Previously: After running from the coronation festivities with Ayba, Nadec and Melia get poisoned by the housekeeper of the fancy inn . Ayba had been wrong about it being a safe spot. They escape, barely. It’s evening when most of the poison wears out and they can think about the day’s events.
Read all the previous chapters here.
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The box didn’t teach Nadec much about the Lines. The pages didn’t explain how all the powers worked, nor how many there were and what they did. Her parents merely referenced to several book titles and where to find the books. They were in the castle of course, in some sort of secret room. They did disclose that the room could only be entered by someone having access to the full powers. This was a safeguard which had been built in by their ancestors, to prevent anyone else from learning about it. They mentioned it was also the reason why they couldn’t speak too much about it in these pages.
It was a big disappointment for Nadec. She’d thought she’d learn about what was to come, but no, she would have to wait until the Wooden Water Crown dropped on her head to know more about it all. They didn’t even give her anything about Skipping, even though they said they suspected it was one of her basic Lines.
The more Nadec leafed through the pages, the more frustrated she got. There were too many strange little rules and customers here in parallelogram. Paralelo, she reminded herself. She forced herself to remember the correct name of her kingdom.
Some of her questions got answered. Why she’d never heard of this are before, for instance. Her parents had left Kridwc and Stetem with precise instructions on what to tell Nadec. That included a fake map and incomplete knowledge of creatures and cities. The map had been mostly true, but they’d erased her kingdom and had drawn a massive lake instead. Nadec shook her head, comparing the fake map with the real one they’d included. The differences were obvious now. The strange geography of the fake map didn’t make much sense. She should’ve seen it before. But then, this had been a complete new world, she couldn’t have known what was possible.
Despite the lack of the magic explanation, Nadec and Melia still spent late into the evening reading many of the pages, sorting them into order of importance, and trying to come up with a plan to rescue Patat and stay safe but inside of the city. They went to bed with a rough outline of what they’d do. Despite thinking she wouldn’t be able to sleep, with the earlier poison induced sleep and her mind whirling, it came soon after laying herself down in bed.
‘Ten more days.’ Nadec sat at the desk again. She tapped the pencil against the sheet. ‘It doesn’t mention when it happens. Is it at midnight. Is it at noon? Is it random? Or is it at the time of my birth?’
‘I would expect it to be the last, mistress.’ Nadec glanced at Melia. ‘Oh, apologies, I mean, uh, Cedan. It is all so very complicated, the way the Crown drops and the rules which go with it. So if everything would be normal, and your parents were still ruling, the crown would automatically fall on your head. Your parents wouldn’t be able to stop it, not unless you agree. In which case a ritual has to be performed to stop you from being the heir. It is what Kridec did. She didn’t want to be the heir after Jodec disappeared, so they performed a ritual, effectively making your mother the heir.
‘However, according to that hastily scribbled note, he is still alive. Death would automatically transfer the heirdom. He should’ve been the one to receive the crown, unless…’ Melia looked up from the note. Nadec was content to let her talk for now, it felt good to give her own brain a little rest. ‘Unless he wasn’t here at the time of his supposed coronation.’
‘What had Kridec said about his Lines?’ So much for not thinking for a moment. What had her aunt said about him? Not enough. Not enough by far.
‘Here, these are the pages your parents wrote about your family.’ Nadec frowned at Melia. Pages about her family? She didn’t remember reading those last night. Melia continued, seeing the confused expression on Nadec’s face. ‘You merely placed them in a separate pile yesterday, you didn’t read them. I believe your words were: I’m too buggered to get into family drama right now. I do not know what bugs have to do with this, but we went to bed not long after that. Remember?’
‘It’s an expression, it means being exhausted. Don’t ask me where it came from, I wouldn’t know.’ Nadec grabbed the pages, leafed through them and speedread the one about Jodec. Lines of Deception and Skipping.
‘That’s right, that’s what she mentioned about him, the Line Of Deception. I can imagine what that ones does. But I might be completely wrong too. He can Skip as well, that’s interesting, he should be able to teach me a lot, having done it for all those years. If we ever find him. Which is not something we’ll add to our to-do list, that one is challenging enough as it is. It feels as if there is something more to it, some connection I should see. Frankdamn, my brain isn’t working properly.’
She took a sip of her tea and almost spat it out. It had grown cold.
‘What’s the time? We’ve been working on this for longer than we were meant to, haven’t we?’
‘The castle’s bells have struck ten a while ago. Oh, you were supposed to meet with Madam Ichau at eleven. She’ll be surprised to see the dragon is no longer in the building.’
‘Okay, I’m leaving.’ She stroked Kitty, bent towards him, and whispered: ‘sorry buddy, I have to go. Aw don’t give me that look. You’re so cute, but I need to get up. Oh no, don’t purr, that’s not fair. Come, off the lap. Ugh, fine, I’ll take you along.’
Melia’s eyes grew wide. ‘But, mistress, …’
‘No mistress-anything while we’re in private, remember? Anyway, I’ll make it work. I can make a bag out of this sheet or something…’ She looked around the room for a solution. The best solution was to leave him behind, and Nadec knew that. But it didn’t feel right at this time. He’d be happy to visit Blackie too. She put his harness on.
‘I’m an idiot.’ She slapped her hand against her forehead. ‘I can just Skip to the stock house, there is no need for us to go outside. This Skipping thing really hasn’t become second nature yet, has it. You coming along? Of course you are. Hold on.’ Nadec froze at her own words. They brought back a memory. A memory which could give her an awful conclusion if her suspicions were right. She had another reason to visit Blackie now.
‘Wait, I need to practice. I Skipped you once without touching each other. I have to try doing that again.’ She lifted Kitty on her shoulders, and began gathering the power in the usual way. ‘In case I don’t manage to take you along, you could take a quin and meet me there. Or buy me some dre—’ She Skipped.
She avoided ending up in the well this time. Skipping did appear easier without having to transport a few tons’ worth of dragon. She cursed as she noticed Melia wasn’t with her. She checked inside the well, just to be sure. No, there was no tall servant-like woman drowning in there.
Kridec wasn’t there yet, so Nadec settled in to wait. She waited until the bells of eleventh hour sounded. She waited until she had to change her position. She waited until the gong of the half hour sounded. She waited until the doors opened, and Melia entered. They waited until twelfth hour rang. They waited until Nadec’s stomach growled loudly enough for Kitty to jump up, his tail thick, the hair on his back up, pupils dilated.
‘Sorry buddy, it’s okay, come.’ She comforted Kitty while talking to Melia. ‘I suppose she’s not coming. Perhaps she changed her mind about seeing the statue.’ Or perhaps something bad happened, she added in her mind. ‘I can’t wait any longer. Do you mind staying here while I go to Blackie? Or no, it is probably better that you go back to the room, since they saw you leave. They should see you come back as well.’
‘Do you believe Madame Ichau is all right?’ Worry painted Melia’s face. ‘She is not the kind of person to not uphold an agreement.’
‘Yeah. Yeah, she’s proven that. She’s a woman of her word. And Stetem, him as well, I suppose. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re fine. Go back to the inn. I’ll see you there.’
Nadec Skipped with Kitty to the location of the statue. Blackie welcomed them with a wagging tail and tongue out. Kitty meowed towards the dragon, giving her all the headbuts and purrs. Nadec gave them their time together. She asked the dragon if she could replay the voices she’d heard in the cave. It confirmed Nadec’s earlier suspicions.
They Skipped back to Hexago, straight to their inn’s room, leaving Blackie behind once again. Melia jumped up from the desk seat as soon as they arrived.
‘I have news from Madame Ichau. She’s sent Farenk here with a note.’ Melia’s voice trembled. ‘I’ve read it, mistress, I could not hold myself, I needed to know. They have left the mansion as a precaution, under the guise of going on vacation. Farenk is being kept in charge of the main chocolate production, as he’s been doing for the past year. So that is still the same.’ She smiled. ‘They are all right. It is all good.’
Nadec took the note from Melia, giving it a swift read. She nodded.
‘That is all aunts and uncles accounted for then.’
Melia’s face said it all, she didn’t understand. Nadec grimaced, something between a smile and a pout.
‘I know where my uncle Jodec is.’