How’s that for Alliteration?

Morganne stared out of the window. The blackness of the night was partially illuminated by the frost creeping across the thin pane of glass. Only on these bitter winter nights could Morganne see out onto the grounds of the castle. The sky was clouded and there was no sign of stars. The faint crackling of the fire inside was drowned out by the howling of the wind, and she saw branches of trees dancing and stretching out their frozen arms to her. A chill ran through her that could not be warmed by any fire or happy thought. She sat as still as a stone statue, poised and tense, watching the outside world turn in turmoil as she was helpless to do anything but stare. She was filled with dread.

How long would the precious land she was born in remain unstained by enemy blood? Not very much longer if Gelan continued trade with Tartris, the barbarian country filled with drunken, murderous braggarts that pillaged towns in their own land, raped their women and threw their children out onto the streets to either beg and starve or sell themselves for barely enough money to buy food. The only reason Gelan continued trade with this foul country was to establish a supply of drugs and black market products with both countries’ most influential leaders of that time.

Grief gripped Morganne’s heart as she realized once again that her beloved country had fallen into ruin. Gelan was poverty-stricken and although they appeared to have only allies, Morganne knew it was only a matter of time before another supposed ally would turn their back.

She arose from her position by the window and slowly walked across the room. The echoes of her footsteps against the wood resounded in her ears, clouding her mind. She stopped in front of her mirror and turned. The glass, once crystal and precise, was now cracked and smudged from years of use. She had been given this mirror when she was just a little girl, a year before her father died. She remembered herself as just a child, slumping to the floor and leaning helplessly against the mirror as tears would course down her cheeks, remembering her father’s last sentiment. He had promised she would grow up to be a beautiful woman, strong and intelligent and wise. As soon as her father died, Morganne ceased feeling any of these things. Now that she was a grown woman, she had risen above daily grief for her father, but she couldn’t stop the stubborn thought at the back of her mind that he had been wrong. As she looked into the mirror she did not see a leader, she did not see the daughter of a king. She saw a lost girl, pale and ugly, who constantly feared the fall of her world and only existed to ensure that whatever minimal control she possessed was put to use for the good of Gelan, just as her father would have wanted.

Morganne let out a shaky breath and moved closer to the fire. For a moment she stood motionless, staring into the burning embers, as if trying to make sense of the flames. She waited for the warmth to come, but it did not spread below the surface of her skin, and her core remained frozen. It had been so long since she had felt this strong sense of despair, and she prayed fervently that she would not have to feel it much longer.

When her father, King Arminas was on the throne, Gelan was a beautiful country. Morganne remembered many childhood days spent in the countryside, horseback riding with her father and his men, bathing in cool rivers and eating picnic lunches in the forest. She remembered how the new spring grass smelled, how warm the sun felt on her back and bare legs. In her mind’s eye, she pictured her father’s smile, safe and assuring, silently promising her that this magic world would never fade, that she could remain a child forever. But when her father became ill, much of the kingdom changed. Morganne knew she could not hold her father to a promise that was never spoken, but on several occasions she almost allowed herself to feel that he had held a veil over her eyes, and that the kingdom had not changed, but simply that her eyes had been opened. She just wished that they could have been opened slowly by her father, over time, instead of by harsh words from everyone in the kingdom she had considered a friend. No one had patience with a grieving ten year old when there were political matters at hand, when there were treaties to be established and alliances to be kept in tact.

A new form of government was established in the kingdom, and Gelan was henceforth ruled not by a single leader, but by a parliament of the finest political leaders of the time. It was not long before the Parliament voted that Morganne should no longer live as her father’s daughter, for safety reasons. She was forbidden to travel beyond the East Tower until she turned eighteen years of age, at which time it was said she could think for herself and make unbiased judgments. By this time, Morganne had sunk into a depression so deep she hardly cared whether she lived or died, much less where she could or could not go.

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