The Lupine Saga 55

“Ah!” Darius said, a look of surprise appearing on his normally calm face. “Him!”

“Yes, you remember too, Darius? One of your first assignments in the royal guard, correct? A while after my coronation,” Fidel said with a large smile.

“Why didn’t we think of him first?” asked Darius.

“He doesn’t exist in books or in common knowledge. Of the people in this room, only, let’s see, four would know of his existence. He doesn’t like to be troubled, after all. Therefore, I announce to the rest of this room, that the following conversation will be something you are not to repeat. That is normally assumed with our discussions, of course, but this even more so,” Fidel said, to the shock of a few in the room. This select group of people was privileged to almost everything Fidel knew, so it was very surprising to hear such an announcement. The few people in the room all acknowledged Fidel individually, after which the conversation continued.

“Darius, you are to take these children, and your subordinate here, to him. The giant turtle who lives at the bottom of Lake Tershi. The being who was born five thousand years ago, who lived through a different time than us.” Fidel’s words surprised everyone in the room, including Darius.

“Sire, all of the children? And just Var and I?” Darius asked.

“Yes, all. They know quite a bit now, after all, correct? And, it has to be only you two; I don’t want more people to know of his existence.” Fidel said.

“Even still, these four are unrelated. They should be returned to their parents and asked to be quiet. I’m sure they will be silent about this matter. In fact, we didn’t have to tell them about this, especially if we want to keep his existence secret,” Darius said.

“Darius, I can think of no one better to send than these children. I’m sorry, but I cannot explain to you. You will understand, in time. There is a specific reason, and it will be revealed to you once you reach Lake Tershi, I promise,” Fidel said reassuringly.

“But Sire,” Darius said as he approached Fidel directly. He whispered to Fidel, “Don’t you need to personally come?”

“That, my dear Darius, will not be necessary. Get ready to leave. And please, inform their families, give the families a story they will believe, even if it’s incredible. I’m sure you can come up with something accommodating.”

“Yes, Sire,” Darius said quietly with displeasure. He took a few steps away, and stood where he was before.

“Oh, but first, you boys, do you want to go?” Fidel asked. “I should have asked you first.”

“Yes,” answered Va’il and Zeick instantly. Kelin approved as well, and Pete felt he had no choice but to go along with his friends. Saying no wasn’t an option. Va’il silently thought that he shouldn’t worry Mai’ou again, but his conscience reasoned it out for him quickly. That, and his overwhelming excitement. Mai’ou won’t worry, since the king himself is sending me, great, he thought.

“Wonderful. Then I have another thing, for the half. Come here, Va’il.” Va’il gaped as he was being asked to approach the king. He managed to close his mouth and then remembered how to walk. He walked up to Fidel’s throne, and stood just a meter in front of him. Fidel sat happily, smiling widely at Va’il. He suddenly had a serious look upon his face, and then spoke very quietly with Va’il, so that no one, not even Aoi, could hear him.

“Va’il, come closer.” Va’il did as he was told, and from then on, their conversation was in whispers.

“Sire?” Va’il questioned Fidel silently.

“I want to show you something. Here, watch this.” Fidel pulled out a piece of paper that he had been hiding between the arm of his throne and his leg. A pen also appeared, this time from the other side. Fidel was careful to make sure that no one but Va’il could tell what he was doing and what he had. He wrote on the paper, and Va’il watched.

They weren’t words, but scribbles in Va’il’s opinion. Va’il wondered what Fidel was doing, as it appeared that he was doodling incoherently and letting his hand move randomly on the paper.

“Now, Va’il, look at this. Okay, now look at me.” At Fidel’s prompt, Va’il looked at the paper, and then looked at Fidel. Fidel’s green eyes looked back at him. Va’il thought, for a moment, that Fidel’s eyes looked very similar to his own.

“Enough,” Fidel whispered, “I’ve confirmed it. You can learn it.”

“Sire?” Va’il asked, confused.

“Just listen to me. When I stop talking, go back down to your friends, watch me, see what happens, and then follow Darius. I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you more time, but I’ll give you this gift. You saw how I wrote? You can do this too. It will probably be easier if you use your left hand at first, since your dominant hand will tend to write words it already knows and is used to. When you want, no, need, someone to do something, or need them to stop doing something, you write. To learn, get a paper. Close your eyes, and think very hard about what you want someone to do or stop doing. Let those words become etched into your mind. Then move the pen across the paper. Write however you hand feels like moving, not how your mind thinks it should. Your right hand should eventually be able to do this as well. When your hand stops, what appears on the paper will look like gibberish. Show it to the person. They will do what you wanted them to do. They will. They always will, repeatedly if you want. Don’t think this a joke, either, and don’t abuse it. Never abuse it. Free will is so important, and you will always doubt your choices in life. Regret means much more than regretting a result, but it can mean regretting each individual action, and each one further breaks down into many smaller actions, and so on, all of which you can end up regretting to the smallest of action. I don’t want you to have too many regrets, so don’t abuse this. You’ll regret many things, and wish sometimes that you had used it when you didn’t. Sometimes, things have to take their course. Even if it doesn’t always end up well. I know; I’ve done something that won’t end well. But it led me to meeting you, so I won’t regret it. I’m sorry, Va’il. Oh, and one last thing. The words written here are a command to shut your eyes for seven seconds. That’s how I know you can write these. Go now,” Fidel whispered.

Va’il stumbled down the steps, confused but happy. He didn’t understand what Fidel had said or the importance of what had just happened. He smiled and considered the paper. He had stared directly into Fidel’s eyes, without blinking, he was sure of it. He doubted whether Fidel was serious or not.

“Aoi, come here, for a moment,” Fidel said. Va’il looked up as Aoi walked over to Fidel. He pointed to his lap. Va’il watched as Aoi looked down. She shut her eyes. She brought her hands to her face and rubbed her eyes for a few seconds with her fists, as though something was irritating them. She then looked at Fidel with a puzzled look. He waved her away, and then she sat back down looking very puzzled. As observant as everyone in the room was, including the nobles in the balcony, no one but Fidel and Va’il had realized what had transpired. Being a foreigner, Aoi had no realization or excessive thoughts whatsoever about what had just happened to her. She, most definitely, would never tell anyone about the paper Fidel made her read.

Fidel dismissed the entire room. It was too late to leave for Tershi, so Fidel sent messengers to the boy’s families informing them of where the children were. As they walked through a series of hallways, Va’il appeared paler than usual. He was shocked, and the other boys could tell. Kelin teased him for a few minutes about being shocked over talking with King Fidel, but Va’il didn’t respond. He didn’t tell anyone of what transpired or what Fidel had said. He never would. He felt that he had learned something very important, and telling anyone would break the mystique of the knowledge he had received. Not only that, but he felt like the conversation he was forced into was something that was his alone, that he didn’t want to share with anyone. Not even Mai’ou. It was his. He felt guilty for a moment about being selfish, but then he remembered Aoi. Internally, he knew that Aoi had closed her eyes for exactly seven seconds. It was this event that made him forcibly remember the words that Fidel had said to him. That night, he recited Fidel’s words over and over, still unable to grasp their essence, as he tried to sleep. Eventually, after repeating a version that was similar many times, he fell asleep.

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The Lupine Saga 54

“Four, that’s four Var,” Darius said as he walked towards the boys. They all took a step back as he approached. It hadn’t registered that he was walking towards them on purpose.

“That’s not all, sir. One more, definitely,” Var responded. The two men walked up to Va’il and the rest. The boys looked at each other with questions in their eyes.

“You’re the ones, right?” Darius asked gruffly.

“Maybe?” Pete blurted the first thing that came to mind in his confusion. Kelin shook his head at Pete’s response. Va’il smiled a little.

“Of course you are; you all remember stowing away on that mission, correct?” Darius asked. The boys nodded in unison.

“And the other one?” Var asked.

“Sir? What other one do you mean?” Va’il asked carefully.

“The boy with the dark skin and painted cheeks,” Var said.

The four exchanged thoughts with their eyes. The questions that each of them had were answered internally. Va’il nodded once to Kelin. Kelin looked at Pete and Zeick, and then cocked his head to the side while looking up. He took a moment, then looked back at Va’il and nodded slowly and carefully.

“He’s our friend, yes,” Va’il said.

“Excellent,” Darius said with a sudden smile, “in that case, let’s go get him.”

“Can we ask what this is for?” Kelin asked.

“I suppose I can answer that now, instead of waiting. Just don’t tell anyone we meet along the way. You five are going to meet the king,” Darius said quietly.

Kelin, Va’il, and Zeick all started laughing, while Pete stood there, dumbstruck. Var and Darius exchanged confused glances, but before they could ask what was happening, Va’il spoke up.

“Great, great. Let’s go get Geon, that boy you’re asking for. But, you really mean it; we all get to go to the king?” Va’il asked. He couldn’t believe how things were working out.

“Yes, absolutely. I don’t know why, but you will,” Darius said honestly.

Laughing as they walked, the boys led Darius and Var to Pete’s house, where they told Geon what had happened. Geon looked like he could leap for joy, but he didn’t for fear of breaking his xylophone. He dressed in his original clothes, and then put on a dark mantle to cover them.

The group chewed on the snacks that Pete’s mother had insisted they take while they walked to the castle. When they got to the gates, they marveled at how the guards parted upon simply seeing Darius. The boys had never been inside the castle before, but they weren’t able to take the time to investigate the sights. The fountains, forges, and towers would have to wait for another time, if they ever got the chance.

“One day, I’ll climb to the top of that tower,” Va’il said as he pointed to the highest tower. After that, they were inside the castle, making their way through a dimly lit hallway.

“Darius, royal commander, has arrived,” a servant shouted as Darius entered the room. A few ministers and advisors were present, but not nearly as many as earlier. Only a few nobles who had nothing better to do were in the gallery above.

“Darius! Var, I believe. Did you find them?” Fidel asked the instant he saw Darius. The boys were still inside the hallway; the massive bearan was blocking their way. Darius and Var then walked towards the king.

“Sire, I brought them as asked,” Darius said while kneeling before the king. The boys hadn’t moved from their position in the hallway.

“First things first, clear the room of those who don’t need to be here,” Fidel said with authority. There weren’t many people in the room to begin with, so only a handful of minor authorities and smaller nobles left. The room was left with those who were powerful and already knew most of the kingdom’s affairs.

“Well, come, come inside the room,” Fidel said towards the boys. Out they walked, one after another. As he walked out, Kelin quickly looked all around the room. He stopped walking and looked towards his right at the back corner of the room. A lupus was staring back at Kelin. They each raised a hand and waved at the other. Kelin nodded at the lupus man, and then caught up to the rest of the boys. He looked upset for a minute after that.

“As I thought; a group of somewhat familiar faces. We’ve met before, children, have we not?” Fidel spoke gently to the group of boys. Zeick and Geon couldn’t understand what Fidel meant, however Va’il, Kelin, and Pete all took a step forward. They had realized the importance of being in front of the king, and were acting as politely as possible.

“It’s been three years since the play that the king graciously attended to watch us in. I’m, as before, Kelin, son of Doufer,” Kelin said with a slight bow.

“Pete, director. I mean, just Pete. Well, just the son of a merchant. Sir. Sire,” Pete said as he stammered.

“Va’il, son of Mai’ou and none other, you highness,” Va’il said while he bowed and smiled.

“You three, relatively hard to forget, it appears,” Fidel said while laughing, “for now I’ve had to call you here personally.”

The boys looked up, then at one another. The question they had begged to be asked. They forgot about their real goal for a minute.

“Why?” Va’il asked while forgetting to be respectful.

“Your friend there. Remove your cloak.” Fidel said while pointing at Geon. Geon did as he was instructed, and removed the dark coat. Fidel smiled upon seeing the figure. “This is what you wanted, correct?”

“You know who I am?” Geon asked, somewhat astonished.

“I’m surprised I did, when I heard your description, quite by accident. I’m taking this another step, and have assumed you wanted to meet with me anyways. Correct?” Fidel asked. His casual tone was slowly becoming more serious.

“As to be expected of King Fidel, Rising’s monarch. Even finding me, I am truly impressed by Rising, yet again. The stories don’t do you enough justice.” Geon spoke respectfully and slowly. He said things that seemed overblown to Va’il and Pete, but he looked and sounded very honest. Kelin knew Geon was following proper etiquette.

“We should get to the point. Please speak, boy. And, your name?” Fidel asked.

“Geon will be fine. I’ve to ask for access to knowledge, your information on the maroon. I heard that Rising’s king had the best information.” Fidel frowned when he heard what Geon said.

“Diren, wasn’t there only those few?” Diren appeared at Fidel’s request. He was holding a large but thin book.

“Sire, it’s not much. Tell me, Geon, what did you bring to help? Surely, your information is better. We only have this.” Diren handed the book to Geon. Geon opened it and flipped each page one by one. No one spoke for the five minutes that Geon took to skim the book.

“This, this is it?” Geon asked Diren. Diren nodded.

“All of what we have on the maroon. A little about what they are, their last appearance in history, and knowledge about your people,” Diren said with a grim expression.

“This is hardly more than what I have! My only advantage is communication!” Geon said with exasperation.

“Geon,” Fidel said solemnly, “didn’t you come to help?”

“Sire, no offense, but I came to ask for help. To ask me for help is useless. We have very little as well. The only thing I know that the information you have doesn’t cover is knowledge about the item that sleeps the maroon. But, before you ask, all I can say is that I know it exists, but I know not what form or where. I came in hopes that you knew where or what it might be,” Geon said.

Fidel’s face tired. Aoi was sitting silently at his side, watching him closely. She looked worried, but said nothing. Above, in the gallery, Jane Melonscone silently watched the events unfold. She had no words to say, and her usual abnormal smile was missing. She gained a look of concern when she saw Fidel slump slightly, and continued watching the proceedings intently.

“No. No, nothing. As thorough as our knowledge of the current world is, the information from that long ago, no one remembers, so to speak,” Fidel said sadly.

“I see,” Geon said while looking down, “and apologize, for bringing false hope. I never expected that there was no information to be found.”

“Remember?” Fidel asked aloud to no one in particular. He said with excitement, “Remember? Of course!”

“Sire?” Geon quietly asked.

“Remembering! That’s it! Written words remember things of past for us, but there is still the memory of those who were there!” Fidel said to no one again. Aoi looked very concerned, and was about to stand up.

“Is he alright?” Zeick asked.

“I’m more than fine, young one,” Fidel said while surprising Zeick, “and I just remembered. Someone, who has a memory that remembers the last five thousand years!”

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The Lupine Saga 53

“Well, if you must insist. It was quite funny, I suppose. It started with one boy falling out of a basket of apples, and led to us catching three more hidden in the midst of them.” Darius summarized the conversation he had had with the bartender, and then spoke up to the point where he delegated Var to the boys.

“Let’s see then, Var’s report says that he had them stay in an inn near the middle of town. Nothing very exciting after that. He said they didn’t cause much of a ruckus, made friends with the orphan girl who assisted the innkeeper, and were safely escorted back home. It says here, wait, this cannot be right.” Darius looked closely at the page in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Darius?” Fidel asked inquisitively. He was feeling excited at the new development.

“Well, I know for a fact there were four boys we caught. But this report has five boys. I remember these four here. The half-lupus, the half-felis, the lupus, and the swine, but there is a fifth here, a human. Tanned skin, strangely colored robes? Red and yellow paint on his cheeks? I don’t recall this child at all.” By the time Darius finished scratching his head, the smile had left Fidel’s face.

“First things first, I need to confirm this. Tensh, come here,” Fidel commanded. A very old white hare took his place in front of Fidel, a large folder in his hands.

“At your service,” Tensh said slowly.

“The census was recently taken again, I believe. Tell me, Tensh, how many halfs live in Rising?” Fidel asked.

“Sire,” the old Hare said as he slowly flipped through the pages, “halfs are extremely rare. I’m sure we all understand why. Ah, here it is. Two. No record of any half being born or even living in the city for the last three hundred years is even found. Two born in the same decade, what coincidence. Just those two, Sire. I’m not sure if many more even exist in the rest of the world.”

“Just as I thought. This coincidence is too much. Darius!” Fidel assumed a commanding air.

“Yes, Sire?” Darius stood at attention, realizing that he was about to receive official orders.

“Bring me the five children in your officer’s report,” Fidel stated.

“Sire? But they are just children, what could you want with them? Surely, their parents have punished them enough. No one was hurt or affected by them either,” Darius said, astonished.

“Just bring them, all of them. I’ll tell you now; they are not going to be punished. Far from it. Please, there is something important I must check,” Fidel said.

“Yes sir!” Darius quickly replied. Darius felt awful at the sound of Fidel pleading, as it was Darius’ duty to always obey the words of the king. He quickly walked out of the room, now that he had been officially dismissed.

#

“Find anything yet?” Pete asked as he put down a heavy book.

“Nope,” Kelin replied.

“This is only a school library, after all,” Va’il said as he rubbed his eyes, “there probably isn’t anything helpful at all. Sorry Geon.”

“It’s alright, you tried. As I thought, there is only one option. But just how will I meet with the King?” Geon asked, mostly to himself.

“We will figure that out later. School’s about to start,” Kelin said.

“If you think you have the way figured out, you can head back to my house. We will meet up after school,” Pete said. Geon nodded to Pete and stood up. He was wearing normal clothes so he wouldn’t stand out in the city. The boys had decided on searching Makeen’s library for any information on the maroon and ancient civilizations; however, they were having trouble finding anything relevant. They had come very early when the school opened, and spent the last hour in a fruitless search for anything of substance. It was especially difficult since they didn’t know exactly what they were searching for. Geon left the grounds, and the rest of the boys walked to their first class with Sensei.

The boys were the last students to arrive in the classroom, however Sensei was absent. After a couple minutes, Sensei arrived, perfectly on time to start class. He took his place at the head of the room and looked out over the students. Everyone sat down and went silent.

“I see no one is late. Good. Well in that case, I have an announcement to make. I’m horrible at drawing things out, so I’ll be direct. Come in,” Sensei said.

The class turned their heads in unison as the door to the classroom opened again. In walked a lupus girl who stared straight ahead at Sensei. She was wearing a green dress and tall boots. She had long brown hair that was tied in a ponytail. Her hands were in front of her, holding a few books. She walked next to Sensei and bowed slightly without looking up.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” she said to the students, “my name is Teena Fen, daughter of Alen. Pleased, really.”

“Teena will be in our class from now on. Treat her well. She’ll need to be caught up on more than just a few things, so any help you can give her is appreciated. There is an empty seat over there, at the back. You can have it,” Sensei said.

Teena looked out over the classroom. She opened her eyes widely in surprise when she saw a few familiar faces smiling at her. She smiled in return and waved, then walked towards the empty desk next to Harnes. Harnes stared at her silently with large and inquisitive eyes. She had a large notebook in front of her that was full of notes and research.

“Welcome,” Harnes whispered, “I’m Harnes.”

“Thank you,” Teena whispered in reply. She smiled at Harnes.

“Hey,” Kelin said in a low voice towards the deeri boy next to him.

“Yes?” the boy asked in a cautious tone.

“She’s shorter than you. That bovine in front of her is pretty large. Switch seats,” Kelin said, ordering the boy. The boy looked at Kelin with a confused look that lasted only a couple seconds. The look that Kelin shared with only him forced the gears in his head to turn quickly. He tapped Teena on the shoulder, pointed at the large child in front of her, and in a matter of moments, they had switched seats. Sensei watched as the boy switched with Teena, and silently approved the change with a mark on the seating chart. Neither he nor Teena had noticed Kelin’s action. Teena and Kelin shared a look of recognition, but didn’t speak because Sensei had started his lecture.

School ended, however Teena had to leave right away, much to the students’ dismay. She quickly explained that because that was her first time there, the family that had taken her in wanted to pick her up from school right away.

“They are a wonderful older lupus couple, childless themselves. The wife is a schoolteacher, and has been considering having a child for the past decade now, so they were very happy to take me in. So you see; I don’t want to make them wait. Sorry boys,” Teena said quickly with an apologetic smile. She ran out of the classroom. The boys remained sitting in the classroom as they recovered from the small shock.

“Well, at least she’s here, of all places,” Pete said happily.

“We’re going to have to grill her for information later. A happy family that took her in, childless as they are? Suspicious,” Zeick said while staring off into the distance with what was supposed to be a look denoting suspicion.

“I’m just happy. Another friend. Of course, I have so many questions now. What really happened with her family? Why is she orphaned? Who took her in? Are they nobles? Why would they take an orphaned refugee into their house? So many questions.” Va’il scratched his head while thinking of what he should ask.

“Priorities. First, there is a whole set of questions posed by another friend, remember?” Kelin asked while trying to change the subject. It worked.

“Geon,” the other three said in unison.

“Exactly. Let’s get out of here; he’s probably being stuffed like a swine at Pete’s house. It’ll be really inconvenient if he can’t move when it comes time to fight our way through the king’s guards,” Kelin said with a smile. His joke went without applause from the group, who rolled their eyes then picked up their bags.

“Like Kelin said, let’s go,” Va’il said. The group walked out of the classroom together, ignoring everyone around them. Still sitting, watching, and hearing everything that had been done and said was Harnes. She didn’t look happy; however, Harnes rarely had a happy look on her face.

Va’il’s group exited the school building from the front, happily conversing. They got to the edge of the school grounds when they saw him. Darius, commander of the royal guard, was standing in the path, being carefully avoided by several cautious children who recognized the commander. At his side was Var, the massive bearan who looked far more fearsome than he really was.

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The Lupine Saga 52

“Well, well, well, look who we have here. One, two, three, four truant children. What shall we do with you?” Sensei asked sarcastically. He was holding the cane in his right hand in a very menacing way, and pointing it at Va’il, Pete, Kelin, and Zeick.

“Nothing,” Kelin said, and then walked to his seat and sat down. He promptly pulled a book from his bag and started reading.

“Well, three then,” Sensei said sadly, “and what a wonderful three they are. Your progress will be affected by missing a couple weeks of class. Tests, tests, tests. I’m sure your parents have done more than enough physical punishment, my job is mental.” Sensei’s words made Pete squirm.

“Tests? Do we have to sit to do them?” Pete asked sheepishly.

“Sore, are we? Sitting will definitely be a part of it,” Sensei said with a hearty laugh. Pete and Zeick both sighed as they looked at their desks with fright. The teacher pointed towards the desks, and the other children howled in laughter as both boys took a while to sit. Each time they tried sitting, they yelped a bit, prompting more roars of laughter. Though they were laughed at, none of the boys were ridiculed by their peers. Everyone had already found out that the boys had tagged along with the soldiers. Everyone would treat them like heroes for the rest of the day. But, for now, the hilarious scene was too much to be contained.

Va’il sat when he was instructed to, but to every child’s dismay, he didn’t yelp in pain or take a while to sit. His clothes covered the bandages on his shoulder, so at that moment he was quite pleased with the punishment that Mai’ou had inflicted on him. At least it was her claws and not her fangs, he thought.

Sensei was a merciful person, and accommodated the truant group. He gave them a brief review of what the class had covered in their absence. He told them what to read and what they would be tested on. To make up for it, the four of them would be taking several tests all at once. If even one person didn’t pass one test, they would all have to take new ones. But he gave them three days to prepare, and Harnes assisted the boys during breaks. Her notes were very thorough, and she was happy to share them at Va’il’s request. The story that the boys told about their adventure was a simple one, and lacked any details about the maroon or Geon. They had earlier decided not to tell anyone about those things, because no one would understand, and the events themselves were confusing.

Due to Sensei’s accommodations, Mai’ou’s love, Harnes’ help, and the simple story that the boys told, Va’il’s life was back to normal by the next week. The group managed to make up for any missed schoolwork, and the talks of their heroism quickly faded. They found out that normal life was definitely better. One bit of normal had changed though. Geon was in Rising, and he was living with Pete.

#

Darius walked through the long hallway in the same way he had many times before. In his arms he held a thick binder filled with many papers. He arrived in the throne room and made his way to the front. He listened as Fidel finished speaking with the minister of technology. The minister had just finished giving her report.

“Very interesting. I’m sure we will find something for it to do in the future. Very well, granted. Your estimate?” Fidel asked.

“I already have metal workers creating a mold. Thank you Sire. I’m sure a prototype is only a few years off at most. Maybe a few months, now that your approval is concrete. Thank you.” She handed a paper to Fidel, which he signed and handed back. She then went back into the crowd of ministers and advisers.

“Ah, Darius,” Fidel said upon noticing the olive-green cloak, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“King Fidel, Darius is at your service, as always,” Darius said while politely bowing.

“You’ve been back for a few days now. How come you’ve taken so long to greet me?” Fidel asked while smiling.

“Sire, I was inundated with reports. I’ve barely started organizing them. My preliminary report was sufficient, I hope,” Darius replied.

“Yes, Darius, it was. Tendal should be empty soon. It might be empty now, even. A pity the city is lost. But we can only do what we are able,” Fidel said while sighing.

“Yes, Sire. As for the warning, though?” Darius asked.

“Still nothing. I fear for our country, but we’re not completely unprepared for danger. I’ll discuss that later, in private, Darius,” Fidel said.

“Yes, Sire. As for the reports that I wanted to speak of, give me a moment to pull them out here. A casualty report and a census are most pressing.” Darius pulled a couple of papers from the binder and handed them to a servant, who promptly delivered them to Fidel on his throne.

“I see. Better, yet worse, than expected,” Fidel said as he glanced at each. “The relocation efforts are being handled. Hopefully those from Tella won’t have to suffer long.”

“Thank you, Sire. Next is the preliminary report of wealth obtained from Tendal. It’s been added to the treasury and carefully accounted. It should be redistributable towards the refugees in either cash or compensation soon.” Darius pulled another paper from the binder; however, another paper fell out and landed on the ground. He handed the report to the servant, and then picked up the paper on the ground.

Fidel watched as Darius first smiled at the paper in his hand, and then put it back in the binder. Fidel glanced at the report that the servant handed to him, and then looked at Darius again.

“The next report?” Fidel asked.

“That was all, Sire,” Darius replied. He bowed, then turned around and started walking away.

“Wait, Darius. You’re not excused yet.” Darius stopped in his tracks. He turned around and walked back. He had a puzzled look on his face.

“Excuse me, Sire. I apologize for not waiting. It’s just, pressing matters always await. Your commands?” Darius asked while wondering what Fidel meant.

“What was that other report, the one you just had?” Fidel asked, his curiosity rising.

“The one I handed to you was on the wealth we received,” Darius said in a confused manner.

“No, no, the one that fell to the ground,” Fidel said while flailing his hand, fluttering it, and then pointing at the ground.

“Oh, that was just a report submitted by a subordinate. It’s nothing that would be of concern to the king, really,” Darius said.

“That’s for me to decide. You laughed upon seeing it. My interest is piqued. Why wouldn’t it be of concern?” Fidel asked. His words were becoming faster and his interest was obvious.

“Sire, some children stowed away on the mission. My subordinate took care of them for a while, that is all,” Darius said. He thought that would be sufficient for Fidel.

“Oh? Now that is quite interesting. Go on, let’s hear the whole thing. I’m sure the room could use a good chuckle. Well, as long as the kids are safe. I assume so, since you wouldn’t dare laugh at a tragedy?” Fidel asked. The room murmured in agreement. Everyone, from the oldest minister to the haughtiest noble, agreed that it would be entertaining, at the least, to listen. No matter how serious they all were, the recent discussions had been depressing, and this small break was accepted by the group. One particular lupus in the back of the room put his hands over his face and shook his head.

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Ruminations and reflection on what I’ve done in 2020

Ruby can't wait for TLC this year

Ruby from The Lupine Saga eagerly awaits her scenes in The Lupine Chevalier, coming 2021.

It has been a year since I started posting my book as a weekly post on this site. And it still has a few months to go before it is complete. In fact, March 20th is the day the next book, which has never been published, begins. And it will be longer. I look forward to going over it again, and planning out how to follow it up. While it posts plenty of time will pass, and it’s my goal to be able to continue the posts when that one ends as well. Though fortunately, it is longer and thus will take a while to get out.

I’m not in a rush for it, now that I settled on how to post the series. The story is still planned, the plot is partially written out and some key scenes have been thought out and written to some point. Anyways, moreso than just the ideas of the book, has been the non-writing changes I’ve made in the past year. Last January with the beginning of the posts here, that was just a single item in a list of things I wanted to do last year. And I seriously committed to them, in ways I never have attempted before.

As a result, I lost weight, got in seriously good shape – I’m able to say without any doubt whatsoever I’m in the best shape of my life, and that includes being better than any high school still-young fitness, strength training, and whatever else along the way. In December 2019 I started by doing small daily workouts. In March 2020 I added walking, first with a half a mile one day. In the freezing cold with snow outside, but it was something I’d planned, so I did it. By the end of April I was walking 20 miles a week. June, 30 miles weekly. And so on. I cut those back after losing enough to reach 150 lbs. That in total was 80 lbs. that I’d lost over the course of one year. I now only do about 6 miles a week, but in exchange I’ve been running part of them. As before, started small, first with 5 minutes here and there, then 8. Then pushing for 15 minutes of actual running. It varies by day, as that length of time is not easy for me to reach, but it’s a form of fitness I’ve never had before.

That’s just the outward and physical. I spent time reading, improving mentally and emotionally, working on areas I knew were problems and stumbling blocks. I was mostly completely alone for several years prior to late 2020. This last year I reconnected with people, improved existing relationships, and forged new connections. Studied things over and over. There were some things I made commitments to read over and over every few months to reinforce the points they made and take the value from them. I spent time learning more Japanese. Partially out of want since I’ve always been interested, but also as a memory tool. I feel better about remembering things now, to the point where the way I was learning the language stopped feeling beneficial. I’ll be using a new method. Well, that and I took much of the last few months off.

I spent so much effort from January to August that I relaxed moreso in September and October. At the end of August I made the move from Wisconsin to California. So there was settling in, items to plan and do, things to figure out, etc. I had actually lived pretty rigidly for the first eight months of last year. Especially when it came to food. Now I don’t, and am eating more. I gained about 5-7 lbs. back, while still losing some off the waistline; fortunately I kept working at increasing size in the right areas, and it seems effective. But with that loss of rigidity, as I no longer live alone and can strictly set my schedule – dogs are fantastic schedule interrupters – there has been some relaxation on those standards. For once though, I can actually call it relaxing.

Normally in the past when I’ve had time to “not do anything,” that’s accompanied by the anxieties of worrying about what I’ll have to do later. There’s always a list of items we have in the back of our minds of things we need to do eventually. I’ve been able to check a few of those off. There aren’t as many things to worry about. Problems that existed a while ago, whether they were mental, physical, or spiritual, have all been worked on to a rather good point. And of course, they each had goals to meet, and a set outlook of never being done with working on them, regardless of the met goals. And now, anxieties about life have greatly decreased. That said, much of that is because the work I do isn’t taxing. It also only pays modestly, but no matter how I think of it, it doesn’t seem like adding a dollar amount to what I make now will do anything but add stress. I make what is needed, and that is enough. If I later need more, then I have confidence that more will come to accommodate what is needed. So I’ve become a little better about not worrying about finances as well.

There is a point to all this. It is a kind of check-in personally. One thing that has been with me for a while is to not speak up about the good I might’ve done. After all, internally that can feel balanced against the things lacking or items that still need to be done. It isn’t humbleness, it’s lack of confidence or self-esteem. So I’m now writing out all the good I’ve done, things I’m proud of, as someone who has worked on their confidence. There are still trials and issues to have and work on, but having seen concrete progress, progress that has been tracked week by week, month by month, it adds confidence in knowing that success in personal advancement is possible when it is worked at. Of course, even still, it required having a motivation, something concrete to work toward. And so: I’ve done pretty good this last year. To add to that, I expect to be pretty good about what I do in 2021 as well.

One more thing: It’s not lost on me that 2020 was overall a discouraging year. For me it just happened to be that I already lived in virtual isolation, and all the things I worked on I could do alone without social interaction. So for most of the year, it was actually a very good period of time for me. But by the end of the year, after I’d made all these fixes and changes, then the effects of society closing down did start to affect me. I want the pandemic to end. Making friends, meeting someone new, is difficult in isolation. Being vastly self-improved is good and all, but when you’re in a bubble, doesn’t feel as good. Turns out even social recluses want recognition for the good they do. Especially when an item they’ve worked on for months is fixing that tendency to socially retreat!

As for this blog and the posts about The Lupine Saga: March 20th is when The Lupine Chevalier begins. It was mostly written ten years ago, and has gone through years of refinements. It is longer, but still feels somewhat short to me, even though it contains all I want in it. It is different than Prince. It’s more personal to me as well; it has more of my personality in it than the first book. Items that the first book set up are explored more in the second, and even it is more setup for what is to follow, though of course with an appropriate level of answers. For now, enjoy the representation of Ruby Louise Melonscone I found!

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