Thanks for the reviews!

I'm sorry if the Prologue was confusing, I was afraid that would happen.

Just wanted you guys to know that this is only a first draft. After I have the whole thing posted I'll start editing. I'm already pretty far in the story, so don't worry about this not getting updated regularly. I'm working on Chapter 22 at the moment.

So, please continue reviewing and pointing out any errors you may see. I'd love to see what you guys think!

Chapter 1

"Ardis! Would you stop dilly-dallying and sweep this floor?" A woman holding a bowl filled to the top with white eggs sidestepped the girl who was staring out the doorway and into the castle's courtyard. Outside, several men on horseback rode next to women in beautiful jeweled dresses. She could hear their tinkling laughter as they traded jokes and insults.

A breeze blew through into the kitchen. Ardis's thick golden hair caught the sunlight as she quickly turned away and began sweeping the flour and leaf strewn floor, shaking her head for her misplaced thoughts. The thoughts belonged at the task at hand, not on the lords and ladies outside.

"Close the door too, while you're at it, won't you?" She continued, placing the eggs on the wooden table. She retrieved more supplies, pushing Ardis to the side when she strayed too close to her.

"Sorry, miss." She mumbled under her breath.

Two other women bustled in the kitchen with them. They continuously shoved Ardis from side to side as they hurried about their various tasks.

"There's not nearly enough time!"

"How does the King expect us to have a feast prepared for this evening? We have only heard of it today. There are cows to milk, the throne room to prepareā€¦"

"What are we to do?"

They continued on, talking amongst themselves. Ardis dared not ask what was going on, for there was always something go on in Sharpspeak Castle. It was not her right to know. It was none of her business, of course. She was simply a scullery maid, fit for nothing more than serving the servants. Had her parents never lost their farm years ago, she would not have even lived in the castle. She would have been one of the peasants, outside on such a warm day, working and making her life her own. Instead, because of the kindness of the King and Queen, she was forced to work for them to pay off the debt of her parents. It was the payment for their kindness. Instead of jailing her parents permanently for not paying taxes, they chose instead to allow them the opportunity of lifetime service to the castle. It was not truly an option really. It had been the time of the Famine, after all. It was the best her mother, pregnant with her at the time, and her father, could possibly have done. She, Ardis, their daughter, just had to do the same. It was her duty. It was her future. It was her destiny.

"Ardis, go fetch us some wood. We need to start the stew."

As asked, Ardis set down the broom back in the closet and walked outside in search of the wood pile that sat against the back of the castle.

She was about to take a few large pieces when a light voice called for her.

"Ardis! There you are!"

She let out a low curse under her breath. She suddenly wished that she could jump behind the pile of wood and simply disappear.

But, the princess was persistent. "Wait a moment, Ardis. You can stop just for a moment. Why don't you come over here and help me with this? Come now."

She turned around and folded her hands neatly in front of her, making sure that she did not make eye contact with the auburn haired princess.

"What is it, Your Highness?" Ardis asked calmly.

She smiled, eyes sparkling. "Well, I need you to help me with some target practice. The Lords and Ladies from Halburn will be arriving this evening and we will be having an archery competition."

"What do you want me to do?" Ardis asked, trying to catch up with the princess's much longer strides.

They walked away from the castle and up a path to the forest. On the edge, with their backs to the castle's enormous white walls and the faces to both the sun and the line of trees was the training area. It was where the knights of Sharpspeak and the King trained new soldiers and practiced sword fighting, among other techniques. She knew it because her father was a Knight. He often stayed late with his friends practicing with swords until the sun came up the next day. He had to. The king had granted him the position because he was strong and quick. His life as a farmer had prepared him for the rigors of training. He had to work more for his position, however, as it was mostly nobility who went on to become knights.

"You will hold the target." She stated, pointing to the disc that was propped up against the old oak. She picked up a longbow from the rack and lifted the sack of arrows across her back. "Run crosswise along this field. I will try to hit the target."

Ardis swallowed a lump in her throat. Was the Princess being serious? "Your Highness, why don't you have one of the servant boys do this? I'm not much of a runner, after all."

"Nonsense. Girls are much quicker. Added to that, men complain too much." She said. "Now, go fetch the target."

Against her better judgment Ardis picked up the heavy wooden disk and fit her arm through the loop on the back. It managed to cover only servant girl's mid torso, from the tops of her knees to about her neck. If the Princess had even the slightest mistake in aim, Ardis would most likely end up with an arrow in the head or the leg. She decided that the head was a much easier bet.

"Are you afraid, Ardis? There is no reason to be. I'm quite a shot, or so I am told." The Princess grinned and notched the first arrow.

"Will this take long? I was to fetch wood for the kitchen fire for tonight." Ardis questioned the Princess.

The Princess seemed to be more concentrated on the arrow. Her wrist was now pressed firmly against her cheek. "No more than five minutes."

With that, she let loose the first arrow. It struck the target firmly, causing Ardis to jump slightly. The two girls examined the arrow.

"Perfect." The arrow had stuck right to the center of the disk. "Now, this time, run. Fast."

Ardis turned and began running, all the while attempting to use the target as a shield for her face.

"Foolish girl! How do you expect to see where you are going like that? Keep your head up!" The Princess yelled as each arrow struck the target.

As commanded, Ardis lifted her head. An arrow whizzed by her cheek, lifting a stray hair that had fallen out of its loose braid. She watched, stomach churning, as each arrow seemed to veer closer and closer to her face. A few hit the target and flew off. Very many stayed in their place.

Her speed had long since increased and the Princess's with it. Ardis was now panting. Sweat began to form behind her shoulder blades. She was not at all weak, for years of work and service had long since hardened her up, but running with such a thick piece of wood while worrying about her own safety was much too much to do. She wished to ask the Princess to pause, if only for a moment. She could not, of course, for she was the Princess and she had to do what was ordered of her. Ardis's hands began to get sweaty, and her grip was faltering on the target.

The Princess seemed to recognize the weakness of the servant for she then spoke up, arrow ready to shoot. "Keep the target steady!"

Ardis did her best to put away her fear and concentrate on keeping the disk parallel to the Princess. It was that moment of adjusting the strap on the target that the flash of an arrow caught her eye. She could tell the angle was all wrong, though. She did not have the time to sidestep out of the path of the arrow. Instead, she focus her energy on deflecting the point away from her face. Quite successfully and without the notice of the Princess, her magic turned the arrow so it missed her face. She let out a small yelp, however, when pain blossomed from her shoulder. She looked down and saw blood spreading through her baggy peasant's clothes. The arrow stayed where it hit, stuck about a thumb length's in past her skin. Ardis dropped the target on the grass and, without further thought, ripped the metal tipped arrow out. She breath came out quick.

The Princess showed no sign of concern at what happened to the servant. She put her bow back on the rack. "Go to the Physician and have that looked at. I expect you to come back out here at a later time and clean up these arrows. I want everything perfect for tonight."

Breathless and in fear of fainting, Ardis nodded and walked back to the castle. Her hand gripped the wound tightly, trying to stop any extra blood from leaving her body.

"Ardis! Where is the wood?" The woman yelled, a scowl on her flour covered face. She stood in the kitchen with the rest of the women, apparently making bread. They chatted with each other, not stopping or caring enough to look up when Ardis responded.

"I was helping the Princess practice for her competition tonight." Ardis stated coolly.

The woman shook her head. "Ridiculous. Insolent. That is a job for a boy, not a scullion. Go now, before I give you a flogging."

Ardis bent her head slightly, hand still on her wound. She left the kitchen feeling slightly woozy. She was not at all irritated by their behavior. It was completely natural. She had experienced the troubles of carrying out other's demands for her entire life. She was more than used to it.

The pain was nearly unbearable by the time she had reached the court physician's chambers. It was her mother she found in the chambers once she had closed the door behind her. Her mother, the court physician. It was the most important duty other in the entire kingdom. She cared for the royal family and the lords and ladies of Halburn. All came to her in search of remedy, cure, and advice.

"Dear, what has happened?" Her mother's face wrinkled in concern, warm brown eyes searching her own, then flitting to her hand which covered the wound.

"An arrow, mother." Ardis sat down on the empty white sheeted bed in the corner of the room.

Sunlight streamed through the open window, lighting up the masses of tonics, wrappings, and herbs left scattered upon the wooden table and tucked within half opened cabinets. Books lay on a few chairs. Some were open next to the roaring fire. A cauldron bubbled from over it. It was most likely for her mother's well known rose tea, known to cure every fever.

"I was just about to make some tea. You must have some after I clean that up." She began rummaging through her bottles of remedies.

"I used magic, mother." Ardis said softly.

Her mother stopped moving the herbs and pushed the cabinet door closed. She turned back and took a seat on the bed next to Ardis. Her face was pale, as she took Ardis's hand. "Tell me no one noticed, Dear."

"No one, thankfully. But it didn't help much, as you can see." Ardis gave a small smile which her mother did not return.

"You must not use magic here. Even the slightest evidence will bring the King against you. He will not be as kind with you as he was with us those years ago." She got back up and brought over a bowl of water and a ratty cloth. "This is magic, we speak of. People do not hate it, they fear it. Fear causes people to do stupid things."

"I know." Ardis responded, wincing as her mother took the wet rag and began dabbing away the blood.

Her mother finally finished cleaning the wound, and proceeded to begin wrapping her shoulder in a large bandage. "One day, Ardis, you will leave here and live where magic is accepted, where you are accepted. You should not have to live in fear of what you are for that is no way to live."

"Where will I go? I don't know of anywhere where magic is allowed!" Her voice rose slightly. "My only choice is to stay in this castle and live the rest of my days as a scullion. There is no other place for me to go. There is no other way for me."

"Someday, my dear. I have told you before." Her mother repeated, not quite meeting her eyes.

There was silence for a long while. Ardis thought about how the day had began. She rose before the sun had the chance to rise with her. Her breakfast had been the scraps of the servant's dinner the night before, bread and salted meat. After that she had arranged everything in the kitchen that the servants the previous day had decided to leave completely out of order. She had nearly been run over by a horse when she walked out of the castle to the stables to help muck out the stalls.

Thus was her life every day, with small but sure changes every once in a while. She lived for others, never paying much attention to her own needs and wants. True, such was the way of her life, but she knew that there had to be something more than the life inside the castle. She saw rare glimpses of the large King laughing with his brothers and friends. The Queen and her maids often sat out in the gardens. Even the servants could leave the confines of the castle and venture to the markets to buy food for themselves and their families.

She however, was stuck living for others. Not in all of her life had she made it outside the castle walls. Once in a while she would sit up in the high, empty towers and look out at the kingdom around her. She would look to the mountains at her back and the rivers, fields, and houses to her front. There it was, spread like a tapestry in front of her. A tapestry she would never be woven in to.

She took a breath, breaking the silence as her mother finished wrapping her shoulder and stood. " I do not blame you and father, but I would, truly, have rather not been born than live like this the rest of my life."

Her mother took it in stride, putting her supplies away and tending to the boiling water in the cauldron. "Do not say that, Ardis. You're life will not always be like this." She took out a ladle and poured some of the water into the cup, adding the rose petals and other mysterious ingredients to the mix. "Just as I was once I farmers wife and turned so quickly into where I am as we speak. Your father too. We were both peasants out there, you see. We were just like them. But in the oddest of places we were giving a blessing. Out of our hunger and poverty we were given a new life. We were shown a new world." She took a small sip of the liquid and smiled.

Ardis took the cup from her mother's outstretched hand. It warmed her chilly fingertips. "It was different for you."

Her mother shook her head. "Not in the slightest. All you need to do is wait. The right moment will be here one day. You must always be ready."

Ardis sighed in resignation. There was no arguing with her mother. When she had her mind set, there was no changing it. She was stubborn, a trait Ardis had luckily not inherited. It irritated her father to no end most time. Instead, Ardis seemed to inherit her father's easygoing and accepting demeanor. It was the best of luck. Had she been stubborn, Ardis never would have lasted long as a servant.