Neola drove the blue CRV up a short ramp and past a sign that said “Struligo Port”. The port was a sort of parking lot on top of the sandy beach. If you took a closer look, you’d see that the solid platform was actually made up of thousands of tiny knots. How such a structure could hold together for so many years is another secret of Felicians, one which even I don’t know, frankly because I’m not that interested in architecture and engineering. I was studying to be a physician if you must know, but I realised pretty soon that the sight of blood terrified me. That put an end to my dreams of saving lives and helping people; that is, until I joined the Defenders.
Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself. My bad! Let’s move on.
There were two guards stationed at the port. One of them swaggered up to the CRV, motioning to Neola to roll the windows down which she did. He unsheathed a dagger and held a scroll in his other hand. He, then, proceeded to ask Neola a series of questions about the history of Struligo Port which she, naturally, answered correctly.
The history of Struligo Port is quite an interesting one, actually. When the first voyagers arrived at Felicity five hundred years ago, they carried a happy burden: words of the future; a foretelling. It had been said that the son of the king would bring prosperity to the people.
When the young boy was born, he was nicknamed Strul, and doted upon by all who clapped eyes on him. Even the port was named “Strul’s Ego Port”, and the town “Strul Ego’s Town” after him. He learnt from a young age that he was a “special child” and there were great things in store for him. He grew up to be a handsome man (though not as handsome as me) but he was arrogant.
He held himself in such high regard, and everyone else did too, that he started to believe that the birth of someone as great as himself should be satisfaction enough for the people around him.
For years, the people waited for the miraculous accomplishments and prosperity they had been promised. In the end, Strul did nothing. He was so drunk on his high ego that he didn’t feel the need to do anything.
Over time, the name was shortened to “Struligo” because one word is so much easier to say than two. Although the name held such negativity, no one has bothered to change it. It stuck. I like to think of it as a constant reminder for us Felicians to do more with our lives.
When the interrogation was finally over, Neola parked the blue CRV at the corner of the port. There were several more cars and two trucks parked there too.
Emma and Charlie followed Neola as she led them through the beach and a horizontal line of coconut trees which eased into a cobblestone road, which eased into a small town. Either side of the cobblestone road was lined up with small stalls and behind those stalls, there were small houses. Everything was small.
Emma approached one of the stalls and saw that several bracelets and necklaces had been had been so hastily wrapped into a coconut leaf that one of them had even fallen to the ground. Emma picked it up and carefully dusted it off before placing it on the stall.
Charlie’s interest had been piqued by the wonderfully quaint houses. They were squeezed together, a break only appearing after every three houses or so. It was as if a greedy child had tried to stuff as many candies as possible in a small jar with no regard to how congested it would get.
Neola’s attention, however, was focused on something that couldn’t be seen, heard or touched. She was standing straight like a meerkat, alert and attentive, scrutinising the little town. “I’m missing something,” she said softly, looking askance. “Where is everyone?”
It was eerily quiet when usually, there were crowds milling around at this time of day. Neola rushed around like a fanatic, peering inside windows to see if there was anyone at all but she was met with disappointment. She rushed back to the port, worry etched on her face in the form of frown lines. She couldn’t make sense of it. Where was everyone?
“Get in, kiddos,” she said, gesturing to the blue CRV. She forced a smile and tried to keep a cool and calm composure but she was terrible at that. Her mother used to say she was as easy to read as a picture book written for toddlers.
“What’s wrong, Neola?” asked Emma. “This place looks abandoned.”
Neola didn’t answer, but she drove fast around the town and onto other cobblestone roads. Charlie gazed at the landscape around him. They passed a few small farms, a fenced-in dry area where there was no grass, simply dust and sand, and a little house which looked more like a warehouse. But everywhere was the same. Not a soul was to be seen.
Neola took a different route and Charlie realised that they were headed towards the castle he had seen from afar. The castle loomed ahead but it wasn’t particularly large. It just seemed huge because everything around it was so small.
When Neola parked the CRV a few metres away from the gate, Emma arched an eyebrow. “We’re going in there?”
“Doesn’t it belong to, like, royalty or something? Aren’t commoners like ourselves not allowed in there?”
Neola looked like she was about to say something but stopped. Emma tilted her head quizzically to the side but Neola hurried out of the CRV, followed by Emma and Charlie, nodded to the guards standing at the gates and the mystery of the missing people was solved.
There was a huge crowd gathered in the courtyard surrounding a man who stood on a height. Either that, or he was extremely tall. We’ll go with the first one.
Charlie was awestruck to find that the Felicians looked quite different from him and Emma. He couldn’t stop staring at their skin colours. Some had light purple skin like Neola. Others had light blue, ochre or were pale white.
The man was wearing dark clothing on his body and an even darker expression on his light blue face. He cleared his throat and what he said next caused an uproar.
“King Merfyn the Eleventh passed away this morning.”