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| Kalena woke up hearing two muffled male voices talking to each other. At first, she was convinced that this is just a part of her unpleasant dream, but eventually, she realized that she had been awake for several minutes.|
For the first moment, she couldn't remember where she was. She lay on the low, but amazingly soft and comfortable bed and listened to the sounds of the surroundings. She had not felt so rested for a long time. When she propped herself up on the elbows, she saw a beautifully carved, small, table with a large bowl of water and a towel, and a little further food. Galaspiael didn't lie when he talked about the big breakfast. The dish was not very tasty, but she ate anyway to not offend her new host.
After the meal, Kalena sat back on the bed. She looked around and wondered what to do. She didn't have any duties yet, and she couldn't find one herself.
Suddenly she heard footsteps in the corridor and froze. Two people stopped near that she could hear their conversation.
"...that's all." She recognized Galaspiael's voice. "I will try to deliver the missing papers by the messenger when I find them."
"Your Majesty is irreplaceable! I thought the last copy was lost in the Forbidden Zone. Thank you!" Said the stranger.
"I don't deserve these thanks. I hope you enjoyed your tea, my friend. Safe trip!"
Kalena needed a few moments to understand, what she had just heard. This man called Galaspiael Your Highness.
Her new lord must have been the prince of Kagolania!
She supposed that he could not be an ordinary man, otherwise, he could not afford an apartment in such a large house, but she did not expect it at all.
The stranger left and Galaspiael knocked on her bedroom door.
"Are you awake? May I come in?"
Her heart started racing fast. She jumped up and opened the door, untangling her hand from the chain attached to the collar. As soon as Galaspiael entered, she took a few steps back.
"You look a lot better now. You've been sleeping almost all day!"
"I'm sorry," Kalena whispered and stepped away from him. From the beginning, she felt intimidated, and now, knowing who he was, she just felt ashamed.
"No, that's fine" Galaspiael crouched down beside her so that she could look him in the eyes without raising her head. "Please, don't treat me like your owner. I am against slavery with all my heart. I don't want you to feel like you are my property. From now on you are a free person.
She froze for a moment. She needed a while to understand what the prince had just said to her. The last two words were still ringing in her mind. She is free. What now? What was she supposed?
"But why?" The longer she thought about it, the more scared she felt about a free life. "Please, don't throw me away, I have nowhere to go!"
"I didn't say you have to leave!" The prince caressed her shoulder soothingly. "If you want, you can stay here, I will be very pleased. I will help you take this ugly thing off."
Kalena immediately touched her collar.
"Do you have to?"
"Come on! No free person wears chains."
"I've already got used to it."
"You'll get used to it missing," he said.
She let him lead her to another room, which turned out to be his bedroom. She slowly looked around. Tools of unknown purpose lay on all shelves and the floor. She sat down in and her eyes stopped for a moment on wooden boxes of various sizes. Suddenly she heard the clang of metal. The clamp was broken and a leather collar fell to her knees.
"Much better, right?" Galaspiael asked after a moment.
"Yes. Thank you" she whispered.
"Don't feel like my debtor," he replied and looked her up and down. "I have to buy neater clothes for you. And some shoes. Those are the most important. That's right, go ahead, I see you want to" he added, seeing her glancing at the large book resting on his desk. "Can you read it?"
She shook her head.
"I don't understand what is written here, but I could handle the text in our language."
"Really?" Galaspiael looked at her with admiration. "It's amazing! Who taught you?"
"Some woman. But quite later I had to work and did not have time to learn anymore. That's why I have trouble recognizing some signs, but I can understand them. But writing is terribly hard."
"If you practice, you can master it."
Kalena continued to admire the carefully written lines of text.
"It must be a beautiful language," she said. "Why are you writing this?"
"I'm rewriting. Conspiracy of the Righteous wanted to burn the original. In fact, they almost succeeded.
The girl became serious in an instant.
If the Righteous wanted to burn this book, you should leave it."
"My former lord said they want to destroy dangerous knowledge. When people get too wise, things like wars and keeping slaves come to their minds."
Galaspiael snorted angrily.
"It's exactly the opposite. Smart people don't keep slaves!"
"I mean ..." She completely didn't know what to say to that. "I thought so once, but…"
"Besides, knowledge is never bad!" He continued. "I'll explain. Imagine that you're given a knife and you can do whatever with it. You could go to the garden and collect fruit, or carve a wooden figurine. But you could also stab me in the heart. Do you think, I should deprive you of the tool so that you do not hurt anyone, or can teach you how to use it to do something useful?"
"I think you should teach me..."
"So why not save this book?" Galaspiael paused, seeing her face. "I'm sorry, I'm really talkative, especially if someone doesn't interrupt me."
"But it's very interesting," she assured, "and it makes more sense than what the members of the Conspiracy say."
"Have you ever met anyone from the Righteous Conspiracy?"
When Galaspiael asked that question Kalena felt cold spikes in her stomach. She bit her lips.
"Yes. Some time ago strange people came to our home. They said they were in the Conspiracy, but something happened..."
"They didn't finish the training," he suggested.
"Yes... they stayed with us, "she whispered,"I don't want to talk about it."
"Did they hurt you somehow?"
She thought about what to say for a long time, and finally just nodded.
"I feel sorry for you," he replied.
"I don't want to talk about it."
Galaspiael stayed silent for a moment.
"So would you like to go for a walk? Take a look around the corridors. You don't know the house yet."
"And you...?" Kalena at the last moment refrained from adding "my lord".
"I have some work. I like to invent new things and build them. I hope you won't feel lonely here because I'm not very sociable and talking to me is listening to what I have to say."
When Kalena went outside, she noticed that the house was not as big as it looked at first. Garden looked like a neglected composition of plants, but very harmonious in its disarray. She spent two hours there, enjoying the absolute silence. Kalena noticed that Galaspiael tried to grow vegetables, but the patch was completely overgrown with weeds.
She wondered what the prince was working on and if she could help him somehow, but she did not want to disturb him, so she did not look into his room. As the sun hid behind the clouds, she returned inside.
She wasn't used to staying alone in her bedroom for such a long time. In her old house, two rooms were designated for slaves, separately for men and women. Nearly always someone was sitting there. There was no privacy at all.
Here, however, she could do anything.
Kalena started looking everywhere as if she was looking for something. She carefully watched every corner of the bedroom and focused on the workplace. The girl opened a wooden cabinet and found a box similar to the one in Galaspiael's room.
She wondered if it's right to open it. In the end, her curiosity won. Kalena removed the lid and discovered a few sheets of paper and Lik - a calligraphy tool.
Galaspiael must have forgotten that he left these things there. There was some ink inside Lik. It wasn't dry, which means someone wrote with it recently.
The girl held the wooden tool in the hand and was already certain that she was not doing it properly. She tried to draw a few lines, but they came out crookedly. Drawing beautiful, even signs that she saw in that book seemed like a superhuman skill.
Kalena made a note in her mind to ask Galaspiael once to write something in her presence and abandoned all the stuff.
In the evening Galaspiael and Kalena ate dinner together
"Take some more if you like it" he encouraged. "Feel free to eat as much as you want."
"Everything is delicious. You have real talent, "she said. The prince smiled and shook his head.
"That was prepared by the cook. I can't do it at all"
Kalena stared at him in surprise.
"Anyone else lives here? I hadn't seen anyone but you."
"He is responsible for the palace kitchen... and protecting me from starving to death. Sometimes he brings me food if he's proud of what he has prepared."
"I can cook if you like," she offered. "I can make some tasty dishes."
"You don't have to, but I won't stop you either. Of course, if you want to stay here." He added. "I won't be offended if you say you would rather live somewhere else."
"I will be pleased to live with Your Highness," she assured.
The boy narrowed his eyes cheerfully.
"I'm glad, but please don't ever call me that"
"So how should I call you," she asked.
"By name" he replied. "You know my name, right?"
"But it's so... strange. Inappropriate." she corrected. "I understand that you don't want to be called lord but you are a prince, I have to honor you somehow."
"Oh for the Great Ancestors, you don't have to. I prefer to hear my name much more."
Kalena nodded and there was a long silence in the room.
"Why the Great Ancestors? Do you believe in Kaita?"
Galaspiael laughed softly.
"To be honest, I don't. It is not right for a prince to say such things about official religion, but in my opinion, it doesn't make sense. Why should I redeem the sins of people who were born before me for all my life? It's an interesting set of traditions, nothing else. But I must admit that of all the temples I've seen in my life, ours are the most beautiful."
"Will you show me someday?" she asked.
"For sure. Soon we will go for a walk and show you the whole capital city."
After the meal, they both went to her room. Suddenly Kalena remembered the writing set still lying on the table.
Fear filled her heart. Many times at home she heard how valuable paper was, and the sheets she wrote on seemed very expensive. Before she could say anything, Galaspiael overtook her and entered her room.
"You found my Lik!" He exclaimed happily, then picked up the paper and studied it for a moment. "I thought someone took it but it was here all the time! Looks like you've searched all the corners here!"
"I'm so sorry…"
"It's good that you can read. It's easier to learn how to write text if you understand it. But you made a mistake here." He pointed to her second attempt. "You need to pull the line to the end, otherwise a completely different sign comes out."
"You're not angry? I wasted the paper."
"You didn't waste it, just spent it on studying. There is nothing wrong with it, on the contrary, it is a commendable attitude. Tomorrow I can practice with you... because you want to learn to write, am I right?"
Kalena shrugged her shoulders.
"I could be useful then. I could write letters or something else."
"Oh, and you haven't thought about a more ambitious job?" When Kalena shook her head, Galaspiael continued. "The Righteous Conspiracy destroys and conceals all books they find dangerous. In this way, they limit access to knowledge for ordinary people. Old paper is not durable, but look at this." He lightly crumpled the edge of the paper in his hands. "There is a special technique for making paper that is resistant to everything. Only two people can tear it, it is easy to bend and straighten it, and in the fire, it does not burn only turns brown, so that the text remains mostly readable. If you could write, you could save the work of our ancestors."
"By rewriting books?" Kalena guessed. "Like you?"
"It's probably very difficult" she shook her head quickly. "I can't do it!"
"But it's simple! The most important thing is to write characters legibly and not make mistakes." Galaspiael smiled slightly. "In my opinion cooking is much harder and you said you can do it."