Previously: Nadec’s aunt Kridec explains more about how the Red Knight ploy started. She and her husband, Stetem, make it clear it would be better for Nadec to get into the city and lay low until Nadec’s birthday. They city happens to be Hexago, the capital city of Paralelo.
Read all the previous chapters here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
‘Burning grounds,’ Patat said when Kridec left the room. She was going to help Stetem to calm their servants down—more like bribe them, probably—and discuss whichever idea she had to get Blackie and Patat in the city.
‘I could’ve grounding told you much of that. I’m burning sorry, kid.’
Surprise lit up Nadec’s face. He apologised for saying things?
‘Don’t burning look at me like that. Gorwaks were supposed to burning be the ones who told humans everything. Multiplying doesn’t seem to be the only thing I’m burning bad at.’
If anyone would say such a thing, it would sound self-deprivation and a poor attempt at vying for compassion. Coming from Patat, it merely sounded like a statement of truth.
‘I grounding forgot a lot of it either way, hearing it being said revived my burning memories. Going into the city feels like the best burning idea, I’ve got to agree with burning Kridec on that. Yes, I can burning curse her name, we go back a long dripping time. I’ll need to dripping tell you the complete, fuller version of my story some day.’
‘You better be holding Kitty when telling that story,’ she muttered, not knowing what else to say. There were too many questions, but this wasn’t the time to look for answers, not from Kridec nor Patat.
A servant came in. The tall woman lifted the hem of her dark, wide skirts in a slight curtsy. The movement emphasised her slim figure. Although her face was covered partially by the blonde hair, Nadec thought she saw an expression on her face which didn’t quite match the subservient look Nadec hated. She’d always felt uncomfortable when people lowered their own value compared to her. Her confident form never quite matched up with what she felt on the inside. Still, she kept pretending. Nadec squinted at the woman. She looked familiar.
‘Mistress Ichau, my name is Melia. Madame Ichau has told me I’m to get you ready to go into the city. She said I would be going with you. She said it was preferable to leave as soon as possible, so we should get ready. It is still late sunrise so we should be able to get there and find an inn before late noon.’ She kept her eyes down the entire time. Her hands rubbed her skirts in a constant movement. ‘Madame Ichai also said to tell you they’d certainly have a solution for the dragon,’ her voice faltered a bit at that, ‘and the gorwak.’ She sounded as if she didn’t belief she just said those words herself.
That accent, Nadec thought. Nadec wasn’t sure about anything concerning languages anymore—she wanted to believe Kridec had been pulling her leg when she said Ichaus know all of them. That’s why she didn’t know if Melia was speaking her own language, while Nadec naturally understood it, or if she spoke Nadec’s language, but with an accent. Whichever it was, it sounded too familiar. Nadec almost had it, it was on the tip of her tongue, when Patat flew up, startling the servant.
‘Aah, I might as well burning see if I can help them with something. Blackie, you grounding coming too? You dripping broke it, so makes sense to give them a burning paw. Not literally though, no need to also light a burning fire.’
Blackie looked abashed before lifting her head and falling into a deep yawn, tongue rolling out. She laid her head back on the table to wait until Kitty climbed of it. He chose the long route, along the snout and taking his precious time, with stretches in between.
‘Come on Kitty, let’s see which clothes they have.’
Several hours later, Nadec tugged at her corset. Again. She was already getting annoyed with it. The deep maroon fabric of the dress shimmered in the late afternoon sun. She was the first to admit that the dress was gorgeous, but preferably on someone else. Seeing the few stray cat hairs on it already made her regret the decision to leave Kitty behind. Hopefully tonight everything would go well.
A bump on the road jolted the ricksha, and she cursed. Melia flushed. She was walking along beside her. The cart was pulled by one of Kridec’s strongmen. Although Nadec called it a rickshaw in her head, the local people did not. They had named these type of carts quins. It had two large wheels and two handles at the front, in between which the person who pulled it, preferably a strongman, would position themself to tug the cart along. There was also a wide strap of sturdy fabric which made for some kind of halter fitting around the chest.
Nadec had insisted she could walk as well and let the strongman merely pull her chest. But Kridec and Stetem insisted she’d not. Something to do with rank and standing.
‘Mistress, we should see the city walls soon. If you would want to see the city, perhaps you would like to lean out a little?’ Melia glanced at her and said more quietly: ‘it would be proper enough to do so. For many first-times visitors the first view of the city is a spectacle. It has become some sort of ritual. So in fact, it would be more proper to lean out and watch.’
‘It would be proper.’ Nadec’s voice was as flat as it could go. Her natural instinct wanted her to stay seated as she was and don’t go along with what’s proper. But, she had a new reputation to make and it wouldn’t do to mess it up from the first minute of being out in public. She sighed, scooted closer to the edge of the seat, and stuck her head out.
‘That’s different,’ she muttered.
Massive towers formed the corners of the hexagon-shaped wall surrounding the city. She was close enough to see brass bells in the tops of all six round towers. She assumed the wall’s shape because the other side was hidden. The ground wasn’t flat. The terrain inside of the walls sloped up to end in a large triangular shape. At least, that’s what she thought it was. From her vantage, it appeared as if there were multiple walls inside the outer walls, dividing the city in several sections. She couldn’t call them rings, because they had definite corners, but it seemed random at first glance. Each corner had a tower, which got smaller closer to the centre.
‘Mistress, your face. I apologize, but people are watching. You don’t look properly impressed.’
Nadec scowled at Melia, who ducked her head but made sure Nadec could still see her roll her eyes. It wasn’t an annoyed eye-roll, but served as a way of pointing around without pointing.
She released the scowl when she saw the truth of Melia’s words. There were more people around them than Nadec had expected, and everyone who wasn’t staring at the city were shooting glances her way.
‘I got caught up in trying to figure out the layout of the city,’ Nadec mumbled. ‘Perhaps you can tell me some of it. Maybe that way I can express proper amazement.’
She flinched at the tone of her voice. She should keep her frustration to herself, not work them out on this poor servant. Melia didn’t give any sign of being bothered by it. She nodded and her eyes lighted up.
‘Yes, I can do that. It’s utterly marvelous, a true mathematical wonder. Everything is man-made, it is said nothing about the shape is natural. Of course, there are always the linists, who insist that it is all natural, and early Hexagoers—citizens of Hexago—only built the walls and buildings following the natural shapes and slopes. Nonsense of course. Nature can be smart, but when it comes down to mathematics, nothing beats humans, right? Right.
‘Yes, that’s a proper bewildered face, keep that up. The outer wall is a hexagon shape, all sides have the same length. The moat surrounding it is a perfect circle. It has a same width all around, and only touches the corner towers with its water. Against the sides of the wall, areas of ground make sure of the equal moat width. They form a circle, so the city from above looks like a hexagon in a circle, corners touching the walls. Not that anyone ahas ever seen the city from above except for birds. But how wonderful must it be, to be able to see it from above, see the perfectly aligned shapes and—’
‘The city, Melia, how is the city divided? I still can’t wrap my head around it. Would you prefer I call you by your real name though? Fluetza? Or was that also a fake name? Don’t look so shocked, of course I remember you. Do you really think I wouldn’t remember someone whom I’ve rescued only a few months ago? My carpets were a mess when I came home from that one.’
Nadec hadn’t remembered her at all, not until she began the passionate talk about maths.
‘It’s fine, we’ll talk about how you got here later if you want. Keep talking about the city, we’re getting closer really quickly now’.
And they were, the downward road in between the bend they’d come from and the city gates, was only a small stretch. At this pace, it was only a matter of minutes to join the line-up into the city.
‘I was covered in mud so, no, I didn’t think you’d recognize me.’ Nadec almost snorted at the truth of that. ‘But you are right, we’ll discuss it later. In brief, the first inner wall is a pentagon, the second one is square-shaped, and the third is triangle-shaped. The ground slopes up, following the outer shape. So in between the hexagon and pentagon, the ground slopes up following the sides of the hexagon. In between the square and the triangle, the ground slopes up following the square. It sounds like that should make for some awkward angles and streets, but you’ll see once inside, it’s hardly noticeable. The triangle wall surrounds the castle’s gardens and the castle.’
‘Yeah, I thought I saw some green at the top, but wasn’t sure, it was too far away.’
‘You were right. The gardens are on an extra steep slope. In fact, the castle itself has many levels completely and half buried underground. The castle itself is a circular, tiered tower in the centre—in the precise centre of the moat circle actually—and has three extensions pointing towards the triangle wall’s corners. The three points also have towers, and the tops of those—’
They halted, having reached the line into the city. Nadec was relieved. Without any map or ground plan in front of her, the description of it all spun her head. What an info dump again.
Nadec leaned back in her seat and closed the curtain. It went all around the front and sides of the riksha—the quin—to enable the passengers complete privacy if they wished it. She’d had it open at the side so she could talk to Melia. Apparently the front section was seldom left open. Perhaps they didn’t think it proper to have to look at the strongman’s backside. From what Nadec had seen before, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing to look at.
The line moved swiftly. Soon she heard a male voice ask to ‘state your purpose’. Nadec’s skirt rustled as she shifted, annoyed at not being allowed to face the guard himself. Letting the servants do much of the talking was another strange custom here.
Before Melia could answer, the guard spoke again, this time to apologize while he listened to someone mumbling to him. ‘All right,’ he said, ‘everyone can go in freely. Let it be known! The gates are open to everyone. Festivities for the coronation are to start tomorrow! The royal highness Pagewyn has decided to add an extra day to the traditional ten days. Come on, move along!
Coronation festivities? Her aunt hadn’t said anything about those. She didn’t think it was possible, but she was even more looking forward to opening the box her parents left her. What secrets would it reveal?
Notes: as you know, the weekly chapters are to be considered the first draft of Nadec. I’ve been on holidays overseas for several weeks. Because the story is evolving and growing more complicated, I haven’t been able to write while away. However, my main goal for this month is to finish the story, the frist draft anyway! Yaay! I might even decide to release more than & chapter a week.
If you’re a regular reader, you might be able to help me. I’m thirsty for feedback. Now that things are getting a bit more complex, if you happen to see a mistake, a wrong reference to earlier happenings, a massively unclearly written part, it would be awesome if you’d let me know your thoughts.
Below there’s a very simple map of Hexago (bird view and front view). Like the story, the sketches are first draft too. But since I see Nadec as a potential (small) novel now, I’m treating it the way a fantasy story should be treated, so that means these kinds of illustrations, hah!