The True Adventures of Jay B R Wokky, Web Serials

Jay B. R. Wokky Ch. 37.1 — What Really Happened to Eli

CH 37.1 — Eli kept his cloak on and his hood pulled down over his face as he made his way through the inn’s crowded common room to a table in the back. A young woman with flushed cheeks and tired eyes brought him a thick stew and a round loaf of bread along with his ale. Eli drew out two coins and set them on the smooth wooden table. He spoke using the accent of a Saltonian merchant. “I need a room for the night.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll let Ma know.” She scurried away.
The stew was thick, full of meat and vegetables, and Eli savored every bite. The bowl warmed his hands. As he ate, he listened, just as he had all winter at inns all over Saltonia.
The room was crowded tonight with roughly dressed folks trying to get out of the sleet and warm themselves before continuing on. He listened in on the conversation of an old man seated nearby with his friends. It was the same story he’d heard from sailors, farmers, merchants, and common folk all over Saltonia: Princess Zelda was a tyrant.
“I’m telling you, she’s got the whole castle living in fear,” said the man. “The king and queen have been sick all winter, and no one can find any Miracle Mix. No one has seen Prince Eric or Princess Ariel since the fall. Crops failed last year, but taxes still went up. People are hungry. Or in prison.”
His friend nodded. “Nothing’s been the same since poor Janine died. I tell you: of the two, I’d rather have the ugly princess than one we got now.”
The old man looked around and then lowered his voice. “They say that every year on New Year’s Eve, one of Zelda’s maids dies of a mysterious illness. Zelda buries her in that strange garden of hers, where deadly flowers bloom on those graves — even in winter. On New Year’s Day, the princess rides through the kingdom and chooses one of the prettiest girls of the kingdom to be her next maid.”
One of his companions nodded. “Parents are disguising their daughters just so they won’t be chosen. The price for a wart charm has gone way up.”
Worry filled Eli as he listened to the ebb and flow of the latest rumors from Nelsonia: King Frances was on his death bed. Matthew and Mark were missing, and Eli was presumed dead. Matthew’s son, Sam, had disappeared too. Ezra had been found by the supposedly dead dragon, but Ezra was now in an enchanted sleep. Every pretty girl in Nelsonia and all the surrounding kingdoms was invited to travel to the dragon’s cave to try to wake the prince with a kiss.
The old man took another swig. “Princess Zelda has announced that she will travel to Nelsonia to kiss the sleeping prince.”
“Good riddance,” said his friend. “Maybe things will get back to normal here in Saltonia.”
Eli couldn’t stand the thought of Zelda marrying his curious, cheerful little brother. He begged a couple of strawberry tarts from the cook, slipped from the room, and made his way upstairs.

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