Together Alone

I've spent my life alone in this castle, alone with my horse, Syllvis, but you can imagine she's not the most talkative company. Then one day Lysander, a shapeshifter, tries to break in and steal from the 'abandoned' castle, and suddenly I'm not alone anymore. We begin our journey to find my parents, who have been missing for 3 years. Along the way we discover secrets meant to be unknown, meet people of all types, and have the adventure of a lifetime. Yet with all this around me, I still feel alone. Together with my friends, Alone in my mind.

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1. Chapter 1

    Water splashed up against the docks, brushing against the bare feet of a young girl. She raced down the low dock, water licking at her feet. The old wood beneath her feet was cool with the thin layer of water that encased it. The girl didn't appear to notice, sprinting across the wet surface with apparent ease. Often her feet would slip, but instead of tumbling over, and inevitably off, the dock, she simply leaned into the fall and turned it into a spin or a somersault then continued on her merry way.
    The girl was oddly cheerful, swinging her arms and humming a happy tune. Further down the dock was a ship. Nothing special, just a regular wooden ship about moderate size. The shouting of voices drifted through the air as men on the boat shoat at each other, yelling to "lower the mast" or "drop the anchor". The girl squealed, and ran forward, her feet stable even as they splashed over the water-logged dock.
    The first to exit the boat was two men, burly and presumable crewmen. They wore simple brown clothing and had rusted but decent-sized swords strapped to their waists. After them was a man, tall with neat brown hair. He was wearing a exquisitely made, finely tailored prim white surcoat. He smoothed it down, though it was already prim, and bent down slightly. He gestured outwards extravagantly, a devious grin teasing his features.
    The next to step out was a woman. Her hair was like woven gold, tied up on her head like a curled, white hot flame. Curly golden strands fell down, gently framing her face. Her cheeks are politely tinted pink, full with high cheekbones. A calming sea of blue shines in her eyes, glittering as she looks down at the man who had bowed. He looks up, his own chocolaty brown eyes sparkling with mischief. His grin widens and a likewise smile spreads across her own soft, pink-glossed lips.
    The woman curtsies, her small hands gripping the soft pink cloth of her skirt. She rose, and so did the man, each wearing identical grins. The woman's skirt falls, the hem skimming the dock. They both laugh, her's a delicate giggle and his a deep laugh, and the two embraced. 
    The girl who had been previously skipping across the docks with flailing arms and sure-footed feet reached the end of the dock, where the boat was anchored. The man and the woman both turned their heads, twin smiles on their faces as they extended their arms outward. The girl's grin widened along with her eyes and she ran into their welcoming embrace.
    Both the man and the woman laughed, their grip tightening around the young girl. The scene was picturesque, a photo to be captured in time. But then the edges of the photo began to blacken, like the corners were being burnt away, until the picture was consumed, and I was awake again.

    I woke up in my bed, the blue silk sheets curling around me and encasing me in a warm cocoon of comfort.  Just a dream, I told myself as I allowed another five minutes of rest before I dragged myself away from happiness and sleep. My hair, which was sprawled across my pillows, shone almost gold with the morning sun filtering in from the windows. But, I knew, it would return to it's droopy, dirty blonde state as soon as I took the time to get up.
    Reluctantly I untangled myself from the bed sheets and swung my legs around to sit properly on the bed. The cold hit me like a slap in the face, but much worse. I longed for the warmth of my bed, but I knew there was no turning back. I couldn't give up now, not when I'd already started this revolt for freedom from the bed. It calls you back like a siren, drawing you under the sheets with promises of comfort and forgotten worries, but now more will I fall for it's tricks!
    Then again, I do say that every morning.
    And so, after a heated debate with myself over the importance of wakening and resisting the call of sleep, I finally dragged myself away from my bedroom and into the empty hallway. As per usual, everything was virtually exactly as it had been before. Same dust-collecting flower vases that had lost their flowers long ago. Same paintings without meanings hanging from the wall. Same carpet, worn from a lifetime of my feet running over it. Same tasteless wallpaper. Same emptiness.
    I sigh and start walking down the hall. It's a short walk to the pitifully small kitchen, so I drag myself towards it, promising my sleep mind food to keep myself upright. My eyelids keep falling closed, pulling me back towards sleep, but I resist it. In a few moments, I push open the tall doors to the kitchen, the smells of vegetables greeting me.
    Smiling, I straighten and head towards the hearth. I get a fire going on the slightly burnt logs, then turn to grab a pot of water I had fetched the previous day, knowing I'd be a walking zombie in the morning. I hang the pot above the fire. I rise and pluck various vegetables from the basket I have on the wooden counter. In one smooth motion, I swipe the chopping knife and start dicing the vegetables.
    After a few minutes of cooking, humming a tune under my breath and feeling the tiredness evaporate, my soup is ready. It's no masterpiece, but it's edible. I serve myself in one of the old bowls I have, and leave the rest steaming in the pot. I'll probably have it later. No use in wasting a perfectly good pot of soup.
    I find myself wandering around the castle courtyard, as I usually do on empty days like these. My bare feet would skim the stones, twirling and stepping lightly as I imagined myself dancing. In a real courtyard, full of laughing, smiling people, with soft music drifting in. I hum a tune that I've previously made up, and imagine myself dancing to the beat of the tune. But when my eyes open again, I'm aware of how little my life is like to the one in my fantasizes. in the courtyard there's a fountain. When I first got here, I remember the fountain spraying water and casting a rainbow in the air. I would smile and gawk at it, my parents behind me. But as my parents returns home lessened, so did the fountain, and soon it dried up completely.
    Surrounding the fountain is a large circle of cobblestones in varying, bland colors. Beyond that is a ring of trees that are not dead but drooping and lacking leaves. This is where I spend most of my time. Sometimes I bring out my horse, Syllvis, who was a gist to me on my tenth birthday. She lives in a stable east of the courtyard, but still within the wall that encircles the castle, and prevents me from leaving.
    Today I head towards the stable. Syllvis needs to be brushed every other day. When I reach the stable, I push open the doors. A huff erupts from inside, followed by the shuffling of hooves. I smiled and clicked my tongue as I entered. The barn was dim, but as soon as the doors were open, it flooded with light. Standing in the middle of the small barn was a tall, caramel colored horse. Syllvis' mane was a ginger color and it's eyes were a knowing green. She looked up and shook it's mane, nickering softly. Her head leaned forward and she nudged my face, making me giggle. Her way of saying hello.
    "Hello girl." I said softly, turning around to grasp the brush. "How are you?"
    The horse gave a neigh, dragging her hoof against the dusty ground. I laughed.
    "That's what I thought." I faced Syllvis, holding the brush in my hand. I began to drag the brush spftly against her fur. "Another day alone, huh? Just you and me."
    Syllvis was the only reason I didn't go insane these long years, alone in an empty castle. She was my friend where there was no one, my companion when I was alone. She just listened, but that was okay, because with all the small movements she made, it really seemed like she was listening. She knew me better than I did. Often, when we were riding around the courtyard, I would see a new path for us to take. She seemed to already know, and turned on the path without my guidance. She was my best friend in an empty, lonely world.
    Syllvis nickered and tossed her mane towards me. Even though her lips didn't move, her eyes smiled at me, reassured me that I was never alone, that she would always be there. I smiled back, brushing across her smooth caramel fur. I knew I was going to have to tackle her mane, but I wasn't looking forward to it. The ginger mane, though I tried my best to make it straight, always ended up curling in some odd direction. It was quite irritating. I grasp the brush for the mane, putting down the other brush in the process, and began to stroke her mane. The knots give away easily and in minutes the mane is straight. 
    I sigh and smile, stroking Syllvis' long nose. She nickered and sniffed my hand, neighing for food. I laughed softly and grabbed a handful of sugar cubes from the bag by the barn door and held them out to her. She sniffed again, then greedily snapped up the cubes. Her green eyes locked with mine, pleading for more. I laughed again and turned to get more, but a rustle from just outside the barn stopped me.
    Syllvis neighs and I motioned for her to keep silent. She watched me curiously as I slowly made my way to the door, just peeking through the crack. Outside, to my amazement, was a wolf. It was short and black, with unruly fur. It's ears were perked up and it sniffed the ground, tail wagging.
    I leaned forward to get a closer look, and the barn door slid open slightly. I stifled a gasp and pulled myself away, heart pounding in my chest. The wolf's head turned in my direction. It growled low in it's mouth, baring it's teeth and pawing it's way towards me. My heart beating so loud, I think it can hear me. I don't move for another moment, limbs stiff from plastering myself against the wall in an attempt to make myself invisible. 
    The wolf turn away. In my relief, I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding. In one swift moment, the wold spun back around and barreled into the door, paws outstretched and teeth bared. I fell backwards, landing hard on my back. Syllvis neighs in outrage and kicks up dirt, creating a dusty fog that surrounds the room. I cough loudly, squinting and attempting to stand. A moment later, another voice joined mine in coughing, and as the dust settled, I realized I was no longer facing a wolf but a boy!
    Syllvis neighed and reared up on her hind legs, hooves treading the air. My eyes widen and I duck out of the way - just in time. Syllvis' hoof comes down on the boys head and he crumples, falling to the ground like a puppet with no strings. He groaned, but didn't move and just lay there in a crumpled heap. I frown at Syllvis, who neighs and attempts to look sheepish.
    "Way to go Syllvis. I think you killed him." I muttered. Syllvis made a choppy neigh, which I had come to realize was her way of laughing, and flicked her tail at me. "Hey! If he's dead, I'm not helping you hide the body!"
    Syllvis just laughs some more and tosses her mane behind her, neighing as if to say, Well he picked a fight with the wrong horse. I beat down on his loser butt.

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