Chapter 8: THE TOWN OF SPRINGBOROUGH
Captain Jonathon James had no problem leaving the castle. He knew that it was getting into the castle that would be difficult, and that the castle didn’t often stop any visitors from leaving. In fact, the house maidens and servants of the castle probably preferred a quiet day to one in which they had to make sure no mal-intentioned people were about. The guards and people he passed in the hall gave him a look up and down, observing the fact that how the young boy was dressed was not typical for what people usually saw around the castle grounds. Even washed, his clothes looked dirty. They had been eaten by the salty wind of the sea, and torn from some of the rough winds. His shorts hung in tatters at his knees, and his shirt was loose upon his small frame. His footwear was nothing more than cow skin tied together to protect his feet from the splinters of the deck or the rocks last night. He knew perfectly well he didn’t fit in at the castle, but that did not bother him for he had no intention of staying.
After saying his goodbyes to his new friend, Stella, JJ went off into the castle to find his sister, Brynn. He didn’t remember much about the layout of the castle from last night, but he was able to follow his nose to the dining room which housed a very nice spread of breakfast items. Scones with various berries and clotted cream, pig meat of various cuts and preparation methods, juice of oranges and apples, potatoes spiced with rosemary, and more. Jage pocketed some blackberry muffins, a raspberry scone, took a mouthful of sliced ham, and swallowed two gulps of orange juice before going on his way. When he had gotten there, the table was full of food. When he left, it didn’t look much different. His eleven year old appetite barely made a dent. Jage wondered what happened to it all if nobody was around to eat it?
When he got to the Great Hall, he noticed Patrick and his Bear, a great beast that only Jage had the courage to feed berries and Ipecac to last night. The group had come to the decision that they needed the Bear to throw up the Queen’s ring, but none of them were really willing to dare to stick their fingers anywhere near a great big bear’s mouth. Whether it was all his time near certain death on the violent seas or what, but eleven year old Jage stepped up, hid the Ipecac roots amongst the berries and let Lucky the Bear eat from his hands, not even flinching when the great big tongue emerged to lick the juice off. Of course, this was before anybody told him that the same bear only had a ring in its stomach because he had eaten it off the Ex-Queen’s finger trying to get all the juice from her hands. If he had known that, he would have thought twice before volunteering for the duty.
Patrick and the Bear stood before a pile of bones, which seemed to be the norm around Springborough: bones. Queen Grace’s bones were in the Bear’s stomach, hence her spirit was around. Jage had found a bone of a guard named Jimmy who was Brynn’s friend, and so his spirit was around. Now there were these bones, piled up, dusty and brittle. Jage figured they were just something found about the castle, like one might find cobwebs and pay no mind to them. There were a few guards in the Great Hall as well, who looked up at Jage, and at first were on high alert because they did not recognize him.
“Hey, JJ!” Patrick called, waving. Jonathon couldn’t believe how tall the Prince was getting. Of course, he never saw the young Prince as a typical nine year old boy. When they arrived last night, Patrick was nearing six feet, but now he seemed to be well past that, perhaps even approaching ten feet. With Patrick’s greeting, the guards relaxed a little bit. Their shoulders slumped, their hands rested away from their swords.
“Hey, Patrick…” Jage responded. “Your highness.” He added, not knowing the customs, but figuring he might as well address any of the royal kids with a variation of the title. He might have to ask Stella all the different ways he should address his new friends. He knew “your highness” or “your royal highness”. He figured “Sir” would do as well or “ma’am” for Kyrstin.
“Um, Princess Kyrstin,” he interrupted as she spoke to her guards, “have you seen my sister?”
“Yes, JJ. She was here a moment ago, but said that she had to run an errand in the town.”
That was odd to JJ. They had just come to this area of Springborough for the first time in their lives as far as he knew. He was sure that she could have travelled here while he was out to sea, but did she travel here so often that she actually had business here? He didn’t think it was possible, but what did he know?
“Thank you, your royal highness,” Jage said, offering a bow that nobody paid attention to and therefore, he felt like a fool doing it. But, afterwards, he felt he was allowed to go, that he had been dismissed, and so he walked past the heap of bones, complete with a lipless skull that seemed to be smiling. Jage walked past the sniffling, bandaged bear, the great, tall nine year old Prince, and the Princess with her armored guards. He stepped quietly toward the great, big oak door to the town’s grounds.
“Jage,” Kyrstin said, stopping him right before his hands touched the door to push it open. He turned, giving her his attention. “Be careful out there, and don’t go too far.”
He responded with a smile and a nod, and continued on his way.
He had no idea what Princess Kyrstin was referring to since when he opened the doors and was hit with the day’s sun, he could see there wasn’t too far to go. Sure, the town of Springborough stretched on for awhile, but it wasn’t too far before the Kingdom’s walls rose into the sky, protecting the people from any threats that would occur outside of them. He had no intention of going past the walls until he had his sister by his side, so how far was too far according to the Princess? He wondered if there was some royal boundary that the royals didn’t cross, some rough part of the town that held the pickpockets, the rascals. Some of the men at the docks were unsavory, and he knew not all of them came from Fortis, so there was a good chance some came from the town of Springborough, which meant they had to be somewhere out there.
He proceeded down the main town road which was still muddy from the rains last night. Two men on a horse drawn cart were spreading dry hay and grass over the road, helping people to not get completely muddy up to their ankles. The town was alive, everybody seemed to be out, shuffling to and fro. Perhaps they had lost a day of work with the storm and were doing their best to catch up. Women carried swaddling babies, men carried large rucksacks on their back filled with product or shopping goods. Every so often, an armored guard would stand, helmet off, observing the people around him.
Jonathon James walked amongst the people, looking at the items in the merchant shops. He would wave off vendors trying to sell him fruit by the bushels, the vendors asking him to feel their silk shirts, and another vendor wafting incense smoke out to him, filling his nostrils with the scent of burning sage, which wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but JJ was looking forward to get back to the cliffs of Quakenfalls. This all reminded him of where he grew up in Fortis. Occasionally, people would gather in the town square and try to exchange items of value with one another. It was weird to him, but he couldn’t wait to smell the salty air of the sea marked with fish. It was almost as if the sea was home to him now. Even if the sea wasn’t, Springborough definitely wasn’t, and neither was Fortis. The more he thought about home, the more he felt lost.
He kept his eyes peeled for his sister, but he had no idea how he would find her in such mayhem. In all directions, Jage could only see the buildings and homes of the townspeople. Every once in awhile, the main road would split off into side streets which would go down a ways, ending at, from what Jage could tell, the Kingdom walls. He kept his eye on the castle, looming large in the sky, five stories over anything else, making sure he had a clear path back in case he needed it. Not that he figured he would since he felt safe within the walls. But, the more he walked, among the hustle-and-bustle around him, the more he worried for his sister who, he knew, did not have her bow-and-arrow with her in case she felt threatened.
Brynn could take care of herself, he was sure, but it still didn’t make him feel better.
As he walked quicker, and looked harder for his sister, Jage did not sense the man behind him, following him as he got farther and farther from the castle.