Previously: Blackie urges Nadec to release her from the building, urgently. Nadec and Melia make a mad dash through the city to get to Blackie. Once there, Nadec wastes no time and skips them away immediately. After Blackie has relieved herself, they make the sad decision it’s better for Blackie to stay here instead of being locked up in a building. At returning to the city, Nadec hears from Melia that it’s been said the parade for coronation festivities, has a rare creature they want to show off. Nadec fears it is Patat and they want to open his gut.
Read all the previous chapters here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Nadec and Melia returned to the inn, using a regular quin from the street, to drop off the litterbox for Kitty and feed him. Nadec had filled it up with sand from around the statue. The grey tabby immediately took use of it. Nadec wanted to stay longer and cuddle—especially since she couldn’t take him anywhere with her in this city—but they had to go to the Square Market. The place would be crowded already.
They could only use a quin for a limited distance before the streets became too cramped up. They walked the rest of the way, pushing in as they went. Nadec managed to barge her way in to the very front of the line. Guards made sure no one went any further than they were supposed to go, leaving a large open space in the middle of the Square.
One of the guards came up to her to offer a seated place. Apparently, she looked wealthy enough to be considered important enough. Or perhaps to be able to afford it. Nadec glanced at Melia, who gave a slight shrug. She then nodded towards her, prompting the servant to speak for Nadec and accept the offer. Such a weird custom to let the servants speak, if one ranked high enough.
After payment, the guard led them to an area with seats on a four-tiered stand. It was nearly full. Nadec sat down on the third tier near the middle, while Melia kept standing in an area designated for the servants, next to the seats. Nadec would have preferred Melia to be next to her, to have someone to talk to. She didn’t feel at ease, sitting in the open like this. It was a bad idea, but she tried to justify it by thinking she looked different now. Did the people who’d been looking for her know what she looked like?
Not long later, the sound of horns, bells, music and cheering grew stronger. Nadec grew too uncomfortable, sitting in such a prominent spot. She had to leave. She stood up. The older woman next to her gave her a dirty look, and rearranged herself so Nadec couldn’t pass by her. She turned the other way. There was another woman. This one looked younger than Nadec and was chatting excitedly to the man next to her. She didn’t notice Nadec standing up next to her until the man nudged her.
‘Do not push me, what… Oh hello, how are you? What are you doing? You want to pass by? I suppose that works but are you certain you want to do that? The parade is about to come, and Lord Pagewyn looks exceptionally dapper today. Indeed, he always has looked good, especially after being offered the throne those years ago and accepting it, his handsomeness has certainly improved. I always knew he would do well in life, makes me wonder why I did not accept the marriage proposal. Of course, I do not literally wonder that, we all know why I did not accept.’ The woman stopped for a longer breath. Someone behind Nadec yelled in a friendly way for her to sit down. Nadec sank back down on her seat, captivated by the thought of Wyny wanting to marry this woman, who leaned towards Nadec and lowered her voice. Not enough to be silent, but enough to make it clear she was pretending to tell a secret which wasn’t a secret.
‘I do not like men that way, you see, and lord Pagewyn knew that. He merely thought our bond would be perfect to strengthen both of our families and he said he preferred to marry his best friend than some unknown chit. But as we all are aware, no chit has come along just yet, although rumour has spread that the advisor’s court has presented him with several options to choose from. They will want him to make a choice soon after the coronation, I’d fathom, because Paralelo has never been ruled by only one person, it has always been a woman and a man. Or a woman and woman, and man and man on occasion.
‘Such a shame the old Ichau line has been ended so abruptly, where you here when the announcement was made? Oh it was a shock to everyone, we all mourned for months, what an unbelievable event, no one ever thought the Originals’ bloodline would ever be broken. But it was good for lord Pagewyn, certainly, and his coronation will lead in a new start for the kingdom. Poor man has a mountain of responsibility on his shoulder, I wish they’d still allow me to see him, I miss my friend, and I am certain he could use a friend like me, but there is not much I can do about that, I tried. I hope his future wife will be the friend he needs. I am sorry, what was your name?
Nadec blinked at the onslaught of words, floored by the unexpected question. It took her a while to collect her thoughts. She must be thinking I’m slow-witted.
‘Cedan White, nice to meet you.’ Before she could offer her hand, the woman wrapped her in a hug.
‘A pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Cedan. May I call you Cedan?’ Nadec nodded. ‘Good, good, good. I am Aybahbery O’Dinazs, and this is my father: Zimal O’Dinasz. You may call me Ayba. Do you like men or women?’
Zimal harumphed. Nadec wasn’t sure whether that was for the shortened name, or the question.
‘Oh father, you know I favour the shorter version of my name, it is much easier.’ She turned back to Nadec. ‘When I meet a new woman friend, I prefer to know straight up what I can expect. It is a rather awkward situation when I try to flirt and the other’s squirming looks like she is flirting back.’ She threw her head back and laughed loudly. Not very ladylike. Nadec was starting to like this woman. When she was done laughing at her own memories, she repeated the question. ‘Well, what is it? Come now, do not be shy.’
Indignation coloured Nadec’s cheeks. Of course that would seem as if she was embarrassment. She wasn’t shy. She merely wasn’t certain if she should be truthful or not.
‘I like both.’ She cringed inside, annoyed at her honesty. She knew this could open up a whole lot of complications. So she added: ‘But I may have the fancies for someone else, so I’m not sure if you and me would be a possibility.’ She tripped over her words. Not good. Not good at all.
‘Oh, but we shall see about that.’ Zimal was hidden behind Ayba for the most part, but Nadec could still see him roll his eyes. He must be used to his daughter acting this way. Nadec admitted the temptation of the situation to herself. Ayba reached up to put a hand on Nadec’s cheek, and slowly traced a finger down towards her lips. Balls, this woman just does what she wants, doesn’t she?
‘Aybahbery.’ Her father’s voice was quiet but intent. Both women turned towards him before looking towards the Square. The parade had come while they were talking. Wyny’s quin—a fancy one, large, and with five strongmen to pull it, dressed up with large hats—had stopped only about five metres from the tiered seats. He stared at them while a woman prepared a platform next to it. Nadec’s breath stopped. A longing entered her chest. She wanted to reach out, run to him, hug him, ask him why he’d betrayed her. She wanted to be enveloped in his strong arms and forget everything else. She forced all those emotions back and focused on the betrayal. He had betrayed her. With that, she was able to see him.
He looked… ridiculous. She’d seen the way the richer men dressed here. His clothes were similar, but even more exaggerated. The tightly fitting, maroon breeches were so tight they looked like embroidered stockings, the embroidery the only thing distinguishing it at the knee up from his actual pantyhose. His shoes were bright blue rectangles. The puffy sleeves of the rich golden fabric were embroidered with shiny red thread. Each sleeve was larger than his head. The codpiece—on their way to the Square, Melia had told Nadec that’s what the pieces in front of their manhood were called—was immense. It had the length and girth of his forearm and pointed up. How he managed to not bump against everything, Nadec didn’t know. It had a bright yellow colour—as if the size wasn’t enough to draw the attention—and embroidery in a dark thread. It mimicked veins.
Nadec snorted and lifted an eyebrow, indicating towards it with her eyes. Wyny shrugged and lifted an eyebrow as well, his eyes flickering towards Ayba. Nadec shrugged too. They shared a smile.
The woman had apparently finished her preparations and spoke into a cone, strengthening the sound of her voice. The placement was perfect. Nadec could hear what was being said crisp and clear, even though she sat behind them. Wyny started and shook his head. He moved to look around him. For a moment, his face showed a panicked expression before returning to neutral. A king’s face. He mouthed something to her. She’d never been trained in reading lips, but this she understood silent and clear. ‘Go, run, it’s not safe. Leave. Hide.’ He gave her one last look, and turned to take his place on the platform.
Patat was there, caged. Oh no. An arm pulled her to the side. She complied, leaving the tiered seats. Blinking didn’t help absorb the wetness in her eyes. It spread around them, like unwanted tears, not enough to drop down her face. She’d expected Melia to have been the one to pull her away. It was Ayba. She kept pulling her arm, taking her behind the seats and towards the crowds of other people. Nadec resisted. Melia, she had to get Melia. As if on cue, the tall servant appeared from the crowds. ‘Thank fuck,’ Nadec murmured.
Ayba frowned at her from where she’d been setting herself up between Nadec and Melia. Had she been preparing to defend Nadec? The idea both amused and amazed her.
‘My servant,’ Nadec said. ‘What are you doing?’
Ayba grabbed Nadec’s arm again, but she shook it off this time. Despite her gut feeling claiming it was alright, she wasn’t certain if she could trust her. She might be pretending to be friendly, but in reality be one of them.
‘Do you think we have time to squabble? I saw the anxiety in lord Pagewyn’s face when he told you to run and hide. Come.’ She moved towards the crowd again. Nadec followed. What else could she do? She had to trust someone. Somewhat.
‘I have never seen him look at anyone in the way he looked at you. The connection you share with him is unique. Special enough for me to know I should help you. You can tell me all about how it happened later.’ Nadec wanted to say nothing happened, but Ayba talked right over her. ‘Is he the one you fancy? He must be, both of you had seemed to forget everything else around you. That might be interesting, once this mess you are running from is cleared. Surely you will invite me along some day, hmm.’ She managed to caress Nadec’s cheek again, even while pushing through the people. ‘I assume you are not one of the brides to be they have lined up. Is that why we are running, did you have a secret relationship and they discovered it but you are not good enough? I would not know why they would not think you are good enough, you look mighty fine to me. Cedan? Come now.’
Nadec had stopped. There was an opening in the people, giving a clear view of the platform with Wyny and Patat. They’d uncaged Patat, forcing him to fly up by whipping him while chains around both of his ankles kept him from leaving.
‘He’s my friend, I can’t leave him like that. I can’t just let them kill him.’
‘Kill him, what in the Originals’ name are you talking about? No one is killing lord Pagewyn.’
‘I know that,’ Nadec snapped. ‘It’s not him I’m talking about. The gorwak. I can’t let them open his guts.’
‘The gorwak is your friend? Woman, you have many stories to tell me. Do not worry, it will not happen now. Come now, you cannott help him if they catch you. Come.’
Nadec followed. The brief comforting hand of Melia on her shoulders brought back the tears in her eyes. She felt like a coward as she followed Ayba towards presumed safety.