My eyes groggily flutter open as a pleasant, fresh breeze drifts into my room, slowly waking me up. Sunlight glimmers happily through my crystal-clear window and as I walk towards it, the fresh aroma of nature-blessed spring dances around me and the busy city below me chatters excitedly. A knock is heard on my door and I murmur “Come in,” while braiding my long, chocolate brown hair. A middle-aged, beautiful, and magnificent woman glides in elegantly, closing the door behind her, and smiles at me. “Good morning, princess.”

“Good morning, Althea.” I smile back. “Your father and mother requested to see you later; it is apparently very important to them.” she notes as she places a tray containing fresh, colorful fruits and other food on a table next to me and my stomach cries in hunger at the sight of them.

“Thank you, Althea.” I murmur as the maid leaves and I pick a fresh, almost golden apple. Sweet, tangent juice streams down my chin and as I bring my sleeve to wipe it, I sigh and dab at it with a napkin, remembering my etiquette. As I watch the view of the city and slowly eat my breakfast, I dread what is to come from my parents.

“Father, mother, you called for me?” I ask as I respectfully bow to them and fix my tiara that slightly slipped forward. My mother coldly looks at me, obviously displeased with my display, and murmurs something to my father who holds his hand up tiredly and smiles warmly at me. “Hello dear, we called you to discuss your birthdate.” For a second, happiness blooms inside of me at the mention of my birthdate but it is soon killed by the dread of what is to become of royals on their eighteenth birthday.

“We’ve discussed and sent messengers to the thirty-five tribes, asking to send their eldest son for you to choose.” my mother says with a lofty attitude and sits up a bit straighter.

“But mother, I am not yet re-“

“Silence, Anamika, this is the law of the land. Unless you want to command an army in a civil war, I advise you to obey.” she interrupts with a snarl and I keep silent, “Now, you are dismissed.”

I glare at both of them, turn on my heels, and storm out of the, although beautifully decorated, evil throne room.

Maids and servants stare at me worriedly and almost fearfully but I ignore them; a flame started by fury had been started inside of me and, like a real fire, could not be stopped. As I enter my room, I tear through my closet and pull out a box of veils, digging through it until I find my bow and quiver, and pull on an old, tattered silk shawl that still covers my face. As I secretly slip out of the castle, a relieving sense of freedom overcomes me.

The courtyard is filled with gardeners and young men who train to become soldiers eventually and they ignore me, not seeing my face. Luckily, I make it to the gate since one person who recognizes me and bows could cause a domino effect and get me caught. As I walk towards a familiar, small building with a sign that reads “Bakery”, a smile slowly grows on my face like a blooming flower and a boy that looks a year older than me chuckles at me as he peers out of the window. “Bad day?” he calls and I roll my eyes at him. “When are the days of being a royal not bad?”

He shrugs with a smile, disappears out of the window for a couple minutes, and steps out of the door, carrying a bow and quiver similar to mine. Although aware of my displeasure, he does not say anything as we walk towards the fields, which I appreciate. “You do not have to work at the shop today?” I finally ask, breaking the comfortable silence, and my friend grins.

“Nope, mum was probably psychic and read your unhappiness.” he says with a shrug. I smile and whack his head, “Don’t compliment yourself, I only talk to you because all my sisters are like my mother.”

He mocks hurt and I stick my tongue out, forgetting all my royal etiquette. The familiar grassy fields come into view and light pink butterflies flit in and out of it, looking as if the flowers were coming to life. We enter a large orchard, composed of tall, weary, and barren apple trees that cast haunting shadows, making it look like nighttime despite being noon.


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