Fairytale for the lonely heart, chapter 99

Anneli followed Castor and the others deep into the streets of Pyropolis. His cape was taken away and he was given a pale yellow cloak of thin paper fabric. Everyone’s clothes were clothes were changed to make it easier to blend in. Helen was not happy about her black coat being confiscated but she changed as well. Anneli watched the people, the markets and buildings. Everything was new and strange. The streets were bustling and crowded despite the heavy humid air and the blistering sun. Many people passed, bumping into him as they did but they did not pay him any attention. Anneli’s cloak lacked a hood but he got no more than a passing glance from the people around him. The market was filled with a myriad of colours. The fruits and vegetables shined like cut gems, the silk fabrics were hung in rows or folded in toppling towers. The people like their stalls were different shades from black to sepia  to pale golden while in his own country the people were various pale shade of pink. Castor held Anneli’s hand firmly but was pulled out of the crowds by an overzealous merchant.

“Sir, would you care to look at some of my products. They come all the way from the yellow continent.”

The tented table had various items in no particular order. Silk necklaces, rings, embroidered bed spreads and wooden boxes with painted enamel lids. The merchant looked wealthy. Unlike most, he wore vibrant red shirt and several golden rings on his thick fingers.

“Sorry sir, I am not interested,” replied Castor, pulling up the collar of his shirt to cover his face.

“What about a collar for your demon?” asked the man, picking up a silk beaded necklace.

“No, sorry,” muttered Castor and returned to the river of people.   When Castor and Anneli reached the hotel Pollux and Helen were waiting impatiently. Pollux pushed them inside and lead them to their room.

“I’m going back to the palace, you best leave by tomorrow morning before the guards do their rounds.”

“The horse in the stables, it was a rental.”

“Hmm..” grunted Pollux, “I’ll have it brought in the morning. If you return to the palace father will get suspicious.”

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 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 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 72 a mess

Half-way through his second pint the beer from his first pint hit him and he started to feel dizzy. After his second pint he felt like he was in a great mood and spoke more jovially but less coherently than he thought he was. After three pints of beer Castor was starting to feel drowsy. His head would nod as he slowly started to fall asleep where he sat. After much negotiation Anneli convinced Castor to leave the tavern and return back to the inn.

Anneli careful lead him up the stairs of the inn to their room. Castor was now much more unsteady on his feet than before and put almost all of his weight onto Anneli.

“You know what Anneli? I don’t even want to be king. I don’t. I just wanted to rub it in my father’s face. He always ignored my when I was young it was always about my brother. Pollux was always the center of attention. Everyone loved Pollux!” said Castor bitterly. Anneli patiently listened to his drunken ramblings.

“And all those assholes in the court are so pretentious and condescending. I mean all they do is bitch and gossip about each other or what ever little is going on in their life. The moment you are even a little bit out of line or not fashionable enough they completely reject you.”

They reached their room and Anneli stumbled to get the key.

“You know what! We should run away! Instead of going to Pyropolis, or the desert let’s take a ship and go somewhere else.”

“Where do you want to go?” chuckled Anneli as he pushed the door open.

“Anywhere, just not where are supposed to go. Not like my family even want to see me, it will be easier for everyone if I don’t go back.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Why?” whined Castor.

“We’ve already gotten so far, we might as well see it through.”

“But- what is the point? It won’t make a difference if I show up with that plant any way. It won’t change anything it won’t matter.”

Anneli slowly helped him into the bed. Castor groaned as the alcohol had worn off enough that he could feel the pain from his cracked rib.

“Castor, we can’t be cowards.”

“I am not a coward,” protested Castor like a child.

“Everyone is a coward when they come close to fulfilling their goal.”