So my little crazy plan worked. I’m still not entirely sure how, but letting Patat slap me guided me in the right direction. We skipped to the room I always enter in my employer’s building. At that time, I still wasn’t sure whether it was a castle, a massive building, or merely a collection of separate towers. I left Blackie and Patat upstairs–Blackie was stuck anyway–and walked down to the bottom level. I’d never been through the door in front of me. Surely it would be locked? I turned the know anyway. *creaking sound*
[Music in background]
This is Nadec, my adventure. Written down in a better way than I can tell it.
[Music louder and solo]
Episode 25: the order of the red knight
Kitty meowed on Nadec’s shoulders as she and her company of cat, dragon and gorwak, appeared in the entrance hall of her employers. It wasn’t really the building’s entrance hall, but she entered that room every time she skipped there. She’d never been through the real main entrance.
With another meow, Kitty hopped off her shoulders and strolled over to Blackie. He gave the dragon two headbuts against the claw, before flopping down to wash his belly.
‘Odd. Queasy bit. Fine but. ’
Blackie didn’t look as at ease as Kitty did. No wonder. If she was nauseous like she just said, her position wouldn’t help with feeling good. Her long neck caused her head to be squashed up against the ceiling, where it came together in a tip. The circular room was not made for a dragon.
Patat shook his head. The orange morning light—first light of the day—coming through the plain, blurred window made his wings looks like a mesmerising, iridescent sunrise. Wherever they had been before, it must have been a distance from here. Enough to go back a few hours. Nadec cursed.
‘You might be stuck here, Blackie. I’m sorry, I should’ve thought of that.’
The window wasn’t large enough for the beast, and the spiral stairs were certainly not an option. Blackie replied by winking at her. She could probably break through the wall if she wanted to.
‘Stay put, let me see if I can find anyone.’ She glanced towards Patat.
‘Skipping can be brutal the first times, you should feel fine again soon.’
‘Kid, this is not the grounding first time I burning skipped along. I’ll be dripping fine.’
She acknowledged him with a grunt and poked at Blackie’s ass, making her shuffle aside enough to walk down the stairs. A flutter of butterflies stirred in her belly. Previous times, she’d always been invited. At this moment she felt like a trespasser. How would they react? She knocked down the small pit of doubt, the sliver of mistrust. They couldn’t have been behind the attacks on her life.
A brush of Kitty against one of her ankles brought her back from the self-doubt.
‘Alright buddy, you can come.’ She grabbed his lead.
The next level of the tower had a high ceiling as well. Nadec had never been to any castle—or large manor—with a tower layout like this. It didn’t make much sense. The spiraled stairs went right through the middle of the floor and ceiling. A simple wooden balustrade on the floor had a small gate to prevent one from accidentally falling down. It amused Nadec as the stairs themselves had no protection on the outside; if she misstepped, she could fall off. At least in this room her fall could be cushioned by the plain plush carpet lining the entire floor. The familiar room looked the same as ever, with a table and a narrow, unmade bed, the walls bare. This was where she’d always been given food and a chance to rest, should she need it.
She went further down. The bottom room, at the end of the stairs, was only illuminated by the light coming from the stairs above and the slit under the door in front of her. She’d checked out this room before. It was nothing but some sort of storage space. She stepped towards the door.
A deep breath in. And out. She’d never been through it. Her employers had asked her—not forbidden her—to respect their boundaries, and Nadec had never even thought of breaking her promise. It would probably be locked anyway. Silly girl—she pushed through her trepidation and turned the knob—too trusting towards people.
The door wasn’t locked. She forcibly stopped talking herself down. An old habit she still sometimes struggled with. She set her jaw. She was a confident woman and her employers were going to reveal all of their secrets. No more miss nice gal. Enough had happened to her lately. Besides, she had a dragon in the room above. Perhaps she could use that as a threat.
A huge room revealed itself behind the door, stretching two levels—the ground floor and the first level. There was no doubt; this was the real entry hall. Nadec stood on the first floor, at the end of the open, balustraded hallway which went almost all the way around. She guessed she must’ve been above the entry doors. That was odd. Did it mean the tower was actually halfway at the front of this building—mansion or castle?
The opposite end of the hallway stopped where the wide stairs started, in the corner, across the hall to her right. Those wide stairs went along the wall, turned the corner, and stopped nearly aligned underneath where her end of the hallway hung. Since there was no other way to go, she turned left to follow the walkway.
She only had to take a few steps to get to its first corner. She ignored the shut door in front of her and turned right. After another right turn, she was on the last stretch towards the stairs. She passed another door; this one ajar. Curiosity won. A quick look into the room revealed it to be a master bedroom, with large canopied bed as the eyecatcher. It was gorgeous.
A side-room of the bedroom appeared to be a combination of washing room with a basin on a vanity, a tub in the middle, and a dressing room. There was a walk-in closet at the far end. There, a large, beautiful stand-up mirror caught her eye.
She didn’t care much for her own image. Pulling a face, she shook her head at the bad fit of her ugly clothes. The trousers did not flatter her wide hips at all. Frowning at herself again while trying to wipe away smears of dirt, she embraced the thought of ugly clothes being better than walking around naked.
A smell invaded all her other thoughts, leaving nothing but a rumbling stomach. Hot food.
As she stalked down, she froze midway. Voices floated up. Balls. She barely registered the paintings hanging from the wall. Still, they tickled something in the back of her mind. She ignored it. The butterflies in her stomach were out of control now.
At the bottom of the stairs, her earlier guess proved right. The heavy double door to her left sat underneath the walkway spot where she’d emerged from the tower. She put her back towards the doors, which made her look straight into another room. There they were.
She could see them sitting at a table, eating. It wasn’t what she expected. She’d assumed this to be an organisation, with many people at the head, and many others like herself. This building wasn’t a large headquarters. It was a home.
Nadec pushed through her hesitation and continued towards them, her footfall dampened by the lush carpets. They weren’t wearing the rich, hooded robes they normally wore. Instead, their clothes looked as if they belong somewhere in the seventeenth century. Or earlier or later—Nadec didn’t know enough of old fashion styles to pinpoint the correct era. It could’ve been a combination of several different styles, this wasn’t Earth after all.
It was the first time seeing their faces. The woman looked familiar. The conversation stopped. Nadec focused back on them, her thoughts had been dwelling on what was so familiar about the woman’s face, who looked straight at Nadec now, jaw slack, eyes wide. Nadec imitated the expression. Her mom. The woman’s face looked like her mom’s.
The woman jumped up, and ran around the table, her chair hitting the ground as she closed the distance. Nadec’s reaction was slow. Before she could step back, the woman embraced her in a tight hug.
‘You’re alive, praise the Squares, you’re alive.’
She was sobbing. Nadec’s arms moved to push her away. They hugged the woman back instead. It had been too long since she’d had a hug like this. She violently repressed the memory of Wyny in the cave. That embrace didn’t count, not anymore.
The man gently took the woman by the shoulders, pulling her away. Something stirred in Nadec’s chest.
‘Come Kridec, let’s give her some room. Nadec, sit, please. Are you hungry?’
He motioned towards the table. As Nadec sat down, she noticed a servant standing at the side, who walked away after the man whispered something. Kitty jumped on Nadec’s lap. She stroked him with intent, glad to have him to hold her steady.
‘Kridec?’ Nadec’s voice croaked. ‘That sounds a lot like my name. Is that coincidence?’ She sipped the water they’d put in front of her. At least, she’d intended to sip it, instead, she downed the whole cup in one go. And the next two refills. She let Kitty have a drink too.
The servant came back with a bowl of something hot. Nadec’s stomach growled again with the smell of the lentil soup. Soup as breakfast was one of the best meals.
Kridec glanced at the man. She took a deep breath as he nodded.
‘It is time we tell her.’ There was a soothing quality to his deep voice.
‘You’ve only ever known us as your employers, from the Order of the Red Knight.’ Her eyes rested on Nadec’s, searching for something. They still dripped soft tears.
‘That was a lie. There is no such thing as Red Knights. There is no Order. We,’ she hesitated, glancing at the man. He grabbed her hand and gave it a little squeeze, ‘made that up, to protect you.’
Nadec resumed spooning soup to her mouth, using it as a distraction. Doing everything she could to keep the anger at bay. It was difficult.
‘We are your family.’ The man jumped in, as the woman had choked on her next words. ‘Kridec is your aunt, she’s your mother’s older sister.’
The spoon stopped right in front of nadec’s mouth. Her hand trembled hard enough to spill most of the soup over the sides. She dropped it back in the bowl.
‘Keep on talking.’
‘Thank you for listening to Nadec, episode 25: the order of the red knight
Narrated, adventured and lived through by myself, Nadec. Written in a better way than I can tell it, by Astrid Jef.
Don’t go just yet, we’ve got bloopers coming up. [music on background] Find us on Twitter @astridjef and @nadecandkitty.
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