In the previous episode, we heard the story of the mysterious girl who took Celia in. We learned that she lives above the tavern and has worked there since her mother died when she was young. Readers voted that her name is Ondine.
The girl’s eyes were bright, her hand extended towards Celia. “My name is Ondine.”
“Celia.” Celia gave her a warm smile, her first real smile in what felt like months. “Someday you’ll visit all those places, I know you will.”
Ondine gazed at the drawings of far-away lands wistfully for a moment before jumping up off the floor and rummaging through her sea chest.
“Here,” she tossed a pair of pants and a faded sailor’s shirt to Celia. “You can wear these, they’ll be far more comfortable – and practical – than that princess gown you’re wearing.” She hesitated, lips twisting into a curious smile, and nodded toward Celia’s dirty silk dress. “Can I ask why?”
It seemed like a lifetime ago that Celia had been dressed up by the handmaids and presented before the King and Queen as a potential wife for Felix. Fingering the silk material almost lovingly, Celia told Ondine of her journey through the forest with the caravan to the bleak, enchanted city, and how she had arrived at the majestic castle at the edge of the mountains. She spoke about her and Felix’s journey to the hidden village, and how she wandered alone through the mountain range, listening to the stories of ravens. She spoke of Marguerite, Rupert, Orion, and all the other people who had helped her along the way.
Now she had reached the port, she concluded, and had no idea what to do next. Home seemed so far away – had she ever really lived in that quiet town with her father and mother and brothers and sisters? She felt as though she had been asleep her whole life, and only now was she truly awake. Her other life seemed like a dream.
Ondine listened with a curious expression on her face, as if she knew what Celia was going to say and was following along – like she had memorized the words of a script. Finally she spoke.
“Stay here for a while,” Ondine offered. “Live with me, work at the tavern – you’ll meet interesting people, eat well, regain your strength – at least until you continue on your journey. What do you say?”
Celia went to work in the tavern that night.
She met an eclectic range of people over the next few months. Silk traders who only drank a strong amber-colored drink and spoke in beautiful unknown languages, sailors who told her about ships pitching back and forth in the black night, the sound of waves crashing on the deck mixed with faraway mournful siren songs. She met Peter the galley assistant who had a collection of stones from every port he’d ever visited, and was convinced they held magical powers. She met Lena, a captain’s daughter who had been on seven sea journeys and sipped tea at the wooden tables while batting her eyelashes at the sailors.
Late one night, she and Ondine were cleaning the tavern as the last stragglers were leaving. Celia noticed a man sitting in the corner, his face partially obscured by shadows from the window pane. He was drinking from a green-tinted bottle Celia knew it did not come from the tavern and as she approached him she thought she could make out a smile flickering behind the crossed shadows. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.