The room was crowded with people full of anticipation. I could feel the tension and fear through the air; this was not a joyful anticipation. Both peasants and nobles alike crowded the bleachers, whispering softly amongst themselves. At the front of the stadium, set up on the stage, hung three nooses. A cold chill ran down my spine as I eyed the middle noose; the one meant for me. I had done nothing to deserve this, nor had my two siblings, for whom the other nooses were meant for.
Tears began to well up in my eyes as I thought of our parents who had been hung two evenings earlier. I closed my eyes and blinked away the tears. I had to remain strong for Theresa. Although she was of the young age of seven, she understood what was about to happen, and was deathly afraid. I reached down and grasped her clammy hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. The gaze from her hazel eyes met mine, and I was suddenly filled with anger. She wasn't even a teenager yet! What possible threat could she pose to him? Why couldn't he spare her life and just take mine and Eian's? I could see why Eian posed a threat, since he was now the unofficial King, and why I posed a threat. But Theresa? Theresa barely understood the politics of a kingdom. What possibly could she bring against our Uncle?
I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to our 'dear' Uncle. In the days of my childhood, he was so loving and caring, and would take hours out of his busy schedule to play with us and teach us about the important things in life. But slowly, he had begun to change. He spent less and less time with us, and gradually turned from praising The Almighty One to cursing him instead. His eyes turned darker and darker, eventually becoming blacker than the midnight sky. Mother used to tell me it reflected his soul being overtaken by evil.
When crops and livestock in the county he governed became sick and began dying off, he felt The Almighty had abandoned him and his land, so he began to search for other methods to restore everything. He began with good intentions, exploring methods of magic and wizardry to assist his people. Mother once told me 'People who use magic believe they are in control of a greater power. What they fail to realize is that they are the ones being controlled. It's a naivety that leads to their destruction. The usage of magic corrupts people, it leeches onto the evils within them and draws out their darkness; those who dabble in what they do not understand are most likely to fall.' That was indeed what had happened to Uncle. For there was no longer any signs left of love, joy or mercy from him. His heart was cold and dark, his expression one of a person who hated all that was good and light; the look of a person who had one mission in life: to seek and destroy until he ruled all.
I looked back at the stage and shivered at the evil radiating from it. A messenger boy ran onto the stage through the back door and headed towards my uncle. His face was filled with worry and fear as he stood on his toes and whispered to Uncle. That could only mean one thing; our empty holding cell had been discovered. I silently thanked The Almighty that two of the guards had pitied us and set us free, putting their own lives on the line. They probably fled shortly after. I drew my attention back to what was happening with my Uncle. He shouted something at the boy, then slapped him across the face. The boy stumbled backwards, tripping over his feet. The poor lad, he couldn't have been any older than thirteen. I cringed as Uncle kicked the boy, who used every last ounce of his strength to scramble off the stage and back through the door he had entered. Within seconds Uncle was shouting out orders to the soldiers and they began to work their way through the bleachers and people, up towards the top of the stadium. Up towards where we were.
I bent down and looked my sister in the eyes, then gave her shoulder a tight squeeze. "Get ready to run kiddo."
Theresa's eyes widened in fear. "Jade, what's going on?" Her voice quivered . She hadn't expected that we would have such a difficult escape.
I looked around at the rushing soldiers. We didn't have much time. I knew if Eian or I got split apart during the madness, we would be able to find one another again. But if Theresa were to be separated from us….. I couldn't bear to think of what would happen.
The sound of a familiar voice came from directly behind me. Loud enough that we could hear, but quiet enough that those surrounding us couldn't. I turned to face the speaker, and heaved a huge sigh of relief as I saw who it was. Mrs. Brownridge, one of our former chambermaids, stood there, a grim look on her face.
"You don't have much time, you must escape!" Her words were frantic, but they were also filled with love and concern.
"We're working on it," Eian stated, a sharp edge to his voice.
"Eian, she's just trying to help!" I glanced down at Theresa, my mind working overtime. If Mrs. Brownridge could get her out of here, take her to another village, she could seek refuge in the Fief of that village. I was positive it was Theresa's only chance. I looked back over at the older lady, and sighed. "Mrs. Brownridge… would you be able to take Theresa, get her out of here…?"
Eian grabbed my shoulder roughly. "What are you doing?"
"Eian, it's our only hope….. it's her only hope. If Mrs. Brownridge can get her to another village, she can seek refuge there. We'll do what we need to do, and when it is safe, we can come and get her." Inside, I wasn't sure how well this plan would work; I knew its chance of succeeding was minimal. But it was the largest chance we had, so I made sure to make myself look confident on the outside. It must have worked, because they all seemed to think it sounded like a strong plan.
"She's right, Your Majesty," Mrs. Brownridge spoke to Eian. " My husband and I once served at Lord Denver's Fief in Coleton. We could take her there; he is still loyal to your family."
Gasps of fear and murmurs of shock rippled through the stadium as the soldiers began to make their way through the crowd in pursuit of us.
Eian looked to be deep in thought for a moment before he sighed in defeat. He shot me a look that read 'I hope you know what you're doing' before getting down on his knee and pulling Theresa into a tight hug. "Theresa, I want you to do as Mrs. Brownridge tells you. You'll be safe with her. Lord Denver will take care of you until we can come and get you again." He paused a moment and kissed her forehead softly. "Never forget that we love you, and that we will come back for you. Goodbye my little sister."
When he released her, tears glistened in his eyes. Theresa was crying. My heart reached out to her. I did not want to leave her, but we had no choice. It was for her safety… and our own. Out of instinct, I reached down to brush the tears from her cheeks. "Be brave little one. The Almighty will protect you. Goodbye dearest Theresa."
Theresa sniffed and used the back of her sleeve to wipe her nose. I smiled faintly at the childish gesture. She threw her arms around me and began to sob. "You promise you'll come back for me?"
"I promise." I gave her one last hug before standing up.
"Come little highness, we must move quickly." Mrs. Brownridge reached out and took Theresa's hand, then turned to lead her through the crowd.
Theresa threw one last frightened gaze towards Eian and I before disappearing into the ocean of faces.
I pulled my hood tighter around my face and breathed in deeply. "Do you think he's going to come?" I glanced over at Eian.
Eian nodded. "He'll be here. You know Dath, he's probably just waiting for the opportune moment."
I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "And what moment is that, when they've recaptured us and strung us up on those nooses?"
"C'mon Jade, cut him some slack; he's risking his life to help us escape."
Eian was right. Dath may deserve snide remarks on any normal occasion, but for once, he was actually doing an honourable act. "Alright.. I'll cut him some slack... this time."
Eian grinned. "That's the spirit! Now come on, we better get moving. We'll be sitting ducks if we remain here."
We had just begun to move when our Uncle's voice rang through the stadium. "Everyone remain where you are." His voice was full of anger and rage, and it was more than enough to cause every single person, including his own soldiers to freeze in place. "Citizens of Lexing, it seems someone has assisted the former Royals in escaping. I know they are here. If you fail to present them to me or my soldiers, and I find through investigation that you have assisted these traitors, you will be put to death immediately."
I was instantly overcome with an indescribable amount of fear. This could very well be the end. I knew that very few in the crowd were actually traitors to us, but I wasn't sure if our people would be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to ensure our survival. Part of me didn't want them to do that either. It wasn't fair that anyone would have to die on account of us. But we were the last chance that our country had. If we were killed, it would give our Uncle complete reigning power. He would destroy the world.
Eian grabbed my arm and pulled me through the crowd. "Try to keep a low profile, wear your hood tight around your head."
I pulled my hood in tighter, but I couldn't help looking around at all the faces. We made it to look as if we too were searching for, well, ourselves. People around us began to eye Eian and I, and it took everything I had left not to panic. Everything seemed to be rushing by in a blur; someone grabbed my arm, there was shouting near me, and then a shout from the other side of the room. I remember Eian grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the back of the crowd, then pushing me behind an empty 'Food Shoppe'. I'm sure much more occurred before we made it to the safety of the concession stand, but it all happened so fast that I got lost in everything. My heart beat slowed as I leaned against the cupboard door and breathed heavily.
"That was too close," Eian said, sending me a sideward glance. "The man who recognized us, do you know who that was?"
I paused for a moment, trying to remember the man's face. I remember freezing in fear as I looked into his cold eyes. He was the reason everything went spinning out of control. It was him. The man who had nearly destroyed my life. The man my father had promised to never let touch me again. A man who now was allied with my Uncle. His face suddenly became clear in my mind, and I could feel the colour draining from my face. It had been a long time since I had been haunted by those black eyes, scruffy face, and mangy black hair. The scar from where I scratched his face still remained a reminder of that day of horror.
"Jade? Are you ok? Who was he?" Eian's voice cut through the frantic memories my mind was showering over me.
"Nobody……" This wasn't the time to tell Eian, we had too many other problems on our hands. "He was no-one. I've never seen him before in my life." I hated lying to Eian, but I didn't have much of a choice at the moment. If I had told him that I would explain later, he would have made us stay here until I told him, and sitting around wasn't going to help us escape. I quickly changed the topic. "How long are we going to hide out behind this snack bar and wait? And how in the world do you plan on getting us out of here without getting noticed?"
"Look beside you."
I glanced to my left, expecting to see something much more astounding than what was actually there. There appeared to be a trap door in the wall, covered in grime and grease that had built up over the years. The lock was an old fashioned sliding type, similar to the type of lock that was once used on sheds. It was rusted, and had a lovely black spider sitting on it. I could almost hear the spider daring me to try and kill it.
"Damn spider," I muttered glancing back over at my brother. His dark hair was matted against his forehead, beads of perspiration running down his face. He was feeling this as much as I was, though he did a better job at hiding it than I did. It's funny how during the most frantic times, you stop and notice things about people. Like how, for the first time in our lives, I realized the only feature Eian and I had in common were our bright green eyes. No-one else in the family had them. Just Eian and I. I noticed how much like father Eian looked; the same perfectly chiseled features, the same dimple in the left corner of their mouth when they smiled. I paused from my thoughts and closed my eyes, heaving a sigh. "When are we going to move? It won't take them long to start searching every nook and cranny of this place."
"I know," he replied softly. It appeared he too, was in deep thought about things. "As soon as Dath gives the signal that our exit is clear, we'll go for it. The counter should block our escape for the time being."
In other words, he was saying that it would give us just enough time to get through, but eventually the soldiers would search, and would find our escape route. "What's the signal?" I opened my eyes again and turned my focus back to Eian.
He gave me a lopsided grin. "I have no idea."
I rolled my eyes. "Well then how the heck are we supposed to know what the signal is?"
He shrugged. "He'll make sure it's something we can recognize. He's not so dumb that he would give us a signal that we couldn't even tell."
As if on cue, loud rock music began to blast through the speakers. It figured Dath would use rock music; he was obsessed with anything from the Twenty-first Century.
"Let's go!" Eian shouted, pushing me towards the door. He didn't have to tell me twice. I took a deep breath and flicked the spider off the lock. A chill ran down my spine as my finger connected with it. Oh how I hate spiders. The moment the spider was off it, I grabbed the lock.. It wouldn't move. "What are you waiting for? Unlock the door!" Eian said frantically, looking behind us.
"I'm trying!" I exclaimed as I fought with the lock. Finally it started to wiggle, and within moments I had it open. I grimaced at the mold and rust that now covered my hands, swung open the door and dove through.
The 'secret exit' definitely was not what I expected. I counted on it being a small, cramped corridor, kept in basically the same conditions as its door. But instead, it was a full sized hallway, and other than the odd cob-web here and there, it was quite clean, as if it had rarely been used by either human or animal.
I stood up and dusted myself off as Eian came tumbling through the door. He pulled it closed, but was unable to lock it, since the lock only operated from the one side. That meant that it would only be a matter of time before the soldiers discovered our escape route. I silently prayed that the 'matter of time' would be enough time for us to get in the clear.
Eian stood to his feet and motioned for me to follow him down the hallway. He didn't speak at all, and I wasn't sure why, but I kept silent as well. There was no way of knowing whether or not there were hidden microphones in the walls. At that thought, I realized how fortunate we were that instead of our normal shoes, we had nothing but soft slippers made out of rags covering our feet. No footsteps could be heard echoing through the empty halls.
It seemed like an eternity that we were sneaking through the dimly lit passage-way, though in reality I'm sure it was no more than ten minutes. The exit door was the same as any regular door, with no locks or bolts on it. The hinge at the top was rusted, evidence that the door had not been used in a long while.
As expected, Dath was waiting for us outside the door. He was off to the side, so that shadows were cast over his face, his black hoodie sweatshirt camouflaging him in the darkness. His eyes glowed through the night, and his small lip-ring glistened from the moonlight. Stepping out of the shadows, he looked over at me and flashed his normal cocky grin. "Hey Eian, who's the old hag?"
I growled and pulled down my hood. "Bite me."
"Oh sorry Jade, didn't recognize yah in all those rags."
I growled again. Sure he didn't. "Like you look much better in those rags you're wearing." I had to admit, he did look good in his clothes, the skater style that was very popular in the early twenty-first century, but I would never tell him that. He had a big enough ego as it was, and besides, he would get the idea in his head that I had a thing for him.
"Hey you too, you can argue later; right now we need to get to safety." Eian stepped between us, ending our argument. Not that I minded. The less time I had to spend listening to Dath's annoying voice the better.
Dath nodded. "We can stay in the slums for the night. I've tracked the sewer system through the entire city. We can get all the way to the centre of Lexing from here."
I looked warily towards Eian. The slums were the most dangerous part of Lexing. I had only been there once in my childhood, and most of the time I tried to keep that visit blocked from my memory. Seeing that man in the stadium had brought back images from my little trip.
It had been like entering a time warp as we got closer and closer to the centre of Lexing. I couldn't have been any older than eleven. Everything in the slums was designed around styles and fads of the twenty-first century. The setting was definitely what you would call retro. It was an affordable lifestyle for the less wealthy citizens to carry on businesses and provide a living for themselves, but it was a dangerous lifestyle. Still, those who resided in the slums seemed happy with their way of life.
"Where are we going to stay?" I asked as we headed towards the sewer entrance. I crossed my fingers that Dath had already planned a spot other than the alleys for us to sleep in. Though I would never actually speak my fear aloud, I was terrified of what fate may await us were we to sleep in the open.
"I have some connections. Your Uncle will expect you to seek refuge at one of the motels in town…. we're going to stay with a friend of mine." He led us into the tunnel and paused to look back at me. "He runs a coffee shop on the main street."
Oh goody. I could only imagine what types of miscreants Dath associated with.
The sewers were dark, and smelled strongly of dead animals and, well, crap. Not exactly the types of scents I was used to. Every now and then a rat would scurry by, chirping at us in annoyance before disappearing into the abyss of those repulsive tunnels. I decided I would probably prefer being around Dath and his delinquent friends over this.
We did not speak as we worked our way through the sewers, to ensure that no soldiers would know of our presence, had they been able to track us this far. I half expected to see a spy or a soldier jump out at us from the darkness. It's incredible how easily the darkness can play on normally non-existent fears, creating evils within itself to torment you.
I had never realized before how far away from town the stadium really was. We had already been down there for over half an hour, and there still seemed to be no sign of where Dayh was taking us to. It was one of the few times I was glad motorized vehicles had been banned in the late twenty-first century. It gave us the time to get quite the head start, I knew the guards would have caught us already had they been in vehicles.
After approximately another ten minutes of walking, Dath came to a stop in front of a ladder at the end of one of the side tunnels we had taken. The ladder led us out into the middle of a back alley in the centre of town. There was an over-flowing dumpster located approximately five feet away from our exit, and it's stench was one that could rival the permanent stench of the palace dungeons. It took all my self-control to not begin vomiting right then and there. My face must have mirrored my thoughts, because Dath chose that exact moment to speak.
"What's the matter Princess, can't stand the smell of reality?"
Two could play at that game. "I only can't stand it when you're around. You're stench is strong enough to wipe out an entire village."
"Ooh burn!" laughed Eian. :Do I have to separate you two children?"
I grimaced. "Please do. It would make my day."
Dath shot me a dirty look before turning to Eian. "We should keep moving. Micah's coffee shop is just down the main street from here." Without another word, he turned and headed out of the alley. Seeing his retreating backside was a large improvement from having to stare at his smug face. Remembering that I had been betrothed to that miscreant at one point made me shudder in disgust. I had to wonder what kind of drugs our parents had been on when they came up with that idea.
The main street was exactly how I remembered it. It was dimly lit by tall street lamps and stores, coffee shops and grocery markets lined either side of the road. There were a few pubs, most filled by drunkards and strippers by this hour of the night. I crossed my fingers that the type of atmosphere that Micah's café would present would be much different than that of the pubs.
We had left our heavy cloaks in the alleyway, which left me feeling rather exposed. Our clothing was much more formal than that of the people from downtown, and judging by the looks they gave us as we wandered down the street, it was rather evident we were not commoners. It was difficult to know whether or not any of the commoners would hand us over if they figured out who we were. I had always been told that the common folk of Lexing were loyal to the crown, but one could never know for sure unless they actually heard the people state it.
I returned my focus to where Dath was leading us, and found myself looking up at a place called 'Micah's Maison de Café'. Using ancient languages as business names became a huge fad a few years back. It gave life to the dull common tongue, which was of course, English. We were taught that it was the language that had dominated the world shortly before the new order was instated.
The store was dimly lit, and when we opened the door, I was hit with the smell of at least fifty different blends of coffee. It was absolutely enticing.
Inside was a friendly sort of atmosphere. Along the back wall was a large booth-style bench that sat about four feet high. There were three small, circular tables set up against the bench, and each table had two tall stools put up to them. Beside the entrance were tables of normal height, with comfortable chairs pulled up to them. That area was sectioned off from the entrance by a small, garden style fence.
The counter stretched from a few feet past the door to just before the wall where the bench was. There was a small glass case built into the counter near to the entrance, which contained a large array of desserts, cookies and squares. Other than a small section where you could place your order, the rest of the counter was lined with coffee makers and coffee products.
There were only two other customers in the store, and both were seated at one of the tables in the booth. I was grateful for the lack of people inside at that time. Dath led us to one of the tables in the sectioned off area. Eian pulled up an extra chair, as there were only two chairs at each table to begin with. I took the seat with my back to the window. I was too wary to have people in the streets be able to see my face. Dath stood beside his chair, fishing through his large pants pockets. He grinned as he pulled a large bag of coins out.
"What do you want?" he asked looking over at me.
I suppose he could be kind when he wanted to. I glanced over at the menu board, which hung on the wall behind the counter. Scanning over the list of hot drinks, I grinned as my gaze settled on my favourite hot beverage. "I'll have a white moccacino please."
"I'll have the same," Eian said with a grin.
A few moments later Dath returned with our drinks and sat down. "Micah has a small, one-bedroom apartment in the basement of the store. There's one bed and a pull-out couch. We'll stay there tonight. First thing in the morning we'll go with Micah to put together disguises for you two."
I blinked. "Just what type of disguises are you planning on?" I had a strong feeling that Dath's 'disguises' would be more than just simply a change of clothes.
"Complete makeovers for both of you." Dath paused for a moment. "We're talking new hairstyle and colour, colour contacts, new clothing style. Everything. We need to make sure you are completely unrecognizable."
I could feel the colour draining from my face. I had sworn never to change my hair colour, since I adored my natural colour. As for the clothing styles… well, I wore every style except punk and goth, which meant, those would be the only unrecognizable styles on me. I wanted to cry.
"Don't you need a disguise as well?" Eian's question cut through my thoughts of self-pity.
Dath shook his head. "Next to nobody knows who I really am. I make it a point that people only know me by my street name."
Eian nodded. It was logical enough. Besides, Dath already looked enough like a local hoodlum that no-one would ever think he was anything else.
"What's our first move after we get our disguises together?" Eian's expression had turned completely serious. We hadn't had the chance to put together an actual plan yet, and since Dath was the only one not on our Uncle's hit list, I figured the plan making would be left up to him. He had kept an eye out on the things going on throughout Lorwald, and would know the best route to take.
"We'll have to work our way towards Arklynd. It's the safest bet. We should have no problem building up the Royal Arms to bring back here and attackLord Voiran." Dan spoke quietly, looking around the room to make sure there was no-one listening. "Voiran will be expecting you to remain in the Southern parts of Lorwald. He knows it was common knowledge that he made allies with the countries along the northern borders, and will expect you to take the 'safer' route through the country. My guess is he's already instating guard posts throughout all the villages between Lexing and it's borders with both Arklynd on the east and Asesia on the west."
I listened intently. UncleVoiran would definitely try and block our escape to either country, as it was well-known that our family had allied with both countries many years ago. Unfortunately, at that point in time, both Arklynd and Asesia had too small of military groups to be able to stage an attack on the palace at Lorwald and succeed in taking back the throne for us. It would take much planning and training before we would be able to succeed in that. All three countries along our northern borders had pledged allegiance to our Uncle, which meant we would be facing a great army. Our hope lay in an attempt to beat Uncle to gaining the smaller countries along our southern borders as allies.
"So our safest bet would be to take the route along the north." I spoke softly. "What do you think the chances of them figuring out who we are would be?"
"If we had Theresa with us, I'd say getting by without them suspecting who we are would be impossible. They'll be searching for a group of three fitting the descriptions of us Royal children. Which means any group would be considered suspicious if they had a girl her age with them." Eian paused, thinking for a moment. "They don't know Theresa isn't with us, which will give us that much more of an advantage. If we make our disguises a big enough change, we may not even be recognizable to those who know our descriptions."
Dath nodded. "The only real thing we'll have to worry about is a good excuse why we're traveling through Lorwald. They'll be suspicious about all travelers, and if we say the wrong thing it could land us in prison."
This comment put us all deep into thought. No-one spoke as we waited for Micah to finish closing up shop. The task we were about to embark on was dangerous, and could end up costing any or all of us our lives. I wasn't too worried about making it back to Lorwald alive myself one day, as long as we could get to King Lynden in enough time.
As we waited, exhaustion finally began to kick in. When Micah finished, he checked to make sure no-one was lingering around the store, then led us through the back to a cellar door which was covered by a thick rug. The rug was covered thickly in dirt, causing me to sneeze when Micah lifted it.He chuckled as he swung open the door and led us in. He flicked a light switch at the bottom of the stairs, and moved out of the way so we could enter.
The room really was only one bedroom, though a fairly large bedroom. Directly across from the entrance, up against the back wall was a king size bed. To the left of the bed, against the left wall was the pull-out couch, already made into a bed. Micah informed us that he had placed new sheets on both beds for us, and I couldn't help but grin.
"I'll be down at 7 a.m. to wake you. We'll need to get you out of here as fast as possible so you can avoid any run ins with the soldiers. Marana will be waiting for us at her apartment, with everything ready. Have a good night everyone." Micah said, then turning to me he winked and added, "Sweet dreams Princess."
I could feel my cheeks flush, and looked down at the ground, murmuring a quick thanks as Micah made his way back up the stairs and closed the door. The moment the door clicked, signaling it was locked, Eian burst out laughing. I glared at him.
"Not you Jade, him," Eian said between laughs, pointing towards Dath. "What's the matter Dath, jealous someone was hitting on my sister?"
My face turned even brighter red.
"As if," Dath growled.
"Then why'd you look so angry when Micah hit on her?" It was evident Eian was only moments away from falling to the ground he was laughing so hard."
"Shut up." Dath turned and entered the bathroom, slamming the door after himself.
"What was that?" I asked, confused as to what exactly had just happened.
Eian shrugged. "Dath being his usual self." He added with a chuckle. Glancing around the room quickly, it dawned on him that there were only two spots to sleep. "So, how exactly are these sleeping arrangements going to work out?"
"Well, you two share either the bed or the couch, and I get the other." I answered, attempting not to grin.
Now it was Eian's turn to pale. "Guys don't share beds."
"Well, they do tonight. I'm definitely not sharing a bed with Dath, and the last time you and I had to share a bed, you ended up kicking me out of it in your sleep."
Eian grinned as he remembered. "That was fun."
"Not for me."
"What's not for you?" Dath asked as he emerged from the bathroom.
"Hooking up with you," I replied, then bounded into the big bed. Eian had taken too long to decide and I wasn't about to let them have the more comfortable sleeping arrangements.
"Hey!" Dath exclaimed, ignoring my previous comment. "Who says you get the good bed?"
"I do" I said with a grin, as I wriggled under the covers and proceeded to take off my pants.
"Well, what's to say we don't drag you out of the bed?" Eian growled menacingly.
"This." I threw my pants at him. Both boys looked at me in shock before grumbling and heading over the pull-out. I grinned and rolled onto my side, pulling the duvet up to my chin. Eian and Dath continued bickering for at least an hour, until finally they both dozed off. Satisfied with the silence, I dozed off myself, pushing all thoughts of what had happened out of my mind, for that moment at least.