I chose the seaside image for my 20 minute sprint this time around. I went old school fantasy with it this time around. I hope you enjoy it.
The Hidden Path
Calanthe gazed out the window of the library tower wondering if she’d ever be able to convince her uncle that she should be allowed outside again.
Ever since her parents died on a diplomatic trip to their neighbors her uncle had grown increasingly paranoid. She wasn’t allowed out of the country. That made sense to her. Within a few months she wasn’t allowed out of the royal city either. A year after they died he’d restricted her to the palace itself unless she was under guard and accompanied by him or a cabinet member. Now, three years after their death, she wasn’t even allowed to freely roam the palace grounds. She was allowed in the library tower and her own bedchamber, which was now at the very top room of said tower. That was it.
It was ridiculous. All her guards knew it too. They apologized whenever she asked them to take her outside. They had to follow her uncle’s orders if they wanted to keep their positions.
Calanthe didn’t want them to lose their places. They were kind men, and they’d all promised to serve her faithfully when she came of age. They’d promised her that even before he parents died three years ago. Sadly, she still had two years to wait before she was eighteen, and thus seen as old enough to govern her own kingdom.
Until then, she was stuck with her uncle as regent and her restrictions firmly in place.
Feeling restless, Calanthe moved to another window, this one overlooking the back of the palace where the walls ran down to the rocky cliffs that lead to the ocean below. Even with their royal city also being one of their richest ports, they’d never had anyone capture the palace itself. It was situated high on the cliff with a dangerous shoreline full of submerged rocks.
Not that they looked very formidable in the daylight. The rocks were a red and gray sandy color and many of them were weathered smooth. From this window she could even see what looked like a path leading down to the shore.
Calanthe frowned. There shouldn’t be a path there. She pushed the window open as far as she could and leaned out so she could look directly down the wall.
It really looked like a path. It wound around the rocks and then headed right around the tower.
She closed the window and hurried around to the next one, pushing the casement open and leaning out to see if she could find the path again. It was harder to see from this angle, but it was there, winding its way slightly to the right and then back left to go further down the cliff.
Calanthe raced to the stairs, going higher to get a better view. She’d always looked out toward the city before, trying to recall what it was like to go outside and explore it like she used to. But this was an amazing discovery. There wasn’t anywhere in the library tower she was forbidden to go. She just wasn’t aloud through the grand entrance. But if there were a back door. Or a suitable window.
The next level didn’t have windows on that side of the tower. She’d never noticed that before.
Hurrying up to the next level Calanthe found only one window on that side, and she could only see the very start of the path from it. The next level only had one window and she knew it faced toward the city, so she hurried up the stairs past it toward her own room. She had four windows, one in each cardinal direction. The south one pointed toward the sea.
Calanthe was running by the time she made it to her room, her hands smacking against the wall beside the window as she came to an abrupt halt. She was panting as she unlatched the window and threw open the casement. She grabbed the sill with both hands as she leaned out and looked down.
From this high, she could see the entire path. It wound through the rocks and boulders down the cliff and she could see why she’d never noticed before. It was so well hidden. It blended so completely with the surrounding rocks and from the water below you wouldn’t be able to see it at all.
But at the very bottom, way down by the water was a stone wall with an iron gate.
Did her uncle know? He couldn’t. He wouldn’t have locked her up all by herself in the library tower if he thought she could get out somehow. Even if there was nowhere to go except the path itself.
Calanthe closed the window and looked around her room. She needed a plan. If she was going to explore the path, it needed to be when she wouldn’t be missed. Late morning when she was supposed to be studying, or maybe after dinner when she was sent up to her room for the evening. Night would be best. She had excellent night vision. She would be able to see well into the twilight without alerting anyone with a lantern.
Tomorrow wouldn’t do. She was supposed to have dinner with some visiting nobles and she was always exhausted by the end, and it might run long, so she wouldn’t have much time. But the night after she was supposed to have a private dinner with her uncle. Those were always short. She could go exploring after that.
Calanthe rifled through her chest of drawers, looking for an old gown that she wouldn’t have to explain away if it got ripped or dirty. She found one, a little short on her now, but still big enough in the waist and bust that she could get it on over her chemise. She put it back at the bottom of a drawer, not wanting anyone to suspect what she was up to.
She was practically vibrating with excitement. She could go outside and breathe in the fresh air. She couldn’t wait.