May is such a beautiful month. Fresh nature everywhere, and it’s really nice to take a book outside. You give another meaning to your reading time. May 2020 comes with very interesting science fiction and fantasy books. I invite you to scroll down and find out the details about them and see if one of them catches your attention. These fresh stories will definitely make your month different, allow you to take a break from reality, and improve your mood—something we all need, especially in this year 2020.
Now it’s time to discover the best fantasy books of May 2020. Scroll down and choose that book that will bring magic into your life. It’s that simple.
A bright beam of light streamed down upon Waltario’s rough hands. Using a small brush, the man was concentrated on carefully cleaning a small but complex piece of metal needed for one of his inventions. His father had left him many objects he could use to build weapons or vehicles. Some of them were said to have been stolen from the enemies’ during wartime, but Constantine was certain others had had a strange history which his father had preferred to keep for himself.
The general’s heavy desk was cluttered with paper sheets and rulers, screws, nuts, and bolts, just like his cabinets and shelves were crammed with a number of objects ordered by a kind of logic only he was able to understand. Inventions were his passion and the palace saw only a benefit in that. As he was doing his work, a smile kept playing on his face. His studio was livelier than usual. The two children, Soris and Ines, were squeaking and running in large circles around him and his desk. The boy was glowing with joy after he’d found the liqueur bottle with the king’s hidden message. Waltario had assured him that, after this discovery, Lady Voronchi would not dare to come again in the palace. That was the greatest piece of news to Soris. Once the king’s relationship with Lady Voronchi was over, the boy was sure he would get to see his mother laugh again.
Waltario’s brother entered the studio and was taken by surprise when the prince suddenly bumped into him.
“Oh, sorry,” said the boy, then started after Ines who scampered away, shrieking playfully.
Constantine’s younger brother followed them for a couple of seconds, blinking incredulously, then he advanced to the general and said, “I see you’re allowing them to play in your studio.”
Constantine let the piece of metal down on the desk and wiped his fingers on a dirty handkerchief. “Well, they’re my kids now,” he said, watching for a brief moment their loud trotting on the wooden floor. “I guess I was meant to be a father at this age, so I’m not going to run away from my destiny.”
Young Waltario stifled a laugh, then his eyes roved over the two again. Ines had tripped and now the boy was helping her get up.
“You okay, Princess?” the boy asked, offering his hand to lift her up.
“Yes. Thank you, Soris.”
Young Waltario let out a nostalgic sigh. “First love is so beautiful,” he commented. “I wish I could turn back time.”
Constantine picked up some screws and put them in a small box. “They’re kids. They’re not in love.”
As Ines was tidying her new dress offered by the general, Soris touched her silky locks.
“Wow, your hair is so long,” he gasped with admiration.
Young Waltario was all smiles at this scene. He leaned forward propping his arms on the desk and whispered to the general, “I hope we won’t need to forge letters for the prince like we did for his dad. He seems to charm girls from an early age.”
Constantine shot him a look of disapproval. “He’s just a curious kid. Don’t misjudge him.”
“I pity you,” his brother replied, amusing himself.
Past eight o’clock at night, the kids were playing in silence with some cardboard cubes, when suddenly the metal door swung open. Waltario turned around and met two unexpected visitors: Kendel and Inerishia. They both greeted him with tired smiles and pale faces as they hadn’t undergone a full rehabilitation procession. The war was over but they had to hurry up to check their daughter.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Ines yelled, running to them, abandoning the castle of cubes she had been building with the prince. Soris got up and went after her, slowing down when he saw the two tall strangers in long grey robes.
Inerishia dropped to her knees and squeezed her daughter in her arms. “Oh, my dear. I’m so glad you’re fine,” she mumbled with a faint voice. After running a quick visual check on the girl, she glanced up at the general, and said, “Thank you, General. Thank you.” Constantine was so astonished to see them that he could only reply with a polite nod.
Kendel took advantage of this moment and snatched the girl from his wife, lifting Ines in his arms. “My brave little girl, I thought I’d never see you again,” he said leaning his forehead against hers. Inerishia got up and embraced the two. “I’m so glad I could save you both today,” she said, resting her head on Kendel’s shoulder.
Constantine and Soris witnessed their family moment in silence, not daring to interrupt them. It was a sight they both had never seen in their own lives. Soris stared at them, trying to understand how that felt. His parents barely talked, and when they did, they were either cold with each other or trading glares. At least, that was how he’d gotten to see them in the corridors and conference rooms, as the two never shared a meal together. He watched with sad frustration and slight envy how Kendel played with Ines and kissed her forehead. King Martin would roll his eyes whenever he was called dad.
Waltario read that sorrow in the boy’s expression, so he pulled him close and patted him on the shoulder. Soris lifted his head and sketched a smile.
Feeling weakness crawling up his joints, Kendel let the girl down and knelt before her. “So what did my little one do here?”
“I gave Mommy’s letter to Waltario,” she said. Turning back her head and pointing at Soris, she added, “He helped me find him.”
The prince put his hands at his back and stepped forward shyly.
“Is it true?” Kendel asked. “You’ve helped my daughter find General Waltario?”
Soris sucked in his lips and nodded.
“Come here, buddy. I need to thank you properly.”
Soris did so, his eyes gleaming with joy.
“He also saved me from some bad kids,” Ines rushed to say.
Kendel gave the boy a pat on his shoulder then started ruffling his hair, saying, “It seems my girl has already found a knight here to protect her. Thank you, brave knight!”
Soris giggled, enjoying the fatherly warmth that spread on his head. Waltario cleared his throat and stepped forward. “He’s the prince actually. Future king, Prince Soris of the Arid Kingdom,” he stated loud and clear as if he presented the boy in front of a crowd.
Kendel’s smile stretched to an awkward grin. He hurried to tidy the boy’s hair. “My apologies, Your Highness,” he said rapidly. Little did he know that he’d been the first person to ever mess with the prince’s hair like that.
Kendel withdrew his hand, excusing his prior statement. “I thought he was your boy.”
Waltario shook his head and chuckled with a slow blink. “I’m divorced.”
His visitors’ face expressions dropped the smiles. Master Astute hadn’t communicated to them this piece of news. Not many in the White Castle knew what happened in the Aridens’ castle, and if they knew, they didn’t talk about it. Gossiping about the mortals’affairs didn’t suit the superior people.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Kendel said with clear shock.
Constantine remained relaxed. “You don’t have to. I’m happy.”
They burst into laughter, except for Inerishia who simply couldn’t see that as an honest reply. She let them have a men-only talk and turned to thank the little boy for keeping good company to her daughter. When she squatted before him, she noticed the black stone hanging by the prince’s neck. He’d been so busy jumping and playing with Ines that he hadn’t realized his secret talisman sat now shining brightly over his clothes. Inerishia refrained her impulse of touching the talisman, and began with a soft voice, “Thank you, Your Highness, for protecting our girl.”
“Oh, it was nothing. I only did what I had to do,” he said, overcome with emotion, delighted by the fairy aspect of Ines’ mother. The intense color of her azure eyes and ginger hair was something he’d only seen in his naïve drawings with colored pencils.
Inerishia took a close look at the talisman, her intuition telling her that was not a normal necklace. Its shape, its unique frame, and decorations, she recognized them immediately. “You have such a beautiful necklace. Who gave it to you?” she asked.
Soris hurried to hide the stone back under his clothes. “It’s a secret,” he replied, avoiding eye-contact, regretting he couldn’t talk freely with the beautiful fairy.
“Was it a tall man with grey hair?” she insisted.
Soris glanced at her in surprise then lowered his eyes to the ground, keeping quiet. That attitude was enough of an answer to Inerishia. She got up, with a confused expression on her face, trying to piece together some information and memories from a long time ago.
In the meantime, Kendel was explaining to the general that Ines would have to stay longer in his care. “Our mission is going to last about six months, so we’ll have to trouble you with this. She needs to be in somebody’s care. Someone we can trust, and at this moment that is nobody else than you. I’m sorry, Waltario.”
“That’s fine. I don’t mind,” the general said. “It’s just that we need to talk some details. What name should I call her? I understand that you want everything to be a secret, but she’ll need a name if she has to stay here.”
Kendel nodded his head in approval, glad that Constantine was paying attention to such details. He hadn’t thought about that. He’d been so drained of energy during the battle that his power of thinking was now weak compared to his normal days. “Well, let me ask my wife about this. Darling, what should they call our daughter?”
Kendel turned around with raised eyebrows. “Whoa, that was quick. But anyway, I really like that name.” He repeated that name a few times to himself then returned to Constantine. “General, you may now call her Selunia.”
“So she’s Selunia Karleyani,” Constantine noted to himself.
The boy paid close attention, remembering that name.
“Well, it’d be better if you didn’t use that last name either,” Inerishia said.
“Oh, all right.”
As they were deciding on the last name, Soris went to the girl with increasing excitement. “So you do have a name but it has to remain a secret.”
Selunia nodded in approval.
“Okay. I get that. I have my secret, too. But your last name truly is Karleyani, right?” he insisted, intrigued by the mystery around his new playmate.
“Yes. That’s true. But that’s also a secret,” she reminded him, awkwardly trying to wink at him.
Soris laughed then said in order to get used to the change, “Selunia, you have a beautiful name.”
Kendel turned around and smiled hearing the prince pronouncing that name, but then as much as he liked it, something made him overly-curious. Why had his wife chosen a name that would match the prince’s name? Selunia was definitely referring to the moon while Soris was obviously related to the sun. He looked at Inerishia and saw that she had a serious expression on her face, too serious for their happy family reunion.
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter!
P.S.: The final chapter was too long to be posted as only one chapter, so this is not the final chapter.
Waltario put a cloth on Ines, “Here, kid. You must be cold. This mist has a certain chilly air around it,” he said, glancing at the dense mat of clouds. The loud claps of thunder made the girl cower and wrap herself in the olive-colored blanket. It felt so soft and warm, that she could drop back to sleep in a second. Still, riding such a bizarre metal beast was way too exciting to fall asleep. It cut through the air smoothly like the wind, sweeping above the dusty road barely leaving any trace.
Waltario was maintaining a constant, calm speed. He didn’t want to reach home too quickly as he had to make up some lie before bringing the child in the palace. Lying was a difficult thing for him. Although his strategic and fighting skills were much appreciated, his father had always scolded him for being blunt. Being honest in every situation could turn into his disadvantage, but Martin liked that. As a king, he’d wished to have someone who could never lie to him. Constantine, on the other hand, admired Martin’s artfulness in conversations and was determined to grasp some of that. So far, in important international conferences, when some internal things were better to remain a secret, he kept silent most of the time and just nodded to whatever the king was saying, marveling at how deceiving wordings can be.
“Oh, that’s Master Astute,” he heard the girl’s crystalline voice, which disrupted his flow of thoughts. Close into the distance, he saw a man stepping out from the misty forest and positioning himself in the middle of the road as to block their way. He wore a brown cloak like most of the Arid Kingdom travelers and, hadn’t Ines recognized him, Waltario couldn’t have told he was the White Castle’s commandant. Before stopping the vehicle, Constantine whispered to Ines, “Cover your face well and don’t look at him. He mustn’t find out who you are.” Ines listened to him and drew the blanket over her excited eyes. This entire secrecy game was starting to get fun.
Waltario got off and walked toward the quiet commander. After the strange and persistent Rainbow Mist, he was sure Astute had some explanations to give his neighboring state. Or maybe it was really bad news and the White Castle wanted to announce them that the war was getting out of their control. Waltario’s steps became draggy for the last couple of yards before reaching the commander who slightly bowed his head instead of saluting. Constantine did the same while trying to read something on his face.
“General Waltario, our meeting here must remain a secret,” Astute said with his diplomatic smile.
“I know. What—”
Astute’s icy eyes shifted to Ines. “Who’s the girl?” he asked, a clap of thunder joining his voice.
Waltario’s breath was cut off. His lie wasn’t ready yet, but that didn’t mean he would give himself away. He clenched his jaws and curled his fists only to realize his right hand was already shaking. One deep breath and he maintained his gaze expressionless, his mind concentrating on keeping his right hand still. His father had taught him to never allow his hand to involuntarily lift up to the back of his head. That could instantly betray his nervousness. But so far so good. His right hand was tense like an arrow in a bow.
“She’s a… she’s… from there. I mean, but why…?” he stammered, trying to make up a lie right on the spot. It was a useless struggle. Words were impossible to find and his left hand was already resting on the nape of his neck.
Astute watched him for a second then his smile turned into a smirk. “All right. You don’t have to tell me. I understand. A divorce doesn’t end so easily.”
They both started to laugh, Constantine feeling relieved and embarrassed at the same time. He had to consider himself lucky things had turned out this way without him saying anything clearly.
“What brings you here?” he asked to divert the discussion.
Astute let out a sigh. “Today’s ambush was a heavy blow to my soldiers, but thankfully, we managed to come out to light. You did well to block the circulation around here. I came because I heard a man of yours had been attacked.”
“Oh, it was nothing. Your soldiers did an awesome job of keeping everything covered by the mist. The merchant is safe now, and don’t worry, he hasn’t seen any of your people or your fighting techniques.”
“Good. I put out the fire on that carriage you left behind. I apologize on behalf of my community for failing to keep our troubles within our boundaries.”
“It’s fine. Nothing of great consequence happened, so we’re not going to make a fuss about this,” Waltario assured him, knowing that this talk was mostly a custom rather than showing real concern. Most of the White Castle members were too arrogant to care about the simple inhabitants of the Arid Kingdom. But the continental supervisors, the Central Palace, were eager to give punishments to those who failed to maintain the peace between the states, so despite their superiority, the White Castle had to abide by the rules, too.
“Thank you,” Astute replied, making to leave. “Then keep the road blocked until tomorrow to give my people enough time to clean up the mess the devils did today.”
Master Astute glanced again at the girl who was having fun cloaking herself in the military blanket. “You picked a dangerous day to take her out,” he said, intrigued to find out more about the general’s personal affairs.
Constantine shrugged and chuckled shortly as he’d learned from Martin to be one of the best answers in delicate situations. It worked.
A bit disappointed, Astute said his farewell, then walked back into the foggy forest, vanishing in the eerie atmosphere. Waltario finally relaxed his shoulders and went to the vehicle, amusing himself to see Ines wrapped in the blanket like a mummy. He slid a finger to lift the covering on her purple eyes. “You’re having fun, aren’t you?” he said, then turned around immediately as he heard a chorus of alarmed voices.
“General! Are you all right?”
His soldiers from the barrier had come to check on him. Astute had definitely planned well his appearance and disappearance. Perfect timing to go away before others could see him.
Constantine approached them. “I’m fine. It was just a mild fire after lightning had struck a tree.”
He saw his soldiers’ smiles stretching under the helmet’s protective glasses. “We were so worried,” one of them said. “We thought something really bad had happened when we saw the merchant’s horse jumping over the barrier and running wildly.”
“Yeah. It had foam at its mouth,” said another.
They all laughed, glad that their general was safe and sound. “Where’s the merchant?”
“I sent him to the watchtower. He was too scared to walk this way along the mist.”
The soldiers nodded, then turned their heads in Ines’ direction. The general stiffened once again.
“I can’t believe someone would let their children go and play in this area,” one said.
“Maybe she got lost,” other commented.
“Maybe she’s a beggar.”
“Or an orphan.”
The soldiers started chattering on that subject each wondering about how their general had found the child. Still, none of them dared to ask the question directly, so Constantine was relieved he could postpone the process of thinking of a proper lie. All well until Price Soris arrived and ran to the vehicle. “Oh, Princess! Are you all right?” he asked, peeking under the makeshift hood which nodded.
The prince had done his best to follow the soldiers after the frightened horse had passed by. Everyone was too focused on getting to the general as soon as possible, so they forgot about him resting in the tent.
Waltario watched the soldiers’ puzzled faces then went to the prince, ignoring the murmur of questions that started behind his back.
“So this was your princess,” he said, laying a hand on the boy’s shoulder. Soris turned around and looked up with gratitude. “Thank you, general.”
“I should thank both of you. If it weren’t for you two, the merchant might have died or at least gotten hurt today.”
Soris grinned and Ines snuck out her head to lift a smile at him. Waltario watched their bright faces for a moment, remembering the talk with the king and Inerishia’s letter, then commented to himself, heaving a sigh, “Now I have two kids in my care.”
The two started giggling then Ines suddenly remarked, “Oh, the bottle!” She lowered a sad gaze on the boy. “I’m sorry. I didn’t find it.”
Soris nodded then hung his head. “It’s all right,” he mumbled, digging in the road’s earth with his foot. “We’ll get it next time.”
“The carriage is still there. We can go search for it now,” the general said, bringing back the hope to both of them.
Soris rejoiced and jumped on the vehicle’s saddle. “Let’s search for it together!”
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Thank you all for your support!
Waves washed the bloody shore of the messy beach where many corpses of demons lay scattered. Lady Gladiole stood among them and gazed at the line where the faraway bright sky touched the abyssal blue of the sea. Kendel’s home island was the only visible piece of land that ruined the perfect beauty of the horizon. Before Kendel’s unfortunate appearance in her daughter’s life, Smarald Island had used to be a beautiful view. The unique vegetation of trees with large leaves and bright green trunks was a wonder to marvel at, but it now turned to be a bad memories carrier.
Tired soldiers passed by obstructing the lady’s sight. Walking in pairs, leaning against their partner, they threaded their way to the improvised recovery center at the base of the cliff. Their armor wasn’t as sturdy as the Aridens’ as it was adapted to fit each one’s magical skills. It offered slight protection but helped them move easily and use their abilities without restriction. However, that cost them many wounds.
Gladiole had only a few injuries around her arms that were slowly fading, returning the skin to its initial flawless state. Although the storm clouds still circled above, the battle on the beach was over, so she took her time to meditate with a dubious faint smile on her face. She heard a rustle coming from the forest behind her, but that didn’t disturb her icy eyes from keeping their stare on the distance.
Shion, the shape-shifter, emerged from behind a curtain of broken trees and burnt branches, one hand squeezing the other to force some healing on a bleeding injury. He tottered to the lady and reported, “The devils managed to pass through the barriers. They almost killed a human.”
“Master Astute will take care of that,” she replied blandly.
Shion lost his voice for a moment at that reply, but then made a brave step forward. “The battle isn’t over in the forest. My lady, shouldn’t we do something about the clouds?”
The woman chuckled ignoring his question. “She’s crying,” Gladiole said with satisfaction.
Shion’s brows furrowed in a confused frown. “I’m sorry? Who’s crying?” he asked, searching around the beach to see someone crying. There was not a single soldier without wounds, but none of them cried. They were struggling to reach the cliff’s rocks, their faces expressing relief as they had finished their missions. Shion couldn’t find any demon that still moved, and besides that, he was certain there was no female among them.
Gladiole curled her thin lips, eyes barely blinking as if she were in a trance. “I can hear her wherever she may be. That man must have died. Finally, Kendel is gone. Now there’s only his daughter left.” She swiveled her neck to her left to glimpse at the mute visitor and asked, “Did you find out where Inerishia hid the child?”
Caught by a shiver of fear, Shion took one step back. He’d never imagined his superior would be interested in someone’s death. Feeling pressured, he managed to find the words to reply, “No. I did not. But shouldn’t we be concerned about the current matters? Our members got hurt.” He dared to lock eyes with her. “Besides, I don’t think Master Astute will agree to us not helping Kendel at all.”
Gladiole turned around to properly face her brazen underling. “You dare judge my commands?” She assessed the red stains on his forehead and temples that made his long wet hair shine even greener. A foolish boy who cared for the life of his love rival, Gladiole thought, noticing the sense of guilt glimmering in his dark irises. “Do you wish dust to be your last shape from now until forever?” she added sarcastically.
Shion lowered his chin, refusing to confront her. He did not want to take part in Gladiole’s plans anymore as he realized they were only going to hurt Inerishia. He started limping toward the recovery tents, hoping that what the lady had said about Kendel was not true. He bit his tongue, regretting he’d helped her stalk the couple.
Surrounded by the susurrus of the sea waves, Inerishia lay on the dock still trying to heal Kendel who had lost his consciousness. Her vision was blurred both by tears and exhaustion, her senses not reacting to the drops of salty water that fell on her open injuries. The man’s body was getting colder under her faintly glowing hands, yet there was no way she would give up on Kendel’s life. Not so easily. However, despite her endeavors, the poison was still present, continuing to drain the life out of Kendel.
A sudden bigger wave poured over her feet, awakening her from the numb concentration. She took a moment to give her hands a chance to recharge, but then slumped to one side, dizzied by her relentless fight and the hurricane of emotions. She covered her eyes with the back of her hand, dreaming a solution. Maybe if she could last a whole day sustaining a slow healing process, Kendel would be able to say her name again. They would return to the stronghold and drink a rejuvenating tea, take some hours of rest and then think of their tomorrow mission, and maybe along the journey, they would find a peaceful place away from Gladiole and move there. But what about their daughter?
The sea became turbulent at the base of the rock Kendel sat on, so Inerishia made an effort to push herself to a seating position. The waves were now avoiding the rock, but the water seemed to boil. Could Divian come back to enjoy his victory and mock at her misery? She hoped not.
The boiling calmed down and then, all of a sudden, a hand thrust out of the spiral of bubbles, grasping for land. A second later, a fair-haired head popped out gasping for air, and laughing with joy. Inerishia winced and almost hit the shaggy appearance with a shard of stone, stopping only when the spray of water fell and revealed the face of an enthusiastic acquaintance.
“Marol!” she exclaimed, watching the man scrabbling up on the rock, right next to Kendel.
“Words later, dear sister-in-law.” Marol spoke rapidly, Inerishia not getting anything from his garble. But she didn’t need to understand him. She beamed with hope when he saw the man covering Kendel’s injury with both hands and attempting some powerful healing.
“It was poison,” she mumbled, leaning back on her elbow to take some rest. “It was poison, Marol,” she said louder, thinking the savior hadn’t heard her.
Marol didn’t say anything, his glee face from before being now replaced by a concentrated frown. Inerishia couldn’t understand how he’d managed to arrive here in such a tense moment, but she didn’t need to know. What mattered was that Marol was seen as an outcast just like Kendel, so he was the only one who would break any rules to save his sworn brother. They both had come from the same island and, just like Kendel, he had been at first misunderstood to be one of the White Castle’s kind. After the nature of his powers had been discovered, he’d been labeled an intruder, but he’d been luckier than Kendel. His in-laws had taken his side and defended him in front of the stronghold’s leaders.
“Come, already, Ken. You hate tragedies,” Marol grumbled, as he could tell the poison had been removed and he proceeded with the flesh healing.
Inerishia sat still, waiting for a sign from Kendel. Why wasn’t he saying anything? Maybe Marol had arrived too late. Why hadn’t he come earlier?
The water simmered once again, gentle waves bathing the rock’s margin. Marol’s wife was probably going to appear too, Inerishia presumed. The two were a couple that nobody and nothing could break apart, just like she and Kendel were—or maybe used to be.
“Did his eyelids move?” Marol asked, perusing his patient’s face. “Inerishia, could you check his breath for me? Gosh, why did stomach become so rigid?” he commented probing and prodding his friend, looking forward to some reaction.
The woman strained to stretch herself over to Kendel grabbing his face with both hands. “Kendel?” she whispered weakly.
Marol withdrew his hands as the wound was gone now. He watched Inerishia trying to shake some sense into her husband, then he let his gaze down to hide his dismay.
“We were just taking a detour when we met with the others. They said they’d been informed to return because some war started along the beach.” Marol went on explaining. “Since no one announced us, I figured out something was wrong, so I had to come. Lady Gladiole has been really weird lately. I understand why she would hate Kendel, but still, too much is too much. I hope she’ll get punished this time.” He stopped, holding back the resentful thoughts he had against the White Castle’s rules.
“Kendel?” Inerishia asked once again with a clear voice, hoping that the warmth she felt under her palms was not her own.
Kendel opened one eye, then swiftly shut it back. Inerishia watched him without blinking. Maybe she had started to have hallucinations.
“Can I hear you calling me again?” Kendel said, opening both eyes. Before he could hear anything else, his wife wrapped him in a suffocating embrace.
“Kendel! You’re back!” Inerishia cried, resurrecting the joy on Marol’s forlorn face.
As a happy chattering bloomed among the three, another head came out of the water. It was Beline, Marol’s wife, just like Inerishia had surmised.
Noticing that they were happy, Beline took her time to brush away the water dripping on her face and citrine hair, and stopped the glow on her body that had helped her swim rapidly under the sea. When she wanted to greet everyone, Marol dashed to cover her vision. “Wait! Don’t look at him!” he demanded, pouting at Kendel. “He barely has clothes on.”
Beline chuckled and tried to remove his blocking. “Oh, come on, Marol. He’s not naked,” she said.
“You are not allowed to see some other man’s chest,” Marol stated with an exaggerated military voice.
“Why are you even asking? You just shouldn’t!” he protested, mostly intending to joke. He’d always thought his friend was somehow more handsome than him.
Inerishia and Kendel laughed at the two, then held hands, gazing at each other, thankful that they got out of trouble.
“So where is our daughter now?” Kendel asked.
“She should be safe. I really hope so, though my vision in the morning said only one of you two will survive.”
“Is that why you didn’t want to tell me?”
Inerishia nodded, slipping into a meditative state, wondering whether Ines was doing well at the Aridens’ castle. It felt like a whole day had passed.
“Am I not allowed to know where exactly she is?” Kendel insisted, growing impatient.
The woman tilted her head toward the beach to suggest the danger that was still there. She knew Gladiole’s hearing abilities, so she didn’t want to risk revealing where she’d hid the little girl.
“She’s with your parents, haven’t I told you? Maybe we’ll visit her after the mission,” she said, squeezing his hands.
Kendel smiled and nodded as he understood the secret message. They now shared the same worry.
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoyed this chapter!
Waltario’s two-seat vehicle swept through the open gates of the palace out onto the road. It flew one foot above the earth without making any noise. Sitting astride on it, the prince, clothed in a brown hooded robe, marveled at the speed and the sleekness of the vehicle. It was like a long horse’s back made of steel plates with a comfortable saddle for two passengers. It had no wheels as it was designed to fly, and it was powered by a big piece of crystal which sat hidden in the front case, glowing bright yellow. Some plates on one side of the vehicle were missing offering view to a cluttering of wires and tubular iron objects, as Constantine still had some fixes to add. Nevertheless, the prince gaped joyously in every direction, fascinated by this metal thing that could fly and take them fast and smoothly to their destination. Its creator was proud of it, too.
“You see these wheel tracks, my prince?” Waltario asked looking ahead on the path banked by tall trees.
The prince nodded, swiveling his head to look around the vehicle.
“They are going to lead us to the carriage,” the general explained. “Now, hold tight. I’m going to try to go even faster.”
He squeezed the antler-like handles of the vehicle and, with a jolt, it accelerated, the foliage around seeming to mingle into a long green wall. Soris was pushed back against the general’s chest armor as his clutch onto some knobs on the casing hadn’t proven to be reliable. Regaining his balance, he pulled up the hood and gasped with fascination. Rainbow Mist was so close and big, looming like a canopy of clouds above the treetops of the forest on their right.
In just a couple of minutes, they reached a fork in the road and the wooden barrier the Ariden soldiers had set. Waltario halted, but then a frown darkened his face. The tracks were visibly going behind the barrier and a dust cloud could be grasped in the distance. When he turned his head in the guards’ direction, they all winced and gave an awkward bow.
“Did the merchant pass by here?” he asked, without leaving his place.
The soldiers mumbled some answer as they elbowed one another to step forward. No answer was required. The general took the boy with both arms and put him on the ground.
“Your Highness, I’m going to leave you here for now. It’s too dangerous to take you on a road that’s so close to the mist.”
The boy protested, but the general didn’t stall to listen to his complaints. The vehicle flew above the barrier and sped after the merchant’s carriage. Soris watched him shrinking into the distance. When two soldiers came to him, he let his shoulders drop and obediently followed them to a temporary tent they’d erected in the safe forest on the left side of the road.
The merchant was driving his carriage without care when suddenly he noticed a fallen tree across the road. He commanded the horse to slow down. “Bandits?” he wondered, scanning the surroundings. Could the thieves be so bold and use the mist to their advantage? Many soldiers were patrolling the area. It couldn’t be.
The merchant stopped the horse and leaped down from his seat, listening carefully around. The wind was weak, barely moving the leaves, but some loud tree crashes echoed now and then. The merchant dared to walk closer to the misty forest, peering through the branches fading in clouds of ever-floating white particles. Even an eagle wouldn’t be able to see through that, so how could a bunch of thieves manage to hide and watch the road by hiding in the fog? A clasp of thunder made him jump back calling his ancestors’ names. Some natural phenomena. Why was he so scared? The horse shook its brown head, oblivious of its eerie surroundings.
The man pounded a fist against his chest to summon his courage, then marched to the fallen tree. At close range, the obstacle was a slim young tree that he could easily remove. The merchant put his hands on his hips and laughed at himself. “These superstitions…” He pushed the trunk to a side, then returned to the carriage. The horse started walking again as his master instructed him to. The merchant kept an eye on the mist, acknowledging the risk he was taking by traveling so close to it. Thieves could lurk in the forest without being noticed and trees could fall right on his carriage or horse. He put his hat on and pulled his collar up, the chill air sending shivers down his spine.
The misty forest belonged to the White Castle, marking the boundary between their small territory and the Arid Kingdom’s land. Some rumors said that many queer things had happened to those who ventured deep into that forest and that the White Castle inhabitants didn’t welcome strangers.
The merchant had taken his eyes away from the forest, when all of a sudden a loud snap made his heart stop beating. Another tree had fallen right behind his carriage, then another two fell in the forest, their canopies dropping on the road in front of them, covering half of it. Sensing danger, the horse panicked and started galloping wildly past the obstacles and sped up with each new crack or snap that echoed from the forest. The merchant tried to regain control of it, but the horse didn’t respond anymore to the reins’ movement. It ran mindlessly, stimulated by fear. The man searched for a whistle in his chest pocket, one of his best tricks to calm down the horse. When he finally managed to blow the whistle loudly, the horse slowed down its pace. The merchant wiped his forehead and let out a sigh of relief, but then, as he looked around, fear crippled him once again. The mist was everywhere. It had stretched onto this part of the road, blocking their vision. Maybe the horse hadn’t reacted to the whistle but to the fog.
“You damn horse,” he cursed, barely seeing the animal’s back. “You walked us right into the fog.” He searched for a lamp in his bag and lit it up, then left his seat and took the horse by the bridle.
“All right, Jack. Let’s walk together now. It shouldn’t take too long to reach the plains. We’ve traveled a lot already,” he spoke to the horse, hoping it would understand his words. Now that they were walking side by side, hearing the animal’s breath and its clopping hooves, he didn’t feel alone anymore. As they advanced through the illusory cloud of cotton wool, the lamp didn’t prove to be of much help. At best, they could see one meter in front of them. “Jack, when we reach home, I’ll feed you well and let you rest. No more riding for you tomorrow,” the merchant mumbled to keep the fear at bay. The horse shook its head gently, so the merchant went on, “Oh, so one day is not fine? He, he, you want to sleep and play more. All right. Two days of vacation for you.”
Continuous furious snaps of branches made his mouth run dry. “It’s fine, Jackie,” he uttered, his voice breaking. The noise seemed to intensify and he was sure he was not mistaken when he heard some men’s grunting and heavy breathing as if they were fighting. One more tree fall swooshed close to the road and Jack reared on its hind legs, snatching itself free from the merchant’s grasp and doubling back. The merchant went numb from fear when he saw himself left alone in the mist.
“Jack, come here, boy,” he begged, trying hard to regain his composure. He broke into cold sweat when rushed footsteps approached him. How foolish of him to travel on a day like this. He shut his eyes as a strong arm wrapped around his shoulder pulling him close and bringing a knife to his neck.
The merchant dropped the lamp and raised his shaky hands in defense. “Spare my life,” he said, gulping to bring more power in his trembling voice. “Take everything from me, but spare my life. Please, spare my life!” he pleaded, standing on his toes as the attacker was much taller than him.
“Stand back or I’ll kill him!” he heard his attacker’s gruff voice. So there was somebody else out there in the mist. But how could they see each other through that fog? He wasn’t able to glimpse a shadow in that chalky cloud. He whispered a prayer, calling his grandmother’s name. The thief must have been some lunatic fighting with another lunatic, and he had fallen victim to their mad game in the Rainbow Mist. He shouldn’t have taken the general’s safety measures so lightly. But now it was too late to regret. The other person didn’t speak a word to defend him and he felt the blade touching his throat.
Soris sat on a soldier’s bag, playing with his fingers. Waltario had said he could do many things if he had a strategy, but he didn’t mention there were limits to everything. Being a cute, smart child didn’t mean he could take part in rescue missions. As he glanced up from time to time through the large door gap of the tent, he could tell the soldiers were very uncomfortable to have him around. Being a prince had both advantages and disadvantages, Teacher Coldpeak had always insisted on making him understand that.
He took out his pendant and stared at the dark piece of crystal. “I guess you’re not a good lucky charm,” he mumbled, nervous and frustrated that the liqueur bottle had disappeared along with his princess. Lady Voronchi’s sardonic laughter replayed in his ears making him shut his eyes with indignation. He didn’t want to admit defeat.
A warm hand pressed on his shoulder, so he opened his eyes and looked up. “Master!” he gasped, excitement returning to his face.
“Why do you still call me that, little Soris?” the man said, barely hinting a smile.
“You’re the one who taught me many things and gave me this lucky charm. I’ve missed you, Master.” The boy got up and clutched the hand of the tall visitor. He was a man with a fair complexion that failed to reveal his real age. Watching his profile, one could’ve said he was in his late twenties, and when he turned a little he could’ve been any age between thirty and fifty. His eyes, however, reflected the wisdom of a centenarian.
“I sensed you summoning the talisman’s power. Was I wrong?” he asked, squatting to read the child’s expression.
Soris glanced at the man’s short, graying hair then started recounting all the events that lead him in his current situation.
“It was urgent, so I had to call the crystal’s power,” he added as a conclusion, noticing a slight frown of disapproval on his mentor’s face.
“It was urgent, but it didn’t threaten your life, nor the kingdom’s future. Haven’t I taught you that?”
The boy hung his head, yet in his heart, he was happy to have his mentor scolding him. He’d always felt this man was the only one who treated him like an adult, never seeing him as a kid. “Yes. But you don’t need to worry. The pendant didn’t do anything,” he replied.
The man heaved a sigh then told him, “Never do that again. I won’t be here for the next few years, so I want to be sure you’re not going to do anything foolish in my absence.”
“I’ll be good. I promise. But why do you have to go?”
The man stood up and looked toward the mist in the distance. “Things are getting complicated. My stay in this area seems to bring trouble, so I must go and solve what comes from outside of the continent.”
The boy blinked repeatedly trying to figure out what exactly he was referring to. “But you’re going to return, right?”
“Maybe. If you want me to return, you better behave yourself,” the mentor replied with a stern face.
Soris clasped his hands at his back and nodded politely. “I will.”
“Good,” he said, pulling the hood of his long coat over his head. He then snuck out of the tent as enigmatically as he’d come in, leaving the prince staring at the door. His friendship with this man was a secret he’d been keeping from anyone, mostly because he was convinced that this mentor was a special person.
Constantine rode his flying vehicle until it reached the area where the mist spread across the road, breaking its normal limits. He halted and pondered what to do next. He knew the mist could be also the White Castle’s doing to hide whatever was going on into their woods, so going through it could mean he was entering their fight. Still, the carriage tracks were not stopping there. After some heavy rustling in the forest, he heard the horse’s frightened neigh and then the merchant’s desperate cry, “Spare my life, please! Somebody help me!”
At first, the general rushed to turn on the vehicle’s powerful lamp, but then he thought it would be better if no one knew of his presence. He took a knife and two guns from the vehicle’s side pockets and equipped himself with one of his lamp-inventions, then crouched low through the mist and looked ahead. Just as he’d surmised, the fog was slowly settling over the road, so the ground was mostly clear. He advanced carefully, noticing the carriage’s wheels, then the horse backing steps, and then three pairs of men’s boots. He recognized the merchant’s black shoes standing close to some shiny boots covered with silvery scales. Close to them, were some green boots with golden details which the general guessed they belonged to a White Castle soldier. He shook his head annoyed by the merchant’s reckless obstinacy to take this road home. Interfering in this fight could mean breaking their laws and agreements with the White Stronghold, so he waited to see what the green soldier would choose to do despite the merchant’s pitiful cries.
“Let him go. If you do, I’ll spare your life,” a determined voice said.
“Heh, why would I believe you?” the demon snickered, slowly taking steps backward, dragging the merchant after him.
“He seems serious. You should believe him,” the merchant recommended although it was obvious no one would listen to him.
Waltario prepared a gun, readying himself to attack when suddenly he noticed some movement. A pair of leather boots passed by him almost flying then caught the demon off guard and killed him. The enemy fell to the ground, and the merchant was released, yet he did not know which way to go.
Everything had happened so fast, that it took a few moments for the general to get back to his senses and shout at the poor victim, “Crouch! Get on your knees!”
The merchant mumbled some scared shrieks and words then dropped to his knees, unaware that his savior and the other White Castle soldier had taken the demons’ body and fled. Shaking on the ground, it took a while until he looked in the general’s direction.
“Walk this way,” Constantine beckoned to him.
“Oh, General! Thank you!” the merchant exclaimed, tears blurring his vision. “I’m terribly sorry I didn’t listen to you.”
“We’ll talk about that later. Now let’s get you out of here. Come and help me move your horse and carriage backward.”
Although pale from the terrifying experience, the merchant found some strength to get to the general, then making use of Waltario’s powerful lamp, as well as squatting from time to time to determine whether they were going in the right direction, they managed to get the carriage out of the mist.
“I’ll turn Jack around and I should be able to go back,” the merchant explained in a low voice revealing a mixture of shame, regret, and guilt.
As he did so, the general went to his vehicle and took a moment to let out a sigh of relief. The most difficult part of the trip should be over now.
Thank you for reading this chapter! I hope you enjoyed it!
Soris came out of the building and went galloping after the carriage which was just wheeling out through the gates. “Wait! Stop!” he screamed in vain, continuing to run even after the gates had been closed. A guardian stepped before him. “Your Highness, what’s the matter?”
The boy fumbled as he couldn’t find the right words to say. “Soldier, please stop that cart!”
Soris pointed at the road. “That cart… we must stop it.”
The soldier looked backward, through the metal gates, and watched the dust clouds that had remained behind the carriage.
“My apologies, Your Highness. It’s already gone now,” he answered, not taking the boy seriously.
Soris clutched his hair with both hands. “Oh, what am I going to do?”
He paced up and down, overwhelmed by regrets while the guard’s gaze swung after his nervous movements, curious to guess what was troubling the prince, but also amused by the adult-like act. Moments later, the boy snapped his fingers and glanced up at the soldier with hope, “Has General Waltario returned?”
“Yes. About ten minutes ago. I think he’s in his studio.”
The prince started for the main entrance of the palace, through the alley at his left. The general would definitely understand him and help him get Princess back and the coveted liqueur bottle, too. As he ran, he clutched the medallion secretly kept at his chest. “Come on, pretty stone. You were supposed to be my lucky charm. Give me the right ideas.”
As he hastened close to the hedge bounding the alley, Clark pounced behind him out of nowhere. “Prince Soris, don’t you dare to run away. Your awful behavior is beyond redemption. Stop right now if you still wish to be forgiven.”
The boy shrieked but didn’t dare to look back. “Oh, Clark! Not now, please!” he begged, feeling his legs tensing painfully with each speeding step. Clark’s shadow was stretching long, almost swallowing him. He could hear the supervisor’s panting and loud footsteps approaching him. A few more seconds and he would be caught. He gripped the medallion again, praying for a miracle, and when he took a glimpse at it, it did seem to give a swift bright flash under his fingers. Clinging on that hope, his gallop gained more speed and he managed to pass around the corner of the garden without getting caught.
“Prince Soris, you better stop!” Clark gasped, growing tired from the run.
Soris wasn’t going to listen to him. Not now when he was just a hundred meters away from the entry staircase. General Waltario stood up there, on the landing which led to the main entrance into the palace. Feeling that Clark was soon going to catch him, the child shouted at the top of his lungs, “General! Help me!”
Waltario, along with his brother and a few sergeants, lowered bewildered eyes into his direction. The boy’s hair was a mess, and his face red, a sight which melted the general’s heart in an instant. He marched down to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. “What is it, kid?” he asked, forgetting about speech formalities.
Clark pulled the prince back. “Leave him, general. He’s possessed by the Devil today. He’s caused nothing but trouble. Don’t listen to his nonsense.”
“No! General, please.” Soris clutched Waltario’s sleeve. “It’s important!”
The general read the despair in the boy’s coral eyes. He looked at Clark. “It’s fine. I got this. If he’s up to some prank, I’ll punish him myself.”
Clark huffed and puffed, but then he conceded and withdrew to his chamber.
General Waltario lifted the boy with one arm and swiftly brushed his wild hair. “Well, tell me. What’s the problem?”
The boy swallowed to bring his voice back. “The messenger… he’s gone,” he uttered.
Waltario stared at him in surprise, then started for the garden. After a few steps, he twisted his neck back to his crew to let them know, with a slight nod of his head, that he wanted to talk with the boy in private. His men acknowledged his wish and returned to their own discussion, taming their own curiosity.
Strolling aimlessly in the garden, through the boy’s answers to his patient questions, Constantine found out almost everything that had happened.
“And the princess is now in the carriage because of me! Help me get her back, please!” the prince cried.
The general pondered for a while taking the boy’s recount with a grain of salt. “Okay,” he consented. “I’ll go after that carriage, but you’re going to come with me. If that princess that you’re talking about is not there, then you’re going to take responsibility for this.” The boy nodded repeatedly, his wet bangs following the motion of his head. The general put him down. “We’re going to ride my experimental flying vehicle, so you better brace yourself.” Soris lifted his gaze with excitement.
Close the faraway beach, after fighting a number of demons, Inerishia propped herself against a tree trunk to catch her breath. Strands of hair soaked in sweat had stuck to her clammy skin, onto her neck and temples. She’d been able to heal her wounds here and there, but her ragged clothing still carried proof of her bleedings. Just as she pulled back a loosen sleeve over her shoulder, an arrow came her way. She dropped to her knees, the arrow piercing the bole. The war was not over yet, although the White Castle was on the advantage.
Inerishia took some sand then threw it in her attacker’s direction, just as he was approaching her. The particles spread and swelled into a cloud, blocking his vision, so Inerishia had enough time to call a blaze of wind and thrust him into a tree. She gave a sigh of relief and forced herself to stand up and search for her husband.
Kendel was nowhere to be seen, in fact, she hadn’t seen him at all during the fight, but nor did she see Divian. The dark clouds were still close to the treetops and she could only presume that the devils’ leader hadn’t been killed. As she put one step in front of the other, advancing to the shore where the sea played with calm waves, she noticed bodies of defeated demons lying scattered across the battered sand. White Castle members had been injured too, but they had been pulled close to the base of a nearby cliff where they were waiting to receive some healing treatment from their luckier comrades. But those were only a few, and they were always turning back to fight as soon as they determined the wounds had been healed past the critical state.
Under the protective shadow of the towering cliff, Inerishia checked every patient but still couldn’t find her husband.
“Have you seen Kendel?” she asked every healer she ran into. Some of them simply ignored her or shook their heads and slunk off immediately. After watching her for a while, one of the injured fighters lifted his head and said, “Maybe you should check the dock.”
Inerishia took that as a clear answer. She hurried in that direction and climbed on the short dock of rocks. As soon as she heard some heavy breathing, she cried out her husband’s name. “Kendel, are you there?” A few more steps and she saw him stretched uncomfortably onto a wide stone. She skidded down, kneeling at his side and grabbed his face with both hands. “Are you all right?” she asked, assessing his injuries.
The loose clothing had suffered greatly during the battle. Kendel was bare-chested now, covered in grazes and red markings. Pale-faced, he uttered with pinched lips, “That coward… he ran away.”
Inerishia took note of a bleeding wound on Kendel’s stomach so she hurried to heal it. A feeble glow came from her trembling hands then streamed onto the open injury pulling back the blood around and rushing to heal his insides.
“Where is our daughter?” Kendel forced himself to ask, heaving with exertion.
Concentrated on the difficult healing, Inerishia was late to reply. “She’s safe. I took her to the safest place.”
Kendel watched her with delirious wet eyes. “I want to see her again.”
“You will, don’t worry. Keep your energy because this wound seems hard to heal. Maybe it’s because my powers are weak now.”
Kendel shook his head then looked at the grey sky. “No,” he whispered. “It’s because it’s a poisoned wound.”
Fear lodged in his wife’s heart. “Of course!” she realized with terror. “Almost all their weapons had poison.” She pushed her palms against his wound and forced her energy to gush out. “Don’t worry. I’m going to heal you. I just need some time and… and…”
Her sight went dark for a moment, signaling that her diminishing powers had reached critical limits. When she opened her eyes, she was resting over Kendel, who had politely accepted her accidental embrace. She got up, embarrassment setting her blood back in motion.
“That wasn’t intentional,” she hurried to explain herself, tucking her hair behind the ears.
“Well, if this was our last embrace,” Kendel joked with sad eyes.
“Don’t say that. You’re not going to die!” Inerishia assured him, probing the wound. It had barely closed in a bit and the tissues were still showing resistance before her power, telling her the poison was still running through Kendel’s veins. She pressed on the wound, attempting to restart the healing process. Kendel grabbed her hand.
“Stop. It won’t work. You need to live,” he said.
“You need to live, too!” she replied with indignation.
“I’m sorry, but I think…”
She pushed his hand away. “I don’t want to hear that. I’m not letting you go. Don’t you dare to say goodbye!”
She stood and screamed for help, but no one even cared to glimpse at her, so she scrambled upon the rocks and tottered toward one of her friends.
“Please, help me with some healing,” she pleaded.
The other woman quickly analyzed her then said, “You look fine. It must be Kendel that needs help and I cannot help you with that. In fact, no one can. Your mother, Lady Gladiole is here and she forbade us to help him.”
Inerishia insisted and tried to coerce someone to help her, but it was in vain. She grew desperate at the thought that Kendel would die simply because no one dared to disobey Gladiole’s orders. Drained of magical powers and with scarce physical power left, Inerishia went to confront her mother who had just returned to the beach.
“Help me heal him,” she demanded, piercing Gladiole with a sharp gaze. “Why don’t you let the healers touch him?”
Gladiole watched her daughter and laughed wryly. “He’s not one of us. If he hadn’t been able to protect himself, then that’s his fate. Let him die.”
Inerishia pushed her mother back with angry arms. “How can you be so heartless? If he’s not like us, then he’s a human and we’ve sworn to protect the humans.”
Gladiole parried some arrows thrown at them, then said to her daughter, “Get your act together, Inerishia. The battle isn’t over yet. There’s no time to talk about your meaningless love.” Gladiole summoned the wind to lift her from the ground then flew away to fight with a crowd of devils.
Inerishia turned around and searched some compassion in her friends’ eyes. They were all avoiding her, keeping their gazes in the ground. Exhausted and emotionally drained, Inerishia couldn’t hold back her tears anymore. She ran back to Kendel, hoping her powers would be able to make a miracle or that at least she would still find him alive. She did not want to believe that her vision was coming true.
Hurrying his horse toward a road close to the forest where Rainbow Mist was hovering above, the merchant observed some soldiers in grey costumes waving him to stop.
“Damn it,” he cursed to himself. “When did these guys become so zealous?”
The merchant slowed down the horse, and got off the carriage, pretending to be clueless. “What’s the matter?” he asked the soldier who approached him.
“This road isn’t safe. Turn back and take a detour.”
“Oh, but I came this way just today and everything was fine,” the merchant insisted.
The soldier swung a bored hand toward the chalky fog. “It was fine until Rainbow Mist appeared. The general himself ordered that we don’t let anyone pass.”
The merchant drew a devastated hand to his chest. “Oh, but what am I going to do? The king himself has demanded me to go and repair some chairs and then return with them tomorrow. If I take a detour, I’m going to get back here only next week!”
The soldier shrugged and withdrew to his place. Stifling some swear words, the merchant went back to his carriage and lifted a bag he had kept under his seat. Among other things, the liqueur bottle lay there too, unlike how Ines believed that it had been stored in the back of the wagon.
He took out a scroll that bore the king’s seal and went to talk with the group of soldiers.
“Dear, hardworking men,” he said looking at each one of them, “I have the king’s permit to pass every road.”
The men noticed the seal and squirmed in their places.
“I see, but the general…” one of them managed to say.
“Has anything bad ever happened when the Rainbow Mist appeared?” the merchant asked with sly eyes. “I understand the general’s caution, but it’s just a rare, big fog that doesn’t affect these roads at all.”
They all scratched their heads, afraid to say anything. His reasoning made sense, especially when no one had reported that anything bad had happened during the Rainbow Mist phenomena. The dense fog was kept at bay by the tall trees of the forest on the right side of the road, so there wasn’t any problem with the visibility either. Still, they daren’t disobey Waltario’s orders.
Seeing their humble hesitation, the merchant felt he had the upper hand, so he continued, “As far as I know, if someone opposes the king’s wish, they shall be punished.”
The soldiers bowed their heads and kept silent. The merchant strode back to his carriage and got on. The horse started its march and passed by the soldiers who turned a blind eye to its passing. Guilt-stricken, they hurried to erect a barrier of wood to block the road and hoped that nothing hazardous would emerge from the mist.
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoy this story!
In a distant watchtower of the Arid Kingdom, a group of soldiers was keeping an eye on the thick fog which swirled over the forbidden forest of the White Castle.
Standing by a window-gap in the round wall of stone bricks, Officer Dean rubbed his chin covered by a mat of brown hair and thought aloud, “It could be a natural phenomenon or something else. It’s the first time I see this with my own eyes and it’s so strange that it doesn’t expand away from the white stronghold’s area.”
A soldier staring with a pair of binoculars shouted, “I saw it again! I’m certain that was a human shadow with wings in that big cloud.”
Dean lifted a bushy eyebrow. “That could be just an illusion.”
The oak door of the room opened and General Waltario walked in, followed by his younger brother and two other officers.
Dean turned around in a blink and offered his respectful salutations, then hastened to say, “Sir, we’ve already set some boundaries around the danger zone. Thankfully, there weren’t many merchants coming today.”
“You did well,” Waltario assured him as he meandered closer to Dean’s window. “Give me some binoculars.”
The soldier from the other window handed over his. “I saw human allures in the cloud,” he said with startled young eyes.
With a flick of the wrist, Dean beckoned the soldier to retreat then turned to the general. “Sir, I presume this is what is called the Rainbow Mist.”
Constantine Waltario remained silent as he watched the fog through the magnified view. Now and then, flashes of light blasted between the moving cinder clouds. The Rainbow Mist was a public lie his father had created to cover up the strange happenings around the White Castle’s area to keep the people calm. It worked well to describe it like natural phenomena that came from the sea, but he knew it was not safe. Thankfully, it was always up to the White Castle to deal with the real causes of it.
The general let the binoculars down on the window ledge. “Yes. That’s the Rainbow Mist. Tell the soldiers not to stare at it to avoid getting caught in a fleeting illusion. Also, make sure no one passes by the streets around the fog. The roads will be open again after the fog disappears, understood?”
“Yes, sir!” Dean jumped in place to perform his bow, glad that his assumptions had been right.
Waltario left the room at calm pace followed by his crew, but then, as they climbed down the spiraled staircase, he said to his brother, “Go ahead and gather the special team. I’m going to talk to the king about this.”
His brother nodded then started running together with the other two special soldiers.
Hidden behind a bush of the royal garden, Soris watched the servant with the bottles advancing toward one of the side entrances of the building.
“I should be able to get the bottle before it goes into the cellar,” the prince said to himself and to the dark-haired girl who stuck close to him.
“How?” she asked.
“Wait here,” he whispered with excitement spread on his face.
The prince sprang from his hiding spot and ran to the servant, then, as he got close enough to the bored man, his feet movement turned into a playful gait. “Hi, mister!” he greeted, jumping at the man’s elbow.
“Oh, good evening, Your Highness,” the servant replied, surprised by this unusual meeting. The way the child clung after him signaled him that the prince was up to some mischief, so he sped up on the white stone alley. Ten more meters and he would be inside the palace.
Jumping automatically by his side, the prince watched the liqueur bottle with red seal on the neck, wrapped in twine, sitting quietly in its place in the box with rattling bottles. It was so close to his eyes, so defenseless. The boy stretched a hand and grabbed the bottle’s neck. He was just pulling it out when the servant suddenly lifted the crate.
“Your Highness, may I know what you’re trying to do? Alcohol is not for kids, and besides, these are all empty bottles,” he explained, keeping the crate up to his chest.
The prince tried to jump and rise on his feet, but it was of no use. His plan had failed. The servant marched inside the building. The boy stopped and watched with dismay how the bottle was getting away from him. If only he’d been quicker. Just when his spirits were going down, Ines showed by his side, “What are you doing? He’s getting away.”
The prince suddenly regained his composure. “Indeed. Let’s go in.”
Ghosting after the servant’s shadow, they halted before a corner and swiveled their heads around. The servant put the crate into a storage room, then locked the door and left to mend his other tasks. Soris retreated from the spying posture and let his chin rest in his palm. “Why didn’t he take the bottles to the cellar?” he wondered. “That’s where the wine barrels are.”
“If only we could open that door,” Ines thought aloud sparking a revelation in the prince’s mind.
“I know where I can get some keys!” he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. “Princess, you wait here and keep an eye on that door. I’m going to come back with the keys.”
Ines nodded, happy to play a part in an important mission. The boy guided her to a hiding spot beside a forgotten cupboard in the corridor, then he started for the superintendent’s room where he was sure to find a copy of most of the keys. His hopping steps led him there in just a few minutes, and with the help of a chair, he managed to reach up to the key ring hung on a wall, under the marking of letter A which stood for the first floor’s rooms.
General Waltario had been right to say no one would expect anything from him. Running through corridors, he’d passed by both nobles and household staff, but nobody ever stopped him to ask where he was going or what he was doing. They all minded their own businesses, not giving a care about a child who was probably just playing by himself. One last corridor and he would arrive at the storage room, open the door, take the bottle, bring it to Waltario, and then…
Something like a claw grabbed him by the collar. “Prince Soris, where do you think you’re going?”
The boy tried to squirm free, begging his captor, “Mister Clark, please, let me go. Someone’s waiting for me.”
Clark’s statue-face barely showed a glimpse of a frown. “Who could be waiting for you?”
Tottering on his toes, the prince mumbled hesitantly, “Well, Princess, the girl with purple eyes…”
Clark gave a hoot of derision, then dragged the boy back to his room. “I might be a pushover, but never a fool, my prince,” he commented snidely. “I’m sure your princess with purple eyes can wait until you pay for your misbehaving. The king has allowed me to punish you. You are not to leave your room until dinner.”
The boy watched with increasing sadness how he was being taken farther and farther from the storage room. The messenger would definitely take the bottle way before dinner. As he reluctantly followed the inexorable supervisor, he struggled to hold back some tears of frustration.
Dozing off by the old cupboard, Ines’ attention was drawn by the noise of a horse and the grinding wheels of a cart, echoing from the courtyard. Soon, hurried footsteps approached the silent corridor, so she shrunk by the wall. The whispers of two men reached to her ears.
“Everything is there just like you asked.”
“Good. Help me load my carriage. I need to leave quickly. The roads are going to be blocked because of the Rainbow Mist and I do not want to take a detour. Why would I waste so many days passing through the villages because of some damn fog?”
Ines recognized the first man to be the servant, then she dared to stretch her neck and glimpse at the newcomer. A man in dark clothes wearing a well-defined black mustache waited for the servant to unlock the door. His shiny thick hair followed the shape of his head like a helmet, just like his vest tightened around his slender waist. He was a merchant that came to the palace to bring all kinds of things for the courtiers and take back most of the broken things that could be repaired: from clocks and jewelry to chairs and clothes. Also, the liqueur bottles he brought were one of the best in the entire kingdom.
Ines took the piece of crystal out of her pocket and concentrated on making the spell, then she stepped forward, her heart skipping a beat whenever the two men looked her way but failed to see her. Unconsciously squeezing the piece of crystal in her wet hand, she waited by the merchant’s side, and followed him in the storage room, as the servant opened the door. Under the diffuse veil of light spread by a bulb, they passed by many boxes and shelf units stacked with dusty objects. The grey floor was crowded with parts of broken furniture, so their steps had to be careful.
The merchant rested hands on his hips and sighed. “I won’t take everything today. I’ll take only this, these, and these,” he said, pointing at some boxes overflowing with shiny clothes.
“Oh, we need these chairs repaired quickly. Please take these ones, too,” the servant said, lifting up a pack of wooden pieces.
As they started transferring objects, Ines searched for the liqueur bottle. She found the crate placed primly on a shelf which was out of her reach. When the two men were out of the room, she stopped the spell so she could focus on finding something to stand on. She pushed some box in front of the shelf unit, then hurried to hide behind a desk with two missing legs. The servant returned and, contrary to the merchant’s wish, rushed to pick up some other boxes with things his friends valued.
When he left, Ines darted from her place and jumped upon the box, stretching her hands to reach the crate. With a little effort, she managed to grab the bottle’s neck, but it was hard to shift it from its socket. Steps approached the room, so she had no more time to withdraw. She summoned the power of the crystal and turned invisible just as the merchant entered. He noticed her dark hair fading to nothing.
“What on earth?” he exclaimed and blinked rapidly. He closed in towards her, scanning the shelf. He saw the crate and took it in his hands. “I must be seeing things,” he muttered to himself and moved out, to the girl’s dismay.
Ines followed him in the corridor but stopped for a moment as her knees suddenly became weak. When no one was around, she deactivated the stone and took a moment to rest, remembering her mother’s teachings. Every crystal fed on the owner’s energy. She must have overused it already.
Trapped in his room and sitting at his desk, Soris watched the two supervisors talking leisurely and once in a while shooting a suspicious glance at him. Eyes back to the blank sheet of paper, he sighed. The Poem of Redemption had hundreds of verses and he could barely concentrate on copying it. Princess was down in the palace, keeping an eye on the storage room where the messenger could come in any moment for the secret bottle, while he was imprisoned in his room, thinking of an escape route. Dabbling his feet in the air, he transcribed the first verses, then dropped the pen on the table.
Clark eyed him immediately. “Anything wrong, Your Highness?”
“Yes. It’s stuffy in here. I need some air.” He hopped down from the chair and hastened to the balcony. Searching just around the corner of the building, he noticed the merchant’s chariot standing still as it was being loaded with wooden boxes. A thought answered his previous questions. Maybe that’s why the servant didn’t take the crate to the cellar. He was going to pass it to the merchant. Why didn’t he think of that? Soris grew restive with each second, thinking he would lose the messenger’s track.
“What are you watching so intensively?” Clark asked, as he and his friend approached the boy.
Both supervisors behind his back, the boy turned to them and heaved an upset sigh, then dragged his feet back in the room. The desk with the heavy book was waiting for him quietly, but then, so did the door at the back of the room. No one was expecting him to run now. So what if he gave it a try? As soon as that idea sparked in his mind, Soris ran to the door and snatched the key from the lock.
“Oh, no!” Clark gasped. “He’s getting away!”
On the other side now, ignoring the supervisors’ yells, the prince hurried to lock them in, then ran as fast as he could toward the left wing of the palace.
Loping down a servants’ staircase, he stopped on a landing to catch his breath, then looked over the big open window at his left. The carriage hadn’t left yet, but he could hear the merchant’s farewell talk with the servant. Just then, from the hedge bordering the alley, Ines stepped into the picture, looking left and right. Soris waved. “Princess! Over here!”
The girl looked up and smiled, then she beckoned to him to keep quiet. He turned silent as she pointed at the carriage, trying to tell him that the object of their mission was right there. To the boy’s great surprise, she snuck inside the coach’s open back doors. Although that seemed crazy, he jumped with enthusiasm. Once she had her hands on the liqueur bottle she would come out and his mission would be accomplished.
“All right. I’m going now. Take care,” the merchant said as he came out from the palace and went to close the coach’s doors. Soris gasped. Leaning over the window, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hey, Mister! Hey, over here!”
The messenger looked up and recognized the prince. “Oh, Your Highness,” he said, bending his head respectfully. “How may I be of your service?”
Soris glanced at the carriage, hoping to see Princess coming out. “Can I have some wine?” he asked pushing a grin to his cheeks.
The messenger puffed with laughter. “Oh, my apologies, Your Majesty. I have no wine for your age.”
Soris, smile on his face, was kicking the wall under the window with the tip of his right shoe, as there was no sign of the girl coming out from there. “Come on,” he mumbled between his teeth, then returned to the merchant. “Sir, but you must have something for kids too. I’m sick and tired of drinking only water.”
“Okay. Next time, I’m going to bring you some grape juice.”
“Yay,” said the prince, clutching the window’s margin with despair.
The merchant ignored the child’s other talk-baits, excusing himself. Inside the caravan, Ines, a bit lightheaded, was still searching through things when the messenger came to close the doors. She quickly turned invisible and hastened to get out, but her energy levels dropped low, so she arrived before the doors when they were already closed. She tried to push them open, but it was futile. They were locked.
The cart jolted, then started advancing. Panic-stricken, the girl turned around in the dark place. “Oh, mommy. What am I going to do? Why am I so tired?” she mumbled to herself before collapsing on the cold floor, drifting into deep sleep. The power of the crystal had drained her energy.
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoy the story!
Coming down into Waltario’s studio, as soon as the door was closed, Soris snatched himself from Clark’s grasp, blasting, “Why did you ruin my plan? Why did you let her go? She came out of my father’s office! She was definitely a thief! Only the royal family is allowed in Dad’s office!”
Clark sat with his head bowed like a humble servant. He refused to argue with the prince. Waltario, a sturdy man in his late thirties dressed in a grey costume, stood calmly before a massive table, studying a gun. Relaxing his squinted eyes, he jotted down some notes on a piece of paper, then put the gun down. Pleased with the results of his study, he came to the supervisor and laid a hand on the little boy’s shoulder. “Clark, you may leave now.” The supervisor was more than happy to do so, as he’d had enough of taking care of a seven-year-old.
Alone with General Waltario, Soris turned and ranted, “Why isn’t anybody listening to me? I’m doing my best every day to be a good boy. Why don’t they respect me?”
“Come, Soris,” the general said, ushering him to an old, fawn couch. “First, tell me everything that happened.”
The boy felt the general was a man of trust so he spoke his mind, giving all the details. “How could they ignore my command? I told them she was a thief! They ought to listen to me, not to Clark, or Witch Voronchi.” He rubbed one of his eyes. “They’re doing this because I’m just a kid. But they should wait and see. When I’ll be king…”
Waltario laid a finger on the boy’s lips to stop him from saying more. He shook his head with grim closed eyes, quelling the boy in an instant. “Don’t say that,” Waltario advised him. “Don’t fall into that trap as most princes and kings do. You won’t be able to do more then, when you’re a king. Believe me.”
Soris watched him bewildered. Waltario added, “You’re not going to be a dictator, and even so, you’d still be constrained by people. As long as you’re living with people, you’ll always have liberties and constraints. You’ll never be able to fully control others.” The boy frowned, a sense of despair clutching his heart. “But they said that I’m a model to others, and if I’m good, they’ll follow my lead.”
“Yes, but you still can’t be in control of everything. Instead of waiting for more power, you should see what you can do in this moment. You don’t need more power, you need more tact.”
The frown on the prince’s forehead lifted. He listened carefully to the general’s words. “Then what should I do? What did I do wrong?”
The general scratched his temple searching for the right wording. “You’re declaring war when you don’t have an army and a plan. What do you think your chances of success are?”
The boy remained silent.
Waltario lifted a fist, feeling as if he were before his soldiers. “When you don’t have enough power, you should not be open about your intentions. Don’t let them know you want to attack. Create an ambush!” The general noticed the kid’s confused blinks, so he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry that I can’t give you better explanations, but war is my thing and that’s how I can express my thoughts.”
“So you’re saying…”
“You should never attack openly. Make a plan, one that no one can predict or suspect. Take advantage of your weakness. Nobody expects any harm or plan from a kid like you. Play on your strong points.”
Waltario hesitated, then said, “Well, you’re a cute and good kid. Make the most of that.” Soris brightened up. He felt he’d received the most important piece of wisdom in his life, though he wasn’t yet sure how to use it. He smiled and nodded at the kind man. “I feel better now. Thank you, General.”
Waltario brushed a hand over the boy’s short hair. “I’m glad to hear that, Your Highness.” *
Slowing down, Inerishia alighted in silence in the large yard, somewhere close to the imposing palace. Servants were entering through a side door, so she hastened that way, with Ines held close to her chest. She swept inside arriving into a long hallway illuminated by dangling lamps hanging from the ceiling. When no one was around, Inerishia deactivated the stone of invisibility and let the child on the floor.
“Ines, please listen carefully to me and don’t cry.” She knelt down before the scared kid, grabbing her by the shoulders with both hands. “Remember what I told you? I must go and save your father, so you will stay here for a while.” Ines barely nodded, frozen by the seriousness of her mother’s eyes.
“I’m going to return as soon as I can. If anybody asks why you’re here, tell them you have to deliver an important message to General Waltario. Do not tell them anything about me, your father or yourself. Don’t tell them your name, and if they ask about your parents say that you don’t have. Got it?”
Ines nodded automatically, so her mother insisted, “Never mention the White Castle or the name of anybody from there, okay? You don’t have a name and you don’t have parents. You will only speak to General Waltario. Here, take this letter, and remember, give it only to the man who wears a golden eagle crest on his chest. That’s how you’ll recognize General Waltario. Got it?”
Ines nodded and recited, “A man with a golden eagle crest. I will speak only to General Waltario.” Inerishia smiled half-relieved. “Good girl. You’re brave just like your father. Now, take this piece of crystal. If somebody wants to hurt you in any way, use it to turn yourself invisible and run away. Use it only if it’s very dangerous, okay?” She brushed the girl’s hair one last time then turned invisible and stormed out of the building, flying quickly to the sea, hoping she wouldn’t arrive too late.
In a corridor of the palace, standing by the golden frame of a large, arched window, King Martin stared carelessly at something outside. He looked young, as if in his late twenties, but in fact, he was almost the same age as Waltario. His muscular figure of a tall warrior stood dressed in a royal costume of red and black with golden weavings around each button. He watched every movement of Lady Voronchi who waited for the coach to be turned around for departure.
Squeezing a ball in his hand, little Soris stretched his neck around a corner of the hall and peered at his father. He had no doubt that the king was thinking about the bad woman. As he watched the man gazing in reverie over the window, he sunk his thumbs in the dusty brown leather of the ball. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen his father standing in the hall, shamelessly exchanging smiles with some women down in the courtyard.
When Martin stretched out a hand to wave goodbye to Lady Voronchi, Soris marched out. Remembering Waltario’s advice, he slowed down his determined gait. He had to be his usual self, pretend he was not angry, so he pushed up his frown and relaxed his tiny jaw. Two steps away from his target, he stopped and raised a dignified chin. “Dad,” he called out like a soldier. Martin, however, was oblivious of his presence. The king’s senses were fully concentrated on the gentle murmur on the lady’s lips, who was trying to tell him, in silence, some words only lovers could understand.
Soris’ right eyebrow twitched in a spike of anger, but then returned to its neutral aspect. “Dad?” he asked louder now, and then once again, rising on his feet, but no reply came from the father who chuckled as he winked at the lady, blowing an imaginary kiss toward her. The prince shut his eyes and tightened his grip on the ball. When he opened his eyes, he took one step back and threw the ball at his father, hitting him on his freshly-shaved cheek. The ball eventually fell on the floor, but so did the king’s furious stare. When he noticed his son, he lashed out, “What’s wrong with you boy? Are you out of your mind?”
The boy stooped to retrieve the ball, taking this opportunity to hide a mischievous smile. Returning to his father, he displayed an innocent expression and uttered in a sweet tone, “Dad, can we play?” Intimidated by the king’s dark glare that came from above, he feigned a smile. “Please?”
Martin’s heart wavered a bit after meeting the boy’s clear rounded eyes, small hands stretching the ball toward him, but then, a second later, the frown returned. He snatched the ball and seethed, “You want to play, uh?”
Sensing a dangerous aura, the boy stepped back and gulped.
“I’ll show you how I play,” Martin sneered darkly, preparing to throw the ball. Whooping, Soris flipped in place and started for the back of the corridor, a large grin stretching on his face, pleased with the way he’d managed to draw his father’s attention.
Martin hurled the ball with all his might, infuriated by the boy’s daring move. The missile would have hit the prince badly, hadn’t Waltario showed up in time to catch the ball just as it was lobbing down onto the kid’s head. As Soris left the scene screaming joyously, the general pressed the ball between his hands and approached the father.
“Martin, we need to talk.”
“Out of my way!” the king snapped, passing by him. The general grabbed his arm and exchanged glares with him. “No! We must talk right now.”
A few minutes later, they were both in a room with large windows on a side and many badges and paintings on the other. It was the king’s office, traditionally decorated with his predecessors’ portraits and proofs of his greatest accomplishments. Waltario closed the door and marched toward the king who’d propped by his desk, muttering swearwords between his teeth.
The general halted before the king. “Listen, Martin. It’s time you stopped with this bold showoff. You are a king and you have a son. Why don’t you take care of him?”
“You take care of him! He’s not my son!”
“Oh, there you go again. You know that’s not true.”
“Even he hates me, can’t you see?” He turned to face the general, pointing at his red cheek. “He hit me with that ball today. How dare he–”
Waltario heaved an understanding sigh. “That’s because you ignore him all the time. Why don’t you act like a real father?”
“He’s not mine! He’s just a stupid kid, stupid like his mother!”
Waltario rose an eyebrow as he identified the same words in what Soris had recounted to him about the meeting with Lady Voronchi.
“He is your son, and if he were stupid as you say, he wouldn’t have caught on your relationship with Lady Voronchi.”
“His mother taught him that! And don’t say he’s my son. He’s not.”
“Why are you so certain? Why?”
“He doesn’t look like me even the slightest bit!”
“Because he doesn’t have green eyes like you? I hope you’re not that idiotic, Martin. I’ve observed the boy closely and he takes after you in many ways. He’s obstinate and ambitious like you. Can’t you understand why he threw the ball at you? He wants to be noticed by his father.”
“I didn’t want to be a father!” Martin threw his hands in the air. „It’s this kingdom who wanted an heir and I gave them one. But that should be enough! This kingdom shall not steal my right to live the way I want. This kingdom shall not take control of my personal life.”
The conversation turned into a long debate, and before he could realize, the king had distracted the general with other palace matters. When he got out of his office, Waltario started for his studio, his mind preoccupied with other issues. Climbing down a long staircase, a soldier came in a hurry to him.
“What is it, brother?” the general asked.
“Did you know that the king approved the development of Crimson City?” the young man said, halting before him.
The general’s eyebrows drew into a frown. “What? Who said that?”
The young man looked around, then whispered, “I’ve just found out that from one of the king’s counselors.”
“Weren’t they supposed to focus on the villages affected by the last war?”
“They were, but after the last conference everybody changed their minds.” He cleared his voice intentionally. “When the king is set on something, he’ll convince everyone to accept his ideas. You know our king has a talent with words.” He paused as he noticed the fury growing on the general’s face. After some hesitation, he added, “You probably know that Crimson City is Lady Voronchi’s place of residence.”
The general clutched his fists, thinking about how he’d been fooled by Martin in their last conversation. He’d managed to stray from the talk about his family by bringing up an interesting subject like the Old Castle. He turned in place, barely refraining himself from running and barging into the king’s office. “I swear I’m going to roll him in the mud.”
His younger brother caught him by the arm. “Constantine, I think we should talk more in your studio.”
Waltario thanked his brother for stopping him from acting recklessly. “Yes. Let’s make a plan.”
A gust of chilly wind blew veils of sand on the narrow beach, announcing a storm. Kendel, Vlin, and Inerishia looked up. White clouds descended like a mist, billowing and swirling as their color changed to stains of ash and coal.
“This is really bad,” Vlin gasped, wrapping a bracelet around his wrist. “Maybe our tribe is indeed meant to disappear, Kendel.”
Kendel cast dark eagle eyes upon his friend. “We will not disappear. We’ll become something better.”
Ines’ giggles echoed in the wind as she jumped in the boat and played with the paddles. Rushing to her with a pale face, Inerishia shouted, “Ines, get off the boat right now and come here.” The kid saw the seriousness of their expressions, so she got back on the wet sand of the shore. Arms outstretched, her mother was about to grab her hand, when a big wave swooshed up out of the calm sea and lunged at the child.
Kendel darted toward the wave, thrusting his hand toward it. “Water, listen to me!” he commanded, making the sea retreat greatly and suck back the wave, revealing the underlying cause of it. A tall man with muscular arms carrying a shiny spear advanced on the pure sand uncovered from under the sea. Water dripped down his boots and summary armor made of silver scales, while his wet hair stuck to his tattooed temples, and a smirk stretched on his fawn mouth. “What a surprise! Kendel himself,” he hissed, arriving on the shore washed by a gentle wave, the sea returning to its normal course. Inerishia took Ines by the hand and hurried back to the carriage.
“What are your intentions?” Kendel asked, recognizing the race of the tan-skinned man.
“I am Divian, the son of the great demon Saulten, the one you chased away from the Coral Islands.” He pointed the leaf blade of the spear at Kendel. “I’m here because my clan felt a call coming from here.”
Kendel frowned. “No one called for you.”
Divian smothered a laugh, then pierced him with a topaz stare. “Not you.”
Ushering Ines to the cart, Inerishia heard a ripple of rustlings and branch snaps coming from the trees which bordered the beach. Those were definitely not Shion. She released the horse and lifted Ines on its back, preparing to get up on it as well. However, a multitude of demons with spears and swords snuck out from the forest, blocking the escape route, and when she turned to look at the sea, she saw many more enemies coming out from the water.
Marching proudly, Divian extended his arms. “Kendel, you were once the one who chased us out, now it’s our time to chase you. I’ll bring your head to Saulten.” He thrust the spear into the darkened sand and roared, “Devils! Rise!”
The demons swarmed the beach, targeting Kendel. Inerishia swung an arm and blew them away with a powerful stroke of wind, Vlin standing shield between her and the demons emerging from the forest. Kendel pushed aside an incoming attackers’ troop by telepathically controlling the sea water to wipe them away with furious waves.
Divian was, however, left untouched by the water. The waves were avoiding him. Eyes closed, he spun the spear with one arm. “Do you think you’re the only one who can control the water?” he asked, then hit the land once again. A sand-eating crack appeared and spread, swiftly reaching under Kendel’s feet. Seawater gushed out of there and swirled around his shins, blocking him. Kendel soon realized that these wave spirals would not listen to any other than Divian, so he called his own wave to attack the demon and distract him, hoping the demon couldn’t control more than one water attack at the same time.
Inerishia dodged a rain of poisonous daggers that were thrown at her child, then blasted a group of demons who’d surrounded Vlin. Shion slithered down from a nearby tree and took back his human form of a man with long, grass hair. “Inerishia, take the kid and go back to the White Castle. This matter here is more complicated than it seems,” he said with a stern face, taking a moment to get lost in her azure eyes. “Also, my apologies for following you,” he mumbled.
Inerishia gave an understanding nod, then listened to the child who tugged her by the sleeve. “Mommy, look up!”
Plunging from the expanding steel clouds, winged demons with spears and daggers roared and surrounded Vlin, and Kendel, who was caught in a fierce fight with Divian. Inerishia raised a hand and forced a quick spell. The clouds spiraled, winding into dozens of foamy swirls. Bolts of lightning darted from the sky and struck the sand, burning many devils and sending the others tumbling for cover. She made sure to aim at Divian, too.
The demon-leader had sunken Kendel into a pool of waterlogged sand, up to the waist, when suddenly his spear absorbed a blinding thunderbolt, protecting him from being turned to ashes. Divian stepped back to regain his balance, then scanned the beach, quickly identifying the woman with bright ginger hair. “How dare you…” he growled, thrusting his shiny weapon up in the air. The lightning show ceased instantly, fitful incandescence lingering between the thick clouds.
Inerishia grabbed her chest as a heavy pain spidered inside of her. Gasping for air, she propped herself by the horse. Before she knew it, Shion was right behind her, helping her remain standing. “I told you to leave,” he scolded her, then glanced up at the frightened child who cried for her mother. “She’s fine,” he assured her. “Your mother needs to stop fighting until she recovers.”
When her breathing normalized, Inerishia searched for Kendel. He was out of the deep slump, fighting Divian with a spear he’d snagged from a burnt demon. The beach was mostly clear, but Devils were still emerging from the sea, the winged ones, who’d survived the lightning attack, darting at Vlin.
Weakened inside, Inerishia turned around. “Shion, please help them. I promise to come back as soon as I leave Ines in a safe place.” Shion stared at her coldly, then shape-shifted into a great dragon with red scales, spewing hot air on all the demons that blocked the entrance into the woods.
Inerishia didn’t wait for a reply. She mounted the horse, the child’s weeping calming down when a warm, gentle arm embraced her. They drove off, retracing the path back to the stronghold. However, the mother had no intention of entrusting her daughter to Gladiole’s care. The war with the Devils was solid evidence that, this time, her vision had been accurate, so she was determined to get in touch with General Waltario.
A tree slumped before the horse, blocking their way. The panicked horse neighed, rearing up, almost throwing down Inerishia. She pulled the reins and regained her balance when a demon dropped from a tree right on the horse’s back and stabbed her in the shoulder. Muffling a groan of pain, the lady summoned the air to push him, then unmounted the horse that had become listless and unresponsive to her commands. Presently, it jumped over the obstacle and galloped away, raising clouds of dust on the path to the White Castle. At least it would alarm the stronghold members to come after them.
Inerishia let the crying kid slid down from her good arm so she could attempt a healing spell at her injury. The bleeding stopped quickly, but the flesh opposed to her foggy energy that radiated from her palm. “Argh, it was a poisoned dagger,” she cursed, shutting her eyes.
“Mommy, are you okay?” Ines said between sobs.
“Yes. Don’t worry. I’m going to be fine. It will only take longer and more energy to heal,” the woman explained with a weak voice. The white energy grew brighter on the injury. She had to hurry up to pull out the poison before it would render her unconscious.
Leaves rustled and soon, four demons plummeted from the green arcade of the trees, raising their weapons and surrounding the two. Ines shrieked and buried her face into her mother’s long robe. Keeping the healing constant, Inerishia spun to analyze her opponents. It was too late. They’d already thrown their daggers at her heart. She ducked, covering the kid with her arms, then stood and blasted them with a circling current, clearing the way for a couple of moments which allowed them to run.
As long as she was going to follow the path, the demons could easily anticipate where she was headed at and block her way. With the injury superficially healed, she entered the woods.
Flying demons darted upon her from the sky where the tree crowns were thinner, the lady blowing them away before reaching close. It was impossible for her to carry the kid at her chest and also fight, so she’d let Ines run on her own, glancing at her once in a while to make sure she was keeping the pace. Ines ran as fast as she could, one hand clutching the corner of her mother’s sage robe, the other wiping tears.
Inerishia didn’t run aimlessly. She knew that somewhere in the woods was a cave where she could take a break. As soon as she noticed a clearing in the forest, she swerved that way, grabbed her child’s hand and took out the piece of crystal she’d stolen from the stronghold, making them both invisible. The flying demons halted in the sky, baffled at that sudden disappearance, while the ones on the ground gathered from all sides, gawking at one another.
“Don’t be fooled by her trick!” a winged demon said. “Search for her. She can’t stay invisible forever. If we catch her, we can conquer the White Castle as well, and then this land will be all ours!” Enthralled by this promise, the demons set on searching, sniffing with their sharp noses as they searched for the smell of a human. However, Inerishia had long ago flown from there, riding on a blaze of wind and reaching to the cave. Finally getting some moment to catch her breath, she put the crystal back in a pocket, then knelt to check her child for any bad injuries.
“Mommy, what’s going on?” Ines cried watching her mother’s face covered by a couple of wet strands of hair, heaving with exertion.
She didn’t answer as she had to make a quick decision. Every use of her powers was consuming from her energy which she later needed for the fight with Divian, and at the same time, she had to leave her little girl in a safe place, the Arid Kingdom’s castle. Flying was energy-consuming, but it was the fastest way.
“I’m going to let you in Waltario’s care, Ines.” She embraced the girl and activated the stone of invisibility again, then flew on a powerful gust of wind to the great palace of the Arid Kingdom, a building which was not too far from the White Castle. Its people were simple humans, who had no idea about the existence of demons or people with magical powers, except for General Waltario and King Martin.
High above the treetops of the forest, the two observed the shiny golden roofs of the grand palace and a miniature of the courtyard: people in colorful robes and dresses meandering and talking, soldiers patrolling carelessly, servants carrying baskets of water or laundry, and gardeners pruning the numerous bushes of roses. None of them had any idea of what was going on the faraway shore of the sea.
“This might be the safest place, indeed,” Inerishia murmured to herself, then started instructing her child about do’s and don’ts for the time she would be staying there.
GreatLady Gladiole leaned against an arch of fluffy red flowers, glancing at the small carriage which sat stationed on a wide stone path, a couple of meters to her left. She gave a nervous sigh and crossed arms on her chest, pushing back her long shiny hair. Taking her eyes away from the wooden vehicle, she watched the garden with a sour look imprinted on her mature face while a little girl with long dark hair played around, searching through the grass.
A tall man in sage clothes emerged from behind the carriage, ambling toward the little girl.
“Ines, are you ready?” he asked, stroking gently her long hair. She nodded, lifting a smile at him, barely grasping sight of his face covered by the sunlight.
“Let me take you to your mother.” He lifted her up from the meadow, enjoying her giggles as he touched her little nose. “Look how cute you are. I’m so proud to be your father.”
Gladiole’s lips grew thinner as she listened to their chatter.
“Everyone who sees you can tell that Inerishia and I are your parents. You have her eyes, while your hair is just like mine. You’re perfect!” he said cuddling her in his arms.
“A perfect monster!” Gladiole snapped, barely maintaining her position by the flowers.
The seemingly young father glanced at her, not letting that remark wipe off his smile. Ines clutched his right thumb, pretending to shake his hand, oblivious of what the grandmother had said about her.
“Mother-in-law, I see you’re still mad at me,” the man with short hair said, amused by the woman’s stiff frown. “Our daughter is something special, maybe that’s what you’re trying to say. She’ll be ten times stronger than us and will make a great change in this world. She’ll know no boundaries.” As the little girl squeezed his thumb, he shut his eyes, feigning a groan of pain, “Ow! Look how strong she is!”
Ines released the finger, her eyes rounding up with worry. Her father opened a squinted eye, then started laughing. “Look! My little girl cares for me,” he said, leaning his forehead over hers. “Such a gentle girl will do no harm to anyone.”
Gladiole watched them with disgust, her fingernails piercing the silvery sleeves of her long coat, then she burst with anger, “Kendel, you’ve brought only disaster to my daughter. I shouldn’t have ever let you marry her.”
“I shouldn’t have ever called you ‘mother’,” Inerishia said, passing confidently by her. “You’re the monster here,” she added, shooting a sharp glare behind her shoulder.
Gladiole stepped forward, avoiding making an eye-contact. “Don’t talk to me. You’re still bewitched by this charlatan. One day you’ll wake up from his spell and face great disappointment.”
“I woke up a long time ago, and the only one who disappointed me was you!” Inerishia retorted hopping in the carriage, right next to Kendel.
Gladiole watched the carriage growing smaller, then fading away behind the magical barrier which protected the stronghold from curious people. Back in the arch of flowers, two leaves curled up and shape-shifted into a pair of green eyes. “Shall I go now?” a male voice asked.
The woman nodded, her long golden hair barely showing some movement. “Yes. Find out where they’re leaving the child,” she replied, then mumbled to herself, “I’m sure this trip is only a masquerade.”
In the middle of a tall forest of the Arid Kingdom, the cart’s wheels spun slowly on a dusty path. They traveled in silence for a while, Kendel carrying a subtle smile while Inerishia had her lips slightly pressed together, her mind plunged into deep thought. Kendel stole glances at his wife out of the corner of his eyes, then broke the silence, “So you had a vision again.”
Inerishia winced but managed to maintain her composure. She couldn’t get caught. “What calamity comes this time?” he asked, watching the horse’s calm pace.
The woman turned, bewildered by his guess. “Why do you say ‘calamity’?”
“Well, isn’t it true that you have these sudden visions whenever something bad is about to happen?”
She fumbled as she stared at his calm and careless ivory face. “So far, yes, that seems to be the case. I’m still trying to control this new power of mine, although it seems impossible. The future is always subject to change, and interpreting those visions is such a nuisance. They’re vague. I can never let them guide me.”
“Except for today,” Kendel stated, leaving Inerishia speechless. He turned his head to look into her rounded azure eyes. “I saw you preparing for this day.”
Inerishia swallowed in silence then lifted her chin. “Why are you surprised? It’s only normal to prepare in advance for a trip like this. We’re taking our daughter outside the stronghold. I’m a mother. It’s only normal to be worried.”
Kendel kept the reins swinging. “You took a piece from the barrier’s crystals. What would make you do that unless you really felt threatened by something? I know pretty well all the restrictions of the White Castle. Taking out invisibility crystals is one of them. ”
Inerishia quickly glanced back through the narrow window of the cart only to notice that Ines sat lounging on the bench of soft cotton, her closed eyelids twitching gently from time to time, under the spell of a dream.
Kendel smiled without disturbing his posture of a calm driver. “She’s sleeping, right?”
“Yes. How did you know that?” Inerishia returned to him, surprised by all his guesses.
“I hid at least ten red stones in the garden for her to search. You can imagine that after running ten times around the stronghold, she must be tired.”
“Why did you do that?”
“You and I must stay focused on the road. I had to make sure she won’t be agitated during the trip. A kid of her age has the energy of two adults. That was the only way to make her want to sleep on her own.”
Inerishia turned once again, this time to glance behind the carriage. Kendel cleared his throat. “If you’re wondering whether we’re being tailed, allow me to tell you that we are. Grandma Gladiole sent Shion, the shape-shifter, to spy on us. Thankfully, he can’t turn himself into air, otherwise, we’d lose our right to privacy completely. Grandma, I mean, you mother is definitely hard to trick. She sensed we were going to hide our little one from her before we go on our lengthy mission.”
Inerishia frowned. “I know she figured out we had a plan with this trip, but I won’t let her stop us. I can’t leave Ines in her care, not after seeing how she took our girl to that ramshackle temple. I think she wanted to force our daughter’s powers to surface out, risking killing her.”
Kendel tilted his head as he pronounced each word, “Your grandma suspects exactly what you suspect or maybe you know for sure but won’t tell me exactly.”
“Kendel, please don’t start this discussion again. I’m already anxious about this day.”
“Sure, my dear. All I want is for you to share your burdens with me because you’re keeping too many worries only to yourself.” Kendel paused, his smile vanishing. “I feel like I deceived you back then when we first met. I had no idea that I was only a magician, a wizard who learned to trick the laws of nature, that I was different from you, who had your inner powers awakened.”
Inerishia gave him a nudge. “Hey, you didn’t deceive me. Even if I knew that, I wouldn’t have given up on you.”
Kendel clutched the reins with a heavy heart. “Still, I am proof that you people of the White Castle are not a superior race, as your leaders imply. I am proof that any human being has an inner power that can be awakened. It’s just that it’s easier for someone who’s had both parents with awakened inner powers.”
He glanced back, trying to identify Shion in the peaceful forest, hoping that the shape-shifter hadn’t slid under the carriage in the form of some reptile. Unable to notice anything unusual, he continued, “Gosh, I still remember that day when everybody discovered that I was different. When I saw a hundred of calm faces suddenly turning to kill me, all my insides contracted. I think there was no more air in any part of my living being.”
Inerishia laid a hand over his. “I know how you felt, Kendel. It’s unbelievable how my own mother could be so harsh.”
“I can’t wait to get to my home village. Here. Take this part of the reins.” Inerishia grabbed the reins and watched the horse swinging its long, black tail as if it felt the change of driver. Kendel released the reins, then slid one arm around Inerishia’s back and pulled her close to him, pretending his intention was actually to grab back on the reins. “Sorry, I’m not sure I can let you do this alone.”
Inerishia chuckled, letting her head rest on him. “You’re unpredictable as usual.” Kendel glanced back, then returned with a smirk. “His jealousy betrayed him. He’s now pretending to be a snake.”
“Are you saying Shion is jealous of us?” A shrug. “I’m not saying anything. It’s just his disguise didn’t last well for a couple of moments after I took you close and that was enough for me to identify him. Let’s move.” He swung the reins and urged the horse to speed up its pace.
Passing by a long beach, they stopped and got off. One mile away into the sea, the long Smarald Island was waiting for them. The door of the cart blew open as little Ines jumped out. “Yay! The sea!” she exclaimed, to her parents’ surprise who thought she would be sleeping.
Close to a boat, a lanky man in a large, sleeveless shirt, waved at them. Kendel ambled toward him and hugged him. “Brother Vlin, I missed you!”
“I missed you too, buddy! Your mother is busy like a bee making food and baking sweets for her granddaughter, and your father is crafting a new bed for her. They’re so happy you’re letting her stay with them,” he shouted, his sharp eyes taking note of Shion, who’d taken the shape of a branch.
Kendel asked in a whisper, “Is everything prepared?” “Yes. There’s a boat waiting for you on the other side of the island.” He patted Kendel’s back, then went to greet Inerishia who gazed into the sunny horizon, wearing a concerned expression. “Vlin, is there anything wrong with this place?” she asked. Vlin was taken aback, but forced a smile and kissed the back of her hand, whispering,
“You mean the guy who’s now a branch?”
Inerishia shook her head. “No. There’s a strange aura in this place. It wasn’t like this before.” Vlin turned an askance face toward his brother. Kendel got close to them.
“What’s the matter?”
Inerishia pulled out a piece of crystal from a pocket, and before opening her fist to show its color, she sighed bitterly. When her palm showed the crystal, they all noticed it was black.
Vlin gasped. “The devils!”
Exchanging concentrated glances with Vlin, Kendel closed his wife’s palm to cover the stone. “We should go back.”
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoyed reading “The Secret Trip”.
A sorceress disguised as a soldier…
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