I opened my eyes and stretched my arms above my head in a drawn out yawn. I looked around and took note of the familiar wooden furniture dotted around the room; the same familiar wardrobe looming over the room as it always did, the same creaky bed that I fell asleep in every night. No doubt about it, this was home. I hauled myself up out of the covers, sitting at the edge of the bed and rubbing my eyes, half in tiredness and half in disbelief. I swear I could still see Alexandra’s shadow dancing and twirling in my peripheral vision, bobbing in and out of sight, hiding in the shadows. 

I stood up, and slowly stumbled my way towards the the window. I could see the light of the sun filtering through the thin fabric of the curtains, and I could feel the warm summer breeze brushing against my skin as it blew the curtains in from the outside. I quickly grabbed hold of them, and yanked them apart before flinching away in the suddenly harsh burst of sunlight sliding in through the window. I looked out, and saw that there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I could see birds lazily drifting on the crest of the light breeze, calling out to each other over the sounds of the market coming to life down the road. I could hear the sounds of the meat being slapped down on counters, ready for sale to a waiting customer, or the clanging of pots and pans as they were pulled out of their cupboards, ready to be sold or used in the long market day ahead. The buzz of conversation hummed down the street, carrying mentions of the local gossips current topic of discussion. Over the tops of the houses I could see the curve of the valley in which the small vilage was nestled, tress swaying back and forth all along the incline in the peaceful air. Overall it was another, perfect, peaceful day in Esterline. 

                "Nathaniel!" came a hoarse shout from down stairs. "Nathaniel, get dressed, we're heading to the market!" That would be my mother, up early, as usual. I pulled myself away from the window and quickly got my clothes together. I pulled on my trousers, and quickly pulled my shirt down over the top of my head before taking a quick glance in the mirror. Staring back at me was my double image, with his young, azure blue eyes that seemed the reflect the light in just the right way when the light caught them, like the light of the morning sun bouncing off the ripples of a small pond. His hair was a dark brown, but even at as such a young age already there were hints of grey; when he turns his head, small strands of grey show appear, as if they were hiding from within his thick, messy hair. His lips were curved up in a rebellious smile, and his edged, angular jawline seemed as if it could break glass. 

                "Nathaniel! came another shout, agitated this time. "I'm not going to call you again, get down here now before I drag you down!" I decided to heed her warning, and was soon out the door from my bedroom and rushing down the stairs, each and every step groaning under the strain of a young man rushing down them. 

                "There you are, it's about time!" She said, as she turned around when I entered the kitchen. Immediately I could tell she was not pleased; her eyes were fixed on mine in a dissaproving glare, her hands on her hips, and her mouth was pulled down into a morose frown. making it clear that she was not happy.

                "I'm sorry mother, I had a bad night sleep." I sighed

                "You said that last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. I'm sick to death of your silly little excuses! You're nearly 18 now Nathaniel, you're old enough to take responsibility and get yourself up out of bed." She turned to the cupboard and took out some pots and pans "Now make sure that you look decent, Vangelio is going to be at the market today and I don't want him thinking that I take care of a layabout!"

My cofidence for the day ahead already wounded, I turned around without a word and started towards the stairs to get ready for the day ahead. As I trudged up the stairs, the steps groaning and creaking again as the always did, I thought about about the day ahead. Mother was always so eager to please this "Vangelio" man, but in reality I had no idea what the appeal was; he was old and grey, and owned nothing but a small cabin at the opposite end of the vilage. He worked in the market as one of those psychic people, and for 5 pieces of copper he'd tell you your fortune for the next week. Mother liked to go in and get her fortune told, but I doubt it was because she wanted to know anything other than whether or not Vangelio was interested in a courtship. She always wore her most frivolous of outfits, gareishly pink colours with silly little bits of lace sown in at the cuffs and shoulders. Downstairs I could hear her humming, looking forward to the day ahead. I groaned mentally and pulled open my bedroom door and walked over to the drawer, pulling out my different shirts and pants before finding a decent set that weren't torn and that looked well together. I ended up wearing a simple combination of a nice white shirt that my mother bought me quite a while ago, and plain, black pants. I grabbed the long black cloak that hung over the door by the hood and draped it over my shoulders.

                “You’re ready then?” My mother asked sneeringly, as she finished getting ready downstairs, dressed in exactly the same ridiculous dress I had imagined her in earlier.

                “You tell me.” I replied, holding my arms out wide as if welcoming inspection.

She walked slowly around me, taking note of this crease here, telling me to tuck in my shirt there, and then saying it’ll “have to do” before turning back to the kitchen to grab the house keys. I followed her in and seen her hook the heavy, clunky keys off from where they were hung every night. They jangled noisily as she placed them into her pocket, and she turned briskly once more, heading for the front doorway.

                “Are you coming or what?” She called from the doorway.

                “Yeah yeah, I’m on my way” I called back, arms flopping to each side of me in exasperation. Why that woman constantly feels the need to rush everywhere, I’ll never know. I made my way to the front door way, edging my way between her and the open doorway in which she stood and out into the outside world, and then turned to watch her pull the door behind her and lock it. She turned to me and dangled the keys in front of my face.

                “I want you to hold onto these for the day, a beautiful woman like myself can’t be expected to carry around such ridiculously sized, jangly keys around with her all day. So you do it.” She demanded.  She forced the keys into my hand before briskly walking off towards the market, head held high, expecting me to follow her. I quickly stuff the keys into my left pocket and pull on the front door handle, making sure it was locked correctly. We can’t afford to have theives rumaging around what little we have. The door was securely bolted, and so I turned and walked in the direction in which mother had headed, plodding alongside a horse and cart that was making it’s way towards to village market. As I walked, I couldn’t help but sense there was a different air about the market today, an almost foreboding tinge in the warm air that was carried in the ominous whispers of the crowd. As I walked I could swear the words “daughter”, “king” and “missing” being hurriedly murmured as I walked into the square.

I stood up on my toes, hoping the raise my head up over the people mulling about the square hoping to get a good deal in the morning to see my mother, which I imagine would be easy considering the colour of her dress. In the middle of the square, in a circular pattern around the small stone fountain, were wooden stalls selling a myriad of different wears; one showcased furs and cloths of a spectrum of colours, with cloaks of varying length dangling from bronze hooks hanging from the top of the stalls, and another held the weight of piles of dusty tomes, giving readers details of plants and their different alchemical uses, or fictional stories penned by aspiring authors. Around the outer edges of the square, other stalls were built into the small buildings, the shopfronts only now opening up to customers eager to spend their coin. It was outside one of these stalls that mother stood, immediately visible among the crowd by her ridiculous dress, bartering with one of the vendors over a set of old plates, the previous set smashed in the week gone by as they fell from one of the shelves in kitchen.

                “No, your price is simply ridiculous!” my mother flustered, alarmed by the cost of the plates.

                “I assure you ma’am, that’s below average price for a set of plates such as these. Best price  in the market!” The man said, his voice heavy with pride.

                “Well I assure you I shall not be coming back here anytime soon!” She huffed, as I came up beside her. “Come along Nathaniel, we shall find a much better price elsewhere!” She turned her nose up at the stall and walked away, the silly frills of her dress fluttering as she stomped towards the center of the market.  I set off once again in her wake, making her way towards the huge, purple tent covering the front of one of the houses on the opposite side of the fountain. This is where Vangelio used his “abilities” to show people their futures, but I’ve never believed in such hocus-pocus: he just uses it to get money and line his pockets with other peoples well earned coin. Mother found it interesting enough, regardless of the fact that her predictions were hilariously ambigious. Really, the only reason she was there is because she was interested in him.

Just before we walked through the thin, purple curtains covering the doorway, mother spun around on her feet.

                “Now you stay completely and utterly silent while you’re in here with me, you understand?” She eyed me up condescendingly. “You should be honored to be in the presence of a man gifted with such abilities. Simply speak when spoken to and I’ll be happy. Understand?

                “Yeah, yeah, I’ll keep my mouth closed mother..” I sighed.

                “Good, now come along” She snapped her fingers as she turned around again, this time striding directly through the silken fabric of the curtains that hung at the entrace which replaced the door. His choice to remove a door allowed Vangelio to “communicate more directly with the world” he said. I strode in after her, the drapes brushing against my cheeks as I did, and into the small space of the tent. Scattered around the floor were plush cushions, intricately laced with golden thread into swirling designs, and in the middle a few of the cushions were arranged into a semi circular pattern around a container of incense, the purple-grey haze slowly billowing up into the air above it, filling the small, closed off tent with a light fog. The acrid, but strangely calming smell wafted into my nostrils and it brought a strange sense of ease, of calm. Mother sat down on one of the cushions on one side of the incense container, and I instinctively followed her, remembering her instructions she had told me earlier: she had said that you never tell Vangelio  that you’re there, he simply..knows. 

As I sat there, dazed and disorientated by the smoke coming from the container, I found my concentration slipping and sliding, losing focus on the world and focusing more on my own thoughts. My thoughts were originally focused on smaller things; worrying about the door being locked properly, the conversation that I had with my friend Albert the day previous about looking for work, before quietly slipping to the dream that I had the night before. In the bustling market, my thoughts about last night's strange dream were completely forgotten, but now, in this quiet place, surrounded by dulling effects of the smoke, I found an opportunity to think more about it. I found myself back in Cyprorcea Castle, once again marvelling at the night sky populated by thousands of stars, remembering the graceful dancing of Alexandra as her dress billowed elegantly in the briney night-time air. It was strange, really, how much I could remember. I usually don’t remember so much.

Suddenly a clay bowl fell to the floor, hitting the ground with a crash and then breaking up into hundreds of different shards, the tinkling sound of them skittering along the floor bringing me back to my senses. My head snapped up, and immediately I was greeted with the wide eyes of Vangelio starting right at me, his shock clearly evident on his face. He stood there, completely still, for what seemed like for ever in the tent, the muted sounds of the market outside louder now in the silence between us.

                “Stand up, young man, please. Now.” His deep voiced boomed across the room, carrying an edge of authority, and foreboding, with it. I stood up straight away, worried about what ever reason he would have for dropping the bowl on account of me. The shards still lay at his feet, the strange herbs which it contained still lying on the ground, unused.

His face was as white as a ghosts as he lifted it to address me.

                “Come along Nathaniel, there is a lot we must discuss”

The End

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