Mercy. Something I have taught my whole life. Show it when others cannot. Lie in the name of happiness and peace. Lately, it has been hard to demonstrate it. Probably because this damned world lacks the truth. My gift feels like a curse and no matter how much I try to keep my mouth shut, the truth is told.
*Bells chiming off in the distance*
Staring out the window used to distract me from what was going on. Every chotic thing and struggle.
“Clare?” someone yelled from far down a hall.
“Yes?” I replied.
“Your new student is here!” the voice called back.
Finally, something productive to do. I walked down the hall with my head held high and bow in hand. I could feel the cold encase my body.
“Welcome. You must be?”
“Ah, yes. Mr. Bailey’s son… Right this way, and we will begin our practice.”
We walked down the hall, and into the range.
“Here we are. You will first learn how to properly use a longbow.” I pointed to a rack no more than 10 feet away, “Then move upward. Choose one, and grab a quiver.”
“What is a… quiver?”
“It holds your arrows,” he grabbed one, “Now the target. Each target is the same with the same scoring system. Middle is 10, and each ring as you work your way outward is one less. The goal is to get a solid score, and be consistent and accurate with each shot.”
“Does it matter the target?”
“Yes-.” I paused, “Moving on.”
As the lesson went on, my mind couldn’t help but wonder why my answer to his question was not expected. No was supposed to be spoken but the answer was yes.
A few days later, at Casey’s next lesson I showed no mercy again, yet in a larger form.
“Your form is terrible!” I exclaimed.
I slapped my hand over my mouth and stared at Casey in shock.
“You will have to excuse my rudeness. I don’t know what has gotten into me.”
“It’s alright,” Casey started, “I’m used to it by now.’
“Well what is that supposed to mean?”
“My father may be kind to his customers, but to me he is rather quite rude and annoyed.”
Once again we finished our lessons and so badly I wanted to ask him on a shooting trip with me the following day, but I convinced myself not to just yet.
“You are improving quite nicely. I was wondering if you would like to go on a “shooting” trip with me?” I said with no hesitation.
In the back of my head I screamed. What was wrong with me? My eyes were huge.
“Well thank you. I’d be delighted to. When will we be leaving?”
Don’t say more Clare.
“Tomorrow morning, right before dawn. You can stay here so we can leave together on time.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, alright. I shall return with clothing before dusk.”
“I will provide you with those. Go on and tell your father.”
Casey sat his bow on the rack, walked out the door and almost ran down the hall in excitement.
“So, Clare, how do you feel about Casey?” my mother said.
“I feel… As though I am in love with him,” I quickly responded.
“Oh my Gods. What is wrong with me? I can’t, lie!”
I stood up, tears running down my face, and ran to my room. I entered, slammed the door and slowly walked to the window.
“Why? I think of what to say, yet I show no mercy,” I whispered as the wing blew into the room.
“You can see the truth Clare,” a mysterious voice whispered.
“Wha- What? Who is that?”
“I am your guide. Your guide to who you are.”
“What? Why? I know who I am!”
“You may know who you used to be, but I am the key to your true self.”
“Wait… I know you.”
“Child, I am the reason you were born, the reason your father is here, and the reason your mother can defy her true form. Clare, you are the product of a great titianess. You withhold a great amount of intellect and have been deemed a great amount of importance amongst all alike you. Being the output of something so great, brings misfortunes. Mercy. Something you have been taught. No longer are you able to present lies.”
“I’ve noticed, and it has caused me a great deal of embarrassment. I couldn’t even give simple hope of improvement.”
The voice cackled.
“Silly girl. Look into the mist. High above this city you sit wondering why you are even here. Wasting. I have come to you today because you must retrieve something.”
“Why should I listen to anything you say?”
“Simply because you trust no one. Find it in yourself to want to believe.”
“What exactly will I be finding”
“Several things actually, in several locations. In this castle there are secrets, one of which we need. Go to the Undercroft and find Belethor he will tell you where to find the thing we so desire.”
The mist that heavily suffocated the room vanished, and I felt pressure lift off my chest.
I turned back to the window. It was darker now. You could smell the summer breeze blowing in from the ocean. Gazing at the sky, a flake fell onto my hand. When reaching up to touch it dripped to an arrow that lay in the floor.
There was a knock at the open door
“Yes Maura?” I responded.
“Mr. Bailey’s son has arrived.”
“Send him to the Great Hall and I will meet him there.”
Looking up into the slowing growing summer darkness again, I began to imagine what was to be the outcome of the night.
The Great Hall was filled with flowers, antiques, and benches facing the vast windows that overlooked all the Northern Realm. There at the edge of the hall by the stairs Casey stood. He looked intimidated by the large area.
“Welcome back,” I exclaimed.
“Thank you,” he said.
“We are about to have dinner. Follow me and I’ll show you where your room is.”
I lead him to the guest room directly across from mine.
“Here we are. “ I said.
“Oh wow. This is so nice. If I may ask, why did you invite me on this trip?”
“Um. Well,” I tried to bite my tongue, “I just am really fond of you.”
“Ah. Alright now. Anything I should be aware of?”
“Yes. I need your help. Follow me.”
We walked into my room. I shut the door and locked it did the same to the window and curtains.
“Please sit,” I whispered, “I have a problem that is difficult to comprehend.”
I explain the situation, the voice, the Undercroft, mercy, even the amulet. He looked baffled, but asked how he would be involved. I needed him to help guide me, a partner, a friend.
“I need someone who understands me. I felt led to ask you no matter what,” I explained, “From the first lesson I taught you, I knew you were somehow special.”
“I am nothing but a shoemaker's son.”
“How can someone as simple as me, be connected or called to anything of importance. When you asked me to go on the shooting trip, my first thought was that you had mistaken me for someone else. “
“I’ll prove it. Ask me anything that anyone would lie about… Go on!”
He looked at me as if I’d gone mad.
“Like what?” he lashed out.
“How do you feel about your mother?”
“By all means I despise the woman for what she put me through. Pathetic.”
“Why would you say that about your mother?”
“I told you. I can not show mercy. Do you not remember when I told you that the target DOES matter? And told you that your form was terrible? Could you not hear the forced outcome of those statements? Or have I gone bonkers?”
“I guess you could be correct.”
There was a long moment of silence. I reached over and pulled back the curtains.
“Is it just me or is there snow falling?” I muttered with tears gathering.
“Don’t be silly. It’s the middle of sum- I do believe it… is? What in the Gods is going on with this infernal world of ours.”
I flipped around to face him, and could feel him breath on my neck.
“Please come with me. I truly need someone.”
He took my right hand and bent down on one knee.
“Yes, Your Royal Highness,” he said.
“Oh please. Get up! You know I hate that!”
We both laughed.
Off we went. I led him to the Dining hall where my mother and father sat waiting for the both of us to begin dinner.
“There you two are!” bashed my mother,” We thoug-”
“I’m terribly sorry, but we have other business to attend to. We must reschedule this lovely dinner. Give my regards to Huarwar. Shall we? Oh and try to find why it is snowing in the middle of the Summer Solstice will you? Maura do you know where my satchel has gone?”
“Right away Miss Clare,” Maura responded.
Grabbing the satchel from her hand, I began to walk down into the Great Hall and out the castle doors. The snow was now pouring down in a considerable way, and a blanket of white almost covered the ground.
“We must go to the Undercroft. Someone is waiting for us. There is bound to be no one there. Just look at this snow!” I explained.
“Yes ma’am,” Casey responded.
“Whom are we meeting?”
“A man named Belethor.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Nor have, but we must find him.”
We walked up to the entrance of the Undercroft, and from the looks there was no one inside. It must have been our reflection because When Casey opened the door people flooded the many tiny shops that filled the broad area. I closed the door behind me and clung to Casey. We made our way to the center of chaos to collect ourselves.
“Where do you suppose he might be?” questioned Casey.
“Not one idea.”
“How could you not know? This place seems to call your name.”
“I’ve never been here. Only seen the layout for the vendors.”
“Yes, then you should know the exact location of the shop we are looking for. Those maps include names.”
“He wasn’t listed.”
“Then how are we supposed to find a shop that doesn’t exist?”
“The voice said this castle has secrets.”
“Clare, this is not the castle. This is the Undercroft.”
“Mind you the Undercroft is connected to the castle in many ways.”
“We are damned to find this man.”
Soon after following the crowd the shops became less specific of the objects and goods they sold. I approached a tiny old witch-looking lady, and asked if she knew anyone by the name of Belethor. She responded with;
“What do you need with a man like Belethor?”
“I- We need his help.”
“Who sent you here?”
Casey stepped in;
“Ma’am we are running out of time and options, so if you cannot help us then we will be on our way,”
“Wait, wait, wait. You are the princess?”
“Why yes I am, and this is my friend. Are you going to help us or not?”
“Follow me,” said the lady gesturing toward the back of her shop.
She began to mumble under her breath as we all weaved our way through the crowded shop.
“Alouette! Handle the customers while I'm gone,” yelled the lady.
“Yes. Mark down. Mark down!” a voice shouted back.
I looked around to locate the voice. On a perch, sat an abnormally large budgerigar.
“Mark does my prices and I’ll be offering quills and ink pots!” the lady screamed at the bird.
“Alouette keep prices. Old lady hasty,” the bird responded.
This Belethor guy seemed to get further and further away. The air was getting colder and the scent of wax candles burdened the air. Occasionally, after we exited the back of the shop, the lady would glance back at us to make sure we hadn’t wandered off into the massive crowd.
“We must go out the front and back around to the other end of the croft,” she said.
The lady opened the door, and snow fell in and onto her feet. The snow was now a foot high and was still pouring down. Looking down onto her bag she carried, I could see a tag with that read ‘Θεία’. I leaned up in Casey’s ear and asked him if he knew what it meant. He shook his head and we stepped out into the snow. The cold powder felt warm. The sun was hidden behind the clouds as it usually is. I wish they would clear.
“Here we are children,” said the old lady,”Listen, whatever you seek, use great caution. The journey will only get tougher from here. Take these.”
She handed us each a round, dirt red orb. It was rough to the touch but looked smooth and delicate. They hung on a strip of thin hide. She continued:
“These will help guide you in the right path. Whether it all falls apart or not. On we go now. Be quiet not to wake him.”
She pushed on a stone on the outside of the castle wall. Several blocks at the bottom pulled back.
“This is your way to find him. I cannot follow you,” the lady muttered.
“Why not?” I asked.
“You know, Your right.”
She reached up her hand, to the bricks above the already large hole and pushed more bricks in, making an entry just her size.
“This way!” She beckoned.
After walking for a few moments, into the castle, we came to a wooden door. The lady struck it and shouted hello. From inside the room you could hear a tiny voice say back:
“Why do you wish to see me?”
“I have someone who seeks your guidance,” the lady said.
“A voice has led me here to you. I am Clare,” I shouted.
“The snow that is falling should tell you what you need to know,” the voice said, now louder and very distinctive of an elderly man.
“How so?” Casey said.
“Princess, look at your hair? What you seek is finding yourself. Come in.”
I grabbed at my hair, under my cloak. What once was a deep shade of brown, was now a fiery red. My body was in shock and turned ice cold. I looked to find the old woman and Casey. They had disappeared, and the world swished. Dropping to my knees a woman appeared and whispered:
“My child. You have found my first divinity.”