4. the Prophecy and the Stowaway (part 6)

          Thinking hard, she stared aimlessly at random the random trinkets scattered about, an ivory elephant figurine, a jeweled ring, colorful bird feathers, and the skull of a small lizard. She studied a decorated brush that lie on a shelf near the captain's bed. Its fine horse hair bristles and handle adorned with intricate silver designs, reminded her of her first days at the palace. Rows and rows of exquisite ribbons, clips, bows, brushes, and other hair accessories and utensils had been lined up on tables as gifts from her new mother and sisters. An idea came to her. “What about a comb? Needles could refer to the tines, and a combs brush silky strands ─  hair!”

          “Yeah, yeah! That makes perfect sense!" he nodded, giving her a smile. "What about ‘the red life of the pure.’? I have an idea about what it could mean, but it's a bit... gruesome.”

          "Well, what is it?"

          "Death,” the word hung in the air like an invisible fog. “Murder, to be precise. Murder of an innocent heart."

          Hataru stared blankly at him. "Murder?" she choked. "That's horrible!"

          Ashamed that he had disturbed her, he tried to cover up, “But, I guess we won’t know if that's true or not until something happens." Hataru's eyes bulged out of her head as Levi dug himself deeper into a hole. "Oh... well... I mean... we don't know if that's really what is going to happen! We could be completely wrong about any of the items... I mean, murder? Come on, that's absurd right? What was I thinking? I ─ "

          Just then, Firious came barging in, saving the captain from his own mouth. The two crewmen dragged in a young boy, bound in rope, and dropped him on the floor. Firious reported,“We’ve found a stowaway, Captain. I think his pals left him behind after they attacked.” The boy looked up at Levi with big brown eyes full of terror, and a single tear slipped down his cheek. His clothes clothes were stained, tattered, and torn, and the lad’s feet were bare.

          Levi looked the boy up and down, disgusted by his men's treatment to the boy, then said, “Untie him! He isn’t going to harm us.”

          At first Firious objected, but after a stern look from his captain, he stopped arguing for once and unbound the boy himself.

          “What is your name?” Levi asked the boy, smiling kindly.

          “I’m Zephyr,” the boy gulped out in a squeaky voice, “and I’m 10 years old.”

The End

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