Galen had never been the kind of boy to do what he was told. His mother had all but given up on him, having beat his backside until it was beet red more times than he could count. As a man, he avoided being put in a position where he had to follow orders, especially the ridiculous ones Roman soldiers were expected to follow without question.
He preferred being on his own.
The pull that existed in this place felt like an order. The women seemed to have accepted it as a tool to help them know where to go and what to do, but for him, it was like having an invisible Centurion order him around.
It was strange and suspicious being given a house all his own. It was only a few simple rooms, but that was far more than he’d ever known. He could find no fault in the gift; he simply said his thanks and moved on to see where Moose was supposed to live.
The invisible force told him in no uncertain terms that he was to stay close to Moose and the women. He felt very protective of them, but that could simply be his own natural instincts. He liked Moose. The man communicated simply and honestly, and even though they were apparently centuries apart, they seemed to have much in common at the most basic level.
Galen also liked Nyota. She seemed to genuinely want to help them in any way necessary, and was honest about the limits in her own knowledge.
Marie… Marie was different. One minute, she would seem to be a helpless doll in need of someone strong to protect her, but then the next minute she would randomly regard him with a look of disdain and he had no idea why. Supposedly she had been a queen in her previous life, but she didn’t act like any queen he’d ever heard of.
But her own subjects had her beheaded… what would that be like? Not loosing one’s head, but knowing that the people who were supposed to serve you hated you so much that they ordered your death?
He had no idea what to make of her.
And then there were the girls. He felt the pull to them as well, but there was another impulse, deeper and true, that endeared them to him. They were innocence incarnate. While most men hoped to have a son someday to carry on their name and perhaps profession, Galen wanted daughters. He wanted the sweetness and openness girls seemed to possess in abundance. He wanted to carry them on his shoulders, to keep them close where he could watch over them and make sure they had everything in life they could ever want.
Can I be a provider here? How can I provide for someone else when the clothes on my back and the house in which I live are simply handed to me? Can they be just as easily taken away?
Galen slept little. The women tried to convince him to stay with them at the Trianon just a bit longer, but he needed to be alone. He needed to get his bearings, and to evaluate what the pull would be like when he was no longer in close proximity to the others.
He awoke before the sun, threw some bread and cheese he found in his gift-house into a bag, and set out in the direction of The Castle.
Reaching the high point from which he’d seen the place before, he sat and watched the place for a while. He estimated that it was several miles away, and there were many hills and trees between him and it.
There was no obvious road.
He turned and went into The City. He found a road that seemed to head in the direction of The Castle, but after walking for an hour he caught a glimpse of it and it was off to his right, while the road curved to the left. He went back into The City, and started asking people how to get to The Castle, but the only answers he got were “I’ve never been there…” and “You can’t get there from here.”
Strange. All commerce and government should revolve around The Castle. There must be a direct way to travel there.
He walked back towards The Hamlet, and set his sights on The Castle from the lookout tower. The cross country walk was pleasant and beautiful, but when he crested a hill in order to get his bearings, The Castle was not where it should have been. Galen’s sense of direction was flawless, and it was massively disconcerting to think that such a large structure might actually move.
Well, it looks different every day. Why not move as well? More magic at work.
The second time he reoriented himself and headed towards The Castle, he felt himself being pulled back home.
Home? I suppose I could call it that.
The third time he reoriented himself, the pull intensified. He thought of the two little girls there. They were probably worried about him. He hadn’t left word of any kind about where he was going.
The fourth time he reoriented himself, the pull was almost too much to bear.
He ran. Not towards his gift-home, but in the direction he was certain would lead him to The Castle.
I must be faster than it is… that, or outsmart it.
He had no idea how to outsmart a castle. But each time he found high ground or climbed a tree, the castle was in a different place, and still much too far away. It was never behind him, but seemed to shift as subtly as possible, as if it hoped he would simply give up and go home.
The eighth time he climbed a hill, it was nowhere to be seen at all. There was a distant fog, but it shouldn’t have been enough to obscure such a huge place.
He was exhausted, but the pull was gone. Completely. He felt empty, and lost.
And then a new pull tugged at him. Just over the next rise… that was where he needed to go.
Reasoning that, as long as the pull wasn’t moving him backwards, he might as well find out what it was, Galen walked up the next rise. As soon as he was at the top, he looked down to see a narrow road, just a few yards ahead of him.
“Well, which way is The Castle?” he demanded.
Something caught his attention off to the left, but there was nothing there.
“Left it is then.” he announced to the invisible force.
After only a minute’s walk, The Castle rose before him, tall enough that he should have been able to see it above the trees for the last several miles.
The road led directly to it.
What Would Have Been
- Chapter One: Epitaph for a King
- Chapter Two: Nyota
- Deleted Scene from Chapter Three: Flavor
- Chapter Three: Trianon
- Chapter Four: Hamlet
- Chapter Five: The Miller’s House
- Chapter Six: The Bell Tolls for Thee
- Chapter Seven: Galen
- Interview With Ulysees “Moose” Umbra
- Chapter Eight: Moose
- Chapter Nine: Found
- Chapter Ten: Together
- Chapter Eleven: Getting to Know You
- Chapter Twelve: One is Silver and the Other Gold
- Chapter Thirteen: An Old Old Friend
- Chapter Fourteen: Oldest and Youngest
- Chapter Fifteen: The Return to the Crypt
- Chapter Sixteen: Next
- Chapter Seventeen: Do What You’re Told
- Chapter Eighteen: Jane
- Chapter Nineteen: A Donkey Named Xote
- Chapter Twenty: A Horse Named Manny
- Chapter Twenty-one: Tea and Politics
- Chapter Twenty-two: The Long Ride Home
- Chapter Twenty-three: Afar
- Chapter Twenty-four: Comparing Notes
- Chapter Twenty-five: Audience and Entourage
- Chapter Twenty-six: Phillip
- Chapter Twenty-seven: The Ball
- Chapter Twenty-eight: Seduction
- Chapter Twenty-nine: Kindred Spirits
- Chapter Thirty: Meddling Madwoman
- Chapter Thirty-one: The Penultimate Ingredient
- Chapter Thirty-two: A Clear Path
- Chapter Thirty-three: A Transition
- Chapter Thirty-four: Have Fun Storming The Castle
- Chapter Thirty-five: A Beginning
What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!
This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.
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