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Loving the Lost: Chapter 3
Everything was so loud! From the people making deals with others, to dogs barking, to women laughing. I was scared. There were so many people here; everything about it was frightening. Together, Firenze and I walked into the oncoming crowd, and got jostled about a bit.
We walked through that was gathered at the entrance to the village. Everyone always tried to set up their carts in front by the entrance to the village, so maybe they can catch traveler’s attention. We pushed our way through the mass, but I tried to wedge my way in between a large woman in a bright yellow dress with a lace bodice, who was eating a piece of grilled lamb on a stick, and a man in hunting skins.
“Excuse me!” I said forcefully, trying to push my way through.
I had all definitely lost Firenze by now. The woman glared at me. The man wouldn’t budge. I looked up. I was face to face with a firm looking man. His face was hard, and obviously weather beaten. He had many scars across his cheeks. His muscles were huge, and there was no smile on his lips. They were in a straight line. His hair was very badly cut, obviously the job of a knife. This was no lamb eating village woman. This man was just illegal as I was. This was Trapper. Everyone knew he poached in the woods. No one did anything about it, though. He was too wild, to ferocious. The last person who tried to do something about it had ended up dead.
“What did ya say, princess?” He spat on the ground, centimeters from my soft, leather boot.
“May I go through?” I asked, wincing under his stare.
“I dunno princess, can you? Can you?” he yelled.
“May I?” I squeaked, just barely audible. I could hear Firenze yelling my name, but she was far off in the crowd.
“NO!” he pulled out a large, hunting knife. I yelped, and tried to scurry through the feet of other people, but I only managed to get to the feet of a fancy man with leather soldier boots, when I was pulled up by the scruff of my collar. I shrieked.
“What would your little courtiers say if your face was a slab of raw meat, huh?” He whispered in my ear, his knife at my throat.
“What’s going on here?!” Asked a new voice.
“I – nothing, the girl was causing me trouble, that’s all, the little varmint.” Replied Trapper, guiltily, trying to put away his knife.
“I’m sure. And why do you have the knife then, Trapper. I’m sure you were causing her trouble.” He looked me in the face. I could tell by his uniform that he was a soldier in the castle army. “Put it away. And in the mean time, I’m gonna have to take both of you back to the jailhouse, you know, procedures.”
“AAAH! Not again Brugby! I ain’t going back to that stinkin’ jailhouse!” Yelled Trapper.
“What?! The jailhouse?! I can’t! I have to go to the castle and receive my parcel, I have to find Firenze, and I have to find Tules!” I cried at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t help it, with everything that has happened to me in the past day.
“It’s alright hun, we just gotta bring you there so we can make sure you go home in safe hands.” The guard, Brugby, whispered in my ear. I twisted around in his grasp and pushed his face away from my ear.
“Zahili? ZAHILI!” Firenze came running and shoving through a crowd of people and tried to reach me.
“Sorry Miss, she’s off limits. I have to take her down to the jailhouse. She has to get bailed.”
“I’ll bail her! Right now!” Firenze fell to her knees. “Please!”
“Nope, that ain’t official like.” Said Brugby. I decided I hated him.
“She’ll bail me too, won’t ya, baby cakes?” cooed Trapper.
Firenze looked at him with a look of disgust and loathing. “Not in a million years, baby cakes.” She spat, and her spit glob landed right on his foot. Trapper tried top charge her, but Brugby let go of me and tried to hold the man back.
“Firenze!” I yelled to her. “Let’s get out of here!”
“No!” Called Brugby. “You have to come back to the jailhouse!”
“I’m sorry Brugby! All I need is my parcel!” I called back. We turned and ran down the street, through the crowd towards the castle.
“Oh, and Brugby!” Yelled Firenze. She stopped in her tracks. “I know the procedures, forced to know them by heart. My Da was a guard. I think you’re confused! Nice try!” She laughed, and I joined in, learning there was no procedure.
We slowed to a walk as we approached the castle and left the threat of jail. We took deep breaths. I was so tired. We were sitting on the curb of a butcher’s shop. Finally, after moments of silence, Firenze asked the question.
“What happened?” she asked. I knew exactly what she meant. Tules.
“I lost it. All I did was tell her a piece of my mind. I told her about my nightmares, how it felt to lose Mother, you know. She just left. Ran out the door and left.” I felt relieved, I guess, to tell someone.
We stood back up and continued our walk to the castle. As we got fifty feet to the castle, a red carpet began on the ground. We came to a stop in front of the big wooden door. We looked at each other, gripped hands, and together pushed open the big door.
It was amazing. I had never been inside the castle before. It was a very big room, more like a hall. It was empty except for two thrones at the end of the place. There were red and gold banners that decorated the walls, and there was a rack of antlers right on the wall above the thrones. Below the antlers, behind the thrones, was an archway covered by red curtains. There were soldiers all along the wall. And there was a little man next to the thrones. He was short and fat … and he yelped.
I studied him more closely. He was busying himself, tidying his clothes, and trying not to make eye contact. I smirked. It was the little man that was in my house after I came back from the woods. The man that Nye threw out the door.
“Can I – may I – help you?” He whimpered.
“I am here to request a parcel.” I said.
“Hmm, shame, shame.” He said uncomfortably.
“SHAME?! MY SISTER HAS DISAPPEARED!” I yelled. This time, reality really took it’s toll, because I fell to the white marble floor, weeping. Firenze came and put her hand on my shoulder.
“Just give it to her. Please.” Firenze was begging.
“Well, you see Miss … ” He paused, waiting for a surname. Firenze just stood there looking at him, waiting for him to continue. “Ah well. We must send over a representative to her house to make sure she has actually lost someone. Procedures, you know?” I really hate procedures.
“Whatever, just make sure she has a parcel by the end of the week.” Firenze said.
She helped me to my feet, and we excited the throne room. As we walked back out into the dying sun, I realized how exhausted I was. I sank to the marble steps, and put my head in my hands.
“Firenze,” I said quietly. “We need to find Bertha.”
“Bertha. She’s an innkeeper. Nye told me we could stay the night there for free.”
“Okay, I’m sure we can ask someone where her inn is.” Firenze said. “Hello there! Ma’am?” she pulled aside a young, plump woman who was tugging along a young child.
“Yes, children, can I help you?” She asked in a kind, sweet voice.
“Where might we find Bertha’s inn?” Firenze replied, smiling at the small girl.
“Oh, just down the road, dearest. Right next to the florist! You can’t miss it!” She was tugged along by the little girl, who wanted to get home.
“Thanks!” Firenze and I called in unison.
We came to a stop in front of Elise’s Flowers. We looked to the right. Surely her inn was not a tavern! We looked to the left. There was a warm looking little entrance. From the front it was hard to see exactly what it was, but we entered.
There was a loud blast of noise as we entered the place. It was a tavern, yes. But not as rowdy as the one right of the florist. There were not as many people, and it was much cleaner.
“No children allowed now, ladies!” yelled a plump, short lady from behind the bar. She had shoulder length, dark curly hair, and she had rosy, red cheeks. She wore an apron over her simple, red dress.
“Are you Bertha?” I asked.
The lady paused. “Yes … ” She said suspiciously. “But not many people seek me out by name. What do you want?”
“To spend the night. My brother came here three years ago and you let him stay for free. That was when my mother disappeared. Now my sister has disappeared, and I was sent to get the parcel. He told me to find you, and ask to spend the night for free.” I explained.
“Was he the nice, good looking fellow, strongly built, dark hair?” she asked still eyeing us curiously.
“Yes! That’s him! His name is Nye.” I said.
“I got a room for you, honey.” She said. “Come on, follow me.”
We walked past the bar, and through a door. There was a steep flight of stairs right behind the door, and we took them, Bertha taking them two at a time, despite her height. At the top of the stairs was a long hallway lined with doors. She led us to room number 142, and pushed the door open for us.
“There’s your room, no charge. Outhouse is in the back. But don’t you be thinking that you’ll get breakfast for free, because it ain’t happening!” She yelled, and slammed the door, as I was barely through the doorframe.
“I wondered why Nye recommended her? She seems the farthest thing from friendly!” I commented.
“I bet she has a good heart, though. Come on, I’m tired, lets get some sleep.” Replied Firenze.
We pulled back the covers of the bed. It was a simple room, one bed, a dresser, and a window with a simple blue cotton curtain. The bed was comfortable, but I could just feel the springs coming through the mattress.
“Mmm, ‘night. She said, already falling asleep.
Of course, I couldn’t fall asleep. Not with the events of the day replaying in my mind, starting with Tules, then my encounter with Trapper, and getting to this little room. A single tear leaked out of my eye, and fell, onto the blue cotton pillowcase.