A Pair of Blue Eyes
It was English, 12:10, third period. Ava sat in class , head resting on her left hand as she scrawled down the neatly written words of the teacher strewn across the whiteboard. She didn't care what she was writing, she was too busy thinking about her own world; the one with calico and Carin and Thali and Will. The one with dragons and seers and sorcerers. The one she built from words built from letters on pages in her green notebooks, one of which was in her bag with its corner poking out. The note book the boy behind her was eyeing... It would be so easy to steal.
It was a stormy night when it happened. The clouds hung grey and thick across the night sky, but there was something bright. It shone luminous against the inky night. It was hard not to see the small pendant around Carin's neck. No one touched bluestone, no one but sorcerers.
Only Thali saw him, his light brown hair that fell on his face, his stormy blue eyes that looked like rock compared to the glowing stone around his neck, but they were still the eyes of a sorcerer. Scream, that's all she had to do; scream and they'd come running; scream, and he'd be hanged or burnt at the stake, either way; he'd go to hell. But that seemed so harsh. He couldn't have been much older than Thali herself, not unless he was unusually small. Were sorcerers unusually small? She'd never thought about that. Anyway, he didn't look too old, he looked like a boy; just a boy, nothing special, nothing different, nothing bad. It seemed unfair. That was the world, unfair, unjust and at times much too cruel, not too much good. You couldn't kill a boy, but they would do just that, cruel.
"You might want to hide that." Her voice was so small, what had happened? She had the biggest voice.
"Sorry?" He answered. Why did he answer back? He was supposed to run.
"Uh, I said... uh. You might want to hide that." Pointing to the stone hanging from his neck.
"Oh, right. Thanks!" He gave off a slight smile.
"Uh," What did she say she was supposed to say "you're welcome," or at least something more but all she could do was shrug her shoulders.
A wind swept past and Carin couldn't see Thali anymore, she couldn't him either and they walked away; each thinking the other had gone. It was late anyhow.
The palace that was where she wanted to go. She wanted to get to the palace. There was that feast on tonight and every nobleman and woman would be there. All she needed to do was wear her best dress and she could pass as one of them. Mingling and passing through the crowds unnoticed and taking the advantage of their insecure pockets. It would be so easy. All of them so dumb and blind. Terribly blind.
Calico walked out onto the streets, her soft shoes hitting the cobbled stones of the city. Her best dress was growing too small for her. Rather she was growing taller. It barely reached the ground. The gold embroidered thread loved to come loose; that was her biggest threat, her dress could give her away. It was al up to the nobles inability to see what was right in front of them to pass as one of them. No townspeople would believe her mask, she was a criminal's daughter and the Painter's model. That could always let her down too.
She brought her lace parasol up to cover he face as if she were shielding it from the sun. Don't look, don't look, please don't look. This was the riskiest part of her night. she sun was only reaching for the horizon but by the time she got to the old castle wall there would be only orange sky to show there was ever a sun there. her feet worked fast falling onto the cobbles with each step her footfalls light like the shoes she wore.
The sky was just how she knew it would, orange, just an imprint of the right light it had been some half hour ago. The rubble around the end of the wall formed into perfect stairs and she ran up them, slowing as it got narrower and further from the ground. At the top she folded her parasol and began the fast paced walk to the palace. The feast was at the eighth hour from noon and by the sky Calico estimated that she had a good two hours to circle the city. She could make it in one.
The descent was hard again, her dress could be ripped and then Figaro would be mad, he had asked her, told her not to take the dress outside, he couldn't paint a girl in a ruined dress. But she couldn't do it without the dress. She decided that the easiest way was to jump onto the nearest roof and hope it would hold her, then make her way down from there. That would be easier.
Calico was in. There were nobles everywhere from all cities and towns in the Kingdom of Oakland. Better than she thought, bigger than she thought. More pockets than she might have ever seen before. so many people swathed in fine and foreign cloths of all colours and textures. Finery and bright chains of jewellery like she couldn't imagine. All those great things she could steal. In her reach was as good as in her grasping greedy hands. She scanned the crowds, how they stood, walked and talked; so stiff, so awkward so uncomfortable, like all their corsets were done up too tight stopping them from any free movements. Calico stood up straight, and walked through the crowd awkwardly as everyone else around her was. Pockets were emptied as she stiffly brushed past fine silks and detailed pocket watches, gold necklaces and chains of beautiful gems all green and red and orange and purple. Her dress was proving heavy. And people had began to enter anyway. There was no reason to stick around now and people would realise that they had been stripped of their goods soon, if she didn't leave now they would see that she had no intention of entering.
She began to walk off quite abruptly and was caught off.
"Hoy, young lady! Where are you off to?" It was a man, big in size and in voice but no one seemed to mind his comment.
Think fast, "I'm off to see my calling lover!" She stated airily, "I shall be late if I wait too long!"
"Don't lovers meet at midnight?"
"We could not wait that long to set eyes on each other again!"
"Well, I won't hold you from him any longer."
"Pray, don't tell my father!"
"I don't know him but if he comes asking, my lips won't speak of this! You have my word." And she ran off with his words. Ha, would he ever see my father, or his pocket watch, she had stolen from him just before, he might have been one of the first to be victim to her nimble fingers that night and she had earned a nice prize for it.
The night was cold and her dress's short sleeves didn't shield Calico from any of this. The way through the city was dangerous and going by the wall she came would prove even colder than how she was now. Wait till it passed over, thats what she would do. Wait for the wind to pass over. She stood in a crevice of the palace wall trying to keep warm and constantly worried that her dress would get caught on a rough bit of rock.
It was a while until the wind had died down enough for her to get home without getting sick so Calico crept from her nook, walking across the grass. The wind still biting at her goose bumped arms. She walked near the palace walls hoping it to be colder there and that it would help. It didn't do much but it helped keep her from view of anyone to look out the windows. It was reasonably safe. Reasonably safe...
Something dropped out of a high window, no it was thrown. Why was it thrown? What was it. A blanket, thats what it is, or a cape, or a curtain, she thought. But it was really big.
Before she could think she was running towards it with her arms outstretched to catch it. It seemed to spread out as it fell and she could see a pair of brown boots, well they would do as a prize for her nights work too. But there were hands too, oh no it's not what I thought, it's a... a person; someone is falling. Too late to do anything. Too late to move out of the way.
He landed in her arms and they both fell to the ground with a sharp clunk. That would have been her goods all hidden in her skirts lining. He would notice. He would know she stole all those pendants and jewels.
"Thank you." He said, "For softening my fall." He held out a hand to help Calico up.
"My pleasure," she groaned getting up without his help.
"What's your name?"
"Er," Calico thought for a second, I can't tell him my name, "Hannah, my name is Hannah."
"Will," Will extended his hand.
"Right, Will. Why were you falling out of the window?"
"I didn't, I jumped." His expression was somewhere between proud and confused.
"Well, how did that work for you?" Calico or Hannah asked sarcastically.
"At least you were there. I've done better, but never so high up." Will said
"You still haven't answered, why did you jump?" Calico pressed
will glanced around, looking for anyone who might recognise him then leaned in to tell his plans, "I was going to run away, for a while. You know, get my parents worried, whole city searching for me. That sort of thing. You know, just for a few days. It'd get my parents to loosen the reigns a bit. I hate it in there and there seems nowhere else I can go."
"In there? Oh, oh, now I know where I've seen you from. Your prince William. Right!" It was that sudden moment of realisation that she felt.
"Yeah," Will said
"Ok. Where are you running away to?"
"Er, hadn't thought of that yet. A brilliant idea was supposed to come to mind now, but I've got none."
"How far did you want to go?"
"Dunno, just thought I could hide somewhere and tell my parents I was out there." Will shrugged.
"Where do you expect to go without being recognised?" Calico laughed
"Well, I'm hoping you might know somewhere."
"You're in luck. But you need to take off your cloak and you'll need some more suitable clothes." She said slyly
"Right," he handed her the heavy bundle of cloak, yes she really had done well this time, "but why won't these clothes do?"
"They're too...um...royal." She wasn't lying there he would nee some less impressive clothes. Calico fitted the cloak over her shoulders and started running, motioning with her hands for Will to follow. What had he gotten himself into? He was running away a complete stranger had just taken his cape and he was nowhere near convincing his parents that he was old enough not to be escorted everywhere. This had been a mistake.
Why did I do this, why did I do this. This was a really big mistake, how could he just return to his parents now? Someone would notice his missing cloak, it was his best and now he was cold without it. Freezing. How had Hannah before. But he still ran after her, what else could he do?
A Knock on the Door
It was dark, way too dark for anyone to be outside. And yet there were two figures slowly approaching. What are those people doing out there at this time, thought Thali. A worried thought had crossed her mind that it might be the sorcerer again like last night, but who was his company and why would they be here?
A panic surged through her and without thinking she bolted the door and leaned against it, sliding down to sit on the cold stone floor.
A knock came shortly after and it shook the whole door. So scared she was, why would he want anything to do with her, there was nothing special she had to offer.
There was a call, "Hello?" long and slightly distant but not threatening. He's a sorcerer, it's one of his tricks, Thali ran through her head so, so many times. the knocking stopped, there were some whispered voices and then footsteps leading away. Oh she was so lucky, they had given up and walked away. Her mother was asleep and any noise would wake her from her light sleep, Thali was surprised she hadn't stirred.
Thali lay down with a puff of exasperation. Then the back door opened with a long and muffled creak.
Hide, that was the first thing Thali thought of. She sat up and glanced around the room. Oh, how plain her house was, there was nowhere to hide. And now there were footsteps. Each footfall made the loudest sound. But only one pair, two feet, not four. Something was wrong. What would the sorcerer be like, he was only a boy about as old as her and surely he wouldn't do anything terrible, yet she was scared. Terrified. All you have to do is scream, she reminded herself, scream and I'm safe, but he's only a boy.
"Li? Hey Li?" someone called her, "I don't know why your door's locked but I need to ask you a favour." This came as a shock to Thali, but the voice; it was familiar, and no one else called her that but Calico.
"Oh, Cal! You scared me so much!" she couldn't help laughing, "Who was with you before?"
"Er, a friend, I need to ask you a favour."
"What?" Thali frowned in her usual questioning way with her eyebrows high, her brow furrowed and her eyes a little wider than usual.
"Look, I just have a friend who needs to stay for a short while."
"They better not cause any trouble. Where are they." she looked around Calico's shoulder
"Oh, he's outside," she smiled "and he won't cause any trouble."
"Can he help with any work?" there was her questioning look again
"Yeah, he's pretty great with horses." That was a guess, but it was obvious that Will had ridden a horse before and he was less likely to know how a broom worked.
"Well, do I get to meet him?" Thali teased, "Or should he remain a mystery?" she was sure Cal mainly wanted to introduce her to boys so she went along with it.
"I'm serious, Li, he needs a place to stay for about two days. Come on! he'll even work!"
"I already said yes." Li laughed. Cal ran outside. She had to tell Will what she had promised Li.
Will was standing at the back door, shuffling his feet absentmindedly. He was thinking. Thinking about what he had done, running away, following this girl who probably wasn't the kind of person he thought she was; her dress had been really misleading. What was he supposed to do?
"Look I told Li that you would do some work for her. Please, can you?"
"It better not be too hard." Will looked her in the eyes, he had started to see that Hannah couldn't be trusted too much. He wasn't stupid. A girl came walking through the door, Her black hair tied at her back in a loose ponytail and her eyes were squinting at him.
"Hello, I'm Thali."
"Oskar." It had been a mistake to tell hannah his real name and so he had decided to give himself a new name so that no one would know that he was the missing prince. That sounded good, the missing prince, the prince of great adventures, the prince who returned they all sounded so brave. Brave? He wasn't brave, he hadn't even left the city, he wasn't any of these titles.
"Well, here I'll get you a bed ready. I hope you don't mind sleeping in the stables because we haven't any other place. There's an empty stall, don't worry."
"Thank you," he was polite, Will had never slept in anywhere but in a large bed in the palace, his home.
Hay wasn't too comfortable, Will found. It itched him even from under the blanket. Sleep had never been harder. Why would Thali let him stay? A horse whinnied in the stall next to him and he almost jumped off the bale of hay. It reminded him of where he was. It wasn't comfortable, it wasn't ideal; but he hadn't planned anything better. What would I be doing if I hadn't found Hannah, he thought, I'd be who knows where in so much trouble or maybe I would crawl back to my parents and their disappointed eyes. I'm not even their first son. Theres Vern before me and why would they want me to be King anyway, I'd be hopeless.
The Calling Song
Her book, her book. Where had she put it? Nowhere it had been in her bag the whole day. She swore it had. there had been no time to pull it out anytime, she had been too busy and there had been no time to write. She needed it badly. No one could read what was in there, it was her's and someone had stolen it. It wasn't theirs to take and she certainly wouldn't give it to them whoever they were. Someone was in big trouble...
"Hello? Hello?" who was calling? It was too early, Will thought, too early for anything much. He opened his eyes and sat up.
"My ma cooked some eggs if you wanted, they're fresh!" it was that girl. Her name, her name; what was her name? Li, no that was what Hannah called her, Thali, that was it.
"No problem, our hens always lay too many eggs for us, they're old but still laying well."
"What am I supposed to do?" Will offered, "Is there anything?"
"Oh! Oh, you'll have Beatrice to look after while you stay, if you don't mind." she remembered and then saw Oskar and thought to say more, "She's the horse, if you want I'll show you where everything is so you know."
"Great! Thank you."
Thali handed him a plate with two fried eggs and some fresh bread, "Eat this first and I'll show you where everything is later." she walked outside and called to the chickens scratching at the ground outside and spread small grains across the hard ground.
Will started eating it felt good, he hadn't realised how hungry he had been but now he couldn't help but eat every morsel. he looked around the stable, chewing his food it was dank and musty but he would survive, survive this would be almost luxury to him if he hadn't found Hannah. The roof seemed to be attracted by the floor and there were many precarious beams trying to lift it up. There were three stalls; the one he was in, clean hay lining the stone floor and a large bale of hay with a woollen blanket over it on which he had slept; the one beside this, he thought, had Beatrice in it; the horse he was supposed to be tending to; and another one nothing was in there, he saw as he stood up, only more bales of hay filling it to the top.
It'd be a good idea to look at the horse. Then he could get to know her a bit and that would be helpful. She was a nice chestnut brown, a white mark between her deep set, sad eyes. She was lean, and looked very old, she surely didn't do any work around here.
With the plate in his hand, Will walked outside. Thali was picking leaves off of the plants in the garden beds and sorting them into different pouches in a basket.
"What're you doing?" It sounded rude, why had he said that?
"I need to pick these herbs for remedies, my ma grows herbs for the physicians. They need to be dry before she can sell them, though, thats how they last longer."
"And then they use them for remedies?" Will asked, "What plants are there?"
"There's lavender; thats this one with the purple flowers, and this is rosemary with the thin leaves, and that with the heart shaped leaves; thats marjoram and see that there," she pointed to one with larger leaves than the rest, "thats mint." Thali looked like she enjoyed telling people this.
"What about that one there?" Will pried
"Oh I forgot about them; that's sage with the long furry leaves, and thyme with the tiny leaves, and thats exphorum, sometimes people call it 'good devil'" there was pride in Thali's voice, it suited her, "I'll show you everything you'll need to know, then Oskar."
Thali showed Oskar what to feed Beatrice and where to find the broom and the fresh hay and told him when to clean the stall and explained how to do everything he would need to do and show him the well so that he could drink and to make sure that Beatrice had enough water. She showed him everything. Oskar's strange, she thought, he was very keen and anxious about every job I showed him. Oh well, at least I will have less jobs to do.
Everything was done and now Thali could rest. She lied down on the fresh grass, the dew absorbing into her dress.
"Thali, is there anything to do?" Oskar called
"No, no. It's all done, just relax, please!" Thali begged
"What am I supposed to do now?"
"And if I'm not tired?"
"Relax!" How many times did she have to say it? It was like he didn't know how to relax.
"Have you ever learnt how to sword fight?"
"No." Thali really couldn't go on like this any longer.
"Here, I'll teach you." Oskar was desperately trying to find something to do, she could tell.
"Don't, I'm trying to rest."
"Are you tired?" Now he's getting annoying, Thali thought
"No, it's just nice! Why are you here?" maybe she could get him to start talking and then he wouldn't be so annoying, the plan was worth a try.
"My parents are really strict so I decided to run away for a few days so that they would see that I'm capable of looking after myself. That's really all, I guess."
"There has to be more. When did You meet Cal? Why did you come here? Where did you come from? Tell me." Now, thought Thali, I'm the annoying one.
"We, um, we met just outside the City and she told me she was coming here so..." Will fabricated a whole story of how he had met Hannah, that's who he guessed 'Cal' was, and before that of his journey from he next town in the west and any kind of trouble he could have had along the way. It's fun, he thought, telling stories, I'll do this with my family when I get back, I'll tell them of the hardships that I went through and then I won't nearly be in any trouble.
"Wow. I'd hate to be you, I guess." Thali wanted to get him away, " If you want you can take Beatrice for a ride."
"Really? I can do that? But she looks so old and unsteady."
"She's safe, don't worry."
Thali watched Oskar walk into the stables trying not to run and show his enthusiasm. Her laugh was hard to stifle but she managed before he walked out, leading Beatrice with the reigns.
"Just be back before the sun sets, and stay out of the woods to the east!" She tried, but she didn't know if Oskar heard her or not. Oh well, he just wants to ride her and Beatrice knows not to go near those woods, she thought, he'll be fine.
The breeze felt wonderful on Will's face as he rode through the empty fields. Now he really felt free. It was amazing. Why hadn't he ever thought about running away before? He had, about seven times. It hadn't worked well. It hadn't worked at all. It felt so surreal, no one to tell him what to do, no one complaining about his posture or the way he ate or his poor 'loyalty' to his father and his Kingdom. Oh, the glorious wind at his cheeks, the high mountains that were no longer contained outside his window, the smell. Well, he could to without the smell. But otherwise, it was perfection. It would be amazing if I came home with a dragon's head at my feet, and a sword with the crusted blood of that same dragon splattered across it. Glorious, I would be, he thought but he had to admit that it was a little gruesome. It would prove his father wrong, he was destined for greatness and this was how he would achieve it. Freely, without any boundaries or expectations.
What was it that Thali had said? Something about sunset and the woods to the east? Yes, back before sunset and don't go into the woods. He wasn't planning to. But it was alluring. What lurked there that was so bad, why couldn't he go there? It was like the woods were calling to him. Each tree pleading for him to come, to see what lay beneath them, what mysteries did they hide beneath their protective branches that hung so low? He was drawn towards it, but the stubborn horse had different ideas. Beatrice was helplessly trying to turn around, she was almost begging him, Will saw.
He struggled off Beatrice. Still trying to get away. She was telling him not to go, and then he remembered Thali 'Just be back before the sun sets and stay out of the woods to the east'. He couldn't go. No he had to fight these desires. These woods must be dangerous or she wouldn't have warned me. Unless... Unless, there was something she was hiding from me, from everyone. Why would the woods be so dangerous? Why would she have told me not to go? His mind wanted to prove everything wrong he wanted to go into the woods, he wasn't going to deny that and hadn't he wanted an adventure, hadn't this been what he had thought about just before? He had thought about it, he had thought about an adventure. That was what he was going to tell his father, he had gone on an adventure. It would work. It had to.
Dark, it was dark. The first step Will took transported him from a bright field to the dark insides of a forest. Tree branches hung low and thorny brambles tugged at his arms and legs. One long step and another and someone grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him out into the bright light and onto the fields.
"What were you thinking?" A boy with brown wispy hair screamed at him.
"What? Why? Whats in there?" Will asked
"So many things. Too many things. Too dangerous, don't go there!" The boy was reasonably tall and he couldn't be much older than Will himself. There was just something about him that was different and it could have just been his strange clothes. A green tunic reaching just above the knees with a belt at the waist that could have been holding up his tights. From his belt hung a pouch and a gourd of water. His face was grubby and his clothes were patched up in many places, hiding the holes in the original tunic and tights.
"But what's really in there? Not just dangers, but what dangers? What's there? Who are you?"
"Carin, but who cares. There are too many dangers out there I couldn't name them all. You wouldn't come out of there alive if you went any further." The boy shouted. "Carin, why were you in there then?" Will challenged, Carin turned to look Will straight in the eyes. Blue, his eyes were blue. This boy was a sorcerer? He didn't look how he would have imagined. Actually he hadn't really ever thought about what one might look like. But sometimes people had blue eyes and weren't sorcerers, that was rare. This boy couldn't be a sorcerer anyway.
"I'm used to the naiphes' calls, I'm not going to get into any danger."
"The what did you say?"
"Naiphes, they're the e spirits, they love to watch pain and suffering, they call anyone near the woods and lure them to their deaths."
"Is that what I heard?"Will asked, these things hadn't made sense before but Carin had answers that he wasn't too sure about but they were the only explanation he could think of and there was no one else to tell him otherwise.
"It probably was, what did it sound like?"
"Er," He wasn't sure how to explain what he heard,"Like howling but like the trees were calling me, like they wanted to show me a beautiful secret."
"Their secret was probably something about creatures lurking in there waiting to eat you. You're lucky I'm here."
"Really? Or are you just trying to trick me trying to earn a prince's gratitude so that hee can reward you later because he isn't dead when he wouldn't even have been in the first place? Don't think I'm that stupid, I wasn't born yesterday." It all just blurted out he hadn't thought, he had been so annoyed by it that he had said everything he shouldn't have.