A Prince. A girl. A magical form of True Love. And enemies who would love to exploit it to take over the Kingdom.
The (Un-edited) First Chapter
The doors to the castle opened in front of me and despite my better judgement, I walked through them, into the darkness. Come find me, before it’s too late, a voice in my head said. Ask for Sam. He’ll help you.
I sat up in bed with a start, my whole body shaking. It was the third time I’d had the dream, and each time it upset me more, thought it wasn’t a particularly upsetting dream. I recognized the castle – it was Estermead’s castle, more spectacular than my own country’s, and every time I’d seen it, it was well lit up. The main doors didn’t open into darkness, like they did in the dream.
Maybe I’ll just do it, I thought to myself. If I went to the castle and asked for Sam, and they shooed me away, maybe the dreams would stop. I knew Mother was planning on touring the castle grounds later, so we could just meet there. Getting out of bed with a groan – it was cold – I went into the bathroom of my hotel room and picked up my phone. I’m going to the castle early, I texted Mom. Let me know when you and Dad get there and I’ll find you.
She texted back an okay and I quickly got ready, doing everything I could to not wake up my little sisters. Amelia and Evalina were sound asleep now, but if I woke them up, they’d be trying to come with me, and I didn’t want them with me. Not while I was trying to figure out these dreams. I grabbed my bag, slipped my phone in, and headed out the door, making sure my room key was in my bag too. I stopped by the breakfast room for a muffin, wrapping it in several napkins and adding it to my bag, which was getting quite heavy. I wasn’t hungry now, but I would be later.
As I stepped outside, a cold wind whipped right through the layers I was wearing. I shivered and tried not to think of Havala, which was probably warm and sunny at the moment. “Only my mother would take a vacation to a colder country ‘for a vacation’, aka educational trip.” I mumbled under my breath as I waited for the bus at the stop right outside the hotel.
I was hopping up and down to stay warm when the bus finally arrived. A sign inside the door listed the bus stops – I was only two stops away from the castle. Getting there was easy enough, and I stepped out of the bus eager to get this over with, and eager to get out of the bitter wind. A headache was beginning to brew behind my eyes, and the sooner I could go back to the hotel and get some hot tea, the faster it would go away.
A guard looked at me with a frown, but waved me on. As I walked through the gates, a sign in front of me clearly stated that it was visiting hours, but no one was around. I was the only person standing in the magnificent courtyard. I was surrounded by gardens, surprisingly green for the cold climate. I’d visited once before, but the courtyard and gardens had been full, and I hadn’t been able to appreciate the beauty I was standing in. I could this time.
I turned to step into one of the gardens, and my headache immediately grew worse. Squinting against the sudden pain in my head, I sat down on a bench, covering my eyes with my hands. Pain took over my world for a few short seconds before abruptly subsiding. When I stood up and took another step towards the garden, it came back, worse than before. I almost blacked out, grabbing on to the bench for support.
They have magic in Estermead, I realized when my head cleared enough for me to think properly.
“Okay, no gardens,” I muttered. “I guess I’m going in the castle.”
As I made my way through the bushes and trees that filled the courtyard, I saw bits and pieces of the castle, but nothing could prepare you for its full glory when you passed the last stand of trees. Rising several stories into the bright blue sky, the sparkling exterior was the most shiny thing I’d ever seen. And coming from Havala, where we made our living exporting gold and jewels from the mines to the other four kingdoms, that was saying something.
The castle doors opened in front of me, on their own, which is really creepy. I stepped through and found myself in a receiving hall, with a man standing behind a tall table. “May I help you?” he asked, his voice sounding like it was a recording.
“I need to speak to Sam,” I said, hoping that would be enough. That was all the dream had told me to do.
“Most certainly,” the man said, “please wait a moment.”
He gestured to the seats along the wall and when I sat down, I could see the cord running from the back of his head to the plug on the wall. So his voice was prerecorded.
“Sam will be out in a moment, miss,” the robot said.
“Thank you.” Most robots had a person behind them somewhere, controlling them – I might as well make a good first impression.
Several moments later, a door behind the robot opened, and a young man stepped out. He looked like he was around my age, maybe older – 20 or 21, probably. The uniform he was wearing did nothing to help me figure out what his station was, but the name-tag that said Sam definitely helped.
I stood as Sam said, “Hi there, I’m Sam.”
“I’m Gabriela, but you can call me Gabi,” I said, shaking his hand.
“I was told you needed to see me?” He asked, and I nodded.
“Actually, yes. I don’t know… well, I don’t know if you can help me or not. For the past few weeks, I’ve had the same dream over and over again. I’m standing in front of this castle, and it’s completely dark, and when I step inside, a voice tells me to find you, that he’s running out of time, and you can help me.”
Sam’s eyes grew wide. “Did he say what his name was?”
“No, only to find you.”
He scratched his head. looking down at his feet. “Well, I suppose… no, that won’t work… um.. have you felt or heard anything else?”
“I think I was being pulled towards the castle by magic today,” I said, not sure if that would help or not.
Apparently it did, because his eyes lit up and he grinned. “What did it feel like?”
“Like a lot of pain if I went anywhere but the castle.”
He shrugged. “I’ve never experienced the Bond myself, but who knows, maybe that’s how it works. Can’t hurt to try, right? Can you come with me?”
I gestured for him to lead the way, picking my bag up off the chair next to me. I wondered if it would be rude to eat as I walked through the castle – my stomach had started grumbling at me, reminding me of the muffin I’d brought with me. As he led me through the palace I tried to keep track of where we were going, but soon I was thoroughly lost.
“Okay, is the pain in your head telling you anything?” he asked finally, stopping in a room where four halls intersected. “This would be as good a place as any to start.”
I started walking towards the hallway to my left, but the pain grew as I did so. I changed directions, going to the hall across from where I’d started, and the pain lessened, but was still there. When I walked to the hall to the right of where Sam and I had come in, the pain disappeared entirely. “I think this is the one,” I said, pointing down the empty hallway. “Where does this go?”
“I was wondering if it would take you that way,” he said, bouncing on his toes. “That leads to the Royal Family’s wing.”
“Who am I looking for?” I asked, staring at him expectantly. “Why can’t you find him yourself?”
“You’re looking for Prince Henry, and he’s been gone for three years.”