NaNoWriMo: Posted November 25 @9:30pm
“I dare you to eat one,” Destovl challenged Kartan.
Kartan, however, ignored him and continued playing marbles with Javed near the wood pile.
“You eat one,” Javed said offhandedly to Destovl, eyeing up his shot. Overhead, a training falcon kak-kak-kak’d. The boys had an hour before their mothers called them in to wash for dinner. Everyone looked forward to the night’s feast. Uncle Samir and his herbalist, Nom, were in town with little Parisa to celebrate Aara’s birthday. The youngest royal child loved to indulge in her sweets. Destovl did too, but he wouldn’t get yelled at tonight for eating them all.
“I already ate one,” Destovl told Javed proudly, sticking out his tongue to reveal his blue tongue.
Javed sat back on his heels and looked over at Destovl with his eyes squinting against Mitra’s sunlight, but he was really narrowing his eyes at Kartan’s brother. “Why on Atala did you do that?”
“Zand dared me to,” Destovl said as if everyone knew should have known about his accomplished feat.
“They make you sick.”
“Do I look sick?”
Javed raised his brow, smirking as if to say “do you really want me to answer that?”
“No…that answer is no.”
Javed leaned over the marble circle again and continued his play. Kartan sat in his good elegant textiles imported from Port el’Reathsen with creative images of hunters, animals and trees on it while Javed wore an undecorated cotton cloth that was just as soft as Kartan’s but not as flashy. Like Destovl, a belt adorned his waist, but he carried a dagger with his. Destovl still preferred his hands.
The boy paced around the marble circle, trying to harvest both his brother’s attention and Javed. Marble playing was too slow of a game for Destovl. He walked back over to the wood pile and watched for the bugs to come out of their hiding places again.
“What did you buy Aara?” Destovl asked Kartan as he waited. His gift waited in his bed chamber. He wrapped the gift as nicely as his mother’s hand would have. He even attempted one of her bows. That didn’t go as well, but he was sure no one else would have one.
“A scarf,” Kartan announced as if it was the only proper present to buy a princess.
Destovl’s face mashed up in disgust. His back straightened immediately and rotated back in Kartan’s directions and spoke with the mixed emotions of sarcasm, disapproval and annoyance. “A scarf? That’s a bisho’ur present.”
Kartan sneered at his younger brother. “What do you know? A House scarf is a perfect present for any girl.”
The younger boy shrugged. “If you say so.”
“What did you buy her?”
Destovl’s words came across proudly. It had been a long planned present. The siblings always practiced the weapon at the Waterfall. She always used one of his old swords. Now she could have her own.
Kartan doubled over, laughter spilling from his throat like vomit. Destovl’s cheeks flushed hot scarlet anger, and the skin between his nose and lip sweated. “She’s going to like it,” he said defensively. “More than some scarf.”
Kartan rolled his eyes then glanced at his best friend, who had just finished taking his shot. “Did you get anything for Aara?”
Neither boy expected Javed to have gotten their sister a present, but he did hang out with them so much that he might as well be considered part of the family. So it seemed rude to, at least, not ask.
“I made her cookies,” he told them, not looking up from the marble game. He didn’t think much of his present. It was a small gesture. He loved cooking with his mother.
“Really?” Kartan asked in a whisper, knowing how much Aara would appreciate the gift. The cookies beat any scarf or weapon on any given day.
Destovl puffed his chest up to the sky and released a loud cackle. When he bent back over, he slapped his knee and looked up with his buck teeth in full view. “You win.”
Kartan forced a smile, although deep down he felt very jealous. “Yes, you’ll win.”
“She can get cookies from your kitchen. It’s no big deal. It’s not expensive like sword or glamorous like a scarf.” Javed shrugged, not understanding why his friends were reacting to his token gift like they were. “It’s just cookies.”
Three presents waited in front of Aara at the dinner table. She sat on the platform of the King’s Table overlooking the Palace guests. Her father and mother sat in the center. As High Prince, Kartan sat next to her father while Destovl sat next to her mother. She sat at the end of the table near Destovl. One day the table positions would be adjusted to new ranks, but Aara liked the set up as it was.
She was far enough away from Father that he forgot to grant her allowance to open her gifts, but she wasn’t far enough away to just take it upon herself and open them without expecting to be grounded.
On the Hall of Celebration’s floor, another impressive table hosted honored guests of Lynthia. Samir, Aara’s uncle, sat at its center. As Lord Protector of Ethantine, he normally would have sat at the King’s Table with the family, but he insisted on a floor table to share with his herbalist, Nom, and Aara’s cousin, Parisa. He then requested for Javed and his mother join them.
Aara didn’t know what Father and Uncle Samir saw in Javed, but she knew that they had a fondness for him and often included him and his mother in events.
They ate the main meal and chatted with a relaxed impression. Other commoners and merchants ate at different tables. Most appeared stiff and uncomfortable, which was understandable since they didn’t know their dinner mates. Javed and Parisa appeared to conversation with a natural ease, an effortless conversation like the ones she had with her brothers.
Next to her, Destovl stunk. His entire body dripped sweat like it did whenever he ran around playing with his friends. He sat hunched over his food with a closed fist holding up his head. He didn’t touch his food. Her upper lip curled up as she stole a sideways glance at him. His eyes rolls around in his head.
She turned her head and studied her mother and father – neither noticed her brother’s misery. She glanced around the Hall of Celebration – no one noticed.
Aara quietly scooted her chair closer to her brother then dropped her elbows on the table until her chin touched the tablecloth. When she felt the material, she rolled her neck and rested her cheek on her hand. Then called over to him in a half whisper.
He didn’t answer.
She spoke louder.
“Destovl? Are you okay?”
She waited longer this time for him to say something. When he didn’t she sat up, facing him directly. His mouth fell open and thick drool slimed out of it. His fist slipped away from his head, which banged loudly against the table.
“Destovl?” Aara screamed, watching her favorite brother slither off his chair to the floor. “Destovl?”
She heard shouts around her. Aara’s scrambled on her hands and knees over to her brother while her mother pulled him onto her lap. Her mother’s chair had flown backward as she reacted to her son’s sick state. The toppled chair obstructed her father’s ability to help.
The particular step of Uncle Samir’s boots came up from behind her. He looped his forearms under her armpits and clasped his hands together around her chest to pull her away from her brother. Aara resisted him, kicking and screaming. The platform that the King’s Table rested on shook and vibrated. Her presents toppled off the table and hit the Hall’s floor, shattering the glass platter Javed presented his gift on. His cookies were ruined. As Uncle Samir pulled Aara away from Destovl, Nom stepped in, grabbing the boy and speaking to Aara’s mother calming. The herbalist pried open Destovl’s eyes then pried open his mouth – where she found his blue tongue.
On the Hall of Celebration’s floor, Kartan, Javed and Parisa huddled together.
Nom shouted for ice water and ripped a napkin off the table. She used the pair to wipe away Destovl’s sweat, too cool him. Aara decided, standing alone and watching.
Samir didn’t wait for his brother’s authority. He turned and ordered the Palace Guards to clear the Hall. Servants rushed about, crawling out like an invasive pest, to box uneaten meal portions. Others rushed from the kitchen with packaged desserts each guest would have eaten if the meal hadn’t been interrupted.
Nom ran another course of ice water over Destovl’s body.
Samir eyed the children, uncertain what to do with them as the Hall cleared. He finally grabbed table chairs and pushed them to the side of the room then redirected Kartan, Javed, and Parisa to sit on them. He came for Aara last.
“Destovl can’t die on my birthday,” she sobbed as she stared, not even aware she’d been crying.
Samir stepping in front of her and knelt down to grab her complete attention. His face looked kind and caring, but, more importantly, it looked calm and confident. His eyes didn’t reflect a concern of possible death. He held his niece by the shoulders and smiled at her.
“Nom’s not going to let him die. She’s the best herbalist around. She just looks scary because when there’s an emergency she moves fast and she shouts loud,” Aara’s uncle stopped talking a moment, allowing the young girl to glance over his shoulder at Nom. He knew exactly how Nom worked, what she needed, and when to worry. Nom saw the boy’s blue tongue, and she didn’t hesitate, which meant she knew how to fix this. “She’s demanding, but she’s going to make him better.”
“Get him to his bed chamber,” she snapped, order Lynthia’s King to work. “I have to wildcraft the herbs that he needs. I need Samir to escort me and order his solo presence due to the nature of the situation.”
The Lynthian King nodded.
“I need you to take your son and keep him cool. I’ll have his fever and the curse of the Cadaver Bug broken by morning.”
Bayta creeped through Ethantine’s palace. Servants whispered about her and hushed each other whenever the girl or Nom walked by.
Copyright ©2010-2014 by Kristine A. Strauss, Amara SuraShakta. All rights reserved.
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