SS — By Brian Francis Short Story / Fantasy 2156 — WORDS
The kingdom started the Royal Orphanage Society soon after the great war of Fernrug (also known as the Bloody Field). It is said that when Crystar defeated the army of Banstir, Sire Gadron went to visit the newly conquered areas. As he visited the cities and villages, he noticed that there were a large number of children living on the street. The King felt bad that the war had left so many without husbands, fathers, and brothers. When a newly appointed Lord Overseer ordered all the children gathered up, because of the rising petty crime, the King was furious.
The King summoned the Overseer to the stronghold he had been using as his royal court, where he proceeded to humiliate and degrade the Overseer in a way that was so unlike the King. Lord Antio, the King’s most trusted adviser, was present and soon came to the defense of the young Overseer. When Sire Gadron heard the explanation offered by Lord Antio, that the children were being gathered for their protection, the King relaxed. He then congratulated the young Overseer on the fine job he was doing. The young man was then quickly escorted out of the room by Antio. Antio told him that he was doing the right thing but that he needed to look into the future when making decisions and plan accordingly. They both then went to a room together to make a plan of action. In that small meeting room the two men started what was to become the King’s favorite project.
Over the next few months, orphanages started popping up all over the kingdom and Realm. Antio took it upon himself to unite the many and disparate orphanages, and so was born the Royal Orphanage Society. When the King finally became involved, he made an edict outlining the care the children should receive, including education. He believed that the strength of a person was in the mind not the muscle. He often said he could see the future of Crystar in the minds and hearts of the children of the kingdom.
Soon he started the royal college of City Crystar, to supply the orphanages with knowledgeable masters and mistresses. He visited many of the orphanages and even chose some of the children to come and serve in the castle. Those children selected for this honor were given the finest education the kingdom could offer. The people of the kingdom also did their part. When the people discovered that this was the King’s favorite project it became the fashion to assist the orphanages in every way possible. Business proprietors, nobles, and the families of lesser royalty soon assumed any roles available to them to assist their local royal orphanage, in the hopes that the King would take notice.
When Lord Antio found that he didn’t have enough time to devote to the project, he decided to appoint me as the Lord Commissioner of the Royal Orphanage Society. I will never forget that day. I was just rising as a knock came at the door. When I answered the door, I found two Royal Knights standing outside. They told me to hurry and get dressed — the King was waiting. I ran to my bedroom and tried to dress as fast as I could. The King wanted me, I thought to myself; I couldn’t figure out what I had done. I remember getting halfway dressed when I needed to sit down; the strain of the moment was more than I could bear. I sat there dazed for a while before I heard the knight.
“Excuse me sir, but the King is waiting for us,” the knight said abruptly as he stood in the doorway of my bedroom. “Grab your things, you can get dressed in the carriage.”
On the way to the castle I dressed myself in the clothes and the two right-footed boots I had grabbed. I could see the castle looming larger and larger as we approached. I was feeling sick to my stomach as we passed through the main gate. When the carriage stopped at the foot of the stairs that lead to the main entrance I felt as though I would pass out.
A servant opened the side door to my right and greeted me as I stepped out of the carriage.
“Good morning, Sir,” he said in a cheerful voice while bowing his head.
When he closed the door the carriage moved on and turned into a passage that took it under the castle steps. The two knights dismounted their horses and escorted me into the castle. We walked through the throne room and up a long corridor to a room bearing the inscription “Lord’s Chambers.” The knights swung open the doors and there he was — the King.
I slowly entered the room with my head bowed. I walked toward the King the knights on either side. I felt a hand on my shoulder and stopped, afraid to look up I hesitated before I fell to my knee.
“Rise, my friend, and eat some breakfast with me,” a voice said.
Still afraid to look up, I stayed kneeling with my head bowed. My chest felt so heavy it was hard to breathe, and my heart was racing. I thought I was going to faint, when I felt the knight tap me in the leg with his foot. I glanced over toward the knight and saw him pointing in front of me. I raised my head and there he was, standing there, bending over toward me. I could feel my mouth drop open as I tried to speak. The King reached for me.
“I am your loyal subject, Sire,” I blurted out.
“Of course you are, my friend; that is exactly why I sent for you,” he said taking me by the arm and lifting me. “Now I would like to discuss some little thing with you, while we enjoy our breakfast,” he continued leading me to the far end of the table. “As you are aware Lord Antio is a very busy man. He has so many very important tasks, being the Lord Treasurer, and over seeing the kingdom’s relations with the other kingdoms here and there.”
I sat in the chair he guided me to and he sat nearby. The door behind us swung open and servants carried in two trays with meat, eggs, wine and shortbread cookies. They placed one tray in front of the King, and the other in front of me. He continued his conversation between bites; I just sat there staring at him. I had never been this close to him before.
I had been working for Lord Antio for almost a year, taking care of small insignificant tasks. The only time the King visited our office was when I was riding across town to deliver a message. He had left before I got back, and I missed him by only a few minutes.
“So what do you think about that?” asked the King, as my mind wondered back to days past.
“Ah, ah, I’m sorry Sire, I don’t understand the question,” I responded, realizing I had lost track of the conversation.
“The orphanages, the orphanages,” he said in an annoyed tone.
“Yes, Sire.” I responded. “The orphanages are doing fine.”
He looked at me as though I were crazy, his brow wrinkled, and a questioning look in his eyes.
“Fine then,” he said. “Lord Antio will fill you in on the specifics later today. In the meantime the boy here will see that you’re made ready for the ceremony. I have high hopes for you, Dern Moorly,” he said as he rose and walked away.
I just sat there confused and dumbfounded watching him. As the doors closed behind him I felt a tug on my sleeve and heard a young voice. “Hurry, master, we don’t have much time to get you ready,” he said as he pulled me toward the door I had entered through. As we walked up the long corridor I came to my senses and asked to boy his name. He told me it was Runt, but that it used to be Duane. He seemed proud of his new name his eyes lit up and he took on a cocky demeanor as he informed me that the King had given it to him.
We entered a room behind the throne room that was filled with racks of ceremonial robes. There was a man there, who greeted me saying, “Aren’t you the lucky one today!”
The boy responded for me that I had no idea what was going on. The man walked up an aisle, occasionally turning to me and looking me over. Then he would turn back to the racks, his chubby face showing disapproval. He would move on to another.
The boy continued, “He sat at breakfast with the Sire, and didn’t even touch his food. He just sat there staring at the King with that look on his face.”
“Which look might that be?” asked the man.
“You know the fly trap face and the blank eyes,” said the boy. “I don’t even think he heard a word the King said,” he added with a chuckle.
“Ahh. This one will work fine,” said the chubby man, holding a robe in front of him and sizing me up. “Yes, yes, I think the King will be very pleased with this one. Here, Runt, take him to the court lounge and help him into this.” He handed the robe to the boy and smiled at me. “Now don’t you worry a bit. The King has rarely seriously hurt someone in the ceremony. I’m sure you’ll be just fine,” he added, laughing, as he turned and walked away.
The boy was pulling me along and laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his little reddened face. “Hardly ever hurt someone,” he repeated, stamping his foot and laughing uncontrollably.
The lounge was a small room compared to the other rooms in the castle. It was very comfortable with a number of large couches and a few tables with chairs around them. The boy pointed to a closed door on the opposite side of the room. He handed me the robe and said I should hurry and change my clothes.
I came out of the room after changing and found that Lord Antio was waiting for me in the lounge.
“It’s a big day for you, Dern,” he said reaching for my shoulder. “The King and I are depending on you greatly. I am sure you have it in you or else I would not have recommended you for the position,” he said.
“I – I – I – really don’t understand,” I muttered.
“I know, the boy told me what happened,” he said in quiet voice. “You have to understand that the King is used to such things. The servants aren’t as generous and tend to make fun of those who are affected in this way. But you needn’t worry–you’ll do fine”
He then sat me down and explained that I had been chosen from his staff to take responsibility for the Orphanage Society. He told me that I would remain on his staff, but would have autonomy and could act in the King’s name. He also explained that I was to be knighted that afternoon. He showed me what I was to do and say during the dubbing ceremony.
That evening I moved my belongings to the castle and took my place in the royal apartments in the west wing as Sir Dern Moorly, assistant to the King. Since then, I have had numerous meetings with the King, and many of the lords. Never again was I affected by the condition I suffered at my first meeting with the King. I have seen to it that the Orphanages have been operated responsibly. And I have spent much time traveling throughout the kingdom and realm, inspecting the conditions at each of the orphanages under my care.
I have been impressed over the years with the kindness demonstrated by the subjects of the King. They are really the ones who make the whole thing work. Sire Gadron has on numerous occasions traveled with me to visit some of the many orphanages in my care. I have learned much about what makes a king a king and in particular what makes our King the most respected King in the whole world.
I have accepted applications to the society from almost every kingdom. In each case they have agreed to submit to the same standards as those found in Crystar. Now with a staff of my own, I enjoy my time at Castle Crystar, surrounded by the many servants who, growing up alone in the world, have found a place to call home. As they are– all the King’s children.
Copyright ©2020 brian francis