61 The Palace
Despite all of my attempts to flee from the men or at least fight back against the guard who was carrying me, the giant walls that were separating the palace from the city came nearer by the second.
By now we had reached a giant gatehouse that had three gates waiting for visitors to pass through. The middle one was bigger and wider than any carriage I could think of, so big in fact that even large harvest machines could pass through, should one of them ever find its way from my old world to this one.
The giant size of this building wasn't the least practical. It was a mere symbol of power and wealth, and almost impossible to defend against any invader that managed to get this far.
It was probably due to this that only the two far smaller side-gates were opened right now, with the far bigger one in the middle of both being left to weather away. With the rust gathering on its metal frame, it looked almost as unmoveable as the giant, pale gray stone blocks the wall had been built with.
The men carrying me and the fox walked straight to the left one of the smaller gates, which had six guards waiting to both of its sides. Each of them wielded a slightly oversized, elaborately decorated halberd that looked like anything but a real weapon. Even their armors were colored in bright red, black and white!
«What are they? Clowns?! What is wrong with carrying a real sword?! You can't fight anything with that!»
The men carrying us didn't even comment on them. They probably had seen the gate guards often enough to force back the impish grins that unquestionably tried to find their way onto their lips. And me? I laughed at them, not hiding a single thing.
"Is she... laughing," the man carrying me asked.
"It seems like it?"
"At least she stopped eating your scarf! Wasn't it the one your wife made for you?"
"Why did you tell her!? My wife will kill me!"
"It isn't my fault!"
"Sure it is! Stop! Stop it! Please!"
I didn't. Why would I? I hated the feeling and taste of the wool in my mouth, but if it meant getting back at him, I would chew on it all day long!
Naturally he tried to save what was left of his scarf, but he soon gave it up as we reached the guards standing by the gate.
"Eric," one of them greeted the scarf-guy, "you finally returned?"
Eric couldn't help but sigh. "It had been quite some trouble to find her," he explained.
"So were is she? That woman his Majesty wants to see?"
"... just let me pass through."
"You didn't find her?"
"And why do you bring dogs instead?"
"The princess wishes for a pet."
"They are cute. Where did you find them?"
"It's a secret!"
"Bringing pets is better than returning empty-handed, I guess."
The men kept discussing for another minute, before Eric finally grew too impatient and made his way through the gate. A new building awaited us, one that was far bigger than everything I had seen outside of the walls.
At first glance, the palace looked like a small town in itself. It was bigger than a whole city district, despite giving only a single family and a their servants a roof to sleep under. Before I had only seen a few roofs towering over the walls, but now the king's residence presented itself in all its glory.
Contrary to the houses I had seen while passing through the city, the walls of the palace weren't built using colorful sandstone but rather pure white stone instead. It had been polished thoroughly, to such an extent that it even reflected the sunlight right into my eyes.
「Who designed this?! So bright!!」
"Stop barking... please!"
After playing a bit with the scarf, I let my eyes wander over the palace again. It had several buildings that each came in different heights and sizes. All of them had the same windows, countless of them, with arcs topping each.
Some of the smaller houses and halls were directly connected to the main building, making them look like wings instead, others could seemingly only be reached via roofed terraces and richly decorated pathways.
There was no way to tell what all of these rooms and buildings were meant for, as it was easily hundreds of them. Surely the servants would be living in one of those buildings, and the royal family in the main one. There would be baths, guest rooms, large halls to host balls and maybe even a harem. I never had the chance to ask whether that was a thing in this world or not.
The two men carried me and the fox to a double-winged door which stood next to a large set of stairs connecting the courtyard to the main entrance.
«Looks like only important guests get to use the main entrance...»
Which meant I wasn't important – or that this Eric guy doesn't felt like spending minutes on explaining how their precious Foxkin turned into a pet. I couldn't care less.
«Crazy fox... crazy fox...»
I began gnawing on the scarf again, only further encouraged by the stares the guards waiting next to the door gave me. They didn't even remotely look as friendly as those at the gatehouse. When they greeted Eric, their voice alone was proof that they didn't like him or anybody trying to pass through - that and the fact that they blocked the way.
„Eric," the supposed leader of the group greeted my kidnapper.
„What do you have there? You picked up strays? Why do you bring them here?! Get rid of them!"
„They are pets", Eric lied, „the Princess wishes for them."
„Since when do they send the Royal Guards to buy pets?!"
„They aren't normal pets."
One glance at the face of the man was enough to know that he wouldn't simply accept this answer. But Eric didn't seem to have the time nor the will to let himself be stopped here for longer than he already had been.
"The king is already awaiting me. He wishes to gift the two of them to his daughter as soon as possible."
"Why is he in such a hurry? Is it a special day?"
"Do you question his decision?"
The guard seemed to think for a moment, but he soon gave way. There was no choice for him but to do so. Even when it was stupid for a Royal Guard to personally go fetch pets for the princess, if it was the king's order or even the order of his daughter herself, they were in no position to question it. They would be lucky not to get in trouble!
When the entrance was finally clear of any hindrances, Eric asked his comrade to follow him inside and moments later, we were already inside of a entrance room that was far less elaborately designed than anything I had seen outside. There were several hallways spreading out from the small room, each of them sparsely lit by magic orbs.
The walls of this room had been built using the same white stone that had made up the whole facade, here, however, they looked crude and sometimes even askew to alarming levels. Whoever had built the castle didn't give a single care about how shabby this entrance room looked compared to the exterior.
«Saving money, are we, Mr. King?»
Above our heads, there was a plain wooden ceiling which only further confirmed what I already knew: no important guest would ever find himself walking through these hallways.
The thick wood planks seemed to far better made than the walls supporting them, but this, too, was most likely thanks to the next higher floor which they gave its flooring.
"These corridors are mainly for the servants," Eric explained when he noticed that I had let go of his scarf. "They are spread through almost the whole palace."
He probably had told the truth. Even after walking for about five minutes, we had yet to reach anything interesting. There were just more corridors, more walls, more crudely chiseled stones. It didn't look as if there was a stop to this!
The palace built of pure boredom and the gently swaying steps of the guard soon claimed their toll. I had grown sleepy, far too sleepy to even care about all of this.
⊱————- Extra ————-⊰
Eric: She finally stopped.
Tolkin: Didn't she just fall asleep?
Eric: Don't wake her then!
Tolkin: It is you who is talking so loud.
Eric: I did not!
Tolkin: I told you...
Eric: My scarf! Stop it! Please! Rinya will kill me! Nooo!