Previously: After meeting Ayba again, Nadec decides to trust her, despite what had happened with the skinny innkeeper. Together, they come up with a more elaborate plan for the days until the Coronation. An invented prophecy is supposed to inform the people of the coming return of the true heir of the Originals. Patat is still imprisoned.
Read all the previous chapters here.
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‘It appears that Ayba-woman has done a proper job of spreading rumours about the prophecy,’ Melia said while handing Nadec the bowl of breakfast. Slow-roasted—dark purple—tomatoes and mushrooms, mashed potatoes, beans in a yellow tomato sauce, steamed greens, sausages, probably made from a mixture of beans and flour-wash. It looked delicious. Nadec dug in while Melia continued talking.
‘I heard whispers of it being talked about at every table. People wonder what will happen today. They are perplexed about what the coloured void is. Are you certain the dragon can display colour? When I saw him—her, I mean—she was black as night. No, blacker. As if she sucked in the night, so black she was.’
‘I confirmed with her yesterday, she is able to control her iridescence. But if she isn’t actively trying, and she’s in distress, then the shininess disappears. That’s what you’ve seen so far, only her pure black form.’
Nadec stuffed a potato in her mouth, thinking about how many gambles they’d taken while writing the prophecy. She hadn’t known for sure if Blackie could control her iridescence. Nadec struggled to avoid giving in to her inner voice saying what a silly idea it was and how everything was going to fail. Things would work out. Worst case scenario she’d be crowned without the people’s support. The main thing she had to do was stay alive. Which probably would’ve been easier while hiding, instead of throwing up all this fuss.
‘You’re certain Farenk will be able to produce all the chocolate we need?’ Nadec knew it was the third time she’d asked this since yesterday, but it was difficult to trust people she’d never met before. While she’d been away talking to Blackie, Melia had gone to the chocolate production building to talk to Farenk.
‘He said he will, so he will. He is to be trusted, mistress.’ Melia’s voice changed in that last sentence, as if a deeper meaning hid in her words. ‘Even if they are unable to make all new chocolates, there are enough chocolates from previous days. The normal shape of them is close enough to resemble coins. Enough for our purpose.’
‘I hope so. It’s a short time, and I wasn’t sure how much time it takes to make the chocolates.’ Another thing she had to guess. ‘Good thing I—we—left tomorrow open, in the prophecy; nothing has been planned. Except for Blackie making her appearance again, like she will today. I’ll give the chocolate production a visit tomorrow, in the late afternoon when I’m back from the statue.’
‘Oh mistress, you shouldn’t waste your time for that, everything will be fine.’
Nadec looked up from her almost empty plate to frown at Melia.
‘Why are you getting all weird suddenly? Is there a reason why I shouldn’t go to the production? I’ll have to go there in two days anyway, to Skip the chocolate to the statue. Or wait, how are we going to do it? Balls, I didn’t think about the practical side of things. If we let her carry bags of the chocolate to spread the coins that way, it wouldn’t look very magical, would it?’
It was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but Melia’s face and posture clearly indicated her struggle to come up with a reply. Nadec ignored her, her mind spinning with solutions.
‘You can stop thinking, I think I found a way to do it. It’s elaborate though. I’ll need to practice Skipping, a lot.’ But she needed to do that anyway, for the other parts of the plan. She was still unsure of what the final miracle on the Square would be. She had an idea, dismissed it as impossible, but it kept lingering in her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she liked it. And the more it terrified her.
‘Right, let’s go out. You wanted to go past a dressmaker first? We’ll do that first. I don’t know a thing about dresses, and definitely not what the current fashion is, so I’ll leave it to you to make all the decisions.’
‘I was going to do that anyway, mistress.’
Melia had a smirk on her face from the moment Nadec had mentioned the dressmaker.
It turned out Melia hadn’t been lying about taking control at the dressmaker. After letting the dressmaker take her measurements and allowing Nadec to point towards fabrics she liked, Melia all but shooed her out. Nadec looked back indignantly towards the closed door. She thought about going back in, if only to annoy Melia. Instead, she turned her back to the shop and looked for the closest alleyway without people.
When she was satisfied no one on the street could see her, she began the process of Skipping. Voices stopped her. They came from the corner behind her, where another alleyway crossed hers.
‘I’m telling you, the prophecy is real. I’ve seen her, I have seen her. It was dark and somehow she was naked—a fine piece of ass that was, I’m telling you—but she disappeared right in front from my eyes. I swear to the Squares and Triangles, it happened.’
‘Aah, come on, you expect us to believe you saw a naked woman and didn’t try to jump her?’
An odd harmony of laughter broke out. Nadec clenched her fist and gritted her teeth, barely containing herself to go and give them all a piece of her mind.
‘I did.’ The man sounded embarrassed. ‘I shouldn’t have, but I did try to jump her. Gorwak guts, I tried to jump our future queen.’ A desperate pleading entered his voice. ‘I’m telling you, it was her, who else could disappear if not someone who can use the Lines?’ He scraped his throat. ‘She managed to fight back before I had a chance to touch her. She threatened I should be gone from that alleyway by the next day. I didn’t of course.’ More laughter, this time probably aimed more at the man getting overpowered by a woman. ‘And I thought she wouldn’t come back at all, until she stood in front of me, late in the evening, yesterday. She said she hadn’t forgotten about me, and she’d really wanted to knock me up real good. She didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t. I’m telling you, she probably could’ve hurt me a lot. She told me of the prophecy and I should spread it around. She even gave it to me on a piece of paper, see?’
‘Give that here, let me see.’ A scuffling sound with grunting men almost turned Nadec back to Skipping.
‘No, I’m never letting go of this. It’s mine, she gave it to me. I’m telling you, it is her. This prophecy, it’s real. We should go to the Square to await the Myth. It will happen, I’m telling you, it will. None of you have seen her. I have. She looks like Queen Madec. I don’t know how it…’
Nadec stopped listening, again preparing to Skip. She’d heard enough. What were the odds of coming across that same beggar? Her plan with him seemed to have worked, although she really would have preferred to kick his arse. At least that’s one person loyal to me as a future queen, she thought wryly, well aware of how little the loyalty of that creep meant. Who knew what atrocities he’d committed before? The fact that he’d tried to jump her without regret—and that it was what his fellow beggars expected him to do—said enough. Shaking her head in an attempt to get her thoughts away from them, she Skipped.
The statue looked the same as the last time she saw it, the day before. Blackie wasn’t around, so Nadec called for her in her mind. She circled the statue as she waited for the dragon, hand touching the rough stone, fingers following the blue and pink striata. Patches of moss occasionally replaced the hard surface with soft velvet. When she returned to her starting spot, she stepped back and looked up. Tufts of grass peeked over the edge at the top, and higher up tree branches were visible.
Blackie had sat on top of the statue before, so Nadec was certain the surface was accessible. She squeezed her eyes shut, keeping her destination firmly in mind. Her heart beat intensified. This could go wrong, very wrong. She bent her knees and slapped them together, overlapping her hands in the familiar way. The expected build-up of energy came, sliding over her skin like hot water. She opened her eyes at the same moment the energy reached its peak.
She Skipped, reappearing about two metres above the surface of the statue top. Because she’d opened her eyes, she could prepare for the fall. She landed on her feet, but the unevenness of the terrain caused her to lose her balance. She stumbled sideways. The soft underground and high grasses cushioned her fall. She lay there, laughing at herself for a while.
The laughter threatened to turn into tears. She swallowed and sat upright, pondering why those two opposite emotions often attract each other. She shook of the sudden heavy feeling coming from the responsibility of all she was facing.
‘I don’t do stress,’ she muttered while standing up. She allowed satisfaction to flood her as she looked around. She’d Skipped to a spot she hadn’t been before, without almost killing herself. Now, she only needed to progress about a 50x faster.
She looked around. If she didn’t know better, she could think she was standing on top of a hill. She walked towards the edge. It was high. The treetops around her came to about the same level. Such a massive block of stone. Will she be able to do it? Part of her wanted to try it straight away, but the more rational part of her acknowledged that it was probably better to practice small first. She had seven more days until the prophesied miracle on the square anyway.
‘Here,’ Blackie sing-songed in her mind.
‘On top,’ Nadec replied.
Blackie landed next to her, asking about the night before. Had Nadec found the hidden chamber of secrets? Nadec grinned at what Blackie called the hidden room, but her grin turned into a grimace as she began talking.
‘No. When I got to Patat, Jodec had been gone for a while, but Patat was still upset about something. It had upset him enough to forget about anything else. So he didn’t even try to get information about it from Jodec. I don’t know what had happened. Patat wouldn’t say. I told him about the new plan and the prophecy, but he just shrugged and nodded. Hopefully he’s in better spirit tonight. If not, I may rethink our prophecy for the fifth day until Coronation. As far as I know, they’re still going to open up his guts that day, and it would be a brilliant performance to rescue him in the nick of time. But I don’t want him feeling miserable, so if that means rescuing him earlier, then that’s what I’ll do. Shouldn’t be too hard, for some reason there weren’t any guards guarding him anymore.
‘Anyway, that’s for later. Let’s practice for today and the next days. I need to work on my aim. We have a few more hours until the myth is supposed to appear in the sky.’
Blackie perked up. Her scaled skin was already iridescent—being out here must be good for her—but as Nadec watched, the colours deepened. Rich blues, purples, reds, pinks, greens, yellows, and more, formed a magnificent display, moving with and emphasising the dragon’s every movement.
Blackie’s expression looked satisfied as she spoke in Nadec’s mind: ‘Coloured void’.