Who am I? My name is Larra Enderzon. I am a princess of a small kingdom called Croatta. My parents, the king and queen, rule this kingdom with pride. Everyone loves them. I love them too, but they can sure get on my nerves sometimes with their bossing me around all the time. Yes, I have everything, but I don’t have what I want most, which is freedom. I want to be able to do what I want, when I want. I want to go where I want, whenever I want, and I want to do it all on my own.
I’m trapped in this giant castle for days and beyond. I can’t leave this place and wander the beautiful world outside. No, they claim that I am very important and that some people could hurt me. Well, I don’t care. I just want to go out there and travel through that big and beautiful world. I want to see the world. I want to experience it, but I’m afraid I can’t. So, I’m stuck here.
But I will be going on a trip soon. I must meet the prince of Hongaria in a small town by the sea in the kingdom’s western province of Ithria. I think the town is called Rabbak or something. I don’t know because I’ve never been there. Well, I’ve never been anywhere. I mean, I visited a few places in the kingdom with my father and mother, but mostly I was locked in some rooms, and I wasn’t allowed to wander around. My parents were very strict. They didn’t want to let me out of their sight.
Anyway, I should meet my future husband there, the prince of Hongaria. I don’t like the prince. That man is a violent bastard. And so is his father. In the past ten years, he has waged war against two kingdoms and conquered them. And he is right now leading another war against the small and peaceful kingdom of Kossarra. Many people have lost their lives in these unnecessary wars. But the Hongarian king does not care about their lives. He only cares about the land he stole from them. He is a cruel man. He is a man without a heart. He has no soul. He is not a man at all. He is a monster.
I don’t know why my parents want me to marry that man. They don’t ask what I want. All they think about is themselves and how they could benefit from this arranged marriage. What I want is freedom of choice. How can I marry someone I don’t love? Somewhere out there is a man for me, and that prince is not one of them.
It’s a beautiful summer day. I step out onto the balcony and deeply inhale the fresh air. It awakens new feelings in me. I look at the city below. The streets are full of people. They wander about the city without restrictions. They are truly enjoying this magnificent day. The sun is shining brightly, the sky is blue, and the air is fresh. The city is full of life. The people are happy.
I know people say I have everything, and most would give everything they have to become a part of my family. But they don’t understand. Behind all these diamonds and gold lies a life of enslavement. Yes, I may have stayed in the most luxurious hotels, but hotels are just walls. They don’t have a soul like nature has. I would rather spend time in the forest than in a hotel. I have been to the most beautiful places in the kingdom, but I have never been to a place where I felt at peace. I have never felt at peace in a hotel.
I still remember that time I escaped from my parents when we were on a trip. I was only eight years old, but I still clearly remember the beauty and tranquility I experienced in that forest beside that lake. Oh, my gods… The music of nature still echoes through my mind. I can still remember those colorful birds singing in the trees and the dance of leaves in the gentle breeze. And I still remember those fish swimming freely in that emerald lake. But what made me feel alive the most was the air. Oh, the air was so fresh that it awoke feelings in me I didn’t know existed. How do I wish to be there now...? But I’m not there now. Instead, I’m trapped in this concrete monster they call the Castle of Croatta.
This castle is too big for the needs of one family, even if that family is of royal blood. It has 600 rooms. Who needs 600 rooms? The monster is 100 meters tall and 200 meters wide. It towers above the city like a god and protects it from outside threats. The walls are made of white mramott and are smooth to the touch. There is a tower at the top of the castle from which you can see far away and enjoy the surrounding beauty, but I have been there only once. And that was when I was six years old, so I don’t remember much. But I do remember the sunset I witnessed from that tower, and it was magical. It took me quite a while to explore almost all of the castle. I didn’t explore it entirely. There are rooms where the entrance is forbidden to me, and there are the underground passages and rooms beneath the castle where I have never been. Who knows what’s down there? Who knows what other secrets this castle hides? I hope I will get to explore it completely one day. No, actually, I hope I will get to explore the rest of the world, not just this castle. Huh, dreams…
A pigeon lands on the balcony. Oh, how I envy him... I have always imagined myself flying like a bird. Seriously, I would give up all my wealth for the ability to fly. Imagine if you could fly... What would you do? I know what I would do. I would fly all over the world and visit its most beautiful places. That would be total freedom. I would spend one day in Croatta and the next in Ytallia or Auttria, where I would visit their villages situated beneath the mighty mountain ranges of Allpess. And then I would go across the ocean to the huge kingdom of Brazalla, where the greatest jungle lies. There are so many places in this world to visit. I think my head would explode because I wouldn’t be able to decide where to go first. But I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to visit all the places I’d like to go.
Someone knocks on the door, waits a second, and then steps inside. It is my mother. I return to the room. She stands there and observes me. I observe her. Of course, she is dressed like a queen. Her red dress fits her perfectly, and the thousand diamonds on her crown almost make me blind. Her crown, if sold, could feed an army of hungry people. How can she wear something like that when so many are suffering? Well, who am I to judge? I, too, wear clothes that are so expensive that ordinary people would have to work a whole year to buy them. And that is, if they don’t spend a single coin on food and bills. Only then would they be able to buy them. But I don’t want to wear that. All I want is to be free...
“Mother...” I say, tired of the silence and staring.
“Larra...” she mutters, as if she hates what she sees in front of her.
Of course, she hates me when she sees me like this. She wants to see me in those glorious dresses specifically designed for princesses, but I don’t like wearing them. They are uncomfortable and way too expensive. Some people don’t have anything to eat, and the rich waste ridiculous amounts of money on plain clothes. What I hate the most is how they brag about them or other expensive items they have bought on social media. I especially hate those soccer players who buy all those expensive cars. What do you need twenty cars for? Huh, people... I will never understand them. I can buy a hundred cars, but will that make me happy? Maybe it will, but only for a day, and then I will have to buy another car to fill the void in my heart. Well, that’s what they do, at least. That artificial happiness money gives them doesn’t last. What lasts is the happiness you acquire when you feel true love and nature. You will never feel true love if you are rich. People only love what you have. Take the money away, and everyone leaves. The person who comes and stays because of who you are deep down is the person who will stay with you until death and beyond.
“What do you want, mother?” I ask her, looking straight into her eyes.
“I just came to see how you are,” she replies, sitting down on the bed. “Are you ready for the journey?”
“I am, mother.”
“This is a great moment for you. You are marrying a powerful prince.”
“He may be powerful, but he is also evil. And so is his father.”
“Shush, child!” she yells. “Don’t you dare say that in front of them. We don’t want them to turn their cannons toward us.”
“They are bastards!” I scream. “Do you know how many innocents they have killed? How can I marry a murderer? You are forcing me into something I don’t want because of your own interests.”
“We are doing this for the kingdom, not for us. This marriage will bring together our two kingdoms and create a brighter future.”
“Well, not for me.”
“This isn’t about you. I didn’t get to choose whom I’d marry either. Your father was a complete stranger to me when I married him, but now I love him more than anything. Give the prince a chance, and don’t think only about what you want.”
I release a tear. “Yeah, no one thinks about what I want...”
“I’ll give you some time and space. Be ready tomorrow morning. We are traveling to Rabbak.”
My mother leaves the room. Oh, how I hate her... But I can’t. She is my mother, after all. She gave me life. But what kind of life? Yes, I must say it’s better than most people have it. I have seen the poor and the tormented walking through the streets of this beautiful kingdom. Their lives are harsh. They rarely eat, and they struggle from day to day. It’s not an easy life. It seems none of us have it the way we want. Well, that is the way of life. But we must push through it and endure whatever it throws in our way.
I sit down in front of my computer and turn it on. The computer comes to life. I immediately go to the Internet to see the pictures of our beautiful world. And you can find millions... No, you can find billions of them on the Internet. I have seen so many, but the pictures can’t give me the happiness that the real thing can. I only long more for the outside world as I browse through those pictures. What I would give to be able to feel the world... And then I remember Rabbak. I type its name in the Browsa search engine, and it shows me hundreds of pictures of this small but very beautiful town.
Oh, my gods… How can the world be so beautiful? This town, called Rabbak, is magnificent. It’s a small town resting on the emerald sea, surrounded by lush green forests. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to experience this beautiful nature. They will lock me in the hotel until the prince arrives. And when he arrives, I’ll have to be beside him all the time so he can see his future bride up close. I’ll be like a bird in a cage, willing to fly all over the world but unable to do so.
I decide to explore other places. And there are many places in this kingdom to explore. And what about the world? No one can explore it in a single lifetime. No, one would have to be immortal to explore entirely our majestic world full of wonders. Sometimes I wish I were immortal. But that doesn’t seem to be so good in the end. People around me, especially people I love, would die while I stayed in this world, and then I would look for a way to kill myself if I was left completely alone. Yes, it is still better not to be immortal. Death is a part of our lives. And death is also the start of something new. True believers believe that a better life—eternal life—awaits us after this, in a place where the gods live. I don’t know if that’s true because I’m not a big believer, but then again, I hope so.
Since I can only see these places on the Internet, I imagine myself in them. I imagine myself walking through lush forests, swimming through emerald seas, and running through the cities of the world. I imagine myself climbing the tallest trees and joining an orchestra of birds singing about freedom and nature. Yes, that is the life I would like to have. That is real freedom. Will I ever have her? Well, hopefully.
Even with all this money, I still don’t have what is most important: freedom and love. I don’t get to choose where to go or whom to love. No, my parents do that for me. I envy those who get to choose who to love and where to go. Yes, these people may not have the money, but they do have the most important thing. Of course, they’d probably want to have what I have, just as I want to have what they have. Huh, what an irony... But that’s how it is. They have to be content with their lives, just as I have to be content with mine. But one should always dream of a better life. One should hope. That is what pushes us forward in this one life we have.
I go to bed and close my eyes. The dream does not want to conquer me. Today has been a stressful day. What will happen tomorrow? I’m scared to think. But I hope it will be better than today. It’s hard to know. Still, somehow, I don’t think it’s going to get any better. There is hope for a better tomorrow, but the old people say that hope is for fools. I don’t even know myself anymore...