? It’s completely useless.’
Evelyn’s shoulders slumped as she realised why the guard had been so nonchalant. This evening just keeps getting better, she thought darkly.
‘Now, if I release you, will you promise not to run?’
She nodded, wondering what had prompted the guard’s odd behaviour. She felt his hand detach itself from her mouth, and turned around to face him, taking a step back when she almost collided with him whilst doing so. She decided that honesty was probably the best policy, if not the last option she had. Unfortunately, she was still so shaken by what she had witnessed that her words were tumbling over one another, resulting in her making no coherent sense at all.
‘Mr...Guard, you see, I was enjoying the evening dancing with...Oh wait what was his name again...No never mind, that’s neither here nor there, see, my contacts fell out, I’m practically blind without them, it really is rather shameful, anyway, they fell out, so I went to the powder room to put them back in but on my way there...Oh God, on my way there, in the library, I saw...I saw...I think...at least I think I saw...Yes I’m almost sure I -’
Evelyn’s animated account was cut short as the guard once more clamped his hand over her mouth.
‘Shh. Okay, you listen woman.’
He was almost shouting in her ear. Still, now that he knew she was not a criminal, but an unfortunate victim of a most tragic crime, she felt much more at ease.
‘I am going to take you as my hostage.’
Great. Wait. What?!
This revelation caused her to whip her head around in confusion and indignation. Except she couldn’t, seeing as he held her in a vice like grip. All she could do was thrash around as much as possible, hoping that he would release her.
‘Goddamnit I swear to God if you don’t stop I will shoot you. And mine actually functions.’
Now this was a real threat. Being too attached to life, she stayed completely still, barely nodding to show her compliance.
Please Mr Guard don’t kill me oh God no please.
She seemed to be doing an awful lot of praying lately. Well, what else could she do, trapped in the arms of what she now had figured out wasn’t a palace guard. It was just her luck to go from one bad situation right into the arms of a worse one. Then she remembered that prior to meeting him, she had been running away from someone. So this was just as well. Mr Guard - as she had now dubbed him - may kill her, but he could also be just what she needed to escape from the other pursuer.
Ah if Ms Maude could see her now, she’d find a way to blame her for this predicament. Ms Maude was the headmistress of the all-girls institution Evelyn boarded at. It was as lavish as you’d expect an establishment in the red sector to be, and it was all she had to call home. She dreamt that one day she would be able to escape...It wasn’t that the extravagant lifestyle didn’t suit her, no in fact it suited her very well, but she had always wanted to explore the rest of the world, the other zones, and meet new people. Rubies were all the same. Living in the red sector, they believed themselves to be above almost everyone, and took great pleasure in flaunting and competing with their wealth. She longed to meet those from the other sectors - she’d heard so many stories about them, particularly about the Opals, those living in the black sector. The “guard”’s voice wrenched Evelyn out of her musings and thrust her back into the real world.
‘We have to move. And fast.’
Before she could point out that she couldn’t move a muscle in her current position, she felt a sharp tug as he unceremoniously dumped her over his shoulder, like she were a rag doll. Her head bobbing furiously up and down, she squinted, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone she could call out to as he ran, and plead for help to be released from this mad guard gone rogue. Seeing as how the evening had turned out, that someone would probably end up being a thug anyway.
‘Right. Here we are.’
He deposited her with as much care and gentleness as a gorilla, causing her to almost fall over. Dusting herself off, she looked around, and guessed from the blurry greens, browns and spots of bright colours she could make out, that she was probably in the Jewel Gardens. The Queen’s most treasured and favourite place, it extended all along the rear of the castle. Almost a maze, it consisted of a dazzling medley of both exotic and classic blossoms and flora, arranged carefully to create a magical and enchanting atmosphere. Once more, Mr Guard’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts.
‘Can you ride a horse?’
She heard him sigh, and heard the strain in his voice as he struggled to stay patient, and repeated the question slowly.
‘Can you ride a horse?’
‘Um...Yes? I mean I usually can but...but I can’t see anything so...’
Exasperated and wondering why the Heavens had cursed him so, Mr Guard approached the two horses that had been saddled and readied by him earlier that day as he was planning his escape. He quickly tied the chestnut’s reins so that it had to follow the second horse’s lead, before taking Evelyn’s arm and motioning for her to mount. Remembering that she could barely see, he said,
‘I need you to mount the horse.’
He watched, a pained expression on his face, as she unsuccessfully attempted to heed his instructions. Walking to the right side of the chestnut coloured horse, her determined expression was completely undermined by the clumsy act that followed. Battling with her dress for what seemed like 5 interminable minutes, she finally extracted her right foot from the material and planted it firmly in the stirrup - too firmly. Her foot slid off just as she had gathered the momentum to hoist herself up and over, causing her to lurch forward and gracelessly but violently acquaint her nose with the horse’s hard flank.
‘Dammit woman, is there anything you can’t mess up?!’
‘You don’t seem to grasp the fact that I can’t-’
Without bothering to listen to her indignant retort, he grabbed her by the waist and somewhat roughly plonked her onto the horse’s saddle, so that both her legs were on the same side. He considered how likely it would be that she would simply fall off at some point during their journey, but in the end decided that it was a risk he had to take. Besides, he was sure she would probably flail around spectacularly, alerting him of the situation, if that were to happen. Then again, he wasn’t fully convinced she could manage to not mess that up too. Not wanting to waste any more time, he mounted his stallion, a Belgian warmblood he had affectionately named Jasper, and set off, Chestnut in tow, hoping to God that his hostage would stay quiet, and most importantly, stay in the saddle.
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