The Castle by Jehanzeb Dar

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Like a celestial being, it floated above the green earth and boasted of its fine and unworldly architecture. To the peasants below, it was a symbol of authority, power, and Supreme Divinity, but to a particular inhabitant, it was a majestic prison.

Inside the magnificent display of the floating castle lived a beautiful princess named Elanoura. She had enchanting emerald green, almond shaped eyes and long, shimmering black hair. Her light-tan and creamy skin was a luminous and unique shade of exotic beauty. She was always dressed elegantly, always prepared to attend important gatherings within the castle, and always sad.

Fate had bred her inside the walls of a worshipped structure all her life. She had only been to the surface level with her father, the King Nophorus, as he traveled to the countries of neighboring allies, but never had the opportunity to enjoy or explore sites on her own. Everywhere she went, the peasants would bow before her as if she was a Goddess, while the kings and princes of the allied nations would admire her beauty. If she had not been the daughter of the mighty Nophorus, such men would not feel so compelled to shield their eyes or swallow their lustful hunger. On Elanoura's side of the world, where all the rulers, princes, and princess were white and pale-skinned, it was her complexion that fascinated them.

"The world is too dangerous for you to roam on your own," her father would say. "The Empire of Seven Jade Flags shows no mercy for their opponents, whether they be man or woman, adult or child. They are a ruthless people."

For twenty three years, she remained quiet, isolated, and neglected. She found no purpose in her life and would occasionally find herself looking out to the horizon or pondering about what to think about. What is out there that is so dangerous? Why aren't men and women below living in floating abodes as well if so much terror is among us? Questioning is all she could do.

One morning at the large round breakfast table where senators, governors, and other high-ranking men sat, Elanoura awoke out of her normal silent muse when five of her father's most courageous knights walked into the spacey room. They were named Anrir, Neru, Kasion, Irgun, and Tivardan. Courageous they may have been, but to Elanoura, they were boisterous, ill-mannered, and irritably bigheaded. They were always joking immaturely among themselves and would go to extreme lengths to please the king, as if their doing so would impress Elanoura.

"A group of our dark-skinned citizens are complaining about the abuse they've received in our Kingdom since the war has begun. They demand their voice to be heard," they announced to the king. It didn't matter specifically which one of the five spoke, they were all the same to Elanoura. The enemy - Diwanians, they called themselves but in Nophorus' Kingdom, they were simply known as the "dark-skinned."

"Yes, yes... I've heard this tale before," said the King Nophorus unmoved. "What is it that they want? Another speech?"

"We should rid their scum from this land, your majesty!" shouted the senator.

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