Right, decided I want this story.
Sorry guys ;)
Nicola awoke slowly, breathing in the cold morning air with long, relaxed breaths.
The sun had barely reached the top of the mountain range which overlooked the town, but already it was a hive of activity. From the open window, she could hear market-goers haggling with savvy traders; children, engrossed in a game, screaming gleefully and the general background noise of livestock.
Things, as usual, were normal.
Moving quietly, in case she woke her father, Nicola stalked across the room to pull on an itchy sack cloth shirt, a yellowed pair of linen pants and 2 straw sandals. Very modest for the daughter of the town mayor, but she often dressed inconspicuously, as no thief in their right mind would let the daughter of the town mayor proceed down a street unhindered.
This said, crime wasn't the real reason she dressed as a peasant.
You couldn't experience Arkos from the perspective of a near-noble. This town had to be lived, breathed, interacted with as one of the mass.
Slipping down the wooden stairs, she was confronted by a tall, thin man, with a large drooping mustache who had been sitting silently under the stairs.
"You're going out again?" He inquired.
"You know I can't stand being cooped up in this house with that pompous goon." She denoted the direction of her Step-brother's room with a flick of her long, brown hair.
"I can't stop you, but can you at least take this? It's dangerous enough to be out alone." The old man handed Nicola a small dagger, embossed with the her family crest.
"Thanks, Alex." Nicola said, as she embraced the stick thin old man, and hurried out the back door.
"I worry about her sometimes." Alex muttered to no one in particular.
Concealing the dagger in the sleeve of her shirt, Nicola grabbed a small cloth that was lying on the banister of the back stairs, and secured her hair back with it. Free lying hair was a symbol of nobility in Arkos, and it was a ritual she was accustomed to.
Nicola had been sneaking out for the past 3 years, every since her mother had married Demot, the town mayor. Before, she had been an ordinary peasant girl, who aided her mother in a bakery. The first few times she had escaped early on a Sunday, it had been out of hate for the harsh rules imposed on her by Demot, but soon the excursions had begun to take a certain purpose.
She had found a small creek about a mile from the edges of the town, surrounded by Eldermoss forest.
It had become her refuge, her sanctuary, her private little heaven in the monotony of daily life.
As far as she knew, no one else knew the creek was there, and that suited her perfectly.
After a 30 minute stroll through beautiful, chirping woodland, Nicola made it to her haven.
Because it was a somewhat chill day for July, she decided that she'd lie by the water, as a way of relaxation.
Nicola stared up at the sky through the shifting canopies of the fir trees, and slowly drifted away to the realm of sleep.
She was brought back to consciousness with a jolt.
Something was wrong.
The sun was down. But there was something definitely wrong.
She could feel it right at the back of her neck.
Rolling into a crouch, Nicola pulled the dagger from where it had been hanging near her wrist.
She took in her surroundings with a quick sweep of her head, and saw an orange glow - to the east.
The direction of Arkos.
Nicola grabbed her sandals from the grassy knoll, slipped them on, and sprinted towards the hazy, undulating glow in the east.
She arrived on the edge of town breathless and sore. She had fallen during the run, and blood was running down her right leg.
Her face was covered in scratches from brambles and thorns, and her linen pants were covered with mud and dust.
But what she saw smashed these concerns roughly to the back of her mind.
Screams rang out from smouldering rubble, blackened corpses lay in the streets, and soliders of the King were slaying those who tried to flee the devastation.
Arkos was burning.