Previously: Blackie has been set as the coloured void, the myth in the sky. She soared over the people at the Square market, filling everyone with the Awe Nadec had intented. It all went to plan, until a bunch of arrows flew towards her.
Read all the previous chapters here.
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The message Nadec sent to Blackie must’ve sounded panicked, because the dragon spoke with a soothing tone: ‘Worry not, fine is.’
The arrows flew closer to Blackie, but then any of them tumbled back down, not even reaching within 2 metres of their target. The rare ones who did come closer, never touched Blackie. Nadec let out a long breath in relief. Even if an arrow would cover the distance, it would probably have lost most of its strength. Blackie was safe. Nadec turned back to Ayba.
‘Oh, so you do remember I am still here.’ Ayba laughed. ‘Not to worry, I am only joking, I saw what happened with the dragon, but she seems to be safe on that tower.’ She lowered her voice. ‘That’s a good start for our prophecy. How do things look for the brown gold? And have you been able to speak to the you-know-who again, did he agree with the plan? Can he hold out for another few days?’
They moved aside to get out of the way of a pair of guards passing by.
‘Let’s walk away from here,’ Nadec said.
As they walked over the Square towards one of the streets, they heard conversations of the people they crossed. Every single one talked about the dragon and the prophecy. One stall had so many people standing around it, Nadec couldn’t see the owner. She did hear a woman shouting: ‘Prophecy, get your prophecy here. Only one quarter-squarton. The full edition with our analysis of the days to come for a mere one squarton. Prophecy, get your prophecy here!’
Nadec and Ayba shared a look and a nod. Nadec moved to push through the people for a copy of her own prophecy. Ayba stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
Her eyes were locked on a young man coming out of the waiting people, holding a parchment. She stepped up to him. He frowned as he saw her and when he spoke he made elaborate gestures. His voice, from the start loud enough so Nadec could almost understand what he said, gained in volume as he almost yelled: ‘That’s her? You should not meet with her.’
He pointed towards Nadec, uttered a few more—unintelligible—words and stormed off. Ayba’s lips still pressed together as she re-joined Nadec.
‘My brother,’ she replied to Nadec’s silent question as they strode away from the crowd. ‘Come now, we should truly get away from here. What he said was right, I should not be seen with you. Not for me, but for your sake. The Order is looking for you, which is no surprise, and we are true fools to be moving in the open like this, especially you. No insult meant.’
‘None taken, I know I’m a fool.’
Ayba stopped, abrupt enough for Nadec to take a few steps before realising.
‘My queen,’ she said, emphasising the word but speaking it silently enough to not be overheard,’ I apologise for saying you are a fool. You are not, and you should never let anyone tell you so, especially yourself. It is not becoming of your future status. You have to be confident at all times’—they moved away from the Square again—‘with a straight back and a straight face. Even if you are not certain of something, you have to pretend. Use words to guide people away from your ignorance. Were you never taught these tricks? I know you said your parents never told you about Paralelo, which is why you did not know the rules, but surely they must have raised you to act like a noble?’
Nadec didn’t reply. She hailed a quin instead.
‘They didn’t teach you… any specifics? They preferred you to be a fighter over a princess, did they not? It makes sense, in a way, I suppose.’
‘You meant to say my parents didn’t teach me any manners, didn’t you?’ At Ayba’s guilty face, Nadec wanted to chuckle. She couldn’t. Having her shortcomings flung at her did sting, even if it was all true and mostly her parents’ fault. ‘They let me be free in what I wanted to do, and when I showed interest in fight sports, they cheered me on. It eventually turned into my career. But I never knew about Paralelo or the Other Realm, as I call this world, until 3 years ago, after they died.’
During the rest of the quin ride, they both stayed silent, lost in their own thoughts. Ayba broke the silence.
‘I did not ask him for the parchment. My brother. The idiotic way he acted made me forget all about the prophecy analysis that vendor was selling.’
Nadec uttered an annoyed sound. She’d forgotten about it as well, with her self-criticism and Ayba’s reaction on that. Ayba added in a musing voice: ‘we merely call our world, World. Is that not what you call the world you grew up in? And should this not be The Other World then instead of The Other Realm. Or do you call your world Realm? If so, what a silly name.’
‘Earth is what it’s called,’ Nadec smiled. ‘I suppose I could’ve called this one The Other Earth, it would make more sense, you’ve got a point.’
They arrived at the Circle and walked the rest of the way to the stockhouse, mindful of possible followers. There wasn’t anyone stalking them, as far as they could see.
Safe in the stockhouse, they could finally speak freely—the odds of the quin strongman having overheard them were slim, with all the noise surrounding him.
‘Tell me more about your brother,’ Nadec asked Ayba.
‘Did I not tell you about him the other day[was this yesterday or day before?]?’ Ayba walked around the large space of the dimly lit stockhouse. Her voice sounded forced because of her looking up to the ceiling. ‘This is a large space, is it not. High ceiling indeed. You said they planned to make this into—’
‘Aybahberry.’ Nadec’s no-nonsense tone made the other woman [older woman, or other descrpition] snap her head towards her. ‘Your brother. I may be wrong, because my memory isn’t that trustworthy, but I’m pretty sure you haven’t told me about him.’ She sat down on a crate against the wall, urging Ayba to sit next to her.
‘Your memory must be wrong.’ Ayba lowered herself on the crate, her face showing the uncertainty she felt at the unconvential seat. She sighed as she saw Nadec’s raised eyebrows. ‘Apologies, my Queen.’
Nadec softened her features, [being aware of] relaxing her forehead, banishing the strict face but not giving the inner feelings of uncomfort a chance to come to the surface. Once again, she stopped herself from telling Ayba not to address her as ‘my Queen’. She knew she’d have to get used to it.
‘I do not believe I told you about him.’ Ayba sighed. ‘He and I do not see along the same line. We hardly speak to each other. He is only my half brother, my father remarried after my mother died when I was thirteen. It only took him two years after her death to be married and get her pregnant too. My father is a good man, he truly is, but unfortunately he did also love her. She twisted his mind into joining the order of the end. I’ve already told you this part. He is a complete believer now, has been for years. My brother as well. He got even worse after his mother died.’
‘Died? Too? Oh no, so your father had two dead wives?’ Nadec flinched at her own question. It wasn’t very subtle. Ayba stroked Nadec’s cheeck.
‘Do not worry, you did not insult. I do not mourn my mother anymore, it has been a long time. As for Crilla, my father and her had stopped loving each other well before her death. They… it does not matter. This was about my brother. It is the classic story. I believe he may blaim my father for his mother’s death, even though he had nothing to do with it. Despite that, they still remained in the Order together. It appears their belief in The End supersedes their despise for each other. Well, I mean to say, I do not believe my father despises Therbro. It does not matter either. What does matter is that Therbro is not to be trusted, and I am quite certain he has already told someone about seeing us together. I do not know if I will be able to meet with you again. They may be keeping an extra eye on me from now on. So I will not be able to accompagyny you tonight. We may not see each other again, not until you receive the Crown.’
‘Tonight?’ Nadec blinked. Did she miss something? Had she fallen asleep while still being awake? Had Ayba said anything else but because of her babbling way of speaking, Nadec’s mind hadn’t grasped it? Ayba laughed.
‘Oh, you look cute when you are confused. But still queenly, of course.’ She touched Nadec’s knee, her smile wide.
‘You did not think there was not an organisation opposing the Order, did you?’