Malina and the Border Banners, Chapter 8 (A Story for B)

Began here.
Chapter 2 here
Chapter 3 here.
Chapter 4 here.
Chapter 5 here.

It had been a long day for Malina Serafina Anastazja Dominika Naveed Jeleń nic Cecília O Alexandre, a long day now exacerbated by a very long hallway. The sand-cat walked at her side; a little fish sprite hopped in front of her in mid-air. 

She opened one more door to find one more, albeit short, hallway; Malina very nearly screamed.  Her feet WERE screaming.

“In the times when this was a fully-occupied castle,” the cat informed her, “These passages would have had guards at all times. The Queen needed her private time.”

“It must have taken her all day just to get there,” Malina muttered. 

“She had shortcuts, I believe, but those may be under more sand than this route. You did not tell the castle to hurry.”

Malina huffed at the cat. “Stop telling me I didn’t do something I didn’t know that I had to do,” she muttered. The cat, of course, did not respond.She walked forward on miserable feet.

This hallway, though short, was sumptuous.  It was nearly as wide as it was long; the walls were painted with a mural of a place with far more water than the desert she’d walked through. 

Painted into the mural were seven banners.  Malina recognized all of them from the ragged banners she’d seen in the desert, some from the windows in the tower.  “What do they mean? The banners?”

“Ah, that is a long story and I do not have all of it. The short of it is thus: when the First Treaty was signed, the one that created the border-realm, there were many peoples there.”

Malina waited, but that was all that was forthcoming. She was, however, at the end of the short hallway. She held her breath and opened the door.

🚪

A room greeted Malina; she nearly sobbed. It was a lovely room, if looking a bit dusty; with two wide benches that looked like the softest things in the world and walls made mainly of some sort of filigree, so that breezes swept in and out properly.

The fish-sprite squeak-beeped in distress. It began zooming around the room, leaving trails of glitter in its wake, squeaking louder and louder. Soon there were little fish-sprites everywhere in the small room, zooming & squeaking.

“They like the place to be clean.” The cat had taken shelter at Malina’s ankles, pressed against her and sitting on her feet, while the sprites zoomed. “I suppose I didn’t think they would be – this active. It must be who you are.”

“A lost girl with the right names,” Malina muttered. One of the fish tooted at her – it sounded like nothing more than a horn – and, as if on cue, the rest of them vanished.

The room was considerably cleaner; the bench looked, if anything, more comfortable. 

Malina sighed happily and sat.

A fish-sprite she’d missed squeaked at her. The cat looked at her oddly. Malina looked between the two of them in confusion. “What?”

“There is still the bedroom and the table,” the cat suggested. He walked to a door on the other side of the room, then back to Malina’s feet, and then back to the door.

Malina stood reluctantly. A bed DID sound wonderful, and yet, at the same time, it sounded as if she would have to move more.

“And food?”

“Of course.”

Malina wasn’t entirely sure that the door would not lead to another hallway, so she was more than a little relieved to find a small table, big enough for two, with two plates set, just beyond the door. She could see, through a thin silk curtain beyond the table, what looked like a very large bed. The breeze moved the curtains; the crystal goblets of water were glistening.

“This is a dream.” She sat down behind the plate, regarded the two plates, and changed chairs. 

HER plate had fruits & cheese

HER plate had fruits & cheese; the other plate was strips of raw meat.

The cat jumped up on the table. “Your chair is nicer anyway,” it told her.

The next few minutes were quiet. Malina ate as if she had not eaten in days. The cat, too, cleaned his plate. She drank her water; he lapped his up.

“This reminds me of a painting.” She closed her eyes; she’d all but forgotten it, but it was – it could have been – of this room. “‘The Queen and Her Adviser.'”

The cat licked its paw. “Exactly.”

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