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The Earl of Zerces: chapter 12
“Mars?” Lang was confused. “I’ve never heard of a kingdom called Mars.”
“Oh no my boy,” the Earl grabbed Lang by the shoulder and grinned. “That’s where you’re wrong. Mars isn’t a kingdom, it’s a planet.”
“A…planet…?” Lang was lost; the product of underdeveloped astrology.
“Oh well, you’ll find out soon enough,” the Earl sighed nonchalantly as he released Lang’s shoulder. “Anyways, let’s go.”
The Earl clapped his hands, and a multitude of doors popped up. Each of them was completely unique. Some were small, some were large, some were ornately decorated, some were simple. Lang could hardly take in all the doors, his jaw dropped.
“How many are there?” Lang whispered, awestruck.
“Exactly fifty-two,” the Earl waved Lang on quickly before he could count them all. “But anyways, we really must go. We’ve got no time to lose.”
The Earl led Lang to one of the doors. It was elliptical in shape, except for the bottom, which was flat like any other door. It had no handle, and the sleek, periwinkle metal that made up the door was interrupted only by a single line that went top-to-bottom, straight down the middle. Around that was a neatly-fitted frame of white, decorated by little blue lights. The Earl and Lang stood there for a moment, taking in the door.
“How do we get in?” Lang asked.
“Simple really,” the Earl grasped Lang by the shoulders and stepped forward. “We just put one foot in front of the other, and-“
As the Earl’s foot drew close to the door, the line down the middle suddenly split open and the door opened. Lang blinked.
“Come now,” the Earl led Lang by the shoulders into the door. “Time’s a-wasting.”
As Lang and the Earl walked into the door, it closed behind them automatically. But Lang hardly noticed, he was too focused on what he was seeing in front of him.
Lang and the Earl stood on top of a balcony looking out towards a magnificent city. Giant towers of periwinkle and blue soared above the clouds, and below thousands of people bustled about. Carriages of some sort without horses or wheels flew through the air, and giant glass walkways connected the towers. All around the city, Lang saw beautiful red canyons as far as the eye could see. It was truly a sight to behold.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” the Earl asked, genuinely breathtaken.
“Yes,” Lang said.
“It’ll have to go,” the Earl’s mood changed from that of a young lover to that of an old fart who was no longer amused by anything.
“What?” Lang asked.
“Our first priority,” the Earl dodged the question. “Should be getting down. How are we going to do that?”
Lang sighed. He had learned not to press the Earl with questions. It would just become more exasperating.
“Can’t we just go through the door we walked in through?” Lang questioned. “After all, doesn’t it have a real door equivalent in this world or something?”
“Good thinking but no,” the Earl squinted around, looking for a way down. “I specifically placed the door here so that people looking up would think that it led inside this building. However, the actual architecture has a wall placed behind this door. Anyone who managed to scale this building directly to this balcony and opened this door would be flung into Zerces. Ah, there we are.”
The Earl pointed somewhere. “That’s our exit.”
Lang looked where the Earl was pointing and saw nothing but a straight drop to the ground. “That’s a free-fall,” he said.
“Yes, but it’s the choice spot for suicides in this area,” the Earl placed a leg over the balcony. “Anyone who noticed us falling would think that we had simply grown tired of life and move on.”
The Earl motioned for Lang to follow him. Lang naturally shook his head and stayed away. So the Earl grabbed Lang by the collar and jumped off the balcony.
Lang screamed as they fell faster, faster, faster, until finally they were a few feet from the ground and Lang knew they would die and he started cursing the Earl and he almost pissed his pants, and then-
“Stop,” the Earl nonchalantly said. Lang immediately stopped, with his nose only inches from the ground. The Earl casually righted himself, placed his feet on the ground, and dusted off his sleeves. Lang tried to do the same, but fell flat on his stomach before he could right himself completely.
“What did you do that for!?!” Lang got up and glared at the Earl.
“You were taking too long,” the Earl glanced around. Then he noticed Lang’s appearance. Lang hadn’t changed or taken a bath since before he first met the Earl.
“Hmmm, I think we should get you cleaned up before we proceed any further,” the Earl said. “Come to think of it, I should change my clothes.” The Earl snapped his fingers and immediately his old robes were replaced by some white and periwinkle silken garb, with golden plating on the shoulders and around the neck and waist.
“But you said that we didn’t have any time to lose,” Lang recalled.
“We’ve time enough for this,” the Earl led Lang through the alley that they had landed in towards a door like the one that they had first walked through. Lang looked around and saw that it was the interior of a bathhouse.
“Now see here, Willy,” Lang looked up to see the Earl haggling with someone. Lang couldn’t see the person’s face, but he noticed that there was something slightly off about their appearance. “My friend here got into a simply awful scuffle after he lost a costume party contest and we simply can’t have him looking all messed up like this. Do be a good boy and clean him up, would you?”
“Right, right,” the figure grunted. Apparently he, like Lang, knew full well about the Earl’s insufferable demeanor.
“There’s a good boy,” the Earl smiled and called out to Lang. “Oh Lang. This man’s name is Willy. He’ll get you a nice bath and a change of clothes.”
Lang finally got a good look at the figure’s face, and had to restrain a gasp.