The day was dark, and he was filling his bag with supplies in preparation for another escape. An exciting moment it was, each time he planned to leave the palace. Even better during the dark when he could see the city at its finest.
He sang a song to himself as he picked out useful items to put it in his brown leather bag as he walked through the city with his new roommate - rather a hostage. How far could she walk if she could travel on foot? Her frail appearance and feeble looking legs below her shorts were subjects of doubt. But it did not matter, she could not stay there.
As soon as he was done with the bag, he took off to the room by the end of the lobby. A very well decorated room, with red carpets as well as curtains. The bed sheets were of a matching design as the carpets and the walls were of the same colour. A near perfect room for a queen.
"We leave now," he said upon entering the room. He put the bag down and threw a black garment he was holding on the bed.
"Put on your cloak so you can hide better." He added, not getting a reaction from her.
She sat on the side of the bed, swinging her feet back and forth in the air while looking at the moon through the window to her side, avoiding any eye contact with Shaka.
"I know you don't trust me," he said, bending down before her. "I don't expect you to either. But I need you to do as I say...for now. All of this will be over once Thomas gets back, just stick with me till then."
She turned her focus from the window to a convincing Shaka sitting before her. "I will trust you," she faltered. "Just until he comes back."
"That's great," he grinned. "Thank you."
"For trusting me." Her lips folded into a faint smile which put Shaka at ease.
"This palace...it is not ideal for you. I am going to take you to somewhere that would suit you better."
Wondering what he meant by that, she tilted her head and sent him a confused look. "What do you mean not ideal?" She asked.
"Too much happens around here, and I don't want to have you locked up within these chambers."
"But I don't think that is necessary," she said with discontent.
"Don't worry, you'll enjoy this new place as much as you did here," he said, getting back to his feet. "So please, put it on."
The city was kept alive as the darkness peaked by lights from fires of various colours, and peaceful activities of people in the corners of every street. As a result, the atmosphere was as colourful as it was noisy.
Nevertheless, Shaka made it to the market square - the most lively part of the city at any given time. Music from the traditional drummers, and the delicious scent from vendors were the theme of the nights in the market.
"What is that smell?" Freya asked, pausing in the middle of their walk through the city.
"What smell?" Shaka asked, trying to pinpoint one in many different aromas.
Freya looked around the stalls, and set her attention to the one with a grill standing before it, and rows off dried meat carefully arranged on sticks on top of the grill.
"That one," she said.
"You like that one?" He pointed to the grill, and she nodded. "Wait here." He moved to the stall and returned as quickly as possible, with a stick in his hand.
"Here...please be careful while you eat it." She swiped it from his grip and bit a mouthful of it at once.
"Hey hey...could you listen to me for a second?" He watched her in astonishment, anticipating her reaction in the next few seconds to come.
Her face grew pink as she opened her mouth agape in a futile attempt to ease the burning sensation on her tongue.
"Are you okay?" He asked calmly, but she failed to respond while gasping for what little air she could.
Shaka reached a hand into his bag and brought out a small bottle which he wound open and gave to her. "Here, drink this...slowly."
Slowly, she drank, the contents of the bottle, and face seemed to lose its colour with more sips. "What is this?" she asked.
"Grape juice," he replied.
"What was that? She asked, pointing to her tongue
"Pepper," he chuckled. "You were supposed to eat it slowly."
"You didn't say that!"
"But…" he sighed. "Let's just keep going." He marched on, leading the way.
After long minutes of walking, they arrived in a small area on the far end of the city. The grasses were tall, and they danced to the movement of the wind. The houses were made of hardened clay and built far from each other. Some of the houses had herds of domesticated animals around them.
They passed the first few houses and approached one with a cattle ranch behind it.
"Are you sure anyone lives here?" Freya asked. She rubbed both hands against each other in order to keep them warm.
"Of course. Don't judge it by how it looks on the outside." He knocked three times on the door and waited for an answer.
Moments later, they heard footsteps approach the door and pull it open. "My king! You came by yourself?" She paused and looked behind him, unable to identify the other person. "Come inside, it is cold out here."
They both went in, and Shaka immediately attempted to take off his cloak. It was at that point he realised he had been firmly holding Freya's hand while they walked through the darker parts of the city. He reached for the cloak, gently releasing her hand and unhooking the dark overall that his him so well.
"Who is your companion?" She asked.
Shaka turned to Freya and whispered to her. She then - as Shaka had done - removed her cloak.
"Oh...this is a surprise." She replied wide eyed, at the glimpse of the person underneath the garment.
"But, my king, you told...I didn't expect her to be… You know?"
"You didn't expect what?" He pulled a wooden chair next to a table and sat on it. Freya did the same, as she tried to copy everything he did.
"If that is your wish, I'll carry it out to the best of my ability."
"That's good. Freya...this is Ayala. I'm sure you will enjoy each other's company," he added.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Fre...Fr…"
"Freya… Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too."
"Now that you've gotten acquainted, I'll be on my way," he said while getting to his feet.
"Isn't it too late to be walking around in the streets?" Ayala remonstrated.
"Don't worry about me. I have done this before." He grinned and left the house without wasting any time.
"He is a kind one, isn't he?" Ayala asked.
"I don't know...I'm not sure." Freya stuttered.
"You will get used to it." She stopped, looked around the house, and paced back and forth. "I need to get you some new clothes, and somewhere to clean up. Have you had any food?"
Freya suddenly had a flash of a somewhat painful memory. "Ye...no…no, I'm quite hungry."
"Okay then. Glad you have an appetite."