But before he had time for that understandable reaction, there was a pounding on the wooden door behind him. Roary jumped up and started to bark in a very normal, dog-like manner, which made Brandon feel a little disorientated.
Alistair grabbed him by the upper arm and led him to the canopy bed.
''Quickly, Master.'' he whispered. ''You must hide...at least until we know who this visitor is. Now – under the bed, if you please.''
''But... but.'' He sighed and did as he was told, crawling under the large bed, which, thankfully, had high legs. He held his breath and hoped it wasn't too dusty under here. The last thing he needed was for it to set off his allergy. Alistair readjusted the bedcovers to ensure that he was well hidden.
He heard the door of the bedroom creak open, and muffled voices, one of them female, then footsteps approaching. He froze. The bedcovers were raised and a face appeared. It was a young girl, with wide blue eyes. She giggled.
''My Lord.'' she laughed. ''Not a very good welcome back, is it? Being stuffed under a bed.''
Alistair's face appeared beside hers. Followed by Roary's.
''I'm sorry Master. Can't be too careful, not with times as they are. Out you come.'' He extended his hand.
Brandon wriggled out from under the bed, and stood, brushing fluff from his robe. He looked at the girl, enquiringly.
''Tiffy – you weren't followed, were you?'' Alistair asked the newcomer.
''No. Jaina was still asleep when I left, otherwise she might have made a fuss fit to wake the dead. I don't think she's cottoned on to what's happening, yet.'' She turned to Brandon. ''She'll be pleased to see you though, even though she'll probably pretend she's not. I certainly am – that's the truth.''
She smiled at Brandon, showing dimples in her round face. He couldn't help smiling back, despite his confusion and annoyance. She seemed very sweet.
''Gosh, though, you do look young. Mr. Monk said you might, but I wasn't really expecting you to look quite so... so... well, youthful.'' She looked him up and down, appraisingly, and he could feel a blush starting at his ears and spreading up to his cheeks and down his neck. He looked away from Tiffy and cleared his throat.
''So. What's this you were saying about my... Kingdom? Are you saying I'm some sort of ruler of this place... What did you call it?''
''Igladia, Master. You are King Tassian III, Supreme Lord and Monarch of the Kingdom of Igladia.'' said Alistair with a flourish, and a little bow.
Brandon looked from the old man to the young girl. They were both grinning at him expectantly. They seemed to be expecting some kind of response to this. He had better not disappoint them.
''Tassian? Tassian? What on earth sort of name is that? My name is Brandon. Always has been, for that matter. I'm not sure I like the idea of being called Tassian.''
Alistair chuckled. ''Well, that's just it, you see. On your... Earth, it's probably not such a common name. But here...well – I should say it's very popular in these parts. Especially among the royals. There were two of them before you.''
Brandon looked around. All three, even Roary, were nodding. He opened his mouth to speak, but was dismayed to discover that he had absolutely no idea what to say.
Alistair rubbed his hands together.
''Now – Tiffy. Please fetch the Master's robes. I assumed they are ready?''
''Oh yes. But...'' She looked Brandon up and down again, and his blush, which had only just subsided, threatened to return again, with a vengeance. ''I hope they still fit. They may need a little alteration. You've, how shall I put it – filled out, a bit, since you were here last.'' She winked at him, and he looked away, quickly.
''Well, thankfully, you're an expert seamstress, Tiffy. Run along and fetch them, there's a good girl.'' said Alistair.
Tiffy gave Brandon a little finger-wave and left.
Brandon sank to the bed. Whatever was going to happen next?