Part 7: The Storyteller
Hunter jumped down from his horse when he finally made it out of the Wastelands. The sight of grass and trees brought a smile to his face. “Ah, freedom,” he said to himself as he stepped over to a small creek to take a drink. His horse had the same idea.
“All right. What to do next,” he said as he dried his hands on his coat. He could not return to Janus without a way of convincing him to kiss Emerald, and it seemed as though nothing would be good enough to convince him. Not even death frightened him! “He’s an odd duck for certain,” he said to his horse, patting her neck. “Well, come on, girl, we might as well return home for the time being. Perhaps Loti will know what to do. She’s been around for awhile, anyway.”
After another drink and a little walk around the woods, Hunter mounted his horse once more and rode off towards Mackshire. It was a little ways off, and the forests were thick, but he managed to reach the gates by nightfall.
The city was just as he left it. Clean streets, people running to and fro with baskets, carts, and livestock. Children chasing each other. And the Knights of Dusk on their endless patrol. A group of them halted to salute to him as he passed by, and he returned the gesture.
The Knights of Dusk were no ordinary knights. These men and women were chosen in their childhood to train as one of them, and they could only be chosen if they had a certain skill set; certain talents. And once you became one of them, things did not get any easier. If you couldn’t adhere to the strict rules and regulations, you would be publicly flogged and ridiculed. Not to mention that you would lose your titles and wealth.
Some people thought it was all too cruel, but Hunter only saw it as justice. If you broke the rules, you were punished. It was only fair.
His thoughts turned to the issue at hand as he passed through the large iron gates surrounding the palace. He left his horse to the stable boys before hurrying inside.
“Ah, Your Highness,” a butler, Hugo, said when he entered.
Hunter wasted no time, raising a hand to prevent Hugo from speaking further. “Where’s Loti. I must speak with her immediately.”
Hugo looked taken aback, but quickly recovered his blank expression. “I believe she is in the library, as usual. Do you require assistance with anything.”
“Nothing you can help with, I’m afraid,” Hunter said, leaving the butler to check the library. Loti, being as mysterious as she was, was never in one place for too long, and Hunter didn’t want to waste time looking for her.
Luckily, as Hugo had said, Hunter found her in the library searching through a large, ancient looking book that she kept having to bend down and pick up pages which were falling out.
“Loti,” he said. “We must speak.”
Loti jumped, dropping the book and scattering countless pages all over the floor. She looked up at Hunter with a face that reminded him of his mother whenever she was angry with him. “Hunter, look what you made me do, you naughty boy! Always scaring me like that!”
Hunter always laughed whenever he was scolded by her, but he didn’t feel like laughing now. “I apologize, Loti, but I am in a hurry.”
Loti huffed a deep sigh as she began picking up the yellow parchment, her dress skirt managing to hide some from view. “I assume this means you weren’t able to rescue the princess?”
“That’s what I need to speak to you about,” he said, his lips pressing together in a thin line for a moment. “I…I am not her true love.”
Loti stood with a stack of papers in her hand and her brow furrowed. “No? I could have sworn it would be you.” She shrugged. “Oh well. Who is it then?”
Hunter swallowed. He hoped she even believed him. “Janus…”
“Janus…from the Wastelands.”
Loti laughed then, the loud, hearty laugh that always made Hunter was to laugh too. When she finally came to her senses, wiping tears from her eyes, she shook her head. “Hunter, you naughty boy, stop jesting! This is a serious matter!”
“I am not jesting,” Hunter said, his expression as grim as ever. “Janus is Emerald’s true love. The good fairies themselves told me.”
Loti’s smile quickly disappeared. “Hunter, there is no possible way. Emerald is so sweet, kind…charming! And Janus is…well, he’s…-“
“Janus?” Hunter offered, and Loti nodded emphatically.
“Yes, he’s Janus! Twin brother of that horrible witch! Emerald and Janus are as different as night and day!”
“Still, they are meant to be,” Hunter said, bowing his head. “The problem is that I cannot make Janus wake her. A true love’s kiss is required, and he refuses. I even threatened him with death, and he would willingly die to keep from going through with kissing the princess.”
Loti rolled her eyes. “Always keeping with the dramatics,” she said with a tsk tsk. “Well, I assume you’ve come to find a way to make him do it, then?”
Hunter nodded. “Yes…you have been around the palace for a long time and know the ways of Janus’ family. I thought you might know of something.”
Loti paused for a long moment, her deep brown eyes taking on a faraway look. She picked up the rest of the pages from the ground and put them in their place, then gestured at Hunter to sit in one of the velvet armchairs by the window overlooking the town. “I do know of something. It is of great value to Janus. But…if not even death can move him, this might not either.”
“I will try anything,” Hunter said as he took a seat. “Please, tell me everything you know.”
“I will, my boy,” she said. “But a good story calls for some tea and biscuits.” She called for a servant to get some tea for them, then came to sit in the chair opposite of Hunter’s. She kept silent until the tea and biscuits were brought, then, after a long sip from her teacup, she looked up at Hunter and smiled. “Now, where do I begin?”
~ <♥> ~
Things are getting interesting now! I’m super excited for the next part, because we will be getting Janus’ backstory! And honestly, there’s some stuff I don’t know yet, so I’m wondering what kind of things the characters will reveal to me!
What do you think about this part? Share your feedback in the comments below! God bless y’all and have a great weekend!