“Fresh baked bread!”
“Costumes for Keeper’s Day—get dressed up now and spook your friends!”
“Jellied zillaberries! Sweet and tangy, get some today!”
Laughing, Lucasta Rahl darted through the crowded streets. Everyone was gathered in Dunstan’s main square today, all dressed in outlandish costumes from every part of D’Hara.
Before Lucasta was born, Dunstan had been the capital of its own kingdom, called Mardovia. One of the richer and more populated of the hundred kingdoms, it was a natural choice for Lucasta’s father, Canton Rahl, when he built himself a castle, in the heart of all the now-united squabbling kingdoms. The People’s Palace of D’Hara.
Lucasta looked up at the tall turrets, trying to find her own room’s tiny window. She wished her room looked out on the lake, like her grandmother’s. But the bustling capital city was a charming sight, too, especially today. Keeper’s Day was a popular festival—everyone dressed in costumes, and gave children, like Lucasta, candy.
Best of all, there was no reason for any of them to guess she was the Princess—not dressed as she was, as a ninja from Blacklake.
Lucasta stopped at the candy seller. Tangy zillaberries were her favorite.
“Lucasta!” a little boy about Lucasta’s age called desperately. He was dressed in a heavy white robe, hooded and tightly bound around him, and on his face was an expression of acute discomfort.
“Shh, Tom!” Lucasta hissed, beckoning the boy closer. She didn’t want her father’s soldiers or her grandmother’s remaining loyal acolytes to find her and drag her back to the Palace before she’d had any fun.
Tom was the son of a childhood friend of Lucasta’s mother’s, a woman who had given up her place in the priestesses’ Temple after Canton Rahl’s armies conquered Dunstan, to get married and have children. Lucasta’s grandmother was still de facto head of the Temple, but no one was permitted there now.
At the other side of the market square from the People’s Palace, the Temple was drafty and forlorn. Lucasta glanced at it, and tucked her silver throwing star under her arm to make the customary devout sign her grandmother had taught her.
“What’s the matter?” Lucasta demanded, most of her thoughts on those tangy zillaberries.
“I’m so hot in this outfit, I’m dying here!” complained Tom. “Do you think you could—?”
Lucasta shrugged, and concentrated. If she wasn’t careful, she could freeze Tom to an icicle, but she’d been working on her powers with her grandmother…
Yes! Lucasta opened her eyes. Tom smiled, looking properly grateful.
He even bought Lucasta some zillaberries, as a thank you. Lucasta was just glad she’d decided to dress up as a ninja and not the fabled Snow Monster of Gnoth.
As it was, the cool, dry autumn air whistled around Lucasta and Tom as they dashed from one end of the market square to another.
Lucasta was completely exhausted by the time her grandmother came to collect her. She smiled, clutching her silver throwing star close to her chest.
It had been the best Keeper’s Day ever.