Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 19
Thor found himself swept up, ushered through the crowd by Reece, the King’s youngest son and his newfound sparring partner. Ever since the jousting match, it had been a blur. Whatever he had done back there, whatever power he had used to stop that spearhead from killing Erec, it had caught the attention of the entire kingdom. The match had been stopped after that, called off by both Kings, and a truce called. Each knight retired to his side, the masses broke up in an agitated stir, and Thor had been taken by the arm and ushered off by Reece.
He’d been swept away in a royal entourage, cutting the back way through the masses, Reece tugging at his arm the whole way. Thor was still shaking from the day’s events. He hardly understood what he had just done back there, how it had influenced things. He had just wanted to be anonymous, just another one of the King’s Legion. He had not wanted to be the center of attention.
Worse, he didn’t know where he was being led, if he was going to be punished somehow for interfering. Of course, he had saved Erec’s life—but he had also interfered with a knight’s battle, which was forbidden for a squire. He wasn’t sure if he would be rewarded or rebuked.
“How did you do that?” Reece asked, as he yanked him along. Thor followed blindly, trying to process it all himself. As he went, the masses gawked, staring at him as if he were some kind of freak.
“I don’t know,” Thor answered truthfully. “I just wanted to help him and…it happened.”
Reece shook his head.
“You saved Erec’s life. Do you realize that? He is our most famed knight. And you saved him.”
Thor felt good as he turned Reece’s words over in his head, felt a wave of relief. He had liked Reece from the moment he’d met him; he had a calming effect, always knowing what to say. As he pondered it, he realized maybe he was not in for punishment after all. Maybe, in some ways, they would view him as a sort of hero.
“I didn’t try to do anything,” Thor said. “I just wanted him to live. It was just…natural. It was no big deal.”
“No big deal?” Reece echoed. “I couldn’t have done it. None of us could have.”
They turned the corner and Thor saw before them the King’s castle, sprawled out, reaching high into the sky. It looked monumental. The King’s army stood at attention, lining the cobblestone road leading over the drawbridge, keeping the masses at bay. They stepped aside to allow Reece and Thor past.
The two of them followed the road, soldiers on either side, up to the huge arched doors, covered in iron bolts. Four soldiers pulled it open and stepped aside, at attention. Thor could not believe the treatment he was receiving; he felt as if he were a member of the royal family.
As they entered the castle, the doors closing behind them, Thor was amazed at the sight before him: the inside was immense, with soaring stone walls a foot thick and vast, open rooms. Before him milled hundreds of members of the royal court, rambling about in an excited stir. He could sense the buzz and excitement in the air, and all eyes turned and looked at him as he entered. He was overwhelmed by the attention.
They all huddled close, seemed to gawk as Thor went with Reece down the castle corridors. He had never seen so many people dressed in such finery. He saw dozens of girls of all ages, dressed in elaborate outfits, locking arms and whispering in each other’s ears and giggling at him as he went. He felt self-conscious. He couldn’t tell if they liked him, or if they were making fun of him. He was not used to being the center of attention—much less in a royal court—and hardly knew how to handle himself.
“Why are they laughing at me?” he asked Reece.
Reece turned and chuckled. “They’re not laughing at you,” he said. “They have taken a liking to you. You’re famous.”
“Famous?” he asked, stunned. “What do you mean? I just got here.”
Reece laughed and clasped a hand on his shoulder. He was clearly amused by Thor.
“Word spreads faster in the royal court than you might imagine. And a newcomer like yourself—well, this does not happen every day.”
“Where are we going?” he asked, realizing he was being led somewhere.
“My father wants to meet you,” he said, as they turned down a new corridor.
“Your father? You mean…the King?” Suddenly, he was nervous. “Why would he want to meet me? Are you sure?”
“I am quite sure. Stop being so nervous. It’s just my dad.”
“Just your dad?” Thor said with disbelief. “He’s the King!”
“He’s not that bad. I have a feeling it will be a happy audience. You saved Erec’s life, after all.”
Thor swallowed hard, his palms sweaty, as another large door opened and they entered a vast hall. He looked up in awe at the arched ceiling, covered in an elaborate design and soaring high. The walls were lined with arched stained-glass windows, and if possible, even more people were crammed into this room. There must have been a thousand of them, and the room positively swarmed. Banquet tables stretched across the room as far as the eye could see, people sitting on endlessly long benches, dining. Between these was a narrow aisle with a long, red carpet, leading to a platform on which sat the royal throne. The crowd parted ways as Reece and Thor walked down the carpet toward the King.
“And where do you think you’re taking him?” came a hostile, nasally voice.
Thor looked up to see a man standing over him, not much older than he was, dressed in a royal garb, clearly a prince, blocking their way and scowling down.
“It’s Father’s orders,” Reece snapped back. “Better get out of our way, unless you want to defy them.”
The prince stood his ground, frowning, looking as if he’d bitten into something rotten as he examined Thor. Thor did not like him at all. There was something he did not trust about him, with his lean, unkind features and eyes which never stopped darting.
“This is not a hall for commoners,” the prince replied. “You should leave the riffraff outside, where it came from.”
Thor felt his chest tighten. Clearly this man hated him, and he had no idea why.
“Shall I tell Father you said that?” Reece defended, standing his ground.
Grudgingly, the prince turned and stormed away.
“Who was that?” Thor asked Reece, as they continued walking.
“Never mind him,” Reece replied. “He’s just my older brother—or one of them. Gareth. The oldest. Well, not really the oldest—he’s just the oldest legitimate one. Kendrick, who you met on the battleground—he is really the oldest.”
“Why does Gareth hate me? I don’t even know him.”
“Don’t worry—he doesn’t reserve his hate only for you. He hates everybody. And anyone who gets close to the family, he sees as a threat. Never mind him. He is but one of many.”
As they continued walking, Thor felt increasingly grateful to Reece, who, he was realizing, was becoming a true friend.
“Why did you stand up for me?” Thor asked, curious.
“I was ordered to bring you to Father. Besides, you’re my sparring partner. And it’s been a long time since someone came through my age here who I thought could be worthy.”
“But what makes me worthy?” Thor asked.
“It’s the fighter’s spirit. It cannot be faked.”
As they continued to walk down the aisle toward the King, Thor felt as if he’d always known him—it was strange, but in some ways he felt as if Reece were his own brother. He had never had a brother—not a real brother—and it felt good.
“My other brothers are not like him, don’t worry,” Reece said as people flocked around them, trying to catch a glimpse of Thor. “My brother Kendrick, the one you met—he’s the best of all. He’s my half-brother, but I consider him a true brother—even more than Gareth. Kendrick is like a second father to me. He will be to you, too, I am sure of it. There is nothing he would not do for me—or for anyone. He is the most loved of our royal family among the people. It is a great loss he is not allowed to become King.”
“You said ‘brothers.’ You have another brother, too?” Thor asked.
Reece took a deep breath.
“I have one other, yes. We are not that close. Godfrey. Unfortunately, he wastes his days in the alehouse, with the commoners. He’s not a fighter, like us. He’s not interested in it—he’s not interested in anything, really. Except ale—and the ladies.”
Suddenly, they stopped short as a girl blocked their way. Thor stood there, transfixed. Perhaps a couple of years older than him, she stared back with blue, almond eyes, perfect skin, and long, strawberry hair. She was dressed in a white satin dress bordered with lace, and her eyes positively glowed, dancing with joy and mischief. She locked her eyes on his and held him completely captivated. He couldn’t move if he wanted to. She was the most beautiful person he had ever seen.
She smiled, displaying perfect white teeth—and as if he weren’t transfixed already, her smile held him there, lit up his heart in a single gesture. He never felt so alive.