Chapter 1; The Lily and the Rose
The dream...it always begins the same. I see myself running through a forest in the middle of a fearsome storm that showers rain that feels like little icicles hitting against my skin. I am always running from something. I can never tell what it is that is chasing me but the sense of danger keeps my eyes shut and my head forward as I run non stop down a path that I know not where it leads. My gown is tattered and torn with dirt and mud stains streaking all over. Little bits and pieces are torn from it and fly off into the howling winds like flower petals. As I watch this scene before me I ask myself, what is it that I am running from? Is this really a dream or is this an event to come? As if to answer me, I see myself stumble over a fallen branch on the path and I catch myself with my knees. My eyes open for the first time in the dream and I can see tears streaming down my pale, vanilla skin. My dark naval blue eyes, red and puffed look at what is behind and widen showing fear like a child looking down a dark hallway for the first time. Something was coming but for my own eyes as an audience, it was almost impossible to see in the dark. From what could be made out in the darkness were two dark figures. One tall and one shorter than the other. Like always, this is as far as my dream goes. As a signal of the end, lightning streaks across the dark and grayed sky in all its glory, and then I awake…
"Again.." Clare murmured to herself as she turned over to lay on her side. She gave a quiet yawn and blinked twice trying to regain her vision that had blurred the moment she opened her eyes. Sitting on a dark oak bedside table sat a silver tiara that even in the dark of her room, still glimmered. Along with its natural glimmer was a single pink gem that sat comfortably in the middle. Clare couldn't help but stare at the headware and it's pink gem. "Tomorrow you'll be the attention." She said to the crown."Then there will be no more problems." Her eyes lowered at her words and she turned over again so her face was into her fluffy pink pillow.
This quiet moment of Clare's was interrupted though by a sudden knock on the door across the room, followed by a female's voice.
"Clare? Are you up yet? The kingdom is awake but you can't wake up with it?" Clare did not respond. Instead she groaned into her pillow. "Clarisa Valmont I know you can hear me. You can try to go back to sleep but beware that I'm just going to get louder." The female's tone rose at the mention of the word "louder." Clare still did not respond but peeked out towards the door. A line of light outlined the bottom of the door where two shadows stood in between the light. Clare knew what was coming next and instantly drew her blanket over her body up to her head and brought the pillow around her head covering her ears."
"PRINCESS YOUR FRIEND IS WAITING FOR YOU TO WAKE UP!" yelled the girl outside the door. Clare did not dare peek out and nearly jumped at the sound of her door being unlocked and opened. Footsteps echoed in her room starting from the doorway, to a side of the room where she heard curtains being drawn, ending just at her bedside table. "Clare come on. If you don't get up your father is going to either have me work in the fields again or make me slave away in the kitchen again. Please get up for me?"
Clare waited a moment to wait for anything else to come. She sighed and pushed her covers away to look into a pair of grassy green eyes that belonged to a young and perky, girl with long, dark brown hair that fell to just above her almost non existent chest. Clare yawned and sat up stretching her arms upwards.
"And what do I get miss Alyssa if I do get up?" asked Clare letting her arms fall to her side. She noticed Alyssa's raised eyebrow as she stepped away and pointed at the bedside table. On it was a silver platter with a small fruit tart that had blueberries lining around the single standing strawberry that rested on a swirl of cream. Next to the tart was a single blooming flower, a pink lily. Clare's eyes lightened up instantly at the sight of the flower and she reached out for it ignoring the tart. To her dismay Alyssa grabbed the platter and spun around and walked toward another wooden table that sat in the middle of the room and set the platter down. Alyssa looked back at Clare with a grin and stood there pointing at the flower.
"Not for you princess unless you get up out of bed and get dressed. Then you may have your food and flower." Alyssa smirked.
Clare pouted and pushed away her bed covers lifting herself out of her comfy bed that she was starting to miss already. She looked around her now sunlit room. The walls were a light pink almost as bright as the pink lily flower. She always liked the color pink. It was calming to her and it caught her eye. From her bed side she could see the large oak wood dresser in the far right corner of the room just a little aways from the doorway. Alyssa was already walking towards it and opening it up revealing dozens of colorful dresses. She took out a light blue dress that had a silver shawl and showed it to Clare.
"Hurry and get dressed. You actually have things to do today Clare." Clare looked back at the flower as she stripped herself of her night gown and began putting on the dress.
"Like what? I was going to visit mother today then the church. Is there something else that needs me?"
"It's your father. He requested you meet him today. He wanted to talk to you about something important. He didn't tell me what though. I heard from the guards that it might be something about the kingdom of Richar and our kingdom Clarines coming together."
Clare did not respond to her maid friend and sat at the table taking the fruit tart in hand and took a small bite letting the sweet and bitter taste of the fruits take over her mouth. She then took the pink lily and brought it to her nose inhaling its sweet fragrance. The pink lily is the signature flower of the kingdom Clarines and forever has it been her favorite.
"If father needed me he should have just come to me in the first place." said Clare in a sharp tone but still reserved. "I still want to go to visit mother at least." She looked at the light pink petals of the lily. "Since I'm the only one that ever does…" Clare looked at Alyssa who stood at her side. "Alyssa, why are you my friend? You know I'm the princess of Clarines yet you never really treat me like one."
"Do you ever treat me like a servant? Have you ever treated anyone in the castle as a servant?" Alyssa responded. "Clare I treat you like a friend because you treat me and my brother like friends. You know that we are no different from you. You never forced us or ordered anyone to do something for you. We always have to pry you away so we can do it. Remember the cooking incident? You burnt the bread when you tried to make a cake for the cook's birthday."
Clare bit her lip. "He is always making food in the heat of that kitchen. I thought it'd be nice to give him something as a thanks for his years of working. Besides, my seventeenth birthday is coming up and I overheard him trying to make the best cakes for me." That earned a chuckle from Alyssa.
"It's what we were hired to do. But to be servicing a princess like you is more trouble than its worth. Now come on. Sorry if I'm hurrying you too much but we really must go. Lets see your mother first. I can just make up a story for your father as to why you were late."
Clare smiled and stood up and hugged Alyssa close. Her friend hugged back and they both giggled as they walked out of the room talking more with each other as they went. As the two left, while Clare turned her head away, Alyssa snapped her fingers and the door to the room slowly closed shut.
"Hey did you hear about the mages that were burned over in the next town?" "No. I thought all the mages and witches were all slaughtered years ago. How did any survive?" "Well I don't know but I have my theories. Lemme tell you…" "Stop man. All it is is just political conspiracies with you. Magic is outlawed and every single mage and witch are dead." "It's possible that now the knights are just trying to let out steam from the war on magic 18 years ago. Bloody bastards can't get enough blood or wenches." "At least there are no magic people living here. Traitors all of them." "Don't worry brother. If any witch or mage ever show up here in Clarines, it will be their funeral. By the queen's death, be sure of it."
Maria yawned and opened her eyes in the corner of a crowded tavern filled with people all talking louder than needed to be in doors. She looked at the two men who were talking about the mages and witches but just turned away trying to keep her face under her dark maroon cloak. Everywhere she went it was the same talk about killing people with something called magic. Whatever it was that was going on, she didn't want to know.
What was starting to bug her more that the talking was the smell of the tavern. She could smell both spilt week old liquor that no one had bothered to clean up on the tavern floor and the horrid smells of the buckets from the "restrooms" filled with only God knows what. Not like she really needed to go in there anyway. Maria looked to her sides and realized she was laying in a corner with two beer barrels on her sides. One of the rushing bar ladies walked up to her with a harsh look on her face. Her hefty bosom had dirt splotches and her dress was hemmed with mud and something that looked fungal to her. Her hair was tied up into a dirty, messy blonde ponytail.
"Oi, kid. What you doin in this here pub? Can't you read? The sign says no kids." She said putting her hands on her hips. A portly man at the bar called out to the woman and she darted a fierce glare at the man who turned away in fear.
Maria yawned and stood up dusting of her cloak and tunic. Her shoulder length chocolate brown hair swished lightly in her movement. "Sorry madam. I am 18 this year and I was just resting here for a moment. It's nice and warm in here."
The woman grinned. "Well then boy if you're gonna treat this place as a inn then you better be willin to pay for the time." She stuck out her hand and Maria shook the woman's hand.
"Then let me pay with a simple little performance madam. She took her hand away and in the bar lady's hand was a purple rose and the woman was stunned. "H-how did…?" The woman was stuttering, practically speechless looking Maria over then at the single purple rose.
Maria smiled then winked at the lady.
"It's just a simple gift for someone," she stood on her toes to get a few more inches and put her hand gently on the woman's chin with a seductive tone, "as beautiful as you. Your man must be very proud. Now," Maria took a small pouch out from her tunic and put it in the lady's hand.
"This is all I have for now. I will go and perform later today. When I make some more then i'll come back later and pay the rest."
The lady stood there and looked at Maria. She nodded and stood aside with a slight tint of blush on her cheeks. Maria took this chance and walked past her and quickly headed out the door dodgin men that were moving all over leaning in their chairs laughing and swinging full mugs letting their contents fly. All Maria wanted was to get out of there and hopefully find a watering hole outside the town to wash her clothing. The stench was starting to make her feel queasy and today of all days was not going to allow her any free time for being sick.
Fresh air hit her nose and filled her lungs the moment she stepped out of the building. The capital of Clarines was busy as usual or at least usual to her for the past week that she had stayed in town. Maria outstretched her arms and started walking down the street away from the large stone castle in the distance and toward the wall entrance and exit to the city. She weaved her way through the crowds in the small street market all yelling and trying to sell off what looked like rotten tomatoes and a basket of blooming daisies. Halfway to the gate she passed by a small pastry shop that made her realize just how hungry she was at the scent of fresh bread and cakes. She stopped just for the moment to admire the colors of the tall cakes being displayed at the window but then shook her head and moved on.
"If there's one thing interesting about this town, it has to be the colors." Maria muttered to herself. "That and how quick everyone is to assume things. Did that lady really think I was a boy?"
She shook off the thought and continued on faster power walking past the steel armored guards that stood at attention. They looked like monsters rather than soldiers to her but that was her own personal opinion.
Just past the gates was a lush green forest with flowers of every kind and color scattered around the in bushes or patches with large dirt trails separating them. The trees stood tall and swayed gently with the winds. There was only one reason Maria wanted to get out of the city and that was for privacy. With everyone so close it would have been hard to even think for herself with loud noises. She took a path that went further into the forest. The sounds of the city began to get even more distance with time.
"Your late aren't you Mari? What happened?" said a cool and mature woman's voice inside of Maria's head. It was almost an echo but sounded very close.
Maria stopped and sighed untying her cloak. She looked around to make sure no one was around and saw two bushes rustling together. From the bushes a brown bear's head popped out with its black beady eyes staring right back into Marias.
She gave a bow to the bear and in a sarcastic tone said, "Well I am so sorry mistress that you had to spend a night alone out here in the woods. Oh woe is thou. Miss Kuma will you ever forgive such a worthless human as me?"
There was silence which was then broken by the sound of the wind snapping a branch somewhere close by. The voice spoke in her head again as the bear lowered it's head and shook it.
"You may be a street performer but comedy and sarcasm are definitely not in your act repertoire." This earned a pout from Maria.
"Well, atleast I can go out and do tricks and not laze around out here eating berries all day. I had to give up our money for the day to keep me from getting thrown into "bar jail."
Maria scratched the back of her head and sat down on a small mound of dirt and the bear named Kuma walked toward her and laid in front on its side.
"It's when the person doesn't have the money to pay for things so in return for services, I'd have to work in the back washing dishes and stuff. Not something i can afford doing today." Maria laughed and Kuma cocked her head to the side looking at her human companion.
"What did you have in mind today?" Kuma asked.
Maria grinned and shot to her feet rushing to the bushes that Kuma had come out of. She pulled out a bag and set it down going through it. She pulled out a clear pouch filled with round pellets of every color in the rainbow. The bag was almost half empty and Maria opened it to pull out a red, blue and pink pellet.
"My last show didn't earn me that much so this time last night before i passed out at a pub, I was going over what should I do with my next show. Kuma, I am saying that this next show will definitely be the best one ever and we will be able to buy us both a room at an inn."
Kuma looked at the pellets and looked at Maria. "Mari you're almost out of the smoke pellets. You should do some tricks with me to save some. Our family gave us those."
Maria lowered her eyes feeling a short wave of guilt rush over her as she looked at the colorful things she held in her hand.
"You're right…" she said but returned her gaze onto Kuma. "But I will only use a few today I swear. They gave them to us to use. Papa wouldn't want us to just stop using them because of sentimentality. Neither would your mama want you to think of stopping." Maria felt a fire inside of her that blazed in her heart.
She felt anxious to get out there and show everyone what she could do. The air in the area felt electric to her to the point she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Maria looked around the area and what caught her eye was a single flower just along the side of the dirt road. It was a purple rose that swayed gently to the left then to the right like it was dancing happily. She kneeled down and picked it admiring its beautiful petals.
"You are just like the one I gave to the lady." She stuck the flower into the inside of her cloak and stood up. "Today is going to be a good day Kuma." Kuma groaned and started walking away but Maria stood there looking down the path that led back to Clarines. "I can promise you it won't be boring. Maria put on a big smile and ran letting her feet push her on down the path she had chosen a long time ago