The day was clear: no appointments, no letters to sign and seal, no galas or lunches or dinners; not even a scheduled appearance in court. Kirya Tellador was free to do what she wanted, for one day only.
She intended to put it to good use. Much to the consternation of her family, Fenris and everybody else in the court, she'd developed a habit as a young child of playing extended games of hide-and-seek in the grounds. What had begun safely on the walled rooftops of the palace or in the enclosed gardens had soon spread to beyond the gates, as a seven year old Kirya snuck past the guards and disappeared between the moorings of the airships, ducking beneath rigging and gangways and around offloaded cargo. Her father had ordered a stop to such careless frivolity, fearing that a visiting northerner would seize upon the opportunity to whisk her away, but she'd instead taken it upon herself to push those boundaries yet further. The childhood game evolved into overt rebellion, as a fourteen year old Kirya disguised herself as a maid and shuffled innocently past oblivious guards.
Thus far, seven years later, she still hadn't been discovered. It was her little secret, kept for years while her keepers thought of her dutifully studying in the library. Not that they were especially frequent escapades, given that most of her time was spent traipsing from one official gathering to another, never far from bodyguards and courtiers, but on those few moments where she'd been gifted her own time she had used it to venture away from her blanketed, provided-for, privileged existence. Donning plain clothes she would exit the palace via the main doors, a shawl and colourless dress all that was required for her to blend into the background like any common girl. She liked that it reminded her of the fragility of power and circumstance; that her life was permitted only through the delicate interplay of forces beyond her control, set in motion long before her birth. One insurrection was all that stood between the palace and the streets; a long drought or famine would easily push the valley to the tipping point. In Lagonia's early years there had been attempts to shore up the monarchy with the legitimacy of religious sanction, but that had fallen away with the diminishing of faith to be replaced by a practical, nationalistic rationalism. Stability over strength, her father had said to her quietly, on more than one occasion.
Suitably attired, she turned one way then the other, observing her reflection in her bedroom's tall mirror. She was looking older, she thought - or perhaps that was the servant's frock serving its purpose. And so, twenty-one year old Kirya swung open the window to the trellised balcony beyond, extending out from the palace and over the cliff edge of the mesa, and hopped to the adjacent room's, thinking little of the dizzying drop to the city below. She had never been one to be nervous about heights.
In the next room she picked up a platter of half-eaten food and empty glasses then opened the doors and stepped into the corridor. The palace guards observed her but did not react. Kirya walked swiftly but calmly beneath ornate ceilings illustrated from end to end with elaborate murals and past walls hung with tapestries and family portraits.
Today she would visit the city, perhaps exploring some of the textile markets. Across the gardens she would go, out past the airship docking stations, over the bridge to the larger mesa, then down the steep, winding roads to the city below. She felt the need to be surrounded by real people. It would be a day of adventure, full of daring and cunning, where she would use her wits to be anonymously among her people, an invisible princess surrounded, for a time, by equals. It was a connection, of sorts, even if she would return to the opulency of her regal life by sundown. She loved her father but wondered how he could understand his people, or the city, while remaining ensconced within the palace walls. When she was queen she would do things differently.
She turned a corner, nearly at the servant's staircase, only to find herself face-to-face with Fenris Silt.
"Good morning, Kirya," he said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to encounter her dressed as a laundry maid.
YOU ARE READING
The Mechanical CrownFantasy
An explorer, a princess, a slave and a sword. A belief that the world can be better. The Mechanical Crown is an epic adventure full of intrigue, mystery and romance. When Tranton Seldon becomes the first to cross the mountains in hundreds of years...