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.

 

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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 31 suggests an uncertain future 

Ten days after Prince Castor had set off on his quest a message arrived at the Kingdom from a navy ship near foreign shores. 

There was a terrible storm near the coast of the northern land. The boat the prince was on was destroyed. Most of the crew survived, the prince did not.

It was a great tragedy. The prince’s death was mourned. Yet soon everyone moved on and carried on with their lives. 

“What brings you here?” demands the king seated on his jeweled throne on a steady carpeted platform. 

On either side of the king was the king’s advisor and prince Polloux on lower seats. 

“It is very rare that I come to see you unannounced and unsummoned,” said the royal fortune teller.

“Yes, what business do you have with me right now? I am very busy.” said the king in a loud booming voice. 

“I heard news of the Prince’s death.”

“Yes…” the king tried his best to hide his guilt behind a monotone response and an emotionless face. The king had learnt the best way to keep a secret was to talk about it as little as possible. 

“That news is wrong. Prince Castor is alive.” said the Royal fortune teller. The king burst out laughing. Prince Polloux found his father’s actions cruel and disrespectful. The minister read the unfurled scroll in silence. 

“The gods have said-”

“THE GODS ARE WRONG!”shouted the king. “They were wrong when they said Castor would be king and they are wrong now! My son is dead!” 

“The gods are never wrong!” The fortune teller shouted back. “Their decrees are often vague or misinterpreted but this time it is very clear! Prince Castor is not dead no matter how much you try to erase him.”

The king for once was silent. He was stunned at the behaviour of the calm and dignified fortune teller.

“And for the record… I never said Prince Castor would be king. I said he should be king. And if he is dead like you truly wish him to be there will only be greater tragedy that will befall this country.” 

The fortune teller turned on his heels and walked to leave. At the door the fortune teller rapidly turned back to shout one more remark at the king. “There are worse things in this world than a child who is abnormal!” 

The fortune teller than stormed out. The king slumped in his throne his mind heavy in thought. The Prince and minister watched him quietly. The guard in the room was very excited to tell his colleagues about what he had just witnessed.