Fairytale for the lonely heart, Chapter 86 The interrogation

Castor was lead to a dimly to a room filled with soldiers and instructed to sit on an uncomfortable stool. A middle aged solider holding a book and pen sat on a chair in front of him and slowly opened up his book. Castor noticed the other soldiers glancing at him from the side of their eyes. The older soldier had several medals pinned on the breast of his uniform. Castor was unfamiliar with ranks in the Saxon army but suspected he must be a Colonel or have some other equivalent rank. The soldier cleared his throat to get Castors attention.

“So-”

“So?” replied Castor.

“What is your name?”

“Castor.”

“Full name.”

“Oh right…. Castor Atsu Al-Malik,”

“That’s quite a name.”

“Yes- they are all from different countries.”

“Where are you from?”

“Pyropolis, Apophis.”

“Sorry- what?”

“Er…Pyropolis is the city and Apophis is the country.”

“You’re far from home is see.”

“Yes.”

“What are you doing here? In this country?”

“Traveling.”

“For what reason are you traveling?”

“Can’t one just travel for traveling sake and to see the world?” replied Castor with an awkward laugh.

“One can, but I feel like that is not your reason for traveling.”

“Um… well I don’t know if you will believe me even if I tell you the truth.”

“Does this truth have anything to do with the brawl you got into earlier.”

“Yes…actually-”

“Then the truth.”

“Well… I am a prince,”

“Is that so?” remarked the soldier making notes in his book. Castor was agitated with the hint of sarcasm the soldier spoke with.

“Yes. So the fortune teller claimed that I should be the next king and not my older brother. This was very upsetting to my father so he sent me on a “quest” to get a rose in bloom from his country. However..er… that was a ruse to… uh… have me killed to get me out of the way. So right before we reached the land I jumped out of the boat and swam to land. Then we walked through an obviously haunted swamp, climbed a mountain and got a rose branch. Rode with a group of caravan for over a week during which the caravans where attacked by bandits who I fought. I stopped them but they left with a broken rib. Then we arrived here to get a boat to take us back Pyropolis but them got ambushed by Pyropolis soldier who, I assume were ordered by my father to kill me.”

“Who is we?”

“Sorry?”

“You said ‘we’, who is your travel companion.”

“I…er… don’t have one. I just misspoke.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes…?”

“The other men had your brawl with, who stabbed you- we let them go.”

“Why?”

“Well, for fighting in public it is only a four crown fine and they paid their fine and left.”

“If I pay the fine will you let me go as well?”

“Under normal circumstances I would but-”

“But?”

“Unlike them this is not the first time you got in trouble. A few weeks ago we received a report from a village not to far from here about a foreigner with a magic knife who threatened to attack them, resisted arrest. This man was your approximate height and approximate skin tone.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh yes. Once is an accident twice is criminal offence.”

“But that time I did not even do anything. They just assumed that I was a thief and a smuggler because I am a foreigner.”

“Well it was suspicious. You were traveling with a lot of money and very expensive decadent knife. A well-to-do man, like you claim to be would not be traveling alone. You had neither guards or entourage.”

“I did have guards but they were conspiring to kill me.”

“So you claim…”

“I claim nothing! It’s the truth!” cried Castor in frustration. Silence followed his outburst and all the soldiers in the room stared at Castor.

“Yes. Well, we unfortunately cannot simply take your word for it.”

“How am I supposed to prove myself?”

“Um.. yes. Do you want to know what I think?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you are lying.”

“Lying about what?”

“Everything. You story about being a condemned prince is fine and all for a fairytale but things like that don’t really happen. I think that you are a thief. I think you were traveling with you rich master who you killed and robbed. The money you carry and the knife you wield were both stolen from him. I think the men who attack you, are your old masters guards trying to catch their master’s killer.”

“Why? What in the wide world makes you think that is more logical than what I said.”

“Well, that is what the Apophis soldiers said and unlike you they have their identification and paper in order. So, Castor- what is the truth?”

“What I said is the truth! I am the prince! They were trying to kill me!”

The old soldier sighed, “Son, I cannot help you if you do not tell the truth.”

“I am telling the truth.”

The old soldier turned and called a younger soldier to take Castor back to his cell.

“Wait!” shouted Castor as he was being pulled up from the stool. “What is going to happen to me now?”

“Since you have two incidents you will be presented before  judge who will decide what to do with you. The Apophis soldiers wanted you to be given to their custody and I would recommend that the judge when you see them.

“If you do that they are going to kill me!” shouted Castor as he was being pulled out of the room.

A loud crashing sound from outside reverberated. Everyone was quiet, even Castor. Everyone turned to look at the door. Another loud thudding sound was heard. Shouting of loud but unclear voice followed. Two of the soldiers got up and went to find out what the commotion was. More shouting of more voices.

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Fairytale for the Lonely Heart, Chapter 84 Caged

The Saxon soldiers roughly grabbed Castor but the arm and dragged him to a crumbling stone building along with the other three Pyropolis soldiers. Thankfully they were placed in separate cells however all his possessions, including his knife and all his money was confiscated. The cell his was placed in was a small room with a iron door and a tiny window with iron bars. It was dark, damp and over all very unpleasant. He sat on the lone bench in the room and let himself wallow in self-pity. He ignored the pain of his injuries and let them bleed and wondered if bleeding to death would be simpler. After being left alone for what felt like an hour a Saxon soldier unlocked the heavy door and entered the room followed by a short old man. The old man opened his large bag full all kinds of bandages and bottles.

“Take of you shirt,” instructed the man.

Castor who had this point had pretty much given up on everything slowly took of his shirt unfazed by his bleeding wounds or fractured ribs. He felt numb, everything felt numb. He had lost everything, he felt hopeless. Anneli was gone now, taking the rose with him. His money and knife was taken away and Castor had very little expectation of getting it back. After Castor disrobed the old man cleaned his wounds with water and alcohol and stitched up the stab wound in his abdomen. The stab wound in his back was not as deep so the old man simply dressed it with iodide and a gauze after cleaning it.

“This bruise?” asked the old man.

“That is from before, I cracked a rib.”

“Do you get into fight often?” chuckled the old man.

“Admittedly, far more than I liked.”

“You speak Saxon very well.”

“Thank you.”

The soldier standing at the edge of the room coughed, suggesting the old man be faster and to stop chatting.

“Sorry, I must go treat the others.” The old man nodded his head and repacked his bag.

“Thank you,” said Castor politely. The soldier and the old man left the cell, locking the door behind him. Castor re-wore his torn and blood soaked shirt but did not bother to button it up. Before a he could once again sink into sadness a small voice came from the window.

“Castor,” said a soft whispering voice. Castor turned and saw Anneli’s face pressed against the bars of the window.

“Anneli!” Castor’s heart tried to leap out of his chest, his chest filled with butterflies and he could once again see in color.

“Anneli! What are you doing here?”

“I followed you here. Are you alright?”

“More or less.How are you doing Anneli?”

“I’m fine. The rose plant id also fine. I did not let go of it!” said Anneli proudly but Castor could not care less about the plant right now. “What are you going to do now Castor?”

“I don’t know, but I will figure it out. You should just focus on staying safe until then.”

“What about your knife?”

“They took it away but I don’t think I can fight my way out of this situation. It will just make things worse. I will try and talk to them and hope they listen to me.”

“Will that work?”

“Hopefully.”

“What about the other men who attacked you?”

“Some of them got caught as well and some get away. They are probably going to tell the Saxon soldiers that I am a criminal and try to get me executed. Oh- don’t make that face Anneli.”

Castor’s heart ached seeing Anneli’s sad eyes. “I’ll be fine Anneli.” Castor stroked Anneli through the iron bars.

“What should I do?” asked Anneli. Castor had no words, he could neither think nor speak words at this moment. A part of him wanted to cry but that would upset Anneli. A part of him wanted to use his lightning and turn the whole building to ash but would not solve anything. A part of him want to shout and punch and make a fuss but he knew he should not. He looked at Anneli who was as desperate to save Castor as he had tried so long ago the last time he had gotten caught. Castor knew if he misspoke Anneli might try and break him out even if in reality could do nothing.

“I will be fine Anneli, just try to stay safe.”

The sound of the iron door unlocking echoed through the small room.

“Go now Anneli!” whispered Castor.

“But Castor-”

“Go now!”

The door swung open. “Who are you talking to?” demanded the Saxon soldier in a loud booming voice.

“No one, I was just talking to myself.”

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 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?”

 

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 79 Shabby

“Anneli…”

“Yeah?”

“There might be a problem.”

“What might the problem be?”

Castor did not reply immediately. He looked into the distance and then looked at Anneli. How far away was Pyropolis? How far away was the red continent? Did he even want to go home?

Anneli looked at Castor’s hand that was still holding his. “What’s wrong? Are we not able to go to the desert.”

Castor sighed looking at Anneli’s disappointed expression. “Let’s go back,” said Castor and lead Anneli back to the beach.

“What is wrong Castor?”

Castor let go of Anneli’s hand and picked up his shoes in one hand and the rose plant in the other. “Come on Anneli climb up.” Castor indicated the ladder leading to the docks with a nod of the head.

“Are you upset with me Castor?”

“I’m not, but we need to talk about something.”

Anneli climbed the ladder. Castor winced as he stretched to give Anneli the plant, a sharp pain along his body. Castor climbed the ladder after, slowly and carefully trying not to fall and trying to hold onto his shoes. He sat on the docks and let he feet dangle over the edge.

As he wiped the sand of his feet he spoke in an apathetic tone, “when I went to the ticketing office, they said there are no passenger ships from here to Pyropolis. We can ask if we can stowaway on a cargo ship to Pyropolis but that seems unlikely as well. We can go to main port first and then to Pyropolis but that will cost all the money I have now to buy the ticket for that and even then it might not still be enough.”

“Alright,” said Anneli.

“Alright? How is that alright?” snapped Castor.

“It will be fine. We will never know if we do not ask. We can try asking the cargo ships and if not we can figure it out on the way.”

Castor glared at Anneli, his insides were bubbling like a kettle close to boiling. Yet he retained himself. Anneli was right, it was too soon to give up.

“Okay,” replied Castor softly. He wore his shoes and stood up, “let’s go find a room.”

“What about the tickets?”

Castor chuckled, “we need somewhere to sleep tonight. We can think about the tickets tomorrow.”

Anneli and Castor got a small room in a shabby looking inn. The room barely fit a small bed and a small side table with a bowl and pitcher of water meant to be a make-shift sink.

“Should I sleep on the floor?” asked Anneli, staring at the bed that was half-a-foot between each wall. The bed could fit only Castor at best.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” replied Castor. “You can sleep on the bed.”

“I lived in the forest until just recently- I can sleep outside if I have to.”

“You will get arrested if you sleep on the streets you know. There is a communal bath downstairs, let’s go tonight when I get back.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going back to the docks and ask if there are any cargo ships that will let us stow-away on their ship.”

Anneli pouted and frowned at Castor. “Alright,” he mumbled and sat on the bed waiting for him to leave.

“I’ll be back soon,” said Castor and closed the door behind him.

Anneli watched the closed door for awhile as if simply wishing for it will bring Castor back faster. He quickly became bored. Anneli took off his cape, carefully folded it and placed it on the table. He climbed on the bed and opened the single small window on the wall. It only opened part way. The air felt heavy and suffocating but Anneli tried to ignore this feeling. Lying in the bed he noticed that the sheets were thinner and rougher than those in the last few inns.

“I’ve become spoiled,” whispered Anneli to himself with a smile and closed his eyes.

 

Chapter 78 the sea

Annli silently followed Castor.

Shhhhshaaa shhhhhshaa shhhhshaaa

The rhymic sound of splashing Anneli had heard since he arrived in the walled city was  getting louder and louder. The sound of gulls was becoming more audible and the air saltier.

“This is probably the port,” said Castor pointing to the distance. Anneli looked and saw a gigantic lake covered by all manner of strange vessels.”

“What are those?” asked Anneli.

“Those are ships and boats,”

“Are we going on one of them to cross the sea,”

“Hopefully,” replied Castor with a pang of disapointment in his voice.

Shhhhshaaa shhhhshaaa shhhshaaa shhhhshaaa

The sound grew louded. Anneli and Castor walked along the docks passing all manner of strange boats in various shapes and sizes. They came to the edge of the docks and Castor helped Anneli down the ladder to the beach. As his feet touched the ground he felt the strangest sensation of grainy bits of rock engulfing his feet. He lifted his leg but the sand stuck to the sole of his feet stubbornly.

“It is sticky and grainy,” complained Anneli. Castor burst out laughing.

“That… that is just how sand is.”

“Like the sand in the desert?” asked Anneli placing his foot back down.

“Not exactly. The sand in the desert is dry so it won’t stick to you as much but it still gets everywhere. But the sand here is rather large and corse compared to sand back home. Even on the beaches the sand is softer and finer and a brighter yellow compared to here. Ah! Let’s go to the sea!”

The sea was vast, far beyond anything Anneli could fathom. It was a hundred thousand times larger than he had thought and it spread to the horizon and wrapped around the coast. The water curled into large waves and turned white as it hit the rocks or the beach. To Anneli it looked like the snapping foaming maws of a gigantic beast. Castor had already taken off his shoes and rolled up the bottom of his trousers.

“Come one Anneli let’s go in.”

Anneli shook his head.

“Why? Are you scared?”

Anneli again shook his head. He looked at the sea, into its vast infinite unknown and felt a sense of mounting doom he could not quite comprehend.

“Come on Anneli,” said Castor extending his hand to Anneli, ” it is a lot more fun than it looks.”

Anneli placed the plant on the beach and cautiously took Castor’s hand, letting him take him to the water.

“Ahhh! It’s cold isn’t it!” exclaimed Castor as he stepped into the water. The shallow waves gently lapped their feet.

“It is alright isn’t it?” asked Castor.

“Yeah, it is alight.”

“Good let’s go deeper!” said Castor with a large smile taking a step deeper into the sea, pulling Anneli along with him. The water was now half-way up Anneli’s calf and the bottom of his cape was soaking wet. Anneli looked at Castor who was smiling brightly and almost beaming with joy. Anneli had never seen Castor as happy as he looked at this moment. Anneli turned to the horrizon and inhaled the salty sea spray. He himself did not know why but a certain part of him felt more alive than ever standing in the sea looking towards the great beyond. He let himself be lost in the hypnotic rhythm of the waves.

Shhhhshaaa shhhhshaaa shhhhshaaa shhhhshaaa

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 76 Cumulus

On the fourth day after leaving the village the caravans arrived at Cumulus. Cumulus was a sprawling port city, bordered on three sides by tall brick walls and the sea on the other. It was lively, loud and busy with traders, travelers and fishermen. The salty smell of the sea and the sound of gulls were ever present. The sea was calm and the clouds parted to let slivers of golden sunlight fall upon the city. Heavy gates built into the wall were wide open welcoming everyone that happened to pass through.

Castor and Anneli dismounted the caravan with their meager belongings: Castor’s bag and the rose plant that Anneli held firmly in his hands. They thanked the driver of the caravan and walked through the giant gates into the walled city. The first thing Castor thought was how the city looked very distinctly Saxon. White and yellow houses with triangular prism tiled roofs and covered in windows with visible dark brown wood work. He was not sure why he was surprised since he was in a Saxon country and all the buildings he had seen so far had subtle hints of this architecture but the houses in Cumulus were very traditionally Saxon.

“What are we going to do now?” asked Anneli.

“Um… let’s go to port and see if we can find a ship that will take us to Pyropolis. Even a cargo ship would be fine. There should probably be an office or something at the port with more information.”

They walked along the cobbled streets towards the port and inadvertently through a market. Anneli looked around mesmerized by the busy stalls overflowing with colorful fabrics, trinkets, fruits, vegetables and sweets. Entranced by the smell of sweet baked goods Anneli tugged on Castor’s cuff.

“Can we get something to eat?”

Castor looked at Anneli’s dark eager eyes and could not say no.

Chapter 75 Sulking

During the next few days the journey by caravan, Castor spent most of is time in the caravan with Anneli. Even though Castor did not intend to he was in a foul mood and a considerable amount of pain so would occasionally snap at Anneli.

“Get off Anneli!”

Anneli frowned and moved to the other side of the caravan. He curled himself into a ball under his blanket and pouted for a few hours. Castor barely moved during the day preferring to dwell in his pain and self pity. He did not move as much as he should have or talk nearly as much as he usually did. He slept most of the first day and. Now bored and alone as Anneli had gotten sick of his attitude and only spoke to him to remind him to eat and take medicine. On the third day since leaving the village Castor had lost track of the time and was submerged in his own thoughts. Anneli, not yet having forgiven Castor tugged on the fabric of his clothing.

Castor looked up at Anneli blankly. “Will you finish reading this to me?” asked Anneli holding the book of fairy tales in his hand. Castor did not especially want to but knew he had been treating Anneli unfairly took the book and opened to the last page they were reading.

“The wizard stroked his chin in deep thought. ‘Take this,’ said the wizard and took a small bottle of dark glass from his shelf full of glass vessels. ‘The forest is cursed so that no man may enter. If you drink this you will be able to enter the forest but at night you will turn into a beast. You must be careful as at night all manner of horrifying ghouls and monsters trudge through the forest but you must be brave, it  will be only at night you will find your way. During the day when you are a man the forest itself will play tricks on your mind and make you hopelessly lost and paranoid but you must remember not to believe your senses in the forest. Only trust your heart.’

“The knight took vessel, and asked to pay to wizard. ‘I cannot except your payment yet. Once you have completed your quest, I rather not have the copper of a man I may ave lead to death for following my advice.’ The knight thanked the wizard and left. He drank the entire vessel standing before the forest and stepped among the trees with little effort. As he walked through the forest he noted the quietness and remembered the wizards words to not trust his senses. The forest began to grow darker and darker, the sun which had been at its peak set in a matter of minutes. It was strange, sudden and filled the knight with dread. He questioned how long had he been walking. Had it been hours but felt like minutes? How long had he been in the forest? How many hours or days had passed? Was it just the forest playing tricks on him?

“He thought about the wizards words. His heart was beating rapidly, he could feel the pulsation throughout his body. ‘I could not have been traveling for hours I do not feel fatigue, thirst or hunger,’ the knight thought to himself. He closed his and placed his hand on his chest and focuses on calming himself down. He slowly opened his eyes. It was no longer pitch black but day light once again. The forest cannot be trusted. The knight walked through the forest for what felt like hours but he could not be sure. He could not get her baring and everything looked the same. He was convinced that he was simply walking in circles. As the light grew dim and darkness fell the knight began to feel dizzy, ‘is this a trick of the forest?’ he asked himself. He glanced at his hand, it was transparent. His vision became very blurry and then pitch black. He began to panic but within a few minutes his vision returned. He looked around the forest at dusk and saw only endless trees. Yet it was strange, everything was taller than usual. He looked down once again at his hands and saw that they were now hooves. He had turned in to a pig.”