the castle and the school and the inn on the road to the wicked city began to fill rapidly with water…
the flowerseller woke up.
it took him a few seconds to remember where he was.
it was still dark outside, but the wind and rain had slackened. it was quiet in the inn.
the flowerseller decided to go downstairs. maybe the innkeeper or his daughter were still down there, and could get him a coffee or a biscuit or even a piece of chocolate cake.
and even if they were not, he could just sit In the parlor and look out at the falling rain, a pastime he had always found very peaceful.
he dressed quickly in his wretched rags and tiptoed out into the corridor.
there was a light on under one door. the one the poor fool was captive in, where the innkeeper’s daughter was regaling him with her interminable tale…
the flowerseller fumbled his way down the dark staircase to the ground floor.
as he had suspected, he found nothing but darkness, as the innkeeper and his daughter had apparently retired for the night.
suddenly there was a loud banging on the front door.
the flowerseller ignored it, and settled into a chair in the corner of the parlor. it was up to the innkeeper to wake up and attend to the newcomer, if he chose to.
the knocking continued, even louder. the visitor was either very sure of his welcome, or desperate to get out of the storm.
the innkeeper suddenly appeared, more quickly than the flowerseller might have expected, and rushed to the door and opened it.
“you might have come a little quicker,” a deep voice rasped. “were you not expecting me?”
“no, kobra, i was not,” the innkeeper replied, “but come in, make yourself at home. you must be soaked.”
“yes, i will make myself at home. i make myself at home everywhere.”
kobra! the flowerseller gasped. kobra, the dread bandit and revolutionary who had been terrorizing the countryside for years! here, in the inn, and on good terms with the innkeeper!
the flowerseller shrank back in his corner, hoping that the innkeeper and his fearsome guest would not notice him.
but it was not to be. the eagle eyes of the bandit spotted him immediately.
“eh! who is this, innkeeper?” kobra demanded. “who is this little fellow, keeping late hours?”
the innkeeper glanced sleepily over at the flowerseller. “oh, just a guest, one who just arrived.”
“just arrived, eh? how convenient.”
“what are you doing there, anyway?” the innkeeper asked the flowerseller. “couldn’t sleep, with the wind outside?”
“yes, exactly, sir, exactly,” the flowerseller managed to answer.
“come out, here, fellow, and let me get a look at you,” the bandit growled.
the flowerseller obeyed, and found himself looking up at the dark wild boar’s eyes and bristling black mustache of the bandit.
“just look at him,” the innkeeper said. “i am sure he is harmless.”
“i will be the judge of that,” kobra answered. “who are you, and what is your business? are you a spy? a spy of the emperor and the lord mayor?”
“oh no, sir, i am just a humble vendor of flowers. a humble vendor of flowers on his way to the city to - to meet some old friends.”
“a vendor of flowers, eh?” kobra laughed. “a humble enough occupation, to be sure. well, we will all have need of flowers soon enough, when the little children can throw them in the streets in celebration of the triumph of the revolution.”
“to be sure, sir,” replied the flowerseller, “and i would be happy to supply them! free of charge!”
“i am most gratified to hear that,” kobra replied, now apparenty in a jovial mood, though not taking his eyes off the flowerseller’s.
“yes, sir, and allow me to say, i look forward eagerly to the day when the revolution triumphs over the evil creatures who rule our poor kingdom now, and justice is restored to the land.”
“yes, i am sure you do.” kobra laughed and turned to the innkeeper. “come, get me something to eat and drink, and some dry clothing.”
the innkeeper nodded. “i thought you would never ask.”
kobra followed the innkeeper, and gave the flowerseller a last glance, which clearly said, be grateful i have spared your miserable life…
the flowerseller trembled with relief and hastened back to the stairs.
there was a small, barely visible door behind the stairs.
as the flowerseller put a foot on the bottom stair, he heard a scratching at the small door and a voice crying,