Morteus stood in the middle of the path, awkward and unsure of what to do. With horse’s reins in one hand and a sword in the other, he stood out like a beacon in the darkness. Passersby turned to stare at this mysterious, gangly boy.
A few guards were stood at the entrance to the plaza, and were eyeing him. Their eyes flickered from figure to figure, and settled on him. Morteus shifted uneasily. Should I move away? Marlin asked me to stay here though.
He moved to the side of the narrow path to let people pass, and turned into another street when people shoved him aside, frustrated. He continued walking slowly, afraid to turn back. Marlin won’t be back so soon. I can always walk back later. The soldiers are suspicious of me.
He stopped in his tracks when he saw a poster of himself, with crowds of people gathered at the front. He kept his head down and avoided the faces of the crowd as he shoved his way up front.
“Morteus,” He murmured, reading the poster. “Reward of one million crowns if found alive.”
Alive. The word reverberated in his head. Well, that’s good. At least I’m wanted alive.
He quickly ducked his head when he saw an elderly woman pushing through the crowd and staring up at the poster in shock. He watched her carefully as the old lady put her hand over her mouth, her eyes glistening with tears.
Morteus cocked his head to a side and scrutinized the old woman.
How queer. He thought. It’s as if I know her from somewhere. And her reaction to the poster- How odd. Morteus pondered.
The woman recovered and turned around to look straight at him. Morteus stared back at her for a second, his eyes peeking out of his cloak. He whirled around and disappeared into the crowd, his heart pounding in his chest. What if she had recognized him?
“Wait!” The woman let out a startled cry, squeezing her way after him. Morteus broke away from the group of townspeople gathered around the poster and led Majesty away, as fast as he could on foot.
“No, please wait!” The lady clutched at her purse and stumbled after him, only to trip over the pebbles in the pavement.
Morteus hesitated, and then turned around to help her up before anyone could notice and start a commotion.
“I’m sorry,” He said, offering a hand to her. “But do I know you from somewhere?” He remained hidden behind the hood.
“No, I’m sorry. I just thought-” The woman stood up and brushed the dirt off her dress. She sighed and inclined her head in an apology. “I’m getting old. My eyes are playing tricks on me. I’m sorry.”
Morteus glanced at her, trying to figure out what was going on in her mind. There was a strange aura around her, and a likeness to something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Her eyes were almost as if…
“Sorry, I was mistaken,” She turned to shuffle away.
The way she holds herself, her poise… Morteus felt a strong sense of premonition. “Were you?”
“I- I- well, I just have a feeling that- that I know you from somewhere,” The lady smoothed out her clothing.
“Well, yes,” Morteus didn’t find anything strange in the statement, although he had never been out of the castle except for on his thirteenth birthday. And besides, the woman had seen the poster and could have recognized him.
The woman nodded, staring at him, as recognition glinted in her sparkling orbs.
Morteus’ heart skipped a beat as he tensed to run. “Well, I’ll be on my way…” He said, wondering with heart-stopping panic how he’d find his way back to the plaza entrance.
“No, wait!” The woman called out. “Morteus!”
Morteus’ eyes’ widened and he froze, rooted to the ground in shock. Majesty neighed and nuzzled at him uneasily. He knew he should run, but he couldn’t get himself to move. “I…”
The elderly woman let out a small gasp as she put her hand to her heart. “I thought so…”
Morteus suddenly grasped what he had done, and chastised himself for being so reckless. He smoothed his features into a calm expression. “Who said I was Morteus? That’s a seriously mistaken allegation.”
“No, no, I would know…” The woman whispered. “You look just like your brother…”
“My brother? I don’t have a brother,” Morteus frowned.
“No, you do… You’re, you’re Morteus, aren’t you?” The lady stuttered.
Morteus didn’t reply. “I saw you staring at the poster…” Morteus berated himself for being so foolishly impulsive. This woman could easily turn him in. She could even been employed by the king! Morteus immediately rejected that thought. He didn’t want to go there.
“The poster…” The woman murmured and shook her head. “No, I didn’t recognize you because of that.”
“What is it?” Morteus couldn’t fight the curiosity that was overwhelming him. What was it in this woman that seemed so familiar?
“Well, Morteus…” The old lady seemed to caress his name.
“You’re my son.”