Alisha knocked on Christian’s bedroom door and listened for his answer, but received no reply. She cracked the door open just a bit and noticed her brother packing two suit cases full of his clothing and necessities.
Alisha entered the room in a formal gown, “What are you doing?” she asked suspiciously.
Christian was so enveloped in deep thought about the amazing adventure that awaited him that he hadn’t noticed his younger sister enter the room. “Oh Alisha, I didn’t notice ya come in! Did you need something?”
The princess crossed her arms as if an authority, “Where do you think your going with those suit cases? Have you finally decided to run away and join the circus?” she asked chuckling at her own joke.
Christian turned to his sister with an annoyed expression. “No! I’m leaving with the grand duke and royal mystic! That monster from the other night, turns out it had a scroll on it that leads to a legendary armor, and we’re gonna go and get it!”
Alisha moved her hands onto her hips as she struggled to realize why her inexperienced older brother was tagging along. “And why are you going? You haven’t been on any of these quests before, and judging by your combat training with Raziel, you’re certainly not ready to go into any battles.”
Christian rolled his eyes as he searched through his closet, “Ya know, I am gonna be twenty soon! Don’t cha think it’s about time I started traveling with the grand duke on some of these quests?” The young teenager walked out of his closet with a few shirts over his arm and placed them next to his suitcase as he started to fold them. “Besides, we all talked about it and figured it was a good idea for me to join them incase they needed my help.”
Alisha looked at her brother with a smirk on her face as she sat down on his bed, “Oh my God, you begged daddy to go didn’t you!”
Christian turned and saw the huge smug grin on his sister’s face. “No I didn’t! I just asked if they wanted me to accompany them and they said yes. I didn’t beg.” he paused. “And stop making that stupid smile cause you’re wrong.”
Alisha rolled her eyes this time, “Okay, whatever. Don’t forget, dad’s negotiating with those anthro people in about an hour. Be sure to dress nice.”
“Yes, okay. Gah-lee, is that all you came in here to do, tell me that and bug me?” he asked agitated by his sister’s condescending jokes and questions.
The princess stood up with a smirk on her face, satisfied in the fact that she successfully aggravated her older brother once again. “Fine, I can take a hint.” Alisha walked through the doorway, “See you in the conference room.”
Christian packed his digital camera, cell phone charger, and zipped up his suitcase when he received yet another knock at his door. “What do you want now?!” he asked.
“Excuse me?” the voice in the doorway responded.
Christian turned around to find his mother standing in the doorway with two bodyguards. The queen was a slender blond with huge structured pigtails that sprouted from her crown and spiraled downward near her hips.
“Mother! I’m sorry, I thought you were Alisha coming back to annoy me again.”
The queen motioned for the guards to leave her with a wave of her arm toward them. The bedroom door was shut as the guards obeyed her. The queen was stern and a great support for her husband in the public’s eye, but was a loving mother when in private. She smiled at her growing boy with open arms and walked over to embrace him. She signed heavily as Christian hugged her back, “Your father told me what you’ve both decided.” She and Christian sat down on his bed side by side, “So, have you packed everything you’ll need?”
“Yep, I’ve got my cell phone, camera, notebook, a few outfits, and extra pair of shoes, um,……oh, all my toiletries, and extra socks and underwear.” He gazed around the room quickly, “I’m pretty sure that’s everything.”
The queen looked at her son, “Are you sure you’re ready for this? There’s no rush. You could stay here and train more with your sword and learn more about the land before going out there. There are all sorts of dangers outside this castle.”
Christian smiled as his mother tried talking him into changing his mind, “Mother, I’ve been outside the castle before, I’ll be fine. Besides, its not like I’ll be alone or anything. I’m gonna be with the grand duke and like twenty soldiers or something.”
The queen laid his head on her lap and ran her fingers though his hair, “I know, you make me nervous that’s all.” She took a deep breath, “I remember when your father would go out on his quests, how nervous and scared for him I would feel. Of course, he’d always come back fine, but his stories of fighting dragons and monsters would always worry me, and when ever he’d leave for his next journey I’d always remember those stories and worry about what he’d face next. It just scared me to think some day he might not make it back.” she explained in her soft comforting voice. She looked down at her son as she played with his hair, “I just worry about you facing the same kind of monsters and want you to be safe is all.”
Christian looked up at his mother as his head rest on her lap, “I’ll be okay.” he said with some uncertainty.
The queen smiled and kissed his forehead, “I know you will, but you’ll always be my baby and I’ll always worry for you no matter how strong you become.” A moment of dead silence filled the room, but was broken once the queen stood from the bed and brushed out a few wrinkles in her dress, “Well, you still need to change and get ready for the meeting with the Anthropomorphs. It’s important that we’re all there and supportive of your father, not only is this important to him but for the people of Vailstone as well.”
Christian went to his closet to find an appropriate outfit as his mother left the room. After a minute or so, he finally had chosen a black and yellow color schemed attire with an elegant design around the trim. He peeked out side his five story window as he buttoned up his vest and saw two large bears wearing armor enter the castle gates. They entered the castle grounds towing a large but poorly constructed chariot. Once the chariot stopped the two bears stood on their hind legs and untied their harness to the chariot. Once freed the two bears walked around to the side and stood on each side on the door.
Soldiers of the castle approached the chariot, unrolling a red carpet that stopped right at the chariot door. The soldiers stood on both sides of the red carpet perfectly parallel to each other. The grand duke walked down the carpet between the soldiers and approached the two large bears. It was somewhat amusing to Christian to see that Raziel wasn’t intimidated standing before two large armored grizzly bears, yet some of the soldiers closest to chariot were obviously nervous.
Christian continued to observe as the chariot door opened. A black lion with a fiery red and yellow mane stepped down the chariots small step ladder and stood in front of Raziel as a human would. The lion appeared shorter than Raziel, standing about five foot nine inches and wore bits of fancy armor. The black lion looked confident in himself and appeared to bare no weapon. Next a taller ashy grey wolf stepped out and wore no armor at all, but bound to its hip was a very shiny kusarigama, which was a long chain with a weight at one end and a hand sickle on the other.
Raziel bowed half way toward the lion and motioned with his arm the direction of the carpet, but not once taking his eyes off the lion. The black lion led the way down the carpet and both the grand duke and the wolf walked behind on both sides of him leaving the two large bears at the chariot. Christian quickly made his way down stairs to meet the humanoid animals.
The eager teenager made his way down to the main hall where everyone awaited to greet their new guests at the base of a large marble stairway. Christian hurried beside his father, but not before noticing his sister’s expression of disapproval for taking so long. Christian glanced at the king and stood proud beside his father and this historical event.
The royal lion entered to main hall with the wolf and Raziel. He stopped only three feet away from the king and looked him up and down noticing the king’s armor. In a deep and grumbling voice he said, “King Dorian, lions on your armor, I see! I’m glad to see you have good taste.”
King Dorian smiled with a chuckle and reached out his hand, “Thank you, Xion.”
Xion reached out and shook his hand. The queen stood to the king’s right and reached out her hand to Xion.
Xion cupped her hand with his large paw and kissed her hand, “I am Queen Natalia, has your queen come with you?”
“They’ve not. I simply couldn’t decide which one to bring, but perhaps next time.” Xion smiled. “So, Natalia is your favorite wife?” Xion asked innocently.
The queen smiled somewhat embarrassed in acknowledging the fact that the lion king had more than one wife.
Dorian smiled and blushed a bit from embarrassment, “Um, we only take one wife.” he informed hesitantly.
“One wife? Oh, um, interesting. You must certainly be an amazing human.” the black lion replied trying to recover from the unusual tradition. Xion quickly looked back at Tsao, the gray wolf with him, and both subtly shrugged their shoulders. Xion caught the scent of an alluring perfume and noticed the busty blonde princess nearby. Xion moved to the queen’s right and stood before the petit princess. “And who is this?” he inquired with great interest.
Alisha copied her mother and extended her arm to the beast that was before her. Alisha was very nervous and swallowed before replying, “I’m Princess Alisha.” she tried answering properly and masking her intimidation.
Xion cupped her hand with his large paw as he did her mother, but this time sniffed her hand before kissing it, “Hm, a fruity watermelon perfume. And a truly beautiful princess at that.”
Alisha’s face turned red and blushed still having her hand in his huge paw. Xion was excited at the alluring scent of the human girl, her beauty, and curvy body, but was also excited by his heightened olfactory scenes. He could feel her excitement and nervousness, his animal instincts also helped him to scene her heart beating faster.
King Dorian coughed, “And this is my son, Christian.”
Xion’s attention was called away from the beauty making him look to the king’s left, noticing the young prince. He slowly walked over to Christian. The young prince was filled with adrenaline, it was amazing to see a humanoid lion man walking before, him speaking, and acting as if though human. Never before had he imagined meeting such a creature. It was an unusual feeling of fear and excitement.
“Welcome! I’m Prince Christian!”
Xion smirked at the boy’s excitement and shook his hand, “Hello, Christian. In my community, you would be referred to as the cub next in line.”
“Oh? You have a son too?” he asked naively.
“Um, well…” Xion stopped and looked behind the royal family and made a stern face, “Who is that and why is his face masked?”
The king looked behind him, “Oh, him?! That’s my royal mystic. Mystic come and greet our guests.” The king looked at Xion and lightly responded, “Apparently his face was disfigured some how. He’s sensitive about it.” he said quietly.
The mystic walked over and was introduced to the dark lion, “Nice ta meet ya.”
Xion shook the frail old mystic’s boney hand, “What are you?” he asked quiet and bluntly.
The royal mystic’s red eyes squinted at the lion’s large black eyes, “I’m a mystic. I use magic’n stuff.”
“No, I mean you’re not a human. I’ve never smelt anything like your kind before.” Xion stated with curiosity.
“Ditto.” the mystic silently replied rudely.
“And who might this be?” the king asked directing attention to the quiet Tsao.
Xion then turned and looked at the grey wolf that stood beside Raziel, “This silent fellow is my royal guard, Tsao.”
Tsao bent forward toward everyone respectfully, “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
King Dorian clapped his hands together happily, “Well, enough of the formalities. What do you say we give you the grand tour, talk some business, and then have ourselves and nice feast to celebrate?”
Xion grinned, “Sounds good ta me.”
The entire group walked through the castle showing the anthropomorphs the elegant ballroom, exquisite paintings, intricate fountains, and lovely landscaping before making their way to the negotiating room. Once at the negotiating room, Xion and the king entered, as did the royal mystic. The queen and princess stopped at the door and did a curtsy before leaving the two kings to conduct their business. The grand duke walked the women to the end of the hall while Christian and Tsao remained at the entrance of the negotiating room. Tsao stood disciplined and well postured with his paws behind him.
Christian mimicked him by his side, trying to hide his enthusiasm. Tsao couldn’t help but notice Christian’s constant glances at him through his peripherals.
“Is there something wrong?” Tsao asked in his deep monotone voice.
“Then,…..is there something you want to ask of me?”
“Well, sorta………..I’ve never meet an anthropomorph until today.”
Tsao sighed somewhat annoyed, “Well first off you don’t have ta say anthropomorh, you can just say anthromorph or anthro.”
Tsao coughed in his mouth, “Well, ….what’d you wanna know?”
Christian was a bit embarrassed to ask, but continued anyhow, “Um, well, can you like, smell really good and have super good hearing like a regular…dog?”
Tsao shut his eyes for nearly twenty seconds and took a deep breath before glaring at Christian through the corner of his eyes at the insulting comparison. Tsao took another deep breath before responding, “Yes, although my senses are better than your typical “dog”.”
Christian noticed Tsao use the word “dog” as if it were a derogatory term.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or anything.” Christian was beginning to become nervous without his father or the grand duke around. He noticed Tsao’s somewhat fluffy tail and placed it in his hands and began petting it. “Wow, your fur is REALLY soft. Is that a good thing amongst the other anthropom, um, anthromorphs? Or do you not even notice after a while?”
The ashy grey wolf raised an eyebrow as the teenager pet his tail, “In most circles, yes. May I ask you a question now?”
Christian nervously but eagerly responded, “Yeah, anything!”
“Would you like for me to stroke your buttocks?”
Christian stopped petting the tall wolf’s tail, “Oh, um, no.” he answered honestly with curiosity.
Tsao said in a dull annoyed voice, “Then would you mind not petting my tail?”
Christian’s eyes were wide as he immediately dropped the anthro’s tail. The two stood silently for a moment due to the awkward situation, Tsao’s eyebrows and neck twitched about as he was obviously trying to figure something out. He then looked at Christian’s butt and looked forward once again. The grey wolf cleared his throat before asking the young human, “May I ask you another question?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was like that!” the prince quickly apologized feeling embarrassed and clueless about the anthro traditions.
“No, it’s not like that again.” Tsao admitted.
“Oh, okay I guess.” the prince agreed with hesitation.
“Do you, um, have a tail?”
Christian had an amazed confused facial expression as he quickly looked at the wolf, “No!” he said in a varying voice.
The two stood in even more awkward dead silence, until Tsao’s ears finally began to twitch.
“Oh? Xion is calling me.”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
Tsao opened the doors to the negotiating room and approached Xion, who was sitting on the opposite side of the table from king Dorian. Tsao pulled a bag of powder from a pouch and handed it to the dark lion. The mystic, who was standing by his king’s side paid close attention since he could recognize the powder and realized it was to be used for a sort of spell casting or summoning. The grand duke returned and entered the room at the same time as the young prince.
“Whats going on?” Raziel wondered.
King Dorian looked at the grand duke, “It’s alright Raziel, Xion here is going to summon the spirit elder of the anthromorphs for its blessing on our union.”
The royal mystic watched everything that the lion king did and listened very closely to every murmur and whispered word used as Xion summoned the spirit elder. The fiery maned lion waved his paws before himself, causing sparkles in a cloud of dust. Formations began to manifest within the cloud as the light fixtures in the room began to dim somehow until ultimately summoning an ancient saber-toothed cat. Everyone in the darkened room was in aw aside from the two anthromorphs and the royal mystic.
Xion reached his arms out toward the summoned mystical being.
“Oh, ancient spirit elder, I beseech thee for guidance. To help bring peace to the anthromorphic community and move forward with mankind, may we have you blessing on this alliance?”
A great wind picked up inside the closed room from out of nowhere. it circulated around blowing papers and knocking over light weight items across the room. Everyone watched and listened intently as the ancient cat spoke. Its voice surrounded everyone and filled the room as it spoke in a grumbling crackly voice.
“Beware! Great evil approaches. Horrible destruction will come. The innocent will die. An unstoppable force will emerge. An indescribable wicked will begin its reign.”
After the ancient spirit’s warning it quickly dissipated within the cloud of smoke and dust. Once gone, the lights returned to their regular brightness and lit up the room once again.
The grand duke watched the spirit fade, “Is it always so optimistic?” he asked sarcastically.
Xion quickly stood from the table, “That’s it, we’re goin’!”
The lion and wolf immediately made their way to the exit. The king stood up and pleaded for the two to reconsider their resolve to leave. King Dorian saw his historic triumph fading as quickly as the spirit did.
“Wait! Don’t you want to do what’s best for both species here?”
Xion stopped in his tracks, “The sacred saber-tooth is capable of foresight, it can see into the future! Something very horrible’s gonna happen here, and I can’t go against its wishes.” The lion peered off to its side, “Sorry, but I’ll have to pass on that feast………………….perhaps when things blow over.”
The royal mystic wiped the remaining dust from the table into his hand as the others watched the anthromorphs leave.
Dorian dropped his head in disappointment, “Damn it. Everything was going perfectly, and….” the king sat down and placed his elbows on the table and hands in his face in shame. Christian walked over to his dad and stood next to him in silence, not knowing what to say to make him feel better.
The grand duke stepped forward, “My King, if what that dead cat said is true then we may need to put a rush on things to get to that suit before something else does.”
“That ol’ road kill could’a been refer’n ta tha evil conspire’n against us.” the mystic added.
The king sat back in this seat and gazed at the ceiling and sighed heavily. “Ready the soldiers you’ll take with you, and inform the general. I want him to accompany you and Christian.” The disappointed king asked the mystic, “Have you the names of “the seven chosen” you spoke of before?”
“Yes, yur majesty. Of course.”
“Then go with Raziel, waste no time.”
The royal mystic hurried after the grand duke who had already left the room to obey the king’s orders.
Christian placed his hand on his father’s shoulder, “You gonna be okay?”
The king made a half smile and tilted his head toward his only son and patted his hand. “I’ll be fine.” He took another deep breath and brushed off his disappointment, “Sometimes things just don’t go quite like you expect for them to. But hey, ya just gotta hope it’s for the best, right?”
His son agreed and smiled back at him.
“Why don’t cha run along now and get your things, Raziel should have everything ready to go in an hour or so, okay?”
The prince nodded his head and smiled sensing his father wanting to be alone for a moment, “Okay.” Christian started walking to the doors to leave him, but stopped for a moment and turned to face him from a distance. “Dad.” he called out, gaining his father’s attention.
Dorian looked at the young prince, “Hm?”
“I love you.” he said trying to help cheer up his father.
The king fought against his moment of depression and smiled back at his child, “I love you to son.”
Christian smiled, still proud of his father despite not clinching the deal he had hoped with the anthropomorphs, and went to his room to embark on his journey. The king massaged his forehead and then ran his hands through his hair as he faced the realization of his failure.
“So close.” he sighed.
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