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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mirror of Dreams - Chapter 17

17

My tour was disappointingly uneventful. It felt like every town we traveled to was exactly the same. There were no actual monsters, however... People wandered around almost like zombies, just doing what they needed to do to survive with no real thought to what made them happy.
Toward the end, we stayed for several days in one of the larger towns that was the center of a lot of the smaller towns in the area. This made it a sort of hub. Which gave me a brilliant idea!
Grabbing a fresh piece of paper out of a pack I kept on hand with the reports I needed to reread and think over, I took the time to write out in a fair imitation of the Royal Scribe's script a Royal Proclamation. I did it when no one was looking, so after I had signed it, rolled it into a scroll, and sealed it with wax and the Royal Seal, my guys were confused when I suddenly decided to leave the inn extra early in the morning to wander the town.
I wore the type of dress that a respectable middle class woman would wear, which made it really easy to walk around town without drawing too much attention. My guys yawned and grumbled unappreciatively as we walked. Eventually, I managed to get directions out of a few different people to the town elder's house.
A grumpy servant answered the door, glaring at me for daring to disturb the house just as breakfast was being served. I gave him my brightest and most charming smile.
I am so sorry to bother you, but I am a messenger in service to the Queen, and I have an official message from the Queen to deliver to the town elder,” I informed him. Behind me, I heard Sir Barrett hastily choke back an incredulous snort while Ian chuckled and Nathan sighed in resignation.
The grumpy servant thought this over in silence for a long moment before suppressing a groan and gesturing for me to let him see the message. I held it up, ensuring that he got a good look at the Royal Seal. He suppressed another groan, and then let us into the house and asked us to wait while he conferred with his master.
We were quickly allowed into the room where the town elder and his grown son – and their wives – had just sat down to eat a wonderful smelling meal. My stomach growled, punishing me for not taking the time to eat before I dragged my men all over town. The elder held out his hand impatiently, so I handed over the message.
He read the message, and then snorted dismissively and tossed it onto the table. “It seems our precious majesty has taken it into her empty head to decree that our town should host a festival!” He announced with a contemptuous sneer. I ignored his blatant insult, but I could feel Sir Barrett and Nathan stiffen as if preparing to argue. Ian was laughing silently.
What kind of festival?” His wife asked with interest.
An absurd gathering of merchants and entertainers. As if we have time for such frivolity!” The Elder roared.
I don't know,” his son murmured, stroking his chin in speculation. “That could be a good idea – a way to stimulate the economy...”
The Elder harrumphed. “Not in the scant week she's given us to prepare!” He fiddled with the message as if pushing it toward me. “Take this back to Her Majesty and tell her to shove it where the sun – ”
Father!” His son cut him off in shock.
I pulled my long braid of reddish hair over my shoulder to stroke it as if petting a cat. This was a soothing technique so that I wouldn't loose my temper and start a fire in his house. I stepped a bit closer to him and looked him in the eyes.
Are you sure you want to deny a request from the Queen?” I asked, not sure what I was going to do if he tossed me out for being uppity.
I'm quite – uh!” He interrupted himself, sitting up straighter and then leaning forward to return my serious stare. He paled visibly. “Uh, I'm quite sure that I would be honored to fulfill any request Her Majesty makes of me!”
I was taken aback for a moment because I had no idea why he had changed his mind so abruptly.
Forgive the rudeness of an old man. Would you and your companions like to join us for breakfast?”
I covered my stomach with a blush as it growled loudly once again.
Please sit,” the Elder's wife insisted kindly, sending a confused look to her husband. Her son and his wife were goggling at him in shock.
Ian laughed as he pulled out a chair and plopped into it. “Looks like the cat is out of the bag. We may as well sit down and enjoy this delicious smelling food!”
Cat? Bag?” Nathan wondered, pulling a chair out for me.
I grinned in understanding as I sat down. “Ah... Allow me to introduce my companions,” I said to the Elder, who was still eyeing me strangely. “This is Lord Nathan, son of the Previous Queen. This is Lord Ian, son of the honored Holy Man, and this is Sir Barrett, personal bodyguard to the Queen.”
Ah...ha...” the Elder murmured. “So I'm right...”
Right?” His wife asked, clearly still confused. Her son and his wife were now gaping at me in open mouth shock.
The Elder cast his wife a sarcastic look. “Dearest... If the Queen's personal bodyguard is sitting at our humble table, then where do you suppose the Queen Herself is?”
She gasped as her eyes flew to me. She looked me over, taking note of my reddish brown hair and my differently colored eyes. “One bright blue, one dark brown... just like King Henry...”
I smiled at her warmly. “Good morning, sorry to intrude on your breakfast, I simply thought that delivering a message would be less traumatic than a Royal Procession.”
Hrmph!” The Elder snorted. “Your presence is traumatic either way!”
Nathan growled softly. “How dare you show Her Majesty such disrespect?!”
I flapped my hand at Nathan dismissively. “Oh hush!”
The Elder picked up my message and tossed it at me. “This is absurd!”
I shrugged and gave him an extra bright smile. “Nonetheless, it's what I want, and I'm not leaving until you comply.”
He sighed heavily. “I was afraid you'd say that!” He turned to his son. “Junior! I'm turning this matter over to you. See to it that Her Majesty gets what she wants.”
Yes father!” He replied, sounding both hopeful and a tiny bit eager. He turned to smile at me. “It'll be my honor.” Unlike his father's fairly disrespectful demeanor, he meant what he said.
Thank you,” I murmured, smiling almost shyly at him now.
What did you have in mind?” He wondered.
Honestly, I was thinking about the Renaissance Festival, but I couldn't exactly say: Have everyone dress up in old fashioned clothes with plenty of cleavage and then wander around shopping and being entertained by people speaking ye old fake british. Yeah... I'm pretty sure no one would understand what the hell I was talking about, except Ian.
Ian – being the brilliant guy that he was – immediately picked up on my thoughts and grinned at me. He then proceeded to describe almost exactly what I wanted. Right down to the gathering of merchants from all around, outdoor food shops, and zany entertainers performing for the enjoyment of all.
Renfest!” We both sang out abruptly, and then giggled at our silliness.
Junior hastily wrote down all of our suggestions, and then asked questions as needed. When he was done, the enormity of the task hit him, and he sighed. “How am I going to do all of this in just a week?”
Easy,” I stated with a smirk. “Send out fliers and invitations to all the nearby towns to be posted that say something like: Hear ye hear ye, by order of Her Royal Majesty – Queen Kaitlynn of Rolandia – you are cordially invited to attend the first ever yearly festival. Currently needed are merchants and performers, so if you can sing or play an instrument, don't be shy, hurry up and contact Junior!”
I said all of this with theatrical flourishes, ending with a rolling flourish as I indicated the Elder's son. He looked at me like I was crazy for a moment before a slow smile spread across his face.
That could work...”
Of course it will!” I stated confidently. As we had talked this over, maids had served us breakfast, and now I moaned in pleasure. “This is so tasty!”
A maid blushed and tried to look away as she mumbled. “You're too kind, Majesty...” I beckoned her closer by wiggling my finger, and then kissed her as a reward.
Kaitlynn,” Nathan whispered in my ear. “You probably shouldn't kiss the maids in public.”
I looked around to see the maid fanning herself as if she was about to faint, and everyone else – other than my companions – looked utterly shocked. I shrugged and grinned. “I'll kiss everyone if it'll make them feel better.”
Flirt...” Nathan grumbled with a secretive smile and a wry shake of his head.
When we were finished eating, I prepared to leave so that I could watch reactions when the first fliers were put up around town. Junior already had a handful ready, having learned a long time ago how to copy things quickly and accurately.
Ian got to his feet and took my hand in his. “Kaitlynn, would you mind if I stayed here and helped out?”
Knock yourself out,” I permitted with a grin, and then kissed his cheek. “You know where to find us when you're done.”

***

The festival went off better than I'd dared hope, considering that it was basically thrown together at the last minute. None of the musicians were what I'd call professionals, but they managed to keep up a lively tune that people eventually couldn't resist dancing to. I watched happily, bouncing in excitement as I vowed to sample food from all of the outdoor shops.
The crowd in attendance got larger as the day passed. As dinnertime approached and I heard people wondering whether to stay or go home, I decided to climb a fairly central platform. I was currently wearing one of the simpler of Lady Leeza's lacy creations.
Excuse me, may I have everyone's attention?” I called out several times. I could tell that people stopped talking to look at me mostly because they were trying to figure out exactly what they could see through my dress. Unlike in the palace, most people wore fairly modest clothes out of necessity for work reasons.
Nathan decided to help me out without warning, knowing by now that I would skip what he considered the most important part. He held his arms out, trying to imitate my theatrical flourishes. “Now that I have your attention, allow me to present to you our most gracious Queen Kaitlynn, the one responsible for instigating this interesting festival.”
People immediately asked each other if I was really the Queen. I kissed Nathan and slipped my hand into his.
Thank you, Lord Nathan, for that quick introduction. It's true that I wanted a festival, and this has been quite interesting. My goal was to spread fun and happiness, and I think I managed that even a little. It is my fervent hope that this festival will become a yearly event. Now that the Town Elder's son has a whole year to plan things out, next year's event might be even better! Thank you to everyone who attended, you made my day a little brighter! Now, if I remember correctly, there's going to be a dance, so please resist the temptation to go home already.”
I could feel the current of excitement travel around as everyone discussed the dance. It was an event almost as rare as a festival! It was like having two separate holidays rolled into one.
I got down from the platform and disappeared into a waiting tent in an alley so that I could change clothes and pull on a wide-brimmed hat to cover my hair. Now I shouldn't be easily recognizable as the woman who had just claimed to be Queen. In disguise, I joined the crowd as the dance began.
Sir Barrett obligingly kept an eye on me from a distance. Nathan also kept a little distance since he had been the one to introduce me and the crowd continued to eye him in speculation. Ian and I took turns dancing with each other and with various members of the crowd. With us around obviously having fun, everyone else felt better about letting loose and enjoying themselves.
Ian noticed when I was getting a little tired and decided that it was time we made a lasting impression before we left the crowd to party without us. He walked over to the musicians and held a mini conference with them so that he could teach them a basic melody to play for us to sing to. It wouldn't be exact, but it would be better than nothing. Striding back over to me, much like a peacock, he started the song. I was too busy dancing to pay attention to him at first, but then one of the lyrics caught my attention and I knew that I had to join in.
I joined in as back up as he pulled me into a sexy dance. We could hear the crowd sort of get quiet as they listened to our lyrics. When people figured out what we were singing about, they cheered in appreciation and even joined in when we repeated a lyric enough. Such as:
We're gonna go all the way tonight, we're gonna go all the way tonight tonight! We're gonna go all the way tonight, we're gonna go all the way tonight's the night! We're gonna go all the way tonight, we're gonna go all the way tonight tonight! We're gonna go all the way tonight, we're gonna go all the way tonight's the night!”
As we danced, Ian groped and felt me up suggestively – as I did him. The crowd was in love, singing our lyrics when we paused to simply dance for a few moments. Just when the lust built almost to the breaking point, I called out:
Stop right there! I gotta know right now! Before we go any further, do you love me? Will you love me forever? Do you need me? Will you never leave me? Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? Will you take me away and make me your wife?”
I continued on like this until Ian hastily cut me off, waving his hands almost frantically. “Let me sleep on it! Baby baby, let me sleep on it!”
This made the crowd laugh. We sang the argument back and forth for a bit, finally agreeing that we were: “Praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you!”
There's a reason that the classic songs never die, it's because people love them no matter where you go. The crowd roared and cheered as we curtsied and bowed. The musicians tried to keep the mood going by continuing the music, and others tried to imitate us. We waved – wishing them well – and then walked away from the area designated for the festival.
Your Majesty is quite naughty,” Sir Barrett remarked with an amused smile.
Why must you always sing things like that in public,” Nathan asked with a blush, tucking my hand into the crook of his arm.
Because it's fun!” I exclaimed with a tone of: Duh!
We walked along in comfortable silence for a while until a group of men stepped into our path. Sir Barrett and Nathan tensed up, obviously ready to defend me. The leader bowed to me very respectfully.
I'm sorry to alarm you, but I was wondering if you could help me with something,” he informed us. “I'm a traveler and I've never been in this area before. Can you tell me if this festival is a common occurrence?”
My hat seemed to get in the way as I looked up at him, so I took it off and handed it to Ian, who had no qualms about setting it on his head despite it being a rather girly hat. Now I smiled at the polite stranger.
No, this is apparently the first time,” I answered his question.
But isn't it a bit frivolous to have a festival when the enemy could attack at any time?” He wondered with a curious frown.
I sighed. “Not at all, this is the perfect time to have a festival. The people need to know that there's more to life than war.”
His lips crumpled from a tiny smile. It was as if he hadn't smiled in so long that had forgotten how. “I agree...” He bowed to me again and then stepped aside.
I cheerfully waved goodbye to him and then started to walk away, but stopped when he cleared his throat and said: “I'm currently on my way to the Rolandian Royal Palace. If I'm right, I'm going to see you there, aren't I?”
Uh...” I uttered, not knowing what to say.
I watched you when you introduced yourself as Queen, and then deduced that you changed so that you could pass into the crowd unnoticed. Nothing I have ever known could have prepared me for the sight of a Queen singing for the common people!”
Sir Barrett and Nathan took up defensive positions, and for once, I let them. I was just a little bit creeped out by this man who had paid enough attention me to figure out what most others hadn't. He held up his hands to assure us that he meant no harm.
As I told you, I am a simple traveler on my way to the Royal Palace. I had heard that there's a new Queen and I felt it was only right to meet with her...”
So who are you then?” Ian asked a split second before I got a chance to.
I would first like to point out that I myself am traveling with only two men for safety...” he murmured evasively.
King Francis...” Nathan whispered, sounding like he wasn't quite sure but had a sneaking suspicion. The man heard him and bowed.
Exactly right,” he confirmed. “King Francis of Nibal at your service.”
I used a hand on each of my guards to lightly push them to the side. “I'm so happy to meet you, King Francis!” I held out a hand for him to shake, unless he decided to kiss it instead.
The man who looked about 30 – and so was probably well over 100 years old – took my hand and tried to look me in the eyes as he bestowed a kiss on it. “I'm pleased to meet you as well.”
I smiled at him. “This is certainly a strange place for two Royals to meet, but I think it's better this way. Neither of us has a court full of fusspots at our backs trying to analyze our every move.”
He laughed, sounding startled to do so. “That's true. Perhaps we can travel together and get to know one another better before arriving at your palace.”
I shrugged. “I do happen to be on my way home. I don't see why we can't travel together. That way, I can talk to you about this ridiculous war. I fully plan to put an end to it forever, no matter what it takes!”
He looked incredibly sad. “Then perhaps we are of one mind.”
I tucked my hand into the crook of his arm and led him towards the inn we were staying in. “So... Francis – I can call you Francis, right?”
Actually, please call me Fritz,” he insisted. “Only a rare person has the gall to call me by my preferred name.”
Okay Fritz,” I agreed with a grin. “And you can call me Kaitlynn. Anyway, Fritz, can you tell me something very important? What do I have to do to stop this war? Do I have to bribe you? Do I have to sleep with you? Or will it require something outrageous such as holding you hostage and making you my little love slave?”
He stopped short, his eyes boggling incredulously. “W-w-w-what???”
I giggled, pushing on his nose with a finger. “Aha, love slave it is!”
Ian laughed and ruffled my hair. “I think you just managed to fluster a real live King! Only you...”
Thank you,” I murmured joyously as if proud of myself.
You're not serious?!” Fritz asked, still sounding incredulous.
Well, I am serious that I will do whatever it takes,” I informed him. “All you need to do is tell me what you want.”
He sighed heavily. “I ascended the throne only five years ago... My uncle – King Francis as well, I'm technically the Fifth man to hold this title – had just died in a battle of a war that we started! We kept the news quiet, and I decided to just let the war rest. But – continuing on with the pattern of centuries – each Kingdom rebuilt for a few years, and then Rolandia attacked. I asked for a cease fire much more quickly than my predecessor had...”
When he paused, I got the feeling it was so that he could mentally will me to believe him. Sir Barrett cleared his throat. “That part is actually true. We had barely fought four or five battles before he asked us to stop, and as tradition dictated, we had to honor his request.”
My court has been begging me to attack Rolandia before you attack us again, but I just don't have the heart. My sincerest wish was that King Henry would simply wait for us to attack, that way if I never did... But then I heard that there was a new Queen. I decided that perhaps I could appeal to you...”
I stroked King Francis' face with a hand. “Then it really does sound as if we are of one mind. I am now rather embarrassed to admit that I was planning to sneak into your palace, all the way into your bedroom, and kill you in your sleep so that you couldn't ever order an attack on us,” I joked. Mostly. “Happily, that won't be necessary!”
He snorted a laugh. “I am not quite sure whether to believe you or not!”
We arrived at the inn, and I gestured to it. “This is where we're staying. I plan to leave in the morning. Why don't you meet us here after breakfast so we can travel together?”
That sounds like the perfect plan,” Fritz agreed with a smile.
Oh...” I added after a moment's thought. “I feel like I should warn you, I can never sleep, so if you have any plans to send one of your men to catch me unawares, it won't work.”
He looked offended for a moment, and then sighed since he realized that we were officially still enemies until we actually signed a peace treaty. “I would never do something so dishonorable.”
Good!” I stated with a trusting smile, and then kissed him. “Until tomorrow.”
He stood next to his bodyguards and watched me walk into the inn with a thoughtful expression.
That has to be too good to be true,” Sir Barrett muttered once we were inside. He clearly couldn't trust that the war could just end so easily.
Well, easy or not, I don't plan to let him leave the Kingdom until he has agreed to everlasting peace,” I stated. I would do evil things to him if I had to in order to prevent war, but I rather hoped that he'd be bought by gentler means.

Go to Chapter 18 

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