Worlds Apart: Part Six
As the sun slowly rose across the lands, Jaden and Vincent readied themselves for bed. While Vin curled up against one of the observatory walls and pulled his black hood down over his face, Jaden paced restlessly around the room. After a few harsh words and a couple of books thrown at her, she finally threw herself into a chair and sighed deeply.
With a sudden burst of inspiration, she grabbed the telescope which was mounted on a stand and swung it to focus out of the window. Intrigued, she adjusted the viewing lens and swept her gaze across the vast city of Altador. She watched a Moehog farmer tending his crops, pausing to wipe the sweat off his brow. She saw a large golden boat pulling into the dock, carrying, amongst other things, dozens of big wooden crates. She moved the telescope and stared at a big Grarrl as he started setting up a table with bowls of punch and plates of food. When she tightened the lens even further, she could see the massive span of the vast ocean, and in the far distance, the sleeping city of Shenkuu.
With a sad smile, Jaden lowered the telescope and eased it back on its stand. How easy it was for everyone else! To sip a glass of punch without a care in the world. To tend your stall, or your shop, or your garden. How Jaden longed for a life like that. A peaceful life without fear.
“Vin? You awake?” she whispered hoarsely at his huddled figure while the sunlight slowly filled the room.
His answer was a soft snore as he snuggled more comfortably against the wall.
“Excellent!” Vin said excitedly, surveying the deserted dock. “My boat’s still here.”
“Yep! Isn’t she a beaut?” he said like a proud owner, pointing to the side of the building where a little boat was tied to a gargoyle-like statue.
‘Beaut’ was not the word Jaden would have used.
“It’s got... character,” she said, trying not to smirk as she looked at the little wooden dinghy. It looked like one good chomp from a Minitheus and it would retreat to the ocean bed faster than a Shoyru diving for gems.
“This lovely ship will take us to Shenkuu,” Vin said, tossing both his and Jaden’s bags into the boat. There was the tense moment where it rocked very awkwardly and Jaden was sure it was going to sink. But alas for her, it managed to stay afloat, and bobbed merrily on the little waves.
Closing her eyes briefly, Jaden swallowed the unpleasant feeling that was creeping up her throat and gingerly slid down into the boat. It rocked precariously and she gulped as some water sloshed over the side and wet her feet.
“Right. Off we go!” Vin said brightly, leaping into the boat and nearly causing it to tip over. Jaden grabbed his hand and hastily pulled him down to stop it rocking.
She grabbed an oar and thrust the other one at him, the scowl on her face barely dampening his boisterous mood.
It was going to be a long boat ride.
“Jae! Wake up! We’re here.”
“I didn’t borrow your top hat. It was the Minitheus,” Jaden mumbled sleepily and curled into a tight ball.
“Huh? No, we’re here, at Shenkuu. Next stop, Moltara!” Opening her eyes into narrow slits, Jaden looked up into the smiling face of her friend. “Come on, sleepy head. We need to get a move on, dawn will be breaking soon. We need to find somewhere to stay. Hey, where was it you used to live?”
“We can’t stay there.”
Taking notice of the look on her face and deciding not to press the issue, Vin helped her out and moored the boat with a dock line.
They walked in silence, a steady drizzle of rain turned the ground to mud beneath their feet. Jaden walked briskly and with an air of certainty while Vin followed closely behind her. He did not expect her to speak much in this place, so when she did he was slightly taken aback with the tone of finality in her voice.
“There’s this house that I know of, up on a hill. It’s empty, it’s been empty for years. The locals say it’s haunted, so no one goes in there and no one wants to tear it down. We can stay there; make a few quick trips to town to stock up for the journey to Moltara. Come on, it’s this way.”
An hour later, the rain had increased to a notch just shy of a downpour, while the two renegades stood on the front porch of a huge mansion. It wasn’t as bad as Vin had been expecting. It wasn’t crumbling or decayed, just unkempt, like the owners had gone on vacation for a few years. A few windows were broken and boarded up, and the grass was impossibly tall.
“That’s what they say.” Jaden shrugged and pushed open the front door. It creaked as though it hadn’t been opened in a very long time. While Vin nibbled nervously on his bottom lip, Jaden looked completely at ease as she strode into the old house, throwing her bag down in a dusty chair.
Once inside, Vin stopped for a minute to get a good look around. While everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and dirt, it was easy to see that it had been a beautiful house. Everything looked like it belonged and nothing was out of place. The paintings on the wall were luxurious and expensive and the decorations were made of the finest gold. Whoever had lived here must surely have been very rich.
“Who lived here?” he asked curiously, while Jaden pulled some food out of her bag.
“Who knows? It’s an old story. A lot of stuff’s gone missing, thieves I should think; they would have made a nice income from selling this stuff. But it’s generally been left untouched. A ghost story will do that to a place.”
“So what’s the story?”
“What’s with all the questions, Vin?” she snapped irritably, biting a large chunk out of an apple and chomping vigorously, shaking her head.
“Keep your fur on. Well, I’m going to go have a look round,” said Vin, leaving Jaden and her black mood in the living room. He grabbed a lantern out of his bag and started up the stairs. The rain pounded down on the house, cloaking it in soggy foggy darkness. Straining his eyes in the dim light of the lantern, Vin was disappointed to find all the upstairs rooms locked. He tried kicking in one of the doors, but while it was a very old house, it was very sturdy. All he got was a throbbing toe and a splinter.
“Jae!” he bellowed down the hall, leaning against a door and straining his ears to listen for her reply. There was no sound from downstairs; couldn’t she hear him? Pulling his hood over his head, the little Green Kyrii crept up the next flight of stairs, his breath coming out like mist.
To his surprise, one of the doors he was trying swung open with a loud groan. He held his lantern in front of him as far as his arm would stretch and squinted in the pale light.
This room was a library. Three walls with floor to ceiling shelves, all completely stocked with books. Big, heavy, old and very dusty books.
There was a rocking chair that looked like it would crumble under his weight if he dared sit on it. The floor was covered in thick red carpet. There was a desk over to one side, with a few loose papers scattered on it. It was as if the occupant of the house had expected to leave the room for just a short while before returning to his work. A big, overstuffed armchair with a purple brocade cushion on it completed the inventory of furniture. Vin held the lantern up to one of the shelves and scanned the titles of the books. After a quick look he turned back to the desk and sat down on the chair, setting the lantern on the wooden surface next to the pile of papers. Rifling through them, he scanned the words for anything recognisable, but was disappointed.
He tried to open one of the drawers under the desk but found it locked. Cursing, he used all his strength to kick the drawer and grinned triumphantly when it broke. Pulling it open, he grabbed a small, brown leather book and held it under the light to get a better look.
“March 2nd, 1979
I’m becoming very worried about my daughter. I bought her a music box a while ago, and I know she adores it. She says it’s the most beautiful thing, and she loves to dance to the sound. But, lately I think she has become different, especially when she gets this look in her eyes, something dark. I have never thought of her as less than perfect, but lately there’s been something going on, and it feels wrong. She’s changing, I can feel it. Something’s happening to my little girl. When she dances, she no longer dances out of joy, or love. It’s something powerfully dark. I wonder about the path she seems to be going down.
But then perhaps it is I who is losing it. Maybe I’ve been working too hard. Jae knows I love her with all my heart. Maybe I am imagining the whole thing. I’m sure Jaden is just as she was before...”
To be continued...