Noraline Markett's horse took her down the path that she needed to go. Her brown hair fluttered behind her and her gray eyes began to water. She knew that she wasn't wanted where she was. Her mother couldn't wait to see her go and her father didn't try to stop her. It wasn't like he could in the first place, not with her mother always being the one to call all the shots. Her father, being king, should have been in charge, but her mother went with all the say so. The scowl on her mother's face made her believe that nothing would come of her fleeing from the responsibilities that were placed on her.
"Your job is stay here and become the next heir to the throne Noraline." Her mother had black eyes that showed absolute no feeling and her hair was in its blonde, braided crown on top of her head. "You cannot go out and do things like find yourself. You're engaged to Prince Peter. Your wedding is a month's time Noraline."
"Have you ever thought about what I wanted mother?" Noraline shouted back. The queen looked at her. Noraline looked at her father. "And you won't say anything, will you father? You're the coward whom I've come to know."
"Noraline," Lord John Markett said as he stood from his throne.
He mother's eyes bulged as she looked back at her daughter. "Know your place Noraline!"
"I do know my place." Noraline's eyes went hazy as she looked from her father to her mother. "And I do not believe that it is here in this castle you call a home."
Even now, as she rode on her horse, she wished that her father would have fought more for her to stay. She was too young to leave the castle, but he didn't want conflict with his wife. He would rather be on good graces with his wife than to have his wonderful daughter and the next heir to the throne there with him.
Noraline's horse came to a halt at a tiny town on the outskirts of the city. She jumped off and walked through the little run down cottages. Many of them were dark and desolate, but then again it was really late and the dark was a very dangerous place to be no matter where you've been. Everyone knew that the dark was nothing to play with and no one dared mess up anything that it had to offer.
Something caught Noraline's eye as she walked up the town; one of the houses was still glowing. She hastily made her way to this nearby cottage with her horse trailing behind her. She rapped on the door a few times and stood back. She could feel the presence of someone on the opposite side of the door, hesitating to open it.
Noraline knew that the people here weren't at all crazy. To open the door at nighttime was basically suicide. Noraline sighed and ran a hand through her scraggly brown hair. "Please. I just need some help and something told me that this was the house to come to." The person on the opposite side of the door hesitated some and Noraline sighed. "Please. I've no place left to go."
There was a bit of silence and the door jingled on the opposite side and it opened, giving light to Miriam Whitfield, an older lady of around forty years of age. Her hair was already graying and her eyes had big black bags under her olive-colored eyes. She looked at Noraline. "These parts aren't safe at nighttime. You should know this."
"Yes ma'am, I know this." The lady stared at Noraline and compassion rang through her body.
"Come child." Noraline walked into the little warm cottage and the light hit her face. Miriam looked at Noraline as she was and her knees trembled at the sight of someone she should have noticed. "Your majesty." The lady dropped to her knees and bowed down.
Noraline was taken back. She backed away some and looked at Miriam. "Please. I beg of you." Miriam looked up and Noraline gestured for her to stand back up.
"What are you doing here your majesty? Why have you left?"
Noraline smiled and paced. "I sort of ran away." She looked back at Miriam whose face had gone slant. "Don't worry, they know." She shrugged and looked at the fire brimming in the fireplace. "So hopefully no one has or will be coming after me tonight."
Miriam walked over to Noraline and looked at her. "Your majesty-"
"Nora." She looked at Miriam. "Just call me Nora."
Miriam smiled a bit. "Nora." Noraline smiled. "Why? Why would you leave your home full of riches to come here?"
Noraline looked at the fireplace. "The riches I wanted couldn't be fulfilled." She looked away from the fire and paced. "They wanted me to do everything that I didn't want to do. I couldn't even live my life; I had so many responsibilities on my back and no one cared." She looked at Miriam and smiled, but the smile didn't reach her eyes. "I wasn't loved like I needed to be or like I should have been from the very beginning." She was on the brink of tears, but she wouldn't let Miriam see them.
"You have to go back home." Noraline sighed and looked up, her back still to Miriam. "They need you in their life. You are the next heir to the throne."
Noraline turned on her heel. "Well I don't want to be." Nora sighed and crossed her arms. "I've given the throne to my sister. She's a year younger than I am and it's hers for the keeping. I just..." Nora shrugged and looked at Miriam. "I just want peace. I want tranquility." She looked at Miriam. "I want a change."
Miriam smiled at her and placed her hands on either sides of Noraline's face. "You are brave and you are beautiful." Noraline smiled. She grabbed a strand of Noraline's long brown hair in her forefingers. "And if you want a change, we are going to have to start with this hair of yours."
3 Years Later
Noraline Markett stood by the stream that ran through the little village that she lived in and neighboring villages as well. She was accompanied by her two little bodyguards: Rosemary, who had short, puffy red hair and light freckles and her older sister Matilda who had a short swarm of brown hair. They each had a bucket in hand and leaned down at the stream.
Their mother, and Noraline's guardian, Miriam was making her special stew tonight and the girls grew very excited; it was Matilda's 8th birthday and the girls were on tippy toes.
"Special stew is my favorite!" Matilda said. Smiling from ear to ear, she dipped her bucket into the stream. "The best birthday present I could have gotten."
"Oh!" Noraline screamed as she glared at Noraline, a smirk playing on her face. "You have yet to see the gifts that Rose and I have prepared."
"I believe you know how to give gifts," Matilda said as she looked over at Noraline and then back at her bucket as it began to fill. "I remember last year that you knit me that blanket and pricked yourself many times."
"I tried to make it just the way that you envisioned it." Noraline chuckled some until she felt a tugging. She looked down and saw Rosemary looking up at her.
"Next year," Rosemary's soft voice rang out. "For my sixth birthday, could you teach me how to spar?" Rosemary's cherry cheeks and big ear to ear smile always softened Noraline's heart.
"I can do you one better!" Noraline picked Rosemary up and swung her around and then sat her on the ground. "I can show you some now!"
Matilda watched in on it as she tended to the buckets as well. She knew Noraline way too well and knew that she would slack off from her normal duties. "First you just have to get a good stance." Noraline looked to her side at Rosemary and Rosemary was in the cutest little battle stance. Her legs were spread apart and her knees bent, mimicking Noraline's. "Alright young one, give me a kick."
"Ha!" Rosemary kicked and held her leg in the air. She looked over at Noraline with her big green eyes. "Good?"
"Great kid," Noraline said smiling.
"Girls!" Noraline, Rosemary and Matilda looked up to see Miriam walking out of the little cottage and spotted the three girls. Noraline and Rosemary as they goofed off and Matilda as she filled her responsibilities. "I'm glad to see that someone does what they are required too."
Miriam walked over towards the girls and smiled. Rosemary ran over to her mother as Noraline and Matilda grabbed the three buckets of water. Matilda looked at her mother. "You know we are slackers."
Miriam laughed. "Your uncle is down at the shop." She looked at Matilda and Rosemary. "Noraline and I will handle the waters, you guys should go on over to see him."
The girls smiled and ran off into the direction of the shop. The little village that Noraline lived in was surrounded by bordering villages and they all knew each other very well. It was the same for Noraline that all the members of any royal family knew each other well, but it was nothing like this. In these little villages, they had each other's backs, but in the castle they didn't know who they could and couldn't trust so alliances were very difficult to hold and make.
Noraline looked over at Miriam who had grabbed a bucket. Noraline grabbed the other two in return and sighed. "No, no dear." Noraline looked into Miriam's brown eyes and Miriam smiled. "You have a guest." Noraline squinted her eyes and Miriam nodded up towards the house. "And he's quite handsome too."
Noraline dropped the buckets lightly on the ground and turned her attention towards the house. She walked slowly, but she was nervous. She didn't know who it could be that was standing in Miriam's home, nor did she want to know about it anyway. She bit her lip and walked towards the cottage and sighed.
Maybe my father has finally come to rescue me.
She opened the door to the cottage and looked in. The man's back was turned to hers, but she knew that stance from anywhere. His clothes were new and clean, and his blonde hair sat on top of his head, in need of a trim. He heard her come in and he turned around, his blue eyes meeting her gray ones. The smile on his face made her heart race in many more ways than one.
"Callum?" She found herself whispering.