I looked around in awe at the wondrous throne room the Delphinium Dominion's keep had. Luxurious tapestries draped across the walls. The color scheme of the throne room was a vibrant azure, matched with golden undertones. A bright blue carpet spanned from the double steel doors, all the way to the foot of the throne. Stoic stone pillars towered high toward the ceiling. Colorful mosaic windows lined the back wall behind the throne. Royal guards stood poised with perfect spacing along the walls of the chamber, each one wearing heavy metal armor with a royal blue cape hiding all but the head and front-most section of the body.
Connor, Joshua, and myself were proceeding toward the ruler of the Delphinium Dominion, Queen Delphinium. Connor was in the center of me and Joshua.
"Whoa," I muttered in amazement at the throne room's magnificence.
"Shh," Connor shushed me.
"Uh uh, did you just shush me?" I back talked.
"Yes, I did," Connor spoke out of the corner of his mouth.
"You did not just shush me," I continued to sass.
"Stay composed, stay professional," Connor muttered at me.
"Will you two shut up?" Joshua ceased our bickering.
"Let me do the talking please," Connor achieved the last word. I silently mocked him, mouthing his words with a silly face.
Queen Delphinium raised an eyebrow, slightly enticed at our murmurs that embarrassingly echoed through the throne room quite loudly. We reached the foot of the short set of stairs leading up to the throne. Connor bent a knee and bowed. Joshua and I followed suit.
"Hail, Queen Delphinium, high ruler of the Dominion. You summoned us from the town square?" Connor greeted the queen.
"I did," Delphinium spoke loud and prominent. She stood up off of her throne and stepped forward the top of the stairs. "Rise."
All three of us rose to our feet. I marveled at the garments the queen wore. A blue silk blouse with golden stripes down the sides of the sleeves. A darker blue silk skirt with a single thick golden stripe down the center of the front. Pearl white heels, gloves, and a sapphire jewel encrusted golden tiara resting atop her head.
A prominently posed man to her right eyed us suspiciously. He was dressed in an ash gray robe with dim cobalt sleeve cuffs.
"I've been told that you are a mercenary group. Is that correct?" the queen addressed us.
"That is correct, milady," Connor nodded.
"I ask, what is the title of your company?" Delphinium continued.
"Connor's Comrades," he answered.
"Your name, Connor, I presume."
"I will get right to business then. Everyone knows about the Desert of the Deceased. I've need of your services there..."
"My queen, I must protest. They are naught but mere adolescents, hardly of adult age," the man beside the throne spoke out.
"Do not interrupt your queen, Tharn!" Delphinium turned her head to scold the man. Tharn lowered his head slightly and shut his eyes in embarrassment and submission.
Delphinium turned back to us, "as I was saying. The desert is one that holds many secrets. Of course, where better to hide a secret than in the middle of a land as treacherous as that one. My task I ask of you, is to survey the dunes and report to me whatever interesting occurrences may happen while you are there. The Dominion would simply appreciate a higher understanding of the lands directly north of our borders."
"Is that all, Queen Delphinium?" Connor asked. Delphinium paused for a few short seconds and narrowed her gaze on us.
"Should you come across any, let's say 'artifacts', that look even remotely unique or valuable, you will return them to the Dominion, along with your report."
"Understood," Connor acknowledged with a nod.
"Splendid. Tharn, give them the contract," Delphinium ordered her right hand man as she turned around to sit on her throne again. Tharn snatched a scroll from a table nearby and handed it to Connor. The look on his face was even less than unaccepting. He turned around and took his position at Delphinium's side once more.
"Give me your answer by dusk tomorrow," Delphinium said.
"It will be done, high queen," Connor bowed. I took a short bow myself. Joshua did the same. Connor turned around. Joshua and I followed him out of the throne room.
"Let's get back to the rest of our comrades," Connor remarked. "We'll read the contract together."
"This sounds like an easy job," I proclaimed.
"It may sound that way, but the Desert of the Deceased is not for the faint of heart," Joshua said. "You've heard the stories haven't you?"
"You're referring to the rumors that at night the bones of the villagers from the old desert kingdom are reanimated?" I asked him.
"I am," Joshua confirmed.
"When did those rumors ever say the bone walkers were hostile?" I questioned him. Truthfully, I did not see any reason why the bone walkers would be hostile. The people of the continent had a bad habit of assuming anything they didn't understand that was touched by magic was somehow dangerous in some way.
"They riddle of the bone walker's hostility because every documentation written by those who dare venture in to the desert ends with their eventual demise," Joshua backed up his argument.
"Actually, there are only two records about journeys in to the desert," I belittled his claims. "One of them was the journal of an elderly man who the citizenry claimed was witnessing hallucinations, and the other was a note found in a temple deep in the heart of the desert from an archeologist who starved to death."
"And that note referred to his refusal to leave the temple after sighting the bone walkers emerge from the dunes during the twilight hours."
"But it never says anything about the beings showing any signs of aggression."
"The bones were wielding weapons!" Joshua rose his voice slightly.
"Guys, the moral of the story is, be wary and prepared for anything," Connor ended their argument.
"Agreed," Joshua said.
"True," I conceded.
"We may not even encounter the bone walkers anyways," Connor continued. "Our job is to stare at sand, and fish for cool looking rocks." He made it sound silly. I smirked at his remark.
"Do you think we'll have to time to journey westward as well and visit your cousin, Camielia?" I asked Connor.
"I doubt it, but we'll see," he shrugged.
"I like your cousin," Joshua added. "She's hot."
"Joshua!" Connor admonished him. "That's my cousin you're talking about!"
"You pig," I criticized Joshua.
"Hey, I'm just saying," Joshua put his hands up innocently.
"She doesn't fancy people like you anyways," Connor reminded him. "She would wish to give her hand to those with honor, virtue, and integrity."
"Are you saying I don't have integrity?" Joshua asked, feigning being offended.
"If you did, you wouldn't call a woman hot! Especially a royal protectorate of Rose Kingdom," Connor remarked. "But, I think you've a good idea Kaylynne. It will be Camielia's coming of age ceremony in just a few days. I don't see the harm in a little side trip. It would be the second time I've seen her since she, well, ran away from her village all those years ago."
"Will her sister be there?" Joshua asked. "She's hot too."
"You really are a pig," Connor agreed with me. A minute of silence fell between them as they proceeded to exit the keep. We stepped outside and the warm afternoon sun embraced their bodies. "It will be nice to see her again. It's been eighteen years since she lost most of her immediate family, and she hardly sees any of the family she has left. This is all, of course, if we even accept the terms of the contract."
I thought about the past for a moment. Connor and I had both grown up in the capital city of Tulip Sovereignty. I remember the trip we took south to see Camielia and her sister. That trip ended up bringing about a destiny none of us would have ever expected...