Lin's jaw dropped "I... Are you.. Serious? Please tell me this is a sick joke!" she demanded her bright blue eyes narrowing as her anger began to build. He looked back up and gazed at his daughter with tired eyes,
"Does it look like I'm joking? This is what's best for the kingdom- do as you're told girl," he growled, staring at her with stony grey eyes. “You may leave now" he repeated with a hard voice.
“But we have Riders! We forced Darsai into submission before and we can do so again!” she pleaded. Arguing with her father often ended in whippings and isolation, but Lin would take that over leaving the castle. Despite its restrictions, the kingdom was her home.
“You dare question me girl!” the King began to stand, his voice growing with every syllable. “You have never been good at learning your place as a woman!” he spat, advancing towards her. Any strength Lin previously had melted away and she could feel herself cringing before her father. The older man roughly seized her by the arm and dragged her to the door. “I’m sure you’ll fit right in the barbarians of Darsai- I’ll be happy to be rid of such a lowly girl not even fit to live in a cave!” he roared, throwing her so roughly out of the room that Lin fell to the ground. Glaring down at his daughter, the King slammed the door and Lin couldn’t help jumping at the sound.
Tears gathered in her eyes, but she refused to let anyone see- there would be enough gossip floating through the halls after what just happened. Picking herself back up from the floor, Lin ran through the halls toward her room. The nerve of that man! How could he? To his own daughter? When Lin finally got to her room, she ripped the door open and kicked it shut as hard as she could. If he wanted her gone, so be it. As hot tears streamed down her face like lava down the sides of an angry volcano, she began to rip clothes from her drawers in order to begin packing.
Several knocks sounded at the door. “Go away!" Lin shrieked in response, but the door opened regardless and her mother walked in. A young Queen, Lin’s mother scarcely bore any wrinkles and her long golden hair still retained its shine. Her once blue eyes were the only sign of age- when she was younger, Lin remembered they used to be a vibrant, sapphire blue. Now however, her mother’s eyes had lost their color and looked grey.
"Darling... I'm so sorry... I wish you didn't have to go..." her mother stretched her arms out, face twisted as she tried to hold back tears.
"Why didn't you do something?,” Lin shouted, rejecting her mother’s outstretched arm. “Why are you letting him send me away? Mom, don't make me go! That kingdom is monstrous!" her voice began to crack as a wave of sorrow slammed against her heart. Part of Lin longed to be held by her mother again, but she just couldn’t – not when her mother was giving away her own child.
"Lin honey... We are women. Tis not our place to speak out against what men decide," her mother explained timidly, but Lin just shook her head.
"But I’m your daughter..." Lin looked up at her with pleading eyes. But the Queen simply looks down and begins to wring her hands. At a loss, Lin turned away and placed a hand on her large bedpost. "I wish to be alone,” she said in a low voice.
Her mother began to walk forward, "Lin..."
"I said I want to be alone!" Lin shouted, her faced turned to the side but still not directly at her mother. Sniffling still, her mother approached to give Lin’s shoulder a soft squeeze. Opening her mouth to say something, the older woman thought better of it and simply walked out the door. Pausing in the doorway, the Queen looked one last time at her young daughter. The queen was once that age, she was just a year younger when she too had been sent away from her kingdom. Remembering the resentment she held for her own mother, the Queen prayed her daughter would one day forgive her. Shutting her daughter’s door silently, Lin’s mother headed down the hall to the gardens, full of regret.
Lin cleared the clothing that lay in a crumpled heap on her bed and climbed on top of the silk covers. Reaching upwards, she untie a knot the bound her canopy. As she pulled the string away, a wave of deep blue cloth fell about the sides of her bed and sealed her off from the outside world. Gripping her stuffed dragon, Lin buried her face into its elongated neck. It had been a gift from her by a cousin who was lucky enough to have been chosen. Now he could soar through the skies with a bonded dragon. 'He is truly free,'Lin thought, and suddenly realized that the kingdom she was being given to outlawed dragon riders.
Tears sprung to her eyes- everyone always dreamt of becoming a Princess, but no one understood what the position truly entailed. All she was, all Lin would ever be, was a prisoner. Passed from one man to the next, she was nothing more than a symbolic object, a silent servant. Horror struck Lin as she realized whatever her fiancé commanded, she would have to obey for the sake of her people. Her mother had married someone twice her age, what if the Prince of Darsai was equally as old if not older? All of her tears had already been used up, drying and caking now on her face. The blue canopy that surrounded her bed now resembled yet another form of imprisonment. Throwing aside the blue material, Lin wiped away her dried tears and headed out. There was only one person she could talk to who would understand.
As usual, Thresh was out in the West courtyard tending to the horses. The other stable boys nodded their greetings to the Princess but she ignored them, resisting the urge to run to Thresh and throw her arms around him. Instead, she waited for him to set aside his broom and walk out to talk.
"Hey Thresh," she greeted him with a monotone voice, finding it hard to look him directly. Instead, she looked straight ahead, eyes focused on his muscular chest.
"Lin, what's wrong?" he asked, placing his hands gently on her arms. It was odd being so close to him…Lin had never thought of him more than a friend, but knowing she might never see him again and standing so close made her heart beat faster. He smelled of sweat and dirty horses, yet under the stench Lin could smell the woods on him.
"I am to be sent to Darsai... To marry the prince in order for an alliance to be formed; it's the only way to protect our people" she informed, her voice dull and face bleak- the shouting and crying from earlier seemed to leave her empty. All she felt now was the warmth of Thresh’s body.
"What? When?” he nearly shouted, his hold on Lin growing tighter. Realizing how tightly he was holding her, Thresh lightened his grip. Although Lin knew Thresh would be upset, she hasn't expected him to sound so... Devastated…
"Tomorrow. Early in the morning." she replied, finally looking up at him. Fair skin was often the sign of beauty, yet the tan Thresh had acquired over the years only seemed to enhance his strong jaw. He was four years older than her, which often prevented Lin to think anything of their relationship. Yet now, as she looked up at him, all Lin could think of was how she wanted to be closer. She nearly took a step forward when Thresh began to shout.
"No! I won't let you go! I'll do whatever it takes!" Thresh had pulled her closer, desperation in his eyes. Lin placed a hand on his arm in protest.
"Thresh stop!” she hissed, aware of the questioning glances of the stable boys. “I have no choice-“
“Let’s run away,” Thresh interrupted his voice lower now. “We can go into the woods, we know how to hunt and survive.” Lin shook her head reluctantly at his proposition, wishing so badly that she could leave with him.
“I... I must protect my kingdom; hundreds of people will die if I leave now.” Lin looked back up at him, begging him to understand. Thresh remained defiant for several more seconds before sighing, his back hunched in defeat.
"You're right.. You have a duty to your kingdom..." They both were silent for what seemed like eons. Lin wished he would pull her close, to hold her tight as she rested her head against his chest. She nearly jumped when Thresh jerked with excitement.
"I have an idea!" he exclaimed, a broad smile stretching across his face.
"What?" Lin asked, zealous to hear anything to get her out of this marriage. Looking around to make sure no one was close enough to hear, bent so he could whisper in her ear. "That... Could work,” the Princess admitted, stunned. "But... I couldn't do that…"
"Just keep it in mind," Thresh said, brushing a strand of her loose blonde hair behind her ear. "I just don't want to lose you…” his voice trailed off and their eyes locked. Thresh’s hands moved from Lin’s arms to her back as he began to pull her closer.