Of Borders and Empty Streets
Beams cast shadows on forgotten places.
Pillars hold up falling stories.
Nature grows up to sustain dying glory.
A cold draft squirms over my arms, and a shiver skims down my back from the feel of it. In the darkness, Lukas places a hand on my shoulder, cautioning me to stop. I listen to the sounds of skin sliding across wood and the low noises of rattling iron.
“What is it?” I whisper tentatively.
“I believe it’s a door,” he responds distractedly. “If I could just get it to-” Lukas cuts off abruptly as the door cracks open on creaky hinges.
I inhale sharply as our stark reality hits me. I’m leaving. The door is open, I can go. However, something in my mind mutely warns me that this escape was too easy, too empty and too simple. Even knowing this, the exhilaration of being so close to freedom overrides my better judgement and I let myself slip out into the quietude of the evening.
Scurrying like rats, we squeeze ourselves through a snug hole along the edge of the outer castle wall. Dull stones rub against my flesh as I shimmy through, but soon, something rugged and sharp scratches down the side of my calf and I bite back a yelp. Pulling myself out the rest of the way, I stand stiffly up against the side of the wall to avoid falling from off the narrow edge. Lukas, after grudgingly pulling himself through, presses himself up against the wall beside me, eyes checking all around for any signs of patrol. The ocean waves crash up mildly against the cliff side, causing the ground beneath our feet to vibrate like a ringing bell. Distractedly, I take note of the acute pain in my leg, and try my best to ignore it’s throbbing.
Lukas takes a deep breath and asks, “Are you ready?”
“Am I ready for what?”
An amused and subtle smile passes over his mouth just before he jumps, falling down into the cobalt kissed ocean.
The force of the plunge sweeps my breath away and I can scarcely scream. It’s a timeless fall, one that feels like it could go on forever, and yet it ends sooner than expected and sends spiky chills into my bones. The ocean is a goblet of overflowing drink that tastes like frozen, salty tears. A few moments after my body hits the waves, I swim, kicking hard against the tide until I feel the grainy texture of the dry sand at the tips of my fingers.
My tired arms manage to drag me for enough onto the shore for me to lie on my back without being pulled into the currents. Looking up, I see the beginnings of morning, the sky fading into a faint hue of orange along the horizon.
“We need to get as far as we can before the sun is fully risen.” Lukas comments from somewhere to my left. Rolling over onto my side, I squint and try to rub the water from my eyes. He bends down to offer me his hand and I take it, grateful.
“Thank you.” I whisper to his form, my body beginning to shiver from the cold.
He doesn’t respond.
The town of Reikhnein is heavy with the sounds of depression and early morning quiet. We stride through the empty streets with the sun sleepily covering us in gauzy light. A few shops are open, preparing however way they can for a slow day’s work. Stepping into a decently empty street, we creep into a small building. A man stands behind a dark wooden counter. He has wispy gray hair and a rough worn face aged from a life of hard work and sorrow.
Lucas walks up to the counter and lays both his hands flat on the wood. “We need new clothes and our supplies restocked, as well as a medicinal remedy.” He asks.
The man looks surprised and hesitantly replies, “Y-yes. Come this way, please.”
He takes us to the back of his shop where there is a wall completely covered with dark wooden drawers. Opening one I gingerly pull out a small bunch of purple blossoms connected by one dusty green stem. It has unusual curved leaves and a subtle, sticky smell. “What is this?” I ask, curious.
The man looks to me and then to the flower in my hand. He quickly hobbles over, snatches it from my hand and places it firmly back in the drawer. His sudden outburst surprises me, but he goes to explain, “Aconitum. Better known as Wolfsbane. It’s a deadly poison that in ancient days was used to kill wolves,” he gives me a reprimanding parental look before continuing. “And it is very hard to find these days.”
“Oh, forgive me.” I sheepishly look down, a little embarrassed. As I take another step forward, small spikes of pain twine up my calf. I cringe at the pain.
The man’s eyes soften around the edges. “Set her here lad.” Before I can object, Lukas swiftly picks me up and places me on a small, dusty leather bench. Bending down, the man inspects my injury. “This does not look very good. How did you get it?”
I stay silent, unsure of what to say.
The man looks at us curiously before speaking again. “I may be wrong, and may God forgive me and save my daughter if I am, but there is something about you two that I feel I can trust. I will let you keep your secret, and I will agree to help you, on one condition.” He crosses his arms and continues, “You take my daughter with you. You keep her safe, you take her somewhere far from here wherever you two are heading. Make sure she has a better chance, a better life. Promise me.” His eyes take on a wild, desperate gleam, and I can tell that Lukas sees it too.
Neither of us speak for a moment, but then Lukas speaks up. “We will agree to your terms, but first you must swear to never speak of us ever being here.”
“I swear by the grave, I will not tell a soul. Just please,” The man’s voice breaks. “Give my daughter the future I can never give her.”
“We promise. No one shall lay any harm on her whatsoever.” The words escape my lips without a second thought.
Lukas nods, and the deal is settled.ns 22.214.171.124da2