Rose is an orphan. She's been forced to find her own way to survive after her house was raided, brother kidnapped, and parents killed right before her eyes.
Her only friend, Louie, invites her to one of the royal balls with him, where she gets sucked into the politics of the kingdom, thought of as a long lost daughter of one of the King's royal advisers.
Let’s Play Pretend
I pull the hood of my thick black cloak up and over my face. I use it to shield my arms as a cold gust of January wind sweeps through the marketplace. A growl emanates from my stomach, persuading me to find food.
I walk through the market place. Everything from weapons to little trinkets for loved ones sit on the many stands. The people working there are trying to catch everybody’s eye in an attempt to earn money to make a living. Beggars sit along every few stands, holding their hands out for donations and offering to do small tasks for money or food.
My eye searches for food as I walk. It lands on one full of fruit, and the owner is talking to one of his customers, an easy target. I stop at the stand and keep a close eye on the vendor as I shovel apples into the pocket of my cloak. I quickly walk away before he notices.
I find another stand with dried meat, each piece two feet long and half a foot wide. The vendor is, once again, distracted. This time it was by a girl with very large breasts in an extremely low cut shirt. I grab as many meat slices as I can; a stack of probably twenty. I stash them in my cloak, and walk away, a smile on my face. I continue on to the stables at the edge of town.
“Hello, Rose,” My only friend, Louie, calls back, walking around a corner. I smile as a brown lock of hair falls out of the ponytail and into his face. “Back so soon?”
“Did you not want me to come back?”
Louie shook his head in amusement. “You are always welcome here. Did you know there is going to be a ball this Friday?”
“How could I not, people have been talking about it everywhere.”
“I got an invitation to go, and I was going to ask you to join me.”
“That sounds lovely,” I smile at him.
“I bet I know what you’re here for. Sage is out of food again, isn’t she?”
“Well, Loo. She is, but I don’t want to…”
“I don’t mind. Take a bale of hay; I need to get back to work.”
“Thank you.” I say, grabbing a bale, as an apple falls out of my pocket.
“Where did that come from?” Louie asks me.
“I bought it,” I quickly pick it up and look away.
“What did I say about stealing?”
I shake my head at him and turn around. “Can I have the hay or what?”
The trip to home was quiet and uneventful. Tasi jumped up and ran to me from her post tied to the tree as usual. Sage whinnied at the sight and smell at the hay. I walk into my cave -my home-and put everything down.
It’s not very impressive, barely high enough for my 5’ 4 frame to walk through. It was about 8 feet deep and held firewood, hay, and a bed made out of leaves and animal skins.
I sigh as I turn around and hurry to feed my dog, Tasi, and horse, Sage, before the sun goes down.
I chomp down on an apple, the same one I dropped in the stables.
Louie isn’t going to understand what’s going on. He doesn’t know about how I live, out in the woods. Nobody knows about my little corner of the world. Well, almost nobody.
The two hunters who were trying to find deer followed the stream a little too far, and ended up here. They climbed down the ravine, and saw Tasi, Sage, and me. I threatened them that if they ever spoke of this place, I would find and kill them. They didn’t believe me, and I pierced an arrow that slashed through the edge of the taller one’s arm, while hissing that next time they wouldn’t be as lucky.
But that was two years ago.
I lied back and tried to figure out how Louie always knew when I was lying. Maybe if he knew, he wouldn’t be so hard.
Sighing, I sat back up. It’s hard enough to think of the day I lost my real home, how could I explain it to Louie?
It burns, it burns, it burns. What are they doing to me? Why are they doing this to me!
I’m in my bed, screaming my lungs out. People are standing, faces covered, and branding sticks in their hands. It’s burning red hot, and they just took it off my back. It burned through my clothes, and my screams couldn’t sum up the pain.
My arms are pulled behind my back, and wretched in a direction they aren’t meant to go. I struggle, and try to get free. Turning my torso around, I bit the arm of the man tying my hands together. He releases, and I run. The sight in the living room brings me to a standstill.
My parents are tied up, being yelled at by more of the strange men. They’re dumping some kind of liquid on and around them. The stuff is dripping all over the living room. One man is pointing a gun at my mother’s head.
The front and back doors are blocked. I run into the closest room, there has to be a way out. I hear scream from behind me, the men are leading my brother past the doorway.
“Ricky,” I whisper.
The men stop, trying to figure out where the voice is coming from.
He turns to me, the chains on his arms clanking together. “You’ll help me, right sissy?” He asks.
“I’ll try. These guys are everywhere. If I can’t help you today, I’ll find you. I’ll find you and I’ll save you from wherever you are and I’ll bring you home.”
“Cross my heart.”
Before another word is muttered the men start walking again. I see a brand on my brothers back as they walk away, a snake in the jaws of a skull. The sign of a slave.
The men start searching through the small house, and I bolt before they make it to my parents’ room. I try to open the window, but it won’t budge. Using a thick candle I break the window easily and jump through it. I run to the stables as fast as possible. A halter, our best saddle and bridle, and the bag of emergency things we keep, are stuffed onto a horse named Sage.
I think this is what father meant when he said “Just in case.”
Unlock the rest of the stalls as we go, I hurry to lead Sage out of the stables. I jump on her back, and unlock fences in a hurry as I make way for the woods on the other side of the property. Flames swallow the house, reaching high in the sky. Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, dogs, and other horses race along with us in our escape.