Acura and her father had reached the castle. He was snoring heavily on her shoulder, drooling thickly, but she was used to his not-so-gentlemanly side, so she adapted her posture to create a comfortable foundation for him.
She patted his head gently, and he snorted in return, rubbing his flat nose with the side of his fore-finger before resuming his thunderous snores.
‘We are here old man. Up with you.’ She pushed him softly.
He grunted and cuddled closer to her.
‘Up you old fool.’ She shoved him rather harshly which jostled him to wake with a sudden start.
‘Careful Acura. You could’ve given your old man quite a heart attack.’
She rolled her eyes cheekily as she assisted him down.
‘You are sir and Lady Tucson?’ Asked the strange looking woman adorned in a black and white bubble dress with frills at the bottom that was worn by the maids of the noble and rich. But this woman looked so extraordinary in the outfit. Usually maids were considered short, fair and straight faced, this woman was anything but. Her demeanor subtly flowed with emotions, her neck was too long for the cut-away collar she wore, her hips were too big for the white apron wrapped around her waist to be nothing more than an accessory, yet she looked exceptionally swell in it. Like when the person that made it was driving the threaded needle into the fabric, they thought of her.
‘Yes.’ Acura answered briefly, and fast enough so no one would notice her zoning off to admire the hand-maid’s ability to pull an outfit off even when it wasn’t meant for her body type, figure faults aren’t meant to be hidden. She liked that ideology, but it did not apply to her.
‘This way, please. The Prince and his guests have been awaiting your arrival.’ She smiled brilliantly and led the way into the castle Acura had only seen in the daily newspaper on her way to the market. But seeing it in person was something different and even more magnificent, too much for words.
‘Guests?’ She paused abruptly in her calculated steps. She was only informed of the prince’s wish to see her. She did not like surprises.
‘Oh yes, Lord Wattzit and his children are seated before the Prince as we speak. We better not dilly dally and delay his highness any longer.’ She cut the discussion short without pausing her gait then quickened her pace.
Yay. Acura thought. She wasn’t exactly best of friends with the Wattzit daughters. So far, only three people on the face of the earth knew the true ways of these females. Ketan, Bankle, and Acura, which is kind of saddening because one would think after the numerous changes of staff in the Wattzit household, people would catch on. On the other hand, they could know and just not care. Beautiful innit?
After several twists and turns and entering doors made of grenadil wood to a mini-portcullis type ingress made out of both oak wood and grenadil and looking into a library of some sort. Which didn’t seem safe to Acura for some reason, because isn’t the library the place where royals fled in times of trouble? Instead this dope of a ruler put a vertically opening entry way for either style or ventilation, or even both. All she knew was that when assassins come for his head, it isn’t his admirers that are going to save him.
The two statue-like guards wearing the golden insignia that stood on each side of the door, at the woman’s command, worked on a lever system that rose the door from the ground, but at the same moment made Acura realize that portcullises are supposed to be left up till times of emergency. Then and again, the Wattzit girls were in the castle.
It was a large and gloriously satisfying library beyond the vain entry, books almost everywhere, old, new, fresh, tattered, some opened on the tables and the rest stored carefully on the shelves, and Acura couldn’t just help but wonder who exactly was reading all that, she knew it couldn’t be the Prince, that should be a King now, but that’s a story for another day.
′ Your Highness, Sir and Lady Tucson have arrived.′ Announced one of the guards on the other side of the door in such a loud voice, Cweru and his daughter were rattled for the entire visit.
Gosh, the vanity of the noble, 4 guards for one entryway?
The Prince and his guests averted their attention from their respective activities, their eyes on the lanky man and his ugly daughter in the red cloak.
‘Your Highness.’ Acura courtesied, her father copying with a bow.
The prince’s smile immediately faltered, even before the two had seen it, he knew it was wrong and unacceptable to be rude and frown upon a guest, no matter how inhuman he may…appear, he was taught to welcome them with open hands. but never in his years of training for the crown did he encounter such a creature that put his values and morals to the test, and Nowette was his head maid that welcomed guests and supervised all other workers. It was like there were two fingers etched at the side of his moderately sized lips, pulling it down with all its might.
She too refused to smile. Her intuition told here they weren’t going to be the best of friends either. She gave a sideways glance to the Wattzit children and grimaced at the females’ unholy grin and the boy’s innocent smile, it took a lot to push down the rising hot spew that dared to erupt and taint the waxed oakwood floor, she immensely abhorred them. Yes, even the boy.
He made her grind her teeth in hatred at his kind gestures. His kind words to her whenever they had an encounter made her want to pummel him deeper into the ground. The fact that he had fine features didn’t help either. It made her feel worse when he returned her hate with sweetness.
She wanted him to shove it up to his derrière. Why couldn’t he be like his sisters, so it would make it easier to hate him without feeling guilty?
‘Lord Wattzit.’ She greeted and kept silent.
It was an awkward one.
‘Acura...’ Blema greeted with fake sugar-sweet coy words that seeped into Acura’s skin like the venom of a snake.
‘It’s been a while, ugly rag.’ Prota wasn’t smiling she had a scowl on her face now. Yet she looked so scripted so.... perfect even with such an ugly gesture.
Acura raised her head slowly and stared at the prince and the Lord with a poker face. Her father just stood there perplexed and unsure of what to do. So he just stood there hidden behind his daughter like an infant being asked to mingle with their bully because their mothers are friends.
‘Daddy!’ Prota lost her cool quite quickly. Acura smiled slyly, show your true colors, you snake, she thought with a grin
‘She....it....did you see that? She ignored us...how dare she daddy?’ Prota shrieked.
‘Acura...Please.’ their father begged on their behalf. Which made her sigh loudly after a long moment of silence.
By the way, she was doing this because her father and the Lord were automatic friends because of the King, and she wasn’t exactly ready to disobey an elder nor her father, she just wasn’t raised like that.
Ugh. The odds were against her.
‘Good day Lady Blema.’ She courtesied to a column, ′ lady Prota.′ She greeted a painting. ‘Lord Bankle.’ She turned to nowhere in particular.
The girls gasped hysterically, throwing their hands over their lips.
‘Father!’ Blema fumed. ‘Did you just hear what this numb skull said to me? She called me a column!’
‘She was simply complementing your beauty darl...’ Her father tried reassuring her.
‘A straight one!’ She wagged her finger at it angrily, interrupting her father.
‘And she called me a painting!’ Prota took over.
‘Which is to say your beauty is...’ Her father started.
‘Of a horse!’ She finished, the steam practically filling out the little unnecessary detail.
‘Enough ladies.’ The Prince stopped them before they were able to drag it on.
‘Now, would you two like to know why I summoned you here?’ He asked the father and daughter.
“Nope. We came all the way here just to say “hi”. And probably have a dance party. Up yours.” Was what she was going to say before her father replied for them.
‘Yes, your majesty.’
Everyone saw the Prince flinch backwards like a wounded animal.
“Highness.” She whispered into her father’s ear “he can’t keep a lover, remember?”
Her father froze, a confused look plastered on face for reasons more than one. Reasons she could read. He was looking for the King.
‘Well then. I shall tell you.’ He said and adjusted himself on the chair, attempting to ease the uncomfortable air, even the Wattzit children were uncomfortable, and they were usually the ones causing dicomfort.
‘There is a new Buzz in the town of Belmazore that has come to my attention...one concerning a lady who can weave gold out of straw...though I see a tad bit a malfunction with that information. They mentioned the lady was fair.’ He said coolly.
The two dames snickered behind.
Acura cast her father a knowing look and her father just smiled sheepishly which made her scowl at him.
‘Well you see...’ she began to defend.
‘But of course, you do know that for a man of authority like me to request for your presence you must not waste my time by telling me this information is just child’s play. That would be lying now wouldn’t it.’ He interrupted her.
‘And deceiving. And we all know what the penalty for trickery is...death.’ He continued without a valid answer. His eyes turning cold and attempting to burn and an icy hole through her head and make her quiver all over.
But luckily it only managed to graze her skin because she recovered very quickly, she’s been threatened with much worse.
‘Actually, the news you have heard are somewhat accurate.’ Her politeness deflating like her hope of seeing another day.
‘Her...That thing hasn’t even seen gold a day in her life.’ Blema snorted.
‘I’d like to see you do it. That I shall.’ Prota followed her sister’s lead.
‘Yes...That is not a bad idea. You go fetch me a treadle machine and straw.’ The Prince commanded a maid at his right-hand side.
‘Lots of it.’ The ladies said.
She bowed and left the room.
‘Well...You see...I do not like to do it in front of people as they might get the trick and it wouldn’t be my specialty, now would it Prince?’ Acura reasoned.
‘No. I suppose not, fine then...follow me.’ The Prince arose swiftly and lead the group onto a set of long hallways past a little passage and down a series of long spiral stairs when he came to two sets of tall wooden doors that came at a dead end, the spiral stairs still leading downwards to what the pair guessed was the
‘You will stay here sir.’ The Prince said to Acura’s father and ushered him into a comfortable looking room.
‘Dinner will be served to you shortly.’ Then he shut the door and bolted it with a series of locks.
He opened the next door and ushered her in a bit roughly.
‘Dinner will be served soon and the machine with the straw is already there and set. And don’t think of escaping. These doors are solid ironwood, so no matter how hard you scream or shout, your fate is inevitable...miss.’ He shut the door with a royal grimace.
She turned around and sniffed, ’That kind of a man is the type that is stripped but naked and beaten with a whip made of a horse’s tail that’s soaked in cold beer for a week.′ She grumbled.
‘Old man!’ She bellowed.
‘What?’ He shouted back.
’Look at what you have done.
‘Why does that provide little to no comfort because you’re a professional lair.’
‘Say, when do you think the King would want to see us? This room is so nice and clean and colorful, proper bedding and even a connecting bathroom. The King is ever so kind.’
‘I am truly sorry, I had no intention of any of this ever happening.’
‘Yeah, not everybody wakes up one day intending to lie to royalty and getting locked up with a high and likely chance of dying the next morning.’ She moaned as she studied her cell.
Hmm, she thought, just like my life, dark, gloomy, yet organized. She nodded in approval. If only the punishment where life imprisonment, because a girl could get used to this.
Only after she had come out of her thoughts had she realized how quiet it was. She assumed Cweru must have been asleep and she began to soliloquies.
‘If only that man didn’t lie so much and often or didn’t employ himself as an entertainer, or didn’t get over the loss of mother so soon.’ she sighed.
‘only if he wasn’t such a headstrong person.’ she continued after a short pause. ‘oh how I’d long to see her face once more, but that is not possible, she’s in a better place and soon so will I.’ she moaned admitting defeat.
She sat on the cell bed at the corner of the room. She got up to undress and began to struggle with her zip.
When she was at the bottom, a strange feeling came over her, she felt like she was being watched. But after a series of turning around in circles and searching in odd corners, the feeling disappeared and she was warmed up by the feeling of calmness, she resumed undressing and stood almost naked before the cupboard behind the bed, and just as she had expected, dresses were ready-made and there.
She filed through the clothes and selected a jacket-like blue dress with many buttons. As she was at the last button, she heard a soft sigh.
‘I know...I’m sorry.’ followed a sad and broken voice. He was as quiet as a church mouse, yet those four words reverberated through the room and her eardrums, violently shattering her heart.
As she didn’t know how to respond, the silence got longer, the tension got thicker and soon it was as though it was choking her. On the bed, next to the dress she took off was the red hoody she carried everywhere. She put it on and lied on the bed. Putting the hood over her head and clamping the cloth against her ears with both hands, she could still hear her mother’s addictive and contagious laughter, and it seemed to calm her down.
Doesn’t matter if I say anything, we’ll both be dead by morning anyway, at least he might have mercy on you, but me? I don’t think he fancies me that much. I don’t even think he considers me female, so I can scratch that you can hurt me I’m a girlexcuse off the list. She thought as she awaited the next day.
She wasn’t precisely concerned about the next day, she was worried about the clothes she had left out to dry, especially during the thieving season.
Acura had dozed off a bit when she heard the doors being rattled, a maid slowly and elegantly walked in and gracefully placed a tray at the bedside stool, she bowed and headed for the door, where her colleagues awaited her arrival, they didn’t lock the door, they didn’t close the door, they didn’t even leave, they just stood there and watched on, their expressions held no intention of ever leaving.
Getting a hint after a few minutes of silence, she decided to address them. She got up, walked across the room, and shut the door on their faces. That was her only possible chance of escape. She could have taken those women down with her hands tied behind her back and taken the keys to free her father and flee the whole country.
The maids didn’t look like they’ve even broken a nail ever cleaning a day in their life. What was there to clean anyways? The castle was spotless and who was going to dirty it anyhow except a few dust mites once in a while? Was a stuck-up Prince who acts and looks like a goat is constantly chewing on his behind and who puts up such a perfect front ever going to throw pie on the floors just for the fun of it? She didn’t think it was likely, but then again...that’s rich people for you.
Just as she realized that they didn’t lock the door, the bolts began to turn. The women giggled loudly and their steps began to fade away as they talked about how she looked like a professional and how they couldn’t wait to see the weaved gold.
‘Well neither can I.’ She murmured to herself.
She considered calling them back and carrying out her initial plan, but she thought better of it and decided against waiting for her voice in a sound-proof room. She settled down on the chair behind the machine and stared at it, the room was filled with straw, about 60 bundles were in front of her, she almost fainted, but she returned her gaze to the machine.
She stared at it without blinking until her eyes became dry and red, she was looking for an answer to her problem and she hoped that the machine would magically come alive and instruct her on how to go about it. That was wild and wishful thinking, she slumped and place her head on the machine, and in a matter of minutes, she succumbed to sleep.
Deep in her slumber, a sudden thudding jolted her awake. There were no windows, so there was no way of telling whether day had broken or not. She sat up and adjusted her garment, her eyes and heart fixed on the door as she awaited the opening of the wooden doors.
But it never happened, the doors never opened and she became anxious, she knew the stairs were not this long, and she waited as long as her patience would permit her. She wasn’t supposed to be excited that the person who was to take her to her death was on his way, but what she found rather disturbing was the fact that the sound never stopped, instead it got louder and louder with every tap.
Soon enough the sound was loud enough to be coming from her herself. Then it hit her like a herd of cows in a race...the sound could only be coming from within the cell. It was in the same room with her.
Acura thoroughly scanned the room. As her eyes swept over the cupboard, it rattled, stopped, and rattled again, and as this action was made the thudding sound was made.
With the little courage she could muster, she tiptoed to the cupboard and stood in front of it for a few seconds. The thudding now felt like a fat man was tapdancing on her eardrums. Shakily she placed her hand on the doorknob and the noise stopped completely.
This must have given her a little bravery point because she opened it less hesitantly, there was nothing out of place, from the plain dresses to the common ornaments and a few shoes, nothing looked abnormal. Sighing in relief and closing the cupboard gently she attempted to go and resume her rest on the bed.
She didn’t even make it past turning around before she fainted.
He fanned her back to consciousness with his hands, which felt like fresh air against her skin. She opened her eyes and was greeted by a set of boring green eyes. Green like mountainside grass in morning dew. The eyes’ beholder had a sinister smile plastered across his face. Malicious, yet giving of air of not having any sardonic intentions.
They just stared at each other without doing or saying anything at all.
Acura thought she was delusional. She slowly reached out and touched his face, he did not seem offended by her gesture, so she began to poke and pull at his features. She pressed his left eye with her index finger and it stayed deflated once she had removed her finger, she tugged on his chin and it drooped like melted rubber, she yanked on his nose and it came off, she tried putting it back properly but it ended up sideways.
With every examination and every weird result, adding to Acura’s horror, his smile got wider and creepier.
’Hideous, I’d rather have those two ignoramuses in my dreams instead. She shivered.
‘Hey!’ Said the creature finally, sounding offended, which was hard to tell because he looked like a dog’s chew toy in his present state.
‘You are not on the pretty side yourself missy.’ He continued quite seriously which didn’t show either because of the manner at which his chin wobbled with every word.
Acura would have found all this amusing if she was watching it from the theatre her parents used to take her to when she was younger, and not standing right in from of her demanding a reply. Oh, she gave him a reply alright, because for the second time that night, she fainted.
‘Hey, ugly Mufasa. Wake up!’ He tapped her softly. With his nose. On her face. And for the third time, her life flashed before her eyes, which was rather short because she had not done much in her life, the discombobulation of objects had begun when he shook her by her shoulders violently, disrupting phase two of her fainting.
‘I think it is a splendid idea for you to spend your whole night passing out, one I might adopt myself, I mean...not everyone feels comfortable waking up to their arranged death day...I think I can already hear the butcher sharpening his knives...You know...So he could feed you to the cappyw...I mean the tigers, yes, once he’s cut you up and de-boned you, can’t have those innocent animals choking on your rib cage, now can we?’
That got her systems working, but she had to control her breathing to a minimum level, to not breathe in the toxic fumes that were coming from his strange man covered head to toe in filth. His breath like a trash can, yet his teeth as white as a babe’s first tooth.
‘Good, now that I’ve gotten your apt attention, I’d like to assist you.’
‘On what?’ She breathed out and sat up.
‘Gold weaving, you nincompoop.’ He shook his head in what seemed like a disappointment.
She just stood there and looked at him like he had three heads and was juggling them all.
‘Really.’ She stressed as though she was handling a toddler who thought he saw a fairy in the night, but what he really saw was one of the city witches going for her weekly coven meeting, but you couldn’t tell a three-year-old that.
‘Really.’ He smiled. Then sensing her disbelief, his grin turned cunning.
‘I get the message, you don’t want my help, I guess you’re one of those people who like those damned pixies. *sniff* I can find my way out of her just fine.’ He turned around, with an obvious fake pretense of leaving, that somehow went unnoticed by Acura.
‘Stay, help me.’ She said as she held back his sleeve.
‘Well...since you asked so nicely...I think....ok, but remember, you begged me to, so if anything goes wrong, it’s on you.’ He turned around again, walked to the sewing machine, and sat down.
‘What’s that supposed to mean lanky?’ She got up, walked towards a bundle of straw, plucked one, and handed it over to the man.
‘But first, you nasty-looking man-boy, show me a sample.’
‘Gladly, Godzilla.’ He remarked as he set up the machine, then he stopped.
‘That would hurt if I knew what it meant.’
His eyes began to glance at a direction, implying something, but seeing she didn’t get the message, he sighed.
‘The incompetence of people these days.’ He murmured to himself but made it loud enough to her hearing.
‘Turn around you baboon, I can’t let you see how it’s done.’
‘Oh please you chipmunk, I invented that excuse, literally today.’ She waved him off and watched on.
He shook his head and began to fish through his front pocket, she assumed he was going to pull out some kind of slug, but instead he brought out a golden thread, that glittered and glowed in the lowly lit cell.
With much speed, he threaded the machine, put the strand of straw in place, and began to sew on it.
His left hand guided it and his right covered the entrance and exit of the straw from her eyes.
He was whispering something that didn’t sound like English. But that didn’t matter because lo and behold, as the straw entered one side of his palms, a gold strand was formed at the other.
When he was done, he handed it over to her with an who that had “nothing special” written all over it.
‘Ok....’ She said still trying to wrap her head around it. ‘Go on, why’d you stop?’ She asked him as she dragged two bundles over to him
‘Oh my,’ He said with a short laugh. ‘Did you honestly think I was going to help you for free?’
‘Fine...You can have some gold once you’re done.’
‘If I cared about gold so much, do you think I’d go around weaving it for people only to get little back instead of becoming some rich noble by investing in straw and gold. Sadly enough...for you...that is...I deal with something else, something more wanted was I come from.’ He said, and his eyes gleamed in a suspicious manner.
‘And what’s that?’ She asked rather unwillingly.
‘Precious personal property.’
At that sentence, her hand reflexively flew to her necklace which made the creature cock an eyebrow and chuckled.
He stood up and that’s when she realized how tall he was. The top of her head was barely the height of his shoulders, and she was generally considered quite a tall person in Belmazore.
He held out his right hand and gestured for her to hand it over.
She simply shook her head in defiance and stared at him.
‘Your loss monkey breath.’ He smiled, eventually, everything about him but his bright smile began to fade.
‘Wait...what do you need it for anyway?’ She asked in a trembling voice.
‘Where I come from missy, we deal in the Triple P’s. The more precious the object is to it’s current owner, the more expensive it is.’ He explained, as his physical form returned.
‘That’s nice and all you scum bag, but you can’t have this necklace...how about this ring instead?’ She asked slipping the etchraz stone ring of her index finger and placing it on his open Palm.
‘And...what exactly is the value of this object? Because as far as I can see, compared to the ring, that thing around your neck is copper wire’
‘It’s my mother’s wedding ring, and for your nosy information, some people value worth over price.’
‘Where is she now?’
‘In a better place.’
The rubbed the ring between his palms and it began to glow like the thread. Soon, it sounded as though it were alive, it giggled as though it was being tickled. There was the laughter of a mother and her child filling the room.
‘Take my hand.’ He instructed as he stretched his right hand with the ring out for her to take.
As she touched the ring, it was almost as if it were coming directly from her lips, the birthday song was playing in her head, but all the festivity was cut short with a scream, her body turned hot as though it were in an oven and she soon lost all consciousness.
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