At fourteen, Isadora decided she wanted to have an adventure. It was summer, and she was tired of being cooped up in the castle while the fields outside seemed so inviting and the Capital seemed like so much fun. She had been to the Capital before, many times, but it had always been on specially panned visits, and she had never been able to explore, and she had always been accompanied. She knew no one would ever let her out by herself, so she decided that her adventure would be to sneak into town for a day and see what it was like to live as an ordinary person.
So she borrowed a plain dress from her lady-in-waiting, Cara, and began making plans to slip out of the palace. A few days later, after dinner, she excused herself from the company of her cousin Lotti, retired to her room, and slipped on Cara's brown dress. It was a little bit long, which surprised Isadora, as her clothes were always tailored exactly to her size, but she wore it nevertheless. Cara had also provided a cloth the tie her hair back in the style of a palace servant and a pair of boots she'd borrowed from a palace hand. Isadora tied back her hair, put on the boots, and quickly left her rooms holding a handful of coins left over from her last trip to the Capital, when she'd wheedled them out of her tutor for an embroidered scarlet ribbon she'd seen at one of the stalls along the street.
Knowing she'd never get past the guards in front of the palace, she made her way to the back. She stopped outside one of the palace's many parlors, near the back of the palace on the first floor. Putting her ear to the thick door, she made sure there was no one inside the parlor, and quickly entered, shutting the door behind her. She heard a noise behind her and whipped around, but relaxed when she realized it was only the crackling of the fire. She opened one of the parlor's large windows overlooking a garden and a gravel path, and climbed out.
She made her way along the path toward the stables, breathing quickly with excitement and keeping an eye out for anyone else who could catch sight of her. She kept reminding herself that she was in a servant's garb, that no one would be able to tell she was the princess in the half-light of the evening. Finally reaching the stables, Isadora crouched behind a bale of hay as the stablehands left for the night. The moon rose slowly, and when she was satisfied that everyone had left, Isadora rose as well. She brushed herself off, and then cautiously left the stable and headed out to the village.
From the stables to the outskirts of the village was a little less than a mile. Isadora had ridden up to the boundary on her horse many times, but never crossed it. She was determined to cross it now. She made plans in her head as she walked. She'd use a few of her coins to buy a room for the night, and spend all of tomorrow exploring the Capital. She'd seen the parts closest to the castle grounds, and she'd been in the wealthier parts of the Capital many times, visiting various nobles and whatnot, but as this was her adventure, she planned on seeing the rest of the Capital, the part her tutors and chaperones tried to keep her from.
Finally, she reached the outskirts of town. It had always seemed much closer when she was riding, but she had reached it nevertheless. Most of her coins bought her a room in an small inn just outside the wealthier part of town. The owner had obviously tried to create a place where people who came to visit the nobles but didn't want to pay for the high prices of lodging closer to the castle could stay. Although Isadora was full of energy, excited at the prospect of her adventure, she tried to sleep, wanting to be fully awake the next day.
In the morning, she set off. She had a quick breakfast and began to wander the town. As she walked, the houses became less grand and the people were less wealthy. She eventually found herself in a marketplace, and gasped with delight. This is what she'd come looking for.
The square was bustling with people rushing around buying goods. The air was thick with shouts from vendors and buyers both. Women chatted with their friends as they walked. Children ran in all directions. She strolled slowly through the square, taking in as much as she could.
"Looking for something?" A boy stood in front of her. He looked to be about her age, with long, wavy black hair, and a smile that stretched across his face.
"Oh. Um.... no. I'm just looking around." She smiled back at him. "I'm Isadora."
"Josen. I haven't seen you around before. You here to see someone?"
"No. I'm just visiting." She was a little flustered, but Josen didn't seem to notice.
"Would you like to meet the rest of us? Your parents wouldn't mind you sneaking off for a few minutes, right?"
Isadora laughed. "My parents would be furious. But they don't even know I'm here.
"Ha! Now, that's the way to do it. I'd watch out for them when I got back though. Come on, I'll introduce you to everyone else." He took her hand in his own and pulled her through the crowd. At the outskirts of the market stood a group of others.
"Who's that, Josen?" asked a girl with short brown braids, leaning against a tree.
"This here's Isadora. She's just visiting town," Josen said, cracking a grin. "Isadora, this is Eva."
"Nice to meet you," Isadora said to Eva. She was about to say more, but Josen continued.
"And this is Rudolph," he said, gesturing to a sandy-haired boy. The boy smiled shyly, and Isadora couldn't help but grin back. She nearly curtsied, but stopped herself just in time, reminding herself that court manners had no place there. She pulled the cloth from her hair and turned back to Josen, waiting for the next introduction, but Eva interrupted before Josen had a chance to continue.
"I know that ribbon!" she exclaimed, pointing at the scarlet cloth in Isadora's golden curls. "I made it myself. I remember it because Ana - my older sister - said she sold it to..." Her eyes widened. "You're–"
"Princess Isadora!" Isadora spun to see a royal guard on horseback making his way through to market toward her. The others who she'd been talking to scattered.
"Princess, you have no place here. You must come with me." The guard swept her up onto the horse and turned to leave the market. She looked back as she was leaving to see the sandy-haired boy – Rudolph – looking at her from behind a tree. His eyes were wide with disbelief.
I'll never be the same as them, she thought. She turned away, eyes blurring, and let the guard take her home.