Her feet quietly padded on the stone floors, cold leaking through the stones and into her tiny feet. But, focused as she was, she never noticed the cold that was freezing her toes. Her ears and eyes strained against the darkness, listening for anyone else who may be awake. But she encountered no other souls other than her own. She could see it tied to a thin spectral line, leading her out of the castle where she, her family, and their staff reside.
As she turned another corner, following the path only she could see, the light seemed to grow gradually brighter, illuminating a small spirit walking alongside her. It was the cutest fawn she had ever seen, and when she paused to pet it her thin fingers slid through the mist that made up the animal, fog coating her fingers and making them colder for a few seconds, even after she removed her hand.
She made a quietly excited sound, as she had never seen astral projection before.
“I must say, I am surprised to see you here, young fawn. You have never accompanied me before. What is different today?” Surprising her, the fawn didn’t answer, preferring to keep moving. The girl sighed softly, a sound reminiscent of a warm summer’s breeze. Following the call of the wild, she walked quickly from where she lived, towards her true home hidden in the wild forest that surrounded the castle.
She crossed the stone bridge stretching the length of the ravine separating the royal lands from those of the wild. In order to cross the bridge in its entirety, you must be of royal blood or otherwise accompanied by a member of royal blood who would take entire responsibility of your actions while you remained in the castle. As it was, the only companion the girl had on this winters’ night was made of mist and the spirit of an animal considered harmless to the kingdom. Other, more feared monsters, had protection against their kind similar to the bridge’s wards against people.
As the young girl reached the end of the walkway, she paused before stepping onto the softness of the grass. In order to pass the invisible barrier, she was required to give some blood and her entire title to one of the Owls of Elm, once living creatures that had been enslaved for this specific purpose when they couldn’t keep guards stationed at the border 24/7. The owl had become the symbol of one of her ancestors who had unknowingly provided the power to bind the owls to the royal family.
After finding out about what she had unwittingly done, the young girl had tried to turn the creatures back to the wild creatures that they were but was unable to do so because she didn’t know the specific magics that bound them in the first place. When it was discovered that she was trying to free the creatures, she was banished from the kingdom for treason. For years, the royals kept tabs on her life until one day she vanished without a trace and was never seen or heard from again. Since then, everyone knew of the magic that ran within the blood of the royals but no trace of it had been seen of it since the girl’s disappearance over 8 centuries prior.
In the present day, the girl heading into the forest proffered her finger to the closest owl and allowed the owl to bite through her skin in an affectionate way until the girl started listing off all of her titles (that she knew of). Yes. The whole thing. Not just the one her father had gifted her, being the only child he’d begotten before her mothers’ disappearance, oh no, this includes the titles she was told of while in the forest, though she’s sure they’re not the only ones she holds. However, since she doesn’t know the others, it doesn’t matter and the owls will still let her pass because the only ones that matter to the wards are borne of her being blood related to the one that enchanted them.
“I, princess Callista Rose of the Stafford family, the royal family of the kingdom of Ivrikar, and princess of the magical realm do request permission from the owls of elm and the magic of my ancestors to grant me passage into the forest to swear my duty as princess of magic and retake my throne.” The owl nipped her finger affectionately, healing her slight wound in the process and she felt the wards lower in her general vicinity, creating a girl-shaped outline just big enough for her. “Thank you, dear ones, I promise I will bring something for you to eat on my way back in.” Their regal heads bowed slightly, their amber eyes glinting with intelligence, and she pet their feathers a few times in an unspoken goodbye before finally stepping through the open barrier and into the comfort provided by the wintry forest.