“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!”