The fireplace animated the shadows within the forgotten library.
Dust covered every surface. This area of the castle had been neglected for centuries, the only visitors the rodents who made a home in the walls. She could hear them scurrying along the shelves.
There were dozens of them, holding hundreds of books, representing thousands of lives. The heroes within these pages had led extraordinary lives. They had seen the world and changed it. Scribes had spent years recording their deeds for future generations.
Sorcha knew all of their stories. Seventeen years spent within these walls and she knew nearly every inch of it. There was one book she had not found however. If she could find it, everything would change.
From the day she was born, her life had followed a predictable series of events. Every minute of her day was accounted for. She woke up early every morning, bathed and dressed then cooked breakfast for herself and her Keepers. Then came the Skills Training.
Academic study, house management, etiquette, needlepoint and war tactics. These were all things she needed to know as future queen. Her Keepers made sure she would know how to run a country completely on her own.
That was the problem. When she became queen, she would be alone until the next queen was chosen and brought to the castle to be trained. She had lived at the castle since she was three years old. After 14 years, she barely remembered her parents. Her only interactions were with the current queen and her Keepers.
The only name she knew beyond her own was Queen Soraya. The Keepers were rotated every six months so that she would not grow attached. She would never marry, never have children. Her only allegiance is meant to be to her country.
She had questioned how effective she would be as ruler of a country she never seen. No one had an answer for her. It was simply the way it had always been.
Just because it has always been doesn’t make it right, Sorcha thought.
She wanted love in her life and a family. At least she thought so. As queen, she would not have the option. Whether or not she wanted it, she wanted the freedom to choose her own life.
She ran her fingers along the shelves, leaving a trail in the dust. Queen Soraya had told her that all she needed was to find the right book.
“The answer to almost any question can be found in a book,” the queen had told her. “You just have to find the right one.”
It took hours. The sun would be rising soon and her Keepers would be coming to wake her. The flame in the fireplace had almost died out so it was hard to see. The cover was a soft, faded blue with frayed edges. The pages inside were brittle and yellowed with age. Fortunately the mice had not gotten to it.
She carefully looked through the pages, searching for something that could help her. The queen who had written it spoke of a deep loneliness and her wish to escape. It was soothing to Sorcha to know that she was not alone.
The answer was in the last few pages. There was a secret passage that lead to a neglected area of the gardens. Underneath the hydrangea bushes was a tunnel that lead to the forest. She would have to find her way from there but she could. And she did, leaving a note for the Keepers.