An Adventure Outside of Meridell
A golden morning gave Cadria faint hope that summer was fast approaching. May had come and gone with some frivolity; the temperatures had warmed considerably but had remained altogether unimpressive. Spring was lovely – quite lovely – but Cadria simply adored summer. The potential for troublemaking increased tenfold in summer, she mused, and, perhaps more importantly, one could go adventuring without a jacket. Cadria winced as her mother’s voice wafted through her awakening haze – ‘Cadria! If you think you’re leaving this house without a warm coat, you have another thought coming, young lady!’ Cadria knew from a tepid mixture of eavesdropping and bribery that her mother – meaning the best, of course – was considering hiring an advisory companion to keep her daughter in check. The very memory caused Cadria to flounce back onto her silken sheets in something of a huff.
Eventually, having been brought a rather delectable cup of earl grey with lemon and honey, Cadria decided to prepare herself for the day ahead. She was meant to accompany her parents to Meridell, where they had been invited to yet another medieval faire in the castle courtyard. Cadria sighed as she examined her wardrobe. She had been to hundreds, thousands of medieval faires in Meridell. They were almost a constant feature of the city, and while they were not entirely without merit – Cadria always enjoyed showing off her talent with a bow, much to her parents dismay – they were simply boring to the high society troublemaker.
However, Cadria thought with a sly smile, what was just around the corner from Meridell? Ah, yes. A place she was strictly forbidden ever to explore. Darigan Citadel. Cadria grinned to herself. She had been forbidden to enter the old fortress, of course, but she could hardly be chastised for wanting to garner a fleeting glance at such a towering effigy of majesty and sin. A look couldn’t hurt, could it?
The next question, of course, was what to wear. The presence of her family – at least for a short while – meant Cadria’s usually flamboyant style would have to be altogether tempered for the event. Furthermore, she could not risk being recognised if she was to get close to the Citadel, and hence, something striking in simplicity would be the order of the day. She dressed herself in a demure black gown fastened at the waist with a black rose, and let her hair hang in loose raven waves around her face. She accessorised with a forest green fascinator, the netting perfectly concealing part of her rather well-known visage. She adorned her veiled eye with lacework, a slight flourish she could not resist. As she caught her reflection she gave a girlish giggle. She looked quite the lady… How terribly misleading!
She found her parents waiting in the lobby. ‘Why, Cadria, you’re almost on time!’ her mother exclaimed, with some delight. Cadria rolled her eyes. They departed – a large party, all in all, with many of the household staff joining them on their outing. And it truly was a lovely day for it, too. The sun was golden and warm, but not stifling, and the birds chirped merrily from tree to tree. It was the precipice of summer, plucked straight from a fairytale.
The faire was busy – they were always busy. The citizens of Meridell simply couldn’t get enough medieval revelry, Cadria thought to herself, somewhat sardonically. How this was not yet boring to the people of the city, she would never know. She felt overdressed, but enjoyably so. Heads turned as she passed, partly for her rather striking all-black ensemble, partly for the enormity of her party, their laughter, their obvious wealth, their slightly affected accents. Her mother seemed bashful, uncomfortable with the envy of others, but Cadria relished the attention. Let them stare, she thought. I will be alone before they realise I’ve gone.
It did not take long for an opportunity to present itself. Cadria stalled briefly as her family passed the archery stand, wanting to make conversation with the game master, whom she had developed something of a rapport with since outshooting him last year. It had been quite the spectacle. Cadria, just a whimsical, young Aisha, all dressed in flounce and florals (though her long dress disguised the presence of a pair of beaten, worn walking boots beneath) had quite surprised the faire-goers, shooting not one but three perfect bullseyes. The archery master was simply blown away – managing only two himself. Cadria had smirked – as if it were nothing – but secretly her heart had swelled with pride, for she had practiced long and hard for such an event, and was quite thrilled when she pulled it off.
When she turned to join the party once more, she realised her longing had cost her more time than she thought, for they were far ahead, engrossed in the crowds, almost indistinguishable. Her mother was deep in conversation with one of the local schoolmasters. Probably plotting new ways to make me miserable, Cadria mused, with a scowl. Now or never, Cadria thought, with a smirk. She hiked up her dress – revealing her worn brown boots, just like that fateful day at the archery stand a year ago – and began to run, gasping a little from the sheer thrill of freedom. She ran and ran, until eventually she slowed as she turned behind a hill and peered back towards the faire. There was no sign of a disturbance. She was safe.
She turned again and continued to walk, enjoying the sun and the scenery alike. It was not a long walk to the Citadel, but the ground was uphill and the footpath was broken and scattered. She would not be able to linger long, lest her family should start to worry. She remembered her mother’s plans to appoint her an advisor… She shuddered. As the path turned again, however, all thoughts of being babysat left Cadria’s mind. The Citadel loomed before her: stately, sinister and stoic in the gleaming sunlight. It was altogether beautiful, she thought, as she vowed to hold the memory dear forever. She wondered, briefly, whether she should not go closer, perhaps risk a toe or even a whole foot within the Darigan grounds. The thought sent shivers down Cadria’s spine – shivers simultaneously of apprehension and excitement. The thrill of it – the sheer, unadulterated thrill of danger, of risk, of fairytale beginnings… And, Cadria thought, it really always did end happily, with a story, a song or a tingling, singing memory she could return to when she lay, bored, alone and longing for adventure, in the shade of her bedroom or her mother’s scowl.
But time was ever ticking, and Cadria became quite aware, watching the stately castle glint eerily in the springtime sun, that her parents would be becoming quite frantic. She positively groaned at the prospect of returning to the faire when she could be here, frolicking in the shadow of positive danger! As she turned away to return to the faire she threw the castle one last fleeting glance, and thought – one day I shall return, free to explore your halls as I like.
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