It had been several years since her incarceration but Aden had lost track of the time only a few days before this very moment. Right now, she was free.
Something unbelievable had happened two days before, an event that would shock the world not that Aden took notice. She was far too occupied with herself at the moment. For now there was no tower, no guards, and no boundaries. Two days ago had seen the Castle of King Spencer Tehrani tumble to the solid rock on which it had stood in a blaze of fierce flame and bone-crunching noise. Every person, every animal, every thing in the towering inferno had ended that night, save for two teenagers. Aden didn’t know the reason why her home had been destroyed anymore than she knew the reason for her existence, but she did know one very, very important thing…Tyler was still alive.
She had seen them sneaking up on the Castle during the day, hundreds of armed men, glittering with swords, arrows, maces and spears. Of course she had raised the alarm like the good little sixteen year old that she was, and on any other occasion everyone would have been most grateful to their Princess but this was a fateful day of infinite proportions. She was ‘told’ – rather sarcastically - by the Guardsmen that there was no one out there, not even a footprint. But when she looked out of the window again she could see them gathered there! This left two options for her intelligent mind; either she was going mad after being cooped up in her tower for twelve years and therefore seeing things – not an option in her opinion – or only she could see them…
Aden waved everyone away again and said no more on the subject, a decision that would haunt her for many years into the future. How could she possibly be seeing things that others couldn’t? She already knew that she had magic; ‘Mage’ was what her family called her. Not that she cared what it was called, all she knew was that it was the reason why she wasn’t allowed out to play with the children she spied from her eyrie view, to jump in the lake in the summer or fall off the bales of hay in the autumn with friends of her very own. Aden resented her powers, thus the reason why she tried to forget about them, but after she had started sparking untamed magical flares she finally understood that she was stuck with the whole magical mess. One thing continued to elude her though, magic wasn’t that rare, so why was she locked away? She couldn’t understand what was so frightening about the golden nimbus that was the source of her power, locked deep within her soul.
Despite her insecurities she kept a watchful eye on the walls for the rest of the day, forgetting to light her lamps when the daylight faded from the sky in wavy ribbons of fuchsia and violet. This may have been what saved her young life from being snuffed out like everyone else’s in the death-trap, her tower looked unused from the outside with its lack of candlelight. For when the first stars flickered into being the small army began to move, like a swarm of worker ants they scaled the walls, breaching the defences in minutes. Aden knew then that she had been right and that it was now too late to do anything about it. The first screams started seconds later as the young woman stood at her window with horrified eyes; they had been there the whole time, hiding out of sight. All she could think about was how it could have all been averted if only she had pressed her admonition, but now everyone was doomed. A burst of movement snapped her mind out of her thoughts as her sharp eyes picked up something very odd. One of the men was carrying something with great difficulty, something distinctly ‘person’ shaped, Aden gasped then quickly clapped her hands over her mouth as she realised who it was. She’d recognise that cloak anywhere; ermine trim on cobalt blue silk brocade and silver tassels, Tyler’s pride and joy. That’s what the attack had been for; they had come after the Prince.
Before she could even think of a plan Aden heard the door at the base of the tower slam against the rock as it was thrown open. Jingling armour and the whine of steel scraping on stone made its way up the stairwell as she realised that she was trapped. There was only one thing to do, the outside of the tower had been built in such a way that the cornicing looked like a ladder, with a bit of luck she may be able to use it as one. Flinging an armful of clothes from her closet onto a blanket, along with her jewellery box, she tied it closed with a hair ribbon and threw it out of the window. They were closer now; she could hear their laughter as they joked about the fate of those trapped downstairs. Aden quickly stepped onto the window sill and through onto the ridge outside just in time.
“Hey Rupers! There ain't no one here!”
“There has to be, why else would there be a guard at the bottom?”
She held her breath, the slightest gasp of air could give her position away and that would be the end of her.
“I’m telling ya that no one’s here!”
“What about that little girl of theirs? Wasn’t she locked up?”
She sidestepped along the ledge very slowly, the four inch width hindering rather than helping.
“Oh yeah! She wouldn’t be that little anymore though.”
Aden shook slightly as she heard the lecherous laughter, glad that she was in the shadows, albeit still only five feet from their slimy hands.
“Well she ain’t here. Maybe she died and they didn’t’ tell anyone?”
“Don’t be so bloody stupid Grint! There’s a dinner sitting here that ain’t cold yet, why would they send hot food for a ghost?”
She gradually let one foot dangle down, clinging onto the lintel for dear life as she poked around in the dark with silk slippered feet.
“Why’s the window open?”
“Maybe it’s to let the ghost in.”
“Ghosts go through walls Rupers! Now who’s being stupid?”
Aden’s breath caught in her throat at their words, she had mere seconds before they thought to look out of the open exit. She smiled despite her dilemma as her toes found the first hold and began to make her way down the side of the tower with all the speed of a snail, too scared by the size of the drop to quicken her pace.
“Boss, why is the window open though? All you can see are the walls of the outer defences.”
There was a pregnant pause as silence fell on the room, until one of the men stuck his head out of the window and stared directly at the young woman climbing down below him.
“She’s down here! She saw the whole bloody thing!”
“What? Lemme see!”
Aden looked up in horror as two more faces looked down on her in a manner that made her start climbing down again with increased speed.
“Come back Darling! We ain’t going to hurt you!”
She ignored them, her feet probing blindly as she hurried to get away from them, her scrabbling nails now worn down to bleeding, ragged messes. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse Aden felt something cold fall against her leg, then another fell on her cheek…snow.
She knew her parent’s had to be dead, her father would have been storming up to her room otherwise, tears ran unbidden down her cold cheeks at the thought. It was he who had taught her the use of a staff, he who taught her how to speak to dignitaries, monarchs, nobles and commoners, and he who taught her how to meditate to keep her magic in control. And now he was gone, but now was not the time for tears, she would’ve wiped them away if she’d had a hand free.
Without warning her right foot slipped, her leg dangling in pitch black thin air. She could hear the flimsy material of her dress rip when her foot plunged through the crenulations even if her skin was too cold to register the damage straight away. The muscles in her arms burned with pain and she clung to the feeble hold she had, gritting her teeth as she felt liquid run down her calf. So she had cut herself, it was far too dark to see the damage but even if it had been light she wouldn’t have been able to see, the snow swirling around the Castle was far too thick and heavy. Her worry now was that the ladder had been broken; the masonry had crumbled through centuries of damp weather and harsh winds. The men above her jeered at her misfortune as she understood that she was stuck, either she climbed back up to face her fate at their hands or she jumped and risked death. In Aden’s eyes she saw only death in the choice of returning to the tower as well, much better to choose her own demise and when, so she smiled at the invaders and let go.