Chapter 17: SPRINGBOROUGH CLOSING
When the pirate, his captain, a giant with a pile of bones wrapped in a pirate handkerchief, a bear, and a girl who sees dead people entered the Great Hall of the castle through the double, large oak doors, they came upon a crowd. Up by the throne were the only two children missing from the original five, a reddish-blonde haired, freshly-minted ruler, and his sister, a princess, who never wanted to be in charge and deal with all the problems before them. For in this Great Hall, a crowd of villagers were all shouting to be heard, but none of them took the time to allow anyone to listen, let alone the two young royals before them. The large commotion echoed off the walls, shook the flames of the torches, and made their plights almost deafening. The large amount of bodies, each permeating heat, made the room so hot one wondered if the torches for light could be expunged to maybe level out the temperature in the room.
Kyrstin, at first, tried to allow her brother Thomas to quiet the crowd. He stood there, waving about his hand that had the ring on it as if some mystical power was going to mute the complaints being hurled at him. Thomas, for his part, was somewhat hoping the commotion would awaken the dragon’s eye within the ring so, one- he could see the mystical sight himself, and two- perhaps the open eye carried with it such a power that could solve what was currently happening within the castle. Since their parents had gone on whatever journey they set forth on, the children had not had to deal with many visitors. This crowd of villagers was certainly a new situation to deal with.
“Quiet! Quiet, please!” Thomas shouted, but his voice got lost in the mix.
From what Kyrstin could tell, they were facing an epidemic of missing people. It seemed her grandmother and the witch weren’t the only people who had vanished in the past couple of days. Ever since the storm died, almost everyone had lost a family member or two. Everybody was trying to detail exactly the last time they saw their loved ones, and when one shouted one story, another shouted theirs, and sometimes they would see how similar they were and compare notes. Pretty soon, the whole Great Hall was one large, conversation branching off into many different parts. The community members that weren’t shouting up at the throne were talking amongst each other, and every time the door opened, Kyrstin saw more people waiting outside.
The situation was quickly going to get out control if they didn’t do anything.
But, nobody would listen.
“Silence!” Patrick’s voice boomed from the doorway, scaring even the people he was standing with. Jage looked up in shock as the voice quieted everybody, rattling the iron chandeliers and even seemingly putting out one of the flames of a torch. “Sorry,” he murmured out of the corner of his mouth to Juba who felt his heart stop and start again.
Juba tried to compose himself from the loud start. “Just didn’t expect it is all.”
The people in the Great Hall looked at the giant in fear,, because everybody knew that Patrick, the royal giant Prince, was banned from the castle under the caution that his extreme mass was enough to topple Springborough to the ground. And now that everybody was in the Great Hall, underneath the large stones that made up the ceiling of the room, why, a simple temper tantrum from this tall nine-year old could bury everyone alive. It didn’t help matters at all that he had a pet bear, and was carrying a collection of human bones in his hands.
“Well, that’s a grizzly sight,” a townsperson said, before adding, “no pun intended.”
But, with everybody standing silent in astonishment, Thomas could not take his chance to address the crowd.
“I hear you all. I hear that we have a problem with people gone missing in the town of Springborough after the storm.”
“My father has been missing since last night!”
“My mother walked off to try and find some tea leaves-“
“My mom hasn’t been seen since morning!”
And once these complaints came out, they all came out again. And the noise level increased. Thomas had once again lost the room, and Patrick grunted. Kyrstin held out her hand for Patrick to remain calm, for even she feared a sudden slamming down of his foot. They did not need one of the very large stones to dislodged from the ceiling and fall on top of one of their towns people. It seemed they had enough to worry about without that.
Thomas turned to his sister.
“What do we do?” he asked, himself at a complete loss.
“What would our mother or father do?” Kyrstin replied, herself having no answer, and knowing that that answer was not a very good one either. They had no idea what their parents would do. This never happened before.
“Should I tell them our parents are missing, too?”
“No. People presume they will be back any moment, and we must keep that up or we might have more problems to deal with.”
“More problems than this?” Thomas asked, thinking their current predicament felt like they were quickly losing control, and once they were completely at a loss, the downward spiral of it all would end with the end of the world.
“There’s always more problems than the ones you see, brother.”
Thomas turned to the crowd, seeing that the worry that the people had on their faces when they walked through the doors was stiffening into anger. They couldn’t be heard. They were once hopeful they would get an audience with the royal family, and they would be promised a group of guards to go and find their loved ones, and now it seemed more hopeless. They wouldn’t even get a personal response from the Prince, who seemed as overwhelmed by the situation as they felt. There was not going to be any calming reassurances. It was enough to make them want to throw things at the Prince, which they probably would have started doing, if a group of guards did not open the door at that precise moment and make their shining armor,and swords known.
The guards split up equally at the door, and twelve went one way, and a dozen the other way, with armor rattling, down the walls of the Great Hall and stood at attention facing the crowd. They had not unsheathed their swords, but they kept their hands on the handles, and were prepared for anything. At the start of all the commotion, Thomas had Corson begin to rally the troops. Even with the rallying, he expected many more bodies to be suited up. The last person to enter was Corson, helmet off. The crowd parted for him, and he walked through it toward the children, the commotion quieting down.
Thomas leaned down as Corson drew near so the two could talk as privately as possibly in the crowded room.
“There’s a couple more coming,” Corson whispered.
“Only a couple?” Thomas asked, seeing barely a fraction of his father’s forces.
“We’re missing a lot. Their huts were empty.”
“Where are they?”
As Thomas and Corson put their heads together, Kyrstin approached the end of the elevated flooring which set their parents thrones higher than the rest of the room, so that their father and mother could sit down but still look down on any visitors that the Great Hall should receive. It was easy to tell Patrick was approaching the back of the room, and behind him came the rest of the group, even the stranger that walked behind Jage who seemed to not fit in with anybody in the room; not the Quakenfalls duo, or the Springborough villagers, and especially not any of the workers of the castle, the armored guards or the put together house servants. Kyrstin wondered what the story was behind the newcomer, and assumed she would find out eventually.
Patrick stood to the side, his hand on Lucky the Bear’s head, leading him away from anybody he might presume to bite and eat. When one had a bear as a pet, one had to be extra cautious of such things.
Kyrstin looked at Brynn.
“You don’t mean to tell me you’re going back to your cliff now?” Kyrstin asked, pleadingly.
“No. Not yet, anyway. Although, it seems you have your hands full.”
“People are missing left and right. What do the spirits say?”
“Imagine all the people you have in the Great Hall and triple it, that is what I am seeing. There is great unrest in the land. All around Springborough, people are missing loved ones. The parents all seem to be gone.”
“Your parents are gone, too. As are ours.”
“I am hoping the reasons behind them are still the same.”
“Me, too,” Brynn agreed, wishing more and more that she could curl into her mother’s arms again, and just remember what it felt like to be a child, and protected. She felt ever since they went off, she has not been mentally rested. “The only good news I can bring is I do not see their spirits.” Brynn wanted to add a “yet”, but then again, she didn’t want to add a “yet” either.
It was getting harder to talk in private as the crowd had quieted down with the presence of the guards, and the giant, and the bear. And since it behooved the royal children to whisper conspiratorially with these newcomers, the people of Springborough wondered just why it was that these other children were able to find private council with the princess’s ear, and they had been there for awhile shouting to no avail.
“Save your playdates for another time!” A male spoke from the back.
Thomas stood up, trying very hard to not have his voice shake.
“The people of Springborough, I understand our people are going missing. This is of grave concern to my sister and I. And like a great problem, we must find an extraordinary solution. I have decided to shut the gates to Springborough. We no longer will allow people in and out of the walls until we find our people.”
“What?!” Kyrstin shouted back to her brother who looked at her with steel in his eyes.
“You didn’t want to be ruler, remember?” He said through his teeth, loud enough for Kyrstin to understand, but what would be a mumble to most of the room.
“What if our people are outside the walls?” A shout came from the crowd.
“We will send a scouting mission to find the rest. I will send a handful of guards outside of the walls to patrol and keep their eyes out for anybody that might have wandered off. These are troubling times, but rest assured we will do all we can to find our loved ones, and will not rest until they are safe, or until we find out what exactly happened to them.”
A guard broke off from the end of his line close to the doors, and snuck out when Thomas was finished. The crowd began to shout again, and this time, the royal children welcomed it, as it just seemed like a noise that could drown out their private conversation.
“The doors have never been shut before,” Kyrstin complained to her brother.
“I’m sure they were at one time,” Thomas responded.
“Not in any book I have read.”
“Have you read them all?”
“More than you.”
“And that matters none now, does it? Do any of the books talk of a time when anyone who could be considered a parent vanished into the night sky after a storm filled with evil spirits? Because if it did, go grab it- I’d love to know what to do in this situation.”
“There’s another situation developing,” Patrick said, referencing the bones in his hands.
“And another,” Jage said, referencing the strange pirate man in their presence.
“And another, and another, and another,” Thomas said. “This ring is useless, Kyrstin. I’d half a mind to take it off and give it to Corson-“
“That ring not being on a royal finger is what caused us all these problems. Don’t you dare take it off. Ever,” Kyrstin scolded her younger brother.
A great shout resounded from outside the castle, and the great doors of the Kingdom of Springborough, the doors that were three times the size of Patrick who was twice the size of a normal child, began to rumble shut.
Outside, four guards on each side of each door turned massive cranks in order to move the chains that linked to the doors. The chains had been gaining rust over the years, making everything harder than it needed to be, but once it got moving, once a couple townspeople came with a barrel of amber oil, and with buckets, and drenched the hinges which needed some lubrication, it seemed to help speed up the process. Dust and dirt and splinters of wood fell from the doors. Not only were the knights straining against the sheer size, but the bottom of the doors were pushing aside dirt that had collected in the way from decades of wind. More people came forth with small shovels to help move the sand aside, and with a collective effort, finally, the doors shut with a shuddering thud.
With an ax, a blacksmith cut at a small plank of wood that, once broken, released a large beam from its hold, and fell down, locking the doors shut. Springborough was officially closed. The only way someone could come in or out of the castle was up the unscalable walls, or when official word was given.
The people of the Great Hall, never seeing the doors close before, let their curiosity get the better of them, and headed outside to watch the spectacle. They shuffled their feet, nudged their elbows out, made sure people who were in their way got out of it, and they all emptied out into the street. It was very apparent this was a new day, and whether or not they noticed it, they were now imprisoned within their own city.
Inside the now much emptier Great Hall, the royal children, their new acquaintances and the guards stood.
“Your majesty,” Jage started, keeping his gaze firmly on Thomas even though he shifted a glance to Kyrstin too as he spoke. “I ask that you not send out too many of your guardsman to look for lost people.”
“And why is that, JJ?” Thomas asked, stepping down from the elevated floor to be on the same level as everyone else. Kyrstin stayed where she was by the thrones, which was more because she was lost in her own thoughts than anything else.
“This here is Daniel Juba who served as my first mate when we were on the waters of Cornwall. He is a villager of Fortis.”
“Fortis?” Thomas asked, and Corson raised his hand to the surrounding guards who immediately drew their swords. With a collective metal on metal, over twenty swords were now raised in the air ready to cut down Juba to size. The pirate immediately threw up his hands in surrender.
“No!” Jage exclaimed.
“Fortis took me hostage, Jage. They can’t be trusted.”
“Juba was with me when you were taken hostage. He had nothing to do with it.”
“His people had everything to do with it.”
“He’s here because of his people.”
“Speak!” Kyrstin shouted, her eyes trained firmly on the sailor who, for the second time this day, was ashen. All the color drained from his face in fear, and his forehead was covered in sweat. “For Heavens sake, tell us what you came here to tell us.”
Just like that, hands in the air, covered in sweat, voice shaking, surrounded by two dozen sharpened blades that could cut a man in half with minimal effort, Juba, the Pirate of the village of Fortis, told the royal children of Springborough, who, just moments ago had found out that a majority of their army was missing, to prepare for war.