Let’s get back to posting why don’t we. Here is the second part of my story, enjoy.
The main hall had pillars of stone as thick as oak trees running down its length. At one end, the grand doors stood twenty feet tall and were engraved with a map of the world on both sides. At the other end, the thrones were currently vacant. Connecting each end was a carpet that stretched a couple thousand feet. It was enchanted to not wear down and for the figures on it to move. As Elayne stepped on it now, a herd of embroidered horses were galloping through a two dimensional field of flowers.
For the last ten generations there had not been a practicing magician or wizard to grace the Throne of Red Roses that stood above all others in Kingsland. Mere humans incapable of magic held the throne but around them they kept an abundance of enchanted items. The list of castle possessions that didn’t have a spell sung into them was quite short. Even the stone that comprised the castle had been serenaded to prevent erosion. Most of the objects that contained no enchantment were of advanced technology: phones, computers, televisions, anything that connected to the internet, and most kitchen appliances.
Magic and technology didn’t blend well. Cast a spell to make a phone float and it will. Try to call the phone with magic and it would explode. Elayne had always been fascinated with magic. Not like a young girl is usually amazed with any other phenomenon. More like the way a cat is fascinated with a bird in a cage. If she could catch it, then she would. Maybe the Cord would pick out a wizard for her today. That would be entertaining.
The ten soldiers stood in a single parallel line to the Great door. Each wore a dark green formal uniform with a matching beret. Every beret was marked with a crown-and-rose symbol.
Only a couple soldiers were unarmed. The others had swords, knives and axes; one had a polearm affixed to his back; another had two pistols on her hips. Guns weren’t always effective against everything or everyone so their rarity was understood.
When they saw Elayne approaching the soldiers dipped down to one knee with their eyes staring at the floor. Elayne had become quite accustomed to this and didn’t wait before she ordered them to stand.
They stood at attention.
The castle guards flanked either side of the graduates and they inclined their head toward the Princess. The court magician, Sir Roderick, came over to Elayne. He was a wizard of the highest order that preferred to wear pinstripe suits and handcrafted leather shoes. He was completely gray, clean shaven with few wrinkles. He looked good for someone in their early hundreds.
“Your majesty, you are as lovely as always,” he said and kissed her hand as he had for the last twenty years, before she could even walk.
“And your lips are as cold as they have always been.” Their greetings were usually more casual than this, but Elayne had to admit she was playing it up a bit for the guests.
The old man chuckled. “I always enjoy your sharp tongue Miss Elayne. Hopefully, your new guards will enjoy your wit as much as I do. I believe we have a fine selection today.” He gestured with one heavily ringed hand.
“At ease,” Elayne ordered.
There was a collective drop of shoulders.
This close up, three paces from them, they really were quite diverse. Only two or three appeared human. Several were human except for their ears and/or tail. One woman had the ears and tail of a fox with bright orange hair. One man had perky cat ears and a fluffy tail. Another woman was covered completely in green scales with slit pupils in her eyes and a ridged tail.
Another was in fact a Byakko, the race that looked like a tiger taking human form. The Byakko was a female and like all the women wore skirts but she wore no shoes. They had a hard time fitting shoes over their pawed feet.
The diversity was incredible. The modifications made to the uniforms was fascinating. Elayne silently cataloged the races into her mind. There were hundreds of races both Beta and Alpha humans and these were just a few. Having seen them in person, she could break a few hearts now.
Roderick approached the line, gesturing more with his hand. “Each of these graduates has served at least two years in the service. Some are veterans of the Crescent War. Others gained their medals clearing the Nordic Colonies of monsters. All have spent the last four years honing their skills and serving Briggs. Although I am sure you know all this from reading their files.”
“She didn’t read any of them,” Ms. Lynch said.
“I assumed.” He placed a hand on Elayne’s shoulder and looked back at Ms. Lynch.
“Yes,” Elayne answered.
Roderick wiped at his old face with his free hand. As court magician he knew of the Cord as well. Over the years he had tried dozens of spells to remove the Cord. He was the one that anchored it to the diadem. He had always been critical for years on leaving any decisions up to the Cord.
“Then I leave it to you, Miss Elayne.” Roderick released her and stepped back.
Elayne took a broad step forward so that she was mere inches from the line. The closest candidate, the fox girl, flinched. Elayne leaned in looking her over. The fox girl must have been some part Kitsune. Though most of the full blooded ones that she’d heard about had multiple tails. This girl only had one tail. Her name tag read: Jacobs. There was a single katana on her hip.
“How many bodies?” Elayne asked.
“Come again your highness?” Jacobs said with a note of panic.
Sometimes it was fun to make people squirm.
“How many bodies is your sword rated for?”
“Ah, five. But it’s enchanted so it doesn’t really chip or dull, your highness.”
“Hm, interesting. You don’t need to keep ending your address with my title, I know who I am. Don’t worry you won’t be punished. Unless you call me ‘Ma’am’. That goes for all of you.”
They all gave their unanimous and nearly synchronized affirmative.
“Good.” Elayne took one last look at Jacobs, the fox girl. “I like you.” but the Cord doesn’t, she finished in her head.
Elayne could feel the Cord urging her to move on and she did as it requested.
“Well, I’ll be going,” Ms. Lynch said. “I have to see over the feast.”
“Goodbye,” Elayne said waving her hand without looking back.
The next candidate was a male Lupus, a race of bipedal wolf people. They were so animal like it was like staring into the eyes of a wolf. Yet, behind that was the voice and intelligence of a human. They were another race that went without shoes because their legs and feet were digitigrade, like the back feet of a dog.
The Cord urged even harder this time. Not this one, she could hear it insist. Even though the thought was not in a different voice, she knew it was the Cord. Sometimes it loosened its grip so much Elayne forgot it was there but, within the last few weeks, it interfered with almost every choice. It had even picked out the Royal duties she would be performing as of tomorrow.
Elayne moved on to the next one, a little forlorn to leave the Lupus. Next was the cat boy. No.
Then, the Byakko, another kind of cat. No.
The Lizard girl? No.
A female human with black hair and almond shaped eyes. Next. Sigh.
A man with fiery red hair and the polearm on his back?
Move on. Fine; whatever.
A tall broad shouldered woman with horns and animal ears? Keep going.
Elayne moved past two more equally interesting people, a bespectacled woman with red eyes and a man with gray skin.
At the end of the line was a sturdy man with frizzy blonde hair, pale skin and a Nordic nose. His whole face looked carved out of stone, like you could strike him as hard as you wanted and his nose wouldn’t break. The Cord was pleased with him; choose him, it pulsed.
For what? Elayne wondered.
Head of the guard, popped the thought into her head.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there Cord.
Beside various medals she had not seen on the others, was the name tag: Erikson. On each hip was a rapier with a complex swept hilt. Two swords? Elayne knew a little about swords, to use two required a high level of skill and was rarely done on the battlefield.
Was this soldier so confident he would get a job, where most fights were interpersonal that he brought two swords?
“ Erikson, do you fight on the field of battle with two swords?”
“Yes I do,” he said. He made and maintained eye contact.
“Don’t you have gaps in your defense that way?”
“No, I am protected by my wards.”
“Your wards? Then you are both swordsman and magician?” She moved closer into his personal space, most flinched back especially guards or other castle staff.
Erikson remained unshrinking. “Yes, I am. In the army though, those that practice the king’s magic are called SpellSingers. It helps to clarify each of the major magics.”
“How good are you at singing spells?”
Elayne’s nose nearly brushed the line of his jaw, a feat not possible without her heels.
“I see you’ve some interest in General Erikson,” said Roderick as he appeared by Elayne. “He is our most experienced candidate here. At twenty-six he has served eight years in the service of the crown. I am friends with the magic instructor at their academy, he told me Erikson was immensely talented. In fact old Fredrick’s wrote you a letter of recommendation to work under me. I was quite surprised to see your file to apply here, you could have opted out.” Roderick coughed that old man mistake cough. “Not that serving you would not be just as glamorous, Miss Elayne.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, he’s overqualified,” Elayne said waving her hand to disperse the praise. “What is your first name Erikson?”
“Roy Erikson? That name is hilariously butch.”
He was phased by that. Good.
“What do you think about becoming the captain of my guard?”
He inclined his head. “I would be honored.”
“Excellent choice,” Roderick encouraged.
“I know,” she said. “Now pick your two subordinates.”
“Ah, Miss Elayne.”
“Is that what you really think is best?” He was referring to the Cord, of course.
“Yes, Roderick that is what I really think is best. I don’t mean to sound like a petulant child, but I am capable of independent thought.”
“I am sorry to have doubted you.” Roderick faded back.
“Aren’t you afraid I will pick favorites?” asked Roy Erikson.
“He asked the product of Royal succession and nepotism.”
“I believe my response is ‘touche.’”
“I believe you are correct. I am going to let you pick your subordinates, because I figure you know these people better than I ever could. If you didn’t serve beside them, then you’ve at least studied with them. Or at least had a conversation with them. Do you have anyone in mind?”
“ I do.”
Elayne took a wide step back. “Then show me.”