Chapter 23: The Fugitive Prince
Vincent was right, I could not allow people to bring me down so easily, I could not just give up, and stay locked in a house brooding forever. I was in a desperate need of filling my lungs with air that was not enclosed by the walls of this small house.
Looking through the clothes Adrian had left for me I found a worn out cloak and pulled it over the dress I was currently draped in, concealing the rather expensive cloth of the dress. Adjusting the hood such to hide most of my face while still allowing me see, I stepped out on to the street buzzing with activity.
People rushed around in every direction; some were just passing through the market while the others were pouring into the restaurants, bars, brothels, and tea stalls open at time that early in the day. Shops selling clothes and food were almost all open for business by now, but being early in the morning very few customers could be seen carrying out purchases there.
Being a woman and furthermore dressed as one as well this time heading to a bar or brothel was not an option for me. Hence, I started in the direction of a small restaurant offering a variety of breakfasts. The restaurant was more or less the same size my new house; small. The scents and sights of the interior of the place made it clear that the restaurant room barely saw any light of the day. Damp air mixed with musky scent, rowdy crowd, weather beaten, wooden furniture, and dusty floor were the main features of the restaurant. Around ten tables with six to eight chairs around each covered most of the restaurant grounds. Rays of sunlight entering the building rarely provided enough illumination for artificial light source to be not needed during the day, but did not eradicate all the shadows residing in the sides and corners of the rectangular room I stood in.
The restaurant was small but doing good business. Most of the tables were occupied by men indulged in loud conversations while devouring variety of dishes laid on tables in front of them. A few women could be seen as well seated alongside men on a couple of tables. I took it as a good sign, and took a seat on a currently empty table set in a corner. I had to wait a while before someone from the staff decided to entertain me. Ordering a mild sized meal constituent upon bread, butter, and eggs, I tuned back into the conversion of the group of men eating at the table neighboring mine.
The hot topic under discussion for the day was the political situation of the empire. Almost all the conversations going on between the people eating at the restaurant that I managed to eavesdrop on were revolving around the same issue; the fugitive prince of Estercrest Empire. Piecing together all the tad bits I gathered from the conversations around formed a scenario that brought nothing but horror to me.
According to the gossip of the town Prince Kozlovsky was found guilty of conspiring with the aid of enemies of the empire against his own king, wishing to seize the throne. It was also being said that the prince had managed to rally enough support to start an uprising focusing on crowning him as the king while the current King and his father; Cedric, was away from the capital for war purposes, but the plots rolling into action were discovered timely by the king and his loyal supporters, and the uprising was crushed fatally before it reached its full glory. The failed try by the prince to seize the throne had reportedly led to the deaths of thousands of men who had stood up in his support, and also resulted in the prince being sentenced to death by beheading as stated in law for any committer of treason may it be a prince or a pauper.
Amidst all the information I collected from around the only good news was that the prince had somehow managed to escape the prison cell he was being kept in, few moments before the king was personally going to carry out the beheading. The prince was currently on the run, and it was announced that anyone providing any news about his whereabouts along with concrete evidence will be rewarded with ten thousand gold coins, and if someone captures and hands over the prince to the royal authorities he would be given an important post in the governance system. With a sword of such high reward hanging over his head the prince was likely to find very little or no support at all from the people while on run.
Worry clawed on my insides killing my appetite, but I still downed a sufficient amount of food to not seem suspicious before paying for it, and making a hasty exit. With hundreds of thoughts; all not so pleasant, swimming in my head I was unable to focus on anything else. With a subconscious order my feet on their own accord carried me towards the house I resided in. With quick movements I entered the house and locked the door after me.
If the prince was in such dire situation I needed to befriend precaution in order to not aggravate the situation. If I get into the hands of his enemies not only I would lose my virtue and life, as Adrian had said, I would be putting a whole army on heels of the prince with far more viciousness than present time. The stakes in the ongoing game had been upped rather drastically, and I had to opt a strategy such that my win would be certain. There was no space for errors and relaxations on my part. I needed to be vigilant at all times.