“We’re here. This is the Momi Hale Palace.”
The castle of the royal family of Poseidos was a grand building, nothing like Serena had ever seen before. It was shaped like a square, with four towers at its vertices and a central spire at the center. It was also very, very big. The palace was made of stark white marble, with the roofs being a faintly greyish ocean blue and the gates made of fine tropical wood. The proud flag of Poseidos flew from each of the steeples, all bearing the crest of the royal family against a navy backdrop. The crest was shaped like a shark, colored bronze, with the main focus being the creature’s gaping jaws and rows of sharp teeth.
The guards let Mira into the castle automatically, nodding at her with a smile on their faces. They greeted Kakane and Serena as her guests, also allowing them to enter. The two stuck close to Mira, lest they got lost in this giant building. Serena had never been in a castle before, so how anyone managed to create such a huge structure absolutely amazed her. The Momi Hale Palace had to be more than three times the size of Zetreum Village. She wondered how on earth anyone navigated the long corridors without getting disoriented.
Mira led them down a hall that ended in a large double-door made of the finest wood. It was inlaid with bits of precious coral and pearls. The crest of the royal family had been carved and indented into the door and outlined with bronze. Two guards holding lances were stationed in front of the door, but they too nodded and smiled when they saw Mira.
“Welcome back, Lady Vetrar,” one of them greeted. “How was your time at the Bannaanka Weyn?”
“It was wonderful, thank you for asking, Sir Elliot,” Mira responded. “I’ve brought some guests with me, who’d I’d like His Majesty to meet. If possible, please send a message to have rooms prepared for them.”
“Of course, Lady Vetrar.”
Serena did a double-take. She was going to meet the king of Poseidos? The king!? And she was going to be staying in this ginormous castle!? Serena didn’t know what she was expecting when it came to rooming and boarding at the island nation, but it certainly wasn’t this.
She began noticing everything that was wrong with her appearance, such as a small bloodstain on her dress, the unevenness of her bangs from that one time Kakane singed her hair, and why couldn’t she have had a bath before this!? Serena was starting to wish she had a more formal dress and something to hold back her hair so that it looked more presentable. Wait, maybe the king didn’t even want to meet a strange commoner girl from a forest! It was totally within reason. Oh, why oh why did Mira even think this was a good idea!?
Next to Serena, Kakane was also having a mental breakdown of his own. He began rubbing his scar, knowing that as a fellow king, he should look prim and proper. But he couldn’t afford to let the king of Poseidos see his scales, or even worse, his horns. Would his hood be considered rude? Would he have to show his face? Oh, heck, even his clothing was highly appropriate for an important meeting such as this! Serena had done her best, but bloodstains were hard to get rid of, and the shirt Kakane was wearing had a sleeve that had been previously drenched in blood. This was highly inappropriate, and Kakane wanted to make a good impression. Would his words and cunning be enough to get through this? He sure hoped so.
Mira turned to her companions, and, noticing their internal dilemmas, clapped them both on the shoulder and said, “You guys will be fine. His Majesty is very welcoming and friendly. Trust me, I’ve known him for years. You’re my guests, everything will be alright.” Serena and Kakane nodded, but they didn’t look convinced
Mira nodded to the guards, who took the silver handles of the door and flung it wide open.
The throne room was a long hall decorated in cyan drapes. The carpet leading up to the throne was a deep-sea green and was embroidered in silver and intricately decorated. Huge windows lined the walls, bearing curtains the color of seafoam tied back with lace. Above the throne was a huge mural of a man standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. He stood proudly, with a sword in one hand raised to a stormy sky while the other gripped a deep blue flag bearing the bronze crest of the royal family. Atop his head was a crown of gold that was decorated with pearls and sapphires, making Serena realize he was probably the first king of Poseidos. Furthermore, by looking at the water flying around him and the majestic aura surrounding his figure, it was plausible to say that he was also a god, probably the New World patron of Poseidos. Serena looked down from the mural and blinked.
Sitting atop the throne was a young man, much younger than Serena expected him to be. He bore a resemblance to the king depicted on the mural and seemed to be around Mira’s age, maybe several years older. Yet he still carried the regal aura of a king, with the crown his ancestor wore proudly placed atop his head. He wore a golden breastplate and a pendant bearing his family crest. A dark blue cape sat around his shoulders and a silver sword was sheathed at his waist. He was smiling serenely, with his arms casually gripping the arms of his throne.
Mira walked forward, never breaking stride, while Kakane and Serena remained frozen by the door. Kakane was constantly adjusting his hood while Serena’s knees were knocking together. Once Mira was in front of the steps leading up to the throne, she fell to her knees and dipped her head, placing her right hand over her heart.
“My king, I have returned,” Mira said, keeping her head lowered. The king nodded.
“Welcome back, Mira. You have been missed.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” Mira raised her head and smiled. “It is a pleasure to be back home.” She stood up and turned to Serena and Kakane, beckoning them to come over. After an awkward glance at each other, they slowly shuffled up the aisle.
“I see you’ve brought guests, Mira.” The king cleared his throat. “Let me introduce myself. I am Kai Tempest, king of Poseidos and descendant of the New World god of loyalty and unity, Nash. I welcome you to my kingdom, as guests of my dear friend and advisor, Mira Vetrar.”
“Y-Your hospitality is greatly appreciated, Your Majesty!” Serena said quickly, bowing. “M-My name is Serena Bly. I hail from Zetreum Forest. It’s an honor to be here.”
“Kakane Beureum, a wanderer.” Kakane bit his tongue and looked away from King Kai, placing a few fingers on his scar. He seemed uncomfortable.
“Welcome.” The king nodded, his smile never fading. He clapped his hands and a servant appeared from a door located to the left of the throne. “Please, take our guests to some prepared rooms. I would like to speak with Mira privately.”
“Actually, if you could take our guests to the royal library, that would be greatly appreciated,” Mira said. “Show them the records we’ve assembled about Atlantean puppets. I’ll join them after my audience with His Majesty.”
“Of course, Lady Vetrar.” The servant bowed and awaited Serena and Kakane.
“Oh, Your Highness.”
Mira bowed again and so did the servant. Serena and Kakane stared curiously, somewhat dumbfounded by this turn of events. Kai stood up from his throne and strode over to meet the girl who had walked in. She bore a striking resemblance to him. They both had the same deep blue eyes with practically indistinguishable kind smiles. In contrast to Kai’s deep blue hair, though, the girl’s locks were a stark white reminiscent of sea foam. She was dressed as regally and finely as he was, wearing a gown of deep violets and purples. A white cap was perched atop her head that had a veil flowing out from behind her like a cape.
“Oh, and who are these people?” the girl asked, looking at Kakane and Serena.
“This is my younger sister, Megrez,” Kai explained.
“These are Serena Bly and Kakane Beureum. They’re friends of mine,” Mira explained to the princess. “I met them on my travels to the Bannaanka Weyn.”
“I see. I do hope you enjoy your stay at Poseidos, then, dear friends of Mira.” Megrez smiled and curtsied.
“The pleasure is ours,” Serena said awkwardly.
Kai turned to his sister and asked, “And what exactly are you doing here, Megrez?”
“Oh, I was about to ask if you’d like to join me for some tea in the garden. It’s been such a while since we’ve spent time together, Brother. But since Mira is back and she’s brought guests, why don’t we all have a refreshment together?”
“The thought is much appreciated,” Serena said, “but Kakane and I have some business in the royal library we’d like to take care of.” Kakane nodded.
“Maybe at a later time,” he said.
“No, I very much understand,” Megrez said, shaking her head. “What about you, Brother, Mira?”
“I’d like to catch up with Mira first, before I take part in any leisurely activities. Sorry, Megrez,” Kai said. “I want to know what she learned in the Bannaanka Weyn for the Atlantean Restoration Project.”
“Oh… I see. Maybe when the project is complete then.” Megrez curtsied. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, Brother. I will take my leave now.”
“We should go too,” Kakane said to Serena.
“Yes. I’m excited to see what this royal library looks like.”
Kakane and Serena bid farewell to Mira and Kai before following the attendant through the long halls of the Momi Hale Palace. Most of the retainers paid no heed to them, but several of them inclined their heads and smiled. There were many rooms all leading to somewhere, and the corridors were decorated with potted plants of exotic origin and deep blue-green drapery. Serena felt completely out of place, not to mention clumsy and plain. She was worried she’d knock something over and get thrown out. Kai did seem nice, though, but she couldn’t just rely on Mira to bail her out of everything!
Strangely enough, Kakane was rather calm, albeit slightly antsy. His eyes were darting all over the place and his right hand was constantly rubbing his scar. Serena thought he would enjoy being in a castle since he did proclaim to be a king all the time. He should, theoretically, feel right at home here, right? Or perhaps the whole “king” idea was a facade to feed his own ego, and he was lying about being royalty. Serena would believe either of those claims, considering how strange and mysterious Kakane was.
The servant stopped outside a wooden door inlaid with intricately carved plants and flowers. She took the dark iron handle and opened the door, bowing before letting Serena and Kakane step inside. What the white-haired girl saw completely took her breath away.
She had never seen so many books in her life! They were packed together on sturdy wooden shelves decorated with printings of sea birds, turtles, and other oceanic animals. Their spines were all different colors, with titles labeled in multicolored ink. On the walls, scrolls were stored in huge shelves shaped like animals. One looked like a whale, another an octopus holding papers in its tentacles.
Serena felt faint just looking at the sight. It was like someone had smacked her upside the head. She swooned and placed her hands over her heart, smiling like an idiot. Beside her, Kakane rolled his eyes and nudged her. The servant had disappeared into the library, returning with several scrolls and tomes.
“As requested, the current knowledge we have on Atlantean puppets.” The servant placed the books on a table and took out a bell made from a shell, also setting it down. “If you need anything, please ring this.” Then she bowed and left.
Serena wasted no time in grabbing a book, opening it in a hurry, and drinking in all the words. Unconsciously, she let out a sigh of pure bliss, making Kakane roll his eyes again. He should have expected something like this; as a bookworm, Serena was totally in her element here. Kakane didn’t mind reading, but he preferred exploring the great outdoors to being cooped up in a room with a dusty old book.
He decided to leave Serena alone and look at other parts of the library. There wasn’t much he was expecting, but this place had quite a few fauna encyclopedias. Kakane took a scroll and observed the intricate drawing of the human body sketched onto the papyrus. It was so accurate and well done; any doctor would be begging on their hands and knees to even catch a glimpse of it. At least, for an ordinary human, maybe that was the case…
Wondering what else he could find, Kakane moved deeper into the library. The sun was still high, and Mira’s meeting had probably just begun. He had plenty of time to do whatever. Whatever…