Alieahsha sat upon her bed reading the note that had just been dropped through her open window.
Hello, I am supposing that you want to know more about your mother. After all, she was your mother.
Well, I am proposing a deal to you. Turn up at the oak tree at the front of your father's estate at midnight next Sunday and I will tell you all about your mother.
In return, though, I need you to bring some documents from your father's office. They won't be anything important: just a few scraps about trade here and there.
If you accept my offer, put something red near your window.
A friend who knew your mother.
Alieahsha stared at the note. She ignored the tinglings of misgiving. No-one would want to kill her, surely. There would be no harm done by accepting the offer.
Now Alieahsha was not a stupid girl. She knew very well that the documents might be something important, so she made a note to herself to check them when she got them.
She started to make a plan. She would have to go and fetch the papers as close to the meeting time as possible, just in case her father needed them. And she would not tell her father, otherwise the chances of her meeting the stranger were practically zero. Her father was always too protective of her.
But she could prepare her clothes as soon as possible, because no-one would be looking for her clothes except for her.
The excitement bubbled up in Alieahsha, but she made sure that she wouldn't let it show, otherwise she would be discovered, and her father would surely find out. Not only her cover would be blown, her father would never trust her again, for anything.
As she went down the stairs, she scoured the bottom floor for her father. He would most probably be there.
A warm hand on her shoulder scared her, and she whipped around.
“Lady Alieahsha,” her father joked.
“Father, you know I hate it when anyone calls me that. You are no exception.”
“Alieahsha, I need to ask you something,” her father sternly looked her in the eye.
Alieahsha knew it would be something bad.
“Come with me into my office.”
She followed her father down the hallway, and into the huge room he called his 'study'. It was big enough to be a library.
Her father sat down at his desk, and she sat down opposite him. His fingers criss-crossed in an intricate pattern. He watched her sit down.
“Yes, father? You wanted to ask me about something?”
“Ah, yes, Alieahsha.”
Alieahsha looked at her father imploringly. “Yes?”
“The thing is,” her father hesitated. “I am thinking about sending you to...school.” He uttered the word as if it were something foul. “So that you might be more socialable, and might make more...friends. They will have a high influence, though, don't worry, but you must make a good impression before we introduce you to society. And anyway, you seem to be getting quite lonely by yourself. Home-tutoring might not be the option.”
Every fibre in her body screamed 'yes!', but she had to know when she would be going, otherwise she might not be able to meet the anonymous person.
“When is it, Father?”
Alieahsha calculated. “What day?”
“Monday. I have decided, you will start on Monday. But of course you will need protection... and guards. You will not go anywhere without five guards around you.”
“I need to be free, Father! Surely you can make an exception – “
“No, Alieahsha, it is decided. You must be protected.”
“If I have to go with five guards, then I will, but you can change the date to the week after that? Can't you?”
“I'm sorry, Alieahsha, but the school term starts at that date.”
“But... Father, I need time to get used to the idea! I need to pack my things! Make sure I have the necessary items!”
“No need, Alieahsha, I will have people bring it to school for you.”
“Father, I can do it myself, surely? I can use magic – “
At the mention of magic, her father's face hardened. “No, I will not allow it. My city does not use magic, and neither will my daughter.”
It was a well-known fact that her father hated magic, and it was banned from the city unless it was an absolute necessity.
Alieahsha hung her head. “Yes, Father.”
The Lord Mayor nodded, satisfied. “You may leave now.”
Alieahsha left the room. She could feel her father's stare on her back the whole time, and was grateful to shut the door.
She walked down he hallway towards her room. She had to organise the meeting at a sooner date. But how? Would the person come any time other than the meeting time?
Then she had it. Just like that. Like a switch was flicked inside her head. The person had to come one other time: to check that she had something red showing through her window.