The high-ceilinged theater hall was filled. There was barely standing room. The velvet seats were each filled, and the agile ushers dashed to stop the ticket master from allowing any more bribes entry. Children squirmed and tried to get a better view of the curtained stage. The assembled throng slowly began to thin as ushers forced anyone not holding a ticket stub to leave.
Finally, people in the hall could breathe. A few people were forced to stand, but there was breathing room, and the aisles were clear. A few people who bribed their way remained, and eagerly chatted with those around them as they awaited the grand show– a play put on by a local theater troop. The most exciting part of the play was the lead female, played by the youngest daughter of King Mansfeld Kinguard the First, Princess Camille Kinguard the Fourth.
She was a pretty thing that looked much like her namesake. Her hair was yellow, and her eyes were green. Her smile was impish, and her figure, boyish. This was to be your first time on the stage.
The ushers dimmed each of the lamps on the walls, and above, a light specialist aimed a large beam at the stage. An orator stepped from between the curtains and began to drone on. A few of the younger children in the audience fell asleep, bored by the man’s monotone spiel. First, he spoke on about the origins of the Kingdom of Saldecla, and how it embraced ideas of peace. After, he listed every monarch by name and deed. Mansfeld himself began to feel weary. Only the most polite of the viewers, a noble’s family from Highpoint, managed to avoid near-sleep.
A gong sounded. It’s song woke many a sleeping noble and merchant in time to see the opening act: a couple farming peasants hoeing their land and talking.
“I hear there was a tournament just three days ago.” One said with a grand shrug.
“I would have loved to see it.” The woman laughed. “Many men trying to beat each other to submission sounds a grand time.” Her voice was unenthusiastic, and her speech was stilted.
“I hear a hero appeared during the tournament, who claims to be the son of a duke.”
The lights dimmed, and the actors fled the stage. Behind the scenes, a man turned a wheel, and a round portion of the stage rose. The lights changed colors, and instead of a featureless region, Saldecla Castle became recognizable. For several long moments, nothing happened. Behind the stage, the actors rushed about frantically, searching out the missing actress. They found her stand-in and sent her out Her features were too broad to be the true actress, and a murmur of disapproval rose from the crowd as she dashed out onto the raised platform.
The poor actress’s voice trembled as she began her lines. “Ah, the champion of the tournament, who traversed far to rescue me, Armand! How already I miss his company, despite only knowing him short hours.” Her voice became more certain, and carried clearly through the hall. “Armand, oh Armand! Your silvery locks are dashing, and your eyes are as the sun piercing a leaf!” She sighed theatrically and stepped down. She slowly walked. “Ah, but he is a busy man, and I, confined…” The young woman paused, “Thus.”
A couple scholars walked past her. One wore a dull red, and the other wore a disgusting bile yellow. They spoke quietly until they approached the princess. “I hear the young Hero Armand is to travel to the Koldazhek Cave in search of a relic to aid in his fight to protect the kingdom.”
“I hear he goes instead to a cave in the Duchy of Highpoint instead. He seeks a better spell book.”
“No, surely he seeks out the relic from the old sage in the cave.”
As they continued to go past, their voices became quieter. The actress smiled. “Ah, what fortune shines on me! It is simple to convince a fisherman that he should sail me the short distance to Koldazhek’s island, where I am certain he will go, for he is an academic sort, and enjoys the company of the wise.” She laughed and ran off-stage.
The crowd came alive with murmurs as the lights on the stage dimmed. Where was the true star of the play, Princess Camille? Certainly, the missing princess’s understudy was wonderful at her part, but they came to watch their princess as she played the part of her ancestor.
The play continued on, and before very long, the crowd forgot their dissatisfaction and began to enjoy themselves. At the end of the show, the actors were tossed coins for their efforts, and a standing ovation was given to the female actress who played Princess Camille Kinguard the First.
Only Mansfeld remained silent, and he slipped out a side exit to seek out his missing daughter.
Camille herself wore black as she sat on the roof of the theater. He watched in amusement as her beloved father stormed away. She dashed off to the south, headed toward the city’s gate. Today was the day she would go exploring, just as the first Camille had! She slipped through the gate when a guard began to cough, and disappeared into the shadows.
The rush of sweet freedom sent a wave of giddiness through the young woman. She dashed away from the city and dove into the small southern forest. Her feet stopped just within and she turned around. There was no pursuit. She felt giddy, and began shaking. She withdrew deeper into the forest. Each step she took, she kept her finger clenched between her teeth to prevent gleeful outcry. She was almost free!
Finally, she turned around. Her eyes darted about as she tried to get her bearings. She was inside one of the few forests left on Saldecla Island. She was south of Saldecla’s capital city. Her goal was almost due east, then. She began to walk– a lone, unarmed girl with a few snacks in her pockets and only the barest of combat training.