The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 16

Galen rode atop his large black horse in the cold morning air barely noticing where he was going. He hadn’t slept much the night before, but he didn’t feel tired. Prince Leal had brought him a flask full of some kind of drink after dinner and asked him to figure out what it was. His curiosity sparked, Galen immediately went back to the room he was sharing with Roderick to see what he could do.

He dumped the liquid into the washing bowl he found, adding some water in it to make it easier to manipulate. Holding his hands over the water and drink, he closed his eyes and tried to separate the water from the other ingredients of the dark liquid. He moved his fingers around, feeling the water with its natural minerals move to the side as the ingredients of the drink came forward. Galen had opened his eyes looking very confused. It was unlike any drink he had ever heard of or seen. The ingredients just didn’t make sense.

He closed his eyes again and sifted through the herbs, essences, and even bits of flowers he found in the strange mixture. There was rosemary, strange but not unusual for a drink. He found rose water, and lemon. There was a touch of the dew of the yellow northern grass, cinnamon, and cloves. There was violet which surprised Galen. It was all mixed together with some honey, and then something else Galen could not identify. The drink made no sense. He pulled a bit through his body to try to get a taste. When an echo of the drink hit his tongue, Galen’s mouth started watering. It tasted like some beautiful memory he had forgotten. Some wonderful nectar that brought back memories of love, ease, and the comfort of home. He almost drew more into him to get another taste, but stopped himself as he didn’t know what the drink was, and he was scared to take in too much.

Galen was so engrossed in thinking over the drink that when Prince Leal rode up to him mid-morning, the prince had to say his name three times to get Galen to respond.

“Are you feeling well, Galen?” asked the prince glancing over at Galen as they rode side by side.

“Yes, your highness, I was merely lost in my own thoughts,” answered Galen.

“Then will you ride to the front with me? Your High Captain has requested your presence, and while I am not normally a messenger, she was so commanding when she asked me, I found I could not say no.”

Galen looked at the prince, not sure if he should laugh or if the prince was being sincere. Perhaps it was a bit of both. The prince did laugh and took off towards the front. Galen gave his own horse a slight kick and advanced at a trot, following the prince. He rode until he was far ahead of the royal carriage that was at the front of the line, meeting both the prince and the High Captain who were riding side by side, as the prince laughed while the High Captain only shook her head.

“Novice Galen,” said the High Captain glancing behind her. “Come ride up here next to me.”

Galen advanced his horse forward to be at her side. He turned his head and looked at her as she continued to stare to the front.

“So, were you able to do anything with the drink the prince brought to you?”

“Yes, High Captain,” replied Galen. “It was all very strange.”

“What do you mean?” asked the High Captain, now turning to look at Galen.

“When I separated the water and the ingredients of the drink, it did not make any sense. It was not any spirit, or medicinal drink that I have ever seen or read about.”

“What was in it?” asked Prince Leal, looking at Galen from the other side of the High Captain.

“Rose water, cloves, cinnamon, violet, dew of the yellow north grass, much honey and lemon. There was something else I could feel as well, but I don’t know what it is,” answered Galen, still trying to figure out the last ingredient. It almost felt familiar, but still also foreign. Like he had felt it before somewhere it didn’t belong.

“Will any of those things harm my father?” asked the prince.

“No, but they shouldn’t taste well all together. At least I wouldn’t think they would; still, when I tested a small taste, I found it quite wonderful,” said Galen.

“Really?” asked Leal as he pulled something out from under his cloak. Galen saw it was a small silver flask. Leal opened it and put it under his nose. “It doesn’t really smell like anything. Do you think it would be safe to try a small sip?”

Galen shrugged. “Perhaps just enough to wet your lips wouldn’t hurt.”

The prince took the flask and put it to his lips. He barely tipped it up and then moved his lips together. He immediately looked over at the High Captain.

“Well, what does it taste like?” asked the High Captain looking at the prince.

“I don’t know if I can truly describe it,” said the prince. “Galen is right, it is wonderful, but if I began to tell you what it taste of, you would think I was mad.”

The High Captain held out her hand and looked at the prince. He passed her the flask, and she put it to her lips, tipping just a bit of the liquid onto the surface of her mouth. Her tongue darted out, licking her lips, and she closed her eyes.

“It taste strongly of honeysuckle,” she said as she passed the flask back to Leal.

“Honeysuckle?” asked the prince with a frown.

“Yes, I love the taste of honeysuckle. I have ever since…” she said with a small smile before trailing off and looking down. Galen thought perhaps she was blushing, but it was hard to tell as the harsh morning air had already made her face a little red.

“I thought it tasted of sweet wine, and something else,” said Leal with is his own smile. “You know the one made out of cherries and strawberries in the south of the kingdom.”

“I do,” said the High Captain. “It is my favorite. You said it tasted of something else as well, what was it?”

The prince looked at her with a half-smile before he addressed Galen. “What did it taste like to you?”

Galen thought for a moment. He had been trying to decide all night what it actually did taste like. At first it was just impressions, but later he recognized a few things. “It tasted of apples, cinnamon, and blackberries.”

“What a strange combination,” said the prince. “How do you even taste all three of those at the same time?”

“I am not sure,” said Galen. “But that is what I tasted.”

Galen thought over it. The apples and cinnamon reminded him of home, and the cook’s apple tarts that he enjoyed as a boy. The blackberries reminded him of the first time he had really kissed Lexine. She must have been eating some at the meal before, because when he kissed her, he could taste a hint of blackberries on her lips and tongue.

“This is all very strange,” said the High Captain. “How can we all drink the same liquid and come with three different taste?”

“I don’t know,” said Galen. “None of this drink makes any sense.”

“You said there was something you couldn’t figure out that was in this. Any ideas on how to figure it out?” asked the prince.

“I was actually thinking of asking Sarin about it, if you think that would be wise, your highness. He might know something of this, come across it in a reading or somewhere in the kingdom.”

“I believe we can trust Sarin,” said Leal. “You don’t even have to tell him where this really came from at first, just ask for his help. Tell him I asked you to do this, and he will help you. If he has any questions, tell him he can come to me.”

“I will speak to him tonight when we stop,” said Galen.

That night they stopped at the manor of the lord of the Northern gate. His large home was settled into a valley between where the hills of Lanoxan officially became the mountains of Lanoxan. His home was just large enough to host them all, though the Elites of the Sentinel had to go three to a room in most cases, the High Captain, of course, having her own room.

Galen found Sarin after dinner and asked to see him privately. Sarin took him to his room which was on the second floor amongst the lords and ladies of the court. It wasn’t an overly large room, but it was comfortable. They sat in front of the fire in two small chairs found there.

“How can I help you, Galen?” asked Sarin.

“The prince is actually the one who needs your help. He gave me a drink he was trying to find the ingredients of, and while I can identify most of the things that it contains, there is one I cannot make out at all. Not only that, but it is also unlike any drink I have ever seen.”

“Do you have some of this drink with you?” asked Sarin.

“I do,” said Galen as he pulled out a small silver flask from his pocket.

He handed it to Sarin, and Sarin opened the flask and put it up to his nose, taking a small sniff.

“I can’t smell anything at all,” said Sarin.

He got up and poured it into his own wash bowl with some water form a pitcher. He put his hand over it and moved his finger around, feeling the water and ingredients. Galen watched as Sarin’s facial expression went from neutral, to curious, to surprised, to slightly horrified. He turned and looked at Galen.

“Do you know what is in this?”

“Most of it, I believe,” said Galen. “Honey, lemon, rose water, cloves, cinnamon, violet, and dew of the yellow northern grass. There is something else as well, but I couldn’t tell what it was.”

Sarin nodded and walked over to a trunk he had in his room. He shuffled around until he found a small old book and walked up to Galen. “How much do you know about old magic, Galen. I’m not talking about Mystics or royal magic. I am talking about old magic that existed before the kingdoms were formed, when there was nothing but the land and those beings who lived upon it, trying to survive.

“Honestly, not much,” said Galen. “It never interested me since I didn’t think it would help me with my goals, so I never did take the time to study it.”

“I understand your reasons, but you should take the trouble when you can. Knowing where we came from as people and users of Mystics can help you better understand how Mystics works through you. I bring this up because while I don’t know what this drink is, it did remind me of something,” said Sarin as he opened his small book. He flipped through it until he came to one page. “I doubt you can read this or much of it, but I have spent many hours going through this book with translation books. It was slow work, but very interesting in the end. What I am showing you is instruction on brewing an ancient elixir. I believe this one is a love potion. I am not saying this is what the drink is, but some of the ingredients are similar.”

Galen took the book from Sarin and looked at it. Sarin was right, Galen had no idea what the text was saying, but he could tell it was a list of things with instructions. There was a crude drawing of two people kissing.

“An elixir like this would need something more than just ingredients. It would need a bonding magic, not a Mystic, but something that doesn’t exist anymore, or at least I thought it didn’t exist, but I am not sure. Whatever is in this drink, the one thing you said you couldn’t identify, is powerful,” said Sarin.

“So, you believe this could be some kind of magic potion?” asked Galen skeptically.

“In a way, yes. I know it sounds farfetched, but here is much about ancient magic we don’t understand, because the knowledge has been lost. Looking at whatever this drink is, it seems as if someone has some knowledge in it. However successful they are in using it, I cannot say.”

“But we don’t know the purpose of this elixir,” said Galen. “Even if it is some sort of magic drink, we don’t know what it could be used for.”

“No, and I couldn’t tell you. It took me a long time to even make out the small bit of this book I have come to understand. Where do you get this drink? Was it from the prince?”

“Yes,” said Galen looking through the book he had in his hand. “He said if you had any questions about it, you should speak with him.”

“Did he?” asked Sarin with a huff.

“Yes,” said Galen.

“Very well,” said Sarin with a frustrated sigh. He went back to his trunk and dug out two more books. “Galen, taken these two books as well. They will help you with translating that one. It won’t help you translate everything in that book, but you should be able to get the gist of some things.”

Galen walked out of Sarin’s room and towards the stairs to go to the small room he was sharing with Roderick. As he got to the stairs, he heard someone whisper his name. He looked around to see Lexine smiling at him from the other side of the stairs down the hallway.

“Come here, Galen,” said Lexine in a whisper. “Before anyone else comes up.”

Galen looked around and then walked quickly to her. She took his hand and led him down the hall to a door at the end. She opened the door and brought Galen inside the large room with her, shutting the door quietly.

“Did you talk with Sarin about father’s drink? Leal said you were going to,” said Lexine as she turned and looked at him.

“I just talked to Sarin,” said Galen shifting the books he held in one arm.

“Well, what did he say?” asked Lexine.

“Can we sit down? It is not going to be a short discussion.”

They sat down on the sofa in front of the fireplace, and Galen told her all he had just learned. She looked at the books he had brought as he finished talking.

“Do you think someone is trying to control my father with this drink?” asked Lexine. “Would something like that be possible?”

“I don’t know,” said Galen. “I didn’t even know elixirs and spells like this ever existed until tonight. I knew there were herbs, plants, and other substances you could give someone to alter their personalities like with your mother, but nothing that would do something as you are suggesting.”

“But it had been possible at one time, if what Sarin says is true,” said Lexine as she kept thumbing through the books.

“I suppose it was, but even if this is some kind of magic potion, as ridiculous as that sounds, we don’t know why it was given to your father or by who. We don’t know what the elixir is supposed to do to him,” said Galen.

“I guess we will have to find out,” said Lexine. “Maybe the answer is somewhere in this book.”

“It could take us three years to even read half that book with all the translation we would have to do,” said Galen shaking his head.

“We don’t have to read the whole book. We just need to find out what in this language is some of the ingredients you know were in father’s drink. Then we can search through the pages for references to those ingredients and only translate those pages.”

Galen smiled at her as she looked up at him. “What?” she asked as she cocked her head and looked at Galen.

“You are so wonderfully brilliant,” said Galen.

Lexine smiled and put the books aside. “It seems like forever since we have had any time to ourselves,” said Lexine as she took Galen’s hands, causing him to face her.

“I know. Even at the summer place, we were both too distracted to spend much time together. I have missed you,” said Galen.

“We are alone now,” said Lexine as she leaned forward and kissed him.

“I really should go tell the prince what I found out,” said Galen as he leaned back.

“My brother has already retired for the night,” said Lexine taking his hands again and pulling him forward. “Your High Captain has gone to her bed as well, and I think they would both strongly agree with me that your news can wait until morning.”

“Then I have no were to be. At least for a little while,” said Galen as he put his arms around Lexine.

“Except right here,” said Lexine before she kissed him.

The next day Galen found himself riding by the High Captain again with Prince Leal on her other side. He related to them all he had learned from Sarin. Galen watched as the prince and High Captain shared looks several times as he talked. When he was done speaking, they all rode in silence for a few moments.

“I’m not doubting you or Sarin,” said the High Captain. “But it all seems rather hard to believe, doesn’t it?”

“I thought so as well, but what else could it be?” asked Galen. “There is no reason to have a drink with all those ingredients, and think about how we all tasted something different. There is something very odd about that drink.”

“Leal, what do you think?” asked the High Captain.

“I don’t think Sarin would lie about this. He has no reason to do it. It does seem hard to believe, but what else could this drink be? Galen, as you find out things in those books, you will keep us updated.”

“I will,” said Galen. “Princess Lexine is going to help me, but don’t worry High Captain, we will still work on your problem as well.”

“The kings health and well-being come before my own, Galen.”

“No,” said Leal adamantly. “Galen, you will spend a majority of the time you have to find some way to help your High Captain.”

“Leal, be realistic, your father is the King of Lanoxan. Finding out how to help him has to come before me.”

“I would argue with you about that for hours, Dracia, but I don’t have to. We already know how to help my father. All we have to do is find a way to make sure he cannot keep drinking this elixir or whatever it is, and I can have Malven handle most of it. He can get rid of the stuff for us. I just worry what will happen with my father when he realizes he cannot drink it. Will it affect him to quit it suddenly?”

“I don’t know,” said Galen. “I have no idea how it will affect him.”

“Is there something else we can have him drink that would keep him calm? Something that will let him still function, but perhaps keep him happy so he won’t rail against the idea of not having his drink,” said the High Captain as she turned to the prince. “I know it sounds terrible, medicating your father in some way, but I don’t know what else we can do.”

“He is not well. We know he is not well, so medication may be what he needs. Is there something you could make for him, Galen?”

“I think so,” said Galen. “I know of a few simple things that could keep him calm and happy. We could switch it out with his current drink, and while at first he will probably notice a difference, it should work rather quickly so he won’t care for long.”

Prince Leal nodded. “Can you make it tonight, do you think? We are stopping outside of Northonton and staying at the Isadel’s estate. We should be there in time for one of us to go to the village and buy whatever it is you might need, Galen.”

“I will take you, novice,” said the High Captain. “Leal, you watch over your father, and talk to Malven. I will take Galen to my room so he can make as much of this medicinal drink as he can to last until we are well into Navalia. If possible, we will need Malven to switch it out tonight.”

“We will have one more full day on the road tomorrow. I will spend time in the royal carriage with him to keep him calm until the medicine kicks in to subdue him,” said Leal. “Then we just have to somehow figure out what this is, and who is giving it to him.”

“Malven thought perhaps it was that oracle that visits your father sometimes,” said the High Captain. “He said your father received a large box from her before our trip. Hopefully, he will have information on it soon.”

The arrived in Northonton while the sun was sitting low in the sky. Galen stayed close to the High Captain as the lords and ladies went into the house to find their rooms. Galen watched as Martin hovered around Lena, seeming to want to be pleased with everything about her home. She would smile at Martin when he was looking at her, and then roll her eyes or look bored when Martin was otherwise occupied. Galen wished he could warn his friend, find some way to convince him not to go through with marrying Lena, but he knew his words would fall on deaf ears.

As soon as everyone seemed settled, the High Captain asked Roderick to see to her things, and she and Galen rode into town.

“You do know what you need, don’t you?” asked the High Captain as they rode together.

“I do, and it is nothing overly exotic. We should find it easily at an apothecary in a town of this size.”

“What you are making won’t hurt the king in any way, will it? As annoyed as the prince has been with his father, I know he would not want him to come to harm.”

“It will not hurt him or cause any long term side effects. I give you my word nothing bad will happen to the king because of what I make for him,” said Galen.

“I do trust you,” said the High Captain. “I just don’t want to force you into something you don’t feel comfortable doing. I know a lot has been asked of you.”

“I want to do what is right, and I believe you do as well, High Captain. You might ask a lot of me, but I do not mind. I ask a lot of myself, and I expect to be able to deliver. I don’t know if that makes sense,” said Galen.

“It does to me,” said the High Captain. “I think you and I might have many things in common, including high standards and work ethic.”

Galen nodded. “I would like to train with you again soon. I know you have many duties to attend to, but if you have time, I am ready to learn more.”

“I had hoped to spend some time training you on the road, but so much has happened. When we get to Navalia, I will find time as long as you are up to it. I know you like to be pushed, but everyone can be pushed too far, Galen, even you and me.”

They found an apothecary in the center of the town. Galen gathered all he needed including a good size hanging pot, and the High Captain arranged for payment. Luckily, Galen could make the medicinal drink without using anything suspicious. It would look like they were merely resupplying their supplies on their journey.

When they got back to the estate, the High Captain found Roderick who showed both her and Galen to her room. The High Captain cleaned herself up for dinner, because while Galen would not be missed by many downstairs, the High Captain would be expected to attend. Galen assured both her and Roderick he would do very well alone.

After they left, Galen got to work. He filled the pot with water, the High Captain had an attendant bring in before she left. He added all the things that were required including just a touch of ompia to help subdue the king, but not enough to affect him severely. He let it sit and bubble over the fire as he watched it. The smell wafting off of the liquid was sweet and it thickened slightly into a dark brown drink.

By the time he had taken it off of the fire, the door opened and the High Captain, followed by Prince Leal came into the room.

“I have asked Malven to join us when he can,” said the prince. “He said he had to get something first.”

They sat around looking at the liquid in the pot by the fire, talking a little, rehashing the same questions on what could possibly be going on with the king and queen. There was a knock at the door, and the prince rose and answered it to find Malven holding a large cloth sack. He brought it into the room and sat it down on the floor by the fireplace.

“I meant to get here earlier, but it took me a while to dump these out, and make sure I had them all,” said Malven, opening the sack.

Galen looked over as the prince and the High Captain did the same to see dozens of little silver flasks piled on top of each other.

“How did you get these, Malven?” asked the prince.

“Your father’s attendants were downstairs with the estate workers, and I convinced the housekeeper here to let me in to the king’s rooms,” answered Malven with a smile.

“Do I want to know how you convinced her?” asked the prince.

“Probably not,” said Malven. “She isn’t a bad looking woman for her age, I will say that.”

The High Captain gave a small cough as she looked at Malven with a frown. “Can you get them back into the king’s rooms tonight?”

“No, probably not, but I left a few flasks there so he will not miss these. The attendants might, but I am already owed a large favor from the king’s main attendant. I told him to ignore it, he will.”

“Is this favor another thing I should not know about, Malven?” asked the prince.

“I don’t know,” said Malven. “You might like stories of older attendants spending time with the daughters of lords.”

“That is plenty of information,” said the prince. “So, we just need to fill these up, and you will see them loaded into the royal carriage tomorrow?”

“Yes,” said Malven. “I can give you a few to stick into the carriage with your father, and the rest can be loaded on the back with your own trunks.”

“I do appreciate you, Malven,” said the prince. “More than I really ever tell you. I should be glad you don’t ask for favors from me.”

Malven shrugged. “You already pay me well, and make my life much more interesting. I also get to spend time in the company of the High Captain because of you, which is well worth any task you would have me complete.”

“Overstepping, Malven,” said the prince shaking his head as the High Captain smiled.

“What can you really say, Leal?” said the High Captain as she pulled out a few flasks. “You can’t disagree with him, or at least you better not.”

“You two will have Galen think his future king has no power at all, being bossed around by an attendant and some beautiful woman.”

“No, your highness, I think they are showing you have much wisdom,” said Galen as he grabbed an empty pitcher on a close table. “I think we can all agree that Malven is not just any attendant, and the High Captain is not just some beautiful woman. You have surrounded yourself with two of the most useful and talented people in the kingdom. You are only wise to keep them both happy.”

“Very true, Galen,” said the prince. “I think I have added you to my circle as well. I wonder what it will take to keep you happy.”

“A princess,” muttered Malven causing the High Captain to laugh.

“Overstepping, Malven,” said the prince, good naturedly.

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