Between the Pages

In a magical world, Between the Pages, lives Sebastian and his twin Edmond. That is, until Edmond decides to work against the Queen and disappears to join the Queens brother, and setting a curse over the country. Concerned for his brother (and the world), Sebastian sets of to search after him. But he needs help.

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5. IIII

 “I give up.” She threw her hands in the air and Sebastian chuckled. Unable to give her any real answers, the conversation had turned into a test of Sebastians’ knowledge, and Linas’ acceptance of his second-guessing. Lina was already dreaming of the cobbled streets he had described and she created her own imagines from what he had told her.

 They had come about halfway down the hill, which was a lot higher than she had first anticipated, and the path kept taking twists and turns, first leading them deeper in the forest, just to let them walk at the outskirt of it again. But the terrain getting flatter and flatter, and in the distance she could see something that could only be the entrance of the city. She turned her head to Sebastian again. One last question before she would be lost in the wonders she was sure the city held.

 “How do you know have to break the curse, and how does it work?”

 Her question passed unanswered so quickly that she forgot whether she had actually asked it out loud. Sebastian’s eyes were in the sky, yet his gaze was somewhere far more distant. Had she been a more patient person, she would have let it go, and save the question for later.

 "I asked you something."

 He blinked confused, as if she had disoriented him. "Sorry. I was thinking."

 "About what?"

 "About whom," he corrected her. She noticed how his mood seemed to fluctuate all the time. He was always shifting between the energetic and optimistic boy that had brought her here, and this… other person, she didn’t know how to deal with. Hell, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to deal with him.

 No answer that could come to her mind seemed appropriate. It was as if she she had barged in on his memories somehow, or reminded him of something painful. "Oh," she muttered.

 Sebastian cleared his throat.

 "It’s hard to explain. I’m… Well, I never held a real interest for curses and the like,” he admitted.

“Besides, not many people have had it. But it’s basically the same for people, animals, everything that lives. It’s difficult to notice in the beginning, as it is only a slightly lighter spot on your skin. But slowly, it turns more… paper-like. Spots on your skin loose their colour and it’ll feel rougher.” Like a reflex he touched his hand, as to make sure the curse hadn't caught him. Lina tried to imagine grey tones climbing up between her slender fingers, and spreading onto her arm.

 "And then their throat hurts. It feels… coarse?” The way he pronounced the words, it came out like a question. Then, as if answering himself, he shrugged. “That's what Marie said, anyway. Her mother’s a doctor.”

 Lina wanted to ask if Marie was the one he had thought about just then. But then she remembered the way he had looked at her, as if she was a rude guest intruding, and kept quiet.

 "They lose their voice. And then... they crumble."

 "Crumble?" She hadn't meant to think it out loud, but it simply sounded too absurd to be true.

 "All that is left are scraps of paper."

 "How many have-"

 "Two. It started a month ago, yet it wasn't until recently that they... passed away."

 "I'm sorry to hear that."

 He shook his head, and then shrugged again. "It wasn’t your fault. But I do appreciate the help."

 Lina didn’t answer. Imagining someone becoming a grey scale of themselves was difficult, but imagining them crumble was not only difficult, but also gruesome.

 They reached the end of the hill and the path blended over to grass. In the distance Lina could see giant wooden gates that seemed to intertwine with the trees nearby and build a wall of trees. And these trees were far from dead, the wood as rich as Sebastians’ skin, and the leaves emerald green.

 The gates were open, leaving her to gaze into the city. And it turned out that Sebastian was a terrible source of information. He had told about the roads of cobblestones snaking through houses, but had forgot to mention the way the city seemed to live. Windows were opened, shoving of various items on their window shelves, each marking an individual family that called that home. The road from the gate led directly to the front door of a restaurant, and then turned in two directions, both leading deeper into the city.

 The gates were not as large as she would have expected for city gates, but the patchwork of different wood made it impressive nonetheless. The base seemed to be mahogany, bearing details of lighter wood, until it was almost covered. Lina wanted to run in and away at the same time.

 "Not a lot of security, huh?"

 "And what exactly should we wish to keep out? Animals keep to their habitat, mostly, and even if a moose or deer decides to visit, who are we to keep them out?"

Lina raised an eyebrow, but Sebastian walked towards the gate at the left and leaned against it, not giving her a second glance. Lina was on her way through the gate, when she stopped short, unsure whether to continue or not. She was going to meet other people, people that, no doubt, could see that she wasn’t from around. Sebastian noticed how she simply stood and grinned. He stood up and pretended to be holding the gate open with one hand, while using the other to motion towards the city. He then bowed as deep as his back allowed him.

 "I welcome you to my humble home.” He spoke in an exaggerated way, as one would welcome a duchess.

 Lina couldn't keep herself from laughing and pretended to hold up a ball gown while performing a somewhat ridiculous curtsey.

 "I am truly honoured," she replied in the same manner, and ran up to the gate, her laughter bubbling behind.

 Sebastian stood up, and looked at her with an eyebrow raised. "Are you ready?"

 “As ready as one can be.” She answered, and took her first step inside, followed by a deep breath. "Let's go then, tour guide." 

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