Chapter 6

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Night crawled slowly upon the city like a slug, darkness gradually enveloping the whole horizon. The sky shut off all light, making way for the emergence of the bright ball in the sky. As the sun was being swallowed in the distance, so was the moon vomited.

On a regular night, the city is always silent but tonight, the bumbling of the people still continued till night because of the next day's activities. Singing can be heard in some parts of the castle, and in the city too. The sweet aroma of burning animal flesh can be perceived almost everywhere. Men coming from alehouse, prostitutes going about, doing their normal routines, guards patrolling the streets, pickpockets looking for their next prey. The streets were crawling with different people.

Prince Qwen watched from his chambers, the city folks. They all were in high spirits. He could hear laughter and humming coming from the city. He opened the window adjacent to the forest, allowing a gust of wind to caress his face. He looked towards the forest, looking at the trees that stood attention towards the full moon.
The beauty of nature at night never ceased to amaze him. The starless clouds gazed down on him, prompting him to continue with his plans.

He retreated to his bed, it's softness providing him solace as he collapsed flat on it. He let his thoughts flow freely, wanting to make sure he tied every loose ends. His anxiety couldn't be contained, the sound of his heart slamming against his chest could almost be heard throughout his room.

He knew he should start from somewhere, he couldn't just sit, lazing around like a lizard basking in the sun.

He rose, taking a stride towards a corner in his room. He had hid a leather sack and his sword beneath a pile of clothes. A pile of clothes was the dumbest place he could have hidden it, but he couldn't think of anywhere better. Every four days, the maids would come to pack his dirty clothes to wash, so, his sense of timing was somewhat right as they won't be coming till the next day.

He rechecked his sack, making sure his belonging were there. Some gold coins, fruits and a pair of clothes. He knew nobody checked his sac but he had to be sure. Nobody must know about his plans. He held on to his sword, a deep blue sheath with dragons woven around it with pure gold. The hilt of the sword had the most complex designs. Rows of interweaving lines were joined by columns of hexagonal structures. The words written in ancient languages couldn't be overlooked. Qwen had asked for the meaning but nobody knew it, even his father couldn't interpret those words, so, he believes they're just mere designs for his sword.

Truly, the sword would fetch him a very huge gold if he sells it, but he would never dream of selling it. His father had given him on his sixteenth birthday, telling him that it had been crafted, long before he became king. It was a treasure that he couldn't afford to lose.

He had to make his move, his heartbeat increased. He put on his boots made of strong leather, meant specifically for the mission he was to undertake. He made sure his hood was covering his face, slid his sack across his shoulders and strapped his sword on his hips. Prince Qwen moved towards the windows facing the forest and took one last, long look at his room. Memories of good times flashed in his mind and tears popped in his eyes. He was doing an insane thing.

He breathed in, looked down towards the ground, breathed in again and then flung himself down.

He made sure he grabbed the rope he fastened to the balcony. He had made sure the rope was fastened real tight because he couldn't afford to plunge down. Any free fall is a straight passage to the land of the dead.

He started making his descend, advancing slowly towards the ground. He wished he could have taken the stairs in the castle but he reminded himself. Going through the castle would involve many risks, most probably that he would get caught. Or what will the guards say if they see the crown prince, fully armored in the night, going outside the castle. What lie could convince them? 

He remembered dropping a note on his desk for his father. He couldn't afford to leave that old man in heaps of worries. Ever since his mother died, the king had been his closest friend. He had tried to fill the void created by his late mother by making sure he was available anytime the king needed comfort.
The kingdom was shaken by her death, as she wasn't ripe enough to be taken by the cruel hands of death. She died of an incurable illness which battled out the medications of the physicians in the kingdom far and wide. Spell casters were also consulted but their efforts were fruitless.

Now that he thought of her, tears trickled down his cheeks. He remember the day she died, he just came home from hunting with his friends. He had seen a Whiteback snake back in the forest. It was a common knowledge that Whiteback snakes bring death with them, so, him seeing a whiteback snake means someone close to him would die. His thoughts had gone to his mother and he asked the hunting to seize immediately.

He rode back to the castle with full speed, just to meet his mother's corpse. It was a very terrible day in the kingdom. He cried uncontrollably, nobody could console him. Even the king, who thought he should be strong for the kingdom, broke down in tears. Everyone was crestfallen.

The queen had been the mother of all, sister to some, friend to some and child to some. Everyone loved her, but no matter how good a human is, people should still have reasons to hate. Her death shook the city, she was mourned for weeks.

Qwen brushed off the memory from his head. Now isn't the time for such, he needed a clear mind to be able to achieve his pressing goals. As he continued down, halfway through, his hands slipped.

As he was falling uncontrollably, he tried to find something to break his fall, but there was none available. Death flashed in his eyes, baring it's fangs to him. He couldn't die here. He had to do something.

Luckily for him, almost at the point of hitting the ground hard, his left leg got entangled in the rope and it brought him to an abrupt stop. The recoil made his sword remove and fall to the ground with a loud clang.

The least of what he had expected is people knowing of his presence. The clang would attract noise since he fell just beside the barracks. Soldiers should be rushing out any moment from now to apprehend the burglar.

He had to act fast.

He released himself from the rope and jumped down. His impact on the ground sent jolts of pain through his body. He loose the rope. He had tied the rope in a way that it would make it easy for him to loose it from the end, but it would be sturdy to hold his weight.

He rolled up the rope hurriedly and threw it over a hay stack, his eyes darting around,  looking for any sign of soldiers.

It seems there was no need for his rush, as the soldiers were also caught up in the merriment towards the next day's activities.  He heaved a sigh of relief and continued his journey.

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