Letter 5: Brightholt & the black market

A mountain with a small forest with a campsite saying: The Adventures of Will and Kat

Dear reader, 

My name is Will. I have been tasked to take care of Princess Kathrine. This has been my sole task since I was a young lad and her a young lass. I woke up this morning and the princess was nowhere to be found! A stranger with pitch-black eyes and hair was at our campsite. 

“Good morning Will,” she said. 

This woman had the voice of my princess…

“Princess?” I ask tentatively.

“Obviously, who else?”

“Sorry princess you just don’t look like yourself.”

“What do you mean I don’t look– oh my”

She looked at her reflection in the river we were camped by and let out a gasp. 

“We need to find the last ingredient to the potion.” She says, hastily packing up camp. 

We headed southwest towards Brightholt, one of the major cities of the kingdom.

By mid-afternoon, we’re passing through the iron city gates. We (I) begin to gather all the street knowledge I can ask where the nearest bazaar was or if anyone knew of any phoenix breeders or if the black market was in town. We go to the bazaar which is pretty packed as people are hustling and bustling about to get food and other things. Vendors are shouting out what they are selling. Dates imported from the coast, jewelry, pottery, clothes, berries. This brings back memories.

The princess is looking at some clothes that would look absolutely amazing on her (although that’s how I feel about all clothes). I spotted a few people duck into a large building that seemed kind of sketchy. I tap her shoulder and we head inside. Inside there was a restaurant that had far too few customers for the number of people in the restaurant.

Excellent, we’ve found the entrance to the underground black market.

It changes location all the time and relies primarily on word of mouth to enter. You can buy pretty much anything here. Stolen goods, secrets, rarities, slaves…We gave each other a subtle nod, split up, and waited. 

A lady built like a gladiator entered the place. She asked to give her compliments to the chef in person and was led to the kitchen. We waited. I went first, asking to pay my compliments to the chef in person. I was led into the kitchen, past all the chefs, and down some stairs. The place housing the black market was dimly lit with some overhead lights. I could hear the auction in the distance. My skin crawled and my legs shook. 

“Will? Will!” 

The princess was standing in front of me, her hands cradling my face, forcing me to look at her. 

“It’s ok. You’re ok. I’m here.” 

“Right, sorry, I’m back. Let’s go get your phoenix.” 

We wander the rows looking for a Phoenix staying away from the auction. No luck. With nowhere else left to explore, we head towards the auction. 

My feet felt heavy with every step going from stall to stall.

“Sold for $350!” 

No Phoenix here. The last stall, directly in front of the auction. A young boy in chains is dragged to the stage. The lady running the stall was small and grandma-like but seemed to have an edge to her.

At last, we found the Phoenix breeder.

“Do I hear $100?”

The princess talks to the breeder. The boy on stage looks like all the life has been sucked out of him. It is a look all slaves master so they can seem complacent, obedient, valuable. 

“Sold!- for $200- to that woman in the back. Please come to collect your new pet.” 

A woman emerges from the crowd and takes the boy. I see the coins exchange hands. The woman and the boy make their way toward me. The princess..? 

“Can you stand with my companion here for a few minutes? I need to finish my other business deal.” 

The boy sits at my feet, not looking at me. His face is dirty but he looks healthy. 

“What kind of masters are you?” 

Tears well in my eyes. I crouch down to his level acting like I’m going to fix my shoe. I pull up the hem of my pant leg. The boy’s eyes widened.

“The best kind,” I say, fixing my pant leg.

I motion for him to keep quiet. The princess rejoins us with a covered birdcage. She wipes away my tears and we exit the underground black market. Our first stop: an alley to free the boy from his chains. We feed him and give him a change of clothes.

Then we go Northwest to the capital and hand him over to the orphanage.

At least there, he won’t be a slave, he’ll be able to have friends and an education. The capital’s Hope Springs Orphanage has a 98% success rate so far in either adoption or cultivating the youths they raise to be successful in whatever passions they pursue.

We come back to the castle for the first time in a while and head to our rooms to clean up. Then I go to the princess’s room and hug her.

“Thank you.” 

“For what?”

“You didn’t have to–and we were there for–” 

“When I am queen, it’ll be one of the first things I’ll tackle. Plus, I remember the day we found you.”

“It was the best day of my life.” 

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired and we have quite a bit to tackle.” 

My face must have given me away. 

“The breeder had no information on how to make the Phoenix cry so starting tomorrow, we research and experiment.”

I yawned and headed off to bed. Camping out is fine but there’s something about sleeping in your own bed, y’know? 

Signed,

Will

(Next chapter here. If you want the full ebook, complete with map, click here.)

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