A new beginning
Jason was simply too astonished to reply immediately.
“How is this even possible?” he pondered.
King Wilbur and Sir Lambert were now joined by Lord Fenton and Sir Gregory.
Thankfully, the arrival of the other two men from King Wilbur’s party drew attention away from the look of sheer surprise and wonderment which adorned his face.
“The old Earth style culture could have been a coincidence,” reasoned Jason in his mind, as much as he didn’t believe in chance, “But, the language? Surely there must be some logical explanation for these similarities. The odds of winning the lottery twice, consecutively, were much higher than encountering an alien civilisation light years from home who spoke the same language.”
Vince and Eve were now shaking hands with Sir Gregory and Lord Fenton.
Jason managed to remain focussed enough to keep a smile on his face and remember everyone’s names while literally biting his tongue trying to keep the multitude of questions he had from spilling out.
“This is definitely not a coincidence,” he kept saying to himself. “There has got to be a logical explanation.”
He couldn’t shake the feeling that their arrival on this planet was not entirely unexpected. The King didn’t appear all that shocked at their presence or their language.
He mopped the perspiration from his brow and only now noticed how hot it had become. The red sands underfoot seemed to be somehow amplifying the heat. Vince and Eve looked hot and sweaty too, but the King and his men seemed to be quite comfortable.
“I hereby extend an invitation to you and your party, Captain Jason King,” announced King Wilbur. “Please join me as my honoured guests at my castle for as long as you desire.”
“You are very kind indeed, Your Majesty,” reciprocated Jason trying to sound half as regal as the King. “It will be an honour, and please, call me Jason.”
“Very well, Jason,” continued the King. “Let us commune over a meal.”
Jason nodded his approval, marvelling at the King’s vocabulary.
“Commune we certainly shall, King Wilbur,” he thought to himself. He had no doubt the King had many questions for them.
He caught Eve giving him a look while she tried hard not to laugh at his attempt at sounding medieval.
After a quick discussion it was decided that Bart would pilot the shuttle back to the Equinox where he would remain, while the trio would ride pillion behind the King’s men. The King didn’t want the sudden appearance of a flying vessel in the vicinity of the castle causing panic and pandemonium among his subjects.
Eve loved horses and was no stranger to horse riding but the same could not be said for Vince and Jason who had not even seen a horse up close, before now, let alone ridden one.
Eve seemed quite comfortable riding behind Sir Lambert, while Jason found the experience quite unsettling. He was just glad to be moving as the wind helped cool him down even though he was uncomfortable. He especially didn’t appreciate being bounced up and down as the horses broke into full gallop.
“You may be smart, but you can also be a real idiot, Jason,” he mentally scolded himself, suddenly remembering his ability to read minds. With all the excitement going on he had completely forgotten, till now.
At this sudden realisation, he tried to drown out his discomfort and shifted his attention to their hosts’ minds, one at a time.
“Hmmm, interesting,” he thought to himself with a gleam in his eye as he skimmed all sorts of invaluable information from the King and his men.
The uncomfortable journey seemed to go on forever and Jason grew weary as they galloped along at a brisk pace through the narrow mountain pass. He noticed how quickly the terrain changed as they sped towards the castle. Hot red sands gave way to rich brown earth and lush green vegetation the further they travelled. The temperature became much more bearable too and the air was fresh and invigorating.
An enormous castle surrounded by high stone walls eventually loomed into view as they rode up the last slope. The level grounds around the huge structure were carpeted in a perfectly manicured lawn which stretched out all the way to the distant hills which rose up to meet the horizon. The sunlight glinted off the surface of a clear stream which snaked its way down from the distant hills and disappeared from view behind the castle.
Jason’s attention was divided between the amazing scenery which reminded him of the Scottish Highlands back on Earth and filled him with a sense of nostalgia, and the information he had lifted from his hosts’ minds which he was busy processing.
The massive wood and iron gate which protected the castle’s entrance opened noiselessly as they approached.
“All that’s missing here is a moat and drawbridge,” chuckled Jason to himself.
They entered the castle amidst cheering and words such as “The King has returned safely,” and “Long live King Wilbur,” as the King acknowledged his subjects with the occasional wave.
Jason was glad to finally dismount as his body ached from the long ride. The horses were secured and the trio followed the King and his men through another huge doorway which was flanked by two armour clad men holding large axes whose long handles rested on the stone floor. This seemed to be a more secure part of the castle where only royalty and important guests were allowed to enter.
Next, they were led into a large room boasting a high ceiling, which, like the rest of the castle, was crafted in stone. Sunlight streamed in through red and yellow stained glass windows and arrow slits while a faint smell of candle wax hung in the air. Jason’s sensitive nose also detected traces of beer and red wine.
A king size rectangular wooden table was set into the granite floor at the centre of the room above which hung a metal chandelier bearing many candles. Jason counted ten dark wooden chairs on each of the longer sides of the table while two ornately crafted wooden thrones sat at each of the far ends across from each other. Jason guessed these were reserved for the King and Queen.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” smiled King Wilbur to Jason’s group. “My home is your home.”
“Thank you for your kindness and hospitality,” replied Jason, bowing.
Again, he caught a look of amusement and a tiny smile from Eve, while Vince’s expression gave nothing away.
King Wilbur gestured for them to sit down at the table. Jason, Eve and Vince sat next to each other with Eve seated between the men while Sir Lambert, Lord Fenton and Sir Gregory sat across them. Sir Lambert seated himself closest to the wooden throne and across from Jason.
The King sat himself down on the throne like chair as soon as everyone else was seated. He retrieved a little brass bell with a wooden handle from a compartment under the table and gave it a little shake.
Jason and his little group watched in awe as an entourage of men and women emerged from a side door bearing platters of fresh fruit, vegetable, roast meats, condiments and bottles of red wine and ales which were placed on the table. Silver plates and utensils were placed in front of everyone.
The myriad of delicious aromas wafting around the table caused Jason’s mouth to water even though he was not particularly hungry.
The servants were quick and efficient and left the room as quickly as they had entered it, leaving the table all set for dinner.
“Lunch is served,” said King Wilbur. “Let us feast and commune.”
Jason listened intently while partaking in the delicious meal and sipping on both wine and ale, as King Wilbur spoke about Carac, the kingdom of Octavia, and the Artefact which rested within Avalon territory. Of course, much of what the King was saying was already known to Jason. He was more interested in the Artefact which seemed to feature prominently in Carac culture. He was also waiting for the King to mention his daughter which, so far, he’d remained silent about.
“Tell me more about this Artefact, Your Majesty,” prodded Jason.
King Wilbur spoke further, describing the Artefact in great detail causing Jason’s eyes to light up. His suspicions on what the King was describing proved to be correct when Wilbur spoke of the gold plaque within the Artefact depicting man, woman and Earth.
“Could this be the lost Pioneer space probe?” Vince asked Jason, suddenly even more interested in the conversation now.
“Without a doubt,” smiled Jason, nodding.
Eve didn’t quite follow, but Jason and Vince certainly had their hosts’ attention now.
“Ok, let me explain,” began Jason. “We come from a planet called Earth,” he went on.
Jason spoke about their home planet, its location in the universe and the origins of the Pioneer space probe which was launched a really long time ago to explore the solar system and beyond. He told how the probe contained information about Earth in the form of a gold plaque with images and a device containing audio recordings of literature, classical music and Earth sounds.
“So, this is what became of the probe,” said Vince. “It’s just incredible that an entire culture was influenced by it.”
“Wow!” responded Eve. “It’s just amazing!”
Jason also told his hosts about the oppressive government on Earth and their escape using the very first faster than light drive while leaving out the details of their imprisonment and his special mental abilities. He thought it best not to divulge more information than was necessary.
The King and his men listened, mesmerised and wide eyed, as Jason described their technology and the marvels of science.
“We could help each other, Your Majesty,” Jason continued. He was waiting for the right moment to bring up the topic.
“In return for a place to call home, here in your kingdom, we will teach you and your people the use of our technology which in turn will help your people in many ways. Many of your illnesses can soon be a thing of the past and none of your people need die in vain.”
Jason watched the Kings eyes light up as he had anticipated.
Jason didn’t need his ability to realise why Wilbur was respected and loved by his subjects. Here was a king who really cared about the well-being of his kingdom. He had an air of honesty and kindness about him and he was quite transparent when he spoke.
“My beloved daughter, Princess Jasmine is quite ill,” began King Wilbur as a look of sadness crossed his face. “Can your technology help my daughter? If you can help her, I will be forever in your debt.”
“Eve is a medical doctor. I’m sure she will be glad to help,” responded Jason, with Eve nodding. “Consider it done.”
“In that case, welcome to your new home,” replied Wilbur.
Jason felt a little woozy as he stood up because he had consumed a little too much of the fine wine and ale. He was also stuffed from over eating.
“Allow me to announce your arrival and introduce you to my people,” said King Wilbur, standing up.
They exited the dining hall and the trio soon found themselves on a balcony overlooking the royal courtyard where a crowd had gathered in response to trumpets being sounded.
The King explained to his people that the visitors from the stars were friends of the kingdom and great things were going to result from their arrival on Carac. The crowd cheered their approval.
Once the formalities were out of the way, King Wilbur led the new arrivals to his daughter’s chamber while the King’s men wandered off.
This room was different from any of the other rooms Jason had so far seen since their arrival at the castle. The room was bright and airy and definitely feminine. Large windows looked out towards the hills behind the castle. A silver chandelier with colourful glass stones hung from the ceiling at the centre of the room below which stood a small round wooden table surrounded by four silver and wood chairs. The walls were painted in the softest pastel shade of blue.
The Princess lay in a semi conscious state atop a massive four poster bed which stood against the far wall. She was dressed in a pink robe and covered by white bed linen from her waist down. The King parted the thin white veil which surrounded the bed allowing the visitors a better view of his daughter.
“Jasmine dear,” he whispered while gently touching her cheek and moving away some of her long black hair which had fallen over her face, “You have visitors.”
Jasmine’s eyes opened slightly for a few seconds and she groaned before closing them again. She appeared to be in a lot of pain and beads of perspiration were visible on her forehead.
“She’s beautiful,” thought Jason to himself.
Eve felt Jasmine’s forehead. “She’s burning up with fever, Jason,” she exclaimed. “We have to get her to the Equinox as quickly as possible.”
“Do whatever you need to do to help my daughter,” responded King Wilbur. “I will arrange a carriage and horses.”
“No, I have a better idea, Your Majesty,” cut in Jason removing a communications transceiver from his pants pocket.
“Bart, do you read me?” Jason spoke into the little communications device while the King looked on in astonishment. He was even more amazed at hearing Bart’s voice from the little device.
“I would be honoured to have you travel aboard our little vessel, Your Majesty,” said Jason.
The King nodded.
Before long a soft hum could be heard approaching the castle. Bart piloted the shuttle landing it right in the centre of the castle’s courtyard causing a crowd of frightened and curious men, women and children to form a safe distance away.
With the help of the chamber maids, Princess Jasmine was moved from her bed into the shuttle.
Jason decided to pilot the shuttle back and invited the wide eyed King to sit next to him at the controls to which the King obliged. Bart joined the others and strapped himself into a seat in preparation for takeoff.
“I am now engaging the anti gravity drive,” explained Jason to the King as he manipulated the controls in front of him causing the shuttle to hum softly and rise off the ground.
The King nodded, taking in the experience of his first flight. He held on tightly to the sides of his seat while looking extremely nervous.
Jason circled the castle giving the King his first aerial view of his home and grounds before changing course for the Equinox.
The flight was short unlike the horseback journey which Jason had to endure earlier, and in no time at all he was setting the shuttle down in the landing bay.
Eve quickly got to work as soon as Princess Jasmine was safely on a bed inside the medical bay.
Jason took King Wilbur on a quick tour of the Equinox allowing Eve space to attend to the Princess, unhindered.
The King was in awe as Jason explained the various ship systems, as they went. There was much to take in but the King did his best to understand all that was explained to him. He was especially impressed by all the controls on the bridge.
“And this is the captain’s chair,” concluded Jason, “Where I sit.”
“May I offer Your Majesty some coffee?” asked Jason.
The King had never heard of coffee so Jason explained as they made their way to the mess hall where he produced two cups of the strong sweet brew.
“I feel so alert and awake now,” marvelled the King as the caffeine coursed through his bloodstream. “This coffee is amazing!”
They were still talking, when Eve entered.
“I have some news regarding the Princess,” she began.
Wilbur turned around, looking full of hope.
“From the tests I’ve done, I can conclude that she has an infection. The bacteria in her system are very similar to the one which causes Tetanus, back on Earth, and was probably contracted through a flesh wound. It’s also interesting to note that her physiology appears identical to ours, so I’m confident that she will respond to treatment, which I’ve already begun.”
“You are indeed a blessing!” said Wilbur with tears of joy falling from his eyes. “Thank you for saving my daughter.”
Eve nodded. “She is conscious so you can see her now.”
They followed Eve back to the medical bay.
“Jasmine!” exclaimed Wilbur beaming.
She smiled back from her bed. It had been ages since he had seen his daughter smile.
“I’ve given her a sedative and a pain killer, so she shouldn’t be feeling any pain while on treatment,” said Eve. “At this rate, she should be back to her old self within a week or so and she can then return to the castle.”
King Wilbur was beside himself with joy as he sat besides his daughter holding her hand, tears falling from his eyes. She was still too weak to manage a full conversation and very groggy from the sedatives but some colour had returned to her cheeks and she was on the road to recovery now.
They let Jasmine rest and returned to the mess hall where Vince was snacking. Jason prepared another round of coffee for everyone much to King Wilbur’s delight.
“You have to teach my cook how to produce this fantastic drink, Jason,” said the King between sips.
“Of course, Your Majesty,” smiled Jason, the gleam back in his eye.
He had big plans for Octavia. Really big plans, some of which were best kept to himself for now.
Vince noticed that familiar look in Jason’s eyes and it troubled him. He has seen that look before and he didn’t like it at all. He had a feeling that Jason was up to something.
“Life as you know it, is about to change,” said Jason, his eyes gleaming, “For the better, of course,” he added quickly catching his friend looking at him.
He outlined his idea of building a place of learning where all who sought knowledge would be welcome, and a place of healing where the sick could be cured.
Wilbur was taken aback by Jason’s generosity.
“You are too kind,” he said.
“Think nothing of it,” replied Jason. “This is now our home too, Your Majesty.”
“Jason, Vince, Eve, you are welcome to live at the castle and enjoy my hospitality for as long you desire.”
A little later on that evening, Jason returned the King to the castle while Vince and Eve remained on board.
“Now, tell me more about this King Roland who’s been threatening the peace,” continued Jason as they descended towards the courtyard. He listened with great interest as King Wilbur spoke of the fragile peace which existed between the two largest kingdoms on Carac.
“Hmmmm,” he simply replied.
The King was much too excited and thankful to notice the look in Jason’s eyes as they said their goodbyes.
Back on board once more, Jason went over to the medical bay to see the Princess. Eve was there too and Jasmine was awake, sipping on a meal supplement.
“Hello, Jasmine,” said Jason as he entered the room, waving to her.
She smiled back at him and for the first time he noticed her sparkling green eyes. They caught his attention and he found himself staring at her. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on.
Realising that he was staring, he shifted his gaze away quickly, just in time to catch Eve looking at him oddly, but she quickly turned away and busied herself with some instruments on the other side of the bed.