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6

Silly Teary

I usually bathe with a tub full of freshly boiled water. Sadly this time, it was barely warm.

“It’s cold,” I stated as Elyon rinsed me.

“If you wish for a properly prepared bath, like the one from this morning, then perhaps learn to take better care of yourself.”

“Mmmm,” I frowned at the water. “Why didn’t you tell me my grandmother was coming?” Her silence made me think back until I remembered. “You saying ‘prepare yourself’ does not count.”

“One should always be prepared.”

“Then why didn’t you properly prepare this bath?” I quickly covered my mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t… I didn’t mean it.” She didn’t reply as she seemed to focus on drying me. “A lot seems to be happening so fast. I learned that I’d be attending my first social event, I saw my grandmother for the first time, and I smacked her for calling Alais a monster. I smacked the empress, and now Mother wants to punish me… Also, Alais saves me from being crushed by horses, and she doesn’t even say thank you for the new home.”

I noticed Elyon’s gaze locked on me. I couldn’t help but blush. I was about to ask why she was staring until she finally spoke.

“Stay away from the stables.”

I was taken aback by her words. After all, I’m royalty, and she… well… I suppose it didn’t matter. I was more interested in the why.

“Is this the part where your reasoning is vague like in the storybooks?” I chuckled slightly, hoping her request was simply a joke.

“It’s as you said… You could have died if not for Alais.”

I wanted to complain, yell, cry, and even beg for her to take back her words. But my teachings wouldn’t allow me to break my composure, not yet, I suppose.

“What about Apple?”

“If you’re referring to a horse in the stables, then you should remove it from your thoughts.”

“Apple… is my new horse… the gift from mother.” I struggled to say, knowing that the only reply I would receive would be her calm gaze.

It was well into the afternoon when I was finished with my… unscheduled… second bath of the day. I’m sure Elyon was in the middle of something important when my oldest sister called on her to take care of a messy little brother. I know Elyon’s decision to forbid my access to the stables was for my own well-being, but I couldn’t help but feel as if I was suffocating. No matter how much air I took into my lungs, it never seemed to be enough. I assumed it would have been worse if not for Mother’s gift. I was going to receive my own horse after all, and while I’m unable to go into the stables, I could always stay outside and pet them from the windows. And as for my horse, I could request that it be brought out from time to time, I hoped. I wanted to ask Elyon if such ideas were acceptable though fear overcame me, and I said nothing.

Lost in thought once again, I realized I had been walking through the royal garden with the empress, I mean, my grandmother, for a little over ten minutes without saying a word.

“I’m sorry.” I blurted out. “I tend to become lost in thought while I’m here. Well… much more than normal, I suppose.”

She squeezed my left hand with a small chuckle.

“It’s always relaxing, this place. It’s why I planted it a few years ago.” She said.

“You… planted this garden, as in the whole thing?”

“With my own two hands. I wanted a place to go when I felt scared or sad… or angry. To be alone with my thoughts, if only for a little while.” She glanced down at me with a smile and said; “I bet you come here all the time.”

“Well… I used to. That was until I found it more relaxing to speak to the horses.”

My attention fell to the freshly cut grassy path. The thought of how the grass seemed to spring back into place, no matter how many times it was walked on over the years, came to mind.

“I was told my horses got a surprise shortly after my arrival.”

“I knew it!” I stared up at her with excitement in my eyes. “I’ve never seen such beautiful horses before. So well groomed, I figured they had to belong to someone important. But… I made the mistake of scaring them.”

“I’m pretty sure you… didn’t scare them,” She chuckled. “I made sure they were well-behaved and the most well-trained in all the lands just for you.”

“Me?”

“Umhm… being empresses has its perks, you see. Your grandma can do and say just about anything she wants,” She gave a prideful smile, going on to say; “I also have eyes and ears everywhere; I even know of the birthmark just over your butt.”

“That’s… not very comforting to hear. People might start calling you a pervert.”

“Empress Pervert, The Seer Of Birthmarks, does have an interesting ring to it,” She mused.

Her smile never left her face as she gave the name some thought. I couldn’t help but stare at her. I was shocked that she was even giving my remark any thought. I couldn’t help but laugh. As far back as I can remember, I thought I knew what royalty was supposed to be, Mother and my sisters being perfect examples. And with this revelation, embarrassing as it is, my laughter turned into sobbing. This caused us to stop walking, and before I knew it, I was in my grandmother’s embrace once again. I’m not the sad, mopey type, I swear. However, I became overwhelmed. It stung knowing that our time together was only for a moment.

We spent a bit more time in the royal garden until an elven servant gave news that my gift from Mother had finally arrived.

“I was hoping that I would get the chance to ride for the first time. But with there being little time left in the day, I fear I will have to wait for another day. But that’s fine, after all, I did get to spend time with you, grandmother.”

“Adam, I don’t think you understand how happy I feel hearing you say that. I would like you to do me a favor, dear,” She said, kneeling to my eye level. She reached into her purse and pulled out a red spiral made of interlacing rectangles before clipping it to the clothing of my left shoulder. “When you’re feeling helpless, look to the sky, you’ll never know what you can accomplish unless you try.” She said, taking my hand.

So I did, and in doing so, I quickly remembered something important.

“Grandmother, I discovered something strange in the sky.”

“Oh?” She eyed me with a smile, “Is that so?”

“Yes, I’ve been too busy with other things, but… It’s easier to spot at night with my Star Seeker. Erm… my telescope.”

“The one you left out in the rain?”

“Oh, that’s right, you’ve been spying on me like a pervert…”

She chuckled, stroking the top of my head.

“Nope, I’ve been spying on you because you’re my grandson. Like I said before, I got eyes and ears everywhere. There’s not much I don’t know,” She gave a smug smirk.

“Then what’s the strange thing flying through the sky every night?”

“Probably a bird or a dragon.”

“That… can’t be right. It follows the same exact path at the same exact time.”

“Hmm… how about this, you write down everything you know about it, and if your discovery shows promise, I’ll send you something to help with furthering your research.”

“I still don’t know much but, I’ll do my best!”

“That’s what grandmother likes to hear, love.”

“Excuse me… did you say dragon?”

Coming to a stop in front of the palace, our conversation was sadly cut short as the sound of a horse-drawn wagon could be heard coming down the main road. It hooked around in front of Grandmother and me, coming to a soft stop. Strangely enough, it was a box wagon, which brought me to the conclusion that Apple was not the horse standing there looking proud and radiant in the sunset. I couldn’t help myself as my body instinctively stepped closer to the familiar beast and reached out my hand.

“Your Royal Highness, that’s not how you should approach. You could startle it.” I was warned far too late as my hand was already petting the horse’s side. “Well, it seems you have the magic touch.” The stranger said though my gaze refused to pull away from the horse before me.

“I recognized this one from the stables,” I said.

“Is that right? You have a good eye, then. I still struggle with recognizing them apart.”

My attention was glued to the majestic beast before I realized I didn’t recognize the voice. I turned my gaze, spotting the coachman, stepping closer with a bow. He was a tall, well-dressed man. I hesitated slightly at the fact this gentleman was trying to hold a conversation. Not that I didn’t welcome it! I just… at the time, there were only a few that I got to speak to, and some of them felt more like one-sided conversations. So could you blame me for not wanting to get my hopes up?

“May I ask you your name?”

“Walter Henry, Your Highness.”

“Mr. Henry, would you mind teaching me all you know about horses? After all, if I’m going to have one of my own, I would need to know all I can.”

He seemed to be at a loss for words, but at the time, I didn’t understand why. As he spoke, I wasted no time making my way to my waiting gift or, should I say, new friend.

“Well, it would be my honor, however, my knowledge is a little limited,” He added as he made his way next to me, unlatching the gate and opening it.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Henry. Every little bit…”

I trailed off as my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside. Laying there on the floor was something I had never seen before. It was a horse, but instead of a horse’s head, there was a human’s torso, arms, and head. It was as if someone took the body of a horse and a human girl and fused them into one… before beating it to death. At least, It looked dead. When it opened its eyes and focused on me, I wanted to scream though I refused the temptation. I could slightly hear voices that seemed like whispers, voices that turned out to be my Grandmother and Mother. They seemed to be debating about what should be considered a proper birthday gift.

“Mr. Henry?” I asked.

“Y…yes, Your Highness?”

I noticed his reply was hesitant. Informing me that he might not know anything about why this creature was hanging on for dear life.

“Please take my horse to my chambers.”

My request seemed to catch my mother’s attention.

“Your chamber’s? I will not allow the tracking of blood in my home,” My mother said.

I glanced at my Grandmother, who looked back at me, slowly raising her eyebrows. A look that seemed to ask me what I… thought should be done. What I… needed to do to correct my… problem.

“Yes, I understand. Thank you for my gift, nonetheless,” I quickly turned. “Mr. Henry, carry Apple, and follow me.”

“Oh, of course.”

“Mr. Henry…” My mother began. “Is a busy man, Adam. Hurry and remove your gift so he may leave.”

I stared wide-eyed at my mother as she departed back inside. But I paused only for a moment before I took off across the field, running as fast as I could. Finally arriving at Alais’s door, smacking at it frantically until she opened it to an out-of-breath, teary-eyed prince.

“Help!” I said.

Saying nothing, she glanced behind me. Standing there was Mr. Henry with Apple on his back. He seemed to be in shock that there was an Orc just living in a round wooden cabin right outside the palace. While I was more surprised that he followed through with my request I was also surprised that… he was surprised by Alais. I noted his reaction as belonging to someone who didn’t work on these lands or was perhaps new. With that being said, I had no choice but to assume he had something to do with Apple’s condition. But I pushed that thought aside for the moment.

“Mr. Henry, please bring Apple inside; I’ll go get Elyon.” I turned to run but stopped when I noticed that he hadn’t moved, eyes locked on the menacing figure in the doorway. “I’ll bring you something to eat if you be kind, to Mr. Henry,” I said before turning to run.

I didn’t really wish to think about what was going on in Alais’s head nor that of Mr. Henry. My goal was to make sure Apple didn’t die. It wasn’t the first time… seeing the life of something fade away. When I was younger, I had a pet fish, and my younger sister Mary convinced my mother I wasn’t responsible enough to care for it. So Mother gave it to Mary. I begged and pleaded for Mary to give it back, even promising to do everything she asked for a whole day. A horrible thing to promise, but I was desperate. It was before I started going to the stables. Sadly I not only realized how much of a pervert she was, but she told me I had my fish all along. She apparently had it cooked and added to my dinner. Crying over a fish isn’t something I’m too proud of. Needless to say, I don’t speak with Mary much anymore. I managed to locate Elyon, preparing my chambers. Building a proper fire and laying out my change of clothes for the night.

“Elyon, Apple is hurt!”

She gave a questioning frown in my direction. Moments later, we were in Alais’s hut. Apple was on the floor next to the fireplace, and I caught Alais in the middle of reaching for Mr. Henry.

“Alais, please… I need him to help Apple.”

“I was only planning on using him to scratch an itch.”

“Saying such things in His Highness’s presence. You should’ve been put down a long time ago like the dog you are,” Elyon said.

Alais didn’t say a word as she sat there with her legs crossed. Plucking me from where I knelt next to Apple, she sat me down in her lap with a grin. Did I mention that Elyon and Alais hated each other? Having both lived a long time, I had a feeling they both knew each other around or before the war.

“Young master, please remove yourself from that filthy creature’s lap.”

“Elyon, please do your best to help Apple,” I said, heart still racing from the running.

It didn’t help the fact that the air I took into my lungs was Alais’s musk. I made a mental note to do something about this when I have time. She held out her palm and placed it on Apple’s lower, four-legged half. That’s when I realized this might be the first time I get to see Elyon ever use magic though I was disappointed.

“I sense many broken ribs, dislocated vertebrae, and rectal trauma. This one is not female, Your Highness. But male, however, it seems Apple has been castrated, quite poorly it seemed.”

“It seemed?” I asked, glancing at Mr. Henry.

He seemed to struggle with paying Alais no mind. While she sat elbow to her knee and fist to her chin, looking as bored as can be.

“That’s correct. Although, Apple seems to be healing fast.”

“Is it because of your magic?”

“No, Your Highness…”

“Maybe…” I thought. “Because of my connection to horses… I unknowingly used my hidden magic?”

My question seemed to amuse Alais.

“Like in your storybooks? How childish,” Alais said.

I tried to ignore the comment, but I let slip a flush of embarrassment. Though the fact that Alais knew my love for books assured me that she had at least listened to me a little over the years.

“No, I sense no active magic here. I’ve no clue why. With that being said, If your mother found out I used magic to heal this child, there will be consequences.”

“But you didn’t…” I said.

“From her point of view, Your Highness. Meaning, this blessing could turn out to be more of a curse…”

“Mr. Henry?” I called, seeming to startle him. “Did you have anything to do with this? Apple’s condition, I mean.”

“Not at all, Your Royal Highness. I was merely instructed to come here.”

“By whom?”

“Her Majesty the Queen.”

“… I knew this, I suppose.”

“Your Royal Highness, might I make a suggestion?” Henry began. “Perhaps keeping him bandaged even after being fully healed would give off the appearance that he’s still injured.”

“That’s a wonderful idea!” My excitement got the better of me. Apple, who seemed to rest peacefully on the floor, opened his eyes once again. Though he was looking my way, it felt as if he was looking right through me. “Apologies for waking you…” I slowly wiggled from the pocket of Alais’s lap and sat on her crossed shins. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said nothing else. Reaching out slowly and caressing the top of his head as he gazed at me side-eyed. He stared for a little while longer before drifting back to sleep. “I’m sorry for keeping you, Mr. Henry.”

“No, it’s fine. I only wish I could have done more.”

Elyon finally stood up, dusting off her uniform.

“That’s great to hear, Mr. Henry. Would you please assist me with Apple’s bandages? For now, it’s time for His Highness to get his rest.”

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Don't Cross The Bridge

A baby-faced little boy who's tougher than he looks with a smart mouth, and a pretty little girl with a mean right hook and a foul mouth.

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