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Bewildering Stories

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The Prophet of Dreams


by Julian Lawler III

Chapter 16 appeared in issue 90.
Table of Contents

They knew mother was dying. They never had their father and it made the situation all the more difficult to deal with. Their young minds could not grasp just exactly what was going to happen in the future, but they understood what dying meant. Mother would not be around to watch over them anymore. The great big world would no longer be held at bay by her loving arms and soothing words. Without a loving mother and a father they never knew, there would be no words of wisdom handed down to them, no passing of the torch to the next generation.

Huddled in the king’s garden, listening to the steady stream of water beyond the grove, the two boys understood the empty hollow feeling in their stomach; the gaping whole in the middle of their hearts that was never going to close.

One by one, they both pulled petals from the rose bushes around them. They neatly placed each petal one on top of the other until they had a small stack before them. As little kids are apt to do, they did this in silence, with a silent communication only found in innocence.

The older child, of blonde hair and blue eyes, dug a small grave with his small hands, letting dirt and soil get between his nails. He wiped a strand of hair from his face and left a brown smudge across his cheek.

The younger boy of brown hair and brown eyes picked the rose petals up in his small hands and placed them quietly in their new home. They both stared down at their creation and covered the hole with the remaining dirt.

“Mother is dying,” said the older of the two boys. Their world was falling apart and they couldn’t do anything about it. It was like trying to keep the leaves from falling off the trees in the days before winter.

Seeing his older brother almost in tears, the younger sibling went over and hugged him. “It will be okay, Jo.”

“They will throw us out,” said the older boy. It was becoming more and more difficult to remain strong.

“But they can’t do that,” replied the younger boy excitedly.

“They can and they will, Addigo.”

“I won’t let them,” came a soft voice behind them.

Both boys swirled around to stare at the intruder. The king and queen’s daughter was standing there. Two years younger than both of them, she was taller than the two and much skinnier. She wore a plain blue shawl and a dark blue riding dress. Her dark hair was pinned back by a comb, and her face was clean.

Even through their pain, they couldn’t help remember that she was a king’s daughter, born with a silver spoon in her mouth and prone to fits when she didn’t get her way. Snotty and haughty, conceded to and rotten to the core, neither boy could imagine why she would want to keep them around, lowly scullions that they were.

“Mother said I could find you out here,” she said quietly, a little under her breath. For all of her pampered up bringing, she looked unsure of herself, a fish out of water for the first time, with no way to get back to her comfort zone.

“I want to help,” she explained when there was no reply forthcoming.

“We have no friends and the only father we have known is dying,” explained the older boy.

The king’s daughter only stared at them for a moment. “I don’t have any friends, either. Let us make a pact.”

“What kind of pact?” asked the younger boy.

“Since I need friends and you need someone to look after you, I say let’s stick together. You become my friends, and I will tell my father to keep you here at the castle.”

“Why would they listen to you?” asked the younger boy.

“Because I get whatever I want,” said the queen simply. “All I need to do is ask.”

“And that’s that?” asked the older brother.

“Yes,” replied the young queen. “And that’s that. Do you know how to read and write?”

The two boys shook both of their heads. Being the sons of a sorceress meant that everyone was afraid of you. Their mother had power and clout that brought the boys certain privileges. It might bring them extra food at mealtime. It might bring them extra time for activities and they got to swordplay instead of do chores when most kids got beaten for doing so.

But being the sons of a sorceress didn’t always have all its perks, and it wasn’t what most people thought it was cut out to be. Having a sorceress for a mother was like having a dragon for a pet. People thought the pet was neat, but nobody ever spent any time with you because they were too afraid. Those that were friendly were so out of respect. Not for them, but for their mother. How do you keep the dragon from biting? You kept the master happy.

The older boy hated that separation. He felt that he was like everyone and everyone else was like him. But being in a castle full of royals and nobles was like being a black kettle pot in a cupboard full of clean china.

Sometimes the younger boy wondered if his older brother would feel the same way if he were the only clean piece of china in a cupboard full of black kettle pots. Somehow, he didn’t think his older brother would feel any different. Separation was separation, and in his older brother’s mind, that was never a good thing. Too many would be left out.

“Then I will get Holliston Blackstaff to help you learn how to read and write.” She said it so matter-of-factly the boys still doubted her.

“You’re going to get The Prophet of Dreams to teach us.” The doubt in the older boy’s voice was obvious, but it couldn’t be helped. Their world was falling apart and here was this selfish little girl keeping the leaves from falling off the trees in the dead of winter.

“Holliston loves me,” she said. “If I ask him to help you, he will.”

With that said, there really wasn’t more to discuss. It was up to the boys now to take her offer and run with it. But how could they do that and not give anything in return?

Their mother always said that a deal required two sides. A deal with only one requirement was not a deal at all, it was someone taking advantage of someone else. So they had to give something in return. That they were going to be her friends, there was no helping that, but what else could they offer?

The older boy was the first to step away from their small burial mound. He went over to her and hugged her for her generosity. The younger boy watched them for a moment then plucked a purple rose from a bush and came to stand with them. He plucked the rose because it matched her clothes and placed it behind her ear.

Mother always told him to be a gentleman.

“You will have to get better clothes, you know.” She said, her voice muffled by their hugs. “You might even have to learn etiquette. I don’t like it either, but if I have to do it, I don’t see how mother will let you get away with it.”

And then Addigo had his answer. A deal was a deal, and he had to offer the pact something in return. He took her by the hand and walked her over to their secret grove. She played with the rose in her hair as he pushed a branch out of the way to allow her entrance into their actual paradise.

Birches and cedars towered over them. Pines and maples rose over them like silent parents keeping watch over their children. Their branches touched and for a moment it reminded all three of them of a bunch of kids holding hands, playing ring around the roses.

To say that the sight was beautiful was an understatement. Joleen Zelonis, for all of her upbringing and money, had never seen anything like it. Castle Bonemeyer was an awesome sight. It was a miracle made the hand of man. This was something that nature had chosen to leave untouched and unscathed from the elements.

The look on the young princess’ face was all the acknowledgment that he needed to know he had chosen right. Scrambling to his knees, he grabbed soil in his hands and asked her to take a place next to him. She hesitated and Johannassen reassured her that it would be fun.

Young Addigo looked up at her, his eyes bright with expectation, and she couldn’t deny him any longer. “What about my dress?” she asked, already lowering herself to her knees. “Mother would kill me.”

Johannassen placed a hand on her shoulder. “Mother always says that people would kill for a dress like that.”

When she looked back down from looking up at the older boy, there was a different look on her face. There was this understanding in her eyes that people could be less fortunate than she. Young Addigo had always been good with plants, and he showed her the stems of certain trees and certain roots.

“I want to close the deal by offering you something,” he said in hushed tones. That he held this place in reverence was easily apparent, and she listened as closely as she could. “I want to show you where we are from. Mother always said never to forget our roots. So plant this tiny root with me. Who knows? Maybe it will get that big one day.”

He pointed to the largest pine in the area, a gorgeous tree full of branches and pines. The top of it looked like it ended in a hat, the wizard that had put the spell on this place. That tree was the mightiest wizard any of them had ever known. He was the father they never had, the relative to welcome them home after a long journey.

Joleen Zelonis had never played with dirt. To her amazement, she found that she liked it. This was a welcomed break from the exhausting grey stonewalls of Castle Bonemeyer. She worked with the boys for an hour before she poked her up to look at the two boys playing and working with her. “I think I want to play out in the City next time. I want to see how people live outside of the castle.”

She smiled. “I want to go fishing.”

The older boy smiled. “I can show you. I’m really good at that.” Content with his response, she pulled her hair back, cleaned her hands on her dress, and plunged back into her work.

The three of them planted a single tree that day. They tried to build a castle that day that fell apart with the slightest pressure. At one point, they managed to lure a fox to their location. Young Addigo coaxed the animal to eat out of the queen’s hand in one magical moment. They played hide and seek, and were surprised that the young queen could deduce their best hiding places in seconds. Soon they had nowhere to hide and that was no fun.

They played in their little grove until the bright blue sky gave way to deepening shadows and the day gave way to evening and night began its claim over the world. Eventually the summoning bells over Castle Bonemeyer rang to call them home and the spell was broken. But the magic of that day was apparent.

Copyright © 2004 by Julian Lawler III
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