Island of the Kahts~Part Four
I awoke the next morning, refreshed, invigorated—despite what Fern had said the previous night, the beds were perfectly comfortable—and ready for anything the world should throw at me. Not literally. For instance, I wasn’t ready for the pillow that crashed into my head as soon as I sat up.
“Who threw that?” I asked with a growl after picking myself up off the floor
“The world.” a familiar voice said.
“’The world’?” I asked suspiciously.
“You always mutter when you first wake up. You weren’t ready for anything the world could throw at you, now were you? I wanted to prove you wrong.” ‘The World’ chuckled quietly. “So I did.”
“Why is the world hiding behind the window drapes?” I asked to disguise any sound I made as I stood and inched forward. There was a hefty lump behind the curtains of the only window in the room, curtains which extended all across that wall to also provide a door for the closet which stood at the other end.
“Because it doesn’t want to get up.” the World replied.
“Then why did the world wake me up?” Closer.
“To share the love. If the world had to get up, then so did the boy who was sleeping so soundly he drooled.”
“I do not drool!” I exclaimed, straightening indignantly.
“Then I sure don’t want to know what else that wet spot was on the bed when I took the pillow.”
This had gone far enough. “Gern!” I whipped back the curtains. He stood there smiling and…oh…horseradish. Savadra and Fern were behind him. I had thought the lump looked rather large.
“Rise and shine, numskull!” Savadra called, grinning and studying my messy hair and rumpled clothing. My face turned beet red. ‘The world’ was going to pay for this. Big time.
Gern seemed to notice that rapidly changing colors of my expression were not all due to embarrassment. “And now, fair ladies, I do believe it is time for me to make my exit.” He twisted and tried to sneak away but I grabbed his shirt collar. “Oops.” he whispered with a sheepish grin. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the girls retreating a safe distance. I let them.
“’Oops’ is right my friend.”
* * * * * * * * * *
After thoroughly beating Gern to a bloody orange-and-purple-and-green pulp and casting threatening glares at the girls and the very much amused Craigin; I joined the others and went down for breakfast. This time, we went according to the schedule and dined with several other courtiers and knights, all of whom were too occupied at their own tables to notice as our group slipped in. Vivian made as delightful a breakfast as she had supper the previous night and I asked for second and third helpings. Gern, not about to be outdone and not the least bit daunted for all my efforts to restrain him, had fourths and would have attempted at fifths had Craigin not wisely removed the clown’s plate and bowl for his own safety. He was, as you can clearly see, none the worse off after our meeting that morning. Perhaps I had been too lenient.
I sat back in my chair with a contented sigh and accidentally knocked off the bowl I had been using. The dish clattered to the floor, surprisingly and thankfully not breaking when it did so. I apologized to the girl who came to pick it up and we nearly hit each other’s heads leaning down to retrieve it. I laughed and handed her the bowl which she took, smiling nervously, and hurried on her way.
“You know something? The people here can’t seem to relax.” I commented to my companions after she had left.
“You can say that again. I nearly got executed yesterday for merely asking a guy if he used fish oil in his hair to slick it back.” Gern muttered.
“So that’s what that was all about.” Savadra said with a dry smile.
“It was just an honest question.” Gern added pitifully.
“A likely story.” Craigin replied.
It was possible that Gern was telling the truth. After all, in his own village—a fisherman’s village—it was more than likely that some of the men who aspired to being handsome used fish oil in their hair and beards. I, nevertheless, did not want to dwell on such conversation for long. Thankfully, Savadra stepped in.
“Change of subject, you bickering toads.” Savadra said. She often calls people names, even if she’s not mad at them. “Tory, what have you noticed; since I didn’t get the chance too speak to you last night? The guards said something about a curfew, I heard when we passed a group of them.” she hinted.
I had heard that too, and had pondered it half the evening. “Not a lot, to be perfectly honest. Well, except for the fact that people here are barely paid and can be thrown in prison for fairly minor things.” I said and Savadra cocked her head in interest. “I mean, I’ve never been in a big city before so I’m unsure of how the rules play out, but if you count a stable master being late to a hunt and going to jail for it…”
“Imprisoned?” Fern asked.
“Pretty serious punishment for being tardy.” Craigin agreed.
“That and some pretty interesting gossip and love stories.” I added, hopefully.
“Thank you Tory. That’s all we wanted.” Savadra said quickly. I grinned and she kicked me under the table subtly. I ignored her.
“So do we get to see his high-and-royal majesty today or not?” I asked impatiently. Just as I was speaking a well-dressed servant came up beside us and flashed me a snooty look.
“King Greythan will see you now if you follow me right this way.” he announced in a very stuck-up tone. When he turned his back, Gern stuck out his tongue and I had to clamp a hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Savadra frowned in reprimand at us both.
The snooty servant took us up a very long flight of stairs that spiraled around and were made of marble and I touched the smooth surface as we went. After climbing the stairs we arrived in an expressively extravagant wing of the castle and I rightly assumed that this was very near to the king’s own chambers, though I did wonder why he would be meeting us in his own private room rather than the throne room. I later discovered that it was because he transacting business in anything less than sheer comfort and his own chambers were best suited to provide that.
As the servant led us to the end of the long hallway I noticed the guards that stood in front of the silver plated doors. Their expressions were vaguely stern but more bored than anything else. When the two saw us they immediately straightened up and firmed their grip on the hilts of the swords resting in their scabbards, looking at the wall that faced them instead of us and pretending indifference.
The servant walked directly up to the guards. “I have brought the visitors to his Majesty.” he announced with the same haughty air.
One of the guards looked at the servant. “And you are...?”
The servant drew himself up, his eyes blazing with self-importance. “I am Malcolm, the king’s personal servant, chief advisor, and general manager of his affairs—as you should well already know!”
The other guard looked at his companion. “Did you hear that, Jon? Last I heard, Cletus was still the chief advisor. And now this kid claims to be.”
“Amazing how quickly things can change without our ever knowing it, being the king’s personal guards and escort and all.” commented the other wryly.
Malcolm huffed. “Just let me in to see King Greythan, please.” he muttered.
The first guard elbowed his friend. “He found his manners at least.” To the manservant he added. “Aye, we’ll let you in ‘little advisor’.”
Malcolm sneered and moved past Jon and his buddy before they could change their minds. Opening the large doors, Malcolm led us into the chambers.
“I’ve heard that King Greythan of Montal is a fat old man who sits around all day eating the country’s delicacies.” Gern whispered to me, grinning. I smirked back and felt Savadra pinch my shoulder.
I restrained a yelp. “It wasn’t me!” I hissed.
“Knock it off you two.” She replied. “Don’t speak of the king that way; we need to make friends here, not enemies.” I made a solemn face while Gern remained beaming cheekily.
When at last we entered the main chamber we found that Gern’s prediction was actually true and it was all I could do not to either gape in surprise or buckle with laughter. King Greythan was indeed sitting on a satin couch with a fruit in one hand while he patted his massive girth with the other. Gern shot a look at Savadra. She ignored him but her own expression betrayed her disgust.
“Come in friends!” the king greeted warmly. Since we already were in we took few steps and bowed. “Come on, sit down!” King Greythan invited. “Now, I’m sure you all know a little of why I have asked you to come.” he said to Savadra, getting immediately down to business. At least, that’s what I thought he was doing until he added, “But first, help yourselves to some fruit and drinks.” He waved a hand at a servant who left and then returned shortly after with a loaded tray and a second server behind him. We were each given a silver goblet and a small silver plate filled with grapes, bread, and some sort of pastry.
After settling in and taking another bite of his food, the king began: “To the south there is an island which was once inhabited by plantation owners—royalty really—who farmed the land. There, these people grew a large variety of fruits because the soil was rich and full of nutrients. Why, to be perfectly honest, it was the best fruit I have ever tasted. It is prime property and very beautiful but the owners were run off because of an extremely strange occurrence just a year ago.
“One of the workers was out working—ah-ha, fancy a worker doing that!” he gave a little chuckle for the sake of his own bad joke and his belly jiggled most alarmingly. I had to strain to keep my attention on his face as he went on. “He heard the most horrendous screech, a scream really, and he went out searching, thinking that a coworker was hurt. However, he and his friends who went with him found not a human but three… beasts.” he seemed to weigh our reactions, looking for shock or surprise. We gave him neither. (Keep in mind, our friends, the monkey-eating spiders.)
He continued. “It’s said that these were giant predators that resembled lions. They appeared on the island suddenly and were so ferocious that everyone there fled. The island, named Daarimere, was to be bought by our own royal household; however, no one dares set foot on its shores. We’ve sent in several exploration teams but they saw neither hide nor hair of the so-called monsters. Whether or not the tales of the great ‘cats’ are true, something must be done. So…”
“So you decided we could at least see if these accounts were true and possibly vanquish this newfound pussy foe.” I finished, knowing I was being insolent. We heroes are allowed that sometimes. “Then you could reclaim the island at a cheap price without lifting finger.” Greythan looked surprised. The corners of Savadra’s mouth twitched in a hidden smile. We knew our royalty fairly well. “Then, naturally, you planned to express your gratitude most charitably to us for our efforts.” I added.
“Yes, I suppose that is the general idea.” the king agreed slowly.
Savadra watched him for a moment, her flashing green eyes the only indicator that she was carefully considering his proposition and several more things besides. “Then consider it done.”