Outside, the scent that comes after rain permeated the air. Heavy grey clouds remained in the sky, ready to let their tears fall to the ground on a moment’s notice, but for the time being, they withheld their fresh water droplets as they drifted.
Around me people chattered excitedly. Some were stable boys who were carrying heaps of straw to and fro, some were milkmaids who were flirting with knights while balancing buckets of milk in their hands, and others were merely servants or villagers, making their way to and from the castle.
“Why are there so many people?” I asked Arthur, who was a few paces ahead of me.
“Hmm?” He turned his head as I ran to catch up to him.
“Why are there so many people?” I repeated, “is it always this crowded, or is something going on?”
“It’s the King’s ball tonight,” he gave me an appraising look. “It’s to celebrate the union of Queen Cendrillon and King Alban.”
“It’s their wedding anniversary?” I asked thoughtfully.
“No, not quite.” Arthur frowned. “Eight years ago, the king had a ball and that was when he met Cendrillon. He fell in love with her grace and beauty and immediately took her for his wife the next day.”
“Grace and beauty?” I asked as he led me towards a gate. “So wait, are they happy together?” We reached a gate and Arthur held it open for me as he made a face.
“I do not believe they can be considered happy. The king may think he is happy with his wife, but…” He trailed off as our feet beat against a cobblestone road.
“Cendrillon and Zander are in love?” I guessed gently. Arthur looked at me sadly, his clear blue eyes clouded over.
“Yes, Cendrillon and Zander are in love,” he breathed out. “But their duty is to the king.” I frowned, but didn’t retort.
As we made our way to the castletown, a large bustling area with cheerful people and houses and markets, a young voice called out to Arthur. I turned, recognizing the voice, and smiled as Chase came running up to Arthur. Arthur bent down and the child leaped into the knight’s arms.
“I told everyone about the dragon!” Chase cried excitedly after his older brother caught him. “I was brave, just like you! And I helped people not be scared! I told them that you were protecting them!” He turned towards me and beamed at me with a toothy grin. “I told them about you too, Lady! You were really brave too!”
“You little imp,” Arthur laughed as Chase squirmed in his arms. He began tickling Chase and the boy laughed, using his small hands to try and push Arthur away.
“Wasn’t I brave, Arthur?” Chase asked once Arthur had finished tickling him.
“You were the bravest little knight ever, Chase.” Arthur smiled, helping Chase onto his shoulders. Chase’s whole face lit up like the sun. I smiled as I watched the two.
“Hey, Lady,” Chase cried, waving at me. I looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to continue. “Are you going to come over to our house? Arthur and I are going to have a feast and then watch the stars tonight!”
“If the clouds clear up.” Arthur interjected. “And Chase, you can call her Artemis.”
“Artemis!” Chase nodded looking at me with his glimmering emerald eyes.
“Well, it sounds lovely,” I admitted. “But I don’t want to impose..” It wasn’t like I had another option, but it didn’t feel right coming between brother bonding. And I still wanted to go off and find Gilgamesh. “You aren’t going to the ball?”
“Nope!” Chase chirped before Arthur could get a word in. “I’m not allowed to go because I’m too young, and Arthur and me always spend balls together when he doesn’t have to patrol.”
“Dancing isn’t really my thing anyway.” Arthur shrugged, walking forward again. I quickly followed and he added, “Really, Artemis, you can stay with us if you’d like. What kind of person would I be if I left you to fend for yourself? You’re welcome to stay until we find out where you came from.”
“Are you lost Artemis?” Chase asked.
“If you’re sure…” I said over Chase.
“It’s fine, right, Buddy?” Arthur looked up at Chase, who let out an excited, “Yeah!”
“Alright,” I smiled. “I’d be happy to stay, thank you.”
As we walked, Chase asked me about myself. I explained that I had lost my memory, and wasn’t sure who I was. I almost told him about Gilgamesh, but Arthur signalled for me to leave that subject alone. I caught his message and told Chase I wasn’t sure what happened to make me lose my memory. It wasn’t a total lie, I was still confused about it myself. Why did Gilgamesh try to use me? What made me different? It was something I planned to find out.
Finally, we reached Arthur and Chase’s house. It wasn’t very large, but it had three bedrooms and a kitchen tied to a family room. There wasn’t a lot inside, and no one was home. I asked them where their parents were, and Arthur grew quiet as Chase explained that they had gone out to sea and never returned. I was surprised by how cheerful he was when saying it, and he quickly explained that they were ok. Apparently they had found a golden kingdom, where there was endless happiness. My heart sunk and I looked up to Arthur, who was avoiding both our gazes.
“Arthur says they’ll come back some day.” Chase continued lightly. “They’ll come back and take us with them to the kingdom!”
Arthur quickly changed the subject and had Chase show me around while he started dinner. The child took my hand and showed me around the house. He presented his room proudly, a cozy room with a nice bed and a few wooden toys and a stuffed dragon. He then showed me Arthur’s room, which was smaller and simpler, though clean and free of extra items. Then came my room, a dusty looking area with a large bed that didn’t look like it had been used in a long while.
After that, we returned to the kitchen to help Arthur. Dinner was a sort of soup that contained vegetables and meat. I noticed Chase pick out all of the healthy greens, and tried to hide a smile when Arthur caught him and gave him more vegetables.
Once dinner was finished, we cleaned up and Chase pulled us outside. He ran over to a patch of grass where the clouds were thin. He plopped down and ordered us to follow. Arthur laid down, propping his head on his hands, and I dropped next to him, looking up as the wispy clouds and the blanket of dark blue behind them. A few stars glittered and I smiled as I breathed in the fresh night air.
“Do you guys do this often?” I asked, smiling up at the starry patch of sky.
“Not all of the time,” Arthur whispered, “just when I’m home.”
“Is Chase all by himself most of the time?” I softened my voice, unable to see Chase over Arthur.
“No, a few of the older women who know us will visit him a lot, and he has a few friends in the village.” Arthur explained. He turned his head away before turning back towards me. “He’s asleep.” I slowly lifted myself up and smiled as my gaze fell onto the sleeping child. Chase and curled up against Arthur and was holding onto him gently, sleeping soundly.
“He’s lucky to have a brother like you.” I whispered, lying back down.
“I think I’m lucky to have a brother like him.” Arthur said gently. Before I could respond, his light blue eyes glittered as they found my gaze. “Would you mind watching him tomorrow? I need to meet with Zander and make a plan about what to do with Gilgamesh.” I made a face and he quickly added, “I promise to keep you updated.” I sighed, knowing he wouldn’t let me come to the meeting anyway. He was too set on keeping me out of harms way. I would have to find Gilgamesh without his help.
“Alright, but is it ok if you show me where a library is? Or a place with maps? I want to learn more about my surroundings.” I made a pouty face. “I don’t like not knowing anything about this kingdom and it’s history.”
“Sure,” Arthur nodded gently. “I can drop you two off at the castle library before meeting Zander. Chase loves reading about animals, so he should be fairly quiet and you can find things without trouble.” I nodded a thanks, excited that I was going to find information.
“I look forward to it.” I smiled.