It was not until dawn that Sapphire felt calm enough, and far enough away from the castle, to slow her steed.
"Come on Maxwell, stop and take a rest. You deserve it."
Maxwell slowed to a leisurely walk. His breathing was especially heavy. She apologized to the horse, telling him that she just had to get away from the horrid castle. She had finished crying long before the break of dawn. She would cry no more about her past home. The memory of the night before flashed through her brain before she could repress it.
Her father was a vain and very large man. One of his favorite activities included taking 'beautiful' women from his kingdom and enslave them. If he grows an attachment to them, well...he reproduced. Then, if he was not satisfied with the performance, he disposed of her, or rather, executed her. Accusing the woman of a false crime to make it 'right'.
But he was not always this way. He was not always that large and vain, taking women's freedom and then beheading them. Sapphire was not the result of these encounters with his enslaved. He once had a wife and queen that he loved beyond words. When Sapphire rounded nearly ten years old, she passed away of a mad influenza outbreak that rattled the country.
Since then, she and her father haven't gotten along at all. They screamed and fought and threw things at each other until the veins were popping out of their foreheads. On one occasion, one fight, he grabbed the nearest object and threw it at her. That object just happened to be a dagger. Not the little ones that soldiers keep in their socks either. A full blown, twelve inch dagger. It embedded itself into her shoulder, and she was hospitalized for weeks. He never apologized. He never did. The dagger left a deep scar in her left shoulder. Right in the middle of her royal tattoo. The tattoo depicted the royal symbol that every person in the royal family had to get to show their royal stature.
The last time they fought was different though. He had gotten too angry. He set fire to her room, destroying all of her possessions, and then disowned her. He told her that her symbol was already broken, so there was no use in trying to remove it. He told her to leave, to live her life as an unworthy peasant because she was worth nothing. She sat and stared at him, open-mouthed. After a couple of minutes, she realized that he was serious. That he really did want her to leave. She then fled the palace, sobbing, pulling on her only safe possessions from her father. Her mothers medallion, and her cloak. She was no longer the princess of Cardew.
Now here she was, walking the forest with Maxwell, watching the sun rise slowly on the horizon.
"Ah, Maxwell, what are we going to do now? Where shall we travel to now, with nowhere to go, and nowhere to return to?" The big horse only snorted.
Just when she thought the forest would never end, she found a clearing. It was an enormously wide clearing,with the sun shining brightly, she thought a little sun would do her good, as the forest was gray, dark, and damp. As soon as she stepped into the clearing, a strange feeling passed over her body like wind, and it almost knocked her down. She recognized the feeling, but could not place it.
She tried to remember how she got there, but couldn't. She tried to remember where she was headed, but couldn't. It was only Now, only Now mattered, and Then doesn't matter. She was Here now,but where Here was, didn't matter. And she is enjoying Now. Now is good. The clearings' grass is long. She walks through it until she meets the middle. She realizes Maxwell is not with her. But it did not matter. She sits down. Right in the middle in the grassy clearing. She sat for a long while. But hours were not counted. Time is not counted in Now. A soft wind starts up. It ripples across the grass like a wave. It lifts her hair off of the back of her neck, and tosses it lightly. She looks down and sees a small beetle. It is red. With black spots. She recognizes it as a ladybug. She is watching it crawl and make its decent among the tall leaves. The lady bug holds no more interest. She looks up. She sees the pale blue sky. As blue as her eyes. She sees white fluffy ghosts. She recalls them as clouds. She sees black things in the sky. They are birds. She heard a horse neigh.
The neigh reminds her of Maxwell, a horse she has back home. She looks around. It is Maxwell!
what is he doing here? she thinks. She gets up and walks toward him. He is in the forest. He wont come to her. She walks into the woods with him.
It was as if a steel gate had been lowered on her brain. Her mind was no longer light, free, and even psychotic. All of her feelings were replaced. All of her worry, hatred, and sorrow returned to make a blanket across her mind, squeezing her brain. She remembered everything again. All of the fighting,where she must not go back, where she was headed. And she realized the Feeling. The Feeling that was within that field. It was nothing. There was no worry, no anger, no sorrow, but it was not happy, nor playful. It was nothing. And the Nothing scared her. She realized that a deep and powerful curse was set upon that clearing.
Sapphire wondered how many people got stuck in that clearing, just waiting, watching, letting the Nothing consume them. She wondered how many people died in that clearing. The Nothing Clearing. It scared her, and she realized that it was scaring Maxwell also, for his eyes were about popping out of his head.
She realized that if Maxwell had not neighed, she would have sat there forever, and she would die, and she would turn into a pile of bones, and those bones would turn into a pile of dust, and the dust would feed the grass, welcoming any more travelers that happen to come by.
"Come on Maxwell, lets get away from here. She mounted him and they got away from that Nothing Clearing as fast as they could.