I sat on my bed, watching as a maid, whose name I didn’t know, brought me a mash of food I couldn't tell the nature of, and a cup of tea which could be brewed from my own tears for all I know.
My world had shrunk and become oh so very small. It exists only within the confines of a single room that I cannot leave, and couldn’t even enjoy the entirety of.
A prisoner of mind and body.
The maid bent toward me and smiled. Her lips moved, but not even a whisper reached my ears. Behind her, I could see a bird on the windowsill, but could not hear its song. I couldn’t hear the ruffle of the curtains as the wind blew by.
I couldn’t hear.
I tried to ask the maid for some sugar, but as my lips parted and I let out a muted noise, her smile turned sour. Disgusted.
Not wanting to anger her, I closed my lips and sipped on the bitter tea instead.
This is my life now. My quiet life.
I ran down the hallway.
I could hear them shouting at each other, hot on my tail trying to catch me, but I was too quick. Peeking around a corner, I saw them as they came down the corridor. Just as I was about to make myself scarce I locked eyes with one of the men.
“There she is!”
He screamed as he pointed in my direction.
“Stop right there, Lady Silika!”
The man ordered me, but I ignored him and kept running.
If they catch me it’s all over!
At that moment, I tripped on my loose sock and landed roughly on the marble floor. Skinning my knee in the process.
I whimpered and tried to get up, but my feet kept slipping between the smooth floor and my tangled nightgown. Just as I finally found hard ground and started getting up on my feet, someone caught me by the collar. I turned around and recognised a maid. She was the one who usually smuggled me some snacks before dinner.
I screamed before I noticed that my little brother, Dalton, was standing behind her, pointing at me.
I won’t forget this, Dalton!
The head maid shook her head as she jogged toward us, making the Meiriem insignia bounce wildly around her neck.
“Where did you even learn that word…? Nevermind.”
She picked me up like a stray kitten and carried me back to my bedroom.
One might think it odd, but this was a typical morning on the Everest estate.
I, Silika, 5 years old, am the third child of the Marquess family which has governed the region of Oblon for 3 generations, and by this position, can do whatever it is I please.
Unfortunately, as my parents and two older siblings are out on a trip to the capital, it seems the power has gotten to the head maid’s head. I will have to make sure she is properly scolded when they return.
She sat me on a chair and, against my best wishes, started scolding me.
“Every morning. E V E R Y morning! You’re five years old, young Lady Silika. At your age the young lord and lady were dressed at sunrise and were done with breakfast by the 7th bell!”
She said as she started combing my hair into place.
“That’s unfair! Knox and Ela are twins, so they grow twice as fast!”
“How does that…? Urgh….”
She let out a long annoyed sigh.
Yes! Feel that frustration, the same you make me feel every…
She pulled back my hair strongly with the comb making me tear up.
“It wouldn’t hurt if you had given me more time!”
She said in a sarcastic tone.
“But it hurts every morning!”
“Because you run away every morning! By the love of Meiriem, how will you ever become a proper lady at this rate?”
I grumbled and let her rip my rose coloured hair into place. The head maid slid me into my dress and pulled my hair back with a hairband. Rendering me ‘presentable’ as she put it.
Dalton peeked his little head through the door frame.
“Silika? Are you done? You promised to play chess, remember?”
“I never promised that! I hate chess!”
The maid looked at me coldly. As followers of the goddess of love, ‘hating’ something given by the gods was considered a sin, but I didn’t care for her scolding eyes.
After thinking for a bit, I did remember promising to play any game he wanted if he played tag with me yesterday. Poor Dalton ran after me as fast as his legs could carry him for hours…
“Urgh… Or I guess I did promise… Can we maybe play after…”
Just as I was about to haggle my way out. The sound of opportunity reached my ears in the form of horse hooves and large wooden wheels.
Dalton and I perked up and looked at the window.
We screamed in unison.
Shoving the maid aside, we both ran down to the entrance hall. As we rounded the corner and reached the gallery at the top of the stairs, we saw a blue haired girl and salmon haired boy crossing the door threshold.
I ran downstairs and hugged my older brother and sister with all my strength. The wind was blown out of their lungs but they greeted me nonetheless.
“Meiriem’s blessing, Silika. You’re as energetic as ever!”
Knox said as he tucked the insignia back into his shirt.
“My lady please...! The young lord and lady must be tired from their trip!”
The head maid pleaded as she tried to separate us.
Dalton joined in the hug, and so Knox waved her off.
“We missed the both of you too.”
Ela said as she patted my head
I looked up at her with glittering eyes.
“How was Evergreen? Tell me!”
“Well it was very..”
Ela began before I cut her off, too excited to wait for her answer.
“Were the walls as tall as father said? Did you meet the prince? The queen? The king?!”
“Young mistress please! The Young masters have just returned. They must be exhausted!”
A young maid pleaded.
She glanced at the head maid’s face turning strange new shades of red and purple, just as this one finally managed to break up the four-way hug.
Mind your own business, you old hag…
Knox turned toward the maid and gave a polite nod and then turned back to us.
“Don’t worry Silika. We will tell you all about it once mother and father get back.”
Knox said as Ela clasped her hands together.
“Why don’t we play a game before lunch? It will be a few hours still before they arrive.”
My eyes grew wide with excitement.
“Lets! Lets! Can we play tag? Dalton is too slow. I want to play with people that are fast!”
Knox laughed uncomfortably while the head maid scolded me
“Young lady, this type of violent game is definitely not what a good Meiriem…”
Knox dismissed her with another wave of the hand and she kept her mouth shut.
Being 14 year old and having just come back from their social debut, Knox and Ela now had the same authority as adults.
Luckily, Knox knew how much I disliked rules, especially those as inconsistent as the gods of love, Meiriem. I knew I would eventually have to fall in line, but that day was not today.
“What about something that involves a little less running? My legs are still full of ants..."
He suggested with a tired smile.
“Your legs have ants in them?!”
Dalton exclaimed, slightly panicked.
“No, you dummy! It means that their legs are sore from sitting!”
I rebuked him.
“You’re a dummy! Why would he say there’s ants in them if he’s tired? That makes no sense!”
As we started bickering, Ela tried to interrupt us before it devolved into a fight.
“What about hide and seek?”
Dalton nodded excitedly, but I wasn’t as thrilled. I wasn’t particularly good at hiding and I really wanted to show them how much faster at running I had become over the last few weeks. My daily morning runs were just starting to pay off! I could now escape the adults almost until the next bell!
Knox noticed my expression. He kneeled down next to me.
“Don’t worry, we’ll play tag next time!”
He whispered in my ear while the head maid was looking away.
I still felt disappointed, but I thought about it for a second.
It’s true that I won’t be able to show off how fast I have become, but maybe..? Yeah that could work!
I nodded enthusiastically. They both seemed relieved I wasn’t as disappointed anymore.
“Alright then! Let’s head outside. I'll count first.”
We walked around to the main house and reached the gardens on the side of the estate. Knox stood tall and took a deep breath of fresh air. He looked happy to be back home.
“Okay, here are the rules: No going inside the house, we stay inside the garden, I count to 100 and you lose if I see you.”
We all nodded in agreement.
Knox turned around.
“Get ready! 1, 2, 3, 4…”
“Come on, Dalton!”
Ela took Dalton’s hand and headed for the flower patches. I felt my chest tighten. I was the one who wanted to hide with Ela...
I shook my head. My plan could still work. I just need to head for the clearing. I ran straight across the flower plots into the thicker forest. Once at my destination, I looked around.
Alright, which one is the… Ah! This one!
I spotted a great oak tree, the highest around even taller than the mansion. I approached it and gripped the large chunks of bark in my moist hands as I pulled myself up.
They will be so surprised once they find me!
The plan was clear in my head: Find the tallest tree and climb to the highest branch. When Knox comes looking for me in the clearing, I burst through the foliage high above the ground! I might lose the game, but Ela and Knox will praise me for weeks and weeks for becoming so good at climbing! As Father always says: ‘A small loss is the path to a great victory!’
I climbed from branch to branch. The leaves became thicker as I reached higher. I looked down and saw that it was as high as the third floor of the mansion. I felt a vertigo come over me.
It IS very high… My heart feels like it will pop out of my chest any second.
“...99, 100! Ready or not, here I come!”
I heard Knox declare in the distance.
Knox will be coming soon! No time to go any higher. I found a solid branch and started making my way to the edge of the tree.
“I see feet! Is that you Dalton? Ah it’s Ela! I got you!”
Ela already got caught? That took less time than I thought, but my plan will still work so long as he comes for the clearing.
“I see you behind that tree Dalton!”
Dalton too? Did Knox somehow become better at finding during his trip? Do kids play hide and seek in the capital too?
It won’t be long until he comes looking for me. I hurried along the branch. Through the foliage I saw Knox entering the clearing, but he couldn’t see me yet. I crawled through the branches, purposefully breaking them and making the leaves ruffle so he would notice me, but Knox focused on the bottom of the trees while the chirping of the birds covered the sound of the rustling.
What are you doing Knox? Look at me! I’m so high!
I moved faster toward the edge of the branch, but he was already starting to turn away.
In a panic, I stood up on the branch.
“Wait, Knox! I’m right h…”
I heard a dry snap underneath me and felt my weight falling forward. I tried turning around and catching the other part of the branch, but it was already a small brown stain in my vision.
I looked down, just in time to see the ground approaching rapidly. Before I could even let out a sound everything went painfully white...
And then, nothing.