The longest moment of my life was when I said goodbye. The moment was too short still. I hardly got to say goodbye. He was the crown prince and I would be his queen. One foggy afternoon we were together in the castle. He was about to embrace me, when the Dark Ones attacked the castle. I see now that we should have been more prepared for it. We should have thought it would happen, but we did not. His father, King Sebastian, was ill, and with the kingdom preoccupied with the matter, it was the opportune time to invade. They slashed King Sebastian where he lay in his sick bed, kidnapped Francis, and became our ruthless leaders. They sold me, along with Sophie, a castle maid who was present, into indentured servitude. At the Inn where we were to serve, we were literally bound. The Dark Ones possess a sort of magic that whatever they say is made permanent. When they sold us, we acquired chains around our ankles. They were light chains – a chain that would retract and extend according to where I walked in the inn. It was light enough that for a moment I could forget about it. But then, if I tried to go out the door of the inn, the chain would drag me back. I never stopped trying to escape, and it never let me fully forget that I was a slave.
It’d been three long years since we arrived as the house maids of Buckshire Inn. Every day Sophie and I scrubbed and washed cleaned. Every day Sophie saw into my downcast soul and put her hand on my shoulder. “Your prince will come.” Everyday she tried to instill a hope in me.
Every day I answered, “That he will.”
This morning wasn’t any different in that respect. She repeated her worn out expression.
“That he will,” I responded. I looked up from the floor I was scrubbing and saw her face was aglow. “What is it?”
“Oh, you haven’t heard?” She squealed softly. “They say he’s out.”
I only frowned.
“He’s escaped from the Dark One’s camp. Gone.” She searched my face.
I swallowed and tried to put all the pictures of Francis out of my mind. “Are you sure?”
“The talk is all over the kingdom. The Dark Ones are terrorizing villages, looking for him.”
I sat down on the sudsy floor, trying to take this in.
“That’s it then,” she continued. “He’s going to rise up against them. The Dark Ones.”
“And if we could defeat them, don’t you think someone would have done it already?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Little is known about the Darkness. Surely they have their weaknesses, too.”
I was a bit skeptical, but I knew she was right. I fingered the bright chain on my ankle. If the Dark Ones were no more, their power would be gone. I would be free.
“And once he defeats them, he will come for you.” I looked up at her and she looked at me sternly. “He will, Alisha.”
That was all I could say, for it was the refrain of my heart. I’d stopped wishing for merely Francis long ago. What we had together wasn’t even particularly wonderful. When The Dark Ones took away what was mine, it was not my prince that I meant. It was my freedom. I would never stop waiting for it to come back to me.