The dim glow of the morning light finally reached into Soshet’s bedroom, awakening her. She blinked awake, stretching out her arms. A hand reached across her chest. She took it, rolling over and greeting Talaku. He kissed her, pulling himself towards her.

“Good morning,” she said quietly, resting back onto her pillow.

“Hmm, quite,” he murmured. “Do you want to get breakfast?”

“In a little while.”

“You know, I haven’t been to my home in three days,” he said, “Perhaps I should-”

“Oh, no. I want you here.”

“I didn’t mean I wanted, I meant, I could use a change of clothes,” Talaku finished, “do you want me to stay here, Soshet? Permanently?”

“Well, perhaps, maybe,” she said uncertainly, “all I know is, you being here is nice. It comforts me.”

“That’s good, but, what do you want out of this?” He asked, looking her in the eyes, “Do you want me?”

“Would you come here?”

“Of course, my house is a one room dump,” he replied smiling, “But, that’s not what I really meant.”

“I know. Uh, hungry, feel hungry, I need food.”

She slid to the floor and began dressing, unsure what she really wanted. Talaku stepped up behind her and slit his arms around her.

“I want breakfast,” Soshet said quietly, “How about Kisir’s?”

“Whatever you desire, my love,” he murmured, holding her close.

The caravan trundled down the last leg of the Via Dmitriev, a thick fogbank shrouding the great city. As they crossed into the outskirts of the city, Dusty slowed their speed somewhat. He appeared nervous, peering at the surroundings for any sign of life. Soon he spotted an alley and turned them into it. The wagons slowed and then came to a stop.

“This is where you get off, lads.”

“But, I thought.”

“The deal was to bring you to Kassar, nothing else. Good luck to you.”

The four of them hesitantly disembarked, Sapphire holding their captive. The caravan moved out the moment they were clear. They watched it ride off, the fog enveloping their former transport within moments. Ears ringing from the sudden silence, they remained still for some time, all wondering what they were going to do. In need of direction, Pahwon stepped forward and beckoned them to follow. He walked carefully back to the street and leaned against the wall. He peered around the corner for any sign of trouble.

“Where are we going?” Tossmek asked, leaning next to him.

“My sister lives here,” he replied, “We find her, and then, uh, she works for the government.”

“What of him?” Sapphire asked, tapping on the prince’s head.

“I have a name,” Rudolpho growled. “You are aware I could run to the authorities.”

“Only if you want to die,” Hiwei warned placing her hand on his neck.

“He’s right though,” Tossmek breathed, “Sapphire, could you…uh, take him somewhere?”

“And where did you have in mind, exactly?”

“How about down there?” Tossmek said, pointing at a manhole cover.

She sighed, grabbing the young prince by the scruff of his neck and hauling him to the opening. After exchanging concerned looks, Pahwon started down the street, hoping they hadn’t just made a terrible error. It was a quiet walk through the fog, their eyes darting in every direction for any sign of movement. All at once the sound of approaching feet froze them on the spot. Pahwon rested his hand on the ax handle, looking for any avenue of escape.

For an agonizing minute they remained still, wondering if they should run or stand their ground. Then a frightened old woman and her grandson emerged from the fog and hurried past, the young man eying Pahwon suspiciously. They breathed a sigh of relief, hoping the rest of the trek would be less nerve wracking. The road passed through an arched façade, a sign above indicating that they had entered the government district.

Within moments a patrol of dirty, pale skinned men were approaching, their sent heralding their presence before they could be seen. Very carefully, Pawhon increased his pace as they approached; hoping they would mistake them for weary locals. Several of the men turned to examine the newcomers but none left their patrol route. They all sighed collectively once the patrol was out of sight, Pahwon detecting a hint of something in the air.

“Frying oil,” he murmured, taking in the delightful sent.

“What?” Hiwei asked quietly. “Oil, did you say?”

“I think so,” Pahwon replied, feeling in his pocket for coin. “I’m feeling hungry…”

Soshet and Talaku walked past the ministry offices, both thinking longingly about their old jobs. The smell of food soon washed away their melancholy and within a few steps Kisir’s appeared out of the fog. She hurried through the door, feeling renewed. Somewhere in her mind, she knew that they would be out of money within a few weeks. The thought was drowned out by her hunger for food.

Sitting down once again in her usual place, her usual meal in front of her again, Soshet felt as though everything was back to normal. Hoping to make the feeling last, she eat slowly and took progressively smaller bites. When finally the food was gone she ordered a drink to try and stay just a few minutes more. While savoring the cheap beer she looked towards the door, finally getting ready to leave.

The door opened and three figures walked into the room. Soshet stared at the impossible sight, at last convinced of her madness. Across the room was her filthy, bedraggled brother taking a seat with a pair of similarly disheveled figures. In a haze she walked across the room, pushing the tightly packed chairs and tables from her path. She was barely arms length away before her brother noticed her.

“S-Soshet? Wow, this is quite fortuitous…”

“P-P-Pahu!” She cried, lunging for him.

“Graahh.” He nearly fell out of his chair as Soshet wrapped her arms around him. “S-Soshet, what…”

“Thought I lost you, thought you were gone to the underworld,” she mumbled.

Then her face flushed and she jumped back. Embarrassed by her outburst, Soshet stood quietly, averting her eyes.

“Hey, Soshet, do you r-remember me?” Tossmek said quickly.

“You’re that Tossim girl, if I recall. How-how did all of you, uh, maybe we should go to my apartment, somewhere we won’t be seen.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Hiwei said brightly, pushing out her chair.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on over there?” Kisir hollered from behind the counter.

“Nothing, I-I’m leaving early, pay will be on this table.”

Hastily, she dropped a few coins before rushing out the door. She was halfway down the block before remembering what she was doing. Awkwardly, Soshet turned and looked back, stopping to wait for her brother to catch up.

“Soshet, are you alright?” he called, running up beside her.

“L-let’s just get back, to, apartment.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Pahwon replied, smiling.

With the odd troupe now in tow, Soshet made her way back home, her mind fluctuating between overflowing and completely blank. She was so distracted that she nearly rammed straight into the front door. Slightly embarrassed, she hastily yanked the door ajar and stepped inside. Talaku pushed ahead of her, leading them up the last flight of steps and into the apartment. Once in her nest, Soshet’s thoughts began to coalesce, a simple question floating to the top of her mind.

“How are you here? How, how?”

“That would take some time to explain,” Pahwon replied.

“I’ll get some tea, then, and we can have a nice long chat.”

“Uh, I’d hate to leave Sapphire in the sewers for too long, so, perhaps…”

“The who in where, what?”

“The woman who saved us,” Hiwei said quickly, “her name is Sapphire and she’s hiding in the sewers at the moment.”

“With the Prince of Portugal,” Tossmek added, “As Pahwon mentioned, we’ve had a long, long trip here.”

“The-oh, wait, is this Sapphire woman a foreigner?”

“Yes, if…”

“Pahu, we need to go get her then,” Soshet said, grabbing his arm, “she might be discovered by, uh, I’ll explain later, let’s go.”

“Sure, I guess, might as well.”

“Talaku, you stay here with them, and if anything happens, well, well, um.”

“We’ll think of something.”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

And as soon as she had come, Soshet left her apartment, leading Pahwon all the way out into the street before remembering that it was he who knew where they were going.

“Uh, Pahu…”

“It’s this, erm, actually, I not sure,” He mumbled, looking around the strange street, “it’s different, here, around, Soshet, where is that restaurant place?”

“Follow me, it’s not far. Actually, you said she was hiding in the sewers. I might know a faster way.”

“T-this is intolerable,” Prince Rudolpho moaned, twisting his face from the stench.

“Kindly shut up,” Sapphire suggested, looking over the side of the narrow walkway and into the awful river. “It’s bad enough down here without your complaining.”

“Just days ago I was in the castle. To think, I have become a piece of baggage, it is…”

“If you don’t want the gag to go back in, you’ll can it with the woe-as-me talk. We’re stuck here until Pahwon and the others get back.”

“Ugh, this is a giant mess. When I get home-huh, wait, what are you hoping to accomplish, really?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve stopped me, the invasion is off. Now what are you going to do?”

“Keep from being found, for now.”

“Fantastic plan there.”

A clattering noise echoed down the pipe, sending Sapphire’s mind into overdrive. She sprang up, nearly banging her head on the side of the wall and looked down the dank tunnel for any sign of movement.  From around the next corner appeared a feeble light. Hesitantly, she retreated towards the darkness, abandoning the shaft of light falling through the manhole above.

Ahead of her appeared a silhouette holding a lantern. The figure turned towards her, and began quickly walking her way. She lowered herself onto the ground, pulling the squirming prince down with her. Slowly the figure drew near, stopping underneath the manhole. He squinted up at the gap, light shining off his bald head, trying to spot something, or so it appeared. With a sigh he shook his head, starting back down the pipe. Then he spun back around and stared at Sapphire.

“Ack, crap, I’ve been spotted,” he moaned, drawing a jagged dagger from his belt. “Who, who are you?”

“Uh, I am, am, perhaps you should identify yourself first, stranger,” she said, hastily reaching for the sewer water.

“You first, stranger.”

Desperate, Sapphire plunged her hand down, freezing the putrid liquid and forming a pipe underneath the surface. Within moments she had one end aimed it at him and sent a jet of the stuff through her ice pipe. It splattered all over the man, giving her sufficient distraction to make her escape.

With her dirty hand she dragged the prince down the walkway, searching for an opening. She had barely covered six yards before realizing that if she left the sewers she would become a sitting duck. A crushing feeling doom crept over Sapphire as she made her futile run.  After dashing around several bends she stopped, having come to another manhole, and stared at it for a moment.

“You waiting for a written invitation?” The prince hissed. “Let’s get out of here.”

“I cannot, as the city above is just as hostile.”

“Great.”

“Stop right there!” A deranged man shouted.

Three men, one covered in filth, converged on her location. The least dirty of them approached her, a clam expression across his face. Though he kept his saber in on hand.

“Miss, would you kindly identify yourself.”

“I-I am Sapphire Magnus.”

“Fuck you lady,” the man covered in filth spat, “we were looking for you, that’s all you had to say, god damn it!”

“What my esteemed college is trying to say, is that we are friends, and that perhaps your little trick was not necessary.”

“Oh, uh, sorry about that.”

“Yuh damn right you are.”

“Huuhhh, listen, I’m part of a resistance group, so to speak, and we have a vested interest in that person you have there.”

“How did…”

“Soshet and her brother contacted us.”

“They came down here and asked us to find you,” The filthy man clarified. “Sheesh, Belariti, it’s not like we’ve done anything.”

“Eh?”

“What he means is, we have mostly just been hiding,” Belariti said quietly. “Not much resisting, as it were.”

“Stop your pontificating; let’s get her and him back to camp. And get me rinsed off.”

Feeling embarrassed, Sapphire followed the band of resisters. They lead her to a large maintenance platform built over a larger cistern. It was here that they had made their encampment; a shambled arrangement of tarps and partially broken crates, with two unshaven guards marching around the perimeter. One turned and looked over the new arrivals, but made no effort to investigate. The other sneezed, having apparently not noticed them.

Near the centre of the mess sat the other dozen members, gathered around a splintery table. They turned and examined their new guests. More than a couple had suspicion in their eyes. Sapphire sighed, hoping that something good would come of all their efforts.

The tallest of the table crowd broke the circle and walked up to her. He eyed her top to bottom, though he quickly moved on to the prince. A look of contempt now filled his face. The tallest poked Rudolpho like a piece of meat, blinking rapidly as though uncertain if the boy was real.

“Hey, what do you think…”

“Silence you monster,” the tallest hissed. “You are responsible for all this, this is all your fault.”

“I-I did not…”

“I used to be a department head, I met with diplomats, now my wife is…”

“OK, I understand, stop,” Rudolpho sputtered. “Just stop.”

“Or what? You’re under our thumb now boy.”

“P-please do not harm me.”

“He’ll be useful, I have no doubt. You’ve done us a great thing Miss Sapphire.”

“Really though, I just helped, it was, was P-Pahwon.”

“Glad they found you,” Pahwon said, stepping into view. “I was getting a bit worried.”

“Excellent, now, shall we get to business?” Belariti said, clapping his hands. “How are we going to free the Royal Family?”

“We’ll need a boat, to get out to the island.” One man suggested.

“Excellent point Biktor.”

“It’s Viktor.”

“Sure, now, how do we get a boat?”

“That’s beside the point, how are we getting into the fort?”

“Kinnut, that’s how,” Soshet replied softly, her eyes wandering.

“Excuse me, what’s Kinnut?”

“Uh, she’s my sister, and, the temple is allowed to send out a representative to the fort every few days.”

“Your point?”

“She could infiltrate it for us; get a rope inside, something that would help.”

“Could she be convinced?”

“Yes, I think I might know a way,” Soshet said, eyeing Pahwon. “Hey, Pahu, want to pop by Kinnut’s workplace and say hello?”

About Author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.