Chapter Two: Leaving Home

It was the morning of my sixteenth birthday when everything really began. I lay in my bed with the covers pulled over my head, and did my best to keep my eyes closed so that for once in my life I could sleep in. I knew what day it was. I knew that today I was leaving my home, and would, more than likely, never return. Today I was to get in a carriage, travel for two weeks across the countryside, and then meet my fiancé. My father had been talking about my marriage to the Crown Prince of Jezed for almost an entire year. He had even gotten me a Jezedian tutor to instruct me in all their customs and traditions so that I would not get myself into trouble, as I often did.

Lying there as still as I could, I tried to pretend that my entire life was a dream. I tried to imagine myself as a young peasant woman day dreaming my whole life wishing it were hers. When I opened my eyes, however, I still lay in my gigantic be surrounded by expensive things.

A knock on my door is what finally got me out of my bed. I couldn't hide forever no matter how much I wanted to. I pulled on my robe that was draped over the chair in front of my vanity, and walked over to the doors. The knocking continued, and I sighed before letting my personal maid in.

She bustled in without a word and instantly began to lay out my clothes for my journey. Her gray hair was pulled back into the traditional bun required of all the palace servants, and her brown eyes were snapping with anger. Celesi had been my nursesince I was only an infant,and when I had grown older she had been transitioned to my maid after I scared away all my other ones. Celesi wouldn't take my temper tantrums. The moment I began to seethe with anger, she would instantly give me a smart rap across the face. It helped me to calm down and I never held it against her. She was the only person who had ever truly cared for me, even though her way of showing that she cared was be hard on me so that I wouldn't become like my spoiled sisters. If it had not been for Celesi I would have physically hurt someone (namely my father) long ago.

She swept through the room like a large bird. Her green dress flew about her ankles as she kept herself busy while I watched in silence. As much as I hated my home and as much as I hated my family, I was still scared to leave. I looked forward to the journey because I had always loved to travel, but it was the destination and my life afterwards that left me longing to stay.

"Which dress do you think would look better?" Celesi asked, trying to hide her anger and sadness at my leaving. Sadness because I was the daughter she never had; anger because my father had denied her request to accompany me to my new home. "Blue? Or, perhaps, the pink?"

"The blue would look better. It would bring out my eyes," I replied, listlessly. My eyes filled with tears as the realization sunk in.

I was never coming back.

Celesi instantly moved to hug me. I shrunk back from her, my pride not allowing me to show any weakness. Even if it was just in front of my maid. Celesi's eyes looked hurt for a moment, but just as soon as I saw it, it flickered out of sight.

"You'd best get dressed for your journey. The coach will leave in an hour," Celesi said, turning away to walk back out into the hall.

"Goodbye, Celesi," I mumbled to her retreating back. "I'll miss you."

My maid paused for a moment, but didn't turn around. We both knew that if she did I would never be able to leave the room. Once Celesi was out of sight I made a quick swipe at me eyes to brush away any tears. I thought them shameful, even though many others would have done the same in my place. I wasn't sure why I couldn't even let my tears flow in the privacy of my own room with the only woman that had ever cared for me, but I thought it was my will to be strong; to be better than the rest.

Slowly, I began to change into the long dress that I had picked out, taking in the sight of my room and committing it to memory. I stood before the full-length mirror next to my bed and admired my appearance. The dress was long, but made of a thin material, called cordase, that was made by the elves to be cool and comfortable. It was a dress specifically tailored for my journey. Because there would not be many inns along the way, we wouldn't be stopping. The dress had been made so that the moment I stepped out of the carriage neither a wrinkle nor a crease would be seen. It was going to be the only dress I would wear for the entire journey.

After a long debate with myself, I pulled on the nicest par of riding boots that I owned. I was thankful that the dress went down past my ankles so I could hide the boots. My father wouldn't approve, but the slippers he would want me to wear were made ofsilk that probably would not survive after two days.

I sighed, sat down in front of my mirror, and rang for someone to come and arrange my hair. As my attendant pulled and tugged my hair into the latest fashion, I wondered what my fiancé would be like. Would he be kind? Cruel? Indifferent? It didn't matter to me what he was like because I had already refused to ever care for him. I could not love someone or even pretend to love someone I had never met. I only had to look at my own parents to see what a catastrophe had come from an arranged marriage. My mother had never been a strong woman, and so, she let herself be used by my father. The same went for my sisters. Only the second eldest, Myrian, actually had enough brain to stand up to anyone else. She threw tantrums when our father did not dote on her. However, even these tantrums were rare because she was truly our father's daughter in that she wanted everything he wanted; money and power.

After the attendant left, I searched through my closet for a handbag and began packing it with my favorite books. Once it was full, I took one last look at my room and stepped into the hall. Slowly, I made my way down to the lower level of the castle where my carriage awaited me.

My family was standing just inside the doorway to wish me off. It wasn't hard to figure out that they didn't want to be there. The only reason they were there was because standing next to them were two gentlemen sent from Jezed to escort me to my new home. The first man looked to be a diplomat with his fine clothing. His tunic buttoned at the wrists and made of fine, green silk. His pants were a pair of ornate breeches dyed the color of cream and the matching cream overcoat bore the Jezed royal crest of an eagle on a forest green background stitched into the side. The other man was probably the diplomat's guard. He wore light armor made of thick leather so that he could move easily in case of an emergancy. A sheathed sword was at his side and his gaze was attentive to every detail, including the boots that I was doing my best to hide under my skirts. I noticed a small upturn of his mouth as he tried to hide a smile.

"We all wish you a safe journey, daughter," my father said darkly, with a frown etched across his face. I nodded my head submissively knowing full well that he didn't care at all about my safety.

"Thank you, father. May you live long, and may our land flourish with the bountiful fruit of Hintos," I replied with the customary response and curtsey. My father nodded gravely and moved to give me a stiff hug as custom required of him. It was only for the benefit of the two men standing to my right. There had never been any love between us.

It was at that moment that I decided to finally embrace my future as the Queen of Jezed. My fiancé and I might never be able to love each other, but I sure as hell wasn't going to let him treat his children this way. While I couldn't change my own future, I would do my best to make sure the same thing didn't happen to my children. They would live a life that took advantage of their position. I would teach them to read with a passion, to write poetry, raise horses and live in the world around them.

A smile touched my face as more ideas began to whirl through my brain. As a queen I would not sit idly by and watch the world go by as my mother had. I would not let my husband use me as a pawn, and I would not become something to be stared at. A rage began to build in my heart as I turned my back on my country. A chill wind sprung up as my father embraced me and began to whip the branches in the trees. As my father stepped back the wind began to howl. I could almost relate to the outrage it was expressing because I, too, felt like throwing a tantrum.

When I looked back at my father my heart sank. The frown that had marred his features was now an evil grin. His ice blue eyes grew colder with some imaginary victory. The wind died just as suddenly as it had come up, and my father's grin grew even wider with the dying of the gust.

"I hope to see you again very soon," he said, so quietly that I was the only one who heard it.

Trying not to think about how this could affect me, I bowed my head and stepped over to the carriage without replying to him. The guard opened the door for me with a slight bowas I stepped in and sat down next to the window. My luggage had already been loaded onto the back. I hadn't been allowed to take very much to my new home because most of my clothes and belongings would not follow the customs of Jezed. The same held true for any servants I would have wanted to bring. I was to be totally immeresed into the Jezedian way of thinking leaving no ties to my former home. This had been a clause in my marriage contract that the King of Jezed had insisted upon.

It was hard to believe that two contries that were neighbors could have so little in common.

Jezed and Falton were countries placed next to each other on the map, but Jezed was far larger due to the country's conquests over 200 years ago. Since that time, peace had been established throughout the continent from arranged marriages and trade treaties. My own marriage was used as a means to bring my small country's grazing land under the protection of Jezed's armies. Politically, my marriage was ideal for both countries. Falton was home to the best horse-breeders and the fattest cattle. About a quarter of the land was used for farming purposes that produced the finest grain and fruit on the continent. Many other countries had non-aggression treaties with Falton so they could continue to feed their people. However, because Falton was so small, and a fairly peaceful country at that, its armies were small, untrained, and very weak. There was almost no structure to the military despite my father's efforts.

Jezed, while very powerful and wealthy, lacked agricultural products. They had been buying grain and meat from Falton in return for processed goods such as steel, cloth, glass, and parchment, and minerals such as gold, rubies, emeralds and silver. Over the years my father had steadily been increasing the price of our goods to try and build up our armies. Jezed had not been happy about the increase in costs and had proposed the idea of marriage to my father. My father was, of course, ecstatic while I was far less enthused.

He hoped to gain mor treaties from other countries once they saw Falton was allied with Jezed through marriage. More money would pour into the treasuries as other countries purchased more and more goods. My father would be both rich and protected. Everything he had ever wanted was right at the tip of his fingertips.

Yes, my marriage was perfectly matched...for him.

A sigh escaped me as the driver got the horses into motion. With blurred vision, I watched my home begin to disappear from view. Soon there would be nothing left to see. After a few mintues, the diplomat sitting across from me shifted into a more comfortable position and promptly fell asleep. After allowing myself one more sigh of self-pity, I followed the man's example and made myself comfortable.

Here I was. On my way to become a bride to a man I had never met.