Blogging From A to Z is a blog challenge where participants post a new item every day (except Sundays), where every item relates to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. You can find out more over at http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com
Story: The Palace
Word Count: 700
What he’d expected Tauma didn’t know, but the ruins in front of him certainly weren’t it. He stared wide-eyed as Kanev’s wagon swayed through the gaping archway where once heavy wooden doors had hung and into the remains of a formerly formidable courtyard.
“This is as far as I go,” the older man said distantly, his attention fixed more on the ruins around them than the two men beside him. “There’s enough room here to turn Mary around.”
“Thank you,” Raven said and, for the first time since they’d set out, Tauma could detect none of the tenseness that had characterised interactions between the two. If anything, Raven’s eyes mirrored Kanev’s as he took in what remained of his ancestral home.
Between the prince and the historian, Tauma couldn’t help feeling left out. They each saw different things, recalled different memories, as they looked at the fallen stonework and sprouting grasses; all Tauma saw was sadness. It might have only been a hundred years, but it was like several centuries had passed while the castle lay abandoned and it made his heart ache.
The warmth of a palm over his hand started him back to reality. Raven smiled down at him. “Ready?”
Heart climbing into his mouth, Tauma nodded and, once Raven had descended with their pack, accepted his offered hand gratefully. He might be perfectly capable of hopping down from the bench himself but that didn’t mean he didn’t like being taken care of, and the memory of his foot seemed to haunt Raven as much as it did Tauma, though likely for far different reasons.
The shattered stonework was warm beneath his bare feet, the sparse grasses tickling where they broke through, and above them Kanev laughed. “By the way, I made sure to put a pair of boots in your belongings. You’ve been shoeless far too long, boy.”
From the fleeting grimace that passed over Raven’s face, he hadn’t missed the gentle rebuke. Wincing a little himself, Tauma spoke before Raven could: “we owe you so much, sir...”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kanev smiled, and despite the way his face creased the expression knocked years off him. “Better yet, if you really want to repay me, you save me any documents you find. Anything at variance to the Wolfskehl official history in particular would be appreciated.”
“If we find anything like that,” Raven muttered, “I think I’d prefer to feed it to my father.”
Kanev laughed. “At least let me make a copy of it first.”
“Only if you agree to help hold him down.” Raven flashed him a tight smile.
“Believe me, princeling,” Kanev said, flicking the reins over Mary’s stoic back until she lumbered into a walk, “nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
They stood hand in hand and watched until the garishly-painted carriage was nothing more than a rumbling speck on the road , and stood a little longer beyond that, until Tauma summoned the courage to speak. “Do you really think we’ll find anything?”
“Who knows?” Raven lifted Tauma’s hand to his mouth and pressed a brief, warm kiss to the palm. “I hope so. If there’s anything that’ll help me fix this mess, here’s the last place anyone would look, right?”
Tauma nodded and hoped the gesture didn’t look as half-hearted as he felt. What Raven wanted was nothing more than a miracle, a piece of perfect, unscathed paper that in one fell swoop would call an end to the Stormcaller hunts and save Tauma from his inevitable fate; there was no way such a document existed. And, worse, there was no way he could tell Raven that. He could only keep his mouth shut as Raven picked up their pack again and clasped Tauma’s hand in his, and pray that even if it was inevitable, he could stall it just a little longer.
There might be no way Raven could stop Tauma’s execution or legitimise their relationship, but just for this short time as Raven led him deeper into the ruins in search of his miracle, Tauma could at least try to enjoy their time together.
After all, he didn’t know how much more of it they’d have.