The room, still spinning from the erratic and quickly spoken explanation, was silent. King Fidel posed a question that most everyone was wondering.
“I did recall some of that; however, I forgot, how do they move? More importantly, why?” Fidel asked.
“Quite a good question,” Diren said. There was obvious excitement in his voice. “Every grain of dirt and sand is attached to another by impossibly tiny cords, like spider silk. I do wish I could see one for myself. Record keeping for forgotten history has been giving me far too many desires, these past five years. I do relish the additional duties. As to the why of your question, I do not know.”
“Diren, please, that’s quite enough.” Darius put his hand on the hare’s shoulder. The constant speaking stopped. The years spent researching things that history had forgotten had put a spark in the hare’s eyes that seemed to want to spill out. Yet he contained himself.
“Then, we need to decide on a plan. I’m open to suggestions. This will not be easy.” Fidel spoke to everyone in attendance, the wisest, richest, and most important people in the nation.
After hearing various suggestions, the assembly agreed to use advisor Jin’s plan, which was to send a regiment of soldiers loaded with supplies and carrying additional transports to Tendal. Of course, as the only advisor left from the former king’s reign, his suggestions weren’t ever rejected, though he rarely spoke up or was seen. He had served as regent for the short while after the death of Fidel’s father, so his authority was, in practice, the same as Fidel’s was.
The expedition would take almost three weeks before they returned, during which time a series of scouts would ride to Tendal and back, reporting to the king what happened on a daily basis. Due to travel time, the first scout would return in about a week. During that week, they could only hope that Tendal remained standing. By that time the expedition would be ready to leave.
Fidel wasn’t pleased with what he had decided on, but lacking a better understanding of the situation, he had no choice. He certainly couldn’t send a large force all at once, for it might have already been too late. He couldn’t delay either, or Rising may find itself soon overwhelmed. He was questioning what to do, but decided that he would make the more important decisions when the scout returned.
Fidel dismissed the court. All the people in the room relaxed and slowly made their way out. Some talked and associated, now that the formalities had been dispensed with. Fidel, for his part, slowly stood up. Aoi went to his side, ready to assist him in any way. He motioned his hand to her, signaling that he didn’t want her to touch him. She kept her distance as Fidel stood. The vigor he had displayed while making decisions had left him, and the tired look that Aoi was accustomed to seeing was again on his face. He took a couple steps by himself. He walked behind the throne, towards the doors behind him. However, after another step, he lost his strength. Aoi was quickly at his side, supporting him. They were behind the throne, so she assumed that no one would notice. Instead of being unnoticeable in her assistance, something she had perfected over the last few years, she used much of her might to help Fidel. He couldn’t resist that help, for at that moment he was truly unable to accept any less assistance.
There was only one person who stared at King Fidel as he and Aoi went through their routine. From her vantage point high in the gallery, she was able to observe something she had not seen before. She had been, in the past, extremely jealous of the attention that Aoi seemed to receive from Fidel. She had murmured, cursed, and spoken-ill of the woman she viewed as simply a distasteful trophy from another kingdom. Today, however, a strong realization appeared in her mind. Fidel was not simply being touched or purposely holding onto Aoi. Jane Melonscone realized that something might be wrong with Fidel. It worried and relieved her. When Fidel finally walked through the doors and retired to his room, Jane quickly left the castle grounds. She was going to find out what could possibly be wrong.
“I’m sure some of you recognize me, and as for the rest of you, let me introduce myself. My name is Sensei, and I shall be your teacher for the rest of the year. Welcome to your new class.”
The class of thirty erupted in cheers, laughter, and applause. More than half of the class had been a student of Sensei’s before. And, with their new class arrangement, the students were in a class with many old friends.
The classroom had windows on one side, so that the students could look out over the hill upon which the school was situated. In the back corner of the classroom, with two of them sitting next to the window, and another two at their sides, was a very happy group of four. On the opposite side of the room sat a black-feathered avian girl, who couldn’t stop staring at the group of four. In the middle of the classroom and towards the front was a group of five. A human, swine, avian, hare, and bovine all made up the fearsome-looking group.
Harnes felt excited, anxious, and sick all at the same time. Her heart was beating with anticipation at the rest of the year. She didn’t know whether she should be happy or sad, so for now she settled on excited. She stared in wonder at each boy in turn. Sitting at the seat furthest back, by the window, was Va’il. In front of him was Pete, and on Va’il’s right was Kelin. Sitting in front of Kelin, at Pete’s side, was Zeick. Kelin was two seats away from Harnes. There was a deeri boy next to Kelin, and an empty seat separated Harnes from the deeri boy.
She looked at each boy closely, to try and judge just how much trouble each one was capable of. First was Pete. Pete was a rotund swine, which wasn’t uncommon for swine. He had pink skin and a magnificent snout for a nose. He didn’t wear shoes, as he had hooves, and his hands had deep black nails on each of his five short fingers. Barring his hands, to say he looked exactly like an upright pig who could talk and wear clothes would be an accurate assessment. Pete always wore stiff tops of cotton or linen and loose pants, in usually solid colors. Today he wore wool pants dyed blue and a white cotton tunic. Harnes knew Pete was generally mild and calm, but far too willing to go along with other’s ideas. Still, he only warranted one feather’s worth of worry for the year.
Then there was Kelin. Long red hair, sharp teeth, sharp ears, and sharp eyes. A normal lupus, for the most part, once his color was accounted for. He wore both bright and dull colors in whatever way he decided on for the day. Today he wore long green robes and black trousers. His cloth boots were expensive looking, as they were covered with blue silk. Being a lupus, he was worrisome to begin with. Taking into account the fact he was a noble lupus gave Harnes additional reason for worry. And his penchant for doing things his own way whenever he decided further upped the feather count Harnes was keeping. As she began counting the feathers on her arm to make sure she wouldn’t end up with patches missing by the end of the year, Kelin brought out a book and started reading. Harnes then remembered the most important thing, and stopped counting feathers. Ten, for the year, should be just about right, she decided. She had been expecting more, but had almost forgotten Kelin’s overwhelming disinterest in many, many things.
Zeick was someone that Harnes had no estimate for. She remembered that three years ago he was human. But for some reason, he was now half-felis. He had a few pointed teeth and a slightly angled face that could easily be mistaken for human. But the very long tail protruding from his back proved that he was a half. It was a golden tail with a white tip. It would swing every which way at random, which proved mesmerizing at times. All she could tell about Zeick was that he seemed nice, for he was smiling. But she couldn’t decide as to whether he was trouble or not. She decided that he was worth a feather or two, simply for being partially felis and for being the fourth member of the previously three-boy group. He wore yellow and orange, making him look somewhat like an alley cat. She could imagine him with felis ears, and wondered why he had human ears instead.
The fourth and youngest of the group was Va’il. He was a half, of both human and lupus descent. He had long ears covered in white fur that seemed to reflect light like a diamond. His eyes were round, soft, and silver in color. He had a nose that was slightly thinner than a human’s was, but far more sensitive. He had a few teeth that were pointed, but weren’t visible unless he purposely showed them. His lips were full, unlike the thin lips that most lupus had, which helped to hide his teeth. The hair on his head was white and pointed in various directions. Like Kelin, he had a set of claws on each hand. From time to time, he would rest his head on his palms. He would always lean on his right hand. When he sometimes leaned on his left, he would drop it after a short while and move to his right. Harnes assumed that he liked to look out the window, which always happened to be on his left. His appearance was calming and serene to most onlookers, even if it was odd. He never seemed to pay attention to what he wore. He didn’t seem to care if his clothes were cheap, expensive, cotton, silk, brocade, or wool. Some days he would arrive in red and orange, and on others he would wear brown and black. Though his appearance was serene to Harnes, who especially loved his white hair, his penchant for being involved whenever something went wrong rated him high on the missing feather count. In the past few weeks she had already worried out two feathers over Va’il, and she was quite happy that no more had worked their way out. She looked down at her arm again.
“Do I have fifty feathers on this arm?”