Kyra pulled at the frilly satin that clung to her small frame in discomfort, forcing a smile as her father delivered another speech to appease the masses. Moren smiled as he spoke, with a joyful tone that she never heard within the walls of the castle. A few yards behind her, a line of ten fire users shot colored frames toward the stars that exploded in flowers of flame to signify the end of the speech. She only barely heard the roar of the crowd as her father pulled her back into the palace.
Moren’s face looked weathered and sullen in the candlelight, but his grip on Kyra’s arm was firm. He tugged her down hall after hall, until he reached her bedroom and shut her inside. She scarcely breathed until the last echoes of his footsteps faded into the stone walls. Kyra sighed and collapsed onto her bed, wondering why he’d shut her in the dismal room for so much of her life. Her home in the heart of Luminae had become a prison.
A quiet knock on the door and the click of keys caught her attention.
“Excuse me, miss, it’s time to get ready for bed.” The maid remained in the corner of the room until Kyra rose and sat on the stool in front of an ornate mirror that covered a large portion of the wall. Gwyneth began pulling out the pins in her hair, letting the dark curls hang loosely over the young royal’s shoulder. Kyra stared into the mirror, scrutinizing the dress that the maid had begun to unlace.
“Gwyneth,” she muttered, “why does father insist I wear gaudy messes of fabric like this?”
“He just wanted you to look respectable, dearie. It’s best you don’t fight about it,” Gwyneth replied as she pulled a brush through Kyra’s hair.
“But these clothes are for children! I’m nineteen; I shouldn’t dress like an adolescent anymore!” Kyra’s cheeks flushed every shade of pink in her anger, her slender hands clenching into fists in her lap.
“Well, dearie, maybe he just hasn’t noticed what a fine young woman you’ve become,” Gwyneth laughed quietly. “You know how hectic his life is, with the war. He calls in more troops every week, I swear! And it’s time you gave him credit for everything he’s accomplished here.”
Kyra quieted, and the two remained silent whilst the aging maid finished her duty and bid her good night. Despite the soft comfort of her bed and the blackness of the sky, she couldn’t sleep. Something about the war didn’t sit well with her. Blood was spilt every day, and for what purpose? And how many lives had been lost to it, thousands? Tens of thousands? She shuddered to think that all this death came from something as simple as a skirmish between the Byrne’s and the Leiyren’s. To her, the history of Luminae and Garrahand seemed stained with each other’s blood.
“I just want to run away from all this,” she whispered to the ceiling. “I could run and run, and leave to bloodshed behind me.”
But deep in her heart, she knew she couldn’t run from her responsibilities as a Byrne. She was expected to claim the throne and lead her country to victory, just as her ancestors had done before her. She would soon be held accountable for what happened in Luminae, but she knew she wasn’t yet ready to run a country.
She sighed heavily, and propped herself up against the surplus of pillows on her bed. Carelessly, she flicked her fingers and created small, flitting flames to distract her from her thoughts. The light danced on the walls, mesmerizing and hypnotic, and soon she dozed off for the night.
A dim ray of sunshine across her eyes slowly awoke her. She could hear the distant steps of soldiers pacing on the gravel below, the soft murmurs of servants through the walls. The castle might have appeared to be bustling with life, but she knew that reality was much grimmer.
“It’s time for your lessons, miss,” Gwyneth voiced behind her. Kyra jumped in surprise at the greeting that pulled her from her own dismal thoughts.
“I didn’t hear you come in!” Kyra exclaimed breathlessly, still dazed.
“I’m’ terribly sorry miss, but it’s time for your lessons, now,” Gwyneth replied, wide-eyed and alarmed by Kyra’s reaction. “Are you ready?”
Kyra sighed, and stood contemplating for a moment. “I suppose that even if I’m not ready for them quite yet, I’ll have to partake in them anyway.” Gwyneth looked down meekly, and nodded. “Alright then, let’s finish today’s work.”
She glided toward the window again, sitting at the small settee and staring out on the courtyard, absentmindedly answering Gwyneth’s questions.
“What year was Luminae founded?”
“Luminae was founded in 476, by my ancestors.”
“Good, good. Now, what year was Garrahand founded?”
Kyra glanced up. “Why is that important?”
“Well, your father insists that you know at least the basic history of all the surrounding countries of Luminae, even if we’re at war. When the war ends, you need to be respectful of them, and be able to communicate. Knowing their history will help.”
“What makes you think this war will ever end, Gwyneth?”
The old servant sighed, and closed the book she was pulling lessons from. “I think that’s enough school work for today, don’t you? It’s boring anyway, how about we go for a walk in the gardens instead?” A hopeful and somehow sad smile pulled at her lips as she remembered days past, and Kyra’s childhood before her duties forced her to become the same cold and distant shell her father was. But Kyra didn’t have the privilege to dwell on her past, and turned to face the window again, worrying about her broken kingdom once more.
The people were angry with the entirety of the Byrne family, and rightfully so. So many people had left and never come home, families had been torn apart, children had been orphaned, and all over some petty disagreement between Moren and Alyxandar. Every day new troops were sent out, and most of them died in the crossfire and confusion of the battlefield. Surely, the blood of millions would saturate the ground by the end of this.
“I can’t take this anymore,” she whispered to herself, “I’m leaving this wretched place.”