Julietta took a blanket and wrapped it around her baby brother, Caro. Though the wind was not bad in the capital of her country, Agur, she was scared that the baby might need the extra warmth. She was running away.
Things were not going well in Agur. Long ago, when the country was founded, the king had made a promise to his creator that he and his family would serve Him forever. In love, the creator had given gifts to several people every generation. They were called the chosen. To some, wisdom was given; to others, power. There were as many gifts to be given as there were stars in the sky, but only those whom He chose to give.
But the gifts had a catch: if they were used to further your own pursuits instead of what He had commanded, the gift would become a curse. And that is what had happened to Nya, the chosen judge who was to use her powers to defend the borders. But her power poisoned her, and now there were rumors that she was going after the royal family, to destroy any claim to the throne.
These things whipped through Julietta’s troubled mind as she began her exodus. But before she left, she knew she must consult her friend Opal.
Opal was one of the special few selected to be given the gift of prophesy. She was only five years old, yet she possessed a wisdom beyond her years, and advice that Julietta craved. Opal didn’t look up when Julietta entered. She was lying on the ground, entranced by a small procession of ants marching across the floor.
“Opal? I don’t know what to do. Nya grows threatening, more threatening every day. If she tries something now, nobody will stop her. Nobody can stop her!”
Opal continued to stare at the ants. “It’s amazing how the ants simply march. March, march, march, across the floor, with seemingly no purpose. Gino was just here.” She prattled in her small, childish voice. “You should have asked him. It was hard for me to find him among the thousands of people in the city. But I found him, princess Nenya.”
Julietta put a hand over the young girl’s mouth before she said any more. Surprised, the child looked up from her ants and stared at the princess, a question in her eyes.
“I am going to run away, and use my middle name: Julietta. I believe that my baby brother is the one reason this evil girl has stayed away. I have to get him to safety.”
Opal’s eyes turned colorless, in that strange way that showed that she was thinking hard. “That is not a good plan. If your guess is true, then you need to escape, yes. But what about the others?”
Julietta turned pale.
“If the child is gone, then surely we will destroy the family. Go, now!” A icily cruel voice rang out, as the princess turned in shock. She expected to see an exulting warrior, with guards following. But it was only Opal, looking confused, and staring at her. “Is something wrong?”
Julietta tried to smile. “You did what you were supposed to, Opal. I have to go.” She turned briskly and ran out of the small cottage, then suddenly turned. Opal was counting ants again. Somehow, Julietta sensed that this was the last time she might see Opal. But she didn’t stop.
The girl hurried down, back to the house. She put on the thick dress of a castle servant and hid her little brother safely in his crib basket that the maid sometimes took him outside in. Then she took some food and tucked it into her apron.
She was just heading out of the nursery when she heard a yell. It was soon followed by a series of fierce shouts. The secret police had come into the castle. With a heart gripped with fear, she ran. Caro was not be hurt in their flight.
The gate was the portal to freedom. But the angular snout of a gun barrel was thrust in her face. It forced her to a stop.
“What are you doing, maid?” A guard barked, glaring down at her. Suddenly, he saw the baby prince in his basket, and his eyes narrowed. “I see what you are doing. It isn’t going to happen.”
He grabbed the basket and walked off. But instantly Caro began to scream with all his voice.
“You scared him!” Julietta squeaked, trying to sound brave, yet offended. The guard tried to quiet the child, but he continued to howl. “Fine! Come with me.” Julietta’s hope slipped away with every step. There ahead of her was the cruel, forsaken judge, and her eyes showed no mercy.