Fairytale for the lonely heart, chapter 96

Castor put his arms underneath Anneli, carrying him as he stood up. He stepped to the bed with Anneli in his arms and pushed the sword onto the ground. Castor placed Anneli on the bed and climbed onto the old bed. It creaked and the mattress was so thin the bed frame could be felt through it. Anneli looked at Castor on top of him, not sure what to do or to say. His heat thumped in his chest and echoed in his ears. Shadows obscured Castor’s features, Anneli felt anxious at not being able to see Castor’s eyes. Castor grabbed the fabric of Anneli’s cape.

“What are you doing Castor?”

Castor chuckled. Anneli could hear the painful surrender in Castor’s voice as a part of him stopped caring about the world he lived in.

“I don’t know,” whined Castor, burying his face in Anneli’s chest. There was a sudden bang at the door. Castor and Anneli stared at the door for a moment.

BANG!

“Is that Helen?” whispered Anneli.

BANG!

“I don’t -”

BANG! The rickety door was broken open and Pyropolis soldiers flooded in. Castor dived for his knife but was rammed by a soldier and thrown onto the floor.

“It would be best if you come quietly Prince Castor,” said the soldier holding the bladed end of a spear to Castor’s throat. Castor looked at Anneli who had already been caught. Castor allowed his hands to be tied, his face covered and dragged to god knows where. When the bag was removed from his head Castor found himself in the dark, leaky dungeon cell underneath the royal palace. In the small cramped cell was Helen, Anneli and himself.

“What in the world happened?!” cried Castor, tugging at his bound limbs.

Helen glared at him, “Pollux happened.”

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Fairytale for the lonely heart, Chapter 87 The rescue

The shouting voices became louder and louder. A young soldier ran back to the room, looking disheartened and stressed. “S-sir, we have a problem,” he stuttered.

“What’s going on?” whispered one of the soldiers to another. The middle aged soldier, with medals pined to the breast of his uniform stood up from his chair and shut his book with a clap.

“What is the commotion?” asked the older soldier.

“Well, you see there is this person. They are making a fuss and we can’t seem to calm them down.”

The older man sighed, “really now.”

The thundering sound of heavy boots reverberated through the building as the mysterious person came closer. Castor on the other hand was thoroughly amused and if the soldiers had been nicer to him he may have attempted not two show his pleasure at that distress. A figure in a long dark coat appeared in the door way, with a large hood obscuring their face.

“By Fidim Castor! Why did you go and get yourself arrested?” proclaimed the figure in a booming voice.

“HELEN?”

The figure removed their hood and standing in the doorway was the most beautiful woman any of the soldiers had ever seen. Many of them gasped only now realizing that the loud and violent person was in fact a woman.

“Helen, what are you doing here? HOW did you get here?”

All the soldiers stared at Helen as if she were manna from heaven and they were starving in the desert. They were entranced by her deep dark eyes and glistening umber skin…..

“Castor, that is not important. What did you do to get arrested? And HOW did you get all these injuries?”

……until she spoke and they were swiftly snapped back to reality. They remembered that she had forcefully entered a military building. They remembered that she was loud, violent and rude but those eyes were a snare they did not want to escape.

“What did he do to get arrested?” asked Helen turning to the soldier who was still holding Castor by the shoulder.

“What- I um… uh-”

“What’s wrong are you having a fit?”

“No Helen. You seem to have forgotten that the sight of you knocks Muktaba out of the heads of lesser men.”

“What?” said the soldier furiously glaring at Castor and tightening his grip.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” replied Castor to his captor, “Muktaba is a god of wisdom and learning. One says ‘Muktaba has been knocked out of ones head’ if one is acting like a complete dumb ass.”

“Castor please stop angering the local military, we don’t want this to escalate into a international conflict. Though these men probably have as much influence in international politics as a termite in a chess game.”

“He was fighting in public,” said a voice in the room.

“Who was what now?” asked Helen who was only half-paying attention.

“That was why he was arrested,” said the older soldier and punctuating his sentence with a cough for good measure.

“Oh,” remarked Helen. “How much is his fine? I can pay it now.”

“It is not that simple,” said the soldier, “this is the second time he got arrested so he needs to have a judge look over his case.”

“Alright, what did he do the first time?” asked Helen nearing the end of her patience.

“He was in possession of a large amount of money and a magic jeweled knife. Items thought to have been stolen by him,” replied the soldier.

Helen sighed loudly exasperated and rolled her eyes, “Castor- how did you get arrested for stealing your own things?”

“I don’t Helen! The people here are mad and they won’t listen to a word I say!”

Helen turned to the older soldier and pointed to Castor, “you know he is a prince right? I don’t know if you WANT to be the people arrested the future king of Apophis. You know the Fidiom are known to be vengeful and bloodthirsty. Do you really want to insight the wrath of the people blessed by the gods?”

“He wasn’t lying about being a Prince?” sputtered the older soldier.

“Your gods gave you ears and brains. Why not use them?”

“Let him go,” said the older soldier.

“But what if she is lying as well? They might be accomplices,” argued the soldier not letting go of Castor’s shoulder.

“Well,” said Helen reaching into the pocket of her coat, “I, unlike my brother, actually brought proof of my identity.” From within her pocket Helen too out a gold disk with a delicate geometric emblem etched on it. “This is my emblem. You see the lion, that means I am part of the royal family of Pyropolis.”

The soldiers came closer and stared at the golden disk.

“I can’t believe they let you take that out of the palace,” said Castor just as shocked to see Helen’s seal.

“Well, I would not say they ‘let’ me take it. But I needed some proof of who I was and they won’t mind me borrowing it.”

The older soldier sighed, “let him go,” he repeated. This time the soldier quickly withdrew his hand and stepped back.

“Where are my things?” demanded Castor and a soldier scurried away to get Castor’s belongings. Castor walked over to Helen with a goofy smile. “Thank you for saving me udade.”

“I’m just glad you are alright,” replied Helen, gripping Castor’s forearm affectionately.

Chapter 83 uncertain dawn

Anneli and Castor did not sleep that night. Castor cautiously watched the door as if the soldiers would be banging on the door any minute. For the first time since they had been travelling Castor opened up to Anneli. As if a sluice gate had been opened and all his feeling and opinions were rushing out.

Castor talked about his brother, who he was jealous of and resented. About his sisters who both ran away from the suffocating palace. Castor hated his father for his judgmental and cruel personality but also himself for always wanting his father’s approval. He talked about the royal court, their condescending attitudes and how shunned him. He disliked how dishonest and ruthless everyone was. How he was either a pawn or player in a vile game for power. How everyone in the palace cared more about appearances than values. He resented how even though he hated it, he was also a part of it and could never truly loose the mind-set that had been ingrained in him.

“I don’t even really want to go back but I hate it if they look down on me for failing. I just want to wipe their smug expressions. I swear some of them have a perpetual smirk on their face and an arrogant air around them. I just want to go back and prove all of them wrong. But that means that I care what they think and I don’t want to care.”

Castor hugged Anneli closer, “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because- because I’ve been ranting about myself for so long.”

“It’s alright, as long as it makes you feel better.”

“Why are you so nice to me?” Castor chuckled and buried his face in the nape of Anneli’s neck.

When the first rays of morning crept from the east Castor and Anneli gathered their things to leave.

“Where are we going now?”

“I don’t know Anneli we will figure it out. Maybe we can try to go to Stratus and see where we will go from there.”

“What you said… about the running away.”

“Yeah, I was just really upset. I don’t want to runaway anymore. I’m going to finish what I started, besides I promised to take you to the desert.”

“I know.”

Anneli’s felt heavy and nauseous. He dragged his feet as they left the small shabby inn. As they left Anneli caught sight of a firefly weakly bobbing in the air.

“A firefly.”

“What is it Anneli?” asked Castor not really hearing what Anneli said.

“Nothing.” It was not nothing. A firefly during the day was a bad omen. He gripped Castor’s coat as they walked towards the city gates. A few stray drunkards, a police and merchants setting up their stalls dotted the streets. As they got closer to the gate there were fewer and fewer people on the street until it was only the two of them on a silent empty street.

Trumpf trumpf trumpf

The sound of loud stomping boots surrounded them. Anneli gripped Castor’s coat tighter as five large men surrounded them. Castor recognized them as Pyropolis soldiers wearing their typical black and red uniform.

“Hello Prince Castor,” greeted one of the men with a sinister smile. Castor had met him yesterday and he had obviously still held a grudge. Castor slowly reached into his bag and touched the hilt of his knife. The soldiers themselves were brandishing various swords and daggers. In their red bloodshot eyes Castor only saw anger and blood lust. The men rushed at him, Castor swung his knife sending stray sparks everywhere. Cracking white lightning was pouring out of the knife. The men stepped back and circled him looking for a way to attack. Anneli made himself small and hid behind Castor instinctively.

One of the soldiers lunged forward and Castor sent a bolt of lightning. The solider barely dodged. They grinned. The soldiers realized that Castor did not want to kill them or hurt them if he could. They however had no intention of leave the Prince alive. Two men swung their blades forward, Castor blocked one but was not fast enough and was stabbed on his side.

“Arg!” cried Castor as the man twisted the blade before tearing it out. Blood began to gush from the wound. Castor was starting to stagger. Castor focused his electricity on the tip of his blade creating a long stream of lightning. He swung it like a whip and slashing two of the soldiers leaving large red and brown burn marks on their arms. Castor continued to whip the soldiers with his lightning, driving them farther away from him. He hit their arms and legs but they still persisted. One solider stepped forward and swung his blade at Anneli. Anneli jumped back and fell down near one of soldiers who grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up.

“Anneli!” Castor swung his whip at the soldier holding Anneli. The whip warped around his elbow and the man cried out as the electricity burned his is arm inside and out. He let go and Anneli was dropped to the floor.

“RUN ANNELI!” shouted Castor and Anneli filled with fear was his own life ran away and left Castor behind. Pain surged down his arm as he was stabbed in the shoulder. The knife fell from his shaking hand.

“OI! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?”

Two men in  Saxon military uniform ran up to them. Two of the Pyropolis soldiers ran away while the other three and Castor were arrested.

 

 

Chapter 81 complicated

Anneli and Castor lay on the small bed in the closet of a room in a shabby inn. Castor’s heart calmed and his fatigue had caught up with him. He did not want to move and wanted to rest but he knew he could not.

“Anneli we need to leave tomorrow morning.”

“Did you find a boat to take us?”

“No, we can’t go yet. We need to go back for now.”

“Go back where?”

“Anywhere, but not here. The gates of the city are already closed so we need to wait until tomorrow morning.”

“Why?” asked Anneli.

“We just have to leave, it is not safe here anymore.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Then what is going on?”

Castor paused. He had told Anneli very little about himself even after several weeks of travelling together. Anneli did not know he was a prince, why the rose plant is important or about Castor’s father. Castor let go of Anneli and sat up in bed. His body ached. All his running must have made his injures worsen.

“There are some people trying to kill me. I ran away from them earlier and I thought I got away but they found me again. I saw them again today, they are probably still looking for me right now. I don’t think we are safe even now.”

Anneli sprang up, “we should leave now.”

“No! The gates out of the city must already be closed and those people are probably outside right now looking for me and waiting for me to try to run away. We will leave as dawn when the gates open, it will be easier in the morning when there are fewer people wandering around the street. In case we end up fighting.”

“Why are they after you?”

“It’s complicated.”

“If you never tell me I will never know,” grumbled Anneli placing his head on Castor’s lap. Castor patted Anneli’s head. He hesitated, not wanting to tell Anneli about his family because he will have to reveal why his family hated him in the first place.

“My father,” began Castor, his voice quivered as he spoke, “he sent men to kill me. He sent me here to get the rose but it was just an excuse to sent me far away. He probably wanted to make it seem like an accident.”

Anneli did not respond, he simply quietly waited as Castor stroked his fur.

“Are you not going to ask why? You’ve been prying all this time.”

“I don’t need to know if you don’t want to tell me.”

Castor chuckled, “that did not stop you before.”

“Well you wanted to talk about it before. I could tell that was something in the back of your throat that you wanted say.”

“Yeah, I guess you were right. It has been really stressful keeping all this frustration to myself. I just thought you would not understand.”

“Even if I won’t understand I would still listen.”

“You know, he was a terrible father. He always neglected me and my younger siblings and only payed any attention to my older brother. My step mother was nice to me but I spent most of my life trying to get his approval. In the end he hated me so much that he tried to kill me off in a far away country.” Castor’s vision became blurry as tears gathered in his eyes.

“I don’t even know why I even tried. I should have just run away when I got the chance. I should have just run away to the other side of the country or to a different country entirely. I should just have spent my money and gone somewhere far away and bought some land and started a farm. No one back home wants me to come back anyway.”

Anneli climbed onto Castor’s lap and wiped away the tears that fell down Castor’s face. A small smile broke on Castor’s face feeling embarrassed by his breakdown.

“How does that sound Anneli? Even if we are poor and in the middle of nowhere living be ourselves in a little farm, it doesn’t sound too bad does it?”

Anneli thought about what the fish had told him. He thought about the desert and of the love he was meant to find there. He thought about travelling across the sea and the promise Castor had made the first day they met. Yet now, all of that did not seem important.

“I will do anything if that’s what will make you happy.”

 

Chapter 77 one more problem

“Sorry, there are no ships going to Pyropolis. We only sell tickets to passenger ships and no passenger ship goes straight from here to Pyropolis, Cumulus just isn’t that commercial.”

“There must be something? What about cargo ships or a shiping vessel?”

“Shipping vessels only stay within our own territories. If you want to go on a cargo ship you will need to personally ask the the captain of the ship and even then they will be reluctant.”

“Ah.. that’s too bad. Are there any alternatives?”

“There are private vessels but those yatchs are too small for a journey to the red continent. It will be possible to for you to buy a ticket from here to the main port in Stratus and then go to pyropolis but it will be very expensive and take three weeks.”

Castor felt heavy and a knot formed in his stomach.

“How much will it cost?”

“Well from here to Stratus it will be three crowns and from Stratus to Pyropolis it will be atleast twenty ot twenty five crown per person.”

Castor felt his purse which was now much lighter than it was when he first started. He had never fathomed that it would be so expensive. He tried to convert the cost into his own currency and the price seemed even more exorbitant. Castor considered how much money he had left, he could easily go if it was just him but with Anneli it would leave only two gold coins and a few coppers to sustains them for three weeks.

“I can’t afford that, thank you for everything,” said Castor and left the ticket office. Castor for the first time in a long time felt that the future was bleak. The anxiety made him feel fuzzy in the head and nauseous. He had waited for an hour in the ticketing office which was nothing more than a poorly contructed wood hut with a desk. He had patiently waited his turn but all he had to show  for his effort was dissapointment and worry.

Anneli was sitting outside the office holding the plant in his hands, long since finished eating his pastry. Seeing Castor exit the office Anneli jumped to his feet.

“How did it go? When are we going?”

Castor sighed, “we are not going yet, I did not get a ticket.”

“Why?”

Castor did not want to reply to Anneli. Castor instead listened to the gulls and the lapping of the sea waves just beyond the walls. He inhaled the oh too familiar salty air. Castor felt slightly nostalgic about home for the first time since he left. Even if his family did not want him to return he liked to think the sea, the sands and palm trees would not share that same opinion.

“Castor,” said Anneli softly, unsure of why he was being ignored.

“Shall we go to the beach Anneli?” asked Castor and patted him on the head.

Chapter 63 The attack

Castor followed the sounds of panic towards the front of the line of caravans. Woman holding their children and men carrying their baggage or weapons run away from the commotion. A passing woman holding a fabric bag bumps into him as she run passed and Castor stops and looks into the trees. The feeling of being watched and the realization that he will likely be ambushed overcomes him. For a moment he considers going back to Anneli but continues forward.

Tall burly men wearing mask and wielding large blades and maces were terrorizing the caravans near the front of the line. The men tore the fabric of the caravans are were stealing the cargo. A driver was desperately trying to hit the men with his horse whip as they approach him with knives. Castor had no idea what to do the chaos. A young woman’s scream cut through the havoc and Castor ran towards it. A fat masked man was abducting a young local girl as she kicked and hit him. Castor wrapped him arm around the fat man’s neck and threw him to the ground. In the confusion Castor helped the girl up and told her to run, the girl was crying too much to reply but ran away from the raiding. The fat man, quickly got to his feet and punched Castor so hard he fell back. The fat man then got on top of him and started to choke him. Castor gripped the hilt of his knife and the fat man cried in agony as electricity surged through his body.

“It burns! It burns!” cried the fat man and curled himself into a fetal position. Sparks of remnant electricity crackled softly around him.

It was suddenly much quieter. All the bandits stopped shouting and laughing and stared at Castor. Castor got to his feet, his knife in his hand. His face was in pain and his vision was slightly blurred.