After a whole day of traveling, including spending the night in the house of a very adorable and kind old lady, I had finally arrived at Lux Novum.
The very first moment my gaze captured the city, I was out of breath. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. The outskirt of the city was surrounded by colorful houses with gardens on their roofs. They had small community farms with animals, which were probably the livelihood of those people who lived there. On the sides of the road, there were apple trees covered with snow and other fruit trees, which in the summer gave hundreds of fruits.
Everything was covered in a blanket of snow, giving my surroundings a fairytale look taken from a Grimm brother’s story.
I couldn’t hide my astonish look while I passed through the outskirts of the city. I was sure that if I lived there I would have been as happy as a cow. I don’t even know if cows are happy, but anyway...
The wall that surrounded the entire city was impressive. The Chinese wall would definitely have competition with it. Hundreds of vines covered the stones that fit perfectly with each other and mini waterfalls fell in some places. The problem was that hundreds of guards were on top of the wall, watching cautiously all who entered.
They had heavy metal armor on, some of them even wearing helmets I doubted they were comfortable to wear. Yet, they didn’t seem unfazed at all; nor the armor or the cold seemed to affect them. They looked scarier than I thought they would. I gulped and started sweating just with the thought of things going wrong. That’s why I needed a very good plan.
Having the experience from the town bar, I knew my cape called the attention, and people had mistaken me more than once with a Black Knight, and that couldn’t happen. I got rid of the horse exchanging it for something more useful; food. I was dying of hunger and I was desperate for food. I felt a little guilty changing the horse knowing that I had stolen it, but then I remembered who I had stolen it from and the guilt vanished. The drunk bastard deserved it.
Apparently, changing a horse for food is unthinkable, and the farmer with whom I made the change did not stop offering me hundreds of pounds of food, saying that he felt useless just giving me food. In the end, I also accepted money, not even knowing what the currency was there and how it worked. Somehow, I knew that maybe it could work in the future.
Who would have known I was going to use it in the very near future.
The entrance to the city was a beautiful arch that was so high it hurt my neck to look up. Guards were everywhere, and thanks to my lucky ass, a caravan of merchants with huge trailers and animals was passing in the direction of the city. I didn’t miss a beat, and just in time, blended with them well enough, and I was in.
If the outside was mesmerizing, there were no words existing that could describe how beautiful it was on the inside.
Within the city, there were numerous hills where waterfalls fell to the rivers in a thunderous but majestic manner. The sound of the water crashing was exciting and energizing.
The streets, that went down the hills, were made of cobblestone, each of them joined in a unique way by arched bridges that passed over rivers that had the most crystalline water I had ever seen. Small boats floated on the river, each of them having a purpose. If it was not to move merchandise, it was to move the same citizens.
I walked further into the city, my jaw hitting the floor at such an amazing site. A huge roundabout was in the middle of everything and the biggest golden fountain I had ever seen was at the center. A golden statue of a woman heavily armored rose high up in the air with a sword in her right hand and a shield in the other. The fierce look on her face left me stunned. The water flowed from the shield down to her arms and legs. The water flowed and splashed in the most elegant way I had ever seen. It was truly a sight I will never forget.
I looked around, excited that there was a chance of women being soldiers, but was disappointed when the only soldiers I saw were men. I frowned and looked at the statue. Why bother in showing such hope for women if at the end you’re going to suppress them anyway?
I had been so caught up in my surroundings I hadn’t bothered to look at the castle. I looked to my left and saw it up a huge hill. From where I was standing it looked big, and as I walked further in its direction, it kept growing bigger and bigger. To say I was intimidated it’s an understatement.
The white stone walls were perfectly polished and it’s height were enough to give someone a heart attack, while two towers that could give the Empire State a ran for his life stood in front, glowering at anyone who dared to pass the gates. And that’s when the problems started.
By some miracle, I had managed to get into the city without being stopped by a guard, but looking at the gates and the walls full of guards, it was just way impossible to make that miracle happen again.
I had to blend into the crowd, but I had to find my moment. Keeping my head down I walked away from the path that took me directly to the gates and went to a further sidewalk.
My head whirled at options and plans that I could do in order to get inside, but nothing seemed to give me the security or confidence that they would not catch me the moment I passed those gates.
Then I had an idea.
The worst idea ever. It contradicted all my other plans and did not give me the assurance that I was going to come out safe and sound, but I was sure that I was going to enter.
I gulped and prayed to God, if he was even there, that hopefully, my plan worked.
Instead of blending, I was going to get in by doing it the other way around.
I started walking with confidence towards the gates, long strides, my posture straight and puffing out my chest trying to do the best impression of a man.
Since they confused me with these Black Knights, then I had better use it to my advantage. But if I was busted, I was so dead.
“Yep, Liberty. Great plan.” I thought bitterly, trying not to panic at that crucial moment that was going to determine my future.
Every step I took was like carrying stones in my feet and I could feel my body sweating bullets. If that failed, then I was done.
Cassius was going to die in the hands of those psychopaths murderers and no one was going to know about it, except, well, me. But I was going to be six feet underground as well.
Somehow the negative chat in my head had made me more determined to do this and gave me hope that I could do this.
I was just a few meters away from the gates and I put my head down, my hand on my sword, and hoped for the best. Even if I wanted to cry right there.
I could sense the gazes of the two guards looking at me as I was nearing. I put my head lower, so they couldn’t see my face.
“Hey, Quinn! Hadn’t seen you in a while!”
“Shit. Are they talking to me?!” I panicked and just nodded gravely. I didn’t stop walking and was just about to cross the open gates.
“Prepare for getting your ass kicked tonight.” He snickered, probably trying to get a reaction of me.
“What the fuck do I respond to that?”
“Not in the mood.” I responded in a low deep voice, trying my best in the imitation of a man’s voice.
To my absolute relief, the dude laughed and I had crossed the gates.
“Maybe this time you can bet your sister.” He said in a perverted voice.
“Now, this guy, he is definitely on my blacklist.”
I kept walking without saying anything, and somehow that was funny to the guard and he laughed his ass off.
“Thank you, Quinn. Whoever you are, you saved my sorry ass. Hope you don’t show now...”
And me being me, guess who appeared?
“Quinn? It’s that you? But...” I heard the distant voice of the guard and I was paralyzed. My feet stopped moving and I had become too scared to look behind me to see if the nightmare had come true.
“Who else I’m going to be, idiot?” I heard a new voice, probably belonging to the real Quinn.
“Well, crap.” I muttered under my breath, my heart going into a frenzy. My knees went weak and I couldn’t breathe in anticipation.
I looked behind me and saw the two guards and a guy with the same cape and sword as me, which I supposed it was Quinn, looking directly at me.
I didn’t think about it twice.
My ass was moving faster than you can say Chubby Bunny and my legs sprinted towards the castle doors.
At least fifty yards were between me and the door, and I ran as my life depended on it. Because it freaking did.
I could hear the curses and shouts from the guards behind me, telling me to stop or I was going to die. But, I knew well enough, that they were going to kill me either way.
I went inside the castle and kept running. The guards were too heavily armored and that had slowed their pace enough for me to take random corridors and lose them. At some point, I had taken so many stairs and corridors that I was dizzy, but I heard running steps nearing me and enter the first door I saw, not thinking at all.
I close the door behind my back and rested my head on it. My chest rose and fell fastly and I could hear my heart against my ribcage as if at any moment it would jump out of my chest. My breathing was hard and all my limbs shook, the adrenaline still high in my veins. The silence in the room brought an uneasy feeling to settle on my chest, but I ignored it.
I took a deep breath a looked in front of me, just to be frozen in shock.
A boy, no more than thirteen years old stood in front of me, with a nervous and scared face, holding a sword directed to my chest. Even though he held a sword to my chest, he was too cute to take seriously. Dirty blonde hair and innocent hazel eyes that reminded me of a certain someone, and if it was even possible, my heart broke once again. The kid was smaller in height compared to me, probably his head reaching up to my shoulders.
“Easy. I’m not going to hurt you. I swear.” My voice came off more steadily than I thought it was going to come out. I put slowly my hands up, showing him I was no harm. I looked around the room, noticing I was in a very fancy bedroom, probably belonging to the kid.
He swallowed nervously, but straightened his back and looked at me with harshness, even though the glint of fear was still in the corner of his eyes.
“Take the hood off.” He said loudly, as to sound more intimidating, but his child's voice and the tremor in it just made me feel pity for him.
I took the hood off slowly, and the shock on his face was as if he had just seen a pink elephant wearing boots and a hat. Yeah, that was specific...
“Y-you are a girl!” He exclaimed with utter stupefaction. I nodded slowly, trying to keep the situation under control.
“What do you want?” He frowned, probably extremely confused with the situation. By that point, he held the sword loosely, yet it was still aimed at my chest.
“I need to speak with the King and Queen. Is extremely important. A matter of life or death.” I explained in a calm voice, trying to show him I was no harm.
He looked warily at me, trying to decipher if I was a threat or not.
“It has to do with their son.”
His eyes instantly widened in fear. “Did something happened to Leo?”
I shook my head. “It’s Cassius. He is in grave danger, and if we don’t do something quick...”
The kid looked more confused than ever. He slowly put the sword down and frowned.
“But they told me he was dead...” He said in a small voice, pain filling it.
“Damn, he seems affected.” I thought sadly, suddenly having the impulse to hug him. He reminded me too much of Cassius.
“He’s alive, but he was kidnapped by very dangerous people. That’s why I need to talk with the King and Queen.” I stated in a dead-serious tone.
He looked me in the eye. “My parents told me he was dead, that he had left when I was just 3 years old and was nowhere to be found. My father said he was irresponsible and ungrateful, that he didn’t love us...”
I blinked processing this new information and realization hit me hard on the head.
“Are you the son of the King and Queen?” I asked, my voice suddenly full of emotions.
He looked strangely at me as if I should have known this information, but nevertheless, nodded.
“Wait... you...you are... Peyton?” I asked unsure, remembering the name of the youngest sibling of Cassius.
He nodded, still not saying anything.
At least I had an explanation of why he looked so damn much like Cassius.
I lowered my hand slowly and offered it to him. “I’m Liberty, nice to meet you.”
He looked at the hand perplexed, not knowing what to do. I facepalmed myself mentally, remembering the fact that they didn’t have the custom to shake hands when they meet someone.
I decided just to lower both of my hands to my sides and gave him a nervous smile.
“How did you know my brother?” He asked curiously, still looking at me warily. He still didn’t trust me enough.
“I kind of got lost in the woods, and your brother found me. I lived with him about...” I started to calculate mentally trying to estimate the amount of time I had spent with him. “... 4 or 5 months.”
“How is he? How does he look like?” He tilted his head, and I could imagine him trying to remember his brother. He really was adorable.
Unconsciously a smile made its way to my lips. “Well, he is very much like you. His hair is darker than yours and he is very tall. Or maybe I’m too small...” I joked and to my surprise, a small smile was on Peyton’s face.
“It’s that...” He pointed his hand towards my sword.
“Oh yes. That’s your brother's sword. The cape is also his...” I took it slowly and passed it to him slowly. He grabbed the handgrip and his gaze was fixated on something. I neared him a looked at the same spot he was looking at. There was a small engraving that I had never seen.
“This will be your weapon against darkness and the polisher of your future as a true man.” - From your father
“It is truly his sword...” His eyes were wide in surprise and joy. He looked at me excitedly, his face truly reflecting the happiness he was feeling.
Suddenly, his face fell with sadness and he looked at the sword hopeless.
I crouched next to him, knowing the source of his negative feelings. “I promise you that I’m going to find him. I’ll never give up on him, even if it’s the last thing I do.” Without my realization, a tear had rolled down my cheek and a heavyweight was on my chest. I was still raw with emotions and controlling them was a hard task. I quickly wiped the tear with the back of my hand and gave Peyton a small smile, trying to lift up a little the sad and depressing environment.
“Why are you doing this? You could have just left him there and just went to do your things.” He said looking with a frown at my cheek, where the tear had been before I had wiped it.
I couldn’t explain to him the true nature of our relationship with Cassius since it was going to be probably too overwhelming, so I explained it as simple as I could.
“Because your brother is my friend, and I owe him more things than I could ever repay him, including my life. In a way, this is one of the ways to repay him.” I stood up and sighed, trying to get rid of the heaviness in my chest that was spreading everywhere.
The moment was interrupted when the loud sound of bells resonated throughout the whole castle, making vibrate the room we were standing. My heart was still beating as fast as a running horse and the paranoia of being found and then killed started to fill my head.
“Those are the alarm bells.” Peyton said worriedly.
“Yeah... that’s probably because of me.” I gave him a guilty smile. “You see, I was trying to get inside the castle and they discovered my facade and went after me. And that’s how I got here.”
A pounding in the door made the alarms in my brain panic. Peyton and I looked at each other wide eyed, not knowing what to do.
“Peyton! Are you alright? There’s an intruder roaming the castle.” The worried voice of a woman could be heard from the other side of the door.
Peyton passed me Cassius's sword and pointed quickly to his bed.
“Hide!” He whispered. I didn’t think it twice and I was already under his bed, clasping my mouth shut.
From under the bed, I saw how Peyton went to open the door and assure what I think it was a maid that he was alright and there was nothing to worry about.
He closed the door and I rolled out of under his bed. I stood up and took a deep breath trying to calm my racing heart.
We looked at each other.
“What now?” He asked more excited than a four-year-old at Christmas.
“Now, we need to figure out a way to tell your parents.”