The kid slippers only lasted her a mile, the silky fabric poorly suited for travel across damp terrain and uneven gravel roads. After the fifth blister, she managed to flag down a traveling merchant, trading the silver broach pinned to her wrap for a pair of ragged leather boots that were nearly three sizes too big. The winding Sun Road would have been a safer, smoother walk but she remembered the warning—he won’t stop once he realizes you’re gone, my lady, travel the lesser known roads, don’t stop for anything.
It was a week’s journey spent baking underneath an indifferent sun, beating down on her head. The closer she got to the seaway the more cropping of foliage there was, and she was thankful it, even for the damp earth that sloshed in her boots. Ishtar was a desert kingdom, save at its edges, one side the Enchanted Forest and the other the great Sheering Sea. She might have thought fleeing eastward, but if the rumors were to be true she could not trust in the aid of Queen Snow White and King James—they had their own problems. Her only hope was the expanse of the sea, and crossing it. Agrabah had always been an ally of her father’s. They would offer her asylum, if she could reach it.
The walk to Portstown was exhausting, but she was thankful for it, in the end. It drove away thoughts (beautiful Phillip with blood staining his teeth, that gurgled whisper against her ear as he’d slumped on top of her. Run.). She became a machine, moving only by a knowledge that she had to, that she could not stop. If she stopped, she would suffer something much worse than an eternal sleep, worse than death.
No one spared the grimy, ragged girl a glance as she stumbled down Portstown’s uneven, cobbled roads. Ship sails fluttered in the breeze farther down by the docks, the bitter scent of salt wafting against her noise. Her stomach ached with hunger. Her mother could have charmed animals to help find her food, but she had had to make do with whatever berries she could scavenge on her trek.
The problem was, now that she was here, she didn’t know what to do. Her mind had been so consumed on the reaching, keeping from being recaptured, forced back into the tower that smelt like stale sadness and dried blood, she hadn’t thought of anything else.
Her feet took her to the tavern. She couldn’t present herself to the mayor, who might be inclined to return her for a possible reward, or even to simply protect his town, or anyone of means. Her survival relied wholly on moving undetected. No one could know who she was.
Squaring her shoulders, Princess L’Aurore de la Forêt, Lady of the White Dunes and heir to Ishtar, stepped into the low din of the tavern.