Chapter 3: Nostalgia
Genevieve Carter, my best friend of ten years, was deeply engrossed in the tale of the completely surreal adventure of my journey. Over a cup of warm tea and Genevieve’s mother’s famous cookies, on the serene lakeside property, listening to my friend whine about the fact; how in her life happens nothing even remotely as interesting as my past day, I must admit was rather entertaining yet relaxing in its own manner.
Laughing, dancing, singing, drinking and general merry making was all that The Estercrest Empire was about that night. Every edge and every corner of the snowcapped streets was lighted out with royally marked lanterns. Musicians wandered everywhere, weaving new melodies to entertain the people. The liquor was never endingly supplied to the public without them paying even a dime for it. Happiness was all that prevailed everywhere the eyes wandered. Today the empire had crowned a new king. Thirty eight years old Prince Cedric the third of his name had now become King Cedric, and the royalty wanted everyone to celebrate so everyone was, and why would anyone not celebrate; a whole week off from work with continuous supply of government paid liquor was the idea of heaven to most common masses of the empire.
The weather was turning colder and a subtle hint of the impending snowfall was present in the air. Taking the hint like most of the men on the street, I walked in to the bar on the end of the street. It was warm inside but the air was charged with the scent of stale liquor and too much sweat. People; mostly men, were seated in large groups on numerous tables set in every available space in the not so spacious liquor house. Spotting an empty seat, I headed to the bar counter, keeping the scarf tightly wound around my neck and most of the face to keep my disguise up in place and ensure my anonymity. Waiting for one or another of the workers supplying drinks and foods around to notice me, I swept my eyes all over the place. A group of musicians strung an upbeat melody and sang along to it some songs that I had never heard before, women dressed in shear clothing danced around the bar while the men eyed them with carnivorous looks. The bar employees ran around frantically serving the ever increasing number of customers, and tried to fit every new comer on to some table. It would not have been wrong to say the scenario was an embodiment of mild chaos.
Amidst all the noise and confusion around I noticed something which struck me as a misfit piece in the puzzle of this not so classy place; a few men who seemed of higher class then the ordinary people of the town who frequented the liquor house led an almost unconscious girl into the building. Someone under the bar employment guided them all to a small staircase which I guessed, took them to the higher level of the building, unavailable to the commoners. Just the gleam in the eyes of the men when they looked at the girl was enough to tell me what was about to happen if anyone did not stop them. The way the girl was dressed; unlike the whores of the town, and the state she was in made it clear as crystal that she was absolutely unaware of the fact what her companions intended to do to her. This is what happens with one woman in a men’s world, rape. I feared the same would happen to me if people found out I was a girl wrapped in a man’s outfit.
Solely ignoring my fears, I jumped off the stool I was perched upon and discreetly yet quickly followed the group headed upstairs, pretending for the eyes of the bystanders like I was just another member of the party in question. Midway one of the men lifted the girl off the ground and onto his shoulder, carrying her like a sack of grains, through the halls to a, not large but not small either, room with only a bed inside and dropped the girl unceremoniously onto the bed. I silently followed them to the room; hand on the hilt of sword hidden under my cloak, careful not to make any sounds. By the time I made it to the window of the room; through an alternate not entirely safe route, consistent upon hanging from the roof top and jumping on narrow sills, since the door was locked, the girl was almost naked; ripped bits and pieces of her previously elegant dress lay all around her on the bed.
Blocking the thought of the worst possible consequences of my heroism, I jumped in through the window and landed solidly in the room. Unsheathing my sword, I kicked one of the men and caused him to hit his head hard on the wall and fall down to the floor, with blood oozing out of his head. Rest of the men who for a few moments looked at their fellow and me stunned, shunned their shock and all lunged for me. On account of their drunken state and the fact that I was trained to fight by my father; the leader of the yet undefeated army of The Estercrest Empire, I managed to fight my way to get the girl, threw her over my shoulder and left through the door and remained almost completely unharmed myself.
Without even a moment of thought, I ran to locate an alternate exit from the building which luckily I found without much work on my behalf, and left the place as fast as I could still carrying the girl, without being noticed. Without fending attention to myself walking through the streets carrying a young unconscious girl now wrapped up in my coat, was not an option. The night had grown colder and the wind was strong with few drops of rain falling every now and then. Without my coat I was freezing. Whatever action I had to take was to be taken soon or I would freeze to death. Running discreetly in the shadows of the buildings I made my way to the woods, and after what seemed like ages of painful and bone chilling trek through the extremely dangerous forests, I stepped onto the familiar grounds of my house. Maids and servants upon sighting me came running to my aid. The woman was taken inside and fended for while I was led to the room of my absolutely furious father for an eternity of scolding at leaving the house alone. Somewhere in between all the scolding and anger my father wrapped me in his warm embrace and told me he that was worried about me, and just like that I was forgiven which happened much too often in my life.
Over the course of next few days, I came to know the girl I rescued to be the daughter of a considerably well off merchant who was out of town for business, which left her under the care of her brother whose friends drugged her and rest I knew. I liked the girl, Genevieve, her easy going manner and friendly nature put me in a relaxed state around her.
Genevieve shook me gently, bringing me out of the ten years old thoughts. I fondly smiled at her worried look and told her I was fine and just wished to take some rest, and so she led me inside her spacious house allowing me to rest in her room which I was going to be sharing with her for the few months to come.
Life for the next few days was a cluster of very predictable moments; lavish lady gatherings, seeing Genevieve’s friends, buying numerous new dresses and lounging around the Carter estate and relaxing. However, the chain of predictability was broken on my sixth day of stay with Genevieve, when I was informed by a maid that I had a visitor waiting for me, which came as an absolute surprise to me, for I expected no one on account of the fact that no one knew my whereabouts.
Putting my book aside and adjusting my dress, I made my way to the entrance of Carter Manor, where stood the last person I expected to be there. A tall, handsome blue eyed gentleman with a charming smile.