Chapter 5: KYRSTIN'S KINGDOM
Princess Kyrstin woke up on this day with a new sense of vigor. There was something about giving up the responsibility of adulthood that made her feel so much more energized to be an adult. For the first time in a long while, Kyrstin’s feet hit the ground as soon as her eyes were open to greet the day. A day, she noted from her stretching position, that was filled with clear skies and golden sunshine instead of the horrible light-swallowing storm they endured yesterday. The storm that started right after her grandmother was killed by someone, and Lucky the Bear ate the ring off her finger.
The events of yesterday led to today’s resolutions to find some answers for Princess Kyrstin. She first went to the castle’s guest room where Brynn of Quakenfalls and her brother, who called himself a Sea Captain even though he was very young to be one, laid awake, looking at the ceiling. Both the blonde haired, blue eyed kids turned to the door when they heard it open, and Princess Kyrstin, dressed by her aides, stood there, tall and proud, and smiled at them. Being second-in-command seemed to have taken such a burden off her shoulders of which nobody would understood.
“Good morning. Did you two sleep well?” Kyrstin asked.
“Very well, thank you. This is the comfiest bed I have ever slept in,” Brynn replied.
“And, I’m just glad that the room isn’t bobbing up and down,” Jage responded from the chaise lounge.
“I was wondering if I could steal you for the morning, Brynn. There is so much to ask of my grandma, about her death, and it has been weighing on me.”
“I feel the Queen told us all she knew last night, which was, admittedly, very little,” Brynn said, already pulling herself out from under the sheets. Kyrstin was happy to see that this girl was just like her, a do’er. A go-getter, as her mother Queen Jenniffer, would say. Kyrstin heard of lazy children, and often chided Thomas for sleeping in.
Brynn gathered her clothes, the only pair she owned, for the day. As she began to put her clothes on, garments suitable for hunting and stalking through the woods, but Kyrstin doubted any guest of the castle had ever worn anything like those before. Before being fully assembled, Brynn’s brow grew curious and she stopped to smell the collar of her shirt, then the waist of it. They smelled different.
“I had them washed,” Kyrstin said. “The castle never sleeps, even when we do. Our house maids can move as silently as the wind. They’re trained to. So while we’re sleeping, this place is still abuzz with worker bees getting things in order.”
“We’re simple people. Not used to people doing things for us,” Brynn said.
“Speak for yourself,” Jage piped up. “I was a Captain. I had a crew of pirates at my command. I saw- ‘wash the deck!’ And they’d-“
“Tell you to bugger off, I bet,” Brynn interrupted.
“Yes. But, they’d still do it eventually,” Jage smiled.
Both the girls looked over to Jage, proud of himself with his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. The boy, looked so small laying there, his ankles crossed, his socks with holes in them. It just didn’t seem really fathomable that he could be a pirate captain. Kyrstin looked over to his sister, Brynn, who looked back at her, and rolled her eyes. Kyrstin smiled as sister/brother relationships seemed to be the same no matter whether one was a royal or an adventurer as she has come to think of these two as; adventurers not bound to any kingdom rules or village meetings.
For all extensive purposes, if the Lishens ruled Springborough, Jage and Brynn seemed to commandeer the world. They had already, seemingly, learned all about and therefore, in a word, conquered the Village of Fortis, Quakenfalls, and the waters of Cornwall in just a short amount of years. Kyrstin knew that the feeling between them was mutual. They must believe stumbling upon the friendship of the royal family was going to be beneficial for them, and the Princess knew finding such wild souls would also benefit her in the long run. She just didn’t know how with Jage, yet. But, Brynn was going to be plenty resourceful if she could deliver the guidance of the late Queen Grace.
“Let’s go,” Brynn said, slipping on her shoes, and putting her feet under her. She was at Kyrstin’s arm in a moment’s notice, and the two were out in the hall, filled with smiles and sighs and butterflies, at the promise of a new adventure in this new day.
“So,” Kyrstin began, “my grandmother yesterday told you that she did not see who killed her, or what had killed her. Did you ever see the cottage?”
Brynn shook her head no.
“You wouldn’t want to. It was filled with blood. Carnage. Absolutely horrible. I wouldn’t blame my grandmother’s spirit if it had fled without seeing what was done to her. But, I have to wonder, what kind of weapon would do that? If it was a sword, the signs would point to a man who killed her. That could have been a villager of Fortis, correct? Or a vagabond in the woods. Have you ever come across anybody else in those woods?”
“Nobody alive,” Brynn thought, thinking about her friend from the cliffs, Jimmy, who was a spirit now resigned to stay in the castle near his bones. “Speaking of which, what is to become of Jimmy?”
“Whatever he wants. I did send a scouting mission of guards to see if they could retrieve all of his bones. I think they took the bone your brother brought back with him.”
“I’m sure he’s having fun.”
“Or he’s frustrated because you are the only necromancer I know of, and so he can’t talk to the guards he now has to trail because they have a piece of him.”
Kyrstin learned yesterday that spirits reside close to the pieces of their body. Her grandma had to be somewhat close to her brother’s pet bear, because the bear accidentally ate some of her fingers that were covered in squashed blueberries. Jimmy was resigned to stay at Quakenfalls because he had accidentally walked off the cliff’s edge one foggy night, and his bones rested on the rocks below. It was only when Jage’s ship crashed on the rocks that he discovered one of Jimmy’s bones and absent-mindedly put it in his pocket, bringing it and the spirit of Jimmy back to the castle last night. And, according to Brynn, the closer the spirits were to their bones, the more clearly Brynn could see them. If they were far, they were invisible. There were a lot of rules of the afterlife Brynn was figuring out, and Kyrstin was just hearing of.
“So, vagabonds, as far as we’re aware of,” Kyrstin continued. “If not a sword, maybe some type of black magic. I asked that the witch of Springborough, Leila, be brought to us this morning.”
“You have a witch?” Brynn asked.
“Oh yes, Leila. Very beautiful. She’s not what you’re thinking, though. She doesn’t put spells and curses on people. She doesn’t boil live frogs or steal the tears of maidens. She’s more like a witch doctor. She heals burns with aloe plants. If you have an ache in your body, she can stick a pin in it. Also, her tea can wake the dead.”
Kyrstin stopped in her tracks, and Brynn did the same.
“I didn’t mean that literally. Although, I guess I should watch what I say now. I hope you didn’t find that insensitive,” Kyrstin said, looking over at Brynn. “I know the dead are your friends. It’s just an expression.”
Brynn laughed, “I wouldn’t say all the dead are my friends, your highness. I simply can see and hear them.”
“Good. I realize growing up in a castle can be sheltering, so if I ever offend you, I want you to let me know.”
“And, if it’s just us, you can call me Kyrstin. Or Princess, if you prefer. So many people call me Princess that it’s almost become a second first name. Around others, you have to address me by my royal nicknames, but that’s just so others don’t get offended for me, but in the privacy of our company, I would rather you look at me like a friend.”
Brynn nodded again, hiding a smile she felt underneath from ear-to-ear. Her first living friend, and it was a royal princess. Brynn never fancied herself as much of a talker, so to stumble upon a situation so great was very rewarding for her. The girls carried on to the Great Hall where the throne sat.
“Anyway, Leila the Witch can also give predictions of the future, and answer questions you might have. Apparently, when I stole my brother’s sword yesterday, it was Leila who told him where it was. She can help figure out who killed the Queen.”
Just then, Patrick opened the doors and almost had to duck into the Great Hall, with Lucky the Bear on his heels. Both Kyrstin and Brynn gasped at how much taller the youngest Prince had gotten. The bear now looked like a big dog coming up to Patrick’s waist instead of the great hulking beast that he already was. Kyrstin raised a hand to her mouth at the sight of her brother, but quickly tried to compose herself, because she didn’t know how rude it was to act almost frightened of her brother who stood almost double the height of the girls. With each step, the ground shook a little.
In Kyrstin’s defense, though, she was still sore from when Patrick hit her the night prior for trying to kill his pet. A simple swat for Patrick sent his sister sailing across the room, her back slamming against the wall, her vision going dark until she was awoken minutes later.
“Patrick! Look at you!” Kyrstin exclaimed, noticing for the first time that Patrick held a bundle of something in his hands, a bundle wrapped in a blanket that had seen better days.
“I’m a giant, Kyrstin. Didn’t you know?” Patrick retorted, with nine year old attitude.
It was castle rules that Prince Patrick wasn’t allowed in the Great Hall for fear his inner mass could bring the whole room down upon them, but Kyrstin couldn’t see any way for anyone to impose that rule on her brother. If anybody tried to stop him, she was sure he could move them just as easily as one could move aside a chair.
“What do you have there?” Kyrstin asked.
Patrick put the bundle down on the ground, and opened up the blanket to reveal a pile of bones. They looked ancient, covered in a dust that Kyrstin could only fear was dried up flesh and skin. Queen Jenniffer, her mother, would tell her the dust flakes she would watch in the rays of sun that came in through the windows were primarily the dry skin flaking off everyone’s body around them. When more people visited the castle, the young princess would notice the sun rays were filled with more floating debris. At any given time, anyone living was breathing in flecks of everyone’s dead skin. What was on these bones in front of them seemed like just giant chunks of that.
“Where did you find the bones?” Kyrstin asked.
“They were alive, in the corner of my barn, trying to attack Lucky and me. I smashed them with my fists.”
“Alive?” Kyrstin asked. She looked at her giant brother, at the tamed bear next to him, and then over to the girl who could see spirits. Almost everything in her mind told her that it was impossible for this pile of bones to have been alive moments ago, but there was the simple doubt that was telling her it wasn’t the craziest of things that could have happened in the last twenty four hours. “Do you see anything, Brynn? The spirit owner of these bones?”
Brynn looked around the Great Hall and shook her head.
Lucky the Bear grunted, as if speaking himself.
“It was evil,” Patrick said. “Hissing and everything. I had to kill it.”
The young Prince appeared sad about it.
Just then, through the castle doors Patrick had left open, Dominic, a castle guard Kyrstin had sent to find Leila, walked back in. He immediately did a double-take seeing Patrick the Royal Giant and Lucky the Bear, absolutely afraid of what stood before him. Lucky turned on a dime, roaring at the guardsman. Dominic chanced a side glance further down the Great Hall, seeing Princess Kyrstin and another girl he didn’t recognize. It was evident by his expression that he was expecting to walk into an empty room.
“Yo- your highness?” Dominic stammered.
“Patrick, we can’t have your bear roaring at everyone in the kingdom.”
“Our sign is an eagle, not a bear.”
“Sorry, sister. He’s just protective, and not used to people,” Patrick turned to Lucky. “No!” he chided, walking and hovering over Dominic. “No!” he said again, tapping with his finger Dominic’s armor, almost rocking the man from his feet with every tap. “People in armor, our friends,” Patrick said.
Kyrstin could tell that just the simple tapping of Patrick’s finger to Dominic’s breast plate would bruise the man. He grunted with every tap, looking as if someone was taking a large stick to him.
“Come here,” Patrick said, gripping the soldier’s arm, and tugging him toward the bear.
“Patrick, be careful. You about ripped his arm off.”
“Oh no, did I?” Patrick said, looking at the guard who was going white with sweat, pain and fear. Dominic wanted nothing more than to just leave from whence he came.
“It’s okay, your highness. I’ll deal.”
“I want to show my bear how non-threatening you are.”
Patrick planted the knight in front of the bear who didn’t look less threatened. Lucky simply stood there, staring at the guard, who tried not to look back.
“Friend,” Patrick stated, tapping the breast plate again. The giant reached over and stroked the bear’s fur again, trying to add another sense of comradely, if sight and sound had failed them. Lucky walked over, sniffing at Dominic whose face was fully clenched now, dripping sweat, and turning away. Patrick took the small helmet from Dominic’s hands, and put it on his head. “There you go, little buddy. Make you feel stronger?”
With the helmet on, the face shield down, everyone heard Dominic whimper as the bear ran its tongue over the eye slits.
“You bring news of Leila?” Kyrstin asked the guard, hoping to get an answer before the man passed out in fright.
“She wasn’t there. Neighbors said she walked off into the storm and didn’t return, your majesty,” Dominic replied.
Princess Kyrstin stood there, frustrated. Too many people were disappearing nowadays, and the one woman she thought that could help them hunt was now gone as well.