Flash Fiction Friday – 4. A BOWL OF CEREAL

On the first day, High Lord Weiron had his servant secure a spot in the inn to try the new breakfast everyone talked about. The novelty differed enough from traditional dishes for people to line up on the street. It pleased Weiron to see other Lords, flanked by their own guards, among the common people. It made him feel less out of place. At tasting the bowl of cereal, he felt like a fool to get caught in the propaganda to try the disgusting dish.

On the second day, he returned. Waiting in line without his guards and servant, he nearly left several times. But when he saw her face, smiling as she pointed him towards an open chair, his doubts disappeared. The bowl of cereal still tasted awful, but the sight of her improved it.

On the seventh day, the line had shortened. As she led him to a seat, she said: ‘you must really like this dish,’ and a glint in her eyes turned his stomach into a pavilion of butterflies.

On the fifteenth day, she smiled broadly as she saw him. ‘My lady,’ he said, flourishing a deep bow, ending in him holding out a bunch of flowers. She chuckled. ‘I am afraid I am not a lady, my Lord.’ She gave him a quick curtsy before accepting the flowers. He drank in the sight of her delighted face, but dared not speak his thoughts out loud. She could be a lady, if she only loved him back.

On the thirtieth day, the queue had disappeared. The novelty had weaned off. After placing the bowl of cereal in front of him, she lingered. ‘My patron believes you keep coming back for me. I insist you merely truly love the cereal. After all,’ she lowered her gaze to the floor, a flush appearing on her cheeks, ‘a high lord cannot possibly return the love of a woman like me.’ As they locked eyes, Weiron felt lost for words. At that moment, the door burst open. The fellow’s frantic sight locked on her. ‘Annaiyla, enough hiding,’ he screamed. The man covered the distance in a few steps, and dragged her outside before Weiron could respond. By the time he managed to run to the door, they had disappeared in the crowd of people.

On the thirty second day, she still hadn’t returned to the inn. Weiron didn’t finish his cereal. ‘She ain’t coming back, son,’ the innkeeper said, with obvious reluctance. Weiron nodded and listened as the man told Annaiyla’s tragic story, ending in her abusive marriage. 

On the sixtieth day, Weiron smiled as his servants put two bowls of cereal on the table. Annaiyla laughed delightfully at the surprise. She still looked tired—one night’s rest hadn’t been enough. Through political—and other, more savvy—means, he’d been able to free her. Weiron hoped her mental scars would heal as she found her new life in his mansion. If she wished to stay. 

On the three hundredth day, cheerful bells announced Weiron’s happiest day. His face might split in two, but he couldn’t subdue the wide smile as they became husband and wife. Weiron hugged her closely before twirling her around, his face nuzzling her neck as she leaned her head back to shout in joy.

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This story was inspired by the prompt: high lord, a bowl of cereal, romance, given to me by @WeiramonS on Twitter.

I’ve never written romance before, and it was especially difficult to do it in this short format, but it was a fun little challenge. I also spent way too much time on editing it, pheeew. I hope you like it!

If you like what I do, you can support me by sharing my stuff on social media. If you like to give even more support, check this out. Thanks!

Flash Fiction Friday – 3. A YEAR AND A DAY

The sound of the knife sharpening had always been a comforting sound to Esora. So fortunate she’d been chosen to sharpen the kitchen knives today, of all days. The time crept near.

She looked sideways along her white cowl. Through the open kitchen door, she glared at the man who’d taken her gai’shain. He lounged on a chair, eyes half-closed, missing arm obvious. It had been the cause of his retirement as a soldier, and the reason why they lived in this house, instead of on the road with his companions. Da’covale, he insisted on calling her. A year and a day ago, she’d warned him of today. Perched in front of the kitchen table, she kept sharpening her blade.

She tried not to dwell on the real reason she’d insisted on sharpening the knives today. If she didn’t admit to it, it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t cause toh. 

The sunlight playing through the window changed in intensity. The bright yellow transformed to golden orange. She grinned. Her heart soared with the resonance of plunging the knife into the wooden of the table. The violence of the gesture, almost turned her giddy to the point of having to reprimand herself. She stood up, lowered her hood, and undressed completely.

The man looked up, woken from his daze by her shadows playing on his face. His gaze spoke of confusion, seeing her standing undressed in the kitchen doorway.

‘You finally want it yourself? I can live with that. Come here then. You’ll have to wake him up first.’

He grinned at her, untying his trousers. She snatched the knife from the table, and stepped in front of him. ‘My year and day have been fulfilled. I will leave now.’

As she turned to leave, the man grabbed her hand, and began to say, ‘where do you think you’re go—’

Esora smiled. She’d hoped he wouldn’t let her go. Thinking that as a gai’shain would bring her shame. But she wasn’t gai’shain anymore, and these people didn’t follow the Aiel ways. No matter if she’d accepted their imprisonment as being gai’shain.

The man’s arm snapped with the force of the knife’s impact. She walked away, but the man struck a foot out to trip her. She jumped, evading it. She kicked her legs down upon landing, cracking the ankle. One of her feet struck upwards, while the other balanced on the man’s shin. It connected with his nose, producing a satisfying crunch. 

Screams came from outside. More Aiel had finished their year and day. She grinned and stepped off his leg. Her eyes locked on his. They widened. Through gritted teeth, sputtering from the blood streaming out of his nose, he growled: ‘Come on then, finish it.’

In one fluid motion, she pulled the knife out of his arm and sliced.

The sash, tied around his middle, came loose with ease. She snarled at his confused face. Did he think she would kill with her face visible? 

She wrapped the sash around her face and ran outside. Towards freedom, or the end of the dream.

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If you’re not a Wheel of Time fan, this story might go over your head a bit. There are many terms which will be unknown to you. Just go read the books, okay. Shouldn’t take too long. I’m kidding, it’s 14 books. It might take some time. But worth it!

Anyways, this is my first ever attempt at fan fiction. (Is that what it’s called?) I reckon there are a few details I got wrong or could be better, but hey, I’m rereading now so I might be able to make a better version sometime soon.

The idea came from Twitter (#TwitterofTime). I love that online community. Also, in a year’s time, The Wheel of Time will be a show on Prime, and that is the most exciting thing happening right now.

If you like what I do, you can support me by sharing my stuff on social media. If you like to give even more support, check this out. Thanks!

Flash Fiction Friday – 2. WRITER

 ‘The End,’ Victoria wrote.

As she released her hands from the keyboard and leaned back, the ceiling above her disappeared. She looked up into an impossible abyss of stars and felt herself floating through space. The spectrum of her eyes shifted, and what first looked like beautiful grey formations of cosmic clouds, now gained colour. Arrays of pinks, reds, blues, purples in immobile swirls became larger as she floated closer to the concentrated space dust.

All around her, far and close, clusters of colour appeared. She gained momentum, and recognised the one she approached; the Orion Nebula. Deeper in she went. It felt as if soaring through mist, with hundreds of glowing dots passing by her. Instinctively she knew the dots were stars, representing suns. She didn’t question the impossibility of their size compared to hers, not at that moment. She let it all happen and enjoyed the moment. 

In what she thought of as the center of the nebula, she came to a stop. She kept turning around, as if a ballerina in a music box. 

A figure appeared in front of her, moving around her at the same speed as her pirouettes, staying in her sight. 

‘Where am I?’

‘That is not the correct question.’ The figure’s voice reverberated in her whole being. Victoria couldn’t asses if they were female or male, as the figure’s shape shifted constantly. One thing stayed the same; they were ever flimsy and ethereal. ‘Try again.’

‘Why am I here?’ she asked, aware of not speaking through a mouth.

‘You have finished your first first draft. Congratulations. You are now as much a writer as you were before.’

‘Thank… you? What?’

The figure’s laugh shook her whole existence. ‘You have been a writer from the moment you typed a sentence. And you always will be. Now, on you go. You have many more drafts to finish. Not to mention editing.’ Somehow this sounded amused.

‘Oh wait, one more question.’ The figure’s misty face made the appearance of lifting an eyebrow. ‘Shouldn’t everything look incomprehensibly massive? It’s not in proportion with my size. I should be tiny.’

‘Oh, my little human.’ The figure laughed again. ‘It doesn’t matter what your corporeal form looks like. Here, you are the size of your mind and imagination. Now go.’ Tendrils of bluish-white cosmic dust reached in her direction. The sensation of falling backwards assaulted her.

She hit the floor. Hard. After picking herself up, she rubbed an elbow while glaring at the computer screen. The cursor blinked underneath the heading: ‘Chapter 83’. The last chapter. She must’ve dozed off.

She began typing furiously, keen to reach the end. All her previous doubts dissipated. She knew now.

She’d been a writer all along.

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After last week‘s heavy flash fiction, I promised a lighter one for the next times. So here it is. I hope you like it. And if you are a writer, I hope it can resonate a bit with you. Also, let’s ignore that I’m posting this on Saturday, aye?

Here’s what it might look like to actually take a soar into the Orion Nebula! Go to video.

 

If you like what I do, you can support me by sharing my stuff on social media. If you like to give even more support, check this out. Thanks!

Flash Fiction Friday – 1. TORN AWAY

My child! 

They took my child.

He was—no, he is—my firstborn. Many, many light cycles, I felt the baby grow in my belly. A bond formed, even before ever seeing him. I knew I would meet him soon when my teats were so full of milk, it dragged me down.

A spasm of pain warned me of the beginning. I didn’t know it was the beginning of the end. 

By then, I’ve lived in the lonely box for a while. I did not understand why they had separated me from my friends. I cried loudly because of another spasm of pain. Their faces came into view. They uttered sounds I do not understand. They left again.

The pain spasms came quicker and hurt more. I still stood, and realised my tail was lifted. They came and went, watching, always watching. I cried out again. I stumbled down to lie on my side. Something touched me. It was them, with their strange skin made out of so many different layers. In some places it looked bare—even hairless—and in other it seemed so very loose. And they could change it! Such strange creatures, who could swap their skins.

A pressure in my backside made me scream more. They had stuck their short legs—the ones they don’t walk on—in me again. I remembered them doing it before. Not long after that first time, I had felt life growing inside of me.

Another pain spasm—the worst so far—forced me to clench my belly hard. Something moved in my backside. A different sort of pressure replaced the one caused by their non-walking legs. More pain spasms, and more belly clenches, and then, a big lump slid quickly through my backside. I felt empty. Drained. So tired, I could hardly lift my head. But I still did. I looked behind me, and there he was. 

My pride. My glory. My baby. I moved to lick him, confirming his sex. 

They kept making those strange noises. I barely noticed. My whole world lied there in front of me. I licked and licked him, cleaning him. Their weird, non-walking legs, tried to help me, but I pushed them away with my head. This was my task. This was—is, it still is—my right as a mother. 

My boy is beautiful. White with black spots, just like me. Long eyelashes, eyes to drown in, a perfect soft, pink nose. I do not know how long I cleaned him when he twitched. He tried to stand. Good boy. He positioned his legs underneath him, and pushed up. He fell back down. He tried again. He pushed up, and stayed upright, legs shaking, nostrils flaring. He took a gentle step, wobbled, and fell down again. I nudged him with my nose, told him to try again. He did, and he had it.. He walked! That memory will remain with me forever.

He searched for my teat, and drank. This was such a wonderful feeling. I licked him tenderly while he had his first drink. Such a gorgeous boy. I wanted this moment to last forever, but he stopped drinking, satisfied. I readied myself to settle down with him, when their non-walking legs wrapped around my boy and carried him away. I screamed and followed, but more of them managed to stop me. I jumped and bucked and kicked one of them and freed myself, but too late. He was gone. I heard his thin screams and it still breaks my heart.

For the next light cycles, I kept crying out for him. He returned my calls. They released me back to my friends, further away from my boy. 

They often line up my friends and me, and then something sucks our teats. I can feel it is not my boy. It is painful. It also relieves me, because I am still making milk—too much milk; it hurts my teats. 

But there is no boy of mine who drinks my milk. 

I named him Bobby. 

I will love him, always.

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To kick off Flash Fiction Friday, here’s a heavy one for you. I won’t lie, I cried a little while I wrote this, and a bit more when I edited it. If you want to know what happened to Bobby, I have a previous Flash Fiction about him. Warning: it’s also heavy, perhaps even more so. Click here to read it.

To clarify, this story is about a mother. She is not human, she is a cow, born and raised to be pregnant all the time in order to give milk. The milk many humans drink. The milk which doesn’t belong to humans, but is meant for calves.

I promise the Flash Fiction Fridays won’t always be as dark as this one. I also promise they will rarely mention veganism (like I do here below). In fact, most will be very much on the lighter side, probably often with a fantastical theme. If this is your first time here, I’d like to invite you to check out my other Flash Fiction, so you get an idea of the diversity.

If this one spoke to you, and awoke something in you, share it, please.

If you want the suffering of millions of mothers like this anonymous mom to stop, consider going vegan. Good news, Veganuary is in full swing, which is the perfect time to give it a try. (Many countries have their own website for Veganuary, I linked to the Australian one)

Interludes 6 – About 2020 and everything

Happy new year everyone, I hope time has treated you well!

It has been ages since I wrote an interludes, and to be honest, it has been ages since I posted anything other than Nadec-related things on the website. That’s going to change again, yaay! I have many things planned for the coming year (and I wrote them down, so they must be real aye). I’ll break those down per section:

Nadec

This one… Aahh, Nadec. A limited few of you may remember Nadec’s early days. It began as a flash fiction of merely 700 words. Right now it is over 70 000 words, proper novel length, the podcast has 47 episodes released, and it’s just mad. Plans for this is to obviously finish writing the first draft (aiming for that to be done in the next few weeks, weee), finish the podcast (transcripts, aka 2nd draft is also here on the website in its totality).

There is a short story in my head which I’ll write in the next months, named The Muddy Marshes. And next year I’ll revisit the whole story, give it another thorough edit, add more point of views, sent it off to a real editor, and publish it as a novel. Exciting stuff, isn’t it?

Tear of the sky

I’m so keen too dig back into this one. I had kind of planned for it to be out by now, but the expansion of Nadec prevented that. It is why I want to get Nadec’s first draft finished soon, so I can get back to this. I’ve added a bunch of chapters to it during NaNoWriMo2019, and it was awesome to jump back into that world.

It is much grittier and a different enough world and story to Nadec, that I have issues writing on both of them at the same time. So, it has to wait. Unfortunately. I envision a first episode release by the end of 2020. It will all depend on how quickly the turn around is for the editor (because I will have it professionally edited before anything gets released) and beta readers. By the way, if you’re interested in being a beta reader for this, let me know!

Flash fiction Friday

Aaaah, my poor flash fiction has been neglected even more than Tear of the Sky has. Nadec is to blame for EVERYTHING haha. I will write and release a new flash fiction every week (you guessed it, on Friday), unless inspiration is dead. In which case, I won’t force it. Although it should be fine, there’s plenty of prompts out there hey.

Art

There is a brand new section on the website! I have dug into my deepest creative core, and uncovered something I knew was there but never completely released before. As it is, I’m completely entranced with painting space, based on actual deep space images. It’s amazing and colourful and awesome. I love it, and love the painting too. So much so, that I’m making this part of my thing.

The paintings are for sale, and in March I’m holding a Kickstarter in order to offer up prints for sale. So everyone can have a piece of space in their home yaay. I’ve also tentatively started selling the designs on zazzle. For now, there are only mugs, but I will add more things gradually. Check it out if you want 🙂 If you’d like to stay updated on the art-stuff, the instagram to follow is this one. (astrid jef deep space artist. If you’d like to stay in the know for the Kickstarter, you can add your email address to a list especially for that purpose alone. Sign up is on the art page.

That was it for all the sections. Exciting times to come! The website will eventually get a massive upgrade, but that’s for later.

Thanks, and see you!

Astrid

PS: I just started a ‘buy me coffee’ account. If you like some of my stuff, whether that’s Nadec, flash fiction, the art, or just me, you are invited to support me for the price of a coffee. Thank you, even if you don’t, you are still awesome!

Buy Me A Coffee

Nadec ch 48 False Feeling of Safety

Previously: After getting caught by Jodec and getting a last chance to speak to Patat, both of them get surprised by Wyny showing up. Before he sends Jodec away, Nadec and Jodec agree on a common goal: keeping Patat safe. Both Wyny and Patat profess their utter trust in Nadec, which touches on an unsettingly deep and sensitive snare for Nadec.

Read all the previous chapters here.

ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters (and forgetting names), awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 She fell on her knees, the sobs wrecking her whole body. She stayed on her hands and knees at first before sitting back with her knees folded under her. Someone hugged her closely as she held her hands up to her face.

‘Mistress,’ a familiar voice in her ear, ‘mistress, what is wrong? Are you hurt?’ The comforting arms around her loosened their grip but Nadec forced them to stay. ‘Mistress, please, talk to me. Quick, go get warm water and cloths. Someone get that halberd of her. Find her wounds.’

‘No,’ Nadec swallowed hard, ‘not hurt.’ She swallowed again, feeling self control return. She released name from the hug and smiled at her. ‘Happy. Appreciated. Wanted.’

Now that her fit of crying was over, she managed to look around the room. What used to be merely a bed room, any normal inn’s bedroom, had had a complete tranformation now. A servant came running in with a basin, presumably containing hot water. She stumbled as she saw everyone standing around. As for that, the room was certainly not empty. 

name still kneeled next to nadec, urgind the servant with the water to come closer. name dipped on of the cloths in the water, wrung it out, and wiped Nadec’s face wih it, to her surprise. She would have protested if the warm cloth handt felt so good on her skin.

‘Are you certain, mistress?’

‘Yes, name, I am, not physically hurt. Not even mentally hurt. I apologise for making you panic. Honestly, I didn’t xpect this What is going on here?What happened to the room?’

The innkeeper stood near and began wringing his hands. Oh no, Nadec thought, WHat has he  done?

‘Oh, uh, my lady. I mean, my Quee— heh, my honeoruishif, I apologise, i mean, uh, I couldn’t let you sleep in merely a normal room, so I cleared out my best room for you, and it is still being prepared I’m afraid, but you will be able to vacate soon. It hasn’t been used in quite a while, you see, it is such a special room, but people are too cheap to pay the money it deserves, and I of couse do not want to lower my price because I do know the value, but heh, anyway, your dear servant here told me you still needed this room to, huh, Skep to, was it, so I had my men clear it out ao  you can now keep this room for your skepping, isthat good, that was good, so huh, yes, that is it.’

Nadec closed her eyes. Foolish, foolish man. Instead of just leaving her be, as she had demanded. Now he’d made such a big mess and hoola, he might as well have put a neon sign on top of his inn, pointing toward it, saying ‘nadec ichau is her, here she is, he princess, right here, here she is, come and see.’

She’d have to change inns now, but didn’t have the heart to tell the man such, especially not after having two people tell her how much trust they had for her. She couldn’t be rude to anyone at this moment.

‘Oay, so despite me asking you not to do anything, you went ahead and did this? Do yo uwat everyone to know I am her?’ 

Alright, so perhaps she could still be rude. It had nothhing to do with trust anyway. 

‘Oh, huh,’ the innkeeper began to stammer, ‘no, it is not like that, my quee—heh—my lady, it is not. It is alright, it is, we have made certain to keep the suspicions away from you. We have let every patron know personally what was going on, we told them a very wealthy and high ranking person from far away was taken the room so we had to prepare, and uh, the person needed their privacy so we gave everyone their money back, and some more, and put them outside to find another inn. See, me qulady, no ones is here aymore, only us, so no one can betray you.’

That, was even worse than before. Everyone who was looking for her would know where she was now. Foolish, foolish man. She couldn’t even stay the night now. 

‘Why didn’t you stop him?’ She whispered towards Melia, who helped her up.

‘Apologies, mistress, I tried, I really did. But that man…’ She huffed. ‘He is as stubborn as they come. With every protest I made, he came up with a so-called solution to it which only added onto the madness. Honeslty, I do not kow how he has managed to have a succesful inn. Something is wrong with this fellow.’

Nadec frowned. The more she thought about the situation, the more suspect she found it. The man hadn’t been so irrational before. What had happened? Nadec chose to believe someone had manipulated the man somehow. But who, and what, how.

‘My dear man,’ she felt proud of herself at her steady voice. Not a hint of mockery either. ‘I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity. But really as I’ve said before, you shouldn’t have. I will keep the room as a decoy, it is perfect for that purpose. But I’m afraid I can’t stay here.’ The man gained a look of utter dissappointment and misery on his face, Nadec couldn’t help but adding: ‘You did a brilliant job at giving me safety, so brilliant I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. I will make sure you will get a proper reward once I have my Crown.’ 

The man’s face lit up at the praise and he stammered thank you.

‘Now, I will need few items from you. Melia, where is Kitty?’

A short time later, and a long distance further up, three beds appeared on top of the piece of statue. Melia and name looked around wide-eyed from their bed. name even whimpered as she saw Blackie, who hoovered at the edge, warned by nadec not to stay in the middle. She landed, and Kitty jumped of Nadec’s bed with a meow, running towards the dragon. Both purr machines filled Nadec’s heart, which already overfilled from the encounter with Wyny. 

‘Come on, let’s set things up and go to sleep. I’m feeling pretty tired by now.’ They removed all the things they brought along on the beds, and moved the beds in a better position. The innkeeper had been able to provide them with a small outdoor kitchenette and some spare pots. They had enough vegetables to make food for the next few days, and several jugs of water and a few sneaky ones with wine. The innkeeper had reassured Nadec she could always return for more supplies, and Nadec had reassured him, she would.

By the time they finished setting up, even though it hadn’t taken long, Blackie and Kitty had fallen asleep in their dragon and cat doughnut. The sight made Nadec’s spirits soar even more than before. She had Wyny’s support. Of all the people, that one meant the most to her. It was the most significant. Even though she had to flee her city now after all, at least she had hope. And she would spend more time there than here, of that she was certain. This was now a fairly comfortable place to spend the night, butt hat was all. She still had work to do.

The following day she spent the morning [briefing] Melia and Name. She still despised calling them servants, so she avoided doing that as much as she could. Melia knew much of what she said already, with the exception of the events at the castle last night. Nadec didn’t fill them in on all the details, but merely let them know the gist of what had happened. With that done, she Skipped the women back to the city, inside of the Stockhouse. She then gave Kitty a big hug, trying to get assurance he’d be alright while everyone was gone. Hopefully he wouldn’t jump of the edge. Blackie gave her a wink as she said it out loud to Kitty. What did that mean? When she asked, the dragon replied cryptically: ‘Fine will be.’

‘Well then, I suppose if you say so, it should be,’ Nadec said, sarcasm heavy. The dragon merely sat on her haunches and looked at her, panting with her tongue out like a dog. Nadec couldn’t help but snort at that. damn dog.

She Skipped Blackie straight into the air above Hexago, the same spot as the day before, at the same time she Skipped to the Stockhouse. She stood there for a moment, feeling satisfied with herself. Her Skipping had improved immensely. She still worried about the coming days. So many more challenges to come.

‘Mistress?’

Melia pulled Nadec out of her thoughts. 

‘I found this inside, against the door. It is directed to you.’ 

Fear and curiosity guided the chill [verb] over Nadec’s neck and back. Someone was here, and knew she came here, regularly enough to find a package. She accepted it from Melia, with trepidation. It was a book, wrapped with a cloth. A note inside the frist pages read:

Niece, this might be helpful. Don’t be mistaken, this does not mean I am wholly on your side. I want to keep ‘Tat safe. As you promised you would. I trust you to keep your word.

There was no name, but Nadec didn’t need any. This obvously came from he uncle. What…? 

Her mouth opened of its own accord as she leafed through the pages, and read a few sentences.

“Notes on Skipping. I decided to keep this personal journal on my progress for the Line of Skipping, as it goes for me. I have been helped with blah blah’s account before, so I want to return the favour. Hopefully these notes will be helpful to one of my future family members.”

Nadec had to go sit on pne of the crates. Her uncle had given her his own personal journal about Skipping. This proved how much he cared about Patat. Such a priceless gift. 

Sudden panic coursing through her blood made her jump upright, which in turn made her queasy enough to have her sight replaced by black spots. The book had been here. He had been here. Her uncle knew about this place. She rubbed her nose between her eyes. Of course he would know. He’d provedn to know about Krodec and Stetem, so of course he’d know about this. 

‘We can’t use the stockhouse anymore. Blonky wallops in livercod!’ Why did it all have to go in ups and downs all, the, time?

‘My uncle knows of this. I believe he’ll probably leave me alone until Patat is safe. After that, this stockhouse is out of limits.’

Nadec ch 47 Trust

Previously: After the meeting in the wobbly wine glass, Nadec goes to the throne room to talk to Patat. He isn’t there. Instead, her uncle and a zlurp manage to catch her, but he does give her 1 last chance to talk to the gorwak. However, they get interrupted by Wyny demanding what is going on.

Read all the previous chapters here.

ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters, awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 ‘My lord,’ Nadec heard Jodec say, while she tried to get her heart back in her chest, from where it had jumped in her throat. ‘My lord,’ Jodec repeated, ‘due to an emergency situation, we deemed it safer to move the gorwak out of the throne room.’ 

How did he manage to sound so composed and calm? Wyny’s arrival must have been as much a surprise to him as it was to Nadec.

‘I am not talking about the gorwak—although it would have been my next question. What is that zlurp doing here, in the castle?’

Nadec attempted to begin Skipping as they spoke, but the zlurp had sneakily goten closer and snatched the top of her head, holding her in place. 

‘My lord, I—‘

‘Turn around, creature.’ Wyny spoke right over Jodec. ‘I am not precisely keen to see more of you, but I want to look at your face. I have met a creature like you before, and I am curious to see if you look ali—‘ His voice, sounding more inquisitive near the end, came to a dead stop.

The zlurp had obeyed Wyny and turned around. But it hadn’t let go of Nadec. As hers and Wyny’s eyes locked, she grinned at him, feeling sheepish. The massive hand on top of Nadec’s head made her feel even more self-conscious. 

‘My lord, I can explain, this is the—‘

‘Be quiet.’ The command in Wyny’s voice impressed Nadec. Wyny glared at Jodec. ‘Klappah, is it not? I know who you truly are.’ It was very faint, but Jodec twitched at that. ‘You are part of The Order of the End. But you were also part of the ones who rescued me. I have been wondering if there is a connection between those two. Do not look so surprised, I have been enquiring about this ever since I had suspicions. Something tells me there is even more going on. I promise you, I will uncover it. I have been played the fool long enough. No more. Now tell me, why is a member of the End roaming my hallways in the middle of the night, with a zlurp and the rightful heir to the throne?’

Nadec had been struggling against the zlurp, trying to pry his hands away, shaking her head to loosen his grip, but to no avail. There was no budging it. If only she could break free, she might have enough time to Skip away. All thought of escape vanished for a few seconds after hearing Wyny call her the rightful heir. As an usurper, that was not what Nadec would expect him to call her. Did that mean…? No, she didn’t dare hope he was so much at her side as to be willing to relinquish the throne. Or was he? She snorted out loud at her own silliness. It wasn’t his throne anyway, he couldn’t relinquish what didn’t belong to him.

Both of the men stared at her. Balls. She shrugged and motioned to the top of her head with her eyes. 

‘Mind telling your zlurp to let me go, J—huh—you? It’s getting a bit tight. Ouchies.’ She pulled a face. Inside she cringed at herself. Ouchies? Ouchies?? If she hadn’t already been wanting to leave, she definitely wanted to get away from the mortification she felt at that moment.

Jodec hesitated for a moment, but then gave the command to the zlurp. Nadec stumbled at the suddenness of which she had to keep her own balance again.

‘Dripping Klappah?’ Patat’s gruff voice sounded out. ‘You don’t know who he burning really is, do you, Pagewyn?’

Oh no,  Nadec thought. She turned around to tell him not to say anything, but bumped against the zlurp’s big belly. It made her lose her balance and she teethered for a while before falling to the ground. She crawled through the zlurps legs, almost gagging at the stink of his six-toed feet. Her halberd must have shifted a bit, because it got stuck somewhere along the way. Without any more thought, she reached back and managed to release it, although she had to keep her arm back until she was beyond the zlurp. She snorted softly as she brought her arm forward, purposely extending the arc and putting more force in it. The butt of the halberd crashed into the balss of the zlurp with enough force to make the large creature double down and fall to his knees. She didn’t use the blade because for one: she didn’t want to get ball-stuff on her, and two: she felt reluctant to actually hurt the creature. She’d completely forgotten about it at the surprise of Patat’s absence in the throne room, and for some reason Jodec hadn’t taken it away. Perhaps he thought it hadn’t been much of a threat while the zlurp held her?

During the time all of that happened, Jodec had also yelled out to Patat not to say anything. Apparently he also did not want Wyny to know who he really was. Nadec wasn’t sure why she wanted to prevent that, but it felt right. Jodec had also taken steps closer to Patat, dodged the zlurp while he fell, and now stood almost next to Nadec.

‘Hah. Don’t tell him, ‘Tat. Please.’ Jodec sounded genuine in his pleading. Patat scrunched up his forehead, the question obvious in his face. ‘I can’t explain why it’s important, but it is, hah. Please.’ 

Nadec studied her uncle, with is missing fingers and the missing eye being the one half of his face she could see. He swirled his head to look at her in turn. A fraction of a moment, there seemed to be something between them. A mutual respect would be the best nadec could describe it. 

‘What is going on here? Who is he then, gorwak?’ 

The frustrating plea from Wyny made them both blink. As one, they looked back at Patat, who murmured: ‘Burning fine.’

Jodec’s head turned back to make sure Wyny was still far enough. Nadec’s narrowed her eyes as he hurriedly began whispering to her.

‘Listen niece, I know we don’t have the same goals, but one thing we both want. We want ‘Tat safe, hah. I can’t free him because that would compromise my position and leave me with nothing. But you can. I heard your prophecy.’ Nadec didn’t care much for the amount of scorn he put in that word. ‘You plan to rescue him in two days. I surely don’t have any idea how you want to do that, but tell me truthfully, will you be able to?’

‘Is everyone merely going to ignore me?’ 

Steps brought Wyny’s voice closer to them. Nadec nodded and said: ‘Yes, I can. Ineed to practice Skipping and figure somet hings out, but I can.’

‘Hah, good. I trust you with his life.’ Jodec moved his head to look at Patat again, and almost immdeiately looked back at Nadec, hos brow furrowed. ‘I’ll help you with Skipping. My lord.’

Jodec gave a perfect bow towards Wyny, who now stood close enought for Nadec to touch if she outstretched her arm. His two guards moved in—to detain Nadec and take away her halberd, she supposed—but at a sign from Wyny they backed off. He regarded Jodec, his face unreadable. When his gaze went to Nadec, his expression softened. Jaws unclenched, his brows untightened, his lips became fuller. 

‘Leave us.’ His head didn’t move, but his eyes did. When neither Jodec nor Nadec made a movement, he turned his whole body towards Jodec. ‘I will have a word with you tomorrow. Make certain my servants can find you. Now, leave me. And take your zlurp with you, I have many questions about that as well.’

The zlurp had fortunately already been able to set himsefl uprigth, and by a command of Jodec, he stood up and followed him, after Nadec’s uncle visibly swallowed a retort towards Wyny. Instead, he gave another bow, and left. 

Wyny motioned to his guards to give hom more space. When they protested because of Nadec’s halberd, the calm in his voice sounded fragile and on the edge of breaking as he said: ‘I trust this person more than anyone else in this castle, perhaps more than anyone else in Hexago. She will not hurt me, and to be fair, she can more than likely protect me better than the two of you together.’

The guards moved back, but Nadec hardly saw as she worked hard on blinking away the treacherous tears. It wouldn’t do for him to find her crying. She turned towards Patat as Wyny turned towards her. A silence ruled for a while. Nadec kept on blinking, but to no avail. A few drops found their way down her cheeks. 

‘So,’ she said, glad to hear her voice not betrayer, ‘this is quite something, isn’t it. What a messy situation.’ She choked out a laugh. It must’ve been on the side of the tears, because Wyny grabbed her shoulders and turned her towards her. Bloody treacherous body.

‘Why do you cry?’ The genuinity of the question—and sheer classic male ignorance—made her eyes tear up even more. Dear, poor, innocent man.

‘You trust me,’ she said, her voice thinner and more fragile than she’d have liked. She couldn’t make herself look into his eyes. ‘Even knowing who I am, what my bloodline is, what I can do to your position, you still trust me?’

‘Oh Nadec,’ for a second it seemed as if he wanted to hug her, but his eyes flickered towards the guards. ‘Of course I do. The time with you, even in the situation we were in, was the best I had in years, perhaps ever.’ He cleared his throat. ‘ I do not know if you feel it, but,’ he cleared his throat again, ‘from the first day I have felt something, perhaps a special connection to you. I have never felt that for anyone. I trust you with all my heart.’

‘That’s because we’ve both been naked in a forest together, silly, and have fought a monster and been in peril. That creates bonds. It doesn’t mean anything more.’ Balls,  did she have to sound so petulant.

‘No, it is not that. But either way, enough about that.’ He let go of her shoulders, and Nadec took the opportunity to wipe her cheeks. At least those damn tears had stopped trickling out. Silly, silly man.

‘We have so much to talk about, but we can not do it here. This gorwak is your friend? I will need that story, as I do many others. No time now.’ Frustration got through his words and posture. ‘The ruckus of the builders woke me up—they managed to collapse a whole wall—enough to get up to investigate. It may have been partly my fault, I suppose, perhaps I should not have left them to their own.’

‘Talk to the woman,’ Nadec interjected, ‘she seems to be the better of the two.’ She chuckled. ‘But, to be fair, you should probably talk to me first, because without knowing how it works, your builders may not figure it out.’

He smiled back at her. ‘You are probably right. I can—no, I can not. None of this matters either way.’ He glanced at his guard, lowered his voice and leaned closer to her. ‘This castle belongs to you, not me. I will let the builders continue but it is merely a pretense. I want you to have what you deserve, your family right.’ He shook his head. ‘This is yours, not mine, and I am ready to relinquish it. But, as you already know, there are those who stand behind me, who forced me into this position too. They would never let me do what I want. I will do what I can do go against them. But you, you will have to stay alive. Please, Nadec, please stay alive. I need you to stay alive, and not only because the throne, which I never wanted in the first place, belongs to you.’ He lifted his hand, but halfway up to her face dropped it again. ‘You should have told me who you truly are when we first met, it may have made a difference.’

‘I didn’t know,’ Nadec whispered, blinking her treacherous eyes again while treasonous tears trickled down once more. Balls, she hadn’t cried as much in the last years as in the past few weeks. ‘I’ll stay alive, I promise. I should go now. Please take care of my friend. Patat, I’m so sorry for using you for my own gain, I could free you right now, just say the word.’

‘No kid,’ his black, liquid eyes held a tenderness she hadn’t seen before in him, ‘You burning do what you burning have to do. I dripping stand behind you. I also trust you with my grounding life. I will burning see you in a few days, don’t dripping worry about me.’

That was too much for Nadec. She flung her halberd on her back [make her do this earlier], she felt the uncontrollable sobs starts from deep within her. She wouldn’t release them, not yet, so she held her breath and bent though her knees. Her whispered thank you still hung in the air as she Skipped away. 

Nadec ch 46 Caught

Previously: With Wyny’s grandmother as the head of the Truth Companions, Nadec gained their full support after proving who she is. They use the rest of the evening to talk about ways to help Nadec with the prophecy, which they still believe is real. Nadec also gained a second servant.

Read all the previous chapters here.

ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters, awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The throne room stood empty. Nadec glared at it from in between the columns at the side. Patat was gone. Where had they taken him? She looked around to make sure no one was in the room, and stepped out to the center. A faint outline of Patat’s cage still marked where it had stood. It must’ve only happened. 

Balls. She’d only left the Wobbly Wine Glass twenty minutes before, when the meeting had ended. It had proven to be a good idea to go. She had gained more loyalists, and had more accomplishes to help make the prophecy come true. She’d skipped straight from the inn to her own room. She’d asked her inn keeper to take Meralda with him and give her a room. Nadec expected for things to have changed when she returned to the inn later tonight. Despite her urging the inn keeper not to change her rooms, he would definitely be doing other things. Hopefully Melia can keep an eye on everything. She wouldn’t want Kitty to get lost because of that silly man.

Where had Patat gone? If only she was a sniffer dog, she could sniff and find Patat easily. No such chance. Perhaps one of the Lines she’ll get upon receiving the Crown enabled her to do something like that. 

‘He is gone. You won’t get anymore one on one time with him.’

Nadec stiffened. Ther harsh [whatever description i gave it before] voice of Jodec was unmistakable in Nadec’s ears now. Without turning around for the source of the voice, she bent though her knees and began the Skipping process.

‘Ah, hah, aaah, none of that now.’

Her feet got swepped away from under her. She fell hard on her hip, bringing her an invuluntarily grunt. Knees dug into her back, forcing her on her belly. Before she knew what happened, her hands were tied behind her back and she got lifted on her feet. Jodec stood in front of her. She glared at him. Then she glared at the man who held her. She annoyed herself by noticing the man’s good looks. [damnit], can you not do this right now, nadec]

‘So you have been coming here every evening, hah. Sneaky little cousin of mine. Very daring too, hah, very daring indeed, surrounded by people who are looking for you. No more. You little friend gorwak is hidden away now. But I’m not a bad person. I will let you talk to him one last time. Don’t get anything in your smart little head. We will move him around daily, hah. You won’t get the change to Skip to him again. Come on. 

The gorwak squeezed the back of her neck, guiding her along to follow Jodec. Patat betrayed her? Did Patat betray her? How else had her uncle known about her coming here? Something else he said made her scrunch up her brows. Did he mean to let her go? It somehow felt like that was exactly his intention. 

No one spoke as they walked. Nadec tried to keep track of where they went, but the castle’s hallway soon all became part of a labyrinth in her mind. At one point, they passed an area where the castle was in a mess. It looked like a construction site. She heard two people arguing against each other, shouting loud enough to be heard throughout the hallway, even though they were in a room. 

‘This is how Lord Pagewyn wants it, see, this is how he explained. Come on, you were there as well when he said what it looked like.’ A high-pitched female voice yelled.

‘Water sprinkling out of a round metal device sprouting from the wall. Does that sound reasonable to you? The Lord had been going through a lot, we can be safe to assume he might have been imagining things.’ The male voice didn’t shout, but was loud enough by itself.

‘Imagining things?!’ The female voice sputtered. ‘We have been through this before, it is the same thing every night. If you didn’t insist on working at night, we could’ve scheduled time with him again and discusssed it all anew. Instead, we’ve been wasting our time…’

Nade coudln’t hear anymore as they turned yet another corner. So Wyny wanted to install showers in the castle? Nadec guffawed aloud, earning an angry stare from Jodec. The zlurp gave her neck an extra squeeze, hard enough to make Nadec grunt. She still thought about the workers trying to invent showers without knowing what they were. The more Nadec thought about it, the more hilarious she found it. Occasional giggles found her way out, and the more she tried to contain it, the more she needed to laugh. 

‘I am not doing this anymore like this. I am going to bed, and tomorrow we will do it my way, and we will listen to Lord Pagewyn again.’ 

The voice brok out from behind them, followed by a door slamming and the obvious sound of the whole doorway collapsing. 

That was the last straw for Nadec. Her laughter couldn’t be contained any longer. Tears streamed over her face as she gasped for air in between laughs. The zlurp tried to shake her out of it but it only made her howl more. Jodec growled at her several times to be quiet. With every growl, she managed a second of silence before snorting her way back into full out laughter. Nadec could almost swear she saw the corners of Jodecs mouth tug upwards. Laughter like that was contageous after all.

‘Keep her quiet,’ Jodec grumbled towards the zlurp. ‘No sound in the next area.’

No sound in the n—? The zlurp turned her face into its big belly. Her nose crunched slightly as it got squished. Her whole face felt sucked into the blubber. She couldn’t breathe. As the last of her laughter died, the shakes of giggles were indistinguishable from the trembles to fight against a lack of oxygen. She passed out.

The collision against the hard floor shocked her awake. She blinked as she heard Patat demand: ‘what have you done to her? If you’ve hurt her, I’ll’

‘You’ll what, ‘tat? You are not in any position to do anything. Hah, do not worry about your little princess, she merely had to be contained for a little bit while we walked passed Lord Pagewyn’s quarters. We did not want to wake him up with her laughter now, did we? Hah. There, see, she is awake. You can talk to her one last time. Then you say your goodbyes.’

Nadec struggled to stand up. The front of her head throbbed, a side effect from passing out, as she’d already knew from the past. Once she managed to finally stand, she glared at the zlurp, pulled a face at it’s ugliness. She moved her glare over to her uncle, and let it rest on Patat. The gorwak was still in the same cage. He flew a step backward at her look.

‘What’s that for?’ he demanded.

‘You told him about our meetings?’ She wanted to make it sound accusitory, but it came out sounding more hurt.

‘That’s nonsense, of course I didn’t do such thing. Did he say that to you?’ Patat turned towards Jodec. ‘I know I don’t know who you are anymore, but I never took you to be a full-out liar, not even now. Nadec, think about it, why would I’ve betrayed you? You know I wouldn’t’

The more he spoke, the more guilty she felt. She hadn’t believed him doing it, and certainly didn’t now.

‘Hah, very cute seeing you together. You have five minutes to talk.’

Jodec signaled to the zlurp, but it only stared at him vacantly, obviously not understanding what the gesture meant. ‘Step aside, you towering ugly rock. She won’t run. Isn’t that right, cousin?’ After a reluctant nod from Nadec, jaws clenched and lips pressed together, he uttered a satisfied ‘hah’. The zlurp took a few steps to stand next to Jodec, who grimaced almost inpereptibly, and shuffled aside a bit.

‘What’s the deal with those zlurps,’ Nadec asked him. ‘I never heard of them before meeting the one in the forest. Did you take xlurps and do something with them? How did you make them speak?’

‘Do you really want to use your five minutes to talk about these abominations? It’s only four now, hah.’

Nadec grunted. Frankdamn, he was right. She turned to Patat, who perked up. He didn’t look too good. the wings had lost their iridiscence, and his slimy skin showed incositencies, mottled spots of [not-shiny] areas covering where there were rainbows before. Nadec stepped closer to him.

‘What’s wrong with you? I mean, besides being locked up, but why is that causing your looks to change?’

‘It’s flaming nothing kid. I’m burning moulting soon, it is just a very [awkward] coincidence. Close you flaming mouth, you look like a burning fish.’ The familiar quip combined with his lopsided grin set her at ease, somewhat. ‘I should be burning done with this in a week’s time. If I’m burning still alive in a flaming week.’ His black, liquid eyes flickered towards Jodec.

‘You will, ‘Tat, don’t you worry about that,’ Nadec’s uncle said gruffly, almost relucytantly.

‘I won’t let them kill you,’ Nadec whispered on top of him. ‘No matter what.’ She lowered her voice even more, hoping it was silent enough so Jodec couldn’t hear her. ‘Do you remember what I told you about the plan? Good. I wasn’t sure if you’d heard me, you weren’t very responsive.’

‘About that, I’m bloody sorry. What burning Jodec had told me, still [annoys] me. No time to flaming talk about that now. I grounding remember the plan, and I’m flaming so ready for it. How did Blackie burning do today?’

‘It was perfect.’ Nadec smiled. ‘People are in awe of the appearence of the dragon, and I’ve heard whispers of many looking forward to the next appearance tomorrow.’

‘Enough whispering, hah. Time’s up, let’s go.’

‘No,’ Nadec burst out, ‘that can’t have been five minutes already.

‘What in the names of the Lines is happening here?’ A new voice shouted out. Everyone stopped moving.

The zlurp blocked Nadec’s view, but her heart froze in her chest for a moment, replaced by flutters. It seemed she had been knocked out for no reason. Wyny was awake after all.

Nadec ch 45 A Second Servant

Previously: Nadec and Melia walked into a meeting by the people opposing the Order of the End. After introductions, the person leading them says she is Wyny’s grandmother.

Read all the previous chapters here.

ps: this is the real and raw first draft, including spelling and grammar mistakes, unnamed characters, awkward bits, … If you’d prefer to read a slightly better version, I can suggest going to the podcast section, where the transcripts are. Or you can read the complete 2nd draft version in it’s totality (hey, it’s over 70k words now, a proper novel, weeee!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 ‘Wy— Pagewyn is your grandson, and you’re opposing him, in secret?’

Nadec couldn’t help keep the incredulity out of her voice. She busied herself shortening the halberd’s shaft, placing it on her back, and removing the [thing]. Rieatta didn’t say anything, which made Nadec feel even more awkward. All those eyes staring at her. Balls. It wasn’t until Nadec looked around at a place to sit and put the halberd, Rieatta pointed towards two empty chairs at the head of the long table. Melia had already found a chair against the wall, where a few other—presumably—servants, sat.

‘It is hardly a secret,’ the older woman barked a laugh as she sat herself next to Nadec. ‘My grandson knows well enough I’ve never agreed with the Order of the End, and he should have never accepted the throne. But he—‘

The door flew open. All heads swirled aside to look at the barwoman standing in the doorway, slightly shrinking in on herself. She held a large [plate] of pitchers and cups.

‘What are you doing, Meralda?’ The voice came from one of the men at the table. Nadec tried to recall his name but failed miserably. Something with Keedy, Beleeny, Veleeny? 

‘I’m, I’m only bringing more drinks, for the new arrivals,’ she nodded her head towards Nadec, almost tried to curtsy while stepping towards the table, but nearly lost the balance of the pitchers on the [plate]. Her face, already blushing from the attention, turned a shade redder. ‘I couldn’t hold this [plate] with only one hand, so opening the door wasn’t easy. Sorry if I frightened you.’ 

She looked at Nadec as she spoke. Her eyes didn’t seem to be able to look away from Nadec. A big sigh escaped her lips when she managed to put the pitchers down on the table. Before the sigh ended, she was on the floor on one knee, hands on top of her other one, head bowed in front of Nadec. Here we go again, Nadec thought. 

‘My dear princess Ichau, can I please swear my fealty to you? Because I do swear it. Fealty, I mean. I swear it know, I will be loyal to you. And can I please also apply for work at the royal court, I can—‘

‘Meralda!’ The same man as before now jumped to his feet. His face betrayed a mixture of embarrasmnet and anger. Meelan, Breelan, Veleenan?

‘I’m sorry, Bronsom,’ Really, Nadec though, that’s not even close to my options, ‘I am really grateful for you to give me the opportunity here, but If I can improve… My lady, please, I have five years of experience working as a servant and pourinf drinks, helping the chef. Do you kow how versatile being a bar woman is? I promis there are many good skills you could use, and—‘

‘That’s enough,’ Riealla’s voice cut the woman off. ‘Did you truly barge into a meeting of us to harrass the future queen for work? Leaving the door open in the process, so all the patrons can look in and see, and hear what you’re doing. This is supposed to be a secret, and I am certain our lady Ichau would like to keep her presence secret still for the moment.’

Meralda shrank back further from every word until she sat on her arse, her face no longer red. Instead, a pale tinge had replaced it. 

‘Oh, no, my Lady O’Elope, it is not like that. I have sent the patrons away for the night and closed the inn.’

‘You what?’ Yelled Bronsany. Nadec cursed softly. She forgot his name again.

‘I… just… yes… but… oh.’ Meralda hung her head and mumbled: ‘I got so excited when I heard lady princess Ichau say who she was, I could not possibly not do anything at all. I am sorry, it was a mistake, I suppose.’

‘You square sure it was a mistake. Go pack your bags, girl, this was strike three. I don’t need you here anymore.’

Meralda’s eyes filled with tears, and she picked herself up from the floor. That Breensy fellow was certainly an angry one. The poor woman kept her head down as she made her way out of the room. 

‘Hold on,’ Nadec commanded, surprised at the way her voice sounded. She’d have to try and reproduce it, this was the good queen voice. Meralda stopped, but didn’t turn around. Instead, she hunched her shoulders forward even more.

‘I believe I can use another servant, what do you think Melia?’

Nadec turned to look at Melia, who nodded with a smile and glistening eyes. 

‘That’s it then. Meralda, I hereby apoint you the duty of official servant to me. Go get your things and join Melia there against the wall. Thank you.’

Meralda did turn around then, a hopeful expression transforming the tears of sadness into tears of glee.

‘Go on,’ Nadec waved a hand to urge her along. She addressed the companions again. ‘Now, where were we? I believe you were about to tell me why you oppose your own grandson, Riealla?’

The old woman gave a dignified nod, the corners of her mouth turned upwards.

‘Yes, so I was. He himself never agreed with the values of the Order of the End. But when your parents disappeared, the kingdom was without a ruler for the first time in hundreds of years, perhaps even thousands. Several families pushed their candidates forward, and Lord Pagewyn was one of them. With the difference that the order stood behind him, and not the other candidates. Only two weeks later, Lord Pagewyn was inaugurated. We believe it had been the Order’s intention all along. We also believe, and I am sorry to say this, that the order was behind your parent’s dissapearance.’

‘That,’ Nadec said, ‘doesn’t sound like a surprise to me [check if she knows]. But you keep saying disappearance, don’t you mean death?’

‘We have never found any proof of death. So we keep the hope they are still alive somewhere. The day we discovered they had a child, and she would be Water Crown Age a few years later, was the best day since the news of their disappearnce. Your aunt and uncle did a great job of keeping it secret, but we have good people among us.’

‘Wait, you knew about them? I thought even their own existence was supposed to be unknown?’

‘Yes, they would like to think that.’ Rieatta’s smile deepened. ‘I am still fascinated by how they truly believed no one would discover the queen’s own sister living closeby the city. Did they believe no one would be watching them?’

‘Did you know my uncle, the long-lost brother, Jodec, is still alive?’ Nadec asked.

Gasps and murmurs rose around the table. Rieatta smile melted. Balls, Nadec thought, I suppose they didn’t know this one.

‘Jodec lives?’ Rietta’s voice trembled, but Nadec couldn’t be certain from which emotion. She laid a hand on Nadec’s arm. ‘Please, how can you know of this? Are you certain, is this true?’

‘It is,’ Nadec said slowly. She hadn’t expected such a strong reaction. ‘He’s part of the ones from the Order who’s been trying to kill me. And I’ve seen him do his camouflage thing, and Skipping.’ Nadec frowned. ‘I’m surprised you didn’t know, actually. I’m quite sure he openly walks around in the Order. I don’t know what position he has, but it seem fairly high. Since he’s in charge of finding and killing me,’ she ended wryly.

Rieatta’s grip on Nadec’s arm grew tighter with every word. In the end, all blood seemed drained from her face, and she gripped the edge of the table with her other hand. Nadec steadied her at the shoulders, staring at her in concern, looking for signs of a heart attack.

‘It’s been so long,’ the old woman finally said softly. ‘Fifty years since he dissapeared. I was…’ She blinked rapidly. ‘Was I eighteen when he disappeared? I believe so. We were, from a young age, meant to marry each other. They encouraged us since we were merely children. Marrying him would mean I would become the new Queen, once he received the crown. I didn’t realise that at my young age, and by the time I did, we were smitten for each other. It…’ Her eyes focussed on Nadec, and she looked around the room. 

Some of the faces looking back seemed sumpathetic, others embarrased. A few avoided her gaze when it swept over them. Rieatta cleared her throat. She let go over the table and Nadec. Nodded her thanks for the support, and straightened her back again.

‘So he’s trying to kill you, is he? That’s not very smart of him. He should know better. I see the Order has corrupted his mind, as it does to everyone. Square! Such a vile organisation. As if we didn’t have incentive enough already to stop them.’ She eyed Nadec sideways. ‘With your help, we will be able to execute some plans we had. And of course, we can help you make the prophecy reality. We are not certain where that prophecy had sprouted from all of a sudden, but we do know it will need to come true, all of it, to get the people on your side. It doesn’t hurt to help it a bit, does it?’

Nadec smiled a sly smile back. ‘No, it certainly doesn’t hurt,’ she said. She thought about telling them where the prophecy had come from, and that it’s really a fake, but she wanted to give these people some real hope. They’d done enough good things to help her cause, and Nadec knew they’d be doing much more, if what Rieatta said was true.

Nadec ch 44 The Wobbly Wine Glass

Previously: After making certain Blackie was safe from her perch atop the tower, Nadec and Ayba made their way out of the public eye. Ayba mentioned a meeting to Nadec, apparently there were people opposing the Order of the End.

Read all the previous chapters here.

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The inn’s sign moved in the light breeze like the name it depicted; The Wobbly Wine Glass. 

‘This is it,’ Nadec said to Melia. ‘Are you ready for this’?

Melia gave her a tight smile. ‘I believe the question is if you are ready for this? It is the question of how far you trust that Ayba woman, and her information. It could be a trap.’

Nadec rolled her eyes. Melia had said this before. The worst thing was, she could be right. The meeting they were about to intrude on could either be a bunch of people who would adore Nadec, or who would kill her at the first opportunity. 

However, Nadec chose to believe Ayba, and squashed the small pit of uncertainty down again. She would act like the queen she was supposed to become. She felt half-ready for her first performance in front of an audience.

‘I got this.’ She opened the door.

The uncovered candles of the plain chandelier in the middle of the common room flickered with the gust of wind as she and Melia stepped inside. Being nowhere near the Square Market, the inn didn’t have many patrons. That in itself wouldn’t have accounted for the low attendance, but its location was outside of the four-district. 

Apparently, although the festivities were celebrated everywhere in the city, centering mostly around the Markets, the area called the four-district was the most popular. It was the section of the city in between the four-cornered walls and the three cornered walls where the castle stood.  

Nadec counted 7 people, almost all spread about. A small group of three sat in a corner, playing a game of dice. Nadec felt out of place with the fancy dress she wore. She’d been astounded to hear the seamstress had already managed to finish one of the dresses Melia had ordered. When Nadec had asked how that was possible, Melia merely smiled and said mysteriously: ‘it’s a secret of the trade.’  

The serving woman—about Nadec’s age—stopped cleaning cups for a second when she looked up to them. She recovered and hid her astonishment quickly enough.

‘What can I help you with?’

‘We are here for a dive in history,’ Melia replied. 

The woman kept her smile, but Nadec saw it slip a bit. Despite that, she told them to follow her. She led them to a door at the side of the room, knocked twice and held it open for them, not even bothering to speak to the people inside first. Nadec and Melia shared a look before Nadec braced herself and walked in.

A person stood with her back turned towards the door. The other people—all seated—stared at Nadec, prompting the standing woman to follow their gazes and fixing Nadec with a hard stare. 

‘What is this? We did nt expect any strangers today. We were not warned of new members.’

Nadec pulled herself up, squared her shoulders, and lifted her chin. Flutters in her stomach almost prevented her from speaking, but she managed it without stuttering. 

‘I am Nadec Ichau, and I am your future Queen. The throne is taken from my parents, but I am here to reclaim it. In eight days, the Wooden Water Crown will fall on my head, and I heard you are the group of people who have been actively aiming to stop Pagewyn—or, really, the Order of the End—from getting it. You are my people.’

A gasp behind her preceded the sound of the closing door. For that matter, there were a few gasps in front of her too. Some of the people stared at her wide-eyed, others had an open disbelief painted across their faces.

The woman who was still standing, eventually spoke.

‘Nadec Ichau? So it is true, you are here in the city. What are you doing, child, you should not be here. Hide somewhere away from here and let it all happen in safety. Why risk your life?’

‘Would you want a Queen who’d rather cower and hide, or would you want one who isn’t afraid to fight for what she believes in? I can’t go and hide. I have a prophecy to fulfill and people to grow attached to me. This is what I have to do.’

The old woman nodded and showed a slight smile. Had this been a test? Nadec thought her heart would beat out of her chest and if she didn’t sit down soon, she’d surely pass out from the anxiety of having to appear confident.

‘Please, sit,’ said the woman, pointing towards a chair closeby, maybe her own chair. Nadec didn’t protest. It was all part of the confidence game. ‘wer are very pleased you could join us, and from the moment the prophecy dropped, we’d been hoping, no, dreaming, to have you find us. Now you are here. It is quite remarkable. I apologise, how rude of me, I should introduce everyone. I am name O’Elope, and I am the ‘leader’ of this fins group of name. 

Here we have ….’

She went through the whole room, pointing to everyone around the large table in turn. Nadec did her best to remember all the names and faces, but she knew it was a lost battle. she would not be able to. There were a few people she would remember. A tall and broad-shouldered fellow, although broad, his shoulder were hunched, as if he tried to hide. Good luck with a large figure like he had. Then there was a normal sized and fairly unnoticale man, somewhere in his forties if Nadec had to guess. She didn’t know what it was that drew her to him, but something abuo him tickled her mind. name said he had been in an unfortute accident about two years ago and lost all his family and his ability to speak. 

>Nadec reflected back on the woman’s name.It somehow sounded familiar. O’Eloper. Had she heard it mention somewhere, and in what context? She couldn’t put a finger on it. Name kept going around the room, and Nadec was  pleased to see there were more wome than men present.

One of the men was Nadec’s innkeeper! She hadn’t seen him when she first entered, feeling the blood pound in your head can do that, but now at the introduction, it was obvious.

‘So my aunt hadn’t been lying when she said you were a proud Ichau supporter,’ Nadec grinned at him. The man obviously didn’t know what to do, and ducked his head several times, stammering apologies for not knowing who she was, and if she wanted a larger room, and nonsense like that. Nadec couldn’t believe it. Was this what people would treat her as once they know who she was. All the grovelling and silliness? She tried to calm him down, but the more she talked to him, the more he seemed to panic. Perhapas he thought of all the times he’d given her the side-eye as she left the inn after a full day of not showing herself. 

Ignoring him was the best couse of action. Nadec turned to name, and commanded her to contonue. 

When she’d gone through the whole room, all thirteen names flowed together in Nadec’s mind. This wasn’t good. She’d have to practice tricks to begin remmemebring names and faces better, because she wouldn’t want to be known as the queen who didn’t care. 

‘Well then,’ name continued,’ if you really are who you say you are, I want to wish you a warm welcome to the [end opposition]. However, and I apologise to have to ask you this, I’m afraid we do need proof that you are the real heir.’

Nadec nodded. She expected this to happen. Forcing a smile on her face, she placed her hands on her knees and said: ‘I’ll be back.’

She Skipped to her room in the inn. She cuddled Kitty, and chuckled at the dazed expression on the cat’s face. ‘Sorry buddy, you go back to sleep now.’ She kneeled in front of her bed, placed a smooch on his forehead and gave him one last stroke. Bending further down to the floor, she reached under the bed and retrieved her halberd. It had been two days since she’d held it last. The comforting weight in her hands lifted her heart. The dress didn’t hinder her when strapping the thing on her back. Melia reminded herself to give Melia an extra thanks. Somehow she had managed to convey certain things to the seamstress to help Nadec in Skipping and with the halberd. Nadec wondered what other practicalities the dress hid. 

Reappearing in the other room, it was clear the people had been discussing things. They quieted immediately. Melia would have pretended not to listen, but in reality would’ve paid extra attention to who said what. It may be important to remember who showed immediate faithfulness, and who doubted it all. 

‘Is this…’ 

Name stepped up to Nadec, who had removed her halberd from the thing and held it our for all to see, the pole fully extended. 

‘Powerpooped weapon.’ Nadec finished the woman’s sentence. 

Wiping her cheek, the woman looked each of her companions in the eyes. She turned back towards Nadec, gingerly touching the halberd. Using it as a support, she knelt on one knee. In a voice clear and strong, but trmbling slighly from emotion, she spoke.

‘My future Queen Nadec Ichau. I have always and will always be faithful to the Ichau-line. I hereby swear to follow you in all things, and uphold the values you treasure. Here for ever and eternity, that I swear, name O’Elope.’

Two words in, other voices had joined her. When Nadec took her eyes away from the wondrous sight of an old woman swearing fealthy to her, she saw everyone had kneeled and spoke the same words. Her following had just quadruppled. 

That name still tickled something in the back of her mind. As Nadec helped the woman up, she asked: ‘Your family name sounds familiar. Excuse me for asking, but would you maybe know why it does so.’

Name’s eyes had a twinkle in them, not only caused by the remnants of the earlier tears.

‘Of course. I believe I do know why you may have heard of it. I do not know how long you’ve been in the city, nor how much you know, but you did mention Lord Pagewyn before. So you are familiar with him, the one who sits where you should sit.’

At the mention of Wyny’s name, it all clicked in place. Name didn’t notice Nadec had figured it out and continued her talking.

‘Lord Pagewyn is my grandson.’