Chapter 10 – The Fire – Part I (The Prequel)

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The carriage’s wheels creaked awkwardly as the merchant was having a hard time coaxing the horse to turn around. Waltario watched them struggling to execute a series of back and forth movements, avoiding getting close to the misty wall that covered the tumultuous battle between the White Castle soldiers and the devils. As long as the fog wasn’t expanding onto the road, Constantine was certain the danger was limited.

The back wheels rolled close to his boots, the curtained windows of the wagon catching his attention. Could there really be a princess inside? And a liqueur bottle with a hidden message? Constantine wanted to check the contents of the carriage, but then if he were to find a young lady inside, he would have to give the merchant some explanations, putting everyone in a delicate situation, especially the supposed princess. Waltario sighed then checked the piece of crystal of his odd vehicle to refrain his curiosity. He would find a better opportunity to verify the young prince’s words.

When they were finally ready to return, the merchant wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “All right, Jackie, we’re fine now,” he said, clutching the bridles tightly. “Don’t you ever think of starting to run again.” Jack shook its head and snorted.

“I hope that’s a yes,” the merchant grumbled, narrowing his eyes.

As they were about to set out, a loud thunder reverberated all over, and out of the misty forest, a flaming tree crashed upon the wagon setting it on fire. The merchant yelled for help, almost collapsing on the ground as the horse snatched itself free from his grasp and started galloping madly. Fire arrows came flying out of the mist, arching in the air, so Constantine grabbed the scared-stiff merchant by the collar and dragged him to the other side of the road. The arrows thrust into the earth, burning quickly. It was unclear whether they’d targeted them or arrived there accidentally.

“The road is too dangerous,” the general said, after some thought. “Run through the clear forest straight ahead. There’s a watchtower nearby and my men are going to notice you immediately.”

“But what if the bandits are there?” the merchant gibbered with wide eyes.

“Trust me. They’re only in the mist otherwise they would’ve been caught by my men. Go now!”

The general’s commanding voice followed by a determined slap on the back set the merchant in motion. He quickly found a path in the peaceful woods and followed it mindlessly, tripping on small pieces of rocks and crushing dry twigs under his desperate steps. Meanwhile, Constantine mounted his flying vehicle and started at full speed to catch the horse from behind. In just a couple of seconds, he could see its long mane flaring behind, undulating fluidly like a black flame. The burning tree had fallen on the road, but the fire on carriage’s roof did not cease. On the contrary, it expanded quickly, destroying the delicate wooden carvings. If a girl really was inside that wagon, her life was in danger and Constantine had to hurry up. Right behind the horse now, he drew his sword out and prepared to aim precisely at the traces that kept the carriage tied to the bewildered horse. The noise was definitely going to scare the horse even more, so he had to act quickly.

Jack neighed and swerved a little, making things more difficult. Constantine rearranged his position and held his breath as he slashed the traces with two powerful sword blows. Jack ran away even faster now that he was free, but Constantine was worried about something else. He got off and hurried to open the wooden wagon’s doors. A little girl with long black hair lay unconscious on the planking of the floor as the fire stretched on the roof, spilling dark smoke in the air. Waltario quickly took Ines in his arms and stepped away from the wagon. After checking her pulse, he looked at Ines’ face and commented to himself, “That boy didn’t tell me you were such a young princess. You’re lucky I’ve listened to him otherwise—”

He stopped talking as he noticed the girl opening her eyes and curiously lifting them at him. The prince hadn’t been lying when he’d said she’d had lilac eyes. Somehow their strange familiarity was making the general feel uneasy. Where had he seen something similar before?

“General Waltario?” the girl asked after thoroughly analyzing his eagle badge.

Constantine shuddered. How did she know his name?

“Yes. I am General Waltario,” he confirmed, after some hesitation.

“It’s for you,” she said, handing over the piece of paper hidden at her chest.

Constantine let the girl rest on his vehicle’s saddle, then took the letter and unfolded it, reading the first line:

General Waltario,

This letter is for you only so don’t share it with anybody else, not even with the king.

Constantine frowned, but then eagerly continued to read, his nervousness growing with each word.

I am Inerishia K. from the White Castle and I’m going to need your help. The little girl who gave you this letter is my daughter and I need you to take care of her until I return. Do not reveal this to anyone.

Nobody, not even the White Castle, has to know she’s in your palace. Please keep her origins a secret. Until I come back, she has no parents and is a simple girl from your kingdom. That’s all you can say about her. For the sake of our old promise, please help me keep her safe.

Thank you.

Inerishia K.

Constantine read the letter once again to make sure he’d understood it correctly, then he crumpled it in his hands and threw it in the fire. As he watched it burn to ashes, he thought about those words. Inerishia, that unique name, brought back many memories from the times Martin was not yet king. That strange ginger-haired woman with incredible powers that had helped them bring the future queen safely to their palace… The letter was definitely hers. Waltario had sworn to help her and Kendel with whatever he could in the future, and here it was. That time had come.

He gazed at the mist. It all made sense. Since the White Castle was definitely under attack, Inerishia had to send the child to a safe place. Worry took root in him. If the White Castle wasn’t able to win this fight, then what would happen to their kingdom? Why had Inerishia asked to keep everything a secret even from her kin? Was this war hidden by the Rainbow Mist a battle even they could not win?

Arrows screeched through the air right above his head. Constantine cautiously turned around and walked to his vehicle. “Little girl, I’m going to protect you,” he said, patting the girl on her shoulder. “We’re going to talk more after I get you to a safe place.” He mounted his vehicle and started for the palace. Remembering the bottle of liqueur, he glimpsed back then shook his head. Safety first. He would return for it later.

Part II coming soon! I hope you enjoyed this post!

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