Previously: Nadec’s employers are really her aunt and uncle. The Order of the Red Knight doens’t exist. Blackie destroys part of their mansion and barges her head through the kitchen window. She’d felt Nadec’s emotions and thought she was in trouble.
Read all the previous chapters here.
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The room stayed silent, except for a servant—the same one who’d brought Nadec the soup—opening the door. He peeped in, the white around his eyes growing more stark at the sight of Blackie’s head poking through the destroyed window. There was a shouting in the background. The back of Nadec’s mind registered it while faintly wondering how many people had seen Blackie.
Guts, if this is a closely populated area, they might have attracted an audience. She forced down the tingle of panic at that thought. Many other things to think about. The connection with Blackie was growing stronger. The things Kridec had said, the Lines. She wanted to hear more, but her furiousness didn’t allow to ask about that. For now.
‘Oh Nady,’ Kridec finally said. She cringed back at the look Nadec gave her.
‘Never call me that again. You have no right to call me that.’
‘I… don’t understand why, but I’ll try to. Forgive me if I misspeak, I’m so used to hearing your mother say it.’
Nadec snorted. It somehow conveyed a multitude of emotions. Sadness for the mention of her mother, anger for this conversation, hopelessness for this whole situation, unbelief for her aunt’s lack of understanding while mentioning the reason, ridicule for asking forgiveness for this small feat and not all the rest.
Kridec glanced at Stetem, who’d been staring at Blackie and Patat, his head swiveling from dragon to gorwak. Blackie ignored him, seemingly content with her head on the table. Patat though… He pulled a different face each time Stetem’s eyes fell on him.
‘Stem, perhaps you should go outside and put everyone at ease.’ Kridec nodded towards the servant, who was still peeking in the room through the half open door. ‘You look as if your head is about to fall off.’ She nodded as he went outside. He looked a bit unsteady on his legs.
‘Don’t worry, we live outside of the city and we have walls, there are no neighbours who could’ve seen this. There are only our servants.’
Nadec started. The words were obviously aimed at her, but how had she known it was something Nadec had been thinking off? Logical deduction? Or something else? She felt as if she couldn’t trust herself anymore. Her thoughts were certainly a mess. There had been too much information at once.
An unexpected hug pulled Nadec back out of her thoughts. Shonk swallop! She knew she was supposed to lift her arms and return the embrace, but her arms stayed plastered in her lap. She was still mad at them, a hug wasn’t going to fix it.
‘We never wanted to do it,’ Kridec said silently in Nadec’s ears. Was she crying? ‘We never wanted to, we always thought it would’ve been better to tell you the truth, instead of this elaborate plan. It wasn’t only you who was being put at risk but us too.’
She let go and sat back down, wiping her eyes.
‘I’ve always wanted to remain in anonymity. The royal life wasn’t for me. I was happy enough to stay in the background when Jodec was still the heir, but when he suddenly disappeared and it was all going to fall on my head, literally so, I knew I had to get out. I’d rather say goodbye to everything I knew, than having to bear the responsibility. And it worked! When I came back, with Stetem, people on the street never mentioned me anymore.
‘Madec came to me one day, about half a year before her Crown receival. I told you we’d always stayed in touch. She’d been telling me they were having trouble conceiving. The day Madec came here, I knew she had something important to say. She confided in me that she’d found a way to Skip to Earth, which was how she finally became pregnant. At first I didn’t believe her. Earth was a myth! She gave me the gift of chocolate. It was incredible, I still remember the first time I tried it.’ A twinkle in her shiny eyes proved her remembrance.
‘She said she’d give me all the knowledge to make this and build a blooming business out of it. On one condition. I had to promise to take care of you if something happened to them. She said she’d change the instructions yearly. And so she did. I thought it was all a bit silly and paranoid.
‘It had been so long, I never thought it was actually going to happen. But every year she brought me two boxes, one with instructions for us, the other to give to you after a designated amount of time, together with our box. We gave away our safety and anonymity to protect you.’
‘To protect me? You mean, to have a chocolate business, to make money. Not to protect me!’
Kridec flinched. ‘That’s not how I meant it. Well, we did it anyway, so that’s that. It’s probably already too late for us, I believe they’ll come for us soon, searching for you. That’s why you need to go. Stetem explained it in an unfortunate way, he didn’t mean it so harshly. We care. We do! But we know this isn’t safe for you. They’ll find you. Especially now. We only have a handful of servants here, and our chocolate production is elsewhere, but they are gossips. They’ll talk about the dragon, perhaps even the gorwak. We’ll do everything we can do buy their silence, but it might not be enough.
‘Oh, there is so much I wish I could tell you, but we should get ready. I’m afraid a bath won’t be possible at this moment. I’ll give you dresses, and my most trusted servant, Melia. I’d suggest you make your way to the city, and lay low there, until the day of the Crown. With a few full purses and the dresses, you can pass for a wealthy merchant. Wealthy enough to afford a good room in a decent inn. I’m really sorry I can’t do more. We’ll have our own mess to clean up here.’
Nadec had let her talk, wanting to interrupt several times, but always decided against it. She saw the sincerity in her aunt’s face. Despite her earlier feelings, and an ever-lingering smoulder of anger, she trusted her. She couldn’t help the sarcasm in her voice though.
‘Good speech. I can’t go into the city though, there’s no way to take Blackie and Patat with me. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to get into a city, better to hide away in a forest until the Crown appears on my little head.’ She moved her hands around her head.
‘You’ve got that snarkiness from your mother. Yes, I’d advice against taking them, and even your cat—whatever you do, don’t walk him outside where people can see him. It would be too much of a novelty. As for the other two… I might have a solution, but I need to talk to Stetem first. The only issue would be sneaking them in. If only we had Jodec’s Line of Deception. But, no matter. We’ll find a way. Little help though it may be, I will give you that.’
She leaned forward and grabbed Nadec’s hand, who pulled hers back. Even though Nadec had calmed down, she was still upset. But there was too much information to focus on instead of the anger. The Lines of deception, she mused. Something tickled in the back of her mind. She breathed in sharply.
‘Wyny! I mean, Pagewyn. He can do the Squares and Triangles thing. What’s up with that? You said he’s not related, how could he have power?’
Kridec tsk-ed. Her face showed disapproval.
‘Your parents really should’ve taught you all of this, it was the wrong decision to wait. But they wanted to uphold tradition and keep you safe. Traditionally, the heir who’s bound to receive the Crown, would be prepped, starting three years earlier. No, let me speak, I know it sounds odd. Royalty should get prepared from the moment they’re born, right? That’s how they do it in other kingdoms. In Paralelo, all siblings get a basic preparation. The Crown receiver gets an extra education, and that is mostly to teach them about the powers they’re bound to receive. Your parents were going to start teaching you about three years ago, but then they passed away. I always thought they should’ve introduced you to this world from childhood, but anyway, they had their own silly reasons. No one can sit on the Throne without a proper ritual, handing over the intent for them to become the Crown receiver. It’s very complicated and I don’t know the details. I assume that ritual grants the usurper—I mean, that person— one of the Lines. I think he should lose it once you get the Crown.’
That was again a much larger explanation han she’d thought he’d get. Nadec’s aunt certainly liked to talk. Even in situations like this. Kridec continued.
‘To come back to what you said previously, there are no forests in which you’d be able to hide in this area. Too many people walk here, too much chance of discovery. Besides, I don’t want you to live in discomfort, you’ve had a hard enough time as it was. And I am certain it is the best idea to be in the city when the day comes, nice and clean. That way you can have the people validate you straight away, and you can make that fool look like a genuine fool.’
Nadec had only been listening with a half ear, her thoughts still on what Kridec had said earlier. However, she perked up at the last sentences.
‘What? The city. Pagewyn is in the city you mentioned before?’ Her skin crawled. ‘I should’ve asked this before. Where exactly are we?’
‘Oh, well, I thought you’d have guessed by now. We’re only half an hour walk from the walls of Hexago, Paralelo’s capital city. I told you I came back here after my travels. I couldn’t live in the city of course, but I found a nice secluded mansion not too far away, and…’
Kridec kept babbling on, oblivious of Nadec’s shock. She really should have figured it out earlier. But her brain was too overloaded, it obviously had trouble keeping up. The capital city of Paralellogram. So close to Wyny.
Staying hidden in the forest first did seem like a bad idea now. She should go into the city and go check things out. After all—momentarily ignoring the mystery of the others who’d tried to kill her—it was going to be her new home, right? And perhaps she could figure out more of them there. Rumours were always in abundance, if you knew where to look for them.