Sora had two nights before the night sky would be dark. The only thing that she would have to do was cover the stars with clouds, and plan for any interruptions. Coming up with the supplies would be the easy part. The disappearing would be the hardest.
Sora took her time on her walk back to the royal house. She took in the vegetation surrounding her. The best times to think were when Sora was alone and in the wild. She needed to figure out the perfect cover. She had a few ideas forming, but nothing seemed right yet. What she needed, was to get a hold of the maps that were drawn by her ancestors before the time of the humans. If she could do that and convince her parents that she was ready for a long journey by herself, she would be set. While plucking a beautiful lily from its stem, an idea popped into Sora's head. She knew exactly what she needed to do and say in order to get permission for this journey.
Sora looked up at the sky, the evening colors were beginning to set in. The blue sky was melding into purple with soft streaks of pink and orange. Off to the east Sora could see the faint sliver of the moon beginning to rise. She knew that she needed to start her plan right away in order to be ready to go by the next night. A smile spread across Sora's beautiful face. Her heart sped up, and she dashed through the forest toward home.
Sora was greeted at the front gate to the royal home by the day servants leaving for the night. Sora's personal servant greeted her with a big hug. The old lady was the closest thing to a second mother (aka grandmother). "I see you have been adventuring again today young lady," Agatha said affectionately. "I haven't seen you since you arose this morning!"
"I know, Agatha." I said. "I had a lot of fun though! I found a waterfall that is so beautiful! I would love to show it to you one day!"
Agatha looked at Sora more carefully then. "Ah, I see you have been swimming again. I hope you don't forget that water takes life!"
"But not mine Agatha! I can swim, just like a fish!"
"You are such a silly girl!" exclaimed Agatha. She smiled at Sora with a twinkle in her eye. "Your parents are getting anxious that you were not yet home. They don't want to eat without you."
"Okay, I will go straight in to see them!" Sora hugged Agatha good night. "See you in the morning Agatha!"
They parted ways, and Sora slowed down her pace in order to slow her heart. All of that running had her worked up. She wanted to appear calm and collected in front of the king tonight.
Sora's thoughts wondered to Agatha. She was such a dear old woman. Sora's second mother had passed on to the earth when Sora was quite young. Her name had been Hespi. Hespi was her father's mother. She was very old when she passed. King Otto would tell Sora stories about her as a great queen, and as a great mother. She lived to be nearly two hundred years old. A great feat, even among the Kiswan.
Sora walked into the royal home. The high rock walls curved at the top to form a domed ceiling. The Kiswan built their homes out of the stone and ground. They would call upon Mother Nature to help form and move the rocks to the proper places. The rock walls, floor, and ceiling helped keep the home nice and cool. The hallways were tall and narrow, and they lead to a series of chambers around the outside of the great feast hall. Many of the walls were decorated by noted royal artists over the centuries. Some had paintings of mountains and valleys, while others had paintings of the people and their houses. Many of the houses were very similar to the royal home. The only difference was in the size of the royal home compared to the home of the villagers.
The royal home had to be big enough to house visitors of the neighboring villages. Many people came and went, some staying longer than others. Even some of the servants had rooms in the royal home. However, the majority of them chose to stay in their own houses with their families. The royal home was larger than the average villager's home, because it was a tradition to invite all of the villagers twice a year to feast with the king, queen, and their offspring.
As Sora continued down the long hallway that lead straight to the hall, she began to get whiffs of garlic and onions mingled with game, and she could hear chatter among the servants as they set about completing their duties. Down one adjoining hallway, Sora could hear someone singing a lullaby.
Sora pushed open the door to the great feast hall. She saw her father and mother both sitting at their places at the table. The table was very long. It could seat fifty people alone. During the great banquets, eleven more of these tables would be brought into the hall. The hall itself was huge. It had torches glowing on sconces around the room. The high stone walls arched up at the top to form a partial open ceiling. The light shown in through eight holes. Each hole resembles the petal of a flower.
Sora looked up at the ceiling as she approached the table. The sun was nearing the end of its decent toward the west. The sky was full of orange and pink, with clouds highlighted in the same. This was Sora's favorite part of the feast hall. The opening in the ceiling actually looked like a beautiful pink and orange flower.
Sora first greeted her mother Sasha. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and hugged her. Upon parting, Sora kissed her gently on the cheek. Next she greeted her father Otto, with the same hug, and the gentle kiss on the cheek.
"Where have you been Sora?" Otto said. "You are lucky that we have just barely sat down to eat. We would not have wanted you to go to bed hugnry."
"I'm sorry father. I was out in the woods, it was a beautiful day." Sora said. "I found this beautiful lilly for you mother."
Sora then retrieved the flower out of her pack and handed it to her mother. She proceeded around her father to the other side of the table to sit cross the table from her mother. (It is customary for the king to sit at the head of the table with his wife to the right, and the heir to the left.)
"Sorry I am late." Sora said.
"No worries, you are here now. Let us eat!" King Otto said in a raised voice.
At his words, the dinner servants bustled out with trays filled with plates of food. Onions and garlic with wild game meat, and all of the plants from the garden were the star of the evening, each cooked to perfection. The custom was to eat, then talk. A queen many years ago was self-conscious of people watching her talk and eat, so she decreed that they talk after the food had been consumed. The tradition stuck.
Once their stomachs were full, each would sit back in his chair and wait for the others to finish eating. Sora was finished first. She patiently waited for her mother and father to finish. She wanted to present her request in the best way. She had many different confrontations going through her head, but she could not decide upon one.
The king and queen had finished without Sora's notice, and both were watching her curiously. "Ah hem." The king cleared his throat. "Sora, I have a matter of business to discuss with you."
Sora started. She sat up in her chair and said, "Father, if I may, address you first?" Sora hesitated. The king did not like to be put off like that. "I have been thinking about something a lot lately, and I need to ask your permission before we go any further."
The king was not irritated, but curious. Scrunching up his blue hued eyebrows he said, "You may proceed."
Sora stole a quick glance at her mother. She had a soft face, and her eyes and hair had the hue of sunlight in them. Most thought of her as a rare beauty, that is, until Sora was born with the same characteristics.
"I have been thinking that I want to go on another journey. Well, more of a quest." She said it fast, like she would forget it, or lose the nerve. Sora glanced back and forth between her mother and her father. Her heart rate sped up a little, anxious for a response. The official quests were given to male Kiswan. Sora cannot remember ever hearing about a female being granted a quest.
"Hmm... Sora," King Otto said. "You realize that you are the heir to the throne, and you are expected to partner Witold at the end of the summer? A quest may take you away from here for many months."
"Yes, sir," Queen Sasha said. "However, Sora has proved to be very resourceful, and I am confident that she could make this a just and profitable quest. You said yourself that we need to find more land."
"That I did," said the king. "But I did not intend it to be our daughter. She is far to precious to me to send her out like that."
"Otto!" The Queen scolded. "You know better than to consider Sora as a typical helpless female. She has accomplished many more things than most males! She can swim for earth sakes!"
"Baaaah! Woman!" Otto said. He sighed then looked at Sora. "What do you wish to achieve with this quest?"
Sora cleared her throat. She was surprised at how her mother stood up for her. It must be because her mother knows that Sora has no interest in ever partnering that Kiswan Witold. Just because she had never fancied a male before does not mean she would never. Most of the males her age were just ridiculous! She wanted to partner for love, just like her parents had. Besides, rulers in love, would be much better for the kingdom.
"Father, I want to do what you suggest." Sora declared. "I want to find new land and new things, and bring them here. I want to scour our kingdom and find the places that are not on the maps. I want to be able to draw new and updated maps. We all know that our maps are very outdated."
"That I can agree with," said Otto. "Our men have found vast amounts of land within the protective barriers that were never documented. Let it be written. Sora heir to Kiswone will embark on her quest in one week....."
"Um, father?" Sora interrupted. I was thinking, uh... the sooner I leave, the better. I was thinking tomorrow night."
Otto looked at Sora slightly puzzled but said, "Sora leaves tomorrow. There is much to do. Let us make preparations. Whatever Sora needs, grant her. And we will have to contact Witold and inform him of the postponement of the ceremony."
Sora jumped into her father's arms nearly knocking his chair back. "Thank you father! Thank you! You won't be sorry for this! I will make you proud!"
Sora went and kissed her mother on her cheek and whispered, "Thank you." Then she was off to her chambers to make a list of provisions and a plan. In her excitement, Sora didn't even hear the king. She had forgotten all about the fact that he wanted to address something to her. She was too excited to think of anything else.
I'll be plotting over the next day or two.