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Marlene and I, after eating one of the most delicious sandwiches I'd ever had in my life, given I wasn't too sure I knew what Marlene did to make it taste so good, but I didn't really care. We'd wandered back to my room and I made her tell me stories about her childhood here. We sat with the tall doors to the balcony open, one of the thick blankets spread out on the cool stone. I wasn't too sure what time it was now, but the sun was somehow dimmer than earlier.
"So, you've really been here your entire life?"
she nodded and picked up one of the sweet pastries we stole from the kitchen on our way out. "My mother came here when she was a teenager. She was looking for work. Back then, there were many towns between each of the kingdoms, some almost as big as the royal palaces."
"Your mom was from one of those towns?"
From the solemn look on her face I could tell that something bad had happened to her mother.
"Yes. She was from Mazron. One of the largest cities there were next to the kingdoms. From what she told me it was almost as big as Incala."
I'd only seen a small part of this kingdom, and I knew there was so much more. But if this city was as big as Marlene's mother said, what could have happened to make her leave?
"The overseer of Mazron was evil. He hated his people. He starved them, had them tortured, and made to do hard labor. But not my mother. If such a hateful man could see beauty, he saw it in her. But a man like that did not know how to be gentle, or kind. He took her for his wife, and she got pregnant." She trailed off looking down at her hands.
"You..." I whispered in shock.
Her eyes met mine as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Yes. Me..." She wiped at her eyes. "She left before she had me. She refused to let him get near me."
"And then what happened?"
"He hunted her. She knew he wouldn't stop. So, she left me at the palace gates and I never saw her again."
She shrugged, defeated. "My city fell to ruin. It is forgotten now."
Marlene's story left me speechless. This girl had been through hell. And then to now be a servant. Did the queen do this? I wanted to ask questions about queen Lyla. Dream or no dream, something was off about her. I pulled Marlene in and gave her a hug. "I'm so sorry."
GONG! GONG! GONG!
I flew back as my eyes wandered to the sound. the third bell! I'm supposed to be meeting Peyton in that training room thing. Getting to my feet, I pull Marlene up with me.
"I've gotta go, but let’s have breakfast in here in the morning?"
She agreed and smiled before throwing on my boots that were in the closet and jogging out the door. The sky was growing darker by the second as I retraced my steps from earlier. The door that was only cracked earlier, was now fully closed. Should I knock? Do I just enter the room? I decided to just lightly push the door open. I peeked in. The room was dimly lit by high hanging candles. Windows branched off to the right, and directly across from the door, the marble floor branched out past the wall and many windows. There was no gate to keep you from falling off the edge. The sky was a burnt orange color fading into dark blue, then black. The trees in the distance made it look like a mirage. Staring at the view, I almost missed Peyton over near the left wall. She wore the same pants I did with tan boots and a white tank top. Her hair was covered by her mask. She looked almost normal. She turned as I entered and shut the door.
"Glad you listened."
"Huh," confusion marred my features until she gestured to my clothes. Oh, the no dress thing.
"As pretty as those dresses are, they are really uncomfortable. And hard to get off."
Was that... was that a smirk on her face?! I walked over to her and grinned. "And here I thought you didn't smile."
I surprised myself with my bold words. She held a medium length curved blade. Two of them. She twirled them in her hands. I watched her, mesmerized.
"Karambits," She answered my unasked question.
"How long have you been with the guard?"
She moved around me, still expertly twirling her knives. "Since I could walk. My dad... he thought it was a good idea. said his 'little girl needed to know how to defend herself.'"
This was the most she'd shared with me thus far. I was almost too scared to say anything for fear that she'd shut up. But she did anyway. She walked over to the wall nearest the door and placed her palm on the cool stone. She pressed her weight down and the area around her hand sunk further in. A hidden compartment opened and slid smoothly out. Weapons decorated the walls and shelves that popped out of that hidden piece of wall. Different size knives, straight and curved laid in lines. Long swords hung from rungs along with their sheaths. I'd never seen so many blades. Were we starting off with actual knives?! I didn't trust myself.
I sighed when she laid down the blades on a black mat and picked up two long bamboo looking sticks.
Please don't throw that at me, please don't throw that at me, please don't throw that at me.
if she threw that, I was not going to catch it. But by the expression on her face, she already knew that. That's why she walked over and handed it to me instead.
"Now I'm assuming you have never handled a weapon before."
Not a question.
"I'll take that as a no. So, the basics then..."
I took a deep breath and paid attention as she took up space in front of me. her face was serious and concentrated.
"Spread your legs. Elbow length apart."
I listened to her and did as she said.
"You have to plant your feet if you don't want to be knocked over." her eyes roamed over my frame before nodding her approval. She placed her hands-on top of mine and spread them further apart.
"Yep. We're getting somewhere."
Her sarcasm did not escape me. Her hands were warm and rough. "Now, when you swing, don't throw your entire body into it. It won't end well."
She brought her stick forward in an ark. I raised my stick, planting my feet and gripping the bamboo tight. Both sticks vibrated with the connection. A small grin took place on Peyton's face. I don't know how long we practiced blocking, and stance, but my body was sore by the time we stopped.