Chapter 18: Joining the Army
Draden stood up and tossed the journal on the bed where it slid into a barrier of scarlet pillows. Loran was just stepping onto the wool rug next to him when Kladspir burst through the door, clearly vexed.
They just caught the last trail of his irritated mumblings, “…treat him like the royal family. How could that elf wander free?!” He stopped before them and continued, this time talking directly to them, “Come along; the king is waiting.” Then he was back out the door, leaving the two watchers no choice but to follow and leave the servant-man to clean up their breakfast.
They were led to the wall in the hall and transported to the king’s level by a portal.
The room the entered was made entirely of white marble, veins of gold and obsidian swirling throughout. Golden cloth banners bearing the king’s crest hung on the walls and tall diamond-shaped windows poured light onto the glittering floors. It stunned them, though they had no inclination that this room had appeared different to their companion elf.
The windows all stood open, but crystal frames could close them if needed. Before them was a solid diamond door, the size of any normal door, and this is where Kladspir took them. The gigantic doors opened soundlessly, and Kladspir stepped aside to let them go first.
Draden, taking a deep breath to steady himself, took a headstrong step through the doorway, Loran a step behind. They stopped a few steps into the room, Kladspir closing the doors behind them.
The room, not too much unlike the one they had just left, was quite large with more of the golden banners hanging from the ceiling and stopping about a dozen feet above their heads. Aside from a few chairs sitting against the walls and a couple small doors on opposing sides of the room, the throne was the only thing to see. And on that throne was King Doldran, wearing golden robes and holding a blindingly polished scepter, the top of which was carved into a dove in the midst of flight. Spirals of silver swirled down the shaft until meeting in a flowery bloom at the base resembling a blossomed lotus.
Kladspir cleared his throat behind them, and Draden turned to see him motioning to move forward. Rubbing his hand on the back of his head sheepishly, Draden moved uncertainly farther into the room, the king not stirring as he approached. When he had gotten considerably closer, within fifteen feet of the king, he could tell that the man’s eyes were closed. ‘Is he sleeping?’ Draden wondered to himself.
‘Don’t trust him!’ Flagprim’s voice burst in his head.
‘Flagprim...what? Where are you?’
There was no reply to this question, and they stood there silently. Kladspir continued to look at the ground while Loran and Draden stared at the king wondering what was going to happen next.
‘Ah Draden, you have grown much since I last saw you.’ An unfamiliar voice penetrated his mind, an uncomfortable presence residing within him. ‘It is good to see you once again within my halls.’
Realization hit him that the king was telepathically talking to him.
Doldran continued, ‘There are matters we need to discuss. Matters of life and death and of the future of the world we live in.’
Draden spoke aloud, confidently saying, “If we must talk about important things, we can do them openly. You summoned both Loran and I here, so I see it fitting that you include her in this conversation as well.”
The king laughed, a hearty and deceptive laugh, but Draden didn’t smile in return. “Draden, it warms my heart to see how much you have become like your father.”
“Leave Marfol out of this!” Draden interjected, remembering full well that Kladspir had told him Marfol wasn’t his real father.
“Ah,” the king said, lengthening out the sound. “I see you are still on the belief that Marfol was your father. Kladspir!” The king turned to face his Captain. “Didn’t I tell you to make sure the boy knew that Marfol wasn’t his father?”
Kladspir stuttered, clearly intimidated by the king, “Y- Yes my lord…it would seem that way. But I can assure you, I did tell the boy…I am not sure why he is acting as he is.”
Draden interrupted once again, “How about you let me speak for myself?”
The king turned his eyes to Draden, showing what appeared to be respect that was soon lost in a cloud of indifference.
“Though Marfol may not be my biological father, he raised me my entire life and is very much my father as anyone.”
Smiling at him, the king said, “Would it affect you any to say that the room you are staying in used to belong to your mother and father?”
Draden gasped, unable to contain himself.
“Yes, indeed it did. There is a journal in one of the dressers left by your mother that I think you would enjoy reading. If anything it will tell you where you came from, and that is something quite important if you are to serve me.”
“Serve you?!” Draden shouted at this proposition. Loran, who had been silent until now, let out a snort of disdain.
She crossed her arms. “If you honestly think we would serve you, you are sadly mistaken.”
The king laughed once again. “And you are mistaken if you think that was an option for you as well.” Loran’s gaze faltered momentarily. “You are nothing more to me than a peasant. Because Draden seems to think fondly of you is the only reason you are here right now.” Draden’s cheeks instantly flushed at this statement. The king continued, “If either of you would like to make it out of this castle alive, I would suggest listening to what I have to say.
“The land of Zersevbein has been a place of wild abandon for centuries. Races are allowed to run freely, doing what they please, and it is time that comes to an end. Draden, you are a gifted individual. Even at your age, it is easy to see how much you have accomplished. Kladspir has notified me of your skills in battle and how you helped defend your little town from the Fra’tsi. These would be better spent as a part of my army.
“The Fra’tsi attacking Perdfale is a chief example of what I mean by races acting as they will. I would like to stop things like this from happening, but to do this I need more skilled people by my side. Draden, I give you the choice of becoming a member of my army.”
“Uh…I….” Taken aback by this offer, Draden couldn’t get his mind working again. ‘Offered a position on the king’s army? I would never have dreamed this would happen!’ “Of course I accept!” The king smiled at this.
“Loran,” he shifted on his throne to address the girl, “Although you are nowhere near as skilled as Draden, Kladspir has also told me of your abilities as well. I offer you a position under Draden as his assistant.”
Loran snorted again. ‘’Don’t think you will be in Draden’s shadow’ Kladspir told me. What a lie that was!’ “I do not accept.”
“Do not think you have a choice!” the king scoffed. “Either you take the position or you will be executed. You have no other use for me than to serve under Draden, so make your decision now!”
‘What is this? I’m saved by Draden and then forced to follow him? Maybe I was wrong to continue with him after the mountains….’ “I accept,” she said reluctantly.
“Great!” the king exclaimed. “Everything has ended as I planned! Kladspir, take these two back to their rooms then come see me. We must talk about the current development of things.”
Kladspir bowed, “Yes, my lord.”
The three of them exited the room and the doors boomed shut behind them. All three of them let out sighs, each meaning something different to its owner.
“Wow,” Draden said as he plopped himself onto the bed.
They were now back in the room allotted to them; the same room that his parents had once inhabited.
Loran, standing in the bathroom fixing her hair in the mirror, replied, “I know what you mean…. So, we’re really part of the king’s army now?”
“Yeah…I guess we are….” Recalling what Flagprim had said to him telepathically during the meeting, he decided Loran should know as well. “When we first entered the throne room, Flagprim spoke to me.” Loran nodded, understanding. “He told me not to trust the king.”
“And what do you think of this?” Loran asked, coming out to stand before him, shoulders rising and falling with the question.
“After everything that has transpired, especially with the events on Arema Lake, it’s needless to say Kladspir is really low on my list of whom I trust. Flagprim has, so far, given us no reason to believe he is lying to us. Therefore, I believe what he said and I do not trust the king. Yes, he gave us positions in the army, but like he said, it’s because he needs people that are more powerful by his side. For what, he didn’t tell us, and this leads me to believe we are involved in something far grander than we can imagine.”
Loran sighed. “So, are you saying that we once again have gotten ourselves in over our heads?”
“I’m afraid so,” Draden answered with a small, reassuring smile. “I know it will be okay though. Flagprim is fine, at least I think so, and with him as our ally we can know that we will be taken care of.” Then a thought came to him. “I should try to contact Flagprim. I’m sure he would like to know what we have gotten ourselves into, and I would also like to know what happened to him since we parted.”
Loran nodded. “Good idea. While you do that, I think I’m going to nap…today has really drained me of energy and it’s only just begun!”
He just now noticed that she had changed back into her pajamas, and watched as she got into bed and pulled the covers over her, turning on her side and closing her eyes.
He turned to face the door, still seated on the edge of the bed, and placed his elbows on his knees. He wasn’t exactly sure how to contact somebody telepathically. Using reasoning, he decided he would think of Flagprim as if he were here, then project his thoughts as if he were voicing them aloud.
‘Flagprim? I’m not sure if this will work, but if you get this, just respond…I guess….’
There was a long silence. Draden shifted his feet as he waited, almost deciding to respond when he heard something in his mind. It was indistinguishable, but he could tell it was a voice.
‘Flagprim?’ he asked again.
Once again, the far-away drone appeared in his thoughts as if he were listening to a conversation through a solid door. Then, with a burst of electricity that charged across Draden’s scalp, Flagprim’s voice blasted through, ‘J’herdit, they’ve got a magical barrier around your room!’
‘They…they what?’ Draden asked, confused but glad that he was able to communicate with the elf.
‘It seems they have placed a barrier around your room keeping others from entering by the use of magic. Being as we use magic to speak to each other with our minds, this too was blocked. It took all of my power to breach the wall to get in.’
‘Oh….’ This disturbed him, and further proved that the king could not be trusted. ‘Have you heard anything of Loran and I’s meeting with the king?’
‘Nothing. They have allowed me to wander the halls, but not after much trial. The king’s meetings do not get spread around the kingdom, regardless of what you might believe,’ Flagprim responded.
Draden really wanted to know what had happened to Flagprim, but he decided to relay to the elf first what had gone on in their meeting. ‘The king has offered Loran and I positions on his army…and threatened us with our lives if we denied the request. We had no choice but to concede to what he wanted.’ Even telepathically, Draden could tell that Flagprim was not happy.
‘Well, this certainly changes things. By becoming part of the King’s Afarmyrmy, you are unable to leave the boundaries of Cradof unless given permission by the king himself. You would be stopped by other members of the Guard at any exit of the city. Do not worry though! I will find a way out of here, given time.’
Draden let out a long breath. Behind him, Loran was fast asleep and deep in a dream, leg twitching softly. This was not the best of news…but at least not all hope was lost. ‘So, what happened to you and your meeting with the king?’
At first, there was nothing, then Flagprim responded, ’He threw me out of his throne room. And by thrown out I literally mean it. His throne room is held miles above the city of Cradof, suspended magically in the air, and when I disagreed with what he said, he dropped me through the floor and toward the city far below.
’I was barely able to save myself by using magic to create a gust of wind strong enough to slow my descent and allow me to land safely on the ground. Upon touching the ground, I was teleported back into the throne room, I assume as to dispose of my body so no trace was left behind. When the king saw me standing there, perfectly intact, he granted me permission to walk through his halls. I do not know his reasoning for this decision, but for now, I will use it to my benefit.
‘I will find us a way out of this castle, Draden, and then we will continue our journey. It is best that you do as the king says for now, and play the part he wants you to be.’
This was a lot to take in, and Draden just sat there staring at the floor as his mind worked through what had been said. Finally, after a deep breath, he thought, ‘Okay.’
‘Until we meet again,’ was Flagprim’s departing thought.