by Than Pence
King Sylvester and Tuette, a Cursed sorceress, must save Decennia from Count Roose!
|Sylvester’s only experience with the storage barns and stables on the mountain top were limited. He could remember being a young boy and walking the grounds with his father, King Gould. Since Sylvester’s adoption of the crown, he never felt like walking the path his father had taken.
As such, he was not sure of where to go when the advisors suggested he speak with the Agricultural Specialist for the sake of bringing someone with knowledge of the land below the throne. Initially, Sylvester had tried sending Penson to talk with the specialist, the farmer, but Penson had declined, pointing out that if this man was to travel with the king, he should get to know him personally, as soon as possible.
The man before him now looked weathered, aged by the elements that farming was supposed to expose a person to. Sylvester did not envy him. His hair was short, black and unwashed, his clothes were dirty and his feet were bare. Had the king not been told that this was his own Agricultural Specialist, he might have assumed the man to be a vagrant.
His face was tight, bony, but no cheekbones to speak of. What Sylvester could not help noticing was that, no matter the dirt and smudges, the farmer’s eyes looked bright, young, and clear. They were a lighter green than Sylvester’s, but they had trustworthy qualities. They reminded the king of Penson, the man he trusted the most, implicitly.
“How do you say your name?”
“Ya can just call me Dermy, yes.”
The farmer smiled. “Aye, sir. That is close enough for comfort, but if it is more comfortable on your tongue, you can call me Dermy. For short.” Dermy then shot his arm out and held it there, palm open, perpendicular to the ground.
Sylvester flinched at the movement. It had been a while since anyone had offered to shake his hand. He hesitantly shook it and marveled at the firm grip. Dermy smiled. “Farming builds muscles.” His eyes cut to the Gousheralls nearby for an instant. They had taken up posts near the largest barn to allow the king his privacy. Sylvester was not sure why they did it: odds were they would be the same men that traveled the land with the king. Dermy continued. “I hear word that you need me for somethin’?”
Sylvester informed Dermy on the general situation regarding the Curse and Count Roose, and the Reverse that would save the kingdom. “And they said having you along would be beneficial. Someone that might make travel easier. Someone with knowledge of the terrain, and maybe even a location where we can find some chickens.”
“Yes, yes, milord. And what do you think about it all?”
Sylvester stopped, taken aback. “What… do you mean?”
“Pardon my questions, please, but I have heard about what the Council thinks and what they say, but what do you think? Should I be along this excursion? Do you see me as a good fit for the job?”
He had not thought about it. Sylvester realized he had merely done what the Council had advised. “Well, the council didn’t make any other suggestions. They just said that I could travel for the purpose of Reversing the Curse.”
“What?” Sylvester felt his temper rising as this peculiar farmer who answered to the throne by asking more questions.
“Again, a pardon, milord. A hundred pardons, but I couldn’t help noticing that you said you ‘could’ travel on their suggestion. As if you answer to them and they permitted your quest, upon filing for clearance.”
A Gousherall, having noticed the king’s stance no doubt, appeared at Sylvester’s side. “Milord, is this farmer causing a problem?”
Sylvester’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment and he was thankful that his beard covered it. “No, he is just being inquisitive is all. I can handle it.” But the protector did not move. Sylvester’s ire rose further and he felt like striking either of these men, if not both. “I said, I can take care of it, guardsman.” The edge he allowed to creep into his voice made the Gousherall meet Sylvester’s eyes and, with a nod, he returned to his post near the barn gate.
Smiling broadly, Dermy said, “Aye, now that’s a good king, sir. Firm but tempered.”
“Like a good blade, I suppose.”
“Or even a good broad.” Sylvester flushed at the remark, having had no experience in that area. He was further thankful for his facial hair.
“Back to the matter at hand: I need someone along that has traveled the land and is knowledgeable. You’re the most experienced farmer. You will assign your mountaintop duties to someone else temporarily and then accompany me and my Gousheralls. We leave for Zharinna in two days, dawn.”
Dermy nodded, smiling still. “As my king commands.” His tone was not a mocking one. The farmer seemed pleased, happy even. Sylvester held his gaze for a moment and started to turn away when Dermy winked a green eye and quickly glanced down. Sylvester was getting the sense that a crude joke was being played. When the farmer did it again, Sylvester hesitantly looked down –
To see Dermy’s fingers from his left hand reaching into the bicep of his right arm. It was plainly visible to Sylvester, though it looked too absurd to be happening. “What…” he began, but Dermy shook his head ever so slightly.
“A gift for milord,” he whispered. With that, a small bag, no bigger than a thumb, was pulled from inside the farmer’s bicep. There was no blood, no gash or hole left on the skin’s surface. It was as if the item had been pulled from a pouch, except that the king clearly saw it come for the arm. “Pocket it. Open it when you’re alone.” It was all mysterious enough to Sylvester that he decided not to involve the Gousheralls just yet. He put the tiny bag in his sleeve’s inner pocket.
Turning around, he noticed that Dermy had chosen an advantageous point to dispense the obscure gift: one Gousherall was absent, probably attending to matters of bladder, and the other, the one that interceded moments before, would not have been able to see Dermy through the king. He smirked and strode quickly through the stable with first one guard at his flank and then the other after a time. Sylvester was anxious to get to his chamber and see what the clandestine package was about. His heart raced with excitement.
* ~ * ~ *
After a disappointing lunch, Sylvester retired to his chambers. Penson asked what was wrong and the king stated that he had a headache and wanted to try and sleep it away. Once alone, he recovered the pouch. As he opened it, excitement at something new and covert began to make him feel heady.
It was a jeweled ring and a tiny scrap of paper. On it were written two words. “Wear” and “Rub”. He felt cautious now as the situation seemed to be steeped in Magik. Though his bloodline had been chosen through Magik centuries before, Sylvester did not know if he could trust such unnatural forces.
Thinking back to his encounter with Dermy, he realized that the illusion of pulling this pouch out of his arm had to have been a Magik trick of some kind. But his eyes were so clear and bright. He knew it was foolish to put stock in such a thing, but he could not help it. Not letting himself be stalled further, Sylvester put the ring on and rubbed it.
Sylvester let his breath escape, unaware he had been holding it. After a few seconds of silence, he said, “Another trick against the Virgin King.”
The voice was at his earlobe and Sylvester whirled around, momentarily frightened. No one was behind him, he realized, his heart racing. “Where are you?” he bellowed while grabbing the dagger from behind the headboard.
Again, at his ear and Sylvester turned again. He was against the wall so there had been no space for a speaking person. That made the king afraid of something he had not thought about for many years: geists.
“King Sylvester, sir, I am here.” Swatting at the air near his ear, Sylvester continued trying to look behind himself. He thought himself to be mad suddenly and wondered if this was the end of his short reign.
“Are you a geist?” he asked, unable to keep a tremble at bay.
“No, sir. I am a farmer. Your Agricultural Specialist.”
“Dermicalus?” He was confused.
“Close enough. Yes, it’s me. I am in my dormitory above the stables. I can hear you breathing heavily. Please calm your nerves.”
Sylvester said, “Show yourself,” since he knew that some geists were rumored to play tricks with their spy-gotten knowledge.
“The ring you’re wearing is for communicating over long distances. It’s a Comgem.”
Sylvester looked down at the ring and noted how warm it was against his skin. “Is it supposed to feel this warm?”
“Unfortunately, yes. They warm up rather quickly which is why this needs to be brief. You cannot trust your Gousheralls. They were the ones behind your father’s death.”
As if smacked in the face, Sylvester sobered up, forgetting about his fear of geists and Magik practitioners. “That is a serious accusation, farmer.”
“It is a sad truth, sir. But they are not the only ones that can’t be trusted here on Mount Reign. Some on the Advisory Council have no pleasant motives in mind.”
“The Council? They are the ones that suggested I adopt you for my quest.”
“Because they think me an inept farmer, nothing more.”
Sylvester paused, thoughts racing. The Comgem steadily warmed and would be too hot to wear before long. Finally he asked, “How do I know I can trust you, then?”
A pause. “That is a fair question and I am glad you asked. Just know that I am your ally. I have this nation’s future in mind and with you, our rightful king, ruling soundly.”
“So much flattery. My ears find your honeyed words to be delicious,” he said, wondering if the sarcasm carried through the Magikal device.
“You are right to be mistrustful. I encourage it. The Comgem, give it to someone here on the mountain that you trust.”
“I thought I could trust you and the Council and my Gousheralls, but you alone have shaken all three pillars.”
A sigh came through and the ring easily transitioned from warm to hot. “But there has to be someone. Tabs must be kept on the advisors while we’re away.”
Sylvester immediately thought of Penson, but wondered if his assistant and friend would think it foolhardy to trust Dermy. “I know someone,” he said, taking the plunge.
“The ring. Too hot. Farewell, fare king.”
Silence followed and Sylvester’s ring cooled substantially. Sliding it off, he looked closely at it and wondered what was going on that he was unaware of. The farmer had meant to shake up his world but Sylvester was fine with that. A change had been long overdue.