She had met him in the glade, three weeks after she fled. He had been the first person to find her, though at the time she didn’t wonder how. She marvelled only at the simple fact that he was there, he existed, and that she was there too. It was only until later that she realised perhaps, she didn’t ask the right questions.
But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter then, and it certainly didn’t matter now. She could only hope that whatever had led him to her then might help him find his way back.
The people feared magic. They feared it above all else, their fear manifesting, as always, into anger and violence. Even now, Rowena could see the telltale curl of smoke rising from a far-flung village on the edge of the horizon, lit with an orange glow from the sinking sun. Against such fear, she and her parents were helpless. As her gaze travelled from that faraway village, across the kingdom and back into the room in which she stood, she marvelled again at the irony. The royal Ravenclaw family, forced into hiding by their own subjects.
She had made her decision the previous night. To run away. To leave behind her life of privilege, in exchange for the freedom of practicing magic as she wished. The prospect of a life lived within these castle walls, as powerless as the lowliest of peasants, and cut off even from the books she so loved, was such that even death would be preferable. Here, a girl had no place being educated beyond what was seemly, and a royal had no place using the magic associated with rebels and heretics.
She moved away from the window, fidgeting anxiously with the silken covers of her bed. What would it be like, to sleep on the rough ground? How would she stay safe from those dangerous characters who lurked in the shadows off the road? What if someone stole from her while she was sleeping? Was she a light enough sleeper to react in time? How would her family react to the news that their only daughter had vanished?
She had considered all these questions before, of course, when she was weighing up her decision to leave. Now that she had decided, however, each question suddenly seemed bigger, more important, more ominous.
She glanced at the door to her chambers, willing it to swing closed. Even the brief act of magic reassured her. She was a witch, a sorceress, with greater power than those she would find on the road. And even if harm befell her wand, she could function without it. Only rudimentary magic, of course, but even rudimentary was better than nothing.
She laid on her bed a leather satchel, beginning to fill it with whatever she may need. With another glance at the door, she withdrew her wand from the hollow in the wall behind her bed, pointed it at the bag, and whispered an incantation in the ancient tongue. She tripped over the words often, mispronouncing or misreading them. She had heard talk of sorcerors who used Latin-based incantations, and there was little doubt in her mind that would be easier.
She seized the pile of clothes she had gathered the night before, noting with satisfaction that the small bag now had no limits on what it could hold. Aware that time was running out, she gathered her bedding and the portion of food she had set aside from lunch. It would not last her long, but it was a start. Finally, she stacked her spellbooks, as well as her other books on folklore and legends, history, languages and herblore, and carefully slipped them into the satchel.
“Lady Rowena?” A voice called, following a hesitant knock on the door. “The King bids you to dine with him tonight.”
Rowena’s breath caught in her throat. Had her father guessed what she was planning? She could not think of any other reason why she would be summoned; she usually took her meals alone in her chamber, unless there was a celebratory feast.
“Thank you, Eleanor,” she called back, remembering herself. “I will join him shortly.” She thrust the bag underneath her pillow, hoping that would be enough to conceal it from prying eyes until she returned from dinner, and went out to meet her parents.
“It is good of you to join us,” her father noted, waving her to her seat at the table.
“You summoned me, father?”
“I did. You are eighteen years of age now, Rowena. You must put some thought to marriage.”
“Of course,” she replied, the knowledge of her escape helping her remain calm. “Did you have any suitor in mind?”
“There are, of course, a number of favourable young noblemen in the kingdom. You may begin meeting them tomorrow.” He took a mouthful of wine, his voice losing its formal tone. “There are enough eligible young men that you will not be forced to marry against your will. I will ensure it, Rowena. You have my word.”
“Thank you, father.”
Perhaps she was making her escape at the ideal time. Though her father’s assurances had only served to remind her that he did care for her, more so than she allowed herself to realise. It was only now that she realised what her escape would mean for her parents.
Once silence had fallen, the only sound from the horses shifting in the stable across the courtyard, or the boots of the guards on the other side of the castle, Rowena slipped out of bed, taking up her satchel and glancing out the window. All was clear in the courtyard below; the guards had just passed and would not be around again for another twenty minutes. Moving quickly, she lit a lantern, slipped her wand and dagger inside her belt, and fastened her cloak around her shoulders.
The night air was crisp and cool, a slight breeze teasing at her long, dark hair and flicking waves of it into her face. Eyes darting back and forth, she crossed the courtyard and extinguished the flame in her lantern as the horses in the stable shifted about at the sight of the light. Keeping one eye on the courtyard outside, she saddled her horse, mounted and urged it into a canter across the cobblestones.
The sentry at the gate turned at the sound of hooves, and Rowena drew her wand. Concentrating on the man, she whispered the words and stowed her wand again as his eyes slid out of focus.
Clear of the castle gate, she urged the horse into a gallop, disappearing into the darkness of the forest without a backward glance.
A/N: Well, welcome to my latest project! I've never written Founders before, so a review to let me know what you think would be fantastic! Thank you for reading!
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