14 - More Precious Than Gold

I wake up feeling oddly refreshed. I don't expect to - I expected to wake up just as tense as the last few days. But oddly, I'm relieved now. Maybe talking with my brother, even briefly, and with such a depressing slant to it, made me feel better. I think it did. I think I honestly missed my brother that much.

I shift in my bed, slowly sit up, and open my eyes.

The Peacock King is looking right into them while sitting at the foot of my bed.

After I jump, he pats the lump in the blankets where my ankle is. "Not to worry. I thought I'd greet you for the morning."

I remember the footsteps I heard in my room last night right as I fell asleep.

"...Oh. I'm sorry. I'm not the most...coherent waker."

He smiles. "It's alright. I rather desired the company. There's not much conversation to be had this early, and it was so tense yesterday evening. I wanted to start the morning off right, as it were. And I wanted to prepare for our journey as well."

I blink. "...Journey?"

He nods. "It's not a time I would normally like to leave my palace, but urgent business just doesn't wait for politics. I'd like you to accompany me. You can see the countryside here, see my Kingdom from outside the confines of walls and windows. And...well, I have things I'd like to show you, Lotus." He rises. "Ready yourself for breakfast, and then pack for a few days. I've taken the liberty of packing a few of your robes with my things, so there's not much you'll have to worry about bringing." He begins to walk away.

"...We'll be taking Faun with us."

I blink. "Sir? --Sire. Are you sure? Is it safe to travel with him?"

He only smiles in that cryptic way that makes me want to shiver. "He'll behave for me, this one time. It will be to his benefit."

I'm left to ponder that, because he leaves with no explanation for what could possibly control Faun.

* * *

Packing is madness. I will just put it this way - I'll be gone for several days and I have no idea what facilities will be there, so I have to be prepared for anything when it comes to taking care of my hair.

* * *

I arrive to breakfast to find my King is not there. I wonder if I'm really that late, but a servant informs me that there is an audience in the King's Court. I am encouraged to go and attend - anything that the King leaves breakfast for is apparently urgent news.

Shouldering through the people is difficult, but being small has its advantages. I duck and elbow through the crowd until I have a vantage point near the front. A large expanse of the Court's floor in front of the King's throne is completely clear, save for three people. I straighten up. I recognize one in front, the one who seems to be the representative. Of course he'd be representing the three - he's a very famous Armed. I've seen him with my Father before. Camden Briarseal. He's hard to miss - he has a quiet focus about him that cuts through a crowd in ways that shouting could never do. He is very tall and carries himself with an air of relaxed confidence - no bravado, no showing off. Camden looks trustworthy and approachable at all times. The short blade strapped to his side is a quiet reminder of his office.

There are two women with him, one so young I more think of her as a girl. She's small in stature, and seems to be the one of the party to carry the bags. Mousy and meek. The other is of medium height, her hair twisted into a mahogany braid. She has a crossbow and quivver strapped onto her back. Oddly, she doesn't strike me as a gunslinger, even though she has what could be Arms prominently displayed, and stands as though she's near to being Camden's equal.

I wonder what could have possibly brought Camden here, and then am answered by the Armed himself.

"Nothing of any particular. We're just on a training pilgrimage for Jenny Hearthborn here. As much honor as your Kingdom has earned, it would be an insult not to stop here and offer our aid for any suitable tasks you may have. Of course, the best learning is done in the field. If you have anything that my trainee could apply herself to, we would all be grateful." Camden leans forward and makes a graceful bow. The girls follow suit. Jenny has a focused edge to her, a hawk's stare.

I look to the Peacock King, as does the entire rest of the Court. He doesn't seem nervous at all. In fact, if I didn't know any better I'd think he welcomed the presence of Armeds in his Kingdom. "...Well. I'm overwhelmed with blessings this morning. I apologize, good Sherrif - I have no task that immediately comes to mind. My Kingdom is very peaceful, with no labor to be done that would suit your offices, even that of a trainee." He puts his hand to his chin. "And as I am planning a journey just this day, I do not think that I can set aside time to prepare any proper tests, as I have done before."

Camden straightens up. "Though your Kingdom is peaceful, good Sire, might we accompany you? Jhe Hearthborn desires to learn the proper protocols of her work - guard work is of vital importance nowadays. Indeed, there might be no better time to learn than with wuch a beloved official of a peaceful Kingdom."

I blink. I never realized just how eloquent Camden was. With his wire-rimmed spectacles and neat appearance, he could be just as much a Poet as Gerald is.


I don't want us to leave. I want to help Gerald. Maybe they can help him. Maybe I can get his plea to them, somehow. Only...would that cause just as much incident as Gerald freeing himself? I don't know. All I know is that they are his people, just as the Poets are also his people.

Gods, now I'm torn. Freeing Gerald and Faun would seem to be the best course...but what of the Kingdoms warring, once word got out of a Poet spy within the borders? And what of the Peacock King himself? I know he's a tyrant and I know he's a criminal...but I've seen him be kind, seen him be, well...human. It doesn't seem fair to me. I'm so confused.

I just wait, and watch, as the Peacock King hastily grants Camden's request before he has to explain why he doesn't desire such fine guards to accompany him.

* * *

The audience is dismissed soon, with the Armeds staying behind to likely ready for their journey, or have a more private talk with the King. While everyone else is busy, I have some newfound time in which I'm not being watched or accounted for. I rush back to my room, taking a moment to check and see if the Peacock king looked through my things. I can't imagine what else he could have been doing in here all night. I see nothing disturbed, as if that means anything - he's clever enough to put things back where they belong.

I realize that being on a trip like this means that I'll have to do my recording more secretively. Diary writing is a normal thing, I suppose - a shame I don't have one. I take some parchment and a quill and inkwell with me and hope for some opportunity to use them in peace while I'm traveling - or for a bout of cleverness from myself to explain why I'm writing so much.

It's after this that my attention is brought back to the guns. I hunch down near the pot, place my hand on it, and say, "I'm traveling for a few days with the Peacock King."

'Aye, we've ears the same as you.'

'Actually, sharper than yours I would say.'

"...Ah. Pardon me, then. Well do you know that an Armed named Camden Briarseal and his small retinue arrived here today, and will be accompanying us?"

'Sensed Camden we did. He and his people are right souls. They've been good to Gerald when he was more of a brat than deserved the treatment.'

'Didn't know that they'd be escorting the King, though.'

'You, going away with no advice under such interesting circumstances? Can't have that, can we?'

Lyric hears a click from inside the pot. It's muffled, but still the sound is sharp and abrupt.

'Reach inside, young Poet.'

"I'm not..." He doesn't bother with the rest. Guns are strange things to talk with. He sneaks his hand into the pot, under dirt, and feels a loose, hard metal object near the top. He pulls it up. ...A bullet.

He wonders if they're all this big.

'Nay, it's how ye aim them that counts.'

'But I find the size pleases the ladies, if'n ye parse what I'm insinuating.'

'It's a lucky boy indeed that touches one of these free of a wound in his chest. Count yourself blessed, brother of our Armed.'

'Don't be caught with it. The King will stuff you in a cell nastier than our Armed's, and you'll not be like to see your Father again, aside from his reflection in your brother's face.'

'The Armed will be hard to hide it from, but safer to be caught with it by, if ye ensure that it's outside of the King's witness.'

Lyric doesn't have anything to reply. He realizes that as much as he's been accused of chattering his mouth off all day, these Guns are far more talkative than he could likely aspire to.

"...Thank you. I..." He blinks. "...Might I ask why you're telling me to carry this around with me?"

'Because ye'll look silly.'

There's a pause in which Lyric considers dumping the entire pot into the lake.

'Nay, we jest. Ye can talk to us from afar with the bullet. Ye'll still be connected with yer brother.'

'Careful how much ye do so around the King and the Armed, though. They can percieve farther than mundane ears can aspire to.'

'And ye'll not want Camden knowing yer business just yet. Control when you give yourself away, don't let him find out on his own.'

'Ye've few weapons, my boy. Secrets are more precious than gold right now.'

'Nay. Secrets always be more precious than gold.'

No comments:

Post a Comment