Chapter 1: The Fae Festival
Kael hadn't been to the Festival in seven years. His little sister, Hibiscus, had been born seven years ago, shortly after his father had left, and his mother didn't want deal with two kids at the Festival all by herself. The only reason they were here this year was because she finally thought Kael was old enough to watch himself. If he was being honest, he didn't really want to be there. The memories of his father, combined with all the stuck-up nobles around made it a guarenteed bad experience.
At the moment, he was just wandering around. His mother and sister were somewhere on the other side of the festival, around the food court. They had headed over to that area when Hibiscus had indicated that she was hungry. The slightly sick feeling in Kael's stomach was making it difficult to even think about eating food, so he'd decided to stay behind and look at some of the non-food related stalls. Most of the stalls had a variety of magical goods, with an emphasis on this or that. Crystals, herbs, pendants, weaponry, pretty much anything you could ever want, you could find it at the Festival. Though, Kael thought as he glanced at a few price tags, only if you had a sizable fortune. Some stalls had non-magical goods, but even those were ridiculously expensive.
As he turned to move toward the next stall, a fairy ran into Kael, knocking them both to the ground. After a stunned moment processing what had happened, Kael pushed himself into a sitting position and looked at the one who'd knocked into him.
"Uh, sorry." The other fairy muttered, in a voice that Kael recognized, though he wasn't sure from where. They got up, trying to keep themself covered by the dark cloak they were wearing. As Kael stood up, he caught a glance under the cloak, seeing a flash of blue. Blue was a color almost exclusively reserved for the royal family. You know, the Bluewings. The voice snapped into place in Kael's memory.
"Wait, aren't you the prince?"
The fairy froze, aside from their hands visibly shaking. "No. I, uh, I get that a..." they trailed off, glancing behind them. "Sorry, I have to..." another pause, and then they took off running again. Kael debated what to do. He didn't want to get involved in something that didn't concern him, but at the same time, the alternative was to keep wandering between stalls.
He started running after the cloaked fairy. Luckily, they didn't seem very fast, and he caught up to them easily, shoving them into the space between two nearby buildings. In the movement, their hood fell down, revealing a face that Kael definitely knew. The crown seated atop his curly brown hair only served to confirm it.
"You are the prince."
Prince Aeilus Swallowtail swallowed hard, a stressed smile appearing on his face. "Yeah. Look, I'm sort of busy-"
"Running through the Festival?" Kael asked skeptically.
The prince anxiously glanced over Kael's shoulder. "Alright, I'll tell you what I'm up to, but you can't tell anyone else, okay?"
Kael gave a non-commital hum, which the prince seemed to accept.
"I'm running away from home!" He stage-whispered. His face had an expression of pride, as if this was some exciting secret project he was finally able to share with someone. Kael didn't respond beyond a slightly confused look, but that didn't stop Prince Aeilus from continuing. "Father wants me to marry this Redwing girl, Chili Snapper, but I don't have feelings for her, so I'm running away from home to avoid it."
Kael rubbed tiredly at his forehead. "You're running away from home to avoid an arranged marriage?"
The prince nodded eagerly.
"You've been reading too many stories."
His face only fell a tiny bit. "Stories that have a point. How else am I supposed to avoid it?"
A million suggestions ran through Kael's mind. Maybe try talking to his father. Or talk to the girl, she probably didn't want to be in that situation any more than he did. Heck, dealing with the arranged marriage like most royalty did was an infinitely better plan than leaving the kingdom. But then another thought popped into his head. He'd always dreamed of some way to screw over the royal family, a little petty revenge for what happened with his father. Helping their son run away from home would definitely achieve that result.
"Yeah, okay." Kael said softly. "Tell you what, I'll help you get outside the city."
"Really!?" Prince Aeilus's eyes lit up.
"Really. I know of a portal not too far outside the wall you could go through, and then you'd be on your way."
The prince threw his arms around him. "Thank you so much!"
Kael shoved him off. "Yeah, yeah. Come on."
It was far less difficult to sneak around the Festival than Prince Aeilus made it seem. When he wasn't running around actively being suspicious, hardly anyone paid attention to them. The occasional sideways glance for the dark cloak, but the Fae Festival attracted all sorts of folks, both from inside and outside the kingdom, so no one really cared. The guards didn't even look at them as they left the festival grounds, and though they got an odd look at passing through the wall at the edge of the city, they weren't stopped. They had about a minute of walking past the wall, before they ran into the portal. At the sight of the swirling colors, the prince's perpetual smile seemed to falter.
"So I just... step through and I'm in another world?"
Kael nodded, glancing back toward the warm lights of the city. "Yep."
The prince continued to hesitate. His smile had turned to a full expression of worry now. Kael sighed.
"Alright, look, I'll go first, okay? Then you can follow, and I can head back."
Prince Aeilus's smile returned. "Okay."
Kael stepped through the portal. It was an odd sensation, like each individual part of his body being moved somewhere else one by one, but not in a painful way. It was daytime in the world on the other side, and he had to blink several times as his eyes adjusted. The prince followed after waiting just long enough that Kael wondered if he was actually going to. He looked around, a look of wonder taking over his features.
"A different world." He muttered. He turned to Kael. "Is there a town nearby, or...?"
Kael rolled his eyes. "Here." He looked for a relatively open spot in the trees that surrounded them and flew upward for a bird's-eye-view. He could see a small settlement to what he assumed was the east, based on the sun. He fluttered down to land softly on the forest floor. Ignoring the odd look of surprise on the prince's face, he pointed in the direction of the village.
"There's a town that way."
The prince fidgetted with his cloak. "Would you mind coming with me? Just to find an, an inn or something?"
Kael sighed, but he supposed there was no harm in it. "Okay."
The two wandered through the forest for a few minutes in silence before they reached the edge of the town. Kael pointed out a large building with sign that very clearly read "INN". With a quick thanks from the prince, the two parted ways, and Kael headed back the way he'd come. It took longer to walk back then it had to get there, which was odd. And this area didn't look very familiar. Maybe it was just the strange vegetation of this world? He kept wandering for a while longer before he was forced to accept that horrifying truth. The portal had closed. He was trapped in this foreign world.