Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Mark of the King: Chapter Ten

At last, the long-promised chapter. And it's very short. Sorry about that!

Chapter Ten

The nobles, knights, and ambassadors from Tir O Niwl arrived the next morning in a grand procession complete with cheering and fanfares from the citizens of the Capitol. A gentle snow blanketed the city overnight, and the walls and dirty streets now appeared clean and pristine. Though the weather was bitter cold, the peasants didn’t seem to mind and lined the streets and alleyways to catch even the slightest glimpse of their foreign neighbors. They waved banners, pieces of cloth, anything they could find, in the air and shouted appraisingly as the large host rode past on their magnificent horses.
Skandar stood in the courtyard of the castle among the other hundreds of Corrthainian nobles, knights, and workers when the final gate was raised and the procession filed into the bailey.
From his viewpoint on one of the open passages on the second story of the castle, Skandar saw King Fendral seated far below for the first time. The crown, a tall circlet of gold, encased the king’s white hair and stern brow. He was dressed in gold armor and draped across his shoulders, a scarlet cloak flapped gently. Skandar’s hand drifted unconsciously to his dagger and his vision grayed. When his fingers enclosed the smooth wooden pommel, Skandar exhaled and drew his hand away. As he did so, his vision returned to normal.
The courtyard was crammed full of men and beasts when the last Niwl passed under the gate. At a command from one of the Niwls, every man in company dismounted, turning their horses over to the stable hands. With the horses gone, the courtyard suddenly became less cramped and Skandar now had a clear view at the men below.
“Strange,” one of the young men beside Skandar remarked aloud.
“What do you see?” Skandar asked the man, but kept his eyes on the crowd below. There’s nothing odd or out of place that I can determine. I wonder what he means.
“It’s what or who rather, that I do not see that’s odd,” the man answered in way of reply.
  Skandar rolled his eyes, agitated at the youth and sighed, “Tell me.”
The youth shielded his brow with a hand and scanned the heads of the people. “I do not see King Caddock, his son, or anyone that appears to be of Niwl royalty.”
And that means… what? 
One final fanfare sounded from the trumpeters on the walls and, aside from the occasional whinny of a horse, the courtyard fell into silence.
King Fendral, followed by Princess Catrain, descended the stone steps and greeted a man Skandar assumed to be the Niwl ambassador. He was a long, thin man with short dark hair and a neatly trimmed, pointed beard.
The King and ambassador exchanged a few words before the two important men and the princess climbed the steps and entered the large doors of the castle. Although not a word passed in the moments following their departure, everyone lingering about exited the courtyard in an orderly manner, retreating indoors from the biting air.
“Well, that was certainly exciting,” Skandar muttered under his breath.
The interior of the castle was a beehive with preparations for the feast that would take place in the Great Hall that evening. Wondrous aromas, among them cinnamon, the warm smell of roasted nuts, fresh bread, and tender meat wafted throughout the crowded castle from the kitchens. Servants scurried about like ants carrying dishes, candles, and decorations to the Great Hall, and clothes, food, and drink to the guests’ chambers.
Skandar witnessed the excitement from the safety of a corner in a secluded corridor watching the chaotic events unfold when he sensed a presence nearby. He turned his head and there, making her way toward him, was Muriel.
“Skandar! I’ve been searching everywhere for you!” she exclaimed.
He shrugged, “I’ve been here.”
Muriel’s face broke into a brilliant smile and her bright eyes crinkled slightly. “I can see that.
“Since you aren’t able to attend the feast tonight-”
“I’m not?” he interrupted.
“No,” she shook her head slowly. “This feast is strictly for members of nobility and,” she hesitated, “the court.”
“I understand,” said Skandar, though he really didn’t.
Muriel, in an attempt to reassure him, added quickly, “My siblings aren’t even allowed to attend; I, myself, barely managed to gain an invitation. There will be more feasts, I guarantee, that you will be able to attend. For some reason, just not this one.”
Skandar sniffed the air, breathing in the warm smells of the food he had watched the entire morning and would not be able to eat. His stomach growled both from hunger and disappointment.
Upon hearing the rumbling protest, Muriel giggled, and playfully, Skandar scowled at her. Though her laughter ceased, an impish light still shone in her porcelain features. “Find Aidan and Eoin.”
“Just find them,” she winked. “I must go.” Turning, she disappeared in the throng of people.
Perplexed, Skandar shook his head. I guess there’s nothing to do now but find Aidan and Eoin. Then surveying the frenzied action around him he sighed deeply. Where do I even begin?

That's all, folks! (In the style of Looney Tunes)
I'll upload Chapter Eleven A.S.A.P Which really means I don't know when I'll get around to it, but hopefully soon. 
Have a fantastic week, and as always, God bless!