1 Prologue

The musty dust rising meters above the ground, fetid camels lazing about under the dusted streaks of the sunlight, and the temperature was high, causing visual distortion along the distance. Her eyes zoomed in on the view along the rocky streetside as the large caged trolley, the size of a small cabin, rattled along the stoney path of the market.

They were heading for the market and they were to be auctioned off. That's all that she knew for now and she only knew because she heard the master yell to the survey guard, "Board the imports from last week onto the cage trolley! We are auctioning the drudges at the market today!"

She shivered at the recall of the master's voice and trembled in the open cage that they were traveling in. The master was not a big fellow but he was yet still intimidating with a stoic frame and sharp, gutted eyes that bore deep into their skin, prodding for any worth they could come up with. The declaration came a day later from when they had been hauled over from another dusty village, she and her companions. They were a sad sullen lot who didn't speak, nor interacted with each other and they often cast quick rat-like glances towards each other rather than actually talking out loud. There they were now, traveling to where they would meet their fate. Would they end being blessed with a kind Master or would they be whipped on a daily basis?

The cage trolley suddenly clattered loudly to a stop.

"Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" Master's loud booming voice cut through the bustle of the marketplace. There fell a distinct hush among the people frequenting the marketplace. The marketplace is a bundle of messy chaos at its best, there are stalls everywhere shielded from the sun with cheap tarpaulin made from animal skin. She didn't know what animal they were made from but she only knew that it was the same material as the tarpaulin that covered and made the tent at the drudge camp where she used to reside. The Master has ordered the trolley peddler to stop at a large clearing in the middle of the marketplace so that there were no stalls blocking the auction for a good few meters.

"Hear Ye! People! Auction! Finest Import from the West! Hear ye!" The Master's voice is magnified by the cupping of his hand near his mouth and the sound of his voice boomed throughout the middle of the marketplace. The bustle slowly drifted to a quiet and the people who were previously occupied turned about to scrutinize the new havoc that the Master was causing. A generous amount of audience has now encircled the cage trolley, with wide curious eyes peering down with assessment at the group of grimy youngsters huddled with fear in the cage trolley. They were a selection of drudge imports, including her, holding onto each other at the sight of an unfamiliar lot of people staring at them.

Drudges were nothing, simply nothing but merely people plucked off from orphanages when they were not adopted by the coming age and outgrew themselves. They were often carried off in other neighboring villages and sold off as menial workers or servants for rich households in the village. This batch of drudges were brought over to the richest village, the capital village where the Royals were known to spend their leisurely holidays in his dusty piece of land neighboring the sea.

"You, basa mien! Golden girl! Come out!" The master yelled, pointing straight towards her. She flinched harshly, realizing that he was picking her out of the lot and she would be the first one to be auctioned out.

She warily and slowly walked out in slow careful steps, jolting in alarm as she trudged out of the cage trolley. Her companions watched her walk off with gaped mouths as she passed by them, the cufflinks around her ankles clanking against the metal floor of the cage that housed all the drudges miserably. Then suddenly when she reached the first steps outside the cage trolley, she didn't go towards the Master.

She ran.

To the opposite side.

•••••••••••••••

"The Prince! The Crown Prince has run away! Fue n yta! Find him!"

Oh what a dramatic lot, Eric thought and rolled his eyes. He was currently hiding behind the bushes that acted as the borderline of the Royal Pied-à-Terre, a separate house for their leisure and holidays.

And he wasn't running away.

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He only wanted to spend some time away from his duties. He wanted a break and that was all. But they couldn't even allow him that.

The market was only a little walk away from the holiday house so Eric could escape there quite easily. But his relief was only short-lived as he got up, revealing himself from the cover of the bush, he was caught immediately.

"There he is! After him!" One of the guards yelled after him.

"Shit!" Eric swore, turning around and dashing off in the direction of the market.

It only took a few minutes to reach the marketplace. With the guards chasing him and biting upon his heels, Eric ran through into the entrance of the market. It didn't take him even a while to notice the small commotion taking place in the middle of the market, where the small clearing was. A good amount of the villagers had gathered around in a big circle and there was a man, yelling something quite loud that echoed throughout the market. Suddenly the yells and echoes of the man in the Market became clear. He was yelling for them to go after a girl. As Eric ran past the huge group of men, it became clear that a girl had escaped the auction and they were searching for her.

Sounds like a similar situation, he chuckled as he turned around a corner.

Oof.

Suddenly he came into a collision with another person at the corner and they both fell on their dusty butts. When he looked up, it was a girl that he had collided with. The girl had dark brown hair that looked grubby and matched the shade of her skin which looked equally dirty like she had been tossed in dust and mud. But something about her made him slow down, her eyes to be exact. They were golden and glinted against the light of the sun. Like yet another sun itself.

"Woah, holy shit" He halted to a stop as he stood up and he bent back down with his hand extended to her, "Your eyes! They're golden!"

She looked up, hearing the words of the young man. He was clad in expensive-looking clothes and he looked as though he belonged to the higher class. He was no normal man as he was clad in clothing that no other man in the village dared to wear: a pair of black pants and a matching cotton black shirt that extended over his thighs. The edges of it were golden, the lapel and the hem and all over embroidered with gold thread. His attire was a stark contrast against the musty brown rag draped over the young girl. The boy looked about sixteen and the girl was equal to his age.

He was definitely someone important, She thought. He was walking up to her in entranced steps, not taking his eyes off of her form. She brought her shoulders closer, feeling scrutinized and uncomfortable. She looked at his fair hand that he extended to her. She shook her head rapidly as she refused to take his hand. He smiled, not tauntingly or unkindly.

Eric softly looked over her form, there were cufflinks attached to her ankles and his suspicions were aroused. He pointed to the Master who was yelling from behind the cover of the stall they were standing.

"Are they looking for you?" He asked and her eyes widened with fear. She rapidly shook her head again, a little too fervently that he knew immediately that they were looking for her. He smiled again.

"I won't tell them, don't worry." He told her, signaling to his hand that it was extended out. Take it, he was telling her silently. She slowly looked down to his hand and paused, pondering.

"Yes, that's it. I won't tell them." He reassured her when she slowly put her hand up again. He nodded encouragingly.

"Don't worry, I'll take you somewhere far away from here." He told her.

He was enchanted with her. The wavering gold in her eyes that reminded him of his home, the castle of Newarfa. Her skin looked like the moment after sunset, when there is a calm reverberating across the earth. It was then in this moment that he promised himself that he would guard her with his life. He was so beguiled by her, even though it was the first time. This boy of thirteen was experiencing what he felt was enchantment. This person in front of him shone in his eyes despite her unkempt look. She was overwhelmingly beautiful to him and he feared that he would crush her light if he made her scared. He lifted her from the dust-filled ground steadily and took both of her hands in his.

"Don't worry. You never have to go through that again. Look at you, you are the sun, the Sinne." That meant the sun in the royal language but she didn't understand him. He was speaking another dialect to her ears when he called her that.

"What's your name, my Sinne?" He asked.

She gulped, stumbling forward slightly despite the weight of her heavy cufflinks around the ankles. He was stretching a hand out to her and the sun shone brightly behind his head. She couldn't quite catch his face properly due to the sun's glare but she stuttered, feeling like she spoke after eons as her voice scratched across her throat gruffly.

"Sorine.."

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