She held back a hiss of displeasure, plastering herself against the wall, hoping it’s shadows would be enough to hide her form. She didn’t want to be seen, didn’t want to be found in this moment, Allura wanting nothing more than a moment of free time for herself. The two men that walked down the corridor endangered her freedom, she knew they would attempt to bring her back, or alert those that searched for her, heedless of her desires.
Allura knew she was frowning, even as she held her breath, waiting for the two men, servants marked by their gray clad uniforms, to pass by her hiding spot. It wasn’t often that this part of the castle got visitors, it had long been abandoned, forgotten save for the monthly cleaning that took place in these quarters. Allura knew enough to avoid the East wing of the castle during that time, knowing her presence here would be met with suspicion. They would question her visiting this wing, and all to easily would they assume and rightly so, that her hideaway was somewhere in one of these quarters.
Her pet mice chittered nervously at her feet, staring up at Allura, wondering what the hold up was. She glanced down, holding up a finger to her lips, signaling for silence. They obeyed, settling down on their haunches, waiting with her. The men drew closer during this exchange, voices talking louder than they normally would, sharing laughter and jokes as they walked.
Allura tensed up, wishing she had a better hiding spot as their shadows drew near. Suddenly the largest of her mice decided to take action, Cheezy rushing out to dash past the men’s feet.
“Geeze it!” swore one, the two turning to stare at the mouse. “Was that a rat?!” Allura inwardly fumed at the insult to her beloved pets, eyes narrowing in annoyance.
“I don’t know…it certainly was big enough for one.” Their backs were to her, too busy watching Cheezy scamper about to notice Allura inching forward. Silent were her footsteps, Allura having shed her shoes, carrying those heeled slippers in her hands. Cheezy chittered angrily, and rushed towards the men, the mouse seeming just as insulted as Allura.
She heard a yelp, one of the men frightened, Cheezy scampering up his foot to sink his tiny teeth into the man’s ankle. The man let out a pained cry, shaking his foot frantically, his friend anxious to help him but just as wary of being bitten. Allura hid a smile, taking the last few steps towards an open door, her remaining three companions hurrying after her.
She just made it behind the door, Cheezy gracefully leaping off the man’s foot, and disappearing into one of his hidey holes in the wall. There were similar such holes all over the castle, her mice friends making use of them to travel about in secret. The men shook off this annoyance, one tittering nervously, the other fuming.
“Better get to the infirmary.” Advised the one who had avoided Cheezy’s teeth. “You might need a shot after that bite.”
“Yeah.” Shuddered the other man. “Who knows what sort of sickness vermin like that carries.” They moved as they talk, their voices carrying down the hall, growing fainter and fainter. No more were they laughing, too shaken by the encounter. Allura knew the incident would most likely summon the local rat catcher to the castle, her furry friends having to take safe haven in her bedroom until the man and his apprentice vacated the premises.
But that would be some time in the future, Allura making a tsking sound as an unapologetic Cheezy reappeared. “You naughty thing! Biting that man like that!” He chittered at her, loud squeaks that she pretended to understand. “Yes, you were very brave.” Thus mollified by her words, the mouse settled down into silence, joining the other three who were already beginning to climb up the thin railing of the stair case behind her.
The room she had dashed into was all stairs, thick stone blocks that bore cracks on their surface, weathered down from time’s passage. Allura gathered her skirts in one hand, revealing her bare feet. She slipped her shoes on, and then began her ascent up the staircase, easily catching up to the mice, and passing them in a matter of seconds.
The stair case was a twisting thing, winding about in a spiral. Higher and higher it climbed, until she was on what would have been the fourth floor of the castle. There was no such floor, the height being covered only in the four towers of her castle, turret rooms that held windows that faced both the inside courtyard, and the forest that surrounded the outside of her home.
This particular turret was located over looking the cliff side of the castle, a side that was thought to be impenetrable due to the height, and the impossibly sheer climb of the cliff. Her father didn’t even bother to assign a man as look out in this tower, a fact Allura was quick to take advantage of, making the turret room her special hiding spot. No one ever thought to look for her here, and she could spend hours undisturbed by human company.
The mice made noise as they finally caught up to her, rushing into the room, and heading straight towards the rug on the floor. They scampered over objects, their intent to get comfortable as they endured the long wait with Allura. She often told them they need not come with her, but they were insistent, not wanting her to be completely alone. A sentiment she admired, Allura staring at the lonely little room, that lacked most of the comforts that the rest of the castle had.
But there were books here, ones she had hidden, placing them on the shelves in between boring tomes of history. No one had ever questioned their presence, nor had they ever noticed that on occasion the books were replaced with newer ones. Fanciful ones, of tales of love and adventure, fantasy brought to life by the ink quill of an accomplished story teller.
The books were her secret treasure, Allura sometimes thought they were her sole mean of keeping sane in the world that surrounded her. A world that was far too limited to her studies, her tutor keeping her locked up with work, covering topics that ranged from history to politics, and even aspects of business in between. As she grew older, the lessons only continued, more work being piled up on her till Allura had little chance to do anything else.
A part of her understood why they did it, they wanted her to be prepared for the day she would take the throne from her father. But a bigger part, the one she listened to more, resented her workload, Allura chaffing at the knowledge and responsibilities they tried to give her. Her tutor knew it too, the woman lecturing her endlessly on the duties of a princess of Arus, trying to shame her into accepting her role.
Normally Allura simply endured this, but every once in a while it got to be too much. Which is why on a day like today, she had chosen to escape her schooling. She wasn’t a complete deviant, she only did it every few weeks or so. She didn’t dare risk any more than that, knowing her father was most likely to get involved if she spent too much time playing truant. But the occasional break he allowed, merely smiling when her tutor complained.
Truth be known, Allura would much rather be outside in the courtyard, then locked up in a drafty old tower. But it was too open a place, too easy to be seen, her tutor finding her, even when she hid herself in the branches of a tree. Allura didn’t dare so much as draw close to the window that overlooked the courtyard, not wanting to risk being seen by any of the many people that wandered it’s cobblestone pathways.
Instead she drew a book off a shelf, and settled on the rug, a faded pillow placed under her side, as she propped herself up on one arm. The other hand was free to turn the pages, Allura searching for the spot she had left off last. Occasionally she pause and lingered over a black and white picture, a simple sketch that was meant to bring the story alive. She always liked what she imagined in her head better than the drawings, the people so much more vivid and colorful than any mere sketch could convey.
The book itself was a love story set about in a fantasy. She was soon swooning over the handsome knight who braved all manners of danger to rescue the princess who had been locked away by some evil witch. Her breath caught in excitement as he slayed the dragon, and she found herself reading faster in the hopes of that the next scene would have the lovers reunited.
Her cheeks were already flushing pink in anticipation, Allura knowing she enjoyed the steamier aspects of the book. She was turning the pages when she heard a sound, Allura freezing, trying to identify what it could be. It wasn’t the sound of footsteps echoing, but that it was so loud even here in this room, meant someone was near. Someone who might chance upon her hiding spot, Allura turning anxious at the thought.
Even the mice seemed concern, their tiny heads turning left and right, trying to determine where the noise had come from. Allura had no time to dismiss it as mere imagination, for it was sounding again, an awful roar, the likes of which she had never heard before. What’s more, the castle itself seemed to shake from the sound, Pip, the smallest of her mice, falling over in fright.
“Are we having an earthquake?” Allura wondered out loud, voice a hushed whisper. The mice squeaked and squealed, all running to hide save for Cheesy who bravely sat by Allura. The noise was even louder now, Allura wanting to clap her hands over her ears, block out the sound even as she pushed up off the floor to a kneeling position. She glanced towards the window that looked over the inner courtyard, Allura thinking perhaps it was thunder signaling an approaching storm.
It certainly looked dark enough outside, the clouds obscuring the sun. It took her a moment to realize not everything she view was clouds, the noise continuous, more ferocious than thunder had ever been. The objects were colored different from the clouds, a gray so dark it was almost black. It was one of these things that blocked out her view of the sun, flying through the air like a great bird, it’s wing passing through the clouds. The clouds streamed off the wings, their forms disrupted by the passage of the noisy creatures.
They grew bigger the closer they came to the castle, and Allura saw all manners of lights flashing on their sides, red and yellow, blinking repeatedly. She didn’t know what to make of this creature, Allura suddenly standing. She no longer cared if anyone spied her by the window, Allura figuring if they were smart they were too busy staring at the creature just like she was.
She reached the window, not quite leaning out of it’s stone frame to gape at the creatures. There was five in all, and she realized with a shock that they were heading right towards the castle! They were making their descent, looming large and fearsome, Allura backing away from the window. The largest, surely the leader of the creatures, was aiming to land right in the courtyard.
She heard Cheesy squeak in alarm, Allura having trod over his tail. She was too stunned to administer proper apologies, already running towards the staircase. None of the mice followed her, the tiny creatures too frightened by the noise to do anything but hide. Allura herself felt her heart beating faster, something like excitement pumping through her as she took to the stairs. She had to grip the railing hard to keep from falling, Allura misstepping in her haste, the girl running as quickly as she dared downwards.
Soon she was bursting into the hall, gratified to see it still empty. She broke into a run, fingers clinging to her skirts, holding them up so it flashed her ankles as she moved. She didn’t take her normal care in returning to the more populated segment of the castle, but even here in the main hallway, no one was to be found. She soon learned why, discovering they were all outside, servants and guards, even her tutor, out in the courtyard.
Allura couldn’t make out what they were saying, not over the noise. But she could see what they were doing, people raising their arms, fingers extended to point up at the large creatures. One was almost upon them, Allura seeing how it’s wings scrapped the sides of the castle walls, sending up sparks in the process. The noise was so loud out here, and some people had covered their ears, while others covered their faces, or rubbed at their eyes, as though trying to disprove what they were seeing.
A few people had fallen to their knees, tears in their eyes as they clasped their hands in prayer. She was shocked to realize that one of them was the head priest, the man identifiable by his crimson robes, and his large hat. She wasn’t sure what to make of this display, noting that even the castle guards seemed so taken by the objects that they hadn’t readied their weapons. But then, the creatures hadn’t proved hostile, not yet, only loud, intimidating in both sound and appearance.
She saw her father from across the courtyard, the King by a first floor window. At least his personal guards had retained the wit to keep him inside and away from the creature. Allura knew she shouldn’t be outside, not until they knew for sure if the creatures were a threat or not. And yet she couldn’t help herself, wanting to be as close as possible to the excitement surrounding the creatures’ arrival.
Suddenly the noise cut down in volume, no longer so loud. The creatures still rumbled, but a humming had replaced the booming thunder of their earlier cries. The creature in the courtyard was almost landed, and now Allura could see something unfolding from it’s underside. She assumed it was it’s feet, the girl marveling to see six in all. But even more astonishing was when the creature began to SPEAK to them, a voice that sounded so much like a man’s issuing out words.
“People of Arus! Do not be afraid!” Her ears were ringing, but she heard the captain of the guards swear up a blue steak, and a one of the maids, an older woman with chestnut brown hair began to cross herself. Other people were dropping to their knees, prostrating themselves before this beast. There was plenty of weeping going on, the people afraid and overcome by their emotions.
“Welcome us with open arms and you will know prosperity the likes of which you could only dream of!” The voice continued, the creature landing at last. The ground seemed to ripple from a fierce heat, the creature just barely managing to fit it’s wings into the enclosed courtyard. “Rejects us and know only terror!” Screams echoed from the people, one of the creatures shooting out what could only be red fire. It blasted a tree, the large oak blazing with fire a moment before it withered away into nothing.
Those that had managed to remain standing now gave up the fight, dropping to their knees, some ending up on all fours. Allura just barely managed to keep from following suit, spying her father doing the same, the man standing upright with his guards. The guards were clearly uneasy, wanting to kneel, terror or awe on their faces.
“It is the end of days!” A man was heard crying out, and a woman shushed him.
“They have come!” Another was crying, and the priest spoke up.
“How long have we waited for them?!”
The creature made a new noise, Allura’s jaw dropping as it’s front began to open. It couldn’t be called a mouth, not really, it had no rows of teeth, but something long descended out of it, the girl wondering if that could be it’s tongue. It thudded gently as it hit the cobblestones, and everyone paused, silent now as they waited. They weren’t waiting long, something very much like footsteps echoed across a metallic surface.
Even the people who lay face down on the ground lifted their heads, peering up with tear filled eyes as shadows appeared on the tongue. Allura reacted with shock, realizing it was five men and one woman who were coming forward, walking free of the beast’s belly. They appeared unharmed, and as they came out into the light, the courtyard erupted in gasps.
They were men, but not like any that had been seen before. Tall, impossibly so, even the shortest would dwarf the tallest Arusian. Height wasn’t the only thing impressive about them, they were well muscled like warriors, with weapons strapped to their backs or the side of their hips. They exuded confidence where the Arrusians did not, standing on the ground now, eyes looking amused.
And their eyes! She was shocked to see the alien quality to them, shaped like felines and colored golds and silver. Colors not found on humans. It wasn’t just limited to the eyes, their skin were made up of blues, purples and greens. And hair that was white, or black, and for the woman shockingly pink. She could see their ears, and they were long, and shaped to a fine point, like the elves in her books.
For all their strangeness, they were beautiful, exotic and ethereal. The men handsome, the woman radiant in her beauty. It was like looking at chiseled perfection, and Allura felt a blush come to her face as she met the eyes of the man with the flowing white mane of hair. She knew in that instant they weren’t humans, felt it down to marrow of her bones, even as the priest let out a glad cry.
“Welcome oh exalted ones!” He was up on his knees again, arms spread wide out to the sides.
“It is a miracle!” Someone else whispered.
“They have finally come!” Another said, and soon others were echoing those words. Allura shook her head, not understanding who they were. She was still confused, even after the priest cried out in welcome.
“Our Gods have finally come to us!” Those words had her reeling, Allura feeling as if her whole world had turned upside down.
~GODS?!~ She thought, stunned and amazed. Could those really be Gods standing just a few feet away from her? And if so, what were they doing here, and what did they want from her people? She met the eyes of the white haired man, the so called God, and felt a shiver go through her. She was no closer to understanding what was going on, but the promise in his gaze said life as she knew it, was about to get infinitely more interesting!