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Kalena ate breakfast in the kitchen and sat down relaxed, leaning against the wall.
Galaspiael wanted to continue her lessons only in the afternoon. He woke her up early in the morning and said he was going to the palace to do some important things. Then the girl fell asleep again for three hours, and when she got up to eat breakfast, he was still gone.
At one point, Kalena's mind created a vision, in which Galaspiael was attacked by people he had fought the previous day. She wondered what she should do if he won't come home. Someone would come here to look for him, and then she would be among the people suspected of murdering the prince. She put together the first words of defensive speech to be used in a possible trial and she began to cry. Then the boy entered the kitchen.
"Oh for the Great Ancestors, Kalena, what is happening?" He asked, putting a small package on the table and squatted beside her.
The girl shook her head and wiped her tears quickly. She did not want to tell him that this reaction was due to the imagination of his death.
"You've been gone for a long time. I thought something bad happened," she whispered.
The prince smiled, hearing her shy confession and opened the package he had brought.
"Important guests came to our regent, I needed to greet them. Try it!" He encouraged, putting a handful of candy on the table. "This is the tastiest chocolate I've ever eaten. A messenger from Sekania always brings it with it."
Kalena had never eaten chocolate before. She uncertainly unpacked the brown candy and put it carefully in her mouth, convinced that she would spit out soon, but the taste turned out to be surprising.
"Delicious," she admitted.
Galaspiael sat down in front of her.
"I would like to take you for a walk today. I promised to show you the city," he reminded.
"Don't you have to work today, my lord?"
"Do you want to offend me?" he reminded, and his face took on a harsh expression for a moment. "Remember to call me by my name, please. I have done everything I have planned for today, and a short break won't hurt you either. You've just arrived here and you probably still feel lost."
He hit the point and she didn't even have to admit it. Although she felt much more comfortable than at the beginning, still, if she went out alone somewhere, it was only to the garden. The huge, Kagolanian capital was overwhelming and frightening.
Galaspiael led her along the same route they had taken the previous day. Suddenly, he turned into one of the side streets, and then one more and the next. Kalena tried to remember the route, but after a while, she realized that she would not be able to come home by herself.
"We're going there." Galaspiael pointed at a wooden, painted red and carefully finished with gold ornaments gate. It led to a building, Kalena couldn't see fully through the trees.
"This is my family temple. It will sound selfish, but in my opinion, the Namanya dynasty has the most beautiful temples in all Kagolania. Few people know about it, because no one has the right to enter it without my permission."
When they were at the last step, a menace-looking guard stood before the door. Seeing him, Kalena hid behind Galaspiael.
"Good morning!" The boy smiled at him as if they were old friends. "My friend would like to visit the temple today."
When he said it, and the guard looked at her, she wanted to explain that she did not want to go in and escape from there as soon as possible.
"Of course, Your Majesty," he finally answered. "Should I summon here more guards?"
"There's no need." He nodded and opened the door slightly. "Come in, Kalena."
It was dim inside. A bit of dust and smell of incense in the air. Kalena stopped halfway and held her breath, admiring the golden decorations on the walls.
The temple was very spacious inside. Various chests, armor, and other relics were laid out in different places, but most were in the central part, somewhat reminiscent of an altar. The collection was large, but the way everything was arranged made absolute order, and harmony prevail everywhere.
"In Kagolania, every family has a temple," he said, "the more affluent, the more magnificent their temples are." Each family and dynasty has someone who started it, often a god or hero. For example, my dynasty supposedly originated from a deity that brought people to this land a long time ago. Here you can sit down and indulge in meditation." He pointed to the place practically in the middle. "People do it for example when they need to make a significant decision."
"And when they sit like that they're asking ancestor for advice?"
Galaspiael snorted softly.
"Yes, it's kind of like that. Apparently, when a thought comes to your mind during meditation, these are the promptings of your ancestors who decided to give you their favors... by the way, afterlife it must be terrible since the only job is watching what is happening on earth. It's a bit illogical that the reward for a lawful life is eternal boredom."
"So that's not true?" the girl shook her head. "No, it must be true. Someone who doubts needs to just enter here to see that it is true."
"The more I know about the world, the more I get the feeling that this religion is all lies" he confessed. "But it's needed. Such a legend helps build authority. Many generals have in their families some brave deity that has gained fame by defeating evil. This gives people courage because god won't let his great-grandson fail, so he'll help him. Surely someone who founded the Namanya dynasty lived for real. He could even actually bring people here and build a settlement, but he got old and died like everyone else. I'm sure he wasn't a god. You can look around a little, if you want, just please don't touch anything. When I was little, I broke a vase here and it stank for several months.
Kalena got up and began to watch all the artifacts, slowly moving to another world.
She was called by Galaspiael after a few minutes.
"There's another interesting place nearby," he said when they went outside. "Some streets are very narrow here, but one is just silly!"
The street he led her to was so tiny that the girl felt uncomfortable. It was possible to walk from one to the other building in only three, not big steps.
"It's dangerous," she said, "if a fire breaks out, it will pass from one house to another very quickly."
"You're right. In the history of this city, there have been several big fires. I think most of them could be prevented by building houses a bit further apart. But Kagolanians probably just like such a tightness.
"Why even build two houses this way? Why not one but bigger? It would be the same."
Galaspiael leaned his back against the wall of one building and propped himself up against the other, opposite. This way he began to climb and did quite well.
"Look at this!" He laughed. "Can you do that?"
"You better come down."
"Oh hell no, I'm going to beat my life record today! I'll climb to the roof!"
When the prince said that, the shutter opened and an older woman hit him with a broom. He did not expect this attack and fell.
"Are you all right?!" Kalena helped him to his feet. He laughed so that he couldn't say anything for a moment.
"Get out of here brat!" The woman had an extremely sharp voice as if she had screamed all her life. "Your family will pay me for the damage!"
"I didn't destroy anything," Galaspiael ducked from the egg she threw towards him. "You're wasting food and littering the streets!"
The old woman turned pale with rage.
"Oh just wait!" although she disappeared deep into the house, she could still be heard. "You should get a whipping of your life! Cheeky jerk! I'll talk to your father soon!"
Kalena did not hear the rest of the threats, because Galaspiael pulled her hand and they ran towards the lower circle of the city.
They stopped on the very wide main street. Kalena gasped for air.
"She didn't know who you are..."
"Nobody here knows who I really am. To be specific, only a few people know," he corrected himself. "If they knew that the prince lives among them, they would not leave me alone. I would have to put a guard in front of the house and let the servants in. It would not be my home anymore, only a smaller palace."
"Aren't you afraid that someone will break in?"
"They can break into all other homes as well. I can defend myself, you've seen it before. I don't like to brag, but I doubt that a burglar would have a chance with me."
"You didn't have a good time defending yourself against this woman," she said. Galaspiael laughed again.
"Even with the guards by my side, I would get hit with that broom. Only then she would be later punished. I don't need this while I'm still a prince. I want to enjoy my freedom and get to know my subjects better. A ruler who lives in palaces all his life, detached from reality, will never succeed." He paused and glanced at her. "I talk a lot, don't you think?"
"You speak very interestingly," Kalena assured. She found herself smiling at the same moment like him.
"And you can listen very carefully. However, please, let me know if I'm talking too much. I should learn to control it."
Later Kalena got to know Galaspiael's favorite Kagolanian tradition. They went into the food district. Along the street, rows of stalls and prams offered a variety of dishes and snacks.
"Here you can buy anything you could dream of. Today there are extremely many sellers because soon the Festival of Light will begin," he explained.
"We have nothing to exchange," she said quietly.
"I have..." Galaspiael began to look into his pocket, "three hundred Sekanian's Saar." But it's better not to flaunt it too much, " he added when Kalena looked at him with wide eyes.
"We can buy this whole street!"
"We don't have to limit ourselves in any way. If you'll find something tasty, I'll take a second portion. Just don't be too careless. It's better not to reveal how much money you have in the crowd."
They bought two portions of smoked salmon wrapped in paper and sat down in a completely different place.
"May nobody notice," Galaspiael looked around. "They don't like it when you bring food bought somewhere. Wow, you eat fast!" He shook his head when Kalena choked on an unusually large piece. "Oh for the Great Ancestors, nobody will take it away from you!"
"It's delicious!" She said in a voice full of delight and fell silent for a moment. "Tell me, is it true that you want to ban slavery in the future?"
"Well, it's my big dream," he confessed, somewhat surprised by the sudden change of subject. "I freed all the slaves in the palace, but freeing everyone in the country is something else. Some people think that I shouldn't do that."
"Because we can't be sure whether this plan will succeed. Nobody has tried to do it yet, no ruler introduced such a ban in their country."
"But you'll be the first?" She asked. The prince put his arm around her and narrowed his eyes.
"I will," he promised.
Kalena finished her meal and sighed deeply. She smiled when she met Galaspiael's eyes.
"Do you want to see the Festival of Light?" He asked after a moment of silence. "It has probably already started in the lower circle."
"And what is it?"
"This is not a big holiday, although quite interesting. Apparently, on this day, light conquered the darkness, after the battle that lasted ten thousand years, at the beginning of the world." He smiled, seeing her eyes glisten. "Celebrations last the longest in the lowest circle. And in the palace, it is the most boring and the celebration takes only a few hours. When I lived in the city, I was surprised to see how people can have fun. I like this festival. The performances are quite monothematic but beautiful."
"They are what?"
They are all about the same plot. Good fights evil, heroes fight demons, light conquer darkness. The battle scenes are very spectacular, it's worth to see them."
Kalena felt a slight twinge of embarrassment.
"The scenes are what?"
"They are nice," he corrected himself. "How often you don't understand me?"
"Sometimes. You know many difficult words. But It's fine, I was afraid I wouldn't understand you at all! At the market, you spoke in a completely different language."
"In Sekanian," he finished. "The largest merchant guilds are in Sekania and it has been accepted that if you want to succeed in trade, you need to know that language."
"I thought you were going to be angry, I didn't understand what you say and punish me," she confessed.
"Even if you didn't speak my language at all, I know Velikanish and Madegaldian as well. Slaves are not imported from other countries, and if you were an exception, I would try to communicate with you somehow. Sit down!" He pointed to her place in the last row, on the only last free wooden bench. "We should see everything unless some giant suddenly would sit before us. Should I bring you something else to eat?"
"Later," Kalena grabbed his arm. "Don't leave me alone."
"If they won't sell out all the goods, they will spread them during the performance. In higher circles of the city, you have to sit stiffly and watch the whole play. Here you can eat, talk and go out whenever you want."
"It begins!" The girl raised her head to see better what was happening on stage. Galaspiael patiently explained everything to her.
"Don't be scared now," he warned, and after a moment a huge wave of fire appeared. Kalena didn't move. Hypnotized, she stared at the dancer and the flames around him.
"You don't like it?" She asked, seeing the calmness on his face.
"I've seen this play several times," he explained.
"Several times?!" The fire flashed again on the stage and the girl almost choked with delight. "How I envy you! How agile they are! How many years does it take to learn something like this?"
- Training takes a long time, but they master the choreography in a few months. The crew starts rehearsing just after the previous festival."
"Can we see the whole thing?"
"We'll stay as long as you like. I'll show you other places later."
"Najana, what are you doing here?" Washar put down his sword slowly, seeing who the uninvited guest was. "You shouldn't come unannounced."
"You shouldn't be surprised by seeing me. An assassin was sent to the treasury! I knew that your brothers would eventually get you in their conflicts!"
"Not the assassin," he corrected her, "just an ordinary spy. From the Scribe's Association.
"Scribe's Association... And what about it? I would like to live to see the times when my countrymen will stop looking for the reasons for all the woes in this organization!" she snapped. "I know some Scribes and I could convince one to go to the treasury and choose a recipe, killing you by the way." It's not difficult to talk like them. You say that you care about transferring important knowledge to other people and for sure someone will come with you."
"And kill me?" Washar suddenly silenced her with a gesture and listened. Nothing moved in the bedroom. His wife was still asleep and didn't hear them. "As long as they exist, they will try to break in. You can't suspect the imperial family if you have no evidence!"
"I know people well In my opinion, they are planning something and you are either their goal or a tool to serve them."
"And to me," he interrupted her, "you're just looking for a reason to get close to me. And you exaggerate."
Hatred flashed in her brown eyes. Not to him, to these words. To how he said them.
Believe me, I'd rather not come here. I don't want to destroy your family, I want to protect it."
"That's nice of you, but I can handle it myself. You also have a dangerous profession and somehow I never came over to your home to share my suspicions. What can you do?" He leaned closer to her and pursed his lips, waiting for her to answer. "Will you follow me like a guard? You can't help me, Najana, you don't even have to. Since the spy appeared, I have increased my alertness, but it looks like it was just some lone desperate. And affairs in the palace mean nothing. Every day someone conspires there and probably many times planned to include me in some of his plans. As you can see, it failed. I promise I'll be more careful, "he added, mentally asking her to leave before Alissa wakes up. "And if I need help, you are the first person I would ask."
Najana was silent for a long time.
"He still doesn't show any abilities?" she changed the subject.
"He does. He's great with a sword. He'll be a great warrior."
"Let it stay that way. Norina, unfortunately, was not so lucky. It appeared recently. He has the power to use water, just like me."
"You have a strong personality, which is why you inherited the power and color of your skin. She doesn't resemble your husband in any way. If my child were not so similar to me, I would suspect Alissa of having an affair... If we were married, Jaishin would also become like that."
The only thing in which Washar's wife was better Najana was her ordinariness. Alissa had no power. She was half-blood Kagolanian, much paler than the rest of the people in Empire, but in many respects average. Many people were surprised that Prince Washar broke for her the engagement with Najana - a dark-skinned noblewoman from the south, extremely gusty, but also deadly beautiful and talented. To someone who did not know about their shared secret, she seemed like the perfect wife to the prince.
"A palace is a rotten place," he said after a moment of silence. "That's why I avoid it. I advise you the same. Stop listening to gossip there, you will sleep better at night."
"Do you think Vishimon won't be the victim of any conspiracy?" She asked, sliding the scarf over her shoulders."
"Gods would have to protect him day and night. Naimoor and Shao Tien hate each other, but they can join forces for a moment to remove the biggest rival in the queue to the throne. After that, they will continue to slay themselves in peace, without the specter of their older brother before them. Vishimon is fifty-six years old. He is not as energetic as before and he probably prays for the death of the old emperor every day." Washar smiled. "And where is the place for me in all of this? They have had enough problems."
Galaspiael lit a torch next to the entrance. It filled up the whole room with warm orange flames. He encouraged Kalena to go inside. She made the first few steps uncertain.
"We should start with the house before exploring the city, but we'll do the opposite. Later I will show you where the keys lie and which one opens this basement. Sometimes you will need to look here. Go down carefully, stairs may be wet.
They went down the steep steps to the bottom, where another door was waiting. The air got colder and had a different smell.
"I don't see anything!" Kalena felt her curiosity grow with every second. She began to look over Galaspiael's shoulder, trying to see what's inside the secret chamber.
"Come in," the prince held the door for her, then started lighting the lamps. Each one stood in a different place, but their arrangement allowed lighting of the entire room.
Inside, the air was not cold and moist. There was a slight chill, but everything looked as if the room was upstairs, not underground.
The walls were covered by huge shelves that bent under the weight of books of all sizes. In the center, various tools were placed on a huge table alongside several wooden boxes, similar to those in his room. Nearby stood a cabinet with a brass padlock. Kalena guessed that the most valuable items were hidden in there.
"It's one of the Scribe's Association libraries," he explained to her. "I have made this room available to all members so that they can safely hide valuable books. It will survive everything, even if the house was demolished."
"What is this association?" Kalena gazed at everything, not knowing where to stop. Galaspiael leaned against one of the shelves.
"I am not the only man who opposes the Righteous Conspiracy. There are many of us. We want to restore the civilization of enlightened people, which existed there many years ago. Seemingly we only deal with science and books, but our skills go far beyond this area.
Kalena started looking at his sword.
"This is Shen. A Scribe's weapon. It is lighter and more precise than an ordinary sword" he explained seeing her intense gaze. "Do you want to see?"
"There's nothing to be scared of," he said and unfastened the case. "Grasp the handle and pull it towards you."
The girl did not expect the weight of the sword. When she grabbed it with both hands, she almost raised it to an upright position, but after a moment the blade hit the ground.
"Nice." Galaspiael didn't even notice that she might have damaged his sword. "But you have to get stronger. You're too skinny right now."
When he said that, Kalena realized how miserable she must've looked in his eyes. At home, she ate one, sometimes two meals a day, and this affected her figure very much. She wasn't ugly, but she looked mediocre. Dark brown, thin hair did not want to become blond curls she had dreamed of since childhood. Her black eyes were painfully ordinary. Sickly thinness did not allow feminine shapes to flourish. She was malnourished all her life and it showed on her complexion. Together it all gave a rather pathetic picture.
"I have something for you." The prince went to the center and took a book from one of the boxes. Kalena took her hand and discovered that the cards were completely clean.
"Is that for my lessons?"
"Practice makes perfect. You can translate the collection of fairy tales I read to you."
"But it's in Madegaldian," she protested, "I don't know the language."
"That's why I'll help you. You will try to rewrite one page every day. There are a few more pages than in the original, but it's okay. Five hundred if I remember correctly."
"You must be joking!"
"When you finish it, you'll write as if you were born with Lik in your hand." The prince looked her deep in the eyes and fell silent for a moment. "I would like you to join us and become Scribe. I would introduce you to the Association and become your teacher. Of course, if you want."
She doubted her strength as soon as she heard his offer.
"Do you think I can do it?"
"After what I saw yesterday? I think you'll be fantastic!"
That night Kalena fell asleep quickly and slept so deeply that even her screams could not wake up from a nightmare.
She opened her eyes only when Galaspiael shook her hard and realized that her cheeks were wet with tears. She looked around the room with panic. The dream was beginning to blur."
"It's all right. You're safe," he whispered, sitting down beside her on the bed. "All good."
The girl choked on her tears and began brushing the hair stuck from her face. When Galaspiael wanted to hug her, she jumped away from him quickly.
"Please don't!" She groaned. Her voice was stuck in her throat. She lay back down, trying to control her emotions.
"Did I do something wrong today?"
He seemed so surprised and hurt by her escape that she felt guilty for her reaction.
"No! It's not because of you." She took his hand gently as he slid to the floor. "Excuse me. I like you a lot. But don't touch me now."
The boy sighed. He looked at her with a strange pain in the eyes.
"Try to sleep," he encouraged her, "think of something joyful. Maybe the nightmare won't come back."