Author's note: I finally decided to write about writers. It feels like cheating, it's so easy.
Chapter 6 (part 1)Chapter 6
The bright white palace rose into the air, strikingly contrasting the turquoise blue sky behind it. The rear courtyard was empty, save one figure, sitting alone at the base of a tree. Her eyes were closed as she meditated, or slept – nobody could tell which.
She had been there almost all day. It was so clear outside, so warm, she couldn’t resist. Her thin, silk dress hung loosely about her thirteen-year old self, allowing her to feel the breeziness around her happily.
Typical, Deiter. Dragging the servants along to take part in whatever mischief he had planned.
Cheera opened her eyes and glanced up at the palace as she heard something break, but then one of the housekeepers started swearing loudly, and she looked away.
Even out here, so many distractions to keep her from having internal peace. She had spent the past half a day trying more to ignore outside sounds than focusing on her inner tranquility.
She let out a long breath and closed her eyes again, trying to clear her mind of anything and everything, searching for a few moments of aloneness and peace. For a few seconds, it worked.
Then there was an outbreak of excited shouting from a group of boys outside the courtyard wall, no doubt playing one of their lowly street games. Cheera made a face and rose, heading for the nearest door that led back into the castle.
Her skirts swished around her legs easily and her bare feet made no noise on the warm cobblestones, her long, honey-colored hair rippling down her back, unbraided. She caught a whiff of a delicious pie cooking in the kitchen and wondered what kind it was. Then she caught herself.
“Ach, so many distractions…” she shook her head, disappointed at own her lack of concentration. “I need to find a quiet room.”
She headed into the castle silently and stole her way down the halls, as if being pursued by some unknown force. She lithely slipped around a corner and stopped, her back to the wall, before peering around the corner again, evading her imaginary captors skillfully.
“Hey, what are you doing?” the loud voice startled her and she jumped, whirling to face it. It was Deiter, arms folded, wearing a devilish look with his dark hair pushed over one side.
“Nothing,” Cheera replied haughtily. Deiter was a year older and much taller than her, but she never let him get the better of her.
She brushed by him, holding her head high, and began heading stately for her chambers. She heard footsteps behind her and scowled as Deiter fell into step by her side.
“So,” he said casually, strolling along. “When does your next round of training begin, O athletic cousin?”
Cheera rolled her eyes. “The end of the month,” she said stonily. “It’s the end of the summer. I’ve told you this before, idiot.”
“I know,” he replied nonchalantly, glancing off into the distance. “But you know how it is. Work, being a prince, school… all that whatnot. Drives me off topic. Forget things.”
“Sure it does,” Cheera replied, trying her best to ignore him. She wanted to find a quiet, peaceful spot to relax before lunch.
“So where are you heading now?”
“Where is this somewhere else?”
“Somewhere away from you.”
“But if I go with you, this somewhere won’t exist anymore.”
Cheera glared sideways at him. “Unless I kick you through a window.”
Deiter considered. She had done similar things before. “True. But I doubt you will. We’re in the palace, not outside where it’s notably easier to kick someone, say, into a tree.” It was his turn to glare at her, but she seemed smug now.
“You get what you ask for,” she replied casually. She stopped in front of the stairs that led to her bedroom and, considering going there, shrugged. “You can go now. I’m off to meditate.”
“I’m still following you, remember?” he followed her as she mounted the stairs imperially, her cousin still on her tail. She tried her best to restrain her tongue, but she accidentally let it slip.
Deiter pretended to be hurt. “Why, O cousin? What about my charming self is so undesirable?”
Cheera clenched her teeth momentarily to bite back a particularly sharp retort. “It’s just you, Deiter. You refuse to leave me alone. I’m meditating. The two concepts don’t mix very well.”
“So I gathered when you kicked me into a tree last week.”
“That was a breaking point. You had been bothering me all day.”
“I thought people who meditated were perfectly calm and levelheaded?”
They neared Cheera’s door. “You were being extremely persistent that day. It was… bothersome.”
“Apparently.” They stopped in front of the door and Cheera proudly flung it open before strutting inside. Deiter watched after her, and just before the door closed she caught his eye for a brief moment. His expression was different.
The door clicked shut. “It was nothing.” Cheera thought to herself as soon as it did. She turned away and headed for the bed, sinking into it, cross-legged. “Deiter is the most popular person in the castle. He’s not lonely.”
She thought about how they used to play together as children all the time.
And now, never.
“Maybe I should talk to him.” But she had to meditate.
She closed her eyes and cleared her mind.
The evening meal came and passed. Cheera returned to her room directly afterward, and only later realized she hadn’t seen Deiter there.
“He’s probably sneaked off to be with some kitchen girl,” she scoffed to herself, rolling her eyes. She couldn’t believe her cousin sometimes. For now, all she had to worry about was studying her sword-fighter’s written textbook on sword design, and complete her next journal entry.
Her master would be pleased about the first part, and interested in the second. She always enjoyed reading Cheera’s accounts of the day.
Cheera reached her room in a light mood, but as she went to open the door, she stopped. She could hear the faint strains of voices around the corner, in the next hall. One of them, she thought was Dieter’s, the other she couldn’t make out. Curious, she tiptoed sideways down the hall and flicked her ear in the direction of the sounds.
At first she couldn’t make anything out. The voices were drowned out by another outburst of shouting from the street scum outside, and she wrinkled her nose at the window, angered. Finally, the racket quieted, and she perked up again, sneaking closer. The voices were still talking.
“…in three hours,” she heard Deiter – at least she was sure it was Deiter – say. “Make sure it’s done right.”
“But… sir I…,” the second voice replied evenly. It sounded older. “Why?”
Deiter paused, and Cheera’s ears strained harder. “Reasons, my friend. Reasons. It will all make sense in time. Now please, just do as I ask. You will be rewarded.”
The man Dieter was talking to seemed hesitant. “Alright, sir.”
Suspicious, Cheera narrowed her eyes and, sneaking up to the corner itself, peered around cautiously.
“Goodbye, then,” she heard Dieter say, just as the other person whisked around the other corner and disappeared into the opposite hall with a flutter of long cloak. She silently cursed as her cousin – she could see him now – watched his conversation partner leave. Then he turned.
Swiftly, she pulled her head back and darted over to her door. She put her hand on the knob and pushed it open just as her cousin rounded the corner, and it clicked shut as he entered the hall. She listened intently for a moment, and heard his footsteps pass her door by.
She let out a breath, although she didn’t know why.
“Hm,” she said to herself after he was gone. She wandered back over to her bed and sat on it, positioning herself cross-legged again as she pulled out her textbook. “I wonder who that was.”
The thought began to dwindle as she delved into her book, but it kept nagging at a corner in her mind. She did her best to ignore it, until finally she became bored with the subject she was reading about, and she turned instead to her pillow.
She sprawled out on her bed and let her eyes stray to the ceiling, where she had pasted her collection of glowstones cut into the shape of stars.
“But who was it?” she asked, for no reason. The person had been an adult, of that she was almost certain. The voice had been too deep for that of a child, but she couldn’t understand why the man seemed so relenting to her cousin. Almost nobody did whatever he asked. And this person had seemed so reluctant…
She glanced at the time and realized she should have slid under the covers and turned out the light fifteen minutes ago. Swiftly, she blew out the candle.
Merry sat back and, amazed once more, tilted her head
“Well,” she said, saving the document quickly. “That’s a new one.” Cheera, Lore, and Eclipse blinked as they came back to Merry’s world.
Cheera seemed confused. “I… never… remembered that until now,” she said slowly. She looked at Merry.
“That’s because I never wrote it until now,” the writer explained. She let out a long breath and looked around before furrowing her brow. “Where are my jelly beans?”
The characters glanced at each other before bursting into chuckles. Merry glanced between them suspiciously for a few moments, and then cracked a wide smile. She waved her hand.
“Alright, alright, enough. Let’s all go on that walk now. It’s dark out.”
“Finally!” Cheera whirled and lunged for the bathroom, with the intention of washing her arms. Eclipse deftly removed the apron and tossed it on the bed as Lore replaced his boots. Merry laced up her shoes.
“Alright, let’s go.”
They emerged onto the street from Merry’s back yard in the mid-transition between twilight and darkness. Merry herself was wrapped in a dark pink hoodie, the hood flipped up and the strings drawn loosely.
Cheera and Eclipse were dressed in matching cardigans that belonged to Merry’s mom and aunt, which Merry had declined to mention. They were white, rope-knit sweaters with snug collars for the chilly evening air, and both wore a matching white knit hat.
Lore had on one of Tristan’s newer jackets that fit him quite nicely but was a little tight around the wrists. He also sported a cute winter hat to hide his ears. He said the coat was quite soft but kept him from whipping out his arrows if he needed to.
Merry pointed out that they didn’t need to use arrows on the streets, and when Cheera asked quite haughtily if crime did not exist in this world, too, Merry reminded them again of the police patrol they were going to be dodging. The elf woman quieted, but Lore still seemed uneasy about being unable to reach his weapons quickly.
Then they practically tiptoed their way down the street until finally they came to the first intersection. Eclipse’s armor clanked with each step, but everyone politely ignored it.
“Ok,” Merry said, eyeing the green light cautiously. There were no cars. “In the next few hours we may or may not encounter large, bellowing, metal beasts that zoom down this concrete roadway at insane speeds. I would prefer that, when they pass, you don’t freak out and make a scene.”
At that moment, a bright red Porsche flew around the corner, roared through the green light just before it changed, and disappeared into the distance almost as fast as it had come.
Merry paused as there was a moment of silence.
Then all three of her characters let out a simultaneous scream and attempted to run back to Merry’s house.
“Hey! Hey! Stop that!” she pointed after them. “Stop right there!”
Everybody skidded to a halt and turned, wide-eyed and panting. Merry held her hands up.
“I told you not to freak out and make a scene, didn’t I?” Everyone continued to stare, and Merry sighed. “That means, do not scream, and do not run away. Those things are perfectly harmless. They’re machines.”
“I thought…. I thought you said they were monsters?” Eclipse sounded pitifully frightened. Merry sighed.
“I meant machines. People operate them. Like me. Heck, in a year I’ll be old enough to operate one.”
“Really?” Lore nervously glanced up and down the road, expecting another one to come charging out.
“Really.” Merry beckoned them back and they slowly shuffled toward her in a scared huddle. She patted them individually on the back, to make sure they were calm, and then turned back just as the ‘walk’ symbol flashed. “Come on, we can walk now.”
She stepped forward casually and waltzed across the street, but when she reached the other side she realized she was alone. Turning, she frowned.
“What are you guys d-?” she stopped, seeing her characters all tiptoeing cautiously across the walkway, glancing every which way. She put her hands on her hips. “Come on guys, it’s not even that far. You should be having no trouble right now crossing this street.
She glanced up as the light turned green again.
“Grr. Hurry up now.”
“Why?” Cheera put her foot down carefully, as if each footstep might bring another car bearing down on them.
“Another mons- I mean, machine might come.”
“It might?” Lore looked up, eyes wide. “Ok, come on girls, get a move on.” He put a hand on each of their backs and pushed them along the road hurriedly. “Don’t want to get eaten, do we?”
“You’re not going to get eaten,” Merry reminded them, rolling her eyes as they neared the sidewalk. “There isn’t a single car on this roa-“
Without warning, another large car zipped by, the sound it made akin to screaming, and the driver blaring the horn a few times for them to get out of the way. Instantly, everybody broke into high-pitched screaming again and dove for the sidewalk, rolling out of the way before drawing their weapons.
Lore managed to get his bow and arrows out and was aiming for the car as it retreated, but Merry smacked him off aim.
“Gak!” he cried, un-notching his arrow. “Merry, don’t do that!”
“Then you don’t shoot after cars!” she shouted, snatching his bow and arrows and poofing them out of existence. Then she lowered her voice and herded him back toward the other two. “We don’t want to attract too much attention. Those cars won’t hurt you as long as you stay out of the way and obey my rules. Alright?” She looked at everybody. “Alright?”
They all nodded.
“Good. Now get up, come on.” She helped them all up, dusting them off. “The only thing that’s going to hurt us here is the sidewalk, and that’s only if we fall. Ok?”
“Alright, alright,” Cheera stood and pushed her hair back, letting out a long breath. Her short, tufted skirt looked very out of place with her white cardigan. As did the light blue designs on her face. Merry shook her head.
“Let’s get a move on.”