flASH fiction Volume 4 Finale
Pratt looked at the thick door to the Rayward king’s council chambers like they were the only thing in all of existence. The hearty planks of timber and iron hinges were rather pedestrian in design considering their station but his gaze was locked upon the double doors with unflinching focus. His vigil had run so long and held such marked intensity that he was even beginning to sweat from the exertion of watching the unmoving door. Though his self-imposed sentry duty was the cause for much physical exertion on his part the fatigue of his body was nothing compared to the exhaustion that his imagination had brought down on his mind.
The Councilman’s psyche was running wild with all fashion of possible theaters that were playing out behind the closed doors. He rued the sound construction of the wood and metal, wishing for some imperfection in the architecture that might let voices slip through. Pratt was ever the captive audience and as he was bound to wait and watch the doors while they did absolutely noting at all besides remain shut tightly, Tinica was similarly bound watching Pratt watch.
“What do you supposed they are speaking about?” Tinaca asked innocently. Her tone was lacking in any brand of genuine curiosity and it was clear that she just wanted to fill the uneasy silence with something resembling conversation.
“Whatever it is that kings and leaders have to discuss. I suppose that there are a great many things that King Allfire and the Iron Lord would have to speak about. So many years of history and bad blood to overcome…” Pratt responded. His tone was disinterested at first but as he spoke, he found his own words having an impact on himself. He trailed off as he was lost in refection once more. “So much has happened in so little time.”
“Rayward was doomed, saved, doomed and saved again, and now the Iron Lord has come all the way from Rustwatch to speak with his majesty. I think you are putting it lightly,” Tinaca said as she tilted her head back and forth while prattling off the list of recent fantastical events.
“The gate was a pile of rocks and dust hardly a moment ago and they have already cleared the ruins and put new framework and foundation in place. The chimera are no place to be seen anywhere in Rayward’s shadow. It goes on and on,” Pratt said with an awestruck note in his voice. His manor became sullen as he was reminded of yet another great thing that had been set in motion since the second battle of Rayward’s Gate. “I heard that they will be building a memorial monument for him,” he said with reverent grief as his thoughts turned to Sir Liam Broadcliff.
“I do not care how big and impressive it is or how much they spend on it. I would rather have him back,” Tinaca said as her features darkened with mourning that was still fresh on her heart.
“So would I. It is the least that they could do for Sir Liam. The people should always be reminded of that man. He will never mean as much to the rest of the world as he did to us but, his sacrifice here should never be forgotten,” Pratt said as his memory stretched long and he found his words sorrowfully applicable to another prominent figure in his life.
“I am certain that Father Mazeon would be so proud of all you have accomplished,” Tinaca said gently. She looked at Pratt with her dark and brooding eyes, seeing right into the Councilman’s core.
“Was it so obvious that I was thinking about him?” Pratt asked with a softening of his brow and a warm sparkle in his gaze.
“Yes, it was. He was to you as Sir Liam was to me. He might not have any monuments or songs written in his honor but he was a hero just the same. I will certainly never forget how he saved me,” Tinaca said. She tuned back to face the closed doors to the king’s chambers but subtly moved closer to Pratt and then took his hand in hers and interlaced their fingers with a supportive and loving grasp.
“Thank you,” Pratt said quietly, squeezing Tinaca’s hand back. The both fell silent and continued watching the door ever patiently. Pratt was able to pass the time in a much more amicable way after his exchange with Tinaca. Instead of postulating and theorizing at the court games of kings and great lords, he let himself float on the euphoria of his realized affection for the remarkable woman standing by his side. A sideways glance put the pure light of day on his heart as he noted Tinaca was smiling and had a kindred introspective amorous glean in her stare as she considered the closed doors across the hall.
Time continued to pass at a slow crawl. Eventually Pratt’s thoughts began to roam and even with Tinica holding his hand and offering him a silent portion of her strength to lean on, his imagination once again took flight. Nervous sweat was starting to trickle down his brow and his mouth was parched like a dead tree in the Gobi savannahs. He was wrestling with the notion of going in search of a cup of water to soothe his mouth and offer some distraction from the arduous waiting but the sound of footsteps approaching caught his attention. He turned his eyes from the door, towards the source of the footsteps and was instantly stuck with a healthy dose of curiosity.
A young boy, in the distinctive robes of a Vermillion Councilman’s Apprentice was making his way towards Brother Pratt with singular purpose. The boy timidly passed the guards that lined the castle halls but he managed to walk with a sense of bearing that spoke proudly of his ties to the council. Pratt’s attention was immediately drawn to the sealed piece of parchment in the Apprentice’s hand. The Brother Councilman’s mind continued to be a flood of runaway ideas and fantasies but the subject of his mind’s eye collage were no longer the intrigue of kings but any and everything that his wildest dreams could conjure up. Pratt was nearly a shaking mess of anxiety melted on to the floor by the time the boy reached him.
“Brother Pratt?” asked the Apprentice.
“Yes,” responded the junior Councilman. He had to summon a considerable volume of steady resolve in order to speak the simple word without fainting.
“This has come for you,” said the boy as he handed the sealed letter to Pratt.
“Thank you,” Pratt said as he took the letter and dismissed the Apprentice. Pratt choked for a moment when he saw the unique sigil of the Viros Abbot embossed in the wax seal. He opened the letter and began reading while he held his breath.
“What is it?” asked Tinaca after several long measures where Pratt was entranced by the text on the parchment. His face had given away no information regarding the subject of the letter.
Pratt let out the breath that had begun to grow stale in his lungs. With an inhale of fresh sweet air he looked to Tinica before he sighed in disbelief. “After we have fished here, I am to return back to my home Abby in Viros. There I am to be confirmed as a Father in the council. The Abbot says, it is for my great service to the people of Argia,” Pratt said in a stunned haze.
“That is wonderful news. You do not seem happy,” Tinica said with a discerning narrowing of her eyes.
“It is only, that I had never given much thought to advancement in the Council. I am not even sure it is something that I wanted. And for service? The whole point of what we do is service. It feels redundant and…” Pratt started to rambled with an ever increasing tone of self-doubt in his voice but he was silenced when Tinica put her fingers to his lips.
“And it is well deserved,” Tinica said with perfect kindness in her voice. “Father Pratt, has a very distinguished sound to it,” she continued before Pratt could resume his objections. Her words and an adoring smile were enough to assuage Pratt’s nerves and give him a welcome measure of peace.
Half a heartbeat later the doors to the king’s council chambers opened and out walked Slate Roarkwin. The Iron Lord paused for a brief measure as he regraded the councilman and his companion locked in an intimate exchange of candid words. He cracked a debonair grin and walked up to the pair. “I have to say that I did not expect to see either of you again quite so soon, or feel so proud to see you for that matter,” he said with a small bow and click of his heels.
“Thank you my Lord,” Pratt said humbly. He returned the Iron Lord’s bow but in deeper posture.
“Thank you,” said Tinaca. Her tone was genuine although lacking in jubilance.
“It seems this will be the first of many talks I will be having with his majesty. Surprising that he is rather likable and reasonable. For so long I had thought that all of Rayward blood were full of pomp and hot air,” said the Iron Lord while softly chuckling as he spoke.
“So your audience was a productive one?” Pratt asked with marked curiosity in his infection.
Slate Roarkwin smiled broadly and clapped Pratt on the shoulder. “We can only hope. Lad, I will let you and his majesty get to your business,” he said as he turned to go. He started to leave but then quickly turned back. “One thing. Could you tell me where I might find madam Highbrand? Is she still with you?” he asked Pratt.
“Yes, my Lord. I believe she is assisting…rather leading some of the repair efforts for Rayward’s Gate,” Pratt said.
“Of course she is,” said the Iron Lord with an amused scratch of his beard and rub of his chin. “It seems as though my current Forgemaster will no longer be serving under me…some irreconcilable personal differences you might say,” he started with a crafty twinkle in his eye. “Rustwatch can not be without a Frogemaster and Shibon Higbrand is the only name on my lips when I think of a suitable replacement. After she has finished her contributions to your endeavors of course,” he said
“Well deserved,” Pratt said with a knowing glance at Tinica as he said the carefully chosen words. “We could not have held the gate were if not for the armor she and her craftsmen made for the brigade.”
“I know. Best not keep his majesty waiting any longer,” said the Iron Lord as he nodded courteously and left.
“The last time we were in Rayward, we were shown out before we even got an audience with the king. Perhaps now they will listen,” Pratt said as he looked into the room beyond the doors.
“They would be fools not to,” Tinaca said as she offered Pratt on final quick squeeze of his hand.
Pratt took a breath to steady himself and proceeded to walk into King Allfire’s council chambers. He could tell that the air in the room was vastly different than what he had become accustomed to. He had asked many kings and rulers for their help before but to no profit. The energy in this room was decidedly more agreeable than the stale predestined rejection that the Councilman had grown a keen nose for. It was the demeanor of the king himself that caused Pratt the greatest degree of comfort. Each time prior, the sovereign that Pratt had courted was imbued with a disenchanted and indifferent glaze over their eyes. King Allfire’s gaze was powerful and commanding, as one would expect a king’s gaze to be but his eyes held an empathetic and open quality. Pratt went to the center of the room and knelt before the king’s long table.
“Please, get up,” said the king with a kind fatherly tone.
“Thank you your majesty,” Pratt said as he rose.
“No, I must thank you,” responded the king.
“For what?” asked Pratt, feeling astonished at the display of humility form the master and ruler of a nation that was renowned for its sense of pride.
“You believed in the impossible when nobody else would,” said the king.
“Respectfully, your majesty, madmen believe in the impossible every day,” Pratt said. He immediately felt the sting of his bold jest as it left his mouth. He swallowed hard in the seconds that came after his innocent mockery. He was able to breath ease when he say the king’s mouth curl in an agreeable smirk.
“True, but your vision in a united Argaian army to fight the chimera has saved us all. You believed in the impossible and you manifested it. That is why I thank you,” responded the king with the ring of honed wisdom in his words.
“The Amurai were my vision but it is the people of Argaia who manifested it. They saved Rayward for today but while the chimera still roam the wilds tomorrow is not yet won,” Pratt responded with a poignant modesty in his speech.
King Allfire stood from his seat and walked to meet Pratt in the center of his council chambers. He stood eye to eye with the young man clad in red for several emotionally charged heartbeats. “Then tell me how we shall win tomorrow. You have all of Rayward to command. Anything you need is at your fingertips,” he said.
Pratt felt the king’s words wash over him like mercifully cleansing rain. His shoulders had become so weary from carrying the collective burdens of the world on his back since the time of the red rains. “Your majesty, I need the best of all of us bonded together. That is how we win.”
“For what Rayward can contribute to the cause, it is yours,” responded the king.
“Thank you, your majesty,” Pratt said with trembling legs. He had made the same request of each court on an entire continent and each time he had spoken the words he was laughed or threatened out of sight. Today was the first time on all of the Aeros continent he had felt acceptance and the faith of a stranger in something common since embarking on his quest for a united Argaia. It felt like flying.