Darkness was already settling as Nadeena stumbled through the large, stone gate in front of her home. The massive building that waited at the end of the walk stood silent as she rushed toward it, its presence muted in the semi-darkness. Its shadow, barely discernable in the twilight, reached out to engulf her, but she didn’t notice. The fear that caused her hands to tremble and her heart to pound had nothing to do with the building, only what waited inside.
She swallowed hard and started up the steps, but halfway to the top she abruptly stopped. She had missed dinner, of that she was certain. Her parents expected—no, they demanded that she be on time for meals. That was only one of the many stupid rules they insisted she follow. Stand straight, be polite, smile when approached, don’t speak freely to the commoners; the list went on and on. She hated being the commander’s daughter, and she hated it even more when she was late. She backed down the steps and quietly circled to the back of the house. Perhaps if no one saw her come in . . .
“Your father has been asking for you, Your Highness.” To her dismay, a sentry had been placed at the rear entrance as well. Dressed in dark clothing and positioned in the shadows, Nadeena had not seen him. She startled when he spoke, and her heart skipped a beat before slowly sinking. No matter what door she chose to enter by, this wasn’t going to be good.
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