Part 2: Janus
Hunter stared down at Princess Emerald with his mouth hanging open. Maybe the spell took a moment to break? Maybe he did something wrong?
He bent over to kiss her again, then stood and waited another couple minutes. Still, nothing happened, and his heart began to sink as he realized his kiss simply did not work.
But the fairies had specifically told him that a kiss from her true love would break the spell! Surely no one else could be her true love! They had grown up together, and he had always loved her and he swore that she loved him right back! Surely his kiss should have worked…
But the truth was right before his eyes. He had kissed Princess Emerald of Lockheart, and she did not wake.
“Impossible,” he blurted out, running his fingers through his hair. “No, surely I am her true love!” The thought of anyone else being her true love made a mix of anger, disappointment, and despair fill his chest. If he was not her true love…then who was? It could be anyone in the kingdom! It would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and he refused to allow every man in the realm to kiss Emerald. He knew for sure she would not appreciate that one bit! “I suppose I must pay the fairies another visit.”
Seeing as that was his only option, he close the curtain to hide Emerald once more, then started back down the tower. On his way up the tower, he hadn’t been aware of his fatigue, as he had been so set on rescuing the princess. But now, it made it nearly impossible to go back down without tripping. His long trek there, his battle with the dragon, and the climb up had drained his energy.
It was nearly night when he had found his horse where he had tied her up just outside the thickest parts of the thorn vines. There was no safe place to stop and rest, so all he could do was fight to stay awake as he rode his horse back down the rocky cliffs.
“Who could her true love be?” he questioned himself as he rode along. He searched his brain for any answer, and by the time he came to a tavern along the road at the bottom of the cliffs, no possible candidates came to mind.
Sighing, he tied his horse to a post outside the tavern and went inside, too tired to continue his journey. Mackshire forest was still so far away.
He fastened his cloak around his shoulders and pulled his hood low over his eyes. It was a far off land and he doubted anyone around would recognize his face, but it was better safe than sorry. Who knew who would be in a tavern like this.
When he pushed the rickety doors open, the sound of countless voices all talking at once mixed with the clanking of tin mugs and rattle of glass bottles filled his ears. He cringed at the musty sents and dirty occupants, wondering what had possessed him to want to stop at a place like this. Exhuastion certainly did strange things to a person. Shaking his head with a weary sigh, he walked over the threshhold and down the short flight of steps into the dimly lit tavern. No one noticed him as he walked up to the counter, where a young man with a blond ponytail stood washing a tin mug with an old rag.
“What can I do for you, sir?” the man asked without looking away from the mug.
“I need a room for tonight,” Hunter said, lowering his voice and leaning towards the man so he could hear him over the noise of everyone around them.
“That’ll be five pieces,” the man said, again not facing Hunter. Hunter grabbed the money out of his pocket and set it on the counter.
Finally, the man put the mug and rag down to take the money, then he looked up at Hunter with a grin. Hunter tilted his head slightly. He seemed much more like a proper man than someone who would be running a tavern.
“I can tell your future for a bit more,” he said, putting both hands down on the counter. “What do you say?”
Ah, thought Hunter, he must be one of those magicians.
“It would really help out with my tuition!” the man continued. “I only get a quarter of what the boss makes running this bar, you know?! Just three more pieces will do!”
Hunter sighed. Well, he was curious. He dug three more pieces out of his pocket and put it on the counter. “All right. If it would truly help you.”
“Thanks a lot!” The man took a regular deck of playing cards out of his back pocket and shuffled them, then pulled out three — a Heart, Spade, and a Joker and laid them side by side on the counter, his grin turning into a frown. “Gee man, sorry. Looks like your love life is about to go down the drain!”
Hunter’s face paled under his hood. “Really? Well, that is just too bad.” He wanted to say, you know what? It already has!, but he refrained from doing so.
“But hey, there’s some good news! Looks like you’re about to gain a new friendship!” the man said, as he started to return the three cards to the deck. “Hopefully that makes up for it!”
Hunter forced a smile. “Yes, well, thank you.”
The man took a key from a cubby on the wall behind him and tossed it to Hunter. “You get room number three, located upstairs, third door to the window at the end of the hall. That’s your room key. Breakfast is at eight in the morning.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Hunter. He took his key over to the staircase leading to the second floor, and gave the tavern a once-over before climbing them.
The noise from downstairs seemed to dull in the dark hallway, where the only light came from a few candles sitting around. Doors lined the right wall, and a few on the left, all with a piece of wood with a number scratched on it nailed to them. At the end of the hall, there was a window, but it was so dark out Hunter could see nothing out of it from where he stood.
A sudden cold, empty feeling filled him, making him rub his arms. It was as if a sudden frost had fallen over the old wooden floors and walls. The emptiness was strange; like all he had ever hoped and dreamed for was taken away, and all he had ever loved had deserted him. Somehwere, deep down, he recognized this feeling…
He spun around to face the other side of the hall, which was just a bit darker than the other. There were no windows, and only one candle that was starting to burn out. And just as he thought, a figure sat in an old chair in the corner. He could barely make him out with the candle’s light, but he spotted two twisting horns and raven black hair. The rest of the figure was shrouded in darkness, but he knew instantly who this was.
“Witch filth,” he muttered, making his voice convey his hatred. The figure paused, then laughed, making the chilly air seem all the more frigid. Hunter almost shivered.
“Witch filth?” the figure replied. His accent was undeniably one from the Wastelands. “Please, good sir, save that remark for my dearest sister.”
“Your ‘dearest sister’ is dead,” Hunter said, rather coldly. Again the figure froze, but his laughter continued a moment after.
“Dead?” he said, standing. His body now blocked the light left from the single candle as he approached Hunter. “I assume you were the one who did it? My sister is not easily thwarted. I of all who live should know that.”
“All that matters is that she is dead,” Hunter spat, standing tall. As soon as the figure came close, any doubt of his identity was gone. This was certainly Janus, the brother of the witch he had just defeated.
Janus stared at him with his black eyes that seemed to hold so much hatred they would catch fire. “I suppose that is all that matters, since you leave a brother without his sister.”
“Like you would care, Janus,” Hunter risked saying the man’s name out loud. He had no clue if Janus knew of him, and he wondered what the man would do to him if he did.
Janus flinched at the sound of his name. “Oooh, I haven’t heard anyone call me that in years.” A smile crept over his deathly pale face. “Say it again, won’t you?”
Hunter gritted his teeth, then, in a flash, reached up and grabbed one of Janus’ horns and pulled him down, making him grunt annoyance. Hunter looked at the floor so his face would not be visable to Janus, but he spoke loud and clear.
“Your sister cast a spell on Princess Emerald and put her into a deep sleep. If you know of any way to break the spell, then speak, or so help me I will use my dagger against you!”
Janus didn’t try to pull out of the prince’s grasp, and only slumped in what seemed like despair. “I know nothing of my sister’s doings. What would make you think she would tell me anything? I am not powerful at all. I am nothing like her.”
“The fairies said a true love’s kiss would break the spell. Do you know who it is?”
Janus laughed. “Ohhh, but wouldn’t you know, Prince Hunter?”
Hunter gasped and shoved Janus back, putting his hand over his chest where his dagger was concealed under his cloak.
Janus held up his hands. “Don’t be so afraid of me, Prince Charming. I could gain nothing from killing you.”
Hunter’s face twisted with anger. “But you still might kill me anyway.”
Janus paused, then smiled. “Ah, you might be right,” he said, then waved his hand and went to sit down in his chair. “Leave me be, will you not? Everyone else already has.”
Hunter’s muscles releaxed slightly as Janus sat down again. He wondered what he was doing all the way here, but not enough to ask. Men like him usually had strange reasonings or didn’t say at all. Without another word, Hunter took the key out of his pocket and went to his room. He no longer felt safe sleeping in the same tavern as Janus, but it was night out and who knew what types of beasts would be roaming about.
He would just have to sleep and continue his journey in the morning.
~ <♥> ~
Hey there! So sorry for this being a day late, but now it is here for you to enjoy! I was SO excited to bring Janus into the mix, he is just a blast to write and I hope y’all enjoyed his little introduction! Also, side note, did you notice the cameo I added in? Let me know in the comments, as well as how you liked this part! God bless y’all!