As soon as the chariot passed…Alder ran as fast as he could. He didn know where he was going, or even what he was really doing. He just ran to clear his head from the confusion that pestered him incessantly.
Along the way he stumbled over stray stones and crashed into members of the now dissipating crowd which had gathered to see the chariot. His torn up, rugged shoes which he had worn for the past three years squeaked as he ran, barely clinging to Alders feet.
”What is that little boy doing? ”
”Could he be a thief? Morris, where is my wallet? ”
”What an abnormal little brat. ”
”This inconsiderate little… ”
Alder heard all of these things as he worked his way frantically through the mass of people who to him were…frankly insignificant. Despite hearing what they were saying and catching glimpses of their disgusted faces, Alders mind was hardly processing any of it, he was too occupied on his own internal conflict to care about what they thought.
After all, why should he devote any attention to these people who were far too shortsighted and narrow-minded to see anything beyond peoples most basic traits and surface level impressions. There were much bigger matters he needed to resolve right now.
That being sad, Alder had no idea as to how that resolution would come about. The only thought he could muster right now was:
Why did sis lie to me? Why did she keep telling me that everything she talked about was fake? Why did she try to stop me from seeing the horses and the chariot? ”
These questions were the only thing Alder had preventing him from simply curling up into a ball. But yet, they didn drive him to find his sister. In fact…she was the last person Alder wanted to see right now. In this moment, even the thought of her made Alder feel immense loathing.
His beautiful, kind hearted, graceful sister who had done nothing but provide Alder with love and care. But now all Alder could associate with her was hatred. It was a childish hatred, one fueled by his current state of vulnerability…and in which to cope with that vulnerability he chose to pin his anguish onto his sister.
As Alder ran, he caught sight of parts of the city he never even knew existed. His whole life he had spent inside the camp area, thinking that small section could be equated to the whole of Corvachia. How narrow sighted he had been. It amazed him that he had spent eight years around the same general area, only ever wandering off a few blocks before his sister inevitably managed to find him and drag him back to their shed of a house.
There were indeed houses near the rugged place where Alder lived, but they too were rather unkempt and plain in nature…nothing at all like the chariot, the chariot which Alder couldn stop thinking about as he ran to the very ends of Corvachia.
Along the way he saw gates going past the city, and mountains, actual mountains lay in the distance with massive tunnels snaking through them. From these tunnels strange came long black streams of smoke. Among and around the bases of these mountains, there were boys and men of all ages delving into the tunels. Soot covered their faces and callouses were practically ingrained into their skin.
The sight was too scary for Alders liking, so he kept on running. But the next area he arrived at was just as dangerous. It was a massive market, far bigger than the one sis bought food from. And being exchanged around this market were all manner of things. Ranging from spices to weapons. But what perturbed Alder, were the alleyways feeding into the market. They were long and winding, but worst of all…strange noises came from these alleyways. Primarily screams. These noises were loud and jarring, and often preceded by a loud and sharp snap. Unnervingly, the people in the market, despite hearing these noises were unbothered, and acted as if nothing happened.
Alder ran away from this place too. Eventually, he found himself in a much nicer part of the city, with insurmountably tall buildings dotted across the area. Everywhere Alder looked, he was greeted with all sorts of new and astounding architecture. Mansions made of marble, towers of gold, every nook and cranny shined more than anything Alder had ever seen!
How far is me and siss home from this place? How come I never even knew that any of this existed? thought Alder to himself, once again filled with jealousy.
Alder wandered across the place for hours, admiring every little detail that went into the citys architecture. The gargantuan houses, the polished cobblestones, all of it enchanted Alder.
However, at the same time he was careful not to be seen. He didn know why he was so insistent on avoiding peoples gazes, after all he hadn cared anywhere else in the city. But here..things were different. It was hard to explain, but all Alder knew was that the people here were scary. Not scary like the sounds he had heard in the alleyway, but more so in that they just rubbed Alder the wrong way.
They had a cold, intimidating appearance to them…every one of them, like they were some sort of transcendent being walking down in their full, peculiar glory amongst the earth. Alder hated himself for running away anytime he saw a single person, but he fled all the same.
The fellows in this part of town, were exquisite. They wore lavish clothing and extravagant jewelry. Alder saw people with earrings so large he could fit his hand through them, dresses dotted with enchanting silver powders, he even saw people with peculiar animal masks.
They were so detached from what Alder knew as normal that he simply felt the urge to avoid them. Just like the chariot. It was like the abnormality whose hatred constituted so much of Corvachia…was embraced here. Alder had spent his whole life believing that he was living in a game in which the key to winning was hiding his eyes, and yet here there were people just as strange as he was.
It was jarring. It was a different sensation from seeing the chariot, because that was like the arrival of something foreign into his home. But this, these buildings and these people, unmistakably dwelled in Corvachia. All along, this place had been accessible to Alder, it had existed right before Alders very eyes…but he had ignored it.
It frustrated him to no end, so much so that Alder picked up his feet once again and kept on running. Eventually he arrived at a canal. He had seen it before, but it had never looked so pretty as it did here. On the other side of town, the water was dirty and sewage often clogged the canal. But on this side of the city, it was pristine, as if it had never even seen filth before in its life.
Alder was perplexed. How could the same canal, which ran across the whole city be so pretty here but so dirty everywhere else? In fact, it angered Alder. But that wasn why he had come to the edge of this canal, or why he stood leaning over its edge…looking into the crystal clear water.
The reasoning wasn something grand or elaborate however. Just like practically everything Alder had done in his entire life, it was childish. His dramatic sprint to the canal was motivated simply by a desire to see his reflection.
But despite the simplicity of the motivation, to Alder seeing his reflection was an absolute need. Amidst all the things he had seen today and all the sights his brain had been overloaded with, he simply longed to see something that reminded him of his old life. And the closest thing he could think of in this scenario, was his reflection.
And so he peered into the water. In it he could see his reflection in it better than any mirror or looking glass he knew could ever provide. His copper brown skin, his messy black hair, his unimaginably skinny arms…he could see it all in unexpected detail.
It was stunning, and Alder couldn help but to stare at himself. Unfortunately, this brief tranquility was disrupted when a bead of sweat trickled down Alders forehead and plopped right next to Alders reflection. It rippled across the waters surface, creating a distorted, messy image. Alder balled his fist upon witnessing the perversion of his likeness…but he was also saddened at the same time.
He couldn explain it but something about the malformed image of himself in the water held an unimaginably intimate quality to Alder. But he couldn understand why it spoke to him the way it did. After all the reflection he had seen prior was the most accurate one was it not? That was him, just like his days with his sister had been his life. But was that really true? He had seen for himself that wonders greater then he could have ever imagined existed in the very place he had claimed as his home, was he really who he thought he was? Was his life really as simple as perceived it to be?
This inquiry ate away at Alder, and in an act of reckless, prompted by the torrent of unidentifiable emotions raging inside Alders heart…he slid off the contact on his left eye. And there… was one of Alders two gorgeous purple irises. The only abnormality Alder had, expertly covered by his contacts, had been exposed. At this point, the water had settled and he could see his reflection clearly once again.
Wow…so pretty was the only thing Alder could think.
Hed always known this, but now more than ever, the beauty of his purple eyes was brought to light. They felt so distant, so transcendent, despite being quite literally a part of Alders very being. He couldn help but to reach for the waters surface. Even if his reflection became screwed up even further as a result, even if more ripples emerged as his fingers met the waters surface he couldn help himself. He simply had to touch the image before hi-
”HEY! What are you doing boy!? ”
Alder withdrew his hand instantly and jerked his head in the direction of the voice. It was a tall, lanky man with a raven mask and baggy silk pants. His voice sounded kind of screechy and strained, which surprised Alder.
e purple ” said the man, inquisitive now, staring at Alders features with intense scrutiny.
”H-h-How POSITIVELY fascinating ” said the man, his barely visible eyes adopting a frenzied look. Like a fox staring at a plump rabbit.
The mans lips curled into a devious smile and he outstretched a long, spindly hand towards Alder.
In that moment, Alders fight or flight instincts kicked in and without even thinking he kicked the mans hand away and ran as fast as his exhausted legs could take him. The man tried to give chase, but Alder was too desperate to be caught.
Eventually, Alder found himself at what seemed to be the ruins of an old, dilapidated tower. Alder looked back to make sure the strange man wasn behind him and snuck into the tower. The entire place was practically falling apart at the seams. Creaking stairs, broken railings…it was a mystery to Alder how the place hadn been destroyed yet. But, he chose to traverse it anyways, eventually finding himself on the very top floor which seemed to be an abandoned classroom.
On that top floor there was a gaping hole and a precipice leading to a very high drop. By this point, the sun was beginning to sink and Alder was feeling very tired. He sat down against a wall, the wall furthest from the hole and placed his head within his hands.
Before he knew it he was crying, and then full on sobbing. Tears and snot were running down his face at breakneck pace and he looked disgusting. But he didn care. He was far too alone…to care.
I want to go home. I want to leave this wretched place and go back to sis. At least, that was what he wanted to think. But some part of him, some despicable, strange part of him felt unsatisfied. Like he still wanted to see and experience more. That same part of him felt enraged at everyone in this city. He hoped they would all disappear.
The crowd which had gossiped about him, the stone cold merchants in the market, and especially…the old man who had reached for him with questionable intentions, and anyone like him. The people with masks were who he hated the most, so much so that he wished they would die. Die so that he could take their place and conduct himself how he truly desired.
Alder felt so torn it was unbearable. He wanted to go back to his sister and forget all of this, but at the same time he didn , he couldn . He needed to know more about what he didn know, even if it was terrifying and massive in scope. The fantasies he had so dreamed about were right before his very eyes, and he had no idea for the life of him what to do about it.
He tried to slip his contacts back on so he could sneak out but they simply fell onto the dusty floor, meaning he couldn leave. But he couldn go back out there either, even if that small yet vocal part of him cried out ferociously to do so. So instead he wiped away his tears and put his head in his lap.
Eventually, he was able to fall asleep and his mind was able to travel past this city. It took him to wondrous and fantastical lands where it was always bright and things were simple and innocent like in the storybooks. The world in his dreams was just as colorful and outlandish as this part of the city looked, but instead of suspicious masked men there were gallant heroes. Instead of screams in the dark there were the shrieks of princesses waiting to be saved from the clutches of monsters. There were no complexities, or loneliness, or sad endings. It was a perfect, basic world…if only it were real Alder thought to himself subconsciously.
This thought faded however as he frolicked off into this blissful dreamscape, eager to complete more quests in the little bubble of innocence his mind had willed into existence….
Ill save you Esmerelda! Just you wai- suddenly Alders thoughts were disrupted by a tap on his shoulder.
His eyes flew open, and before him stood a man….dressed like a prince.
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