This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/7) for a recap of parts A-F.
Xavier and Valerius walked towards the stable, anxious to depart on their quest. It was the Kalendae, the first day of the new moon and an auspicious day to start on what looked to be a long journey. They only knew to head north, towards the mountains based on the information Valerius had obtained via his ‘unconventional’ methods. They went over the poem as they walked.
“Fifty-two noses. What do you think that meant?” Valerius asked.
“Maybe the emphasis is on the fifty-two. Referring to fifty-two weeks of the Julian calendar,” Xavier reasoned.
“A year of odors?” Valerius said. “Something so malodorous that it will stink for a full year cycle?”
“Yes, it must do with a year, because the next line refers to twelve rounds. As in the are twelve cycles in a year.”
“And a flower of death? Perhaps it stinks like the dead for a year,” Valerius said.
Xavier laughed. “Where in the name of the Gods are we to find a flower that stinks like the dead?”
“Valerius!” a female voice called behind them.
“Yes?” both men answered as they turned, spotting Dianthe running towards them. Xavier gave Valerius a dirty look.
“Er, what business do you have with my man, Valerius?” Valerius tried to cover his misstep.
“A word with him, if you please?” Dianthe asked.
Valerius was having difficulty trying to keep a straight face. “Of course, princess.”
“Alone?” Dianthe’s face reddened but she was determined to speak to the scarred man.
Valerius laughed then, bowed low, and went ahead to the horses, whistling as he went.
Xavier and Dianthe stood staring at each other for a long few seconds, both awkward and nervous and yet happy to be in each other’s company.
“I thank you, princess.”
“Put it on when you rise and again before you sleep.”
Xavier nodded but was reluctant to go. He stood staring at her, drinking in her beauty.
“Oh, and you should bandage your face. The wind and dirt of travel will not help the healing.
“I will. Thank you for your kindness, princess.”
He turned away, determined not to look back; or he might never leave.
“Come back. To me,” she said in a voice so low he almost missed it. He nodded but kept walking.