Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
The trip back to the castle was an opposite method to the way she had come. When she had snuck out of the bedroom window in the early hours of the morning, she wished more than anything to be invisible to the crowds. There were very few merchants and shopkeepers, or even townspeople who might have been out at three in the morning. And it was guaranteed that almost any of them would be able to recognize the newly returned semi crown princess.
With the amount of birds calling out of the woods and how the sun was floating gently behind the clouds, Harry kept her hand upon her pistol at all times. The scene was magic from some movie on Earth, nothing like how Tanis thought of the theater. And from everything Harry remembered of the earthen popular culture of the 1900s, the stage being set would always end in disaster. The forest didn’t last long before she was into the first of the three villages on the outreaches of the town, making the whole trip be more or less ten miles. By the end, she knew the stones would be grinding into her heels but this journey would be a long process.
“Care to buy a vase? We have cheap vases. Ready for any sort of use that you might be able to imagine and able to hold any liquid of any temperature.”
“No thank you.”
Harry hadn’t even noticed the street vendor as she made her way through the town, distracted as she always was. And now the response slipped out of her lips without another thought of the tone that followed. She had barely been back into this role and was behaving like the rest of the family would if they ever had bothered to step into the sunshine.
“I mean I have no use for vases at the current moment but if you give me your notation card…”
The vendor slid a foil covered card into her palm, the standard for Tanis businessmen but much different from the hard papers used further out in the old sectors of Nerot. The vender was surely confused by her reaction but Harry left before she ever say their face, continuing along in the village. It passed by quickly, followed by another strip of forested land and ran directly into the next section. The livelier sounds of the larger town were distracting at first, taking her further into the distance, rather than bringing her back into the scene.
But still her hand never left the pistol at her hip.
And when her focused returned to the town street, she was being shoved into by a flurry of people who had appeared from nowhere. She felt the vibrations of their armor slam into the mild suit of cloth body armor that rested underneath of her own clothes, leading to a pain she had long forgotten with the time in the sectors. A guard turned in the confusion, casting their eyes upon her face and moving into the slight salute.
“What are you doing, Corporal? We need to move along to the alarm.”
Harry heard the sergeant shouting, turning back to see her standing in defense with the corporal’s hand helping her up from the ground. The look was nothing that she had missed. There had been a slight hope in the back of Harry’s mind that no one would recognize her but she also noted the lack of effort in her disguise. When the hood had slipped back just a bit, it was all revealed to whoever might have noted down the news from the previous day.
“Very sorry your majesty. Hope we didn’t hurt you.”
“And if I were just an ordinary citizen of the village, would you be apologizing so to me? Or would you simply scream at your men?”
“Think whatever you may think, ma’am. We best be on our way.”
The sergeant rounded up her men and continued on to the alarm that was still ringing somewhere in the distance. Harry found a way up from the door that she was leaning against, looking up to the sign to see the bakery that she had been looking for. After the time that she had just spent stirring the pot against the drill sergeant, she was certainly tempted to go inside and collect a few treats for different occasions. And with this thought she simply fell through the door, once again nearly stumbling to the ground and bringing a clamor to the opening room. A few people fled out as she went inside and the door slammed quickly behind them.
The voice bounced from the back of the small bakery as a woman scurried out to meet the only customer in her store. Harry looked around at the emptiness and felt odd in the surroundings, which should have been packed with people but was instead lonely. Spiders dropped down from the ceiling onto her shoulder and even as she was tempted to sweep them off, the look in their thousands of eyes persuaded her to look the other way. And the other, other way. And then finally settling on a matching gaze to the bakery owner.
“What can I get for you today?”
“Do you happen to sell the fasting holiday bread this early in the year? Or should I wait around until February?”
“Unfortunately we do not. But we have winter chocolate bread at the moment if you would care for that.”
Harry looked down at the ground to think about the bread options that she saw within the case. She wanted to get something to remind herself of the times that were left behind when the witness protection had begun. The winter chocolate bread sounded tempting and the others in the case looked good, but the fasting bread would be the only thing that work.
“Is there a particular reason that you were seeking the fasting bread?”
“No I just missed the last few periods of celebration and I missed the cinnamon breads from my childhood.”
“Would you like to take a loaf of something else?”
“Yes, two loaves of the holiday chocolate bread.”
The baker left for the back room and left Harry to stare at the spiders slowly making their way up into the ceiling, leaving her shoulders one by one. She could feel the slight movements of their feet, almost tickling the surface in the process and leaving a certain smile across her face.
“And thank you for your purchase. Come back and see us again!”
“I will certainly try to make it back.”
She tucked the promise away into the back of her mind, thinking about how she would have to make it back to this little hole in the wall bakery before she left for the next planet. Harry stood for a moment longer, looking into the display case at the pastries that seemed to be drawing her in more by the seconds that passed.
“Anything else before you leave? You seem to be on the hunt for something else.”
“A dozen of donuts.”
Harry pushed the different bakery items into the sack that she had found within her pockets, waiting while it slowly expanded before her and the bread shrunk back into the portal. She watched the look on the baker’s face as the process was taking place before them. The portal bag full of bread went back into her back pocket as Harry dug through the money that she had upon her person, leaving twice the amount necessary for the poor baker. Even as she went out of the door, Harry could imagine the face that was staring into her back.
The trip through the last village and the last forest and finally into the main city passed by in a flash, now that Harry had few things left on her agenda. The bread wasn’t a necessary part of the mission but the lack of food had created a certain mindset for her, mainly one where she was extremely hungry and the bread continued to tempt her. All of the cries from the vendors rang out again, shouting generally into the crowd, rather than the experiences she had dealt with earlier in the morning.
She was tempted to slip back through the window where she had come down from but moved towards the front gate instead. The guards stood at salute upon spotting her, turning to the side and letting Harry pass by with just a slight mixed look. These were the times when she wanted to say, “Wipe that smug look off your face”, like some back room restaurant owner who had some issue with a customer pronouncing a pasta wrong. The words stuck in her throat as she passed by the different rows of soldiers who all met her with the same blank look.
It was another nice feeling to have as she continued to strut through the grounds, going up the front steps and flipping off an angel statue that sat in the front hallway. The figure looked down at her with a look of disappointment but it didn’t shake her boots in the slightest. Harry brought a droplet of water from the canteen hanging around her other shoulder, forming it into a small crown that she placed around the angel’s head. It was the wrong imagery to be associating to the situation and if someone were to spot this process of defacing public property, it would mean punishment, even for someone like her.
Making it all the more fun.
As she made her way up the different passageways and stair cases, Harry made her way of editing the features on the statues. Most of the figure in the castle had an angelic grace to them, whether they were technical creatures of heaven or not. Many of them got the ice crowns like the poor bastards in the main hall but certain, select persons got a pair of icy underwear to go along with the occasion. She hadn’t declared the reason as of yet but it seemed like a fun challenge for the groundskeepers.
Harry knocked a few times on the door before heading inside, trying to piece together the scene she had left behind in the early hours of the morning. Certainly all of the clothing items strewn across the floor couldn’t all belong to Cara but Harry had misplaced the exact count. And the events of last night were sadly lacking in her memory, outside of the obvious thing that stood in her way. Those movements under the covers were mildly burned in with the idea of how she might have ruined someone’s life.
“Well where the hell have you been?”
“Is that all the answer I get?”
Harry looked up to her from the floor where she was kneeling, looking for the earring that must have dropped off sometime in the night activities. It only took a few seconds to recognize the vibrations but she remained in the position to avoid a certain glaze matched with a certain question.
“Well is it, Ehri? Nothing else after where we stand now?”
“I was out on business that is none of your concern.”
“You know that by having sex with me, you sealed your own prophecy, Madam Fiancé.”
There was a wish somewhere in Harry’s heart to be able to give Cara more details but she didn’t know how soon she would be gone. And she didn’t want the person to learn too much if she happened to disappear a bit ahead of time – the schedule was always changing forms. She felt around in her pocket for a moment, making sure that the precious vial was still tucked into its velvet wrapping or at least the silk cord.
“Grab your coat.”
“We’re going out on more business of the same kind.”