Change of Plans
Bernard sat on his knees for hours, waiting desperately for the first sign of light to break over the horizon. He tried not to imagine the carnage that was bound to ensue with Giant’s arrival, or of what was to become of Eira once Giant got what he wanted. He didn’t dare picture her face. How disappointed she must have been in him. Once that feeling latched on in his chest, he crumpled down, cursing himself out loud. How could it be that someone without flesh, without blood, without a heart, could still feel such painful emotions? He couldn’t even drink these ones away anymore, forcing him to remain in reality.
Sir Bernard Clayville sat there, laying in his pool of pity for what seemed like an eternity, and still the sun did not rise. He did not move one bit, not even when he heard something approach him. A familiar presence, he thought, that he did not acknowledge until it tapped him on the top of his helmet. Then, out of habit, he leapt up to one knee, one hand poised with its grip tight on his sword, when he realized who it was. Swipe looked back at him with a wide-eyed adolescence the knight couldn’t help but find admirable, when the raptor cocked his head to one side.
“Allo, Bernard! Fancy seein’ you here.”
“You? What are you doing here?” The knight asked as his position eased.
“Well I brought some friends with me. Look!” The deinonychus backed away, as if presenting the tyrannosaurus and others as they came into Bernard’s view. They each appeared seemingly from nowhere beyond the smoldering embers, though it was Rex who advanced closest to the knight.
“What happened here?” He asked as his eyes widened and scanned the scene.
“Giant. He burned this place to the ground, then left me. He continued on to the east with Eira in his grip,” Bernard replied as he stood tall. “Leaving me here to enjoy nothingness.”
“What is he doing toward the east?”
“He plans on sacking the kingdom I once served.” Rex turned his focus to Thorn, who confirmed his suspicions with a single bow of his head, when they looked back to the knight.
“Then will you come with us?”
“What do you lot plan to do?”
“We want to stop Giant in his tracks. There aren't many of us to be sure, but we’re determined.” Rex said with a decisive and confident dip of his head. Bernard felt the brim of his sword, as if holding an old friend, when he nodded back.
“I have nothing else, you know. Though I might not see victory with this ragtag group, I’d rather side with you than with that beast.”
“That’s all we ask," Rust said in his gravelly tone. They watched as the knight dropped to a knee and lowered his head before Rex.
“A knight errant now, I pledge myself to you and your cause. I have little else to live for.” He looked up to a proud and confident Rex, who bowed his head in respect.
“Thank you Sir Bernard. Here. We’ll see to it that Giant gets what’s coming to him.” Bernard looked around, meeting eyes with the small group of dinosaurs that he would accompany. Dwarfed in numbers times over by Giant’s men, he had the utmost respect for what these creatures hoped to accomplish. He stood tall before the tyrannosaurus and was meet with a toothy grin. The coming adventure made him feel like a young man again.
“Let us go, my friends.”
James was rushed by his Kaiser guards into his father’s chambers, where it reeked of sickness. It was long before sunrise, and the prince was still in his sleeping attire. Told of an urgent request by his father, he was quick to run to his side. The guards remained at the door while the blonde-haired man sat on the edge of the large bed, leaning heavily inward just so he could come within earshot of the wheezing man who laid there.
Servants had propped the elderly man up on a myriad of decorated pillows, some more colorful than others. Sitting upward, King Carl didn’t look quite like a corpse as he had in the past few days, but he was still tired and weak. He could barely open his eyes to look at his son. A bony, wrinkled hand reached for him, which James eagerly took in his. The age disparage was noteworthy. Coupled with his illness, Carl looked a good century older than his son.
“Yes, Father? What is it?”
“You...will be wed today...yes?” James merely nodded, to which Carl gave only the slightest hint of a smile. “I’m proud of you Jameson...she’s beautiful…”
“Yes she is, Father. She will be the most beautiful queen the kingdom will ever see.”
“Since your mother.” Carl gave a soft chuckle, but that swiftly turned into a vicious cough. A servant was quick to his side with a goblet of water, but he waved them away. When he finally collected himself, James could feel his hand grip his as tightly as he could, though it was desperately weak. “I fear I won’t see it Jamie.”
“Father…?” Tears began to well in James’s eyes as he felt his father’s hold weaken.
“Yes...I’ve suffered long enough, my boy...it’s time for you to reign for good…” Even though he had thought of smothering him in his sleep more than once, James regretted every thought of it as he watched his father take one deep breath, then slowly exhaled. A sharp breath came again, then, closing his eyes one last time, he sighed and very slowly exhaled. His hand had fallen from James’s, and for a moment, the prince looked to his passed father, unsure of how he was to feel. Moments passed, the servant asked if he was okay, when James wiped his eyes free of any tears, collected himself, and stood tall. He walked to his Kaiser guards. His figure remained stoic but his face was flushed.
“The king is dead. After today, when I wed the princess Susanna, I will succeed him.”
“I will spread the word, Your Eminence. My deepest condolences.” One knight said as he bowed and raced out of the chamber. James looked back one last time to his father’s face, just as a servant carefully laid a sheet over his withered form, and turned back to his nearest guard.
“Take me to my chambers. I wish to rest a few more hours before my wedding ceremony, if I can.” The prince, however, never made it quite back to his chamber before a counselor arrived to intercept him.
“Your Highness, there comes word of an attack from the west. One of the villages has been burned to the ground.”
“Desert riders? Come to ruin this wedding? Or was it the Myrbergs to the north? The jealous lot.”
“Neither, Sire. We've had a few survivors come this way, reporting of dragons!”
“Dragons? Impossible,” James said with a distinct scoff. Then his mind began to float back to what Tanner had reported back to him with. Two-legged beasts capable of speech and protective of the Green Folk. Not likely, he thought when he chuckled again. To think that a bunch of beasts could sack and burn a city to the ground was madness.
“Well it’s what they’ve come telling, Your Grace. A massive creature with wings capable of coughing up fire. We’ve given the few a chamber to rest in together if you wish to speak with them.”
“That won’t be necessary. The wedding will go on as planned. Double our fortifications on the wall. Archers shall now work overtime. I don’t want one thing getting through.”
“Yes Your Grace.” The counselor bowed before rushing off from whence he came. The Kaiser guard turned to James, ready to escort him back to his chambers, when the prince crossed his arms and stood in thought.
“Your Highness?” The knight asked.
“Thank you, but I really don’t think I’ll be able to get back to sleep now.”