Chapter 9:Sneaking Out
I remained inside the tower, in my bedchamber, since my return from that engagement ceremony, where my presence was visibly unwelcomed and undesired. Not that I wanted to stay.
Still, it wasn't my wish to be holed up in my tower once more, where I could do nothing but look outside of the window of my room. Under the bright afternoon sunlight, birds could be seen flying in the sky freely.
"Wouldn't it be nice to be a bird and fly wherever I want to go?" I mumbled, envying these little animals.
"And then be killed by a slingshot or an arrow, only to be hung on a fire and then go into someone's stomach?" Martha idly commented as she busied herself tidying my gown and arranging the jewelry I removed after returning.
I glared at her. 'This old lady never forgets to break my happy bubble. Always so bitter.'
"Can we go out today?" I asked, looking at the busy Martha with hope in my eyes.
"Can't we... sneak out like always?" I asked, my voice low and my face sad. On some days, Martha and I secretly leave the Royal Palace in disguise, and those were the best days of my life.
"Today is not a good day," Martha countered, dashing my hopes once more.
I huffed. "I have been in this tower for the past seventeen years. At most, I could only go tend my small garden. When girls of my age go out and have fun, I can only see the outside world through this window. Still, I never complained. Today, I really want to go out," I pleaded.
Martha didn't reply.
"If only I were successful in running away a few years back, I wouldn't have to bear with this prison life," I frowned.
When I was seven, I tried to run away by fooling Martha and the guards. No one had thought a kid would even think, much less dare, to do so. Back then, I succeeded in leaving the tower's premises and even managed to escape the palace grounds. It was midnight, and as I was small, I could sneak past the patrolling guards.
Everything beyond the castle walls was surrounded by scary silence.
Deciding not to be scared of anything, I continued walking as fast as possible, hoping to put as much distance as I could between me and the palace. When I was in the city proper, I did my best to avoid the main streets where establishments were still open and a few night owls could be seen walking.
The alleys and the side paths looked as if so many eyes stared at me through the darkness. My will of not feeling scared started to shatter with the slightest sound made by the dry leaves and pebbles under my feet.
I remembered, just as I consoled myself that it was nothing, a scary figure in a black cloak who had its face entirely covered appeared in front of me. A long bony hand, with long nails, tried to grab me. I screamed out of reflex and ran back, but another figure in a black cloak came out of the alley to stop me from going back towards the palace.
I screamed once more, calling out for help, but none of the commoners nor the patrolling guards seemed to have heard me. All I knew, those scary figures in black cloaks came to be floating in the air.
I remembered my young self shedding tears, sitting on the ground, curling myself like a ball, and covering my face with my palm to not see those scary things.
A miracle did happen. Suddenly, everything turned silent, and the figures in black cloaks were nowhere to be seen. I lifted my face to look up, and I saw Martha standing at a distance, looking at me with a gentle expression.
Not delaying even for a moment, I ran towards Martha and hugged her tightly, crying my eyes out in fear.
Martha kneeled and hugged me back to calm me. We returned to the palace, and no one knew I tried to run away. Since that day, I never dared to step out of the palace on my own again.
Ten years had passed, yet the memory still brought fear to my heart.
Martha sighed as she went towards the wardrobe and pulled one set of plain clothes for me.
"Get ready," she instructed.
My eyes shone brightly, and I got the clothes from her. These were the clothes we used whenever we sneaked out of the palace. I hurried to get ready.
After wearing them and putting on boots, I looked at myself in the mirror as a cheerful smile painted my lips. I wore a simple yet elegant pink-colored, floor-length silk dress. Although these clothes looked too luxurious for the working class, the daughters of rich merchants and women from noble families outside of the palace wore such clothes; they were different from what royals wore. These kinds of clothes would easily let me blend in outside as this was the capital city of Abetha, and people generally wear silk clothes here.
Martha stood behind me as she held my hair. She braided my hair to make it look simple and tied one gold ribbon to fix the end of the long braid.
Martha also put on one circular hat on my head, which had delicate pink cloth surrounding it, long enough to cover my face.
It was normal for young women of the capital to put on a hat with a veil to cover their faces. In my case, this was necessary not to let anyone see my purple eyes, or else it would be a dead giveaway of my true identity. These rare purple eyes were known in the whole kingdom as the color of the witch's eyes. Martha could hide anything with her magic but not the color of my eyes.
Daily, Martha had always worn the dress that servants in the palace wore. However, most of the important servants serving respective royals had something different in their uniforms to distinguish them from the normal servants. Over the off-white dress, Martha had to put on a light purple thin fabric, a short cardigan that showed her identity of being my servant. Purple indicated the color of the witch's eyes, my eyes.
As we were heading out today, she took off that purple cardigan and put on one black robe to cover the dress and hide her identity as a royal servant.
"Shall we leave?" I asked with excitement, dying to go out.
Martha nodded and led my way out of my bedchamber. We walked till the end of the corridor, which later took a circular turn down by stairs. There, Martha worked her magic spell, and one rock in the wall was pushed back, only to open a secret door for us.
That door was the entrance to a tunnel that leads beyond the palace walls, towards the large river that wound outside the palace.