Kingdom of Spirits
By/(c) Rosanna P. Brost
who the hell is that? I gasp, thinking that if Attila sees me Ill be captured for sure.
Whoa, you are ignorant. gasps Topaz. Thats Crown Prince Edward!
You can tell my mom named him. Attila would of dubbed him something stupid.
I kind of stand in a state of shock as the prince rides by, a ki-rin on his saddle pad making him look just like a rider, except there are gold fastenings on his horses tack and he doesnt wear a quiver. Perhaps he notes my staring, or perhaps he sees something familiar, because when he glances at me, he suddenly does a double take and pulls up his horse to stare at me, in exactly the same manner as Attila.
I didnt know I had a brother. I always thought I was an only child, because well, nobody had ever said I had one. Id sure never seen any pictures. Yet now Im looking at a guy that may as well be my twin and I think I feel like fainting. Hes just as wide-eyed as I am and now his guards are staring too. Come to think of it, I think mom used to send stuff to some person named Edward
You! barks my brother, getting over his shock. Oh-my-god does he ever sound like Attila. I just stare at him, not noticing particularly that everyone else is bowing to him. His horse looks around at me, all curious and wondering why Im not curtsying.
Who are you? barks my brother. State your name!
Uhhhhhh. is all I manage, because Ive suddenly realized just how deep the feces I am in suddenly is.
My brother frowns and wheels my horse towards me. I cant move. Im too scared.
I asked you your name girl. growls my brother.
Forgive her your highness; shes mute - tries Phirun.
No she isnt. retorts Topaz without thinking and Phirun smacks her one.
My brother isnt impressed at all by any of this. He dismounts and his guards mutter, staring at me. Then me and him are practically face to face.
Your name? he asks again.
Answer his highness! snaps one of the guards, drawing his sword.
It-its J-Jane. I say finally and my brothers eyes widen, because he knows now for sure.
Oh. says my brother in shock, then suddenly hes grinning and even more abruptly hes hugging me, which causes his guards to look really alarmed, like hes picking his nose or something. I just kind of stand there and wish hed let go so I could run.
Jane! Whereve you been?! he hisses in my ear, sounding really worried. Mom and dad are almost panicking!
Theyre the ones trying to get rid of me, why would they do that? I growl in disbelief. Why would they care about me? They didnt even bother to tell me I was a damn ki-rin!
Come with me! says Edward all worriedly, taking my hand and leading me towards his horse, which is quite friendly and snuffles me. Dragons could be anywhere -
Im not going with you. I say, digging in my heels.
Why not? We have to go home Janey! Mom and dad have to know youre alright!
Around us, people are starting to whisper and point. Phirun is looking kind of unsure while Wolf is sort of thoughtfully quiet. Topaz is kind of just standing there with her mouth open, all flabbergasted because shes been hanging out with the princess of the ki-rin and she didnt know it. Shed probably hold a party if she knew about Phirun.
I cant Edward. I say, kind of in tears because why didnt my parents tell me I had a brother?
Please Jane, just come. says Edward and hes pretty sad too. I know he really desperately wants to drag me off to home.
If I go back, Ill have to marry the Crown Prince of Rain. I say. Im on a quest to break off the alliance.
Whyd you want to do that? demands Edward, apparently worried about my sanity. I hear the Prince of Rain is nice; besides, I doubt dad would marry you off to him for a few years, we just want you home! Dont you want to see our parents again?
I highly doubt they care about me. I snarl. If they cared, they would of asked my opinion before making this marriage alliance thingy. Im Canadian and Canadians have a right to choose who they marry!
The look on Edwards face is painful, like hell die or something if I dont go with him.
Janey, I just want to get to know you. whimpers Edward, practically cornering me against his horses shoulder. The guards are forming a perimeter around us. Please Jane, I always wanted to meet you and now youre going to just leave? Please!
I didnt even know I had a brother until just now! I snap at him and his eyes widen.
W-what? B-but that cant be possible; I knew about you! says Edward in astonishment. Dad used to come home and tell me all about you.
When did he do that? He never likes to travel. I say.
He used to come all the time. insists Edward breathlessly. I was raised by the palace guard. Mom and dad went to live in the mortal world because of the wyvern assassins that kept coming. They hid me, then bolted with you, because you were already so well known by everyone because of your betrothal. Besides, I had to stay with our people and get to know them so I might become a good successor to dad.
Im crying a bit now, because Edward is so sad and Im so sad and he seems sooo nice, but I really do have to go. I kind of shake my head.
I have to go. I say.
At least - at least spend some time with me? asks Edward, hopeful at his idea of a compromise. Its just - Ive waited my whole life to meet you!
I dunno, what if you drag me off home? I demand.
I wont! cries Edward honestly and I believe him just because of his face. Hes so much nicer than Attila, or even mom so far. Hes actually desperate to spend time with me, when neither of them had ever really given a damn. Please?
I dunno. I say again, looking at his guards, who look right back at me nonchalantly.
Oh come on, Ill ask them to leave! says Edward. At this the guards look almost insulted or shocked for a moment, as if they cant stand the notion of their prince disdaining their company.
I look back at Phirun, whos shaking his head, then at Wolf, whos cocking his head to one side thoughtfully. I dont know what to do. I look at the guards and I know that if word of me being here gets to my dad, Im dead.
Okay, but only if the guards leave and if neither you nor them tell mom and dad about me being here. I say, business like. Otherwise Im going right now.
Edward looks tortured. Jane -
No, Im going. I say and I start to turn, but he snatches my arm.
captain? says Edward.
One of the leading samurai guys sighs. Fine Eddie, but if directly asked by their majesties, we will tell the truth. Ill give you until sunset, then we come hunting you down. I was hoping to go to the pub today anyway.
Great! Thank you captain! cries Edward and he looks ready to hug the guard, whose face breaks out into a grin.
No worries. Im pretty sure you can protect yourself by now anyway. says the captain and he signals his companions to follow as he rides off, leaving Edward alone with me. Well, not quite. His horse is still here and its lipping Edwards hair.
So what are you doing here in the market? asks Edward.
Were looking for a cinderblock actually. I say. I wave my hand to Phirun (who looks rather suspicious), Wolf (who is watching Edwards horse hungrily, having forgotten Edward himself) and to Topaz (who looks so excited that I wouldnt be surprised if she peed herself.) These are my friends.
Oh, hello. says Edward casually.
Your Highness, Im so honoured to meet you! squeaks out Topaz. Im Topaz!
Er, nice to meet you. says Edward. His horse whinnies. This is my mare Nicola. Shes really friendly.
Shes really pretty too. Shes got a white star in the middle of her forehead and a sort of streak of white on her nose. She also has two white socks, one on her right fore and one on her left hind. Theres a smaller sock on her left foreleg, which I think is called a coronet band.
Hi Nicola. I croon and the horse nudges me rather hard with her huge head. I swear her nose is the size of my skull. Edward keeps a tight hold on her reins with one hand. I notice that he wears two swords, just like the samurai guys.
Hey Edward, do you have a tanto? I ask, all fascinated.
A what? Oh! Yeah I do. says Edward and he proudly pulls out a dagger that matches his swords. See?
That is so cool. I say, fascinated by it. I like sharp pointy shiny things; just not when theyre held by show offs like my dad who like them too much.
Hem hem. says Phirun, clearing his throat.
Oh yeah, this is - I look at Phirun and he looks back at me, suddenly just as lost as I am. What would Edward do if he knew who Phirun was? I decided we dont want to find out. -Peter.
Phirun looks revolted at my choice of aliases for him, but he hides it by bowing to Edward. I indicate Wolf.
This is Wolf and youve already met Topaz.
Uh, very appropriate name. says Edward, not too sure what to think about a wolf named Wolf. I doubt most people who meet Wolf believe his name is very original either. So er, howd you come across my sister then?
I met Wolf in a town, and Peter in the middle of nowhere. I say. I met Topaz yesterday.
Oh. says Edward, kind of confusedly.
Well, we must find that cinderblock. says Phirun a.k.a. Peter and we start walking again.
Why on earth do you want a cinderblock? asks Edward. It seems sort of random.
You have no idea. mutters Phirun and Wolf glares at him.
Im not actually very sure why we need one. I just know that we do for some reason. I say. I dont want him to know we need it for an anchor (according to Wolf) because that would be too much of a clue.
So you came here just for a cinderblock? says Edward in confusion.
Pretty much. I say, shrugging.
I dont even know if anyone here even makes those. says Edward, baffled. Nicola, do you know?
Didnt think so. says Edward, offering me his arm in much the same manner as Phirun. Well, I suppose it doesnt really hurt to look.
Edward, so if you barely ever saw mom and dad, who raised you? I ask.
I told you, the guards did. grins Edward. Theyre really nice! I still kind of live with them. Captain Brightash kind of looked after me as well as his daughters. I never even knew I was a prince until I was like five, when I found out that the guy in black fancy robes who kept coming to visit on weekends was my father. I couldnt even pronounce his name back then.
Hes weird. I say.
How so? asks Edward, surprised.
Well, back home he always ran around dressed up like he dresses up here and people thought he was really weird. I say. But now Im wondering; what if he didnt really have a maternity wear company; what if the whole time he was really coming here to be with Edward? So how often was he here?
Every Saturday. says Edward. Attila liked to work on Saturdays.
Mom used to go shopping without me sometimes on Saturdays
what if she too was going to see Edward?
Weird. They never told me about you, not even once. A few times I saw them addressing letters to somebody named Edward; was that you? I ask.
I guess, they used to send me stuff all the time. says Edward.
My parents skills at concealing Edwards existence from me is stunning. My eyes kind of water, because they stole time I could of spent with my brother away from me. I could have been happy as a little kid when they were away instead of lonely, playing with my brother
I start to cry outright, because Im so angry. I hate my parents even more now. How could they?
Edward offers me his hankerchief, which kind of grosses me out, but I use it anyway. Were both kind of emotional now. We visit and I find that my brother really is nice, and that my dad was corresponding with him quite a bit before I ended up in zodiac province. They were going to finally move home and Edward was getting all excited about seeing me when they arrived wet from the rain without me. He of course, was extremely miserable about this and before dad or mom could even do anything, he sent out more riders to look for me. Nobody knew where I was, until today that is.
Were having trouble finding a cinderblock still. We look everywhere, but alas, there is none to be found. We comfort ourselves with the notion that its a very big city. Edward comes along, pointing out stuff he thinks is interesting and surprisingly, he actually has fairly good taste. In this one square where theres a bunch of tents, he buys us all lunch which is really good and apparently, unlike me, he actually does get an allowance. The lady who runs the food tent likes him a lot and gives us a huge discount, then even fishes out a few day old gingersnaps for Nicola. The horse munches them up and seems happy.
We walk across the square and were contemplating where to go next when I hear the music. It sounds like the band Franz Ferdinand and I run towards the sound, stopping in my tracks when I see a huge hot pink, yellow and orange striped tent standing in the middle of the square. Solar panels are hooked up outside it to what have to be speakers inside and I can hear Do You Want To blasting from there. Above the tent opening is a large sign that looks like it was made through a very modern method that reads:
DONT CHANGE YOURSELF - CHANGE YOUR BODY!
Let River and his amazing, competent staff rock your world!
I stare at the sign, slightly perplexed. Edward frowns at it and Phirun kind of goes white at the sight of it.
Whats this? asks Edward.
Dunno, lets check it out. I say, because a lot of people seem to be doing just that. Inside, its even more lurid and packed with people. Two gigantic speakers sit on either side of a huge catwalk, on which stands a guy about twenty-five years old who has white hair and light blue eyes. Hes wearing a almost radioactive pink trench coat, a rainbow belt, a white shirt with a smiley face on it and very ordinary jeans. He reminds me of an interior designer, especially with the gigantic white lily boutineer that he has stuck into his lapel. The guy grins at us all, and holds up a microphone. Half of the people in the tent havent the slightest idea what a microphone is, so they cheer wildly.
Hello, hello, the people of Monarch Springs! Very beautiful here today, dont you think?
People cheer some more. Phirun keeps trying to signal to me that we should leave, but Im kind of fascinated. Edward looks half repulsed, his lip curled up a bit in disgust. I have to admit I kind of feel the same way.
Well anyway, Im sure yeh all want to find out about my the services I offer, so, how about a slide show! says the man and a picture of a mermaid (who is completely devoid of a bra or a shirt) shows up on the far wall of the tent. By the way, my name is River and this pretty lady, is Yana! Now, Yanas story is kind of sad; she wanted to marry a monkey folks, but she couldnt, because she was a mermaid. So guess what? I changed her into a monkey and now shes happily married! What I offer is the chance to change what you are - no longer must you stay as nature made you originally folks! Next is the story of George the cockatrice - he wanted to visit earth, so he came to me. He asked what we could do, so I changed him into a sea serpent!
People look quite amazed and I have to admit that I am too.
Now people, this therapy is completely one hundred percent safe; its been used to change the species of various royalty for millenea! Your own Queen Amelia started life as a unicorn, but she isnt one now is she? cries River and everyone cheers again. Then the slideshow turns off and the song changes to Im Too Sexy, then some girls step onto the catwalk and a young woman that we all recognise as Yana steps onto the catwalk, then transforms into a monkey before our eyes. Then George comes on and so does more people, the slideshow showing what they used to look like.
Now, the type of transformation you can have done varies folks. says River. You can be transformed permanently, or just for a while. I could change you into something else just for a few hours and that would be cheap; but for more complicated, permanent tranformations, Im afraid itll cost yeh. But I promise, for what you pay, its worth it! Along with being able to change yourself with this system, you can also get somebody else changed as a great surprise present! You can even change what colour you are in your new body - so what are you waiting for? Let one of my assistants change your world today!
Thats disgusting. blurts out Edward loudly. Too loudly. River looks around and sees us and I try to melt away.
Well, would you look at that! Its your own dear prince folks! calls out River.
Fifty or so girls turn around and see us.
Uh oh. says Edward in evident terror. Jane, uh, we should probably run -
Hes right, it is Prince Edward! shrieks a girl standing nearby us.
Ohhhh no. moans Edward and were backing away, his fan girls advancing on us. Well half of them anyway. The other half are inquiring with Rivers assistants about how fast they could get changed permanently into ki-rin.
We manage to get out of the tent, then Edward leaps onto Nicola and pulls me on after. I get one glimpse of Phiruns face pleading me to stay with him, then Edward gives Nicola his heels and were speeding down the street, ridiculously quick. People dodge aside, but Im pretty sure we run over a few anyway. Nicola has never heard of a speed limit sign evidently as faster and faster she charges through the city. She also seems to know it quite well, careening through allies as she goes, leaping boxes from around blind quarters and flashing past several people on horses, which rear up.
Are those girls why you usually have guards with you? I ask over the roar of Nicolas hooves.
Partly! yells Edward. They also usually come because theyre protecting me from assassins and also because they want to go drink on duty. Captain Brightash loves beer!
I laugh, thinking it funny that Edward has fan girls. Probably a few fan boys too. I cling to his waist as we race through the city, Nicola stopping for no one. Along the water front we ride, sending several people leaping into the river while others shout at us to slow down. It kind of reminds me of those idiot people who street race their cars what were doing, except nobody dares arrest Edward. Nicola seems to really love running and somehow I think she does it quite often. We cross a bridge, then were in the common meadow, where sheep, goats, unicorns, pegasi, ki-rin and of course, horses, graze. Nicola runs halfway across it before finally stops on a hillock. Above us soars the palace.
Edward dismounts by leaping off over Nicolas head as she lowers it to crop at the long grass, then he reaches up a hand to help me down. I take it, then we both transform and Edward is pure black rather than white and brown like me. Then he kicks up his heels and together we run across the common, back towards the river. On the shore of it he leaps in to splash me and we kind of horse around. I dont think Ive had this much fun in ages. Nicola comes and plays with us too and I gang up with her against Edward.
We have a race, jostling and bumping into each other as we try to see who is faster, then we accidentally trip each other and fall down laughing. Edward teaches me some fighting moves, like leaping into the air then kicking really hard backwards with his hindquarters, which I try and which is kind of tricky. He shows me how to stand on my hindquarters then hit stuff with my forelegs and how to buck, which he says is a really important one for me. He also tells me how to kick and hide the fact that Im about to do so.
Were both having such a great time that we dont even notice the large black ki-rin standing on the hill watching us with the horde of normal ki-rin around him. I knock Edward over and he falls onto his back, then laughing he looks up and then abruptly stops. I follow his line of sight and feel my heart stop. My ears fall back and I can hardly breathe. Edward gets up and stands between me and the regal black male ki-rin, looking quite unsure what to do.
It would be really stupid if I asked who that was right? I whisper.
kind of. says Edward and he sounds kind of horrified. Father! Howre you?
Whos your friend? barks Attila-the-king. Youd better not be desecrating our honour.
Ew. Only Attila would imply something like that.
Uhh just a friend. says Edward nervously. I swear I recognise one or two of the ki-rin standing around my dad as riders.
King Attila is not impressed. As a ki-rin, hes really glossy raven black, with a sort of bluish sheen to his scales. Gold is plated onto his horn and there are several gold rings around his tail. He glares down at us and I realize that hes really never seen me before. I start backing up towards Nicola, who has lifted her head to watch.
Take her. hisses Edward without looking at me. I make a break for Nicola and transform, grabbing her reins and flinging myself onto her back. She bucks, but I manage to stay on while I try to figure out how to steer. Then, as my dad is slowly comprehending who I am, since Im in human form now, I give Nicola a kick because theres no time to be nice and off we bolt.
Except I still dont know how to steer.
I hang on desperately to her mane and the reins, looking back behind me to see Edwards sad face, then I look stubbornly forwards.
Come on Nicola! Get me back to the market! I whisper, hoping she understands. She apparently does, because were soon sailing across the bridge, flashing up towards the other side of the city. Now Im really wishing I had a map, because I really dont know this city at all. Im also really wishing that Id had pony lessons when I was little. I havent the slightest notion about how to make Nicola do anything other than gallop. I really dont know how to make her stop, which is likely the worst part.
But quite abruptly it doesnt matter anymore. Something flashes and I feel energy freeze us solid. In midair, unable to move at all, me and Nicola are prone. She balances on just one hoof in mid stride and her mane is stiff in my face. I cant even look around to really see what happened. I try desperately to move, but I cant. I cant speak either. My clothes have kind of solidified in mid flap.
Did my father do this?
Well, well, Emperor Phirun thought Id find you here. I doubt he thought Id find you in the company of my cousin, but that hardly matters right now does it? Im here to finish the job I started.
The last thing I see is River coming to stand in front of us, grinning like a psychopath, then night comes very, very early.
Woot. I think this needs editing. Anyway, hope you liked it!