King Keil looked upon the two of them with a scowl. He was a tall, powerful looking man. He wore the kingdoms colors of red and silver. His long cloak hung around his ankles and looked to be made of pure silk. Under his sleeveless red tunic with the bronze lion on it, was visible chain-mail. He wore tight-fitted trousers tucked into his leather boots.
His daughter, Rona, was the exact same build as Sophie. They were the same height, same shape. The only difference was the face. Nobody ever sees her face due to her fancy over veils that cover most of her face. Jacen could see that she was observing her imposter as if it were a rival.
“You must be Mister Sorn.” Keil stated, his greeting did not have any emotion in it.
Jacen was still in shock. “Yes, your majesty.” He answered after a moment to collect himself.
“And that would make you miss...Herron, is it?” He asked.
“Yes, your majesty.” Sophie repeated. “B-But how did you know?”
Keil laughed. “Would you take that veil off, girl. You are like my daughter, I cannot understand you.”
“Father!” Rona snapped.
“Oh, hush now Rona, I wish you would stop wearing those veils and I believe I have been very outspoken about that.” He said to her.
Jacen was surprised to find himself laughing in the presence of the King. He turned to Sophie to see her lowering her hood and unattaching her veil. Her long, dark red hair fell down her back.
Rona turned on her heel and left. Her father shook his head sadly and turned back to Jacen and Sophie.
“I hear that you two have been giving a lot of trouble to our fine guards in the city.” He remarked. “And you have just stolen an official document from the desk of my personal secretary.” He looked at Sophie when he said this. When she looked down at her shoes, he chuckled. “You thought I didn't realize that you were behind the ferns, didn't you?”
Sophie slowly nodded in disbelief.
“Well, I guess I had better get these papers,” He pulled a sheet of parchment from his pocket, “downstairs to pardon your crimes since the others have been written.” He smiled. “Would you meet me in the Great Hall in a few minutes. Thank you.”
With that, he descended into the darkness of the dungeons, leaving Jacen and Sophie alone and thoroughly confused.
“That was...odd.” Jacen stated. He continued to look down into the dungeons. “Do you think that we may be in too much trouble to be sent to the dungeons. Maybe he wants to have us killed with as little witnesses as possible.”
“You are always expecting the worst aren't you?” Sophie asked.
“When it comes to being pardoned by the King...yes, I'm going to assume we're in worse trouble.” Jacen grinned. “Where is the Great Hall anyway?”
“Through those doors and up the stairs. The first door you see.” A passing guard said and pointed to the giant oak doors leading into the main part of the castle. Sophie jumped about a foot in the air. The guard left, Jacen swore he heard him cackling.
“That was helpful.” Jacen said scratching his head. Can this day get any more strange?
They followed the guard's directions. They were easy enough to follow. They looked around and saw that the eyes of servants were following them everywhere. Jacen felt more uncomfortable and out of place than he had in his life. He pushed open the door leading into the Great Hall and closed it behind Sophie.
The Great Hall was definitely grand. It had a high ceiling and three stained-glass windows behind two large, ornate thrones. They both stood empty at the moment. It was common knowledge that the Queen was out of town on a diplomatic mission to Lysem for the next few weeks. The floors were solid mahogany. The walls were a pale gold color with white pillars lining the aisle leading to the Thrones.
Jacen and Sophie admired the hall until the door opened again. The King walked in casually. Jacen had definitely not expected the King of Kyel to be so...normal. If he had met the King on the streets in the clothes of a beggar, he would hardly recognize him.
“So sorry about that. But I must impress that if I ever hear that either of you have been stealing from me directly again, I will be much less lenient than I am being right now. Is that clear?” Keil asked.
Now that is how a king is supposed to sound, Jacen thought. He grinned as the King lectured them. “Yes, your majesty.” He answered at the same time Sophie did.
“Good, now. I have heard a great deal about you two in the reports I get from my guards. A lot of them are about thievery.” Keil finally got to his throne and sat. Jacen and Sophie stood before him. “The problem that the guards are having with you two, is that you do not steal much each time you visit a place. And you keep your return visits spread. The owners of the house do not even realize that they have been robbed until it is quite too late for the guards to do anything.
“The one time they caught you,” He looked at Jacen, “You escaped en route to the Keep, overpowering the two guards that were escorting you. But in the Citadel dungeons, you did confess that you had been stealing for months, is that correct.”
“Yes, sir. I do not lie when I do not need to.” Jacen said. This was of course a lie, but he did not lie when being interrogated by the Citadel guards. “I had no reason to lie, I was stealing for my own survival as well as that of my friends.”
“Friends other than miss Herron?” Keil questioned curriously.
“Yes, sir. Other's like us who are too young to work and are trying to avoid slave labor.” He explained.
“And here I thought I had passed a law against slave labor and yet it is happening in my very city.” He shook his head again. “I will have to look into that.”
Jacen was shocked, there was no mention of punishment yet.
“Well, you two must be exhausted. Please, let my steward take you to a guest room where you can rest.” He said. “I consider you both heroes of sorts in this city. I would knight you, but you two have not done anything noble enough to qualify. Thievery is not a quality of a knight, unfortunately.” Keil smiled softly.
“Heroes, sir? Us?” Sophie asked, stunned.
“Yes, you two are the heroes of the lower terrace. Not all of the reports I receive about you two are from the guards.” He winked. “Now-”
He was cut off by the sound of a horn sounding nearby.
“What in blazes-?” Keil asked. “Come.” He beckoned for them to follow as he marched out of the hall. Jacen shrugged, not wanting to disobey the King, and followed.
They were out in the courtyard when King Keil stopped. The drawbridge was being lowered.
“What is happening?” Keil asked the head of the guard from the dungeon.
“I don't know, your majesty.” He said, throwing a glance back at Jacen. “What are they still doing here?”
“They are my guests, Louse. You will treat them as such.” Keil snapped.
“You think it wise, bringing vermin into the Keep? They have already stolen from you once.” He pleaded, not bothering to lower his voice.
“We have an understanding about that, Louse, know leave it be and make yourself useful and find out what is going on!” Keil ordered.
Louse bowed low and hurried off to do as the King commanded. Keil chuckled. “He is a good man, but he can be very annoying at times. Which could make him my next Royal Advisor.” He chuckled again.
The drawbridge was now down fully. After a few minutes, Jacen could see something coming across it. It was an elegant carriage, adorned with the letters L.R. On the doors. The carriage driver pulled hard left on the reigns. The horses pulling it turned so that when it stopped, the door was right in front of the King, who was grinning knowingly.
The door opened. A tall man of average build stepped down onto the stone. He was dressed similarly to the King, the only exception was that his cloak was thicker, meant for travelling. He had long, shaggy brown hair that fell to his shoulders beneath his red and bronze top hat. He had a walking stick in hand, but did not use it. It was merely a prop.
“Your majesty.” The man greeted the King with a low bow.
“And since when did you ever bow to me, Lord Reaton?” Keil laughed. “It is good to see you my old friend.”
Jacen's eyebrows creased. When Keil had mentioned bowing, the Lord straightened up quickly, his eyes wide. Then he relaxed when the King greeted him.
“And what for what do you us this great honor, Reaton?” He asked.
“I have simply come to visit an old friend. Is that against the law, Archibald?” Reaton laughed.
“I would know, I write them.” Keil laughed. “Come, come. The cook is preparing dinner for us now. I will send word down to him to make extra.” He turned to Jacen and Sophie, you will be joining us of course, my friends?” He asked.
Sophie was stunned again. Jacen finally answered, “Of course, your highness.” With an incline of the head. The king grinned and headed into the castle.
“Am I dreaming?” Sophie asked as the crowd dispersed. “Are we really having dinner with the King, the Princess, and one of the three Lords?”
Jacen sighed. “It appears that way.” The truth was, he was going to decline dinner, until he had seen the Lord acting strangely. Of course, it could have been a joke...but his face seemed too sincere to be joke-worthy.
“Mister Sorn, Miss Herron?” A high-pitched voice asked from behind them. They turned to see a short, sickly looking man standing there. Jacen assumed this was the steward.“His royal highness has asked me to show you to the bath houses.” He announced, trying to sound important.
Jacen shrugged. “Lead on.”
He followed the steward through the castle. The steward had not uttered a word since they left the courtyard. When they arrived at to rooms opposite each other, he turned to them.
“Mister Sorn, to the left please. Miss Herron, to the right. You will find clothes made by the royal tailor waiting for you inside. I will come to retrieve you when it is time for dinner.” He explained.
“What if we are finished before dinner is finished?” Jacen asked smartly.
“Then you will wait here. I will not have time to search the castle for you.” He said, trying to make his squeaky voice sound commanding.
Jacen refrained from laughing and went into the bathroom indicated to him. Inside was a few clothes racks, all of them were empty except for one. On it held clothes that appeared to have belonged to a prince at one time, they also looked like they would fit him perfectly.
He lowered himself into the bronze bathtub. The heated water was welcome after the day that he had been having thus far. He allowed himself to forget his problems for the moment and clean himself up for the most eventful night of his life.
After what seemed like a long time, he climbed out, quickly toweled off, and dressed. He had barely finished with the last button on the coat when a loud pounding came at the door.
“DINNER IS SERVED!” The voice of the steward came from the opposite side.