The normally so lively city was quiet and peaceful, resting under the white moon, preparing for another busy day. It's white stone reflected the moon light and almost shone by itself, the palace towered above the highest roof, impressive and breathtaking even at night, looked out over the city.
The silence was broken by the clopping of hooves and creaks of wood as a covered carriage hasted through the empty streets towards the city gates. Inside, a palace maid sat hushing a young girl to stop crying. “Mommy,” the child sniffled. “Shush milady. You can’t see your mother now." The old nanny rocked the child in her arms. "Careful prince!”
Rey left the opening at his nanny's warning and went back to his sister and nanny and sat down. “Where are we going Nana?” “To the elves my prince. You’ll be safe there,” The woman said and stroke the girl’s hair from her face, she had been taking care of the royal children since the prince was only a year old. And still the striking similarity between the two astonished her, the princess was five years younger but the siblings could almost be taken for twins.
“What about mother and father?” Rey asked a serious look in his grey eyes. “They have to take care of the kingdom my prince. You and milady will soon be called back to the palace.” A loud explosion disturbed the night, shaking the ground, frightening the horses and interrupted the prince in his question.
A soldier with a commoner cape hiding his armour opened the blanket to the carriage giving view of the palace. “Miss, the castle!” To add effect to his words red flames tainted the white palace walls, the silky black sky lightening up from the flames.
Rey’s eyes widened. “MOTHER! FATHER!” His scream startled his sister. The nanny grabbed a hold of Rey and pulled him to her chest, the princess was to young to fathom the danger but felt the others worry and started crying.
“Miss,” the same soldier said as the carriage quickly gained speed, bumping over the uneven cobble. “Zhu Hiens’ men are after us.” The blanket blew to the side by the wind and showed the palace gates open wide. The wizards’ henchmen rode like black shadows through the city after them.
The great white wall protecting the capital rose in front of them almost luminescent in the moon light, the big gates appeared like a black hole in the dull silver stone. The old woman felt a small amount of hope, if they just could reach outside the city they would have a greater chance at escaping.
But the sound of their pursuers got louder by the second.
Up ahead the gates were already being opened, the guards there had seen the palace lightening up in flames and seen the royal carriage come. The nanny took a breath in relief as they left the city behind, now she could see the forest Xylia like a black shadow in the horizon, the home of the elves where the prince and princess would be safe.
Then suddenly a soldier let out a short, cut off gasp followed by a thud; their pursuers had closed in. Another guard screamed out orders and the sound of bows being stringed and swords being drawn filled the cool night.
Rey sat close to his nanny and sister but didn’t utter a word, determined to act like a man. His sister whimpered quietly calmed by Nanas’ soothing lullaby. The young prince could the soft melody by heart since the time he was little. But this night the calming tune didn’t work its magic, Reys’ heart shrunk at the thought of his parents’ back in their home and their own fate in this carriage.
The battle cries died down a little as the horses dragged the carriage further away from the battle, maybe, just maybe would they make it to the forest.
Then the carriage stopped with a jerk, the horses whinnied and reared at the sudden stop. The woman looked outside right in time to see a soldier fall, a knife in his chest. Quickly she grabbed the prince hand and jumped down from the carriage hoping the dark would cloak them from the hunters view.
“Here, hold your sister,” she whispered and handed Rey the small girl. With an effort she grabbed a fallen soldiers sword and cut of the reins separating the carriage from the horses. “My prince,” The woman lifted the prince up on the horses’ back and then heaved herself up behind him. Grabbing the mane, her arms around the boy she urged the gelding forward.
But before they could get far the woman cried out in pain her body jerked forward and she tumbled down from the horse, unintentionally dragging the children with her, an arrow protruding from her shoulder. The horse, scared by the noise and smell of blood stroke back its ears and reared away from the people in front of him, then galloping away from the sounds back to the stables.
A large soldier roughly grabbed the prince, throwing him over his shoulder ignoring Reys’ kicks and screams, but in his hurry and the darkness of night he missed the princess the nanny hid with her own body.
With determination the woman dragged herself up ignoring the pain and lifted the girl limping away from the men towards the other horse closer to the carriage. She knew that in this pain she wouldn’t be able to sit up on a horse without help. Safely at the horse she used the carriage as a help getting on the last horse.
Cradling the young princess in her arms she drove the horse into a swift gallop praying she wouldn’t get hit by another arrow. Behind her she heard screams and arrows being released. She had been seen. She urged the horse to go faster, curling herself together to make her hard to hit.
But above all other sounds she could hear Rey scream in protest of his abduction.
The horse had slowed to a tired gait, moving as it pleased as the woman just managed to hold herself and the princess on the geldings back. They had reached quite a bit into Xylia but still couldn’t see any sign of life. The old nanny hoped to reach the elves soon or else she feared the little girl to be alone.
“Nana, are you feeling well?” The princess asked trying to hide a sniffle, her nanny had behaved so strangely since those men took her brother away. “I’m fine Milady, just tired.” The princess had calmed down after the attack but still continually asked the old woman about her health, feeling that something was wrong.
The woman worried about the horse too he was tired, his head hanging low, sweat making his fur darker. They all needed water and rest and they desperately needed to find the elves. The elven queen also needed to hear what had happened to the royal family.
Just then the horse shied gently as several tall shades stepped out before them, a few carrying lanterns. “We didn’t expect you to come this way,” One said and pulled back the hooded cloak. His face was young and elegant with cascades of golden hair falling down his back, a quite elegant and slender physique but with a deep voice.
“I beg your forgiveness Milord, there have been complications.” The woman said, her voice dry, her voice full off pain. “The palace is overtaken by Zhu Hien, the royal family I do not now about but I fear the worst. We thought we had more time, but his attack came swifter than we ever could believe. We were attacked on our way here and the prince was taken, only the princess and I managed to escape.” Now when they had reached safety her will power alone wasn’t enough to keep her wounded body up and she fell of the horse.
“Nana!” The lead elf quickly bowed by the woman’s side. “She has only fainted princess,” He said to the girl. To his men he spoke in elfish to not let the girl hear. “She will not survive for long without help, maybe not at all. Eryn, take her on the horse and ride to Tancilia ahead of us, we will catch up.”
The blonde stepped over to the horse and bowed to the princess, “May I carry you princess, so that we can get your nanny to our healer quickly?” The girl nodded shyly letting the elf lift her of the horse. The red headed Eryn gently lifted up the woman on the horse and easily sat up behind her. The tired horse fell into a trot after a few encouraging words in elfish and quickly disappeared into the forest.
The rest of the elves also headed back to their capital, the leader walking ahead with the girl in his arms. “Where is Nana going?” “Eryn is taking her to the healers in our city,” He answered. The elves walked quickly but still spoke quietly in their own language behind their leader unhindered by the speed.
It took half an hour to reach the elven city Tancilia on foot, the girl continuously asked the leader everything about everything she saw in between her yawns, yet she was too scared to fall asleep. And he patently answered all her questions. “We are getting near princess,” the elf said and motioned forward to a pair of weeping willows. “Those mark the edge of Tancilias’ border.”
The willows were so old that the branches reached the ground, creating an enclosed space underneath. Walking beneath them was like being inside a house. In awe the princess stared at the trees, they were as thick as the marble pillars in her home.
“Now princess, we are in our capital.” The girl stared but couldn’t see anything but oddly shaped trees. “But there are no houses here, where do you live?” The elf chuckled and shifted his grip on the girl and pointed with his now free hand. “It lays right in front of us princess you just have to see it.” Not until they got closer did the girl see the city.
It was in the trees.
The whole city rested in the thickest trees, bridges connecting trees with other trees and elegant stairs led to the ground. It was hard to spot because the trees still lived and grew around the houses, hiding them from view.
“We have killed none of the trees to build our cities, we have merely built them around the stern.” The young princess was speechless for awhile, trying to see the whole city at once. “You know princess it is rumoured that the ryuukai’s also built their cities in the tree tops but that they can speak with nature.”
“Speak with nature? Really?!” Her grey eyes widened in question. “Yes, which is why it is said that they are able to make the trees grow as they want, even to the degree that it is possible to live inside one.” “I want to see it.” The princess said excitedly and smiled. “I am afraid that will be highly unlikely princess. Although we do have a peace treaty with the ryuukai’s we haven’t met with one of them for a hundred years. But look, we have reached the queens’ tree.”
The elf stopped in front of a very old and very high grown oak, high above lights streamed out from the bark itself it seemed. But as he carried the princess up the stairs swindling up around the tree she saw it was just very similar to the bark.
They reached the door way and entered, inside a tall young woman caught the small princess eye. Elegant and slender with a flow of golden hair down to her knees, her sea coloured eyes had a gentle look but under that a sharp intelligence and a strong will could be seen.
“Welcome little princess, I have anxiously awaited your safe arrival.” Her voce was soft and gentle but full of confidence. “You must be tired, get some sleep so will we discuss what have taken place this unfortunate night tomorrow. Raven.” The queen directed the last part to the elf. “Of course. Come princess, I will take you to your room.”
The girl was almost asleep when they arrived at the tree that had been reserved for the human guests. “Wake up princess we are already at your tree.” The princess blinked tiredly and stared at the room, her eyes started filling with fresh tears. “I don’t want to sleep alone,” she sniffed. “I miss Nana and Rey.”
“There, there princess it is all right.” Raven soothed, stroking her hair. “I will stay with you till you fall a sleep,” He said and pulled back the covers and put her down on the soft bed. She started dozing off quickly as Raven put the covers over her, just as sleep overcame her she shyly grabbed the elf’s hand, hers so tiny it vanished in Ravens.