Celeste and I pick up the leaves – hardly any, off the bottom of the pool. We are thankfully left relatively alone to do our job... but every time we turn around it is as if Traegr and Sabir are always swimming somewhere close by.
Even if they do not talk to us or touch us. They watch.
By the time we’ve reached the opposite end of the pool, Celeste and I unsurprisingly surface at the same time, right in front of each other. We both meet each other’s eyes and nod, an unspoken agreement transferred between our gazes.
Traegr and Sabir suddenly approach as we put our hands on the edge of the pool, about to haul ourselves out.
Celeste and I hear their rapid movements towards us in the water but don’t hesitate to get out as quickly as possible before they catch us.
Celeste and I make it out just in time, both of us running for our clothes. As we shuck them on as quickly as possible we glance back to see Sabir and Traegr having a good chuckle together at the edge of the pool, eyeing us like predators.
“Nearly done...” Celeste whispers to me and I nod, before we part ways and start cleaning the rest of the pool with the brooms.
As we continue our duty, finally fully clothed, I find solace staring out the windows to the forest beyond as I sweep.
It’s as we are finishing up sweeping that I lean on the broom stick for a break, and I watch a blue bird flitter to the nearest windowsill, it sings happily, dancing along the wood.
I freeze as I watch it, fascinated and trying not to laugh at it’s erratic excited movements. It flies away into the forest and I turn to see Celeste coming towards me, her broom stick now stored away.
I just shake my head at the weird occurrence as I glance at the windowsill and then I focus on Celeste’s rapid eye jerks to the exit, she wanted to leave and I didn’t blame her. The Others were chatting away in a foreign language and were starting to climb out of the water.
I walk fast to put my broomstick in the small storage facility near the entrance and Celeste and I try to inconspicuously exit the pool area.
We manage to leave uninterrupted and step onto the hot sand stone tiles, breathing in the freedom. All that male testosterone was becoming hard to bare.
“I’m going to grab some water,” Celeste starts off towards the kitchens, expecting me to follow, but I have my eyes trained on the forest.
“Sure... uh...” I think for a moment and she spins on her heel and watches me curiously.
“I’ll meet you at the slave quarters, I’m going to take a quick peep into the forest,” I whisper. Celeste’s eyes widen and she hesitates.
“But the bedchambers?” she asks.
“Are already clean,” I remind her, “We may as well retire to our rooms and have the rest of the day off. I’m going to do a little research first, I’ll report back to you what I find out.”
“It’s your risk, not mine,” she turns on her heel, her wise words ringing through my ears.
I frown, great, now I was questioning myself as doubt floods through me.
However, not for long when I turn on my heel and I hear the Other’s voices getting louder from inside the pool temple. I decide I better not wait any longer before I’m caught.
I quietly and quickly as possible, skitter off into the forest. I’m almost instantly engulfed by the full lush green leaves that are... everywhere... in every direction. It’s almost like a maze at first as I quietly explore the different flora.
I find myself exploring so far down an old, almost invisible track, that I don’t even take notice of how far neither how long I have been away from the Golden Palace.
It’s like my thoughts, my very soul, is distracted by the call of this forest. I felt safe here.
I eventually sit down at the base of a tree, and listen to the calls of the birds and insects.
I actually doze off, it was probably a stupid thing to do, but something about this place calmed me – even if I didn’t know if there were carnivorous animals about.
I don’t dream, however, I just seem to take in the smells of my surroundings, my head lolling back against the tree trunk.
And in the next moment, I seem to be waking up, slowly.
My eyes take in the forest and the orange coloured sky – twilight.
My mind is clearer now after my nap and I realise my long trek through the forest felt like a blur. Nothing had processed in my mind, I couldn’t remember what I had learnt about the plants and animals. It was almost like I had been compelled to follow this path and my mind had only been at half capacity along the way.
And now the day was nearly over.
I’m about to jump to my feet in a panic, when my eyes suddenly rest on the tree opposite me. I start walking towards it when I think I spot something familiar. I approach slowly, my eyes scanning over foreign letters that slowly evolve from the lines of the bark on the tree.
Either I was going crazy or I could read a foreign message in letters I swear I had never been taught.
It said... Seraphine, fire is my fury.
“Ok, Sapphire, keep walking,” I turn from the message and trudge my way back along the faint trail, light fading fast. I start to run, my feet occasionally hitting rocks and getting scratched from my fast pace.
I was trying to stop tears coming to my eyes, tears I didn’t understand.
Something was overpowering me, a memory after reading that name.
My heart aches, I continue my weary journey, physically demanding while my heart feels torn.
Words also filter through my head.
Justice. Escape. Thief. Anger. Rebellion. Separate.
When I eventually reach the edge of the forest, about half an hour later, I’m overwhelmed with confusion. Or quite the opposite – utter clarity.
I fall to my knees, tears running down my face as I look at a ground I remember and a palace that suddenly is strikingly different to my original memory of when Celeste and I first arrived. Don’t be mistaken, I’m not saying Princess Sapphire’s memory, if that is what it was, flooded completely back to me.
I didn’t truly believe full memories could ever come back to me from a person I knew I had never been... or refused to believe I had been.
But something did come back, very particular feelings.
I saw that passage on the tree and I felt pain.
When I thought of Celeste I feel intense companionship.
Sabir... I feel lust.
Traegr... there is no trust.
The Golden Palace?
I stare at it, eyes wide as I see all the lights start to flicker on in the dining hall. It was nearly time for dinner – which meant I had to see Sabir beforehand.
However, new feelings flood me about this gorgeous, three story palace. It glowed with fiery torches in the bright moonlight which was quickly taking over duty from the sun’s rays in the almost complete twilight.
At first I can only describe my feelings as mixed about this place.
I stay on my knees as I watch the sun finally disappear over the horizon and the moon prevails.
Now only one feeling floods me about the Golden Palace.