“I hope you don’t mind my asking, Sir, but why do you live in the town when you could live in the castle?” Skandar asked while he, Sir Reuben, and Sir Reuben’s son, John, walked through the streets of the Capitol.
“My family and I chose to reside here because it allows us to better know the people we serve.”
“Yes, Skandar, know.”
“But why? Why should a man of your standing care about the peasants and townsfolk?”
“It matters not to many Lords, Knights, and even Kings the names of their subjects. But I have found that if you learn their names, the things they delight in, and their interests, you befriend people, poor yes, but genuine people. If you earn their friendship and trust, you receive not only their respect, but comrades and allies who will remain true to you not matter the danger. These are good people, Skandar, and I have found many friends in the people around me.”
“The men I knew in Tiem governed their people out of fear.”
“As do most,” the elder man shook his head. “Our King among them.”
“Father, hurry!” called John, Sir Reuben’s son, from further up the street. “We don’t want to be late for supper!”
Muriel pushed a strand of her wavy black hair behind her ear as she bent over the boiling pot of soup, which she stirred carefully with a long wooden ladle while a serving girl cut vegetables behind her.
She glanced into the dining room, where Lady Morgaine, her mother, sat at the table with her younger sister Eliza and dreamed about her own home when she would marry next spring. Muriel smiled to herself and twisted her ring mindlessly.
“The soup is ready, Mother. Eliza, go check the door for Father and John, would you please?”
The little girl jumped off her mother’s lap and skipped across the room to peek out the door, her mousy brown curls bouncing as she hopped. “They’re home! And they brought someone with them!” the little girl shouted happily before she dashed out the door. Curiously, the two women crossed the hall and opened the door. Muriel straightened her simple sapphire dress and peered into the street where the familiar silhouette of her father, brother, and another man walked.
Sir Reuben and John stepped into the light of the home, hand in hand with her sister. The next man, however, was unfamiliar to her. He was tall, but shorter than her father; his body lean and lanky. Wavy red hair fell loosely to his shoulders, and a short, scraggily beard grew along his gaunt cheeks and jaw. But what startled her were the young man’s eyes: they blazed like liquid silver, burning holes into whatever they fell upon.
Skandar stood awkwardly in the doorframe under the critical eye of Sir Reuben’s wife and daughter. Finally, he bowed to the Ladies.
“I consider it an honor to meet you at last, for Oliver has told me some things about you. Though not as many as I hoped, I shall admit,” Muriel remarked, and she smiled.
“Then,” interrupted Sir Reuben. “we shall discuss this over supper!”
Sir Reuben hoisted the youngest girl aloft in his arms and kissed her rosy cheek. The sound of the girl’s happy squeals instantly reminded Skandar of Peter’s family and his vision tainted, as though he was seeing through a black screen. When his sight cleared, Sir Reuben stared at him, concern on his face.
“Are you alright?”
“Um, yes Sir. I’m fine,” Skandar mumbled.
Sir Reuben nodded, but his brow remained furrowed as he glanced sideways at his wife.
“Do sit down, Skandar.” Lady Morgaine beckoned to an empty chair, and Skandar sat. The lady was a tall woman, her brilliant azure eyes stern, yet gentle, set above prominent cheekbones. She wore a simple, but elegant green mantle, and her brown hair fell straight to her small waist. The resemblance between the Lady and her two daughters was striking, each as fair and beautiful as their mother.
John, who sat beside Skandar, truly was his father’s son. He inherited the curly, dark brown mane, thin face, and noble forehead of Sir Reuben. Like his father, he was tall for a lad of thirteen.
Smelling the soup and bread decorating the table, Skandar reached for his bowl, but paused. Noting the behavior of the family around him, he followed suit, folding his hands in his lap as Sir Reuben prayed.
“My King,” he began. “Thank You for blessing us with the meal before us, and for the company of dear friends. We ask You for Your continued protection upon our family and those closest to us. We also ask You to put your wisdom into the mind of the King. Let him see Your grace and mercy, and also Your love.”
Skandar stirred uncomfortably.
“These things we ask in the name of Your Son, amen.”
“Amen,” chorused the family.
“Why do you pray for the King?” Skandar inquired bluntly. The table fell silent; everyone looked to Sir Reuben, awaiting his answer.
“The King needs our prayers just as much as the next man; even more so, I believe.”
“And does the True King hear your prayers?”
“He always listens, Skandar.”
“Then why hasn’t He answered? Why hasn’t He rid us of this tyrant?”
“Shh,” warned Morgaine. “There may be men outside.”
“Why?” Skandar repeated softly.
“It may not be His time, yet. We must be patient, and wait for Him to act.”
Skandar shook his head. “You may have time to wait, but I don’t.”
“I trust Him. His timing is always right, Skandar.”
“Yeah, well I stopped trusting Him when he let my father and mother die.”
“Everything has its purpose, though we may not understand it.”
“I don’t. I don’t understand, and I don’t want to. I want nothing to do with the so-called True King!” Skandar shouted.
The table was plunged into an uncomfortable silence. Reuben and Morgaine shared a troubled glance; Muriel stared at Skandar with an unreadable expression; John gazed into his bowl of soup, and Eliza sat motionless, her hands still folded in her lap.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout,” apologized Skandar quietly.
“It has been a stressful day for everyone.”
Muriel pondered Skandar’s outburst. The poor boy, she thought sadly. My King, I pray also for Skandar. Fill him with Your love and forgiveness. He appears to be a gentle man, but his heart is filled with hatred and anger- that is clear to me. Please show me how to be a friend to him, and where and when to help him. Thank you, my King.“Skandar?”
Skandar jerked awake, hitting his head on the back of the chair as his eyes fluttered open. Cheeks flushing, he sleepily acknowledged Lady Morgaine push back her chair and stand.
“Come, you are tired and must rest. I’ll show you to your room.”
The graceful woman led him up a flight of stairs and to a hall filled with doors on each side. Stopping at one, she opened the door to reveal a furnished room.
“You may stay here, if you wish.”
Skandar mumbled, “Thank you,” and stumbled sleepily through the open door.
“I’ll be back in a moment with some of Reuben’s clothes. They may be a little big for you, but they’ll have to do until market day.”
“That’s fine, my Lady. Thank you.”
She closed the door behind her, allowing Skandar several moments to himself. Sitting on the bed, he looked around the room.
It was comfortable, not overly lavish, but not scant either. A coffer stood alone by the wall, and a trunk rested at the foot of the bed. A single window in the wall opposite the door allowed him to look out over the dark street below him. From where he sat on the bed, Skandar thought he saw the shape of a man in the shadows of the house next to Sir Reuben’s, but he blinked, and the man was gone.
He had just begun to coax his boot off his feet when Lady Morgaine, followed closely by a servant, entered. Both women carried small piles of clothes, which they lay neatly in the trunk and coffer. Before leaving, Lady Morgaine said, “If you need anything else, do not hesitate to find me or my husband. We will see that your needs are met,” and she shut the door.
Wincing, he gingerly tugged his boots free of his swollen feet; red blisters covered his soles. He hobbled painfully to the trunk and pulled out a clean pair of pants, which he exchanged for his own. Sliding his shirt off over his head, he threw it in a crumpled heap on the floor and fell into the bed.
“Skandar,” a cold, whispering voice beckoned from a thick black fog surrounding Skandar. The cold wisps of cloud played over his body, chilling him from his skin to his heart.
“Skandar,” the voice repeated from somewhere close, yet so very far away. “Join me, and I will give you everything you desire.”
“Who are you?”
A cruel chuckle emanated from the depths of the mist. “I am no man, and yet, I am in everyone. Join me. Join me.”
Skandar sat up- wide awake -and shivered. Cold sweat covered his clammy body. He looked wildly around; the room was empty. He was alone, but he could still hear the voice from his dream.
That’s all it was. A dream.
Here's Chapter Five! It's a little shorter than the others, so I was able to edit it in time for Thursday!! I hope you all had a merry Christmas!!