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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mirror of Dreams - Chapter 14

14

So, a while back, I was rummaging through the humongous library in the palace, and I found an interesting book. At the time, I dismissed it as nothing more than superstition, but now that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that magic really existed, I had to wonder...
Aha! Here it is...
I pulled a small book off a shelf in the very back that held the oldest and most decrepit of books. It looked like it had originally been the journal of a mischievous healer. A sort of wise woman who liked to play pranks. It's really too bad that she died a long time ago because I would have loved to meet her!
She was already old by the time the war began, and apparently devoted the rest of her life to trying to spread joy and happiness to others even though it often felt like the world was crashing down all around them. Her journal gave me hope for the future of my Kingdom even as it made me sad to know that there was a time before everything seemed so bleak.
Flipping through the pages of her journal, I could only assume that she had the magic to preserve it because it was in as good condition as mine, despite the fact that all the other books from the same time were obviously fragile with age. Apparently, there was magic in the library to protect them from actually falling apart, but I know that I was still afraid to touch them! That's why the newness of this particular book had caught my eye.
Bringing it to a comfortable arm chair, I sat down to read through it again and take notes. She had some spells, hints, and potions in here that I really wanted to try! With a pen and paper in hand, I copied down everything that interested me, and then put the journal back before wandering off.

***

After my late night trip to the library, I still had a lot of time to basically do nothing while I couldn't sleep. Watching videos on my laptop gave me an idea, but it would require a trip back to the real world.
Oh hey Kyle!” I greeted my brother with a grin.
And now you're topless in yoga pants,” he muttered. But rather than sounding like he was thinking: Ew, my sister's tits! He sounded like he was trying to figure out how I had changed so quickly.
I pulled on a baby tee and beckoned for him to follow me. “I have to make a run to the naughty shop. Wanna come with me?”
Sure,” he replied with a shrug.
The shop was only about 20 minutes away, so if I was both quick and lucky, I could be back to Rolandia by morning. As I drove, Kyle asked me questions, which I answered. At the shop, I found what I was looking for pretty quickly because it was still Sunday here and the shop was mostly empty. I bought everything I'd need, and then rushed back home.
Kissing my brother on the cheek, I nudged him toward his room before returning to mine. “Go call Ian...”
When I returned to the other world, it was just in time for my maids to come wake me. I set my shopping bag aside and made them promise not to peek inside. Not in the mood for a bath, I simply kissed Nathan's sleeping face before leaving for the dining hall in search of breakfast.
Lord Gregory was already sipping on some tea and chatting with Lord Antony. Lord Antony looked delighted to see me. He got to his feet with a warm smile on his face.
Your Majesty! I'm so happy that you've arrived early this morning.”
Lord Gregory gestured to a pile of reports. “We should be able to get through this fairly quickly. It's mostly status updates on repairs throughout the Kingdom.”
This referred to things that were slowly being rebuilt after the last war ended.
And remember,” Lord Antony added, holding up one of his pointer fingers. “The Royal Lords will arrive later today. You'll actually be free to do whatever you want. Sir Barrett hinted that he'd even be willing to take you into town to people watch – so long as you disguise yourself so as to not attract attention.”
Awesome!” I cheered in elation. This would allow me to do some shopping for things listed in that notebook I'd found. “But wait, I don't think anyone has ever explained to me this whole Royal Lord thing.”
Lord Antony sat up a bit straighter and had the feel of a teacher who was adjusting their glasses before giving a lecture. “In the beginning of our Kingdom, our most beloved God saw potential in a group men who had banded together to protect the land and the people from terrible monsters. The 10 men formed a strong bond led by the one who had the most power and drive to rid the land of the monsters. Our God gave them all gifts to help them, and then, when they finally succeeded, helped them to establish the Kingdom of Rolandia.”
He paused to refill his tea and filled a cup for me too.
The First King was from the House of Roland, hence Rolandia,” Lord Antony continued. “But the agreement always was that the rule would be passed around from House to House as our God saw fit. In the meantime, the Royal Lords helped govern the land and kept an eye on the King. If a King went bad, they had the power to remove him from the throne.”
Yes,” I murmured in understanding. “That much I know. So, these Lords are considered above and beyond the regular nobility because they are descended from the men who founded the Kingdom. Okay, that makes sense.”
They're not all Lords,” Lord Gregory stated, sounding as if he was suppressing a smirk. “Some of them are Ladies since women have long been considered equals in our Kingdom. It's just easier to refer to them all collectively as the Royal Lords.”
Hmm, interesting,” I remarked, glad to hear this.
After that, we ate breakfast, got through our reports, and I was basically asked to make myself scarce. Lords Antony and Gregory wanted to have their meeting with the Royal Lords before they had so much as a chance to hound me with their questions. It was their hope that they could answer the bulk of the questions without making me feel like I was taking a test I had no time to study for. Incidentally, they were both from Royal Houses.
Grateful for the opportunity, I got dressed up in a very plain outfit – something normal for the average citizen to wear – and went into town. Sir Barrett and Nathan both accompanied me. They also wore plain clothes, but carried swords, since this was so common they would have looked odd without them.
I strolled arm in arm with Nathan, enjoying the air of young lovers we were creating. They gave me a tour of the whole town, often sitting outside a shop when I got excited about going inside and looking around. Apparently, even in this world, men weren't enthusiastic about shopping! They told me it was so they could keep an eye on our surroundings to make sure there was no trouble. Riiiight...
This worked out well for me since – once we had located an apothecary – I had the chance to obtain all the ingredients I was looking for. The wise old crone wasn't fooled for a moment!
Pray tell me what the Queen of Rolandia needs these herbs for?” She asked with a sharp eye.
I flinched sheepishly. “What gave me away?”
Oh, just an old woman's intuition,” she replied with a shrug. “You're a strange woman traveling with two men who look like on-duty soldiers, and you have enough money to buy even the rarest herbs without concern for the price. It just seemed obvious to me...”
I nodded, and then shook my head wryly. “I wonder if most people figured it out right away.”
Who knows,” she stated with a shrug. “But probably not. Strangers come and go often enough that most people don't really notice them. But you didn't answer my question.”
I tried to play it cool. “I found on old book of spells and whatnot that I want to try. Nothing to be concerned about.”
Maybe not,” she agreed with a mischievous smile. “But I would be remiss if I didn't warn you to take care. These things are always far more potent than you'd guess.”
Good to know,” I replied with a pleased grin.
Have fun, my dear,” she wished me with a kind smile, handed me my purchases, and then sent me on my way.
I insisted on sitting on a bench for many hours so that I could people watch. It was sad because most people felt like they were simply existing. It was rare to see anyone look happy. They didn't look sad either, just... resigned...
More alarming was the fact that there were very few children under foot. I turned to Nathan with a frown. He looked utterly bored.
Where are all the children? Do they go to school?” I wondered.
Nathan shrugged. “Look around. I see a couple over there, and some over there, and more over there.”
Yeah but...” I trailed off. In my world, sitting on a bench and watching the world go by, there was usually almost as many children as there were adults. I'd be surprised if there was more than a tenth of that here.
This looks normal to me,” Nathan stated, completely unconcerned.
Same to me,” Sir Barrett added. “You have to remember that we grow into adults very quickly here, and then have very long lives. 18 years to reach the age of majority, and then close to 500 years to live. Not too many people worry about having children until they are ready, and then, the children grow up so fast. It's not surprising that there don't seem to be that many of them.”
I see,” I said with a sigh. I guess that it was a good way to control the population, since having a new baby per family every couple of years over the course of hundreds of years would soon lead to an overpopulation of epic proportions! “Tell me, has the birth rate declined over the years? Has it kept up with the death rate? Should I worry that we may run out of people in the next 100 years?”
Both Nathan and Sir Barrett exchanged a concerned glance. They looked away from me and seemed reluctant to answer my questions. This said far more than they wanted me to know.
Ah... so we are in a decline...”
Perhaps,” Sir Barrett admitted. “But it's nothing to worry about. After another couple of years, there'll be a population boom. You'll see.”
Hmm...” I murmured as if agreeing, but somehow, I doubted it.
Nathan's stomach growled, which he ignored, but this called my attention to the fact that I had dragged them around for hours without eating lunch. It was now almost time for dinner! Taking pity on them since I was getting hungry myself, I smiled.
So... where's good to eat around here?”
They both shrugged. I sighed in defeat. “Let me guess, you never leave the palace?”
Not true,” Sir Barrett stated politely. “We're both sent out to the front lines from time to time, and also on training missions.”
I pointed at Sir Barrett rather rudely. “Then it's a good thing you have to go with me when I travel the Kingdom.”
You're still going on about that?” Nathan observed with a groan. “I thought you were just angry and throwing out things to make a point.”
Nope!” I informed him. “I was serious and I am still serious.”
Well,” Nathan grumbled. “Then I guess I'll have to go with you. I'll talk to Lord Antony in a couple of days to start making plans. Lord Gregory might have some ideas too since he's the one who has the most experience in the field.”
In other words, Lord Gregory had been sent out of the palace the most. Oh great! I sighed in frustration, really not liking this trip as much as I thought I would. Standing up, I marched over to a well-dressed woman.
Excuse me,” I gained her attention with a syrupy voice and a friendly smile. “My friends and I are new in town. Would you happen to know the best place to eat?”
She eyed me as if trying to figure out how much money I had in my pocket, and then shrugged. “I guess that depends on whether you are looking for cheap food or tasty food.”
Tasty!” I answered enthusiastically.
She laughed at my energy, and then gave me a warm smile as she thought this over. “Hmm... well then, I'd say you probably want to try... Mordo's” She stated once she came to a decision. “Yes, Mordo's! He's got the tastiest food in town! And he's not too expensive either, come to think of it.”
Thank you!” I gushed in appreciation. “Where can we find Mordo's?”
She gave me directions that led away from where most travelers would be and into the part of town that only locals usually visited. I thanked her again, giving her hand a squeeze like we were now good friends. In my mind, we were friends now, even if we never saw each other again.
And tell him Molly sent you!” She insisted with a grin.
Will do, Molly,” I promised. “I'm Kait, pleased to meet you!”
A pleasure to meet you as well, Kait. If you're in town long, and you need anything, don't hesitate to ask me. I live over there in the little yellow house.” She pointed to a poor but well loved house at the end of the block.
I'll keep that in mind,” I answered with a grin. Then I slipped my hand in the crook of Nathan's arm and let him lead the way.
Molly called after us: “And don't forget to bring your handsome friends!”
I giggled and turned back toward her. “You like? I feel like the luckiest girl alive to have such handsome men around me!”
Ah, you are! You should see my man! He's broad of shoulder, thick of waist, and not too bright,” Molly admitted, looking away as if saying: but you know how it is...
I laughed. “But you love him anyway!”
Damn straight!” Molly exclaimed, waving to us as we walked away.
That was pretty amazing,” Nathan remarked, sounding impressed. “You got information out of her as easy as breathing! Even when we soldiers ask questions on behalf of the King – er Queen – not too many people just volunteer information like that!”
I laughed heartily at that. “No one tells the cops more than they have to because anything you say can and will be used against you, duh!”
Huh?” Both Nathan and Sir Barrett blurted out in confusion.
Oh never mind,” I muttered.
We soon arrived at Mordo's, ate a fabulously tasty meal consisting of a simple stew and a non-alcoholic fermented beverage of some sort, and then sat around people watching some more. I was dissatisfied that no one seemed to be having fun. Not even in a place that served such excellent food!
In frustration, I asked Mordo – who liked to greet all his customers personally – if I could try something. He gave me a deeply probing look before grinning.
So long as you don't drive my customers away, I don't care what you do!”
With his permission, despite the protests of my companions, I stood up and found a spot where everyone could see me. “Hello everyone, sorry to interrupt your dinner, but I... Well, I'm new here and I'm a bit sad to see that no one seems to have any fun, so I thought that maybe I could brighten up your day a bit. Please just sit back and enjoy as I – ” I giggled in embarrassment. “Try to sing something. I'd like to think I have a great voice, but I guess you'll all be the judge of that. Please try to be gentle with me!”
The entire place was big enough for plenty of customers, but not so big that my voice wouldn't reach the corners of the room. I had taken singing lessons after all, so I knew how to project. Choosing a song by Colbie Caillat called “I Never Told You,” I began rather slowly, changing just one lyric to suit me.
I miss those green eyes, how you kiss me at night, I miss the way we sleep... like there's no sunrise, like the taste of your smile, I miss the way we breathe... But I never told you, what I should have said. No, I never told you, I just held it in.
And now I miss everything about you!”
I continued singing, mostly not looking at anyone in particular, but the second time the song mentioned eyes, and I changed them to green again, I looked up and met Nathan's eyes for just a moment before I hastily looked away and concentrated on the song.
I see your green eyes, every time I close mine, you make it hard to see!”
I am pretty sure that I did a good job vocalizing the pretty parts. I just love singing songs where at least a part of it was this sort of humming harmonizing. Of course, I didn't have music to harmonize with, but I didn't let that throw me off.
When I was done, everyone clapped. They all looked astonished to hear someone singing. I was going to have to ask if anyone had heard singing in a while. Colbie was super easy to sing without music, so I stuck to her songs. Best of all, they were all love songs, which felt perfect for a place in a Kingdom trying to recover from a hopeless war.
That song was a little more up beat at times and created a good mood by the time I was finished. I chose another that felt like a silly little ditty to me and had always been one of my favorite Colbie songs. The beginning didn't apply to me, but when I got to my favorite part, I cast a glance at Nathan.
But I didn't look at him too long. I tried to look at everyone there for the same amount of time. Dancing just a little and smiling, encouraging them all to feel happy. My next favorite part of the song had me glancing at Nathan without even realizing it. But I looked away with a blush the moment I caught myself.
You make me wanna say, me? A family? A house! A family! Ooh, can we be a family? And when I'm 80 years old and sittin' next to you, and when we remember when we said I do, I do, I do do do do do do do doo... Oh baby I do, I do, I do do do do do do do doo...
I do... love you...”
By the time I finished the song, I felt very embarrassed for some reason, but I wanted to leave everyone – even me – undeniably happy, so I sang one more. This one was one of my absolute favorites.
Stop me on the corner, I swear you hit me like a vision! I, I, I wasn't expecting, but who am I to tell fate where it's supposed to go with it? Don't you blink you might miss it, see we got a right to just love it or leave it, you find it and keep it, 'cause it ain't every day you get the chance to say...
After I finished the song, I took a few theatrical bows, thoroughly enjoying as everyone clapped and cheered. Word had spread to some patrons passing by or indecisively lurking outside with friends before coming in, and so the place had become quite packed. Unlike restaurants in my world, here, tables we're more like picnic tables, and people crowded together as much as necessary so that everyone would fit.
Mordo was beside himself, positively overjoyed that he had more business than he could remember having in a long time. He rushed over to hug me. I saw both Nathan and Sir Barrett tense up in case they had to defend me, but by the time they fully sat at attention, it was clear that he intended me no harm.
Getting carried away, Mordo lifted me off my feet, squeezing me tight and twisting me back and forth. He set me down with a kiss on my cheek. “You're hired!” He announced to copious cheers. “Name your price, I'll pay it!”
I laughed, flapping my hands at him dismissively. “Oh you flatterer!”
But I'm serious!” He fervently insisted. “With you here, I'll never run out of customers!”
Aww...” I purred and then kissed him on the cheek. “You're sweet!” Looking around, I could see that everyone wanted me to accept his offer. They were also much happier than they had been.
I'm so sorry!” I informed everyone with a playful pout. “But I can't! I really can't! I'm just passing through.”
They all groaned in disappointment, making me afraid that I had just ruined the good mood I'd worked so hard to create, but excited chatter soon erupted. I sighed in relief, and then returned to my guys. I grinned at them, my heart ready to burst from the thought that I had actually made people happy with my singing!
Nathan shook his head ever so slowly and gave me a wry grin. “I don't think I got a chance to tell you how much I love hearing you sing.”
That's because you were too busy being jealous of Lord Ian,” Sir Barrett remarked with a tone like he was trying to be helpful even as he knew he was teasing. He winked at me, but then looked utterly serious. “I also think that you sound amazing. And just look at the miracle you've created!”
I looked around, nodding proudly. “It's beautiful, isn't it?”
It sure is,” they both agreed. Getting to their feet, they each offered me an arm, and then escorted me back to the palace. As we walked, I could feel Sir Barrett chuckling silently.
What?” I asked, intensely curious.
He shook his head as if refusing to answer, but then said what was on his mind. “If I didn't know better, I'd swear that you were head over heels in love with Lord Nathan.”
What?” I squeaked in alarm, my eyes flying to Nathan to see how he reacted to this news. He was blushing profusely.
Sir Barrett was also watching our reactions, and now laughed richly. “While you sang, every time you came to a particularly lovey dovey part, you'd look at his Lordship, and then quickly catch yourself and look away. I found the blush when you sang about starting a family utterly adorable!”
I stopped walking abruptly and looked to the ground to try and hide another such blush. Nathan was also still blushing. He purposely looked away from both me and Sir Barrett.
As I listened, I felt a bit like I was reading your journal. You always write things like: 'I see your green eyes, every time I close mine, you make it hard to see.' But there is something I'm confused about, what does that song about I do mean? I get the feeling it was more than I understood...” Nathan murmured.
Oh boy,” I whispered softly, turning my back on him so he couldn't see my face. “In my world, when a couple gets married, they exchange vows. Nowadays, the vows can be anything they want them to be, but traditionally, the minister asks the couple: 'Do you take this man/woman for better or for worse, in sickness and in health for as long as you both shall live?' and the couple makes the vow by replying: 'I do.'”
Nathan was silent long enough that I was tempted to peek at him, but I resisted the urge because I could feel the fire in my cheeks.
I see,” he eventually murmured, sounding almost sad. Then he seemed to force himself to cheer up and shrugged. “You've already written in your journal that you wish you could marry me every month... I guess the song was just more of your silliness.”
Yeah,” I agreed softly, turning to look at him. “I was just being silly.”
Sir Barrett made a sound like he was thinking: Aw come on! Just say it already! But he didn't say a word.

Go To Chapter 15 

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