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    The lights

    A scream rang out into the night air. Prince Devalain stood in his parent’s bedchamber; the only other person present was the General who, as the Prince had suspected of treachery for many years, had killed both his parents. The orphaned Prince stood gazing at his parents’ lifeless bodies, and arrow producing from each of their chests. A young boy of barely sixteen, much too young to claim the throne of Obrass, Prince Devalain was orphaned that night with only his good scholar to care for him. Moonlight poured into the darkened room as General Beaufort stepped steadily out, as if he had left behind the awful deed he had just done a long time ago, and he left the Prince sobbing quietly into his hands.

    ‘Did you hear? The King and his wife died last night.’ Soran Guinevere’s pale blue eyes glinted in the early morning sunlight as he turned to his elder sister, Elian. ‘Yes. But, you know, I don’t believe they deserved it, not matter what a lot of the orphans say. They always tried to be kind to every person in the land, even if it seemed as if it didn’t show at times.’ Elian answered her brother, and she gestured towards a butcher’s shop in the narrow alleyway that was full of dirt and paved with cobble stones. Each of the four children entered, one after the other.

    Elian, Soran, Edward and Isabelle Guinevere were orphan siblings, but perhaps the luckiest orphan siblings ever born. They were people who thought of the glass of water as half-full rather than half-empty; in other words, they were optimistic. Soran, the second eldest of the four and the eldest boy, had constantly reminded his brother and sisters that they were lucky to have stayed together. He said this in the fist few weeks of pain that followed their parents’ death, though he said this half to ease his own pain. Yes, the Guinevere orphans knew all too well what the Prince was going through.

    Back in the castle at the top of the hill overlooking the entire city, the Prince had entered a state of sorrow. He refused to leave his room and did not eat or sleep for three days. Meanwhile, the rest of the palace (including the cooks, maids and nurses when they were not trying to get Prince Devalain to sleep or eat something) were preparing for the market day, also known to half the country as the Northern Aurora festival, when everyone from near and far would gather to celebrate the Northern Lights appearing again. It was aid that the Northern Lights appearance once every ten years could bring miracles and all the people of the Kingdom and beyond would call upon the spirit of the Lights to grant their fondest desire. But, it would only grant one wish…

    The day of the festival celebrations came. The orphanage where the Guinevere children lived were already standing outside the gates to the great castle courtyard as the sun rose above the other hills and mountains further away from the castle. At the head of the group of children stood Elian, who was the eldest of them all; she was sixteen. She stared up at the huge, iron gates and they suddenly swung open.
    The sight that met their eyes was brilliantly magnificent.

    Far away, on a boat filled with convicts, a boy stood gazing at the sea. His name was Raj. He was an Egyptian thief that was sent to Obrass to pay his sentence, but he planned to escape as soon as the boat docked. Raj saw the beam of green light that began the Northern Aurora and he stared at the dancing lights, transfixed. He did not realise until later how much of an affect that seeing this light fixed upon him.

    The weather at the docks of Obrass was unpredictable and often livid. The waves could reach seven metres high on bad days. Unfortunately for Raj, this happened to be one of the worst days yet. The waves crashed down on the tiny boat and Raj clung onto the sides for dear life. The storm raged for what seemed like a lifetime to him, and he soon became to get anxious that he would not survive. Screams filled the air and the boat rocked from left to right and back again, making the boy feel rather seasick. He had never been on a boat before and, after this experience, probably never would again. Children were thrown about in the cabin, adults desperately tried to rescue them from being crushed under falling beams and those who had no-one to care for were completely disregarded. Raj’s mother and father were back in Egypt and he was glad that his miserable mother was not caught up in the storm as he was.

    Prince Devalain fell from the stage as the storm hit the mainland and he fell right on top of Elian. The one person he wanted and didn’t want to meet at the same time. She was thrown to the ground and the Prince stayed there until the storm had passed. Elian stood with a bit of help from her brothers and stared at the Prince. Her stare was cold and seemed to suck all the words, all the smart remarks out of Devalain’s brain. He was speechless and a good thing too, because right at that moment the convicts arrived at the castle gates.

    ‘Bring them in and make sure not a single one escapes.’ The Prince told a tall soldier. The man had thick black hair cut neatly short and dark, unforgiving eyes. He seemed to Elian as if he didn’t even know how to smile. But her attention was not focused on the scowling soldier, but on Raj who seemed to be very out of place; everybody else had pale white skin from lack of sun, but it was difficult to see Raj whose skin was dark, dark as the darkest night. But still people looked at him; his smile, which was most mischievous, seemed to glow in the night, from the brightness of the moon. She did not want to let the men take these children and their parents away, she wanted to help them, but knew she couldn’t.

    Raj sat in the cell in the dungeons, not talking to anyone but himself. He told himself over and over again that it was just a bad dream and that everything would be back to normal in the morning. That he would be back in Egypt and his parents would wake him up in at daybreak like always. But no-one came the next sunrise but a guard to bring them food, who looked as if he’d like to be anywhere but there at the time. Maybe he thought the convicts to be bad luck or just Farad for that matter. But Raj was used to it, he had always been told nothing good would ever become of him and that he would bring bad luck and shame to his family because he stole to keep them alive. Now how would they survive the boiling hot days and cold nights? But he planned to be back there soon. But how am I going to get there? He wondered.

    Elian stepped lightly through the debris of the celebrations. All the half-eaten cakes and popped children’s balloons and smashed bottles were strewn across the courtyard ground. Her brothers and younger sister followed hesitantly, with expressions of great curiosity across their faces. The Prince stood at the far end of the courtyard, looking upwards towards the tall towers of his castle. He called to the orphans;
    ‘Come inside, I have something to talk about. I must apologise to you properly, Miss Elian. For falling on you last night,’ he added hastily by way of answer for their questioning looks.

    Devalain took the four children to the dungeons to see the convicts. Raj looked up at the approaching footsteps, thinking it was another guard. He had a terrible feeling that at some stage he would be taken somewhere else, sold as a slave or servant to a rich man or maybe even worse. But he saw only the five orphans. He studied each one with a curious gaze, but his eyes lingered on Elian longest. She returned his gaze and he quickly looked away, blushing deep red.

    ‘These people are all convicts. That one,’ The Prince pointed one long, thin finger at Raj, ‘He stole repetitively from a farm in Egypt. He has been sent here to be sold to a rich merchant named Gaborant, who is in dire need of a slave.’ Devalain stared at Raj with such loathing that he shied away, not wanting to be subjected to that withering gaze. The door to the cell opened, and Elian stepped in. She crouched down on her knees in front of Raj and took his arm. ‘He needs a doctor, Devalain. He needs one now. Look at his arm; haven’t you noticed it’s covered in blood? There’s a huge gash along it.’ And she began cleaning it with the water in a bowl at the wall and a strip of fabric she tore from the bottom of her dress.

    Raj stared at Elian as she tended to his wound. He winced once in a while but most of the time just let her clean it, and stayed silent. ‘How did you get such a terrible gash? It must have been painful.’ She asked him with a smile.
    ‘Uh…I must’ve done it against a knife when the storm came. It was awful! The boat rocked terribly and I was scared half to death!’ He lied.
    ‘I don’t remember Miss Elian asking how you felt at the time!’ Devalain shouted angrily at Raj who shied down again.
    ‘Stop it! Leave him alone, it’s not his fault!’ Elian said as she rose and defended Raj. She stood in front of him as if her body could protect him from the awful things that she could not believe the Prince was saying.
    ‘Oh, and I think you’d rather stay here in the dungeon with these piles of human filth than up in the castle as I was going to let you and your siblings stay!’ he yelled.
    ‘Yes! I’d much rather that you self-centred tyrant!’ she shouted back and sat down and made herself comfortable.
    ‘Very well, your siblings will stay in their own rooms in the castle and you can stay with these… things, unless they would rather stay here.’ He said this with such revulsion that some of the parents covered their children’s ears.
    ‘Go with him, I’ll be fine.’ Elian told her brothers and sister and Devalain led them up the staircase back into the courtyard and through the pink doors to the castle.

    ‘Why did you protect me?’ Raj asked Elian with a questioning look on his dark face.
    ‘I protected you because, even if Devalain is a prince, I still think he needs to learn what is right and what is wrong.’ She replied with a smirk.
    ‘Hmm… But he likes you, doesn’t he? Why would he make you stay here?’
    ‘Is it really that obvious he likes me?’ Elian said as she began to blush a deep red, ‘Well, just as I do, he fights for what he believes in. It’s my hope that I can change what that is.’ And she fell silent, leaving Raj to think about what she had said.

    Raj was pacing up and down the cell for hours after Elian fell asleep, curled up in a ball. He was thinking. Thinking about whether he truly did want to go back to Egypt when he escaped. Did he really want to leave Elian here in this damp dungeon? He could take her with him, but would she come? No, she wouldn’t. Not without her brothers and younger sister. He had known her for barely a day, and yet he felt as if he had known her forever. He loved the way she laughed. It was a ray of sunshine in the darkest of days, the first blooming flower of spring that couldn’t wait to blossom forth and show the world its beauty. He loved her blonde hair that swayed in the wind whenever the guards came to give them food and water. There was no way he was leaving her here in this awful place, so he’d just have to convince the Prince to let them go, and also take her siblings with them.

    When Elian woke, Raj was sitting beside her, running his fingers through her hair. She lay there still for a while, listening to him breathe. His breath came in a steady flow. She noticed a slight wheeze, barely there at all. Then she sat up, slowly, as if she hardly had any strength left. He started, surprised at the movement. Elian smiled at him, she was glad to be with Raj even if it was in a terrible place like this. The other prisoners were huddled together for warmth because this place was so incredibly cold. Raj and Elian were both used to it and so did not need to huddle with the others. Raj smiled back at the girl.
    ‘Why do you still stay?’ he asked for the hundredth time.
    ‘I continue to stay because I do not belong in the castle.’ She answered, the same answer she always had, but Raj believed there was more to it.