“Wait, wait, wait.”
Theo shook his head, as if moving it around would help make sense of all the thoughts running in his head.
“You’re saying there is a floating island in the sky?”
“And you live there?”
“And there are other people that live on this island with you?”
“And you’re their queen?”
“Well, I am their princess, but yes, I would be crowned queen now that my father has passed away.”
Theo looked at her. She looked pretty serious.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”
Theo held up his hands in surrender. “Well, it is a bit…much. I’m processing it, ok? Tell me more. About you, and Laputa?”
A sad look came in Leanna’s eyes. “Laputa is an ancient civilization. The origins are hazy, even to us. But the story that has been passed down is that a long time ago, our world was much more advanced than it is now. But, peace had given away to petty infighting as nations battled each other for superiority. They gave up the common goal to advance man in favor of temporary gains made against rivals. As the technology progressed, so did the weapons, until finally they reached the point where the intelligentsia of society, the smartest people in the world, foresaw that we were heading to ruins. In order to protect the progress man had made in all the disciplines, they decided to go to a place where they would be isolated from all the bloodshed, and could continue their work without any impediments.
The result was Laputa. An island that floats high above the clouds, far away from the reaches of any Groundsperson — that is any person who lives on the ground. The most brilliant minds of that time went and started a new society there.
Soon, what they foresaw became reality, and the world destroyed itself, setting us back to primitive times. But Laputa thrived, in secret, high above the clouds and remains, to this day, the world’s most advanced civilization.
“So, Laputa is self-sustainable, and has no contact, like trade or talks or anything, with the rest of the world?”
“Correct. No Groudsperson knows about Laputa’s existence as far as I know.”
“Could you not call us…that?”
“Groundsperson? That’s what we call people…”
“Who live on the ground. Yeah very smart…but sounds kind of demeaning. Why not something like…earthling?”
“I’m an earthling too…just because we live in the sky doesn’t make us aliens you know.”
“Sigh, ok so you guys are up there doing your thing right? And we are down here doing our thing? So, how come you are standing here in front of me right now?”
Leanna sighed. “As I told you, I am the heir to the throne of Laputa. My father, king Azarith, passed away a week ago suddenly. It was a shock to Laputan society since he was only 97 years old.”
“That’s pretty old…”
“Not in Laputa. Our technology, and air is much better.”
“Are you like 80 years old too?”
“I’m 12!” Leanna scowled at Theo.
“Anyways, I was supposed to be crowned Queen in a ceremony that happens 40 days after the passing of the King. But, yesterday, some man came into my bedroom and attacked me. I managed to escape and flee to the edge.”
“The end of the island. I was cornered and had no choice but to jump. I thought I was doomed either way and, I suppose, preferred to go out on my own terms.”
“But your necklace protected you.”
“Yeah, I had no idea it could do that,” she said, grabbing her necklace. “It was a present from my mother before she passed away. She told me that it would come to my aid in times of need. I had no idea how true that would prove to be.”
“So, who was this man?”
“I have no clue. His face was hidden, but from his clothes, he definitely looked like an assassin. I suspect that it was the doing of my Uncle Siegfried.”
“Wait, now there is an uncle in the picture.”
“He is my father’s younger brother. He was always kind to me, but he and my father had been arguing lately. You see, my father wanted to open up Laputan society and reach out to the Groundspeople. He said that what good is living with such great technology if you could not use it to help all men, not just the few on Laputa.”
“Let me guess — your Uncle was opposed.”
“Very much so — he feared, perhaps correctly, that if Laputa was known to the world again, we would get involved in man’s wars again, and they would use our technology to set the world on fire again. My father over ruled my uncle however, and his will would have been carried out. But then he died.”
“But why would you suspect him?”
“Two reasons. The first was the assassin. He had a mark on his right hand. It was the symbol of the Shadow Walkers. They are an elite group of soldiers, some would say killers, who’s head is my uncle. And secondly, because my uncle was third in line to the throne. With my father out of the way, I was the only one between him and being King.”
“I see. You have evidence and motive. Seems too much of a coincidence.”
Theo looked across the lake to the town. “You know, I grew up in this town, and I have never gone anywhere else. I can’t speak for anyone else, but, I can tell you that those people, my people, are good decent human beings. They love and support each other.”
“I’m sure they are,” said Leanna, thinking of Theo and his mother. “You and your mom have been very good to me. But we have never known any person from the ground. Can you blame us for not being fearful?”
“You might be right,” said Theo, smiling at her, “there might be some bad people out there. But hiding away hoping the boogie man won’t get you is not my style. My dad used to say: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Leanna smiled, and her chest grew warm. There was something about Theo that reassured her. “And what exactly does your rain dance look like?”
“I want to travel the world! I want to see…everything,” Theo replied, arms wide open, facing the cliff. “The world is full of wonderful amazing things and I want to see and experience all of them.”
“And how are you going to do that?”
“I’m building a ship. A flying ship. My father was a flyer and he used to travel higher and further than any man in this country. He would tell me about his adventures and all the things he saw. I want to be like him.”
“Sounds like your father was quite the man. Is he gone on one of his adventures?”
Theo looked down at his feet. “He…died a few years ago. They hit a storm during one of his expeditions. We found the ship but it was all shredded in pieces.”
“It’s fine. My father took risks, but he lived life. It was much better than how the people here live. All safe and cozy. They were born with wings, yet they prefer to crawl through life.”
Leanna laughed. “After all the flying I have done, I would prefer to crawl a little.”
“Well, maybe you could hang around with us common Groundspeople, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two, such as riding a bike.”
She shoved him playfully. “Oh, stop that. I honestly wouldn’t mind. And…maybe I don’t have a choice.”
Theo saw she had grown serious again. “Leanna, why did you run away from the office.”
“I-I saw him.”
“In the mayor’s office. Theo — the man the mayor was talking to, I recognized him from his robe. It was the assassin.”
Theo’s eyes grew wide in surprise as he realized why Leanna was so afraid. They were looking for her.