Prologue

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Prologue

A Stormy Night

Elian woke up.
His heart beat so hard it felt it would jump out of his chest. The same dream, again. Where everything fell around him, the ground shaking, the terrifying screams still ringing in his ears.
But no. His room remained dark and silent. And although he couldn’t exactly see the furniture that surrounded him, the tranquility that filled the air invited him to forget that terrible nightmare.
Without a second thought, he pushed away the covers that kept him warm and jumped out of bed. The cold of the stone floor beneath his bare feet made a shiver crawl up his spine but … Oh well! Every night was the same. Elian would have that terrible dream, wake up and get out of bed, so he could pay a visit to little Allana, bringing her some comfort and keep the baby from crying.
In small silent steps, surrounded by the blinding darkness of the night, the boy walked towards the door. Opening it, he exited to the cold corridor, where the dying fire of torches cast long dark shadows on the white stone walls. He watchfully peered at both sides, on the lookout for someone who could report his nightly escape, but there was no one in sight. A smile of self-confidence touched his small, childish face. It was always the same.
Walking down the corridor as silently as possible, Elian wondered when he’d be caught in one of his clandestine visits to the prohibited wing. And there it was! Something he could never understand. Why wouldn’t they allow him to go there? After all, baby Allana was his cousin, what harm could it do? Besides, he felt so lonely, without someone his age to play with or talk to about those things that only children understand. But no one would answer his questions and his requests were always denied. All they would tell him was that he was too young to understand certain things and that was that. No other explanations. Well, Elian wasn’t that small anymore! He'd already celebrated his birthday five times! For the adults around him, however, five years of life seemed to be completely insignificant. What else could he do?
Another corner and a new corridor. He was walking with extra caution, now. Allana’s room was close by and, as always, there would be a guard stationed at the door.
He advanced silently, only to verify with a smile that, like all the nights before, the old man was deeply asleep. The boy walked past the guard, slowly opening the door just enough to fit his small body, and slipped inside.
It was dark in there, but not as dark as in his room, since a burning candle was always kept on a table, near Allana’s cradle. Beside it there was a larger bed where Allana's carer was fast asleep. On the tip of his toes he peered towards the young woman, making sure she hadn’t wake up, and only then approached the baby’s cradle.
Like every night, Allana had just awakened and small tears glowed in her golden eyes. The small boy climbed onto the chair placed near the cradle and peered down, smiling at her small, round face. Seeing his smiling black eyes the baby girl gave up on her crying focusing her attention on him. Elian offered her his index finger so she could hold it, and Allana immediately grabbed it smiling back.
“I’m here … told you I’d be back, didn’t I?” he whispered and the baby guided his finger into her toothless mouth, making him smile. “Today I had another of those lessons. Hum … what was it called …? Well, can’t remember. But this time they allowed me guide the horse all by myself! It was so much fun! When you’re older I’ll teach you too!” Allana laughed lightly and Elian peered towards the larger bed, making sure the nanny remained fast asleep. “Had that dream again … always the same. You saw it too, right? ... Oh … I wonder if when you’re older they’ll allow us to play together … Sometimes I …”
A sound at the door made him go immediately quite. It sounded like footsteps and a muffled voice confirmed his suspicions. After whispering a ‘Sh!’ towards Allana, he got down from the chair and crawled on his hands and knees across the floor, hiding under the larger bed.
The door opened and a stream of golden light poured into the dim room, casting the shadows away. A tall, elegant woman entered and walked straight towards the bed under which Elian was hiding. For a moment he thought he’d finally been found out. But whoever had entered the room leaned over the sleeping woman and shook her lightly.
“Dana! Wake up!”
"My Lady?” whispered the young woman, still half asleep.
“Yes! Wake up, girl! We’re leaving!”
"Leaving …? Now?” she asked, sitting up while rubbing an eye in order to cast the drowsiness away.
“Yes! Hurry up!”
The young woman stood up and Elian saw her bare feet touch the ground.
Candles were lit all over the bedroom. The Lady that had just arrived leaned over the cradle and picked the baby up, since she had started to cry. She walked across the room, with the little one in her arms, trying to soothe her, and Dana started packing suitcases for a journey.
Outside drops of rain could be heard, falling in a rhythmic and constant melody against the glass panels of the windows. Once in a while, the dark sky was torn by a ray of white light and the thunders that followed were so loud that Elian couldn’t avoid shivering.
“But my Lady …” the nanny insisted, confused.
“Not now, Dana! And hurry. My brother doesn’t want us here any longer. He says that Allana … It doesn’t matter what he says! We’re going back to Everlyn.”
“Will my Lord accompany us?”
“Yes. We’re all leaving … and we will never return to this dreadful place!” she answered and left, taking the still crying baby with her.
Elian remained under the bed, his heart hurting at the sound of that anguished cry, almost as if it called his name over the deafening sound of the growing storm outside. They were going to take her away … Allana, faraway!
As soon as he saw that Dana had turned the other way, completely focused on her packing, he slid from under the bed and left that room, running back to his quarters.
What would he do now? Who would he tell about his adventures and all the new things he was learning every day? Everlyn was so faraway … It was impossible to go there by foot, especially for a child like him. Elian couldn’t understand why his father would want his aunt to leave. Lidya had lived in Mithir ever since she’d gotten married. Why now?
However, for all the unanswered questions that crossed his mind, that night, from the tall window of his room, Elian saw many carriages leave the palace grounds amongst the heavy rain and the angry storm that ruled the skies. And in his heart, with silent tears streaming down his face, he knew that in one of those carriages, now almost unseen amongst the shadows of the night, went his little Allana …

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