CHAPTER 9 - Tropes (4)
‘What will we actually do if you were right?’
ALICE finally spoke after hours of silent observation. Alex sighed, following behind the princess and Treya through the halls. Everyone they passed stopped and bowed toward Celia, and Alex realized just how important this person was.
‘If it isn’t troublesome, we do what they need in exchange for transport back home.’
‘And if it is troublesome? Or if they cannot return us?’
‘Cross that bridge when we come to it. We don’t even know if we’re actually the hero they are looking for.’
‘You don’t actually believe that, do you?’
Alex didn’t reply. He continued to walk in silence as he followed the women. Once again, he was amazed by the complexity of the layout within the castle. He had given up on trying to memorize everything. If the situation went south, he’d adapt on the fly. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d have to do so, after all.
He just wasn’t comfortable not following Rule #1.
“Here we are. I’ll need you to leave your weapon with the guards. They are not permitted in the Audience Chamber.”
Alex didn’t hesitate as he replied. “Whatever.”
He unclipped ALICE and passed her over to the guard in front of the majestic doors they now preceded.
‘You know I hate when others touch me.’
‘I know. I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you.’
‘You fucking better. You still owe me half a can.’
‘Yup. Be ready. I’ll call if I need you.’
‘Uh-huh. Don’t get too crazy, Fenrir.’
Alex didn’t reply but instead just smiled as he turned to Celia and Treya. They looked at him for a moment, allowing him to collect himself. Once Celia felt he was ready, she pushed open the large door with a grunt of effort, and they strode into the Audience Chamber.
If Alex was in awe of the entry corridors, he was stunned and amazed by this room.
Massive vaulted ceilings sported ornate crystalline chandeliers lit with flames that were free of candles. Benches rose like bleachers on either side, and comfortable looking chairs replaced them nearer the hall’s front. The tapestries hanging from the rafters looked like paintings, so sufficient was the detail. Red and gold carpet covered the floor, leaving none of the bland stone visible. It was softer than the rest of the castle and muffled footsteps’ sounds to an astounding degree.
At the front of the room, a series of steps rose in a semicircle to a platform. Two massive, intricate, breathtaking thrones sat on the forum. One seat was empty, and an older man occupied the other. Behind him, off to the side, stood a voluptuous woman with features similar to Celia.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who these two were, and Alex adopted the saluting pose he had learned earlier. The man nodded, and Celia approached. Alex followed, the large room seeming to take hours to cross under the heavy gaze from the throne.
Alex wasn’t one to be intimidated easily, but even he could understand when he needed to be wary of his actions. He had no doubt that one wrong move could cause this man to turn the entire kingdom into his enemy.
He ran through all the times a protagonist first met a king in his books, trying to pick the best approach to not get murdered.
He stopped a few steps away from the bottom of the stairs and knelt, lowering his gaze like he was meeting God. He didn’t speak until spoken to. But thoughts were coursing through his mind, preparing for every potential situation.
The man’s voice boomed throughout the hall, the acoustics carrying it easily to every corner.
“You may rise.”
Alex stood. He realized Treya hadn’t approached with them, opting to stay at the back of the hall while holding a salute. Only Celia was with him, one step closer to the dais than he.
A few seconds of nerve-wracking silence passed while the two seemed to share an unspoken conversation with their eyes. Alex glanced between them, wondering just what was going to happen.
Celia spoke first.
“I believe this man to be the one we are looking for. I have confirmed his story and bring him to you to bear witness to his Plate.”
At this, the king’s face split into a pearly white smile, followed by the woman behind him.
“Wonderful. Fetch the Scribe.”