Happily Ever After
The trip back to Iniagusville was not a pleasant. The rain cleared up, and we all somehow had made it through the fight with the dragon without serious injury, but there was a strange uncertainty in the air that brought with it an uncomfortable silence.
I couldn’t let the others take the blame for my decision, yet I couldn’t help but wonder what Iniagus would do when I reported my failure. Would I be thrown in jail? Stripped from my post? I didn’t want to leave the Saybaro, but even if I ran away, my friends could be made to suffer in my place. I wouldn’t let that happen.
The others were quiet for their own reasons. Mick seemed to be processing everything that had happened. Casey was scribbling in her book again, though she did flash me worried glances every now and then. One had left the doll, saying he wanted to spend some time with his wife now that the dragon business seemed to be over. Arc was busy polishing the Kindred Sword; Mick had pried it out for him, but it was still covered in smudges.
Meryli didn’t talk much either, other than to update us on the journey. She was taking the trip slow, as we’d pushed the Ascendant rather hard thus far. Secretly, I felt she was still a little bothered about having helped Cid keep tabs on our group. She needn’t have worried; if anything, the length she’d gone to help her friends was admirable.
It was Terry’s behavior that bothered me the most. He barely seemed to so much as move during the entire trip, and said absolutely nothing. I was worried that he now regarded me as a traitor.
All in all, I was glad when we finally reached Iniagusville. The bustling streets helped take my mind off my troubles, at least until the guards showed up, accompanied by Unne Trustworthy.
“Sir Jimmy Olsen Sakamota!” Councilor Trustworthy said, an unpleasant smile on his face, “You are to come with us immediately.”
To my surprise, Terry moved to stand in front of me. “What is this about?”
“His Majesty only wishes to speak with Jimmy.” Trustworthy said, “The rest of you are not required.”
Terry stood defiantly in front of me. “Jimmy is my superior officer. Where he goes, I go.”
Casey chimed in, “Me too!”
“I will be present.” added Mick.
Arc threw his arm around my shoulder. “We possible-heroes have to stick together, right?”
“In for a penny, in for a pound.” Said Meryli, shrugging.
The guards seemed daunted by this. Iniagus just seemed annoyed.
“Fine!” he snapped. “If it’ll get us
Everyone in the street seemed to be watching as we were escorted up to the palace waystation. It was a little unnerving, though watching the two guards sing a duet-rendition of ‘The Malboro Café’ brightened the mood slightly.
As we approached the palace, I looked for Devon, but he wasn’t there. It would have done me a little good to see a friendly face smiling at me.
At long last, we entered the throne room. The windows were set to stormy weather as Iniagus sat on his throne, a brooding look on his face. “Guards,” He said in a tired voice, “I asked for Jimmy. Who are all these people?”
“Terry Ulyndia, White-rank royal guard!”
“Oh, I’m Casey Jones, and I’m screenwriter from Wukice.”
“Arc Skylad, knight, probable hero, and expert on Kindred weaponry!”
“My designation is Mick Sakamota, Medical Technician.”
“Meryli Grange. I’m … er, I was the Salutier Floater mechanic.
“I’m Vicks Fargo, Royal …” said one of our escorts.
Iniagus waved impatiently at the identical guards. “I know who you are! You’re dismissed! Now get lost!”
The two guards jumped, hastily saluted the king, and hurried out of the throne room as fast as they could manage.
“You too, Councilor Trustworthy.” The King said. “I’d like to handle this on my own.”
“Of course, your Excellence.” Trustworthy gave the king a low bow before walking swiftly from the room, flashing me a nasty smile as he passed me.
Once Councilor Trustworthy was gone, Iniagus stared at us … at me for a long time. Finally, he said, “I know what happened.”
The sound of dry bones clicking made my breath stick in my throat. Dee walked from behind one of the statues, her head once again attached to the rest of her skeleton. Even while wearing normal clothes, the site of an ambulatory skeleton sans skin and organs was still somewhat disconcerting.
“Thought you saw the last of me, eh?” Dee said with a cackle. “The looks on your faces … priceless!
“You told them what happened?” I asked, even though the answer seemed obvious.
“Nope. I just gave them a ride.”
Two more people walked out from behind the statues. My jaw dropped at the sight of Sera and Cid, looking quite solemn.
“We told my father. We told him everything.” Sera said, no doubt noticing my look of shock.
“You … you did?” I said, my spirits plummeting.
“Yes, they did.” King Iniagus said. “Have you anything more to add on your behalf?”
With a final glance at Sera, I sighed and said, “I did what I felt was right, your Majesty.”
“What was right?” The king shouted, rising to his feet. I braced myself for what was to come, and was completely taken aback when the king rushed toward me and gave me a bear of a hug.
“My dear boy,” He said, hands on my shoulders. “You have done an incredible service for my family! I knew you had the spark of greatness in you, my boy, but even I doubted you could actually take down the dragon!”
“The dragon.” I repeated, eyes glancing again in Cid’s direction. He shrugged and gave me a sheepish smile.
“Yes, the dragon! I still can’t believe the foul creature had the nerve to make its nest in my old theme park! It’s a good thing that Cid got word to you in time for you to help him get my dear daughter to safety!”
“But Cid was-” Arc said, only for Casey and Meryli to slap their hands over his mouth.
“-Quite the hero.” Said Casey with a wide smile. “Yeah, brave the way he, uh …”
“The way he got the princess outta danger’s way while we distracted the dragon.” Meryli said, her eyes on Sera, who gave her a subtle nod.
I quickly recomposed myself and said, “Of course. I’m glad we were able to do our part.”
“As am I, my loyal knight, as am I.” Iniagus’s smile fell. “I’m just sorry that since technically Cid did the rescuing, he’s the only one entitled to having her hand in marriage.”
“What?!” Arc said, only for Casey and Meryli to quickly cover his mouth again.
I had a hard time hiding a grin as I said, “It is as you say, your Majesty. However, I’m nevertheless glad I was able to do my part in bringing the Princess home.”
“Indeed.” Iniagus said, smiling at his daughter and her draconis fiancé. “My daughter seems happy enough with the lad, and I suppose that’s what’s important.”
Sera blushed as Cid gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, father.
Nodding at them, King Iniagus said, “I must admit I’ve warmed to the fellow myself. I mean, he’s not a possible hero or a knight, but Dee tells me he’s been doing great work restoring my amusement park. That’s brilliant! I’ll simply have to have a visit once they’ve repaired the damage from the dragon.”
I couldn’t help but crack a grin as I said, “I’d recommend checking out Captain Graggle and his pirates at Crystal Cove. They’ve got an excellent song and dance show.”
“Fantastic! I shall make a point to see it! For now, however, know that you and your team have done an excellent job. As such, I feel obligated, nay, bound to reward the lot of you. Now I promised you Sera’s hand, but seeing as both of her hands are gone, I could offer the hand of one of my other daughters. You and the Princess Zelda seem to have developed a bit of a friendship; she speaks incessantly of you since Sera’s return. She’s still a bit young at the moment, but perhaps in a decade or so-”
“With all due respect to you and Princess Zelda, your Majesty,” I said, “May I make a request as to my reward?”
King Iniagus seemed pleased by this. “Certainly, Jimmy my boy! Just say what you want, and I will consider giving it to you!”
That wasn’t exactly the absolute I was hoping for, but it would have to do. “I would like to purchase the area known as the Saybaro, as I’ve put a lot of work into restoring the place and have come to think of it as my home. Besides, if I am to one day take a bride, I must have a place where we can live … a place of my own.”
“A kingdom for your queen, eh? Yes, that does make sense, but I’m afraid I cannot grant your wish. No, I can’t sell it to you. Nope. No way.” He shook his head emphatically.
My heart sank. Before I could say anything, however, he snapped his fingers and shouted, “Devon!”
Devon ran in moments later. He flashed a smile at Terry and me before approaching the king. “You called, your Majesty?”
Iniagus slapped Devon on the back, saying, “I thought I told you to call me Iggy, you old trout!”
“My apologies. You called, Iggy?”
“I most certainly did. Please see that the Saybaro area is registered under Jimmy Sakamota, and make sure he has the deed before the day is out, free of charge.” Looking back at me, he said, “It is done. The Saybaro area is now yours.”
“All right!” Arc said, giving me a high five.
Mick asked, “And everything beneath it?”
“All of it is yours! Mineral rights and everything! Not even taxed for my loyal knight and possible hero. Now for your friends, for I believe they should be rewarded as well.”
Terry snapped to attention. “Sir! I request to be posted at the Saybaro.”
“But my lad,” Iniagus said, clearly taken aback by this request. “Why would you want to guard such a remote part of the kingdom? Surely you’d prefer a more lively post?”
Terry didn’t know what to say to this; fortunately, I did. “Sir,” I said, “With the evil-”
“Evil, Jimmy. Enunciate the ‘E’.”
“Er, right. With the Evil engulfing the land, the Saybaro area may become a target. I would welcome the additional help in protecting the area for when the Evil becomes manifest.”
“An excellent idea, Jimmy! Excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT! Sir Terry, I promote you to the rank of specialist, and assign you to assist in guarding Saybaro from the Evil. You may leave as soon as you fill out the appropriate paperwork.”
“Thank you, your Majesty!” He said, bowing.
“And as for you, Miss Casey, the only thing I have for you … is some terrific news! You see, since the queen wasn’t as gung-ho in my efforts to produce a new princess, I’ve had plenty of time to read some of your screenplays.”
“You … you did?” Casey said, clearly surprised to hear the King of Wenapaj read her work. “What did you think?”
“What did I think? They were fantastic! Spectacular! Magnificent! That’s why I called in a few of my director friends and pitched a few of your screenplays. Don’t be surprised if you start getting calls soon.”
“T-thank you, your Majesty!” Casey said, her cheeks dark. “Nothing may come of it, but-”
She froze, the sound of buzzing audible throughout the chamber. She pulled out her phone and stared at the screen for a long moment. “It’s Gilborn Ratchet.”
“Indeed? Well, you’d better answer him!”
With a final grateful glance at Iniagus, Casey hurried through the throne room doors, already talking into her phone. I whispered a quick prayer to the Creator, hoping that her luck was indeed about to turn.
Iniagus rubbed his hands together and asked, “So, who’s next? Miss Meryli, perhaps?”
“I dunno.” Meryli said, rubbing the back of her head. “I don’t know if I really qualify for a reward. Still, if you’re offerin’, I could use a new place. My place got kinda trashed.”
“I thought you were going to live in the Saybaro.” I said.
She stared at me, clearly surprised. “You … you’re still offering?”
When I nodded in reply, she gave me a dazzling smile and said, “Well then, that’ll be plenty enough reward for me!”
“Excellent!” Iniagus said, clapping his hands and turning to Mick. “And now for you, er …” He looked at Mick a moment and sighed. “You know, I’ve looked up Chromeitis in a dozen medical journals and found nothing.”
Glancing at me, Mick said, “To be perfectly honest, your Majesty, I am a Glyche core unit.”
“Ah, I see.” Iniagus patted Mick on the shoulder and asked in a kindly tone, “And how is that working out for you?”
“As well as can be expected, your Majesty.” Mick said, a bemused expression on his face.
“Well, then, what would you like for your part in bringing down the dragon?”
Mick considered this for a few moments before giving the king a shrug. “I don’t know. I’m quite happy with everything I’ve got at the moment, although …”
Looking at me, Mick asked, “Would you mind if I got a puppy?”
The oddness of the request made me laugh out loud. “Sure thing, Mick.”
The King laughed as well. “In that case, I’ll have a coupon made out to you for one puppy from the pet shop or animal shelter of your choice. Just remember, having a pet is a big responsibility! And as for the young Sir Luminous-”
“Ugh!” Arc said, throwing up his hands as if to fend off his name, “Don’t call me that! My name is Arc!”
“Very well. From this day forward, you will be known as Arc Arc Skylad.” Iniagus looked rather pleased with himself. “I say, that wasn’t difficult at all.”
Arc’s eyes went wide. “Wait, that’s not what I-”
Iniagus clapped his hands together and said, “Well then! Now that the prizes are all handed out, it’s time for a feast to celebrate the engagement of my daughter and her brave and clever suitor, Cid!”
He clapped his hands. The storm windows rolled up, and sun windows rolled down in their places. About a hundred servants came running into the room, most of which were carrying a large table. They set the table down between us and Iniagus, scooped us up into chairs, put us around the table, and set the largest feast I had ever seen.
The remaining princes and princesses joined us for the feast, as did the queen. Princess Zelda sat next to me after giving me a big hug, and spent most of the feast asking me to tell her about the fight with the dragon over and over again. Sera and Cid made a point to say hello; while we couldn’t talk about what truly happened, they both gave me looks of gratitude.
We stuffed ourselves to the point of bursting. Even Mick seemed to be having trouble walking as we left the royal chamber (where Iniagus had fallen asleep with the right half of his face in a chocolate mousse).
As we were led to our rooms, we talked about what we were going to do.
“It might take me a few weeks to get ready to move,” Terry told me, “There’s a lot of bureaucracy to cut through, and I’ve got a few things of my own to take care of.”
“It’s okay.” I said, “Take your time. We’ve got to prepare two new rooms before you arrive.”
“It should not be a problem.” Mick said, “With the assistance of myself and Meryli, not to mention the resources of the Saybaro facility.”
Casey said, “I’d like to stop by as well, if that’s okay.”
“Okay,” I amended, “Three new rooms.”
“Oh, well three rooms … no way we can do all that.” Mick grinned at us.
We all laughed as we continued down the hallway. One by one, each member of our group wished the rest of us goodnight before entering their assigned room. Soon, it was just me and Devon.
“Your son did a great job.” I said. “You’ve every right to be proud of him.”
“I am.” He said as we stopped outside the door to my quarters for the night. After a momentary pause, he said, “I’m proud of both of you.”
I stared at him in surprise as he swiftly walked away. I’d always thought of him as a father figure, but I’d never realized he felt the same way. Smiling, I stepped into my room and immediately froze when I found myself face to face with Terra.