Ciara Skyshard hid behind a marble pillar as a lone palace guard walked by. She hurried through darkened hallways past tapestries, paintings of her ancestors and statues until she reached the servants secret stairwells. The Princess of Atalia followed her handmaiden’s written instructions to the letter.
It was the final night of the Atalia’s Gala – the most distinguished music festival in all of Aihine. As tradition, on the final night of the Gala, the royal family hosted the final concert followed by a royal dance. Guests and visitors from all over the magical realm of Aihine filled the palace; fairies, elves, dwarfs and mages – anyone who’s anyone attended. It was Ciara’s favourite time of the year, the entire festival was what she lived for. Musicians from all over the realm came to Atalia to perform, even the royal family had a musical tradition. Every Skyshard had musical talent, wether it be an instrument or vocals. It was part of their fairy magic. Ciara was a vocalist and even took part in the Gala for the past three years when she was thirteen.
Tonight, however, what held the Princess’s attention was a local band performing in the south end of the city. Ciara had begged her grandfather – the King – to attend the performance, but he refused.
“The Widow’s Pub is not a reputable place to visit for Skyshard,” was her grandfather’s reply. He then continued to lecture her about family traditions, of honour and expectations. Ciara heard this lecture countless times. Music was everything to her, but these restrictions annoyed her. Only performances of traditional nature, with the location close to the palace were open to her. Ciara yearned to venture further out into Atalia. To visit the local pubs, hear the local music, sing and learn the ways of the commoners she would one day rule over. There was a whole world of new music emerging in the realm. Instruments from the human world leaked over, creating a new sound, style and rhythm.
It was thanks to Ciara’s handmaiden, Renee, that she even knew about such music. The two were close in age, and shared many of the same interests, including music. It was Renee who would sneak in records of the new bands for Ciara to listen to, and Renee who risked her job helping Ciara sneak out of the palace to see one of their favourite bands The Ailing Elves.
Ciara wore her plainest dress, a light blue with silver lining with a dark cloak overtop. Nobody noticed her as she snuck down the servant stairs and made her way through the kitchens, basements and courtyard. To the nearby guards, she looked like a simple servant on her way home. Ciara had to hold back the giggle as she hurried past them through the main gates, head down, face averted.
Atalia wrapped itself around the mountain, the palace carved into the exposed rock surface. The city was full of tall buildings, steep streets and narrow alleyways. Ciara never visited the city without an escort of guards int he past, this was a new experience for her. She pulled her cloak tighter under her chin as she navigated her way towards the meeting place Renee set up for them.
Not far past the palace walls music floated in the air towards her. Every tavern, hotel and pub had local musicians playing their hearts out on the final night of the Gala. Even the community square were full of crowds and performing artists under the warm spring night. Ciara pushed her way through the mob of people, looking at every face for the brunette fairy.
A hand tapped on the Princess’ shoulder. Ciara turned to see her handmaiden Renee with a bright smile on her face.
“You made it! I can’t believe you snuck out! No offence m’lady, but I never thought you’d really go through with it.” Rene said, giving Ciara a nod of respect.
“I’m surprised myself.” Ciara laughed. “Perhaps I have more of my grandfather’s stubbornness than I thought.”
“He will not be happy if he catches you.”
“Well, then let’s not get caught.” Ciara said with a teasing smile on her face. “So, which way to the Widow’s Pub?”
“Down that street.” Renee pointed out. “Wait, is that what you’re wearing?” The handmaiden put a hand on Ciara’s arm and opened her cloak.
“It’s the simplest one I have!”
“It has jewels in the silver lining! I told you this would only work if you hide your identity.”
“Well… sorry. I am a princess, I can only look so plain!”
The two fairies stared at each other until Renee dropped the cloak and led the way to the pub. “Stay in the shadows, try not to attract attention.”
“No promises.” Ciara said with a smile. It took fifteen minutes to reach the Widow’s Pub. They could hear the band’s music a block away.
“The Ailing Elves!” Ciara shouted with glee as she jumped and clapped with joy. She grabbed her handmaiden’s hand and pulled her into the Pub. Renee didn’t have to worried about Ciara’s dress, there were countless other Noble Ladies present in more flattering and glimmering attire.
The pub was ‘rocking’, it took no time for someone to approach the two and put a hand out towards the blonde haired Princess for a dance. Ciara accepted at once and joined the others on the dance floor. Renee wasn’t far behind. The two passed between partners as the Ailing Elves played, their music getting louder as the evening wore on.
“Tell me, does the Princess of Atalia visit such pubs often?” Ciara’s current dancing partner asked. He was an elf with a deep reddish-brown shoulder length hair. His silver eyes cut through Ciara as she fumbled at the question. His hands caught her and kept her from falling.
“I… I think you’re mistaken.” Ciara blushed and looked away.
“I saw you perform two nights ago at the Queen’s Hall.” The elf replied. “Even in that dress, I can tell who you are. You have an amazing voice.”
“Thank you.” Ciara said, unable to think of any lie to cover her identity.
“I’ve been trying to get arrange an audience with you since, however the King seems very protective of his granddaughter.”
“He can be stubborn,” Ciara said with a frown. “I guess it’s a coincidence to run into you here… unless you’ve been following me,” Ciara’s gut turned as fear gripped her. Was she safe with this man?
“No fear, princess.” The elf replied, noticing the worried expression on her face. “I have not been following you. It is a coincidence. My name is Zyn Westerwood, I am a talent agent for the School of Vireo.”
“Vireo!” Ciara almost shouted the name. Her blue eyes opened wide with recognition.
“You should apply. Vireo would be honoured to have a vocalist like you walk through its halls.”
“Oh… I would love to!” Ciara said without thinking. She saw the smile on Zyn’s face. “But I can’t,” she explained, “I’m already enrolled with Silverleaf Academy.”
“Ah, I should have known.” Zyn said, his expression softened, but that energetic glitter fell out of his eyes. “It is a renowned school, only the best gain acceptance.”
“It is a school designed to groom future leaders,” Ciara said with a scorn. “If I had my way, I would have applied at Vireo a year ago.”
“I’m sure you will end up enjoying Silverleaf Academy.”
“That’s just what my father said.”
“The Prince is a wise man. I wish I could hear you sing once more before then end of the Gala.” Zyn said, his face coming close to Ciara’s ear. “Perhaps if I say a word to the band?”
“The Ailing Elves? You know them, may I meet them?” Ciara eyes twinkled. Any trepidation of exposing her true identity vanished at the thought of singing with the band. Zyn noticed her attention and excitement and lead her by the hand towards the stage.
It was a whirlwind experience. Ciara for once had trouble finding her words, almost as bad as the band members themselves. It seemed even every member of the Ailing Elves had gone to Vireo, knew Zyn and agreed to let Ciara sing.
Ciara had preformed numerous times, in front of hundreds during the Gala’s different venues, but this felt different. She stood out in front of the patrons of the Widow’s Pub, in front of strangers, of people who didn’t know her name, her title or position. They were already half drunk, and eager to hear the next set. The drums started the beat, the guitars joined in, then Ciara opened her mouth. Notes flew off her lips as she pronounced each word of the ballad. The crowd went wild, they cheered and even joined in on the chorus. They were a hit, she was a hit.
Ciara became alive on stage, lost in the music, a Princess and a Singer. They were reaching the crescendo, the place was bursting, the note lingered on Ciara’s throat when a clamour at the door to the Pub caused everything to stop.
Guards in the Skyshard purple pushed their way in, shields up and barking orders to stand back. The crowd parted, along with shouting insults for ruining the night. It wasn’t until Ciara’s father, Prince Rivan Skyshard stepped through that a real stillness spread through the Pub.
“Ciara Skyshard, it is time to leave.” Rivan announced across the room towards the stage where Ciara stood. She looked over at Zyn, and the members of the Ailing Elves to mouth an apology before descending the stage. The patrons moved back to allow her through, a soft whispering of her name floated to her ears. Ciara spotted her handmaiden nearby and gestured for Renee to stay put. No need for both of them to get in trouble. For her, it would be a lecture from the King; for Renee, it could be her job.
As soon as Ciara was within arms length of her father, he snatched her tight and pushed her through the column of guards towards a waiting motor-coach. The moment the two Royals were on board, the coach started and the guards left the Pub.
It was a quiet ride back to the Palace. Ciara avoided making eye contact with her father though she sensed his violet eyes staring at her.
“I thought you were sick, weren’t you?” Her father finally spoke. “You seem better.”
“It was a Bogus Ill Spell. Kids use it all the time to avoid lessons.”
“As I remember.”
“Are you mad at me?”
“Mad? No.” Rivan’s voice melted that made Ciara look at her father. His features were fair, with dark hair and purple eyes. “I am angry, and upset. Do you know the dangers of this area? Anything could have happened to you, and for what? To see a band?”
“It’s more than just that!” Ciara exclaimed. “I was safe, there were other Noble Ladies in the pub, I wasn’t the only one.”
“Yes, I saw them, but you are not just a Lady, you are a Princess and the future heir to Atalia.”
“Does grandfather know?” Ciara asked, a worried look on her face.
“He does. Hearing that you sang as well will not ease the matter.”
“OH, please don’t tell him about that!”
“I’m afraid he will already know.” Both father and daughter knew the magic the Skyshards possess. Fairies of air, they have power over the wind, and all that is carried within in. Voices, secrets, singing. No wonder they knew where to find her. “He will be waiting for us in the audience chamber.”
Ciara nodded and sank back into the seat, curling a loose strand of hair around her finger.
“One last question. Was there anyone who helped you out of the Palace?”
Ciara shot a panic look towards her father. “No,” she lied. Her father sighed, she was a horrible liar, there was no way of convincing her father otherwise.
“Just like your mother. The truth is always on your face.”
Ciara sighed. The mother she never knew. Her father always told her how much she reminded of him; the hair, the looks, the inability to lie. It was all she had, there wasn’t even a portrait of her in the palace to look upon to judge for herself. Her mother fought in the last war, between the human realm and Aihine, side by side with her father. And died next to him, leaving Ciara to carry on in her stead.
The coach came to a halt outside of the front doors of the palace. All the windows were dark, bright orbs of light lingered outside for them to follow. The two walked down the hallway alone save for the few guards who stood outside the Audience Chamber. Golden light peaked out under the doorway. The doors flew back on their own as the two passed through them and closed behind them. Kaydon Skyshard, the King of Atalia sat on his throne made out of white stone, rooted into the mountain’s foundation.
King Kayden Skyshard leaned back on the throne and eyed his granddaughter through his own pair of violet eyes, stroked his greying blond beard and remained silent until the two reached the bottom of the throne.
“How do you explain this?” He growled. “A Skyshard in the South quarter? Singing like a banshee to a bunch of drunkards? What is this? Rebellion?”
“No, grandfather.” Ciara said, her voice a soft whisper. She held the sides of her dress tight with her hands. Her grandfather could be the nicest man, but also as cold as stone. “I… I wanted to hear different styles of music.”
“Music? This is about music? Sneaking out of the palace, venturing through the city on your own? You risk your life for music?”
“Isn’t that what the Skyshards stand for? Aren’t we known as the greatest musicians?”
“It is only a saying, we do not risk our lives!” The King roared.
“My life was not in jeopardy. The pub is well-known and has a decent reputation. There is more to life than living in this palace of stone. You keep telling me we are servants of the public, of the people. That royalty is a privilege and honour – not a right. How can I look down at them and know what they want without being around them, living with them?” Cirara asked. “I don’t want to rule from high, separate and held above – I want to understand them, know their dreams and goals and help them achieve it.”
“And you think singing from a top a barrel in a low-end pub will achieve that?” The King asked.
“No… well maybe in the long run. Before I can really be called a Princess of Atailia, I want to know what life is like as a commoner, to live and be one with them.”
“Out of the question.”
“Grandfather, please listen!” Ciara cried. “I know I can’t emerge myself given my status, but I want to try. I’ve been wanting to suggest something for a while. Silverleaf Academy is one of the safest places in all of Aihine. Instead of putting me with the other Princes and Princesses in the Royal Tower, put me in the Noble one. It’s just as safe and I’ll be surrounded by the professors and guards of the school. I can live life amongst my peers, not above them. I’ll still take all lessons of a Royal… If I don’t live up to your expectations… if my grades suffer at all… I’ll transfer to the Royal Tower the following semester. Promise.” Ciara looked at her grandfather with pleading eyes, hoping he would understand her reasoning. The Palace was her home, but she grew tired of the restrictions on her life. She wanted a taste of freedom, even if it wasn’t full freedom. She wanted to be a ruler who knew her people.
“My daughter has a point.” Rivan Skyshard spoke up. The crown prince stood silent through the exchange, watching his daughter stand up to their overbearing father and seeing the potential in her. “I recall the benefits of being placed in the Nobel Tower during my years at Silverleaf.”
“You were not Crown Prince back then.” The King reminded his son. “A third son has more freedom to explore his options. Times have changed, your daughter is now second in line, the future of the kingdom.”
“If safety is still an issue, perhaps I can suggest a solution that could benefit all sides?”
The King grumbled and waved his hand for Rivan to continue.
“You recall the Titanore’s? My friend and fellow roommate from my own days at Silverleaf – Rig Titanore? His daughter is also entering Silverleaf Academy this year. Perhaps I can pull some strings and have the two girls become roommates? Petra Titanore is very much like her father, strong and loyal. If asked, I’m sure she’d keep an eye out on our Princess.”
“Wait, what!?” Ciara shouted. “That dirt covered imp is going to Silverleaf too?”
“She is a fairy with magic abilities, just like you Ciara.” Her father replied in a firm tone.
“The last time we met, we fought over a flower and a piece of metal… then she pushed me into the mud!” Ciara grumbled and folded her arms in front of her chest. “I’m not sharing a room with her.”
“The Prince has a point.” The King spoke. “You either accept your father’s suggestion and have the Titanore as your protector and roommate or you stay in the Royal Tower.”
“I don’t need a protector!” Ciara whined.
“After the events of tonight, you have little choice in the matter. You will not be running around Oakenwood singing in taverns.” The King leaned back on his throne and narrowed his violet eyes on his granddaughter.
Ciara gave a pout and glared at the two men in the room. “Fine, whatever.”
The King gave her a dismissive wave. Ciara turned, flipped her hair at them, and stormed out. Disapproval coming out of every pore. Petra Titanore – the name itself made Ciara’s blood boil. The price she pays for her people.
Part 3 of 4 Prequel series of 2015 NaNoWriMo story: Silverleaf Academy – Cinderbluff