Ella stared out of the window with her head resting on her arms. Her winged wolf, Count Saber, who was full-grown now, dozed by her feet with his wings sprawled out. She had half a mind to join him, but something kept her at the window.
“How many years have I been in this tower, Count Saber?” She asked him without looking away from the grassy plains and the great length of forest beyond it. Ella did not expect an answer from him, and got none. There was a room deep underneath the tower, one she called the Blank Room, in which she could make anything possible. She could conjure whole cities, whole countries, with a thought. Even outside of the Blank Room, she could do almost anything, like make a wolf out of thin air, and give it wings. But she could not make a companion. Not a talking one, at any rate. Nor could she make a door.
She knew she’d been here for years. Ella’s earliest memories were of crawling through the hallways as a near-baby, with something that could only be described as a “ghostly presence” keeping watch over her. Now that she was old enough not to need watched, though, the ghost refused to show his face. Either way, however much she’d always longed for freedom, something tickled Ella’s wanderlust these past few days. She kept expecting to see some rider break through the treeline, skid to a halt before the tower, and climb up the expanse in order to free her from this place. That was how all the stories had it done, at least, and Ella had read many stories.
With a sigh, Ella gently pushed Count Saber off her feet. Staring out the window would not create her Prince Charming. Apparently, that was outside of her abilities. But she had a few troublesome questions to iron out within the Blank Room regarding clouds and farms.
Suddenly, Count Saber scrambled to his feet and barked. Ella spun back around and found that his cause for excitement was nothing more than a hawk taking its rest on her sill. Then… No. Not resting. There was something tied to its back.
Cautiously, Ella approached the bird, shooing away Count Saber as best she could without startling the hawk. Surprisingly, the bird seemed particularly unphased by the wolf, and it did not mind when Ella unfastened a piece of rolled parchment. Unfurling it, she read the note, and her jaw almost dropped to the floor.
Ella. I write to you now with the hope that we will soon meet in person. Too long have you been locked in that tower. I mean to free you. Look down, sister, out of your window, and know that we are close.
She ran back to the window and looked down, not just at the great forest, or the sea of grass that led to it. She stared at the base of the tower, hoping that whoever wrote the letter spoke truly. There was no one there. But the letter had come from somewhere. Someone had written to her. Her sister! She didn’t know she had a sister. It seemed unlikely that someone would lie about a thing like that, and even more unlikely that the tower would create this note for her. All these years, and it had formed itself around her dreams and desires, but never had it ever given in to her desires to step outside.
One would know the answer. One had stood over her for years as she toddled about, creating things with her magic or with her bare hands. One had kept her from harm.
Ella took one look at her long skirts, fingering the smooth fabric. As she did, it shifted and swirled until it was not skirts around her legs but breeches embroidered with stars. She threw her door open and began thundering down the steps.
“Ghost! Ghost of the tower! I call upon you!”
Down she went, from her bedroom past her sitting room, on through the several flights that ran through the library, even past the kitchen. It wasn’t until she was near the Blank Room that finally, finally, something flickered in the corner of her vision. She stopped so fast she nearly slipped, which likely would not have been a good thing, even so close to the bottom floor.
Standing behind her–well, floating really–was not a man at all. Rather, it was the figure of a woman, devoid of color. Yet by all accounts she was still quite beautiful, with the lines on her face expressing many decades of life, perhaps even centuries. She wore a dress that covered everything but the tips of her slippers.
“You summoned me, child?” the ghost said with a slight frown.
Ella half-wished that the ghost had appeared in front of her, so that Ella herself might’ve been on the upper step. Even so, she squared her shoulders and tightened her grip on the note. “Who are you? Were you the one who kept me safe as a child? What do you know of this tower and the lands beyond it?”
“My name is Malayni do’Vera, and this tower was built for me. Many years ago, a fellow magician grew jealous of my abilities and created the perfect prison for a magician: a tower without a door, built by magic so that it may provide whatever the resident desires, save one thing–a way out. I should know, for I remained in this tower until the day I died. And it remained empty until one day a king had a child with the ability to create anything with a mere thought, and remembered the tower. Yes, Princess Ella. It was I who kept you safe and alive, for it seems that not even death can truly offer escape from this place.”
Ella did not know what to say. It felt like one time when she’d gotten careless on the steps and slid down several. When she’d caught herself, she found for a moment that she could not breathe. Even now, she felt like she could not breathe.
The tower was not her home. It was a place designed to keep her within. Her beautiful bedroom with its luscious pillows and soft blankets, her library of endless stacks of books, her Blank Room that had offered her another place to escape…the tower had made her happy so that she would not look too carefully at its lack of windows or doorways.
“I just want a door!” Ella shouted, pushing against the wall. “I want out of this tower!”
Had she been in her Blank Room, had this been one of her creations, the entire building would have collapsed around her. The tower did not even tremble.
“There is no way out, Ella,” the ghost said sadly.
“Then explain this!” Ella brandished the note. “I don’t know where they are, but they must be close. They were able to enter in order to put me here. They will find a way to come in again.” Then her eyes narrowed. “You’re part of the tower, aren’t you? You’re here to keep me in, same as the rest.”
“No. I would have you freed, at least, if it was possible but–“
“Then prove it.”
The ghost stood silently for several long minutes, staring curiously at Ella. Then, just as Ella was about to think the woman would never say another word, the ghost nodded. “I will search the tower. I will do this thing for you, young princess.”
Then the ghost of Malayni do’Vera faded to nothing at all.
After half a thought, Ella sped back up the steps, back towards the library. With any luck, it would have some information for her, whether of the tower, of Malayni do’Vera–and what she had done to get herself locked away, or perhaps even information on herself. She had a sister. A sister! The tower itself could not keep Ella from her, of that Ella was determined.