Chapter 46 in town 

It was not long until Anneli and Castor reached the next town. It was much larger than the village before and seemed to have a busy town square and market. Anneli hid on the outskirts of the town and waited patiently for Castor to return. 

Castor only visiting this country briefly as a child had only a vague idea of how much his coins could buy him. He assumed a few copper coins would be enough to buy food for a few days. Despite the openly staring locals Castor confidently entered a more prestigious looking grocery store in the town centre. 

A plump pink faced man in clean white clothing stood behind the counter. He looked at Castor and made a quick judgment of his character and upbringing. 

“What can I do for you today sir?” asked the store clerk in a polite but unfriendly tone. Castor glances at the products on the shelves behind the clerk

“May I have a loaf of bread, some cheese, some of the cured ham and an apple please.”

The clerk grunted and got all the requested items from the shelves and placed them on the counter. ” 30 quartz” grunted the clerk. 

It seemed a bit expensive to Castor but he had no intention to argue. Castor took out his purse heavy with gold and copper coins. As soon as the clerk saw the purse his mood seemed to brighten and became very friendly. Castor took out the copper coins that said 5 quartz and placed six of them on the counter. 

“Would you like anythingelse sir?” asked the clerk in a sickeningly sweet voice. 

“No. Thank you.” replied Castor as he put every into his bag except the bread which he just carried in his hand. 

Castor quickly left the store and trotted down the cobble stone paths. As he walked through the town something in a shop window caught his eye. 

Chapter 45 keep calm

It was now later afternoon and the Sun was less harsh. Slowly grey clouds drifted over Castor and Anneli and began to drizzle. The left the thicket and continued to travel towards the northern mountain. The closer they walked the mire Castor realized how massive and daunting the mountain really was. 

“We will pass a few more towns on the way to the mountain if we are careful we can probably got around it without being seen.” 

“No,” remarked Castor, “we should go to a town soon. We are already out of food.” 

Anneli looked at Castor’s bag and wondered if Castor regretted sharing some of his food with him. 

“I don’t think I should go to town,” said Anneli quietly. Any interaction with the local town people ended badly. Castor sympathetically patted Anneli on the head. 

“Alright then. I’ll go alone and we will meet afterwards.” 

Chapter 44 carry on

“Stand back!” shouted Castor, his hand wrapped tightly around the handle. The solider and the men were shocked and cautiously watched him.

“Now, now, don’t be rash,” said the solider as he reached to around his hip to take his own weapon to hand. The solider took his own sword and step closer to Castor. Fires of fury burned in his eyes as he approached the foreigner. He had no intention of letting Castor go unharmed even he could avoid it.

“Stand back!” shouted Castor again. He touched the jewel on the hilt of his knife and it began to glow.

“Stop trying to resist, you are already-”

KABOOM!

A large bolt of lightning struck the ground right before the solider, The solider quickly stepped back and stared at the large scorched mark on the ground where the large white spark hit. The grass was burned and there was an indentation in the ground.

“He can use magic!” shouted a witness in the distance who had been watching the fray from afar. More of the dispersed mob began to congregate around them but the solider seemed too surprised to approach.

“Anneli!” shouted Castor and Anneli swiftly jumped down from the tree. They ran as fast and as hard as they could away from the village. They ran down the hill and across the field and far away as they could. Their muscles cried in pain and their lungs were on fire. The panting breath and their aching bodies did not stop them from running until they reached a thicket in a nearby forest. Anneli collapsed first; he let himself fall upon the ground huffing and puffing with his heart beating out of his chest. Castor too, sat beside him out of breath and sweating profusely. They did not exchange a word for a long while.

“Did we get away?” asked Anneli softly.

“I don’t think they were chasing us.”

“Is that true?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t look back,” replied Castor honestly. He lay down on the cool ground besides Anneli. His breath had become more regular but he could still feel the soft thumping of his heart in his chest.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to us,” said Castor, “but all we can do now is move forward. They will probably be looking for us now.” Anneli moved closer to Castor until he could feel his body heat. Again they were silent, contemplating what to say but never quite gathering the determination to say it. The sunlight streamed through the leaves like twirling ribbons as the beetles buzzed and cackled around the thicket. Anneli looked at Castor who was not paying attention to anything in particular.

“What is like? The desert.” asked Anneli, and watched a myriad of emotions take over Castor’s expressions.

“Well…. it is hot and dry. And it is mostly just sand. More like it is all just sand and there is nothing for any one. Just a bunch of people trying to survive in a desolate place that they are not meant to but choose to anyway because they are just stubborn.”

“Are the people there like the people there like the people here or are they like you?”

Castor laughed bitterly, “no one else is anything like me.”

“But I guess,” continued Castor, “people are the same everywhere. Eve if the land is different or their skin is different everyone is still human. Everyone everywhere are selfish and ignorant and fear and hate things and people who are different or they don’t understand or conflict with their narrative of the truth or what is right.”

Anneli could no quiet grasp why Castor’s words had such an effect on himself but could see that they were effecting Castor. Castor sighed once he was done with his rant. “So why do you want to go to the desert?”

“I want to find someone to love,”

“Right, right, I remember the fish. But what kind of love are you looking for? Romantic love? Platonic love? Familial love?”

“I don’t know” replied Anneli honestly, “I just don’t want to be alone anymore. I just want to feel safe and happy and be love someone as much as they love me.”

Castor smiled as a bit of his ice cold heart melted at the little monster’s words. “Anneli, you don’t need to go all the way to the desert for that.”

Chapter 43 unreasonable 

The older bearded man entered the room where Castor was being held. “What’s going on outside?” asked the red-faced man.

“We need to bring him outside, grab him and let’s go.”

“What? Why? What’s going on?” demanded the red-faced man.

“It is difficult to explain… it will be better to just show you.”

“Come on! Get up,” shouted the red-faced man as he pulled Castor by the arm. Castor stood up and was dragged out of the room as roughly as he was thrown into it. Castor was taken outside and brought into a crowd of agitated men holding various weapons and farming tools. The solider was standing in front of a tree and looking up into its branches.

“Here he is,” said the older man as they reached the tree.

“We seemed to have found your companion,” said the solider to Castor. “It is being very unreasonable.” Castor looked up at the branches of the tree and saw Anneli hiding within them.

“What did you do to him?” demanded Castor.

“Nothing, he ran up a tree before they could catch him.” The solider gestured at the restless mob around them.

“Well obviously he got scared with you trying to attack him. Did he actually do anything or can you people do nothing but over react?” shouted Castor angrily. The solider stared at him and wondered why this foreigner was being unreasonable and making such a fuss. Still being as polite and professional as he was he turned to the crowd and asked, “Did this thing actually attack anyone?”

The mob became quieter. Only a few murmurs of questions between them until one of them finally answered, “We didn’t give him a chance to.” The solider then turned to Castor, “Is it at all harmful.” Castor pulled against the cuffs trying to break the chains even as the rushed metal dug into his wrists.

“Of course he is not! He can’t hurt anyone,” replied Castor.

“Then tell him to come down.”

“He won’t come down when he is so scared, tell them men to go away.”

The solider sighed and wondered why the foreigner was being so unreasonable and demanding. The solider went to the mob and told them all to go away for a while. When the mob dispersed the solider again demanded Castor to get Anneli to come down.

“Anneli,” called Castor trying to sound as calm and soothing as possible, “please come down.”

“Are you Castor alright? Did they hurt you? Are you captured?” asked Anneli rapidly in a panic.

“I’m fine. These men want you to come down.”

“No!” cried Anneli, “What are they going to do to me? They want to catch me and hurt me.”

Castor turned to the solider, “he does have a point. What do you plan do with him once he comes down?”

“Well… of course get him away from the village and-”

Click     

As soon as the chains broke Castor drove towards the red-faced man and grabbed his bag.

“Stand back!” shouted Castor as he took out his knife.

Chapter 42 is a warning 

Deep within the desert is a large and luscious oasis. The city around the oasis has in recent years grown large and wealthy with the travel of traders through the desert. 

The scouts returned to the oasis by mid afternoon having not met any lost travellers or foreign troops. 

“Open the gates!” shouted on of the guards as the scouts came from beyond the dunes. The heavy iron gates opened just as they came galloping in. One of the stable hands ran up to the leader of the scouts. 

“I can take my horse to the stable myself,” said the leader. Their face and body were covered in thin white robes to protect them from the sand and Sun. Only their eyes which glared at the stable hand were not covered. 

“The chief wants to see you. He said it was urgent.” The leader of the scouts unhappily got down from their horse. 

“He needs water, at least two buckets,” instructed the leader of the scouts. The stable hand nodded. “And you need to brush him and cover him in a blanket.” The stable hand continued to nod. “He also needs-” 

“Yes, yes, I know. You need to go quickly the cheif does not like to be kept waiting.” 

The leader of the scouts took their bags off the horse and stormed off towards the direction of the cheif’s tent. Throwing open the fabric door of the tent the leader of the foot walked up to the head of the settlement who was smoking cardamom flavoured smoke. 

The cheif exhaled a puff of smoke and chuckled to himself,”Ah- Helen you look as unpleasant as always.”

“I am in no mood to put up with your frivolous errands. The suppliers were supposed to arrive yesterday and are still no where in sight. The local bandits have become more idiotic and bolder and even attacked one of my men. If they intercepted the traders we will be in trouble and we will soon run low of flour and dried-” 

“Yes, yes, I know Helen. I am worried too but all we can do now is be patient and wait.” 

Helen was tired and in no mood to entertain the cheif. “Then why did you summon me sir?” She was fumming at the ears and spitting venom. 

“You received a letter from your father.” The cheif picked up the folded piece of paper for Helen to take. She did not take a step or lift a finger. 

“What does it say?” asked Helen impatiently. 

“Well it is a private letter.” 

Helen laughed sarcastically, “Ha- like privacy ever stops you, stop kidding I know you’ve already read it. What does it say?” 

The cheif was silent for a moment. It was not news he wanted to convey to Helen himself. 

“Your brother died last week.”

“Which brother?” 

“The second prince Castor.”

“Well my father must be happy,” replied Helen. Her voice was softer and choking as she was trying to hold back tears. 

“It may be best for you to return home for th time being.” 

“Now is not the time!” shouted Helen, more angry than usual, “I’ll wait until everything is settled here and the traders arrive with the supplies.” 

“Alright.” replied the cheif knowing she must be very upset. 

“I need to send a reply to my father and brother Pollux. I will bring the letters this evening please ensure it gets sent quickly.”

“Yes, of course.” 

Helen left the tent as tears began to fall like an unstoppable river. The cheif resumed smoking as he read over the letter. 

He exhaled a puff of flavoured smoke and said to himself, ” a.time of turmoil is upon us.” 

Creating compelling characters

When writing a story the most important thing one must focus on is creating a compelling character. I am not here to tell you the dos and do nots about writing about or even creating a character but there are a few things you need to think about.

  1. Why should the reader care about the character? When someone is reading a story they are looking to get something out of it. Maybe it is learning, catharsis, or even just entertainment. The difference between an ok story and a good story is whether the story had an effect on the reader. Will they think about the story after they finished reading it? Will they want to read it again? The best way to evoke these emotions is to make the reader genuinely invested in the character. Do they want to be the character or do they want to be with the character?
  2. Make the character likeable This is probably just a personal gripe but very often I don’t actually like the main character. It is never ok for a character to be disliked by the reader because if they don’t like or don’t care the reading experience us terrible or just boring. There are lots of things th a Make a character good or bad but the reader must always agree or understand their actions. Your character can be selfish and cruel but the reader must always root for them. Readers want stories about good, decent people doing heroic things and if your character does do something selfish or morally grey you NEED to convince the reader it was right thing to do.
  3. Give your character goals and motivation Even if your story is very short you need to give your character a clear goal or motivation. Having a goal will make the reader want to see your character accomplish it and the reader will feel.very satisfied once they do. The more dedicated and motivated your character is the more invested the reader will be. Even if it takes a long time and the character gets side tracked they should always be motivated by their goal even if it vague like to survive, to go home, to be the best, to defeat a foe or even just to grow. 
  4. Make the character relatable The characters I enjoy the most are the ones I relate to the most. This maybe selfish but everyone is at least a little bit narcissistic. The more similar their goals or insecurities are to your own the more easily relatable the character is and the more invested you get. Something a lot of writers do and is very successful is to make the main character as plain and generic possible so the reader projects themselves onto them. The main character becomes more like an avatar of the reader than a character. This can make your main character boring but will make the reader easier to relate to them.
  5. Don’t make the character too powerful too early or easily Unless you are writing a male/female power fantasy DONT MAKE YOUR CHARACTER OVER POWERED! Your character can be the most beautiful or very talented but they cannot be the best from the beginning. If your character is too powerful or everything seems to take very little effort there are no stakes since the reader knows the character will never lose. Everything they achieve should at least seem to take some effort and this will make every achievement and victory feel more satisfying. If everything is easy for the character the reader won’t be emotionally invested. If the final boss is easy it won’t have an impact. Even if your character is talented or the chosen one they should continuously grow and the final obstacle should always seem too difficult or impossible to achieve.  

When writing one must think of more than getting from A to B to C. Your character and the journey should make an impact on the reader. 

Chapter 41 has a change of heart.

The princess entered the study of Prince Pollux with a tray of sweets and peppermint tea. “Was that all true?” asked the princess. “Is it true that your father killed your brother.”

Pollux lay reclined on the cushioned couch. He had neglected both dinner or any sweets that evening.”Where did you hear that?”

“Today after I was cleaning mother’s grave both you and your father arrived while I went to put away the broom. Did he actually kill your brother?” 

Pollux sat up in the couch and rubbed his tired eyes. His heart was in turmoil. He understood his father’s actions even if he did not necessarily agree with them.The days after hearing of his brother’s death were dark and long. Everything seemed more difficult and his patience was repeatedly tested. He had scolded a main for mixing up his documents and he had snapped at the princess for speaking out of place. Everything felt more difficult than it should be. 

“A few days before my brother left I heard my father talk to a general about sending some soliders to accompany Castor. It seem strange not to send him with his own retainers. And then brother came to talk to me the day before he left to say goodbye and-” Tears welled in the prince’s eyes and then dripped down his face. He tried to wipe them away but the tears would not stop pouring down. 

“And I- I just sent him away because I didn’t think that that it would be the last time that-” The princess put down the tray and walked over to Pollux, placing her arms around him. Pollux could not stop his tears but continued, “maybe if I had stopped my father or had said something or tried to help my brother be for he left this might not have happened. I just-” 

Pollux tried to wipe his tears but he could not stop crying. The princess hugged him tightly and rubbed his back. “It will be alright darling.” 

“No it won’t be alright. He’s already dead and there is nothing I can do about it!” 

“Do you really think he is dead?” 

“What? What are you saying?” 

“Well some things just don’t add up. They said Castor died when the ship got wrecked near the foreign shores but it takes over a week to reach there.”

“And?” asked Pollux.

“If the ship got wrecked after a week and the scout ship would have then taken at least a week to come back but-” 

“The ship came back with news of his death ten days after he left!” exclaimed Pollux. He had been so distracted by guilt and sadness that he had not realized the discrepancy.

“He might still be alive!” Pollux kissed his wife over and over. A sense of relief and hope washed over him. 

“Your father has been lying to everyone.”

Pollux chuckled bitterly, “Well this wouldnt be the first time.” 

“What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to find him!” 

chapter 40 is strange somehow 

King Dareus visited his wife’s grave as he did on the last day of every month. When he arrived her grave had already been cleaned and fresh flowers lay beside it. 

“Good morning father,” said Pollux who was also carrying desert blossoms in his hands. 

“Hello Pollux, it is unusual for you to come here,” replied the king with a forced smile. 

“Well it is an unusual time right now father. Everyone has been acting strange since brother’s death.” 

The king was surprised. Pollux had only referred to Castor by name or as him ever since they found out about Castor being abnormal. Almost as if he wanted to forget that him and Castor were related. Yet now that he was dead it was fine to acknowledge it. 

“Well yes, it was all very sudden. We should probably arrange a grave stone or statue for him.”

“What about next to mother?” asked Castor looking over his mother’s grave. The stone of the grave stone had cracked as a nearby tree had spread its root beneath it. 

“No, no, no Pollux don’t be absurd we don’t even have his body for that. A place in the catacombs-”

“Like an unname solider?” laughed Pollux sadly. 

“Well I don’t mean like that,” replied the king somewhat embarrassed.

“No, I understand. I’m sure everyone wants to forget he was a Prince of this country. Honestly I think his death was a blessing in disguise. Don’t you agree?” 

“Well… I mean it is a bit cruel to put it like that.”remarked the king. Pollux laughed again but in an almost evil demented way. 

“Aren’t we both cruel father? I don’t mourn my brother’s death and you killed your own son.”

“What? I did not I-” 

“It is alright father. I knew it from the moment brother left that he would never come back. I knew that even if you were not the one holding the blade, you would still be Castor’s executioner.”

King Dareus was silent. He had no idea what to say to such accusations so he said nothing at all. Pollux placed the blossoms by his mother’s grave. 

“Araliya asked me earlier if she could have a demon now that Castor was gone.” 

“I don’t see why not,” replied the king. For the first time in his life the king was a bit afraid of his son. Pollux left the graveyard without another word. 

Chapter 39 foolish

The solider shoved the knife back in the man and handed it to the bearded man. “Watch him!” instructed the solider to the red faced man. The solider and the bearded man ran out and locked the door behind them.

“Please let me go!” begged Castor. “I did not do anything wrong!”

“Shut up!” shouted the red faced man not listening to a word Castor said.

The village women and children screamed and shouted when they saw Anneli. Anneli hid behind a bush but obviously not well enough since various forms of debris was thrown at him. Several men appeared and herded the women and children into the houses and it was quiet for a while. Anneli looked up from his hiding place and saw the group of men nearby. They were holding long sticks, sickles and blades and were slowly getting closer to Anneli’s hiding place. Anneli filled with fear and grew cold. Anneli knew that they were going to hurt him or kill his if they could. Anneli ran from his hiding spot and the men ran after him. What was I thinking? How can I save Castor when I can’t even save myself from these people?

Anneli quickly scaled a nearby tree and hid within its branches. The men came up the tree and began hitting the trunk with their sticks and blades. They shouted and demanded that Anneli come down but why would he?

“What is happening?” asked the tree confused to no one in particular. Anneli was scared and shaking and could not even speak. The men continued to shout and wave their weapons about. Anneli curled up into a ball trying to make him as small as possible.

“What is going on here?” asked the main wearing blue. Anneli watched from between the branches and leaves.

“There was a monster attacking the women, we chased it up a tree but we can’t get it down,” said one of the men holding a large stick. The man in blue walked up to the tree and looked up and saw the monster.

“Isn’t that just a pole cat?” said the man in blue. All the solider could see was a trembling ball of black fur hiding within the branches of a tree.

“No it is not! It is a monster! It has the face of a devil! I saw it clearly!” said another man who was holding a long blade.

“So what do you want to do?” asked the man in blue, “it won’t come down with you making such a ruckus.”

“We should cut down the tree!” said a very enthusiastic man in the crowd.

“Now be reasonable!” proclaimed a man with a thick beard “did that thing actually hurt anyone? We can simply just let it go away on its own.” Anneli took a moment but recognized the man as one of the people who abducted Castor. Anneli watched him closely and saw him holding Castor’s bag.

“Why do you have that bag!” shouted Anneli in a loud booming voice Anneli himself did not know he was capable of.

“It spoke!” shouted a man in the crowd, “It is a monster not a cat! Bring the axe! Cut the tree down.”

“Be quiet!” shouted the man in blue.

“Hey monster!” said the man in blue, he grabbed the bag from the bearded man and held it up for Anneli to see, “do you know who owns this bag?” Anneli did not reply. He did not know what these men would do to him or to Castor.

“What are you doing?” asked the bearded man.

“This monster seems to know the foreigner,” replied the solider still holding up the bag.

“Ah!” said the bearded man, “the foreigner did say he had a companion but I assumed it was another foreigner or that he was lying.”

“Monster!” shouted the solider again, “come down! We will take you to your friend.”

“No!” shouted Anneli, “you are lying!”

There were whispers among the group of men. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘What are they doing?’ ‘What’s happening?’

 

Chapter 38 Accused

Castor was taken slowly up the hill to the local village. The village children pointed and stared as he walked passed. He was taken to a stone building that might have been the village centre since he was walked through a large hall and lead into the back room. Once in the back room he was cuffed with a pair of old rusted handcuffs. He was sure he could break out of them if he pulled hard enough. Castor did not want to make a scene to be obediently sat in the room with his arms behind his back and waited quietly like he was instructed to. The older man wordlessly confiscated Castor’s belongings and left the room. After probably twenty minutes a man wearing a bright blue uniform and light leather armour entered the room. He had a sword and an arrogant attitude so Castor guessed he might have been a solider sent by a nearby kingdom or aristocrat. The talked to the older man and the red-faced man in whispers that sounded like grunting farm pigs. Castor was annoyed but still did not want to make a fuss. Maybe if I cooperate they will let me go, it is probably a misunderstanding, assumed Castor.

The solider walked up to Castor; his steps were loud and heavy as if his boots were made of lead. He had Castor’s bag in his hand and a patronizing expression on his face.

“What is your name?” asked the solider. Considering that they had just met Castor already despised him but that was mainly due to the soldier’s condescending tone with which he spoke down to Castor.

“My name is Castor.”

“And what are you doing here?”

“I do not know. I was brought here by those two men.”

“No, I mean, what are you doing in this part of the country?” The solider was polite as a snake could be yet his words were still dripping with venom.

“I am travelling to the northern mountains.”

“And why are you traveling to the northern mountains?”

“I am looking for a plant found in the northern mountains.”

“Is it to take back to your own country?” Castor did not truly understand why that question felt so degrading. It may have been the way the solider talked down to him as if he were a child that had a speech impediment.

“No, I am just interested in studying plants and I was told that there was a rare species found on top of that mountain.” It was lie but Castor was growing increasingly impatient with solider and was unsure if this country were especially fussy about exporting plants.

“And is this important to your studies?” asked the solider taking out Castor’s knife from his bag.

“Well it is useful to have,” replied Castor. The solider laughed loudly which made Castor want to kick his face in.

“This is rather ornamental with all these jewels and fancy carving isn’t it?”

“I guess? But what does it matter how ornamental is it? It is still as useful as any knife is,” replied Castor.

“It seems far too expensive for someone like you be carrying,” said the solider in a loud accusing voice.

“Someone like me? What is that supposed to mean?” Castor was now furious and at the limit of his patience.

“Well for a foreigner like yourself to be carrying such an expensive-”

“What does being a foreigner have to do with anything?” shouted Castor. Even though he did not want to admit it to himself before he now knew the reason he was in this mess was because he was a foreigner.

“Did you steal it?”

“That is ridiculous!” shouted Castor, “why would you think that I could not own it because I am a foreigner? My knife is foreign just like me so it no way improbable that it belongs to me.”

“Well it does seem rather expensive.”

“So because I am a foreigner you assume I must be poor?”

“Did you steal other things as well?”

“I did not steal anything!”

“Then why were you in the swamp?” asked the solider. Castor was confused by his question.

“What does that swamp have to do with anything?” asked Castor, slowly and softly trying to regain his nerve.

“The swamp is too dangerous to go through. The only people who risk it are smugglers and criminals.”

“Which one are you accusing me of being?”

Suddenly there was a commotion outside; the screams of several people could be heard. The door of the small room was swung open. An out of breath woman in a long skirt shouted desperately, “Sir!” she said referring to the solider, “It is terrible! It is an emergency!”

“What’s happening?” asked the solider.

“There is a monster attacking the village!”