The city wanted to make me their ward and to put me into the orphanage. I had no family. No aunts, uncles, grandparents. I was terrified of the orphanage. So I ran.
-the writing on the cell wall
Aster Gardens was in full bloom. The trees were heavy with vibrant blossoms and ripened fruit. Flower stalks sported brilliant blooms with bees buzzing from head to head to spread the love the flowers had to share and give. The grass was an emerald green sheet, perfectly manicured, as were the flower beds.
The sun was high in the sky and cast its warmth that day, the first of summer. Many of the nobility were out for a stroll along one of the many dirt footpaths. The women carried dainty parasols and lifted heavy skirts from the dirt. The men tipped their hats to the poised ladies and each other, many with a lovely young maiden on their arm.
Lord Daisun Sarlik nodded his head to a couple of acquaintances as they passed by, careful to keep the little white parasol over his daughter’s head. Like all the other noble men, he wore dark pants stuffed into the tops of shin high boots with a little bit of a heel and a loose cotton shirt stuffed in turn into the pants. On his head was a black hat, tall and stiff with a three inch wide brim. His sixteen-year-old daughter had her father’s curling auburn hair and dancing blue eyes. Her pale skin, though, came from her long dead mother, who had died giving birth to their second child, who had also died during the process. It had been only Lord Sarlik and his daughter, the young Lady Caidy, for the past thirteen years.
“Papa,” Caidy said, carefully lifting the hem of her floor length day dress, a marvelous blue that matched her eyes with lace that matched the parasol, “I don’t wish to go to Mercaido City for further schooling. Why can I not stay here in Needle City? I’ll be so much closer to you.”
Lord Sarlik glanced down at his petite daughter’s head. She really was a delicate little creature with a heart of gold, just like her mother. And, just like her mother, she was fashionable, yet timeless. He knew it was any day now that boys would be knocking at the manor to ask for a luncheon with his little girl. After all, she had just turned sixteen and was now of marriageable age. It pained him to think of that.
“Now, Caidy,” he said sternly, yet lovingly, “we’ve discussed this. You are my only child and, with this feud with those despicable Almis going on, I need to protect you. Just three months ago the Zallis family lost their oldest son in their feud with the Nirlar family. It’s for your own safety.”
Caidy frowned, her mind working overtime. She had planned on telling her father of her longstanding friendship with the Almis’ daughter Tyala that day, something they had kept secret from their parents for most of their lives. Neither girl wished to be part of the feud and had planned on ending it, but perhaps the bitterness was still there, not that any of them actually remembered how their feud had begun. She hoped her friend was having better luck.
“Come, Caidy,” Sarlik said abruptly. “It’s time to head back home for luncheon.”
“But, Papa,” Caidy protested, “we haven’t finished walking around the gardens.”
“I know, my dear, but I have business to attend to right away.”
Caidy sighed and turned with her father. “Yes, Papa.”
As they turned away, Sarlik stole a glance over his shoulder. Lord and Lady Almi were headed in their general direction. He had no wish to have anything to do with them that day, not when he had been enjoying this morning with his daughter. He didn’t need to pollute their day with their feud with the Almis.