Chapter 82 kindles hope

Helen sat in the corner of a small dimly lit room. She could clearly hear the sound of the beating waves outside. In her hand she played with a white and black stones. With a flick of her fingers the stones floated into the air and spun drunkenly. The rickety wooden door crackled when pushed open. Pollux looked at his sister and the floating rocks.

“Urim and Thummim?” asked Pollux.

“Yes,” murmured Helen and flicked her finger again, making the stones spin faster and faster.

“Have you ever used them?”

“No, but it was the only thing grandfather left for me.”

“It was more than what he left for me,” chuckled Pollux.

“He left you a kingdom Pollux.” The stones fell back into her palm. She tucked them in her cloak pocket. “Did you manage to get me a ship?”

“Yes, I did!” said Pollux taking a piece of paper from his bag and showing it to Helen. “It is one of the fastest ships of the armada.”

“Did father find out I arrived?”

“We managed to stop the news before it reached him. Thankfully he was not in the palace at the time. Your brazen behavior did not help.”

“I thought Castor was dead at that time.”

“He might still be dead.”

“I still have hope.” Helen glared at Pollux, hiding her fear behind a mask of fury.

“There is still a problem. I happened to be in father’s room-”

“You were snooping.”

“Yes, I was snooping in father’s room,” said Pollux. “There was a coded message sent from a port called Cumulus, twelve days after Castor left. I don’t know what the message sent but father arranged for another ship to go to Cumulus.”

“When did it leave?”

“I don’t know- maybe a few days ago, maybe a over a week ago.”

“Shit.”

“If Castor is still alive, I am sure he will manage to fight his way out of it.”

“Shut up Pollux. I am still going. Even if he is dead, even if he is fine. I am still going to find out for myself.”

“If he is dead-”

“He is not dead!”

“If! If he is dead, I need you here in Pyropolis with me. I know you want to return to your oasis in the desert but I need you here with me.”

“What are you planning on doing?”

Pollux did not say anything, but Helen could see in his dark trembling eyes that he was afraid. Helen felt a pang of sadness in her chest looking at a face so similar to Castor’s. Even if she did not want to admit it she knew that Castor must be long gone by now and she had no intention of losing Pollux as well.

“Are you saying you want to coup? That is crazy!”

“How can you say that? After what he did to Castor.”

“Stop it Pollux! The desert is already on the verge of war any instability will crush us.”

“That is why I need you here with me. If it is the both of us-”

“No Pollux!”

“If we do it soon then-”

“Why now?”

“Father…father collapsed yesterday.”

“So you want do you want to do? Kill him? Make it seem like a sickness or an accident? Pollux you are a good man, you are not someone who will kill his own father out of revenge.”

“If I can’t even do that. Maybe…maybe I am not meant to be king!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I am not meant to be king.” Pollux exhaled deeply as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. ” The fortune teller said that Castor is meant to be king not me. That is why father did all of this.”

Helen for once was at a loss for words. Pollux paced up and down near the door and then final walked to the corned and sat in front of Helen.

“So, what should we do?”

 

Advertisements

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 74 seems uneventful

“Should we tell Clytemnestra about Castor as well?” asked princess Araliya as she rubbed oil on her skin before going to bed. Prince Pollux laughed to himself as he drank his tea of ginger, mint and honey. He had been under a lot of stress due to recent evens causing prince Pollux to suffer abdominal pain resulting in fatigue and even more stress. The doctor had told him to stay in bed for a day.

“Are you joking? I haven’t had any contact with her in years. And I doubt she will come even if we do tell her, I am pretty sure priests of her religion aren’t supposed to have any lingering ‘earthly’ attachments. The last time I met her she gave me sermon about everything people do is selfish and the only way to overcome suffering is to give up wanting everything.”

“She has the right to know. Religion or not she should at least be made aware of it.”

Pollux inhaled and exhaled deeply. He tended to be unreasonable and illogical when it came to his family. Something Araliya never failed to point out.

“Alright, if it means so much to you I will send her a letter tomorrow.”

Princess Araliya climbed into bed and curled up next to her husband. Pollux put his arm around her and kissed her on the forehead.

“Sleep well darling,” said Pollux. The princess nuzzled him lovingly.

“Pollux, when shall we have children?”

The princess knew her asking this made him uncomfortable. Every time she had asked he had always changed the subject or given unconvincing excuses.

“It is still too early dear. We are still young, I was still considered a child five years ago.”

“That is not a reason, you always avoid it. Do you not want to have children with me?”

“No dear! It is not that! I love you more than anything in the world but… I know it is hard for you to understand having children young is not common for my family. My father was even king for several years before I was born”

“You are not you father,” she replied dryly. “When I was younger, before I met you, I did not want to have children or get married because in my country once you get married you are trapped and are nothing but a glorified wet nurse. But it is different now, it is different with you. I want to have children with you. Even if you never become king or I get trapped in this country.”

Araliya watched her husband’s quivering eyes and dejected expression. She knew he felt guilty about denying her something she wanted to much.

“I do want to have children. But not now or any time soon. It is just not how it is here.”

“Why?”

“Because the prince had a tendency to to oust the king before his time. My father and my grandfather, every ruler after the blood queen overthrew their predecessor in varying degrees of brutality. Having children late is just postponing the inevitable.”

She turned in bed away from her husband and sulked.

“Our children won’t be like that! You are not like that!” hissed the princess.

“Am I really not? I have considered it, after what he did to Castor and maybe even before that. My father is old and his views are old and no longer match the world we live in.”

“You won’t do that will you?” For the first time since she had met her husband she felt fearful of his actions and intentions.

“I won’t, it is not in me to do such a thing no matter how much I fantasize about it. But I think Castor is capable of it. I think the reason father is so against brother and so intimidated by him is that Castor reminds him too much of himself as a young man.”

The  was thrown open by a disheveled and out of breath maid, “The king had collapsed.”

 

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 one 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 scouts walked up to the cheif 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.”