Previous canto: "Where?"
by Kevin F. Story
Then, quickly, he sat up. It was the realisation that this place was not his home in Pilvar as his dreams had led him to believe. In the veil of sleep, he saw himself once more walking the halls of his far-off home, where he and James would wander the courtyard in search of daily activity. Some days they would walk atop the walls, staring off as far as they could see, wondering what the world that stretched out before them was like.
Here they were. The world.
Delfort glanced around the room. He was alone. His night visitors had gone after their warm welcome, and one (was it Miranda or Colette?) had been gracious enough to untie his hands. Miranda had dark brown skin and long black hair that billowed and flowed like a cloud in wind. Colette had reddish skin and blonde hair that curled in every which direction down to her shoulder. Delfort would remember them fondly, but they were no replacement for Clara, or even Jacklynne, in his opinion.
Clara, of course, was the reason he was here. He still needed to find her, but he felt that need more distantly than before.
He pulled himself out of bed and to the window. Where he expected to see the dense forest they came from was instead a great, glittering city with towering shiny buildings. People streamed in and out of these buildings, each with a sack, some with two, or three, or five. Men stood on the street drinking and singing. Women danced seductively and laughed with the men.
“Vaslegas,” Delfort whispered, his face pressed against the window, his eyes squinting against the sun and the reflections.
Beggars of various ages lined the streets, their outstretched hands dry and dusty. Someone who had entered a building with a full sack exited now with an empty one and proceeded to join the other beggars, holding the bag open as if hoping to catch rainwater. Most of these beggars went ignored and were left to fight amongst themselves for tavern scraps.
The only piece of clothing the prince found in the room was a plush maroon robe. He sniffed it before throwing it around himself, deciding it was a fresh garment, and, anyway, what else was he going to put on? He looked through a mirror at his princely self, whose hair was a bit disheveled and whose robe was too large for the young prince's frame. He tried his best to smooth his hair before gingerly peeking into the hallway.
The hallway glowed warmly with patterned amber wallpaper and plush red fabrics. Many doors lined it, and at the far end was a staircase leading down. It was quiet; perhaps everyone was downstairs enjoying breakfast or some such thing. As Delfort walked towards the stairs, a figure rose from them, a ghostly young man dressed as the fellow who let them into this house yesterday: nothing but loose black knickers and a black collar. Delfort gawked at the odd sight as it approached.
“James! What are you doing?”
James said nothing. He stopped just in front of where Delfort stood. Delfort grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, but James threw his arms away.
“What's got into you?”
James shook his head and gestured towards the stairs. Then he began walking towards them. Before he got there, he stopped and turned to stare at Delfort. He was waiting.
“Fine,” the prince mumbled, “but this is peculiar, and I don't like it.” He stomped to the stairs, his maroon robe billowing in front as he stepped. “You hear me, James?”
James stared. He gestured down the stairs. Delfort sighed. This, he thought, was becoming very difficult, indeed.
Prince Delfort's adventures will continue next time in "Escape! (Maybe!)"....