Maybe it was the way the sun gradually lifted its head to peer over the world that made it reminiscent of a warm summer's day. Maybe it was the enticing concoction of scents wafting from the blooms in the courtyard below. Or maybe, it was the irritating screech of my mentor, Aleida, chasing me down again.
"Gerhart? Gerhart! GERHART!!!"
Oh wait, that happens every day.
"Gerhart get down from their thi-"
"I wish you'd be quiet, you're dampening the orchestral perfection of the morning birdsong." I sighed at her slightly stunned reaction. Although, she should be used to this by now.
"The cheek! I should tell your father. You should know better, now get down before somebody sees you!"
I glanced down at her pointed, witch-like finger, and with yet another sigh I reluctantly slid off the stone courtyard wall to land delicately on the ground. It wasn't like I could enjoy the warmth of the sunlight anyway.
"Hmph. At least some of us can afford to not have a care in the world." Aleida hastily handed me a folded up scrap of paper. "I was actually here to tell you your lessons with me today have been cancelled, due to your father having some important guests round. That's a list of books you should read up on. Oh and.... you should probably go and wait around your quarters if you don't want to get in trouble again."
"Fine." I screwed up the paper and shoved it into my pocket. She seemed too agitated for me to pursue an argument anyway. "Whatever father wishes."
I walked through the courtyard, sunlight warmly resting on my skin. Or at least, that's how I think it should feel. I shut my eyes, tried to remember what warmth felt like... but nothing. I'm not even sure if that's a good thing. Opening my eyes, I found myself nearly face-to-face with a stone wall. Oops. I put my hand on it, ran it across the many veins and cracks, the moss growing between stones. Still nothing.
A teasing scent wafted from somewhere over to my left, and, quite naturally, I felt I had to follow it. Thank heavens I still have a sense of smell. Of course, I already knew where it was coming from, father generally wouldn't have important guests over without getting the kitchens to whip up a grand feast. They'd probably be cooking up a huge roast right now. It's a shame to think so much will go to waste, especially seeing the ladies of the house peck away at such pitiful amounts in an attempt to keep their figure. I giggled to myself at that thought as I sneaked into the kitchens. They may be beautiful peacocks now, but they'll be fat old turkeys in enough years. I sneaked a few loaves of bread under my coat. Yep. fat, old, wrinkly turkeys that sit and gobble on about nothing for hours on end. Haha.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!! Get out get out get out! We are far to busy for your foolishness, young sir!"
Oof, rumbled. I was shunted out of the kitchen on the end of a broom. At least I got what I came here for. Looking back up at the castle, the sunlight had brought out its design in magnificent detail. Even my own room looked pleasantly inviting, for a change. In fact, the castle looked just as grand as I got further and further away from it.
"Ah well, I guess meeting 'important' guests can wait" I sighed, before turning around and dashing off into the town below.
The wide plethora of entertainment and goings-on in the town was enough to make anyone forget their reason for being there. But I was determined not to loose focus. I kept my head down and my skin covered as I walked by a busker, but his keen eye still caught me flicking a shiny coin into his lap. I quickly turned around, expecting him to make a scene, but he nodded his silent appreciation. I guess the townsfolk know me too well by now.
Bringing up the rear of the town was a maze of thin, spindly streets, each a hidey hole for all sorts of bad practice, gambling, dark magic, stolen goods trade but I wasn't interested in any of that. Many suspicious eyes watched as I navigated the dark alleys, and all of them could spot royalty when they see it. Not that they could catch me if they tried, I weaved along and in between the houses, not a step wasted as I ran. I just had to make sure I'd lost them, make sure I could keep safe. And... not just for my sake.
Turning the last corner, right at the back of a dead end I could see them. A mother and her young child, huddled beneath one of the castle tapestries.
"Lautz... I told you you shouldn't come here, you'll only get in trouble."
"And why should that matter to me? Here, take some food. I plan on keeping you well fed if it kills me, Launa. " I handed her the few loaves of bread I stole from the kitchens earlier in the day. "And no protesting, I've had enough of that from my mentor."
I could see a smile spread across her face. I guess... it's just been a long time since someone actually appreciated me being in the world. Seeing the colour come back to Launa's face, and her son's too, made me feel like... I was doing something right, for once.
"L-Lautz?" I saw her face drop.
"And what do we have here, the young master gallivanting around the town like that?" A great booming voice, a shadow that out sized my own, clinking, metallic sounds that echoed with every armoured step. I felt my face drop too. I guessed at a member of the guard send to drag me back to the castle.
"What should you care? And how did you find me so quickly anyway?" I turned around, expecting to meet a cold and disgusted expression, but instead, it was quite the opposite.
"Oh, apologies for the intrusion young miss" He smiled over at Launa, who relaxed a little. "As for Lautz here, well I can't say you didn't half stir up a ruckus back there, all I had to do was follow the trail of thieves and rogues out for a piece of ya." He looked down at me and I couldn't help but smile back. In fact, I knew exactly who this goliath of a man was.
"I guess you'll be wanting me back at the castle then, right Bertram?" Bert nodded. His jolly demeanour even seemed to pull sunlight into the dark alley. I could even remember the times my father had him chasing me round the castle when I was much, much smaller. In fact, my father still has him chasing me around. I sighed.
"Aw, now don't look so glum young 'un. Well, if you wouldn't mind, we'll be off now." He nodded to Launa. "Take care now, or... well Lautz seems to do that very well for ya."
I waved a last goodbye to Launa and her son, before being held under Bertram's firm grip and walked back up to the castle.
Maybe it was just me, but somehow the castle didn't seem quite so inviting as it did this morning, when it was bathed in the exotic colours of a rising sun. Not that I really had any choice in the matter as whether I wanted to go there or not, Bert's grip remained ever firm on my shoulder.
"You know, I have no idea why the house is determined to pin you as a monster." I looked up to his face but he kept his gaze steadily forward. "That was a pretty decent thing I saw you doing back there, monster my boot." he scoffed.
"You're not gonna tell my father I stole from the kitchens, are you?"
He chuckled, and I sighed in relief.
"Are you kiddin! Hah, they'll make even more of a monster outta ya if I said that, stealin, gosh they'd prolly lock yer in some dungeon or sommat." He finally turned to meet me with a pitiful look. "And you know yer father's far to busy-"
"I know. And it's fine, I can make it to the castle from here on my own, if you wouldn't mind? You don't know what all those rogues and thieves are doing down there without you patrolling." I looked at him pleadingly and he seemed to know.
"Whatever you wish, Lautz. Oh, and those 'important guests' of yer father's should be here about now, so keep an eye out" Bert winked. Such a kind figure. If anything I'd rather grow up to be like him than my own father.
Looking back over my shoulder, I heard Bert shout 'And I'll keep an eye on yer friends, too'. Smiling, I turned back and stepped up the pace a little. I would have prefered not to be late on top of all the other trouble I caused today. I hoped Launa would be safe, but then again with Bert back on patrol I shouldn't really have anything to be worried about. Or should I? It's not really the best place for a mother and her young chi- oof!
I staggered and caught myself, but not before I knocked a young girl to the floor. I bent down to help her up, but she freaked at the sight of my shadowy face, and quickly backed away.
"I'm ever so sorry miss..." But it was too late, she was already up and running. I sighed... again. What was she even doing at the castle anyway? Hmm. Standing back up, I tried to see if I could find where she had dashed off to, but to no avail. I must have really scared the poor thing.
Looking at my surroundings, I could see quite a large proportion of the town. Flowers of all species lined the cobbled path, and the sun lingered just past the tip of the clock tower. This is the kind of scene artists would dream of painting, I thought. Then I looked back to the flowers. I should probably pick some to apologise to Aledia for this morning. Red ones, to match her face when she gets angry. Haha.
I wandered across to the side of the path, and began to examine some choice poppies. Or, I would have done, if I didn't notice a book lying in a tuft of grass nearby.
Ornately decorated, so old and abused, nothing like the types of books I saw around the castle. Maybe that girl dropped it from shock after seeing my horrendous face... I guess I am a monster.
I puzzled look spread across my face as I continued to look at it. It isn't proper practice to go through other people's things, but ah well, I thought.
I quickly glanced up and down the path before collapsing onto the grass nearby. If I was going to take a peak I wanted to make sure nobody else was watching.
All thoughts of picking flowers cast aside, I delicately rifled through a few pages to land on one near to the end. After all, you just read through books to find out what happens at the end, don't you? My eyes scanned the page, and the one next to it. Well that was a fat lot of good. I read through it again for good measure, and still found it completely uninteresting. Reading was never my thing anyway.
I was about to throw the book to the floor and exclaim 'How boring!' when I realised I couldn't take my gaze off it. My eyes strained to look away as my body lurched closer and closer, I dug my hands into the dirt around me in an effort to pull away but to no avail...
... it took some effort, but I finally broke free. I fell backwards onto the grass, staring up at the blue sky. Well, that was certainly an experience. I titled my aching head to the side, expecting to see my stunning view over the town, but there was nothing. I sat bolt upright, fear and panic weaving their way into my thoughts. This isn't my town, this isn't where I live, this isn't... anywhere.
Something hit my hand. Looking down I saw letters form words, form sentences and then form a page. Bah. I had half a mind to turn it into a paper aeroplane and throw it off a cliff. But instead I pocketed it, and sat back down where I started.
Oh, and I've decided. I really, really, really hate books.