Chapter 16: The Phaloan Code
(Norio and I must’ve been looking into each other’s eyes too long, because Ligeia stepped up beside us with a curious expression on her face.)
Ligeia- Is everything okay?
Norio- Malaika is extremely clumsy, I saved her from a potentially nasty fall.
(My mouth gaped open in shock, my eyebrows furrowed with agitation. I was NOT clumsy! It wasn’t my fault someone bumped into me; of course he had missed that moment. Ligeia looked over at me smiling, trying to hold back a laugh I think.)
Ligeia- You should be more careful in a place like this. The people are too preoccupied to pay attention to anyone or anything besides themselves.
(I nodded before giving them both an apologetic curtsy. My head was lowered, completely hiding my face.)
Norio- Malaika you don’t need to-
Malaika- But I do. Ligeia is right. I should be more cautious than anyone in our situation. I’m sorry…
(I raised my head to look at them. They looked a little uncomfortable, but I smiled anway.)
Ligeia- Whoa, relax alright? It’s really not a big deal.
Nyah- Hey! I got masks for all of us!
(She shouted from behind me. I turned around to see her holding four masks. A green tiger, a red monkey, a gold dragon, and a black hawk. I chose the golden dragon, Nyah took the green tiger, Norio took the black hawk, and Ligeia got the red monkey. It was still difficult for me to hear Nyah’s thoughts clearly without physical contact. I had to trust her to know the right moment for our exit. If we didn’t lose Norio & Ligeia at the festival, we wouldn’t have another chance.)
Norio- So what do you two want to do? This side trip is all about you.
(Nyah and I looked at each other for a moment. I tried to listen to her thoughts but there was just too much noise going on to focus.)
Nyah- Why don’t we try to win some souveniers at the game booths?
Norio- I’m in. Ligeia? Malaika?
Ligeia- Sounds fun, I can enjoy myself for once.
Malaika- I want to get some snacks for the road, and a gift for Zola…
(Nyah smiled at me and nodded.)
Norio- Then we’re all agreed, Let’s go!
(Norio sounded like an excited little boy. He was really letting his inner child come out in this place.
We walked along towards an archery game to our left. Ligeia and I stepped up first. The booth attendant was a six-foot, sort of husky built, red-headed man. He had what my father used to call a, “salesman’s smile”. It was a smile that could sell you anything. We both handed him ten gold rends the currency of the Eastern Region. They were gold marbles stamped with the Igole country flag. The flag had a sea turtle sitting on a dragon’s back. White & Gold was the Country’s theme.
The attendant handed us each a hard, rubber bow, and three plastic arrows. Along the back wall of the booth, there were twelve bulls-eye targets. Each held a stuffed animal or rubber sword as a prize.)
Spence- The name’s Spence, go ahead and test your skills ladies! Think ya’ can shoot ’em all? One rend for one extra arrow.
Ligeia- Pricey aren’t you?
(Spence suddenly looked away, clearing his throat nervously. I shook my head and laughed as I readied my arrow. Archery was something I used to practice in secret with my body guard, Ivor. Had I known I would be in the situation I was in, I’d have practiced more.)
Norio- This should be very interesting…
(I heard Norio say from behind. I didn’t need to see his face to know that hewas grinning with anticipation.)
Spence- Ready? Set? SHOOT THOSE ARROWS!
(I released one arrow after the other, I already hit two targets on my right. The third was on Ligeia’s side. I quickly took out three rends and slammed them down onto the counter in front of me.)
(I ignored his concerned call as I watched Spence quickly ready three more arrows for me. I felt a sense of relief being able to hit something. Now woud be the best time to head out of here…‘Hurry Nyah…’ I thought to myself. I grabbed another arrow and released it into another target.
Ligeia- Well, shit…
(I looked over to Ligeia and her mouth hung open in surprise. I pleased beyond all reason.)
Nyah- Malaika! Bathroom, NOW.
(Nyah said running up to me and taking hold of my left arm. I set the bow back onto the counter as she began to pull me away.)
Ligeia- Hold on a minute, I have to ask…Who trained you? You’re clearly not a novice.
(I looked over my right shoulder at her with a faint smile.)
Malaika- He was someone who watched over me from birth, my personal body guard…
(I said nothing as Nyah and I slipped away to the bathroom. She knew too much about us as it was, I wasn’t giving her anymore information. I looked back at Norio one last time, trying to let go completely. As he slowly disappeared into the sea of people at the festival, I hoped he wouldn’t realize what was happening.
The women’s restroom was in a stone building at the opposite end of the entrance to Honey Gardens. There were tons of people around here visiting the surrounding booths and playing games. Once inside of the restroom, I saw that two of the eight stalls were occupied. Nyah finally let go of my arm.)
Nyah- Did you have to be such a show off? I mean I understand you were trying to hint to me but…
Malaika- Nyah! Stop nagging me there’s not enough time in the WORLD for that.
(I was merely teasing but she huffed at me and rolled her eyes.)
Nyah- Listen, our “doubles” are in those occupied stalls. choose an empty stall next to either one, I’ll take the other. We swap outfits and masks then run as fast as we can. Got it?
(I nodded slowly with a look of approval.)
Malaika- Not bad under pressure sis.
(I nudged her arm with my elbow playfully and her smile returned.)
Nyah- Thanks. Now hurry up so we can head out.
(Five minutes was all it took for us to swap clothes and leave the Honey Gardens. The girls who went in our place were likely to be found out the moment they spoke. Norio would recognize our voices by now, so we couldn’t waste any time.
Nah and I headed to a family owned bed & breakfast affectionately named, “Terra & Demetri’s Breakfast Nest.” It’s more of a couples retreat than a family establishment.
We were passing through a small village still wearing our masks and no one seemed to care. I wondered if some of the other festival attendees passed through here before us.)
Malaika- So far so good. I think we should have a meal and short rest before heading to Igole.
Nyah- We shouldn’t stay for too long, just in case Norio & Ligeia are already on our trail. The Phaloa are like blood hounds.
(I sighed heavily. I had a feeling this was going to be another long night on the road.)
Malaika- Well we better hurry then…
(We changed our pace and started running. I knew we were only about twenty or so minutes away. The sooner we got there, the sooner we could eat and maybe have a nap.
We arrived at the cozy little bed & breakfast and immediately ordered our food after check in. The House itself was painted burgundy and black with white trim on the outside. It looked like a dark victorian style house. We both took showers and put on the fluffy complementary robes. The beds were only full size but that was just enough for our small frames. It wasn’t long before one of the housekeepers brought two french toast meals up to our room.)
Nyah- Mmm…Oh my God…
Malaika- I know, sooo good…
(We needed this so much. I realized this was the first time in three years that we were spending time alone. Nothing had really been the same after the marriage offers came.)
Malaika- I was thinking, maybe we should take the sea route to Igole. The underwater transit system is said to be faster and safer than all of the sky ships now.
Nyah- We need more clothes now though.
(I nodded as I took another bite of french toast. There was a soft knocking on the door and we froze like a couple of terrified rabbits.)
Terra- I’m sorry to bother you ladies but, may I come in a sec? It’s Terra.
(The owner? My heart rate sped up with increasing fear. Had we been found already!?)
Nyah- Please, come in.
(Nyah seemed to be the calmer one so she invited her in. Thankfully she was alone. Terra came in wearing a burgundy & brown steampunk style dress. Her burgundy & brown hair was cut in a short bob style, black dragon earrings dangled from her small ears. Her high heeled, brown boots were the only items without burgundy.
After she came in and closed the door, she smiled so cheerfully at us that it was strange. Nyah and I started to raise our hands to attack with magic…)
Terra- Wait! Please don’t be alarmed! I mean your highnesses no harm!
(She said panicking and dropping to her knees. She kept her hands flat on the ground with her palms up, her head was completely lowered; Terra greeted us the way that the people of our land would. It was a sign of the highest respect and loyalty. Most outsiders do not know our customs.)
Nyah- Please rise Terra, that’s unnecessary.
Malaika- How did you know who we were? We were in disguise and even used fake names.
(Terra stood up slowly but continued to stand near the door.)
Terra- You came here seven years ago with King Refiloe, may he rest in peace…
(Nyah and I exchanged pain filled glances before looking back at Terra.)
Terra- You two ordered the same exact breakfast back then. Also, there’s someone who’s been waiting here for you.
(Without saying anything more, she reached behind herself and knocked on the bedroom door.)
Terra- You can come come in now, quickly.
(Terra stepped aside and the door opened just enough for Ivor to peek his massive head inside. My eyes lit up and filled with tears. I couldn’t believe that he’s survived the accident as well!
Ivor had to duck a little to enter the room as he was well over six feet tall. There were a few scars on his face but he seemed to be okay otherwise. He was no longer wearing the blood & mud stained armor, but something more casual. A brown bear fur with leather buckles was draped over his large shoulders; underneath I had a glimpse of a sky blue cotton shirt, black jeans, and a pair of black leather boots. His massive sword was in it’s sheath on his right side.)
Nyah & and I- IVOR!
(As usual, the tall, dark, and muscular man smiled brightly but said nothing. We hopped up from our beds and ran to him. I held him tightly, so relieved to see that he had survived.)
Malaika- Ivor…I thought you were dead…
Ivor- I worried for your safety as well princess. It seems you are doing better than I thought. You and Nyah are together at least.
Nyah- I’ve missed you so much Ivor. It brings me great joy to see you alive and well.
Ivor- I feel the same way. But princesses shouldn’t show too much affection to those who serve them.
(We let him go quickly and tried to regain our composure. I realized I was forgetting myself a lot since leaving the confines of our palace. It was nice not to have to follow so many rules and customs all of the time.)
Nyah- Is Eula here as well?
(I looked at Ivor hoping for good news but, the sadness in his dark brown eyes said it all. She hadn’t survived the accident. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as I braced myself for Ivor’s words. It wasn’t going to be easy to hear out loud.)
Ivor- Forgive me, Eula passed on after an accident on the road. While we were fleeing the palace with Malaika, the carriage was struck with powerful magic and tossed us all out. We were separated from Malaika but, she did not survive the landing…
Nyah- I see…That’s terrible…
(Nyah said looking from Ivor to me. Her eyes were full of tears and some began to spill out. She blinked a few times and turned away from me.)
Nyah- You’ve been through so much little sister…I’m sorry, excuse me…
(Nyah excused herself and left the room while we stood in a very awkward, sad silence. I wanted to cry for days just to get all of my frustrations out but, we needed to get away from here as soon as possible.)
Malaika- Ivor we need to leave this place and head for Igole, quickly and quietly. Do you know of a way?
(He knew me too well not to ask questions; his caterpillar like eyebrows furrowed suspiciously.)
Ivor- Are you in more trouble than you were the last time we were together?
(I looked away and nodded sheepishly. He sighed heavily, scratching his dark curly afro.)
Malaika- We had a phaloan body guard, but it seems he can’t be trusted after all…
Ivor- You shouldn’t have trusted him at all! Have you ever heard of the “Phaloan Code?” Do you know what it truly means?
Malaika- No, tell me.
Ivor- “All Loyalty goes to royalty, if the coin is in abundance. Their enemies will fall. Let the enemy of my enemy be my friend. If the enemy should ever wear a crown, let them drown; no man, nor child, nor woman of the Phaloa, will suffer injustice from our rulers, we have no masters.” To put this simply, they will always be loyal to the highest bidder. Even though those of noble or royal blood take priority, it is only because of their wealth. THAT is not true loyalty and devotion to one’s superiors. It means they can be bought by anyone for any purpose, and they will fufill that purpose on pain of death.
(I felt my heart pounding in my chest like a wild, trapped thing. If Norio truly follows the Phaloan Code, He wasn’t someone I could keep by my side. He never revealed the Phaloan code to me which made me wonder if he had been decieving me from day one…)
Malaika- So then the lives of Nyah and I are nothing more than a means to an end if the right bidder comes along…King Dorieus could make him an offer he couldn’t refuse…
(Ivor suddenly got down on one knee with his head lowered and his palms up, the masculine version of Terra’s bow.)
Ivor- I beg your highness to stay away from the Phaloa, your life is in so much danger already.
Malaika- Then I need your help. Nyah and I need to get to Igole as soon as possible. She’s already in worse danger than we are. Takeo castle belongs to King Dorieus now.
Ivor- Permission to rise your highness.
Malaika- You may rise.
(Ivor stood up and towered over me once again. His eyes had become filled with darkness at the mention of Zola’s situation.)
Ivor- I stayed here hoping you would remember this place, luckily you made it. Terra may have a way to help us.
(I looked over at her curiously.)
Terra- My husband and I had an underground tunnel system made when we first opened. We wanted to get as much traffic here as possible and so far it’s worked great, this place is always full! The tunnels lets you out right inside of the transit station under the Eastern Sea. We’re still expanding to the other regions as we speak. I can take you to the entrance whenever you guys are ready.
Malaika- Thank you so much Terra, you will be heavily rewarded for helping our family.
(She shook her head no and waved her hand at me.)
Terra- I don’t want any rewards or honors, I just want you safe. You’ve lost so much in only a few months…
Malaika- This world will lose far more than I have if we don’t stop King Dorieus. I’ll go and grab Nyah. Ivor, you should prepare to head out soon.
Ivor- Yes your majesty…
(We all exited the room, going our separate ways, but Nyah wasn’t in the hallway like I’d expected her to be. I decided to head downstairs to look for her. The lobby was very quiet. Soft violin music could be heard playing in the background. A large black sectional couch was a nice addition to the lobby. A few black recliners and a glass coffee table completed the room. The reception desk was right outside of the lobby. Terra’s husband Demetri stood at the reception desk yawning heavily.)
Malaika- Excuse me? Demetri?
(His eyes widened and he stood up a little straighter when he saw me.)
Demetri- Oh hello! May I help you with something my lady?
Malaika- Did you happen to see Nyah come through here?
(He smiled and nodded.)
Demetri- I saw her not long ago, she went down the hall behind you. Not sure where she was headed though.
Malaika- That’s okay, thank you sir.
Demetri- Of course.
(He said with a humble nod. I began to worry as I turned around and headed down the main hall. At the end of the hall there were large, sliding patio doors that lead to the expansive backyard area. There was a small picnic table area, in the center of a garden. Five white fountains were placed in the formation of a star around the garden, each fountains water had different colors flowing from it. Purples, pinks, and blues. The colors seemed to differ depending on the time of day. I was passing by a utility room door when it flung open. I hopped back out of instinct but not quickly enough. A pair of gloved hands reached out from the dark room and took hold of my right arm firmly. I started to scream but the mysterious attacker quickly closed the door and covered my mouth with their other hand. My hands were still free so focused on creating light in the room with the fire magic I’d learned.
I opened my left hand and felt the light energy slowly expand. The room soon became illuminated with a soft yellow light, and I could see Norio’s face staring down at mine. My eyes were wide with panic. His irises were red like they were on fire, but he didn’t look angry. He looked hurt.)
Norio- I’m not going to hurt you, please don’t scream. Alright?
(I nodded and he took his had away from my mouth slowly. His other hand was still against the door and he hadn’t moved an inch away from me.)
Malaika- Where’s my sister?
Norio- I’ll tell you everything, I swear. But you have to promise that you won’t ever leave my side again.
Malaika- Do you truly live by the Phaloan Code?
(He frowned, realizing I wasn’t going to listen to anything unless he gave me something in return.)
Norio- I do, to some degree. The Phaloan Code has nothing to do with you Malaika. I swore an oath to you of my own accord, I work for no one right now. As for your sister Nyah, Ligeia took her to the Phaloan safe house near here.
Malaika- WHAT!? And you just let her!?
Norio- Shhh! It’s part of my plan. If I didn’t make her believe I was on her side, she never would have revealed her intentions to me. Malaika, Ligeia was hired by King Dorieus to find you and Nyah. She’ll be waiting for me to bring you to the safehouse where she thinks we’ll hand the two of you over. What she doesn’t know is there’s a bounty on her head.
(I shook my head briefly before looking at him again. My head was spinning.)
Malaika- Who wants her dead?
Norio-…All of the Phaloans, including me. Three years ago she did something unforgivable, even by our laws. I don’t have the time to go into details, later maybe. If you want to save your sister, we have to leave right now. You have to trust me.
Malaika- Why should I? Even if what you said is true, I always have this feeling that you’re hiding something. Besides, Ivor is here. He survived the carriage attack and he has a way to get us to Igole safely.
Norio- That’s great and all, but the fact remains that Nyah is in very real danger the longer she’s with Ligeia.
(I was getting fed up with this whole thing. This wasn’t supposed to happen, we should be on our way to save Zola…I couldn’t take it anymore. I slapped him as hard as I could. He was fast enough to stop me but he didn’t, he didn’t make any effort at all. As tears fell from my eyes out of sheer frustration and exhaustion, he started to smile at me.)
Norio- I deserved that. Yep…Do you still not know my true feelings Malaika? Even now you hold my life in your hands. Will you trust me? Will you allow me to prove my loyalty to you once and for all?
(I didn’t have a choice. If I didn’t leave now, there was no way of knowing that Ligeia wouldn’t sell Nyah off before we arrived. Ivor would have to wait. I knew he would give me the scolding of the century when I got back, but I wouldn’t mind at all. I was grateful that he was alive, and so was Nyah. I had to go to her before it was too late.)
TO BE CONTNUED…
COPYWRITE ALEXANDRIA REEVES 2017