Our heroes arrive at Mirror’s Rest, going first through mushroom fields, traps, and then pressing forward in the hope they can find the where they find the White Sword...
Seigfried slowed his horse as the sun rose high above, the shadows covering them completely in great wide darkness. Gilsa and Reicket raised their heads up, then up more, bending back to look up at the massive towering obstacle. Poofy, straight, circular, thin, topped, and flat, and stretching up in layers.
“Told you we’d find mushrooms.” Reicked gasped. “We’re definitely going to finish the quest.”
“I… don’t think the horses can make way through it?” Gilsa offered, trying to be reasonable about the unbelievable rising bloated mushroom forest.
“Then we’ll have to walk.” Siegfried declared. He jumped down from his mount. “I won’t let fungi get in my way of destiny.”
“Can we eat it?” Reicket wondered, his eyes drifting up toward a massive one which was three times the size of a tree and had a massive umbrella that pulled in toward hundreds of hundreds of winves fall down from its canopy.
“I won’t stop you from eating one. Though I won’t carry you back when you get poisoned.” Gilsa jumped down from his horse and then settled his pack on his shoulders. “We should be careful. I don’t know what dangers could be ahead.”
“We need to press on. I am sure, once we pass through this, that we’ll find what my Goddess spoke of.” Siegfried moved his backpack up higher. “So we’ll press on.”
“Yes, your Highness.” Gilsa agreed, “I’ll lead-”
“Excuse me? Who put you in charge?” Reciket interupted. “Why do you get to go first?”
“Hold on, hold on.” Siegfried calmed, “I will go first. This is, firstly, my task, and my responsibility. I can go first.”
“It could be dangerous-”
“Who cares.” Reicket interrupted. “We’ll all be right there, we can handle it.”
“I can handle it.” Siegfried said. “So I’ll lead. We’ll find out what’s at Mirror’s Rest after we pass through this, so… so I’ll lead.” Siegfried nodded, resolving to do what he said as he said it.
Gilsa frowned, unhappy about the development. “Then I’ll be directly behind you, your Highness.”
Siegfried smiled, “Then let’s move.”
True to his word Siegfried began moving to the massive mushrooms first. He slipped around the narrow trunks of the soft plants by turning sideways. The ground seemed to be completely ripped up and mushed by their roots, so Gilsa and Reicket traveled carefully, Gilsa ducking under many of the flat tops because of his height. Siegfried tricked picking out the most direct route through the very narrow winding ground between stalks double or triple their heights. He stepped on a few, one bright white ball like one exploding under his foot in a cloud of dust. It was only a short time before they began to encounter more and more of the little puffballs blocking their way. Siegfried stepped on most, and pressed down on the ones he couldn’t. Gilsa avoided the ones Siegfried didn’t, and Reicket happily jumped on them with both feet. Each time he did it made a loud pop and whistle. He did it every single time they passed by them. Each time Gilsa had to stop himself from turning around and slapping him, just as he had to stop himself from stepping on them to deny Reicket the ability to annoy him. Siegfried wasn’t paying attention to the boiling tension behind him caused by the little mushrooms, he was sliding between one very low mushroom and one thick one that shot up from the ground in several layers.
Then he jumped on one, and it made an audible click instead of a pop. Gilsa and Reicket both froze. Eyes shifting immediately to their feet in a panic. Reicket’s left foot was sunken in slightly deeper in the ground, the area depressed in a perfect square.
“Don’t. Move.” Gilsa said slowly, raising his hands.
“Uh… your Highness?” Reicket pointed.
Gilsa turned around quickly in horror to see Siegfried pulling himself up on top of a tall mushrooms. He had thrown his pack up first, and was pulling himself up on his elbows and scooting forward to stand on it.
“Yes?” Siegfried said, picking his pack up and looking down on them.
Suddenly the ground began shaking in front of them. The mushrooms which weren’t popped began to poof into spores and they could see a line appear straight between Siegfried in them. Gilsa pushed Reicket back, stepped farther and farther away from the break black line of the ground. On the mushroom Siegfried gasped and caught his balance, crouching down to all fours and the ground right in front of the mushroom fell away into a giant deep pit. Filled with more thin but wide brimmed mushrooms.
Gilsa let out a breath.
Reicket laughed nervously. “That wasn’t too bad.”
Gilsa shot him a dirty look. “You’re lucky the mushrooms took over everything or that trap could’ve been sprung quicker. We’re going around it, and we’ll be more careful.”
Gilsa looked to their side and saw the rising mushrooms. There were a few just above shoulder height, a little shorter than the one Siegfried stood on. Most beyond that seemed to be even taller and impassable. Where Siegfried was looked almost like a set of stairs made of mushrooms, that climbed up higher in a much more managle way.
“Let’s just go through it. I bet we could make it.” Reicket walked to the edge of the filled pit. “They seem big enough to step on.”
“You should go around.” Siegfried slowly rose to his feet. “What if they can’t hold your weight. They seem very small.”
“We’re going around.” Gilsa pushed around him to get below one of the mushrooms just above his head. “If you can’t climb I’ll even help you.”
Gilsa jumped and grabbed the lip of his mushroom, his fingers getting stuck in mush, and then he flexed his arms and pulled himself up. He didn’t take off his backpack. Gilsa stood above Reicket, sending down a smug smile, but then composed himself and held a hand down. “I’ll pull you up.”
“No thanks.” Reicket brushed his offer aside, “I’m going this way.”
Reicket set his foot on the closest thin stalk in the pit, then put his weight on it.He smiled when it didn’t give, then took a big step to get to the next mushroom with his opposite foot.
“Be careful!” Siegfried yelled, and he crouched down. “I’ll pull you up when you get here.”
Gilsa began moving as Reicket made his way as well. Gilsa had to jump up on to more of the taller mushrooms, then dropped down to a lower one. Reicket took a third step forward on to the thin ones. He could only put one foot on a single mushroom at a time, and his legs stretched apart to step on the next row of mushrooms in the middle of the pit. Gilsa pulled himself up on another mushroom just as Reicket took a step to another stalk. Reicket lifted his back foot just at the loud snap of the plant sounded and the thin fungus cracked behind him. He took his step quickly, just as the next one under his foot began to fall with another snap, and then rushed forward again, skipping as quickly as he could, his eyes watching his feet in horror as the mushrooms fell down, down, down, until they vanished into darkness.
“Hurry, take my hand!” Siegfried shouted, shuffling forward more and holding his hand out farther to reach toward Reicket.
Gilsa felt his heart begin to pound as he jumped down from the last mushroom to land just behind Siegfried. Reicket took two last jumps, landing with both feet on each step and breaking the platforms immediately. Just as he reached the closest mushroom, landing hard on it, the loud snap sounded and it began to fall away under his feet. Siegfried shouted and reached down farther as Reicket reached up, both falling when they clasped each other hands.
Gilsa jumped on top of Siegfried when Reicket began pulling the both of them down. Gilsa squatted down and grabbed Siegfried by the shoulder and belt. For a second they teetered on the edge, just stopping where they were hanging over the edge above the pit, now free of mushrooms and obviously filled with hidden spikes. Then Gilsa let out a grunt of effort and pulled Siegfried back, lifting up his waist while Siegfried scrambled to get his feet under him. They both got purchase under their feet and then began running backward, taking huge steps that drew Reicket on to their level and letting him finish climbing the rest of his way on to the mushroom.
Gilsa fell back from the weight being taken off him, Siegfried being pulled half on top of him, and Reicket staying on all fours as he caught his breath. Siegfried leaned forward as he panted, heart racing from the experience, his eyes wide and shaking. Gilsa pulled his feet under him and stood slowly, taking deep measured breaths through his nose.
“Ha ha… see? Told you I could do it?” Reicket laughed, marveling at his fortunate fate.
“Yeah. G-Good work.” Siegfried responded, letting out a breath of tension.
“You are an unbelievable moron.” Gilsa told him.
“I made it though!” Reicket responded, getting to his feet.
“You definitely did not.” Gilsa’s flat tone challenged.
“I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re fine.”
“You nearly got yourself and his Highness killed.” Gilsa frowned. “If he didn’t grab you I’d have let you fall to teach you a lesson.”
“I would have been fine either way! It’s in the past so let’s pick ourselves up and move on!” Reicket crossed his arms and turned up his head, glowering at Gilsa.
“Maybe we should turn back.” Siegfried interrupted, standing on shaking legs and looking at both of them.
“No way!” Reicket immediately shouted, moving forward to jump onto the next mushroom. “We’ve already come this far! Why turn back now?!”
“Maybe… maybe this is too dangerous?” Siegfried asked, “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Gilsa moved forward, jumping up onto the next mushroom beside Reicket, shocking him. “Though stupid, the stablehand is right. We’re fine. We can press forward.”
“You want to go forward after that? I nearly died!” Reicket exclaimed in amazement.
Gilsa shot him a dirty look, clearly displeased. “You want to turn back? We could be on the very crest of your Highness’ destiny and you don’t want to continue. No, let me take point and make sure there isn’t anything dangerous ahead, then follow.”
“Do you really think that’ll be safe?” Siegfried asked, wanting to believe it but his racing heart tempering his hope.
Gilsa nodded, “Yes, your Highness. I would never lead you into danger.” Gilsa thought for a moment. “Unmanageable danger.”
Siegfried smiled at the reassurance then jumped up next to the others. “Okay.”
“Unmanageable? So you would lead him into danger?” Reicket mocked, running a head to the edge of the massive flat platform with a smirk.
“Shut up, moron. And let me go first.” Gilsa pushed passed him to come to the edge of the mushroom.
Reicket snickered as he stepped aside for Gilsa to take the lead. Gilsa carefully lowered himself back down to the ground instead of jumping, and then looked ahead of where he was walking before moving out of the way to let the others come. Of course that was when Reicket immediately jumped forward, not even bothering to look at Siegfried. Siegfried didn’t mind as much as he would have originally, let the both of them walk ahead. A part of him was ashamed that he wasn’t bodly moving forward, but he wanted to be more careful, and if Gilsa was more experienced it made sense to have him lead.
Gilsa moved slower than Siegfried did, but more confidently. He picked his way around mushrooms after looking for an easier path. Gilsa favored climbing up and on to wide and flat mushrooms tops, though they had to struggle to balance on a few with nearly circular tops. He always made sure to check where they were going next, and turned around to help Reicket or Siegfried who were shorter get to the higher ones. Reicket rushed to eagerly ignore Gilsa’s offered hand each time, but when even Gilsa had to jump up and pulled himself up with the tips of his fingers Reicket was forced to accept the help up.
When all of them were standing on the top they could finally see out above the rows and rows of mushrooms. Not far off, but not too close, a massive black cloud rose in a perfect circle over a clear patch of ground. From it sparkling white snowflakes fell down softly. In the very center, more bright than the snowflakes, obvious under the dark shadow of the cloud, a bright white light shone softly.
“That’s it!” Siegfried shouted, “That’s gotta be it!”
“It’s real?” Gilsa wondered, eyeing the phenomenon suspiciously.
“It’s really real!” Reicket shouted, “Yes! We’re gonna be so rich and famous! We’re gonna be heroes and have an amazing adventure!”
“I knew that my Goddess would never mislead me.” Siegfried sighed, clasping his hands together. “I knew I could make it.”
“I knew we should keep going forward!” Reicket grabbed Gilsa’s arm and pulled him forward, “Get going! We’re almost there!”
“What even is there?” Gilsa wondered, obeying regardless and dropping down forward just as he had before.
“I think I know.” Siegfried gasped. He covered his mouth. “I think I know. There’s only one thing it could be.”
“No! Shut up! Don’t tell me, it’s gotta be an adventure! Adventure’s are surprises!” Reicket didn't hesitate to jump down after Gilsa.
Reicket landed hard on the bottom mushroom next to Gilsa, Gilsa levelling him with the same annoyed look he’d worn nearly all day. Gilsa looked around them to check for danger as Reicket eagerly jumped in place. Gilsa walked forward on the mushroom cap slightly, and then stopped when the ground shifted underneath his feet, listing forward.
“I know what it is!” Siegfried yelled while jumping down eagerly and running forward.
As he landed the ground shifted forward again, drastically slanting toward the ground and throwing them forward. Gilsa fell from the mushroom hard, catching himself on his feet by crouching for a single moment before Reicket let out a shout and fell on top of him, pushing against his back and slamming both of them into the ground. Siegfried jumped back as the mushroom began to fall, running back while it tipped closer and closer to the ground, and then stopped suddenly. Siegfried fell backward, his legs bent at an angle to hold himself still on the angled platform, hands pushing him up so he didn’t fall.
“Get. Off.” Gilsa hissed, shoving himself upward on both hands, bumping Reicket off his back.
“Sorry.” Reicket said as he rolled off, “Sorry. What was that?”
“I don’t know.” Siegfried gasped. “But I’ll be more careful.”
Gilsa stood up and pulled his pack around. He opened it, checked everything, and then let out a relieved sigh before closing it again. “A lot more careful. Can you make it down, your Highness?”
Siegfried nodded, “Yeah. Give me a second.” He began scooting down slowly, then jumped to the floor next to Reicket.
Reicket was watching him, but then his eyes turned to the tilted mushroom. There was an unnatural slant to it. He thought it was weird that the thing bent, instead of breaking, but it hadn’t even bent. It was like the ground under it rolled. In fact the earth under the thing looked unnaturally smooth too.
“Are you alright, your Highness?” Gilsa asked, walking forward carefully again.
“Yes, thank you.” Siegfried landed shakinly and let Gilsa steady him. “I think more careful is a good idea.”
Reicket stared at the weird looking ground behind the mushroom for a moment longer, then scoffed at Siegfried’s words. “More careful? I thought we already were being more careful.”
“The earth only unsettled when you jumped on it.” Gilsa accused, “I’m sure if we carefully-”
A strange noise echoed next to them, a massive wet sloppy sound that flopped louder than Gilsa’s words. All three of them turned to the left so they could see the noise as it came closer. First the sloppy sounds grew even louder, accompanied with a groaning drag across the ground, then from the bottom of one of the massive mushrooms a gross bulbous slug the size of two horses emerged, dropping sludge down from above in huge gloops that sizzled in a wet boiling noise before turning the ground black and making the tilted mushroom below begin to dissolve.
“Your Highness, let’s move quickly.” Gilsa took his hand and lightly pulled Siegfried in front of him.
“It’s a slug, it’s slow.” Reicket waved his hand in dismissal toward the massive boil covered slug. “We probably don’t have to hurry that much.”
Just then the slug began to drool it’s thick liquid down onto the mushroom they’d fallen from. Each drop began to make the mushroom sizzle and dissolve into bubbling mush, and then the slug began to pull away from where it hung upside down, pulling apart with strings and the massive wet sound growing ever loud as it began to fall like a hanging lougie.
“Let’s move anyway.” Gilsa loudly declared. “We want to find that destiny quickly, don’t we?”
“Yes!” Siegfried readily agreed, stepping forward quickly. “I have to get there!” Now in the lead again siegfried began rushing forward. They were on flat ground once again, instead of massive caps, and with the ground slanting down slightly he was able to get plenty speed to rush down.
Gilsa followed, a step behind and eyes ahead for any extra dangers. He was able to stay so close behind because the path was strangely clear. Not even small mushrooms grew under their feet, like the little puff balls of before, only small capped ones at the edges of the massive towering forest.
“See? It’s even falling slowly.” Reicket laughed. “Just super loud and annoying.”
“Like you?” Gilsa happily replied, turned around to see the incredulous shock on Reicket’s face. Siegfried covered his laugh poorly, his chuckle being heard over the wet slopping sounds of the slug hitting the ground.
“Wha! I! You! You’re a knight aren’t you! You can’t insult people.” Reicket shouted, throwing his hands in the air, “I can’t believe I helped you on this adventure and you insult me!”
“I can’t insult his Highness. Last I checked, a stable hand didn’t count.” Gilsa was about to turn around with the last word, but then stopped when a creaking crack of wood sounded. His eyes, starting back at Reicket, moved just in time to catch the moment the slug dropped from the mushroom above to the one below. The tilted one. Where it immediately began to cause the massive fungi to melt and crack and fall apart. At the same time the mushroom cracked, for some reason, the ground behind it began to roll forward again.
“Run!” Gilsa jumped forward and grabbed Reicket’s arm to pull him forward in a dead sprint.
Instead of listening Siegfried turned around as Gilsa grabbed Reicket, and he saw the mass of ground under the tilted mushroom break free, rumbling forward slowly over the mass of the slug in a long painful roll, cracking through the lines of mushroom beside the path, revealing it was a massive circular boulder. Siegfried gasped in horror as the slug was being squeezed flat in agonizing inches over a few seconds, the wet slapping noise it made getting louder and the goop of it spraying across the ground with wet leaking splurts.
Gilsa slammed into Siegfried’s shoulder, forcing him to turn around and pushing him forward hard so that he was forced to run. Being forced to move finally got Siegfried running, and he heard the last fart of the slug being rolled over flat by the bouder, but didn’t see it. He could feel the vibrating rumble of the boulder under his feet as they began flying down the slanted path.
“Find somewhere to duck into! Find a hole, find a corner!” Gilsa shouted, still pulling Reicket behind him and pushing Siegfried forward.
He wasn’t watching his feet, he wasn’t paying attention to the tightness grip he had on Reicket, or even Siegfried in front of him, his eyes were up toward the tops of the mushrooms. He knew he wouldn’t be able to see a break in the path a head, not if he was in the middle, but he could see a break in the canopy. Where the wide flat mushrooms tops were missing, there could be a tucked away alley for them to dive into.
“Make a right!” Gilsa shouted, where he saw a break in the tops. “Stop and make a right!”
Siegfried’s feet scrambled to turn and skid to halt, slamming face first into a mushroom that was too tall to just jump over, and too wide to go around. Gilsa let go of Reicket as he stopped, his boots catching the ground roughly so he didn’t slide. In a single second Gilsa ripped his sword free from its scabbard, cutting a thick line through the mushroom with the same swing. He set his feet and then raised his arms up in a second swing and then chopped into the mushroom at the same spot, splitting one of the side open.
“Push it! Push it!” Gilsa dropped his sword and then shoved against the trunk with two hands enough to tip it back.
Siegfried immediately ran into it next to Gilsa with both hands out. Together their feet scrambled against the ground to shove the truck over at the cuts, a few loud pops sounding one after the other at the same time the earth began to shake violently as the boulder rocketed down the slope.
“Are you insane! We have to keep running!” Reicker grabbed Gilsa by the shoulder, pulling him back for a moment.
Gilsa stepped back,brushed him off, and then ran forward to slam his shoulder heavily into the mushroom. “Shut up and help Reicket!”
Reicket screamed in frustration, in fear, and then screamed as he charged forward with his shoulder as well, slamming into the mushromo beside the other and then going through it as it toppled forward completely and slammed to the ground. Gilsa fell forward beside Reicket, and Seigfried scrambled forward to jump in next, all of them watching as a second later the boulder ran down where they’d been standing, and then heard a massive crash of stone and rubble breaking into a million pieces.
Gilsa watched it in complete horror and shock. Amazement. He let out a terrible groan and slammed his head back into the ground. He couldn’t have just convinced Siegfried to turn around? No, he wanted to try and fulfill his oath, he wanted to try and lessen the burden of familiar pressure. Gilsa wanted to help Siegfried - he should’ve trusted his better judgement and turned back one day one. Except, he knew that if he weren’t here they would’ve been dead by the start of day two.
“We - we should take a break. Who’s in favor for a break?” Reicket lifted his head from the floor to look between Siegfried and Gilsa.
“Hold on,” Siegfried got to his feet quickly, “hold on, I thought I saw a doorway ahead.” Siegfried crawled over the knocked down trunk to peek out. “It’s up there. It’s right there, I can feel it.” He jumped up to get back on the path which led down.
“Wait,” Gilsa scrambled to stand, his head getting light and then heavy as he moved, “wait, your Highness!” Gilsa dove over the mushroom they dropped to follow immediately, having to run after Siegfried who took off like a shot downward.
“No break. Okay, nearly died twice today, not a big deal.” Reicket sighed, slowly getting to his feet by pushing off the ground.
“Look! Can’t you see that!” Siegfried laughed, not hesitating to dash forward.
The boulder had crashed into something, not through it, and had been busted into bits. A massive steel arch rose at the end of the path, behind it a field covered in white. The arch, a steel unyielding window that pictured endless white. Around it the boulder had been crushed into pebbles. Just before it shards of a massive broken pendulum were scattered on the slanted ground.
Siegfried crushed all of it underfoot. He ran fast enough to kick up the pebbles behind him, the shards of metal sliding under his feet but not tripping him as he entered the arch and crashed into the field covered in snow. Gilsa was right behind, stepping into to the holes Siegfried had made. Siegfried didn’t pause as the entire field came into view. Somehow completely illuminated in light despite the heavy black clouds overhead, somehow covered in snow despite the other clear skies, some how the air was thin even though they were on the ground. Siegfried refused to stop as he saw there was absolutely nothing in the area. There wasn’t a single thing around, not in this perfectly circular glade.
But he heard a calling. A deep voice that spoke to his being, rang through him, and forced him to continue forward because this was where he was supposed to be. This was it, it was everything that Siegfried was looking for, the end to his quest and the start, and he felt like a typhoon was sucking him farther and farther into the center of this endless snow.
Gilsa stopped as Siegfried got closer to the middle of the endless circle of white. He couldn’t explain how, or exactly what it was that told him to, but Gilsa stopped completely. A coldness in his bones told him to stop. A deep sense of responsibility holding him in place as he watched.
Reicket came to the scene and stopped just as fast, halting next to Gilsa. He sank into the snow, the cold settling around his knees and wetting his pants immediately. Reicket panted puffs of frozen air while he watched. Amazed and filled with wonder as he waited for a life changing event. The eagerness filled him so much he couldn’t even bring himself to take another step forward if there was a knife at his back.
Siegfried didn’t even notice they’d followed him. All he knew was that it was here. His destiny, his family’s legacy, his future and the past. Everything around him was white. The world fell away, the only thing with him was the emptiness of the color white. Pure, boundless. The origin of all other colors and the stain that blotted out everything. In all this whiteness, surrounded by it, hidden in it, was exactly what his Goddess spoke of.
Siegfried didn’t have to reach out, it came to him. From the nothiness, invisible because of the clarity of the color, floated the apparition of the White Sword. The shape seemed intangible as it appeared suddenly in mid air, a gust of wind kicking up around it and blowing a gale of wind outward. Siegfried let the wind blow passed him, felt it cast aside the cold and leave him alone with destiny.
He held his hands out wide, palms up, and watched as the shape of Sword began to solidify. Felt the air pulse with the ancient power contained within the blade. Siegfried knew the shape without looking. He knew what this was even blind, by the sheer presence of the weapon. Here, yet not here... the White Sword was hiding, reaching out to Siegfried as he brought his spread hands under the floating invisible outline of his destiny.
Lightly, the White Sword drifted down from where it hung suspended in the air. It touched the flats of Siegfried’s palm like a kiss, weightlessly resting in his hands. Like an unfolding tulip the invisibleness fell away, showing the sharp shining edge of the thick broadsword. The light shone from within the blade, illuminating every perfection in the blade, the thick reinforced middle, the slanting double edges. Most magnificently the cross guard and pommel glittered with thousands of lights in their beautiful diamond forms. The cross guard was two spreading wings. The pommel was a single heart-shaped jewel.
Siegfried knew there were words. There was a certain ceremony for doing this.
He was speechless as he fully grasped the White Sword in his hands, not even cutting himself as his fingers involuntarily tightened at the razor-sharp edge. He was completely possessed. His mind focused on one single thought, his dream, his life, his next words dumbfounded despite how deeply he felt them ring true in his heart:
“I’m the White Knight.”
As he spoke the words a spell seemed to break, the wind disappearing and the cold dropping to nothing. Above them the clouds broke away suddenly, all of the sunlight illuminating the area. Reicket and Gilsa could breathe, Siegfried could feel the sensations of the world, and the White Sword was glowing brighter as it blew up an outline of power, reaching out of Siegfried’s hands. A massive force of visible energy which swept passed all the snow, making it whiter somehow, moved through Gilsa and Reicket, behind them, into the fields of mushrooms, through to the Kingdom, beyond, and filling the world with a chime that all noticed. And as it hit Gilsa and Reicket, as Siegfried held the White Sword in his hands, all three of them could truly see each other. Splashes of color finally appeared in the world, for the first time in nearly ten years.
“I’m the White Knight.” Siegfried gasped again, his hands shaking despite how weightless the Sword was in his hands.
“We found the White Sword!” Reicket hollered, reached across suddenly and grabbing Gilsa in a hug as he jumped up and down like a mad man. “We did it! We fulfilled a quest and we found the White Sword!”
Gilsa grabbed Reicket's hand on his shoulder, nodding as he tried to watch the situation unfold, his wonder so great he felt detached from reality.
“My father’s Sword.” Siegfried gasped, moving his hand on the bottom of the blade to take hold of the hilt, to actually grasp it.
“We’re heroes! We’re heroes!” Reicket gasped suddenly, as if he were dying, and then grabbed Gilsa’s face in both his hands. “I can see color again! I can see color!” He screamed, a wordless cry of excitement right into Gilsa’s face and looked him in the eyes. “You have the most disgusting orange shirt! Your black hair looks stupid!” Reicket let him go and began running toward Siegfried with outstretched arms. “My shirt is green!” He hollered, rushing Siegfried and wrapping his arms around around his neck in a hug. “We did it, we found! The White! Sword!”
“Yes. Yes. Oh, we did. This is really it, this is actually, truly, the White Sword!” Siegfried sniffled, his voice breaking and his eyes filling with tears. “I - I can’t believe it.”
“Wait!” Gilsa yelled, taking two steps forward, “Wait!”
Reicket let go of Siegfried and rounded on him with anger, “What?! What could you possibly have to say!”
“Your Highness… you just refounded the Rainbow Knights.” Gilsa raised his hands and stared at them, seeing for the first time his loose orange shirt laying over his brown leather vest, his dark brown pants that were faded in boldness from repeated washes. Even the strands of black hair that hung over his eyes. “If the White Sword persists -”
Siegfried gasped, his crying swollen eyes growing wide as he realized the same thing. “Then the other six Swords have to be out there as well. The Rainbow Knights weren’t destroyed - they aren’t destroyed.” Siegfried placed both hands on the hilt, lifting it up so that he could the White Sword full, the same sword his father had held, the one he was supposed to inherit, the one he’d found as his Goddess foretold. “The Rainbow Knights are right here.”
Reicket cried out in excitement and then tacked Siegfried over into the snow, both of them laughing loudly as the powder flew up around them, covering them in it. “You’re the White Knight! We’re the Rainbow Knights!”
“I’m the White Knight!” Siegfried declared as he laughed and cried, raising the Sword above the both of them.
“We’re going to be Rainbow Knights!” Reicket shouted, then he stood up, and raised his head to the sky. “We’re the Rainbow Knights!”
Gilsa sat down in the snow, his legs falling out from under him. “I helped the King find the White Sword.” He brought both hands to his hand, smoothing his wild hair back. “I - I can become one of the new Rainbow Knights.”
“We’re Heroes!” Reicket screamed to the sky again raising his hands above his head.
As if in response to his words a pulse of energy shook through the air. In one second all of the color flew from the world again, as if it were never there, returning everything back to gray.
“What’d you do that for?” Reicket asked, turning in confusion to look at Siegfried.
Siegfried was just sitting up in the snow, both hands still on his Sword. He looked just as confused, no longer crying, but still completely elated. “I… I don’t know.”
“Well - well can’t you do it again?” Reicket pouted, “Can’t the Rainbow Knight’s fix this?” He gestured to the gradients of gray and black and white across the world.
“Yes. Of course.” Siegfried agreed, “But I - I think I have to bring it back. To the Crystal Goddess statue in the castle.”
Reicket eagerly smiled, “And ask her where the other Swords are! So I can have a Sword too!”
“Yes, yes, that makes perfect sense.” Siegfried lowered the sword, his hands still tightening on the hilt. He’d admit it quickly, he was afraid that if he let the Sword go it’d disappear.
“Then let’s set off! Let’s return to Crystalandia as heroes!” Reicket lifted his head, closing his eyes as he imagined the parade before him. “Be given free food, drinks, money, and have people sing songs about us! Come on soldier-boy! Lead the way!”
Gilsa laughed softly, looking up at Reicket with genuine friendliness in his eyes. “You’re not the White Knight, and you’re definitely not the boss of me.”
“Come on then,” Reicket spun around, wrapping two hands around Siegfried’s arm, “Come on then, White Knight Siegfried. Lead the way.”
Siegfried couldn’t help his massive ear-to-ear smile at the title. “Let’s head home.”
Gilsa got to his feet, brushing snow from his clothes. “Yes sir, White Knight Siegfried.”
Reicket was standing up in his stirrups as they rode back into the city. They’d left under the cover of night, and from their strange sleep schedule and making an easier way back they returned in the deepest darkest time of morning. Gilsa was leaning forward heavily on his horse, relaxing after they passed into familiar territory, and knowing if they truly needed help every single knight in the city was a whistle away. Siegfried couldn’t help sitting up as straight as possible. Even though no one was watching them Siegfried had to present himself like he was every iota of the royalty his blood entitled him too. On the single chance that someone could come out and see him, the very possibility eyes looked out a window toward him, Siegfried wanted them to see him proudly riding back into his castle with the white sword hanging heavily from his belt.
“Oh, oh! I can see the castle! I can see it!” Reicket bounced lightly, enough to make his white horse toss it’s head, but not get irritated. “First thing I’m gonna do, I’m going to eat the biggest cake. I’m going to eat a big juicy cut of meat. I can taste it, just melting in mouth, a dinner fit for a hero.” Reicket turned to Siegfried with a smile. “What are you gonna do?”
“I’m going right to my Goddess.” Siegfried declared, “I’m going to Her, and worshipping her for her guidance.” He had a private small smile on as he spoke, his cheeks blushing. “Then… I don’t know. See my Mother. Have that party.”
“I suspect we’ll have to do all that after.” Gilsa interrupted, becoming suddenly alert and trying to appear less exhausted.
“After - oh.” Reicket sat down heavily in his saddle, nervously shifting and curling the reins in his hands as they got to the gate of the castle.
Lined up in perfect order were nearly all of the royal guards. All of them were fully armored, armed with sword or bows, alert and intimidating in a way only authority figures could ever be. Their mass of numbers radiated a quick doom, all of the discipline and years of training holding them completely steady, eyes staring forward with unseeing bearings that took in everything without a single eye turning or widening in shock as the King himself returned with the true White Sword.
Reicket slowed his horse slightly to let Siegfried ride ahead, and Gilsa did the same, though for an entirely different reason. Siegfried felt apprehension as he approached the wall of guards. Not that he’d done anything wrong. But the burning pull of worry that he always felt before having to speak to his people.
Gilsa stopped his horse first, knowing when Siegfried would, and jumped down from the saddle in a smooth practiced movement. Just as he hit the ground he walked forward to where Siegfried pulled his horse to a stop and held out his hand to help him down. Siegfried took it and came down the horse easily, having no trouble like earlier and stepped down heavily to the ground.
One of the guards took exactly three steps forward, emerging from the center of the mass. He kneeled in the next moment, bowing his head as he did so, and like falling dominos everyone behind him repeated the action in perfect unison. All of the royal guard bowed before the appearance of their King.
Gilsa walked quickly forward, moving passed the leading guard, then stopping and turning around in a sharp circle at the leading guard’s shoulder. Then he too, kneeled down. Only after Gilsa joined their ranks did the guard who stepped forward speak.
“Welcome home, your Highness. We are relieved to see you returned in good health, and are eager to serve you. Allow me to give you an escort back to your quarters, and summon your advisors so that you may inform them of your journeys.”
“No.” Siegfried declared, and he raised his hand up, “All of you may rise. Please, stand.” He paused a moment, waiting for them to tobey, and dutifully the entire force came to their feet. “I will tell you all where I have been now: I have followed in my Father’s footsteps, and I have listened to my Goddess. I have reclaimed the White Sword, and I am founding the new Rainbow Knights.
“I want the entire Kingdom to know with the dawn. I want flyers posted, notices in the streets, I want the word spread from there to the desert, and the sea, and then back. All should know that I - Siegfried of Crystalandia - have claimed the White Sword for justice, and will unite the Rainbows Knights again.I want all of you to begin this news immediately. Wake every one - the nobles, the servants, my advisors and councilmen. Have it shouted from the roof tops and whispered in the allies: the Rainbow Knights are returning, and with them peace, and color, will be restored to the land.”
“Yes, your Highness.” The lead guard bowed his head. “Have you any other requests?”
Reicket hissed, a whisper of a call trying to get Siegfried’s attention. It took a moment for Siegfried to hear, and he turned to look at Reicket. “Feast. Big party.”
Siegfried grinned at the reminder. “And notify the staff that I’d like a grand feast prepared in honor of this accomplishment for tonight.”
“Yes!” Reicket whispered loudly, clenching his fist in victory.
“Yes, your Highness.” The man raised his head and turned to face the standing rows of guards. “Squadron commanders! You heard the order of His Highness! Take control of your men and carry out His orders before sunrise! Dismissed!” He swept his hand across the air cutting through it with his command, and after he spoke from the guards the senior members began to echo him.
Gilsa turned as well and began walking into the ranks of the fully armored guards. “Yellow Squadron!” He hollard, his voice joining the others as he moved.
“Gilsa! Wait a moment!” Siegfried stepped after him slightly, watching as Gilsa immediately froze in his tracks.
“Yes, your Highness?” Gilsa asked, turning to face Siegfried at attention, arms held ridgid at his sides.
“I’d actually like it if you could escort me back to my rooms. I would… like to speak to you privately. If you have the time.” Siegfried finished, his voice completely unsure compared to his tone a second ago.
“Yes, your Highness. Allow me a moment to cede command.” Gilsa turned back to the ranks, walking toward the rows and columns of men who hadn’t moved yet with urgency. “Layfe! Report!” He hollard, his voice ringing out over the thunderous running of those already given orders.
“Um, your Highness?” Reicket nervously asked, “Is there… anything you’d like to speak to me about?”
Siegfried turned around and looked up at Reicket. He smiled. “I’ll see you at the party, right? Let’s talk then.”
“I’m - we’re - Rainbow Knights now, though, right?” Reicket smiled back, “I’m going to claim the next Sword we find.”
“Of course!” Siegfried moved over to him and raised his hand up, “You helped me on my quest, and you pushed us toward success. There isn’t anyone else I’d even think of picking.”
Reicket shook his hand, “I’ll see you at the dinner table then. I’m going to put these swords back and take the hottest, soapiest, smelliest bath before the party.” Reicket raised his hands and clapped twice loudly, making the horses' ears twitch up and file in line behind his white one. “See you then, White Knight!” Reicket called kicking his heels back and making his horse trot forward, the other two brown and white ones following like the well trained animals they were.
“Goodbye!” Siegfried called, lifting his hand after Reicket just as Gilsa returned to stand beside him.
“Your Highness.” Gilsa greeted, “I am ready to escort you.”
“Thank you, Gilsa. Do you need to stop anywhere before we go into the castle?”
Gilsa smiled, clearly suppressing a chuckle. “No, your Highness. I’ll lead the way back to your room.” He began moving as he spoke, directly at Siegfried’s shoulder as he started walking toward the massive doors to the entryway.
“You know the way to my room?” Siegfried wondered, allowing Gilsa to open the door for him.
“I’m the Yellow Squadron Commander for the Royal Guards. I know every last brick of the castle.” Gilsa responded, pulling the door shut behind him
Siegfried wanted to quiz him about the hidden passageways, but decided not to. Instead he allowed Gilsa to walk him through the waking halls of the castle. A few of the servants had been woken already by the guards, more guards ran through the halls banging on doors and hastily conveying Siegfried’s bold message. A few lamps had been lit between the floor to ceiling windows, but even then Gilsa seemed to know each turn just as well as Siegfried.
“How do you, in Yellow squadron, know the castle so well?” Siegfried asked as Gisla led down a pitch-black corridor. One of the last before the dead-end of Siegfried’s wing.
“All of the Royal Guards are required to be able to draw the entire layout of the castle from memory. You aren’t allowed to even hold a sword without scoring perfect on the exam.” Gilsa’s hand swayed toward the two swords weighing his belt down. “It’s the hardest requirement, I think.”
“What are the other ones?” Siegfried asked, “I had Master Gon as a private instructor, so I wonder what the differences are.”
They reached the end of the corridor and turned to the short hall which ended at Siegfried’s door. Gilsa moved forward and pulled one of the double doors open. “I am sure you are just as skilled as I, your Highness. Would you like anything else from me tonight?”
“Come in, I actually do want to talk to you about something. And, I still want to hear about your training. I… I don’t think you and me are similar in skill... actually.”
Siegfried went over to his fireplace and lit the restocked kindling with his lighter. His windows were closed, so he began to tie up the curtains and let Gilsa decide where to sit. His room was actually massive, second only to his Mothers. There were two four-poster beds next to each other, an entire side room for a closet, and a water closet, a dining table with six chairs, a small library with two sitting chairs, the lounger in front of the fire, and the desk that had cabinets next to the slanted draft table. Gilsa moved very carefully toward the fireplace after Siegfried, his hands brushing along the back of an armchair.
“Please, sit. There’s no one here, you don’t have to be so formal. You can call me Siegfried.” He sat down on the lounger, pulling one of his legs up to begin unlacing his boots.
“I’d prefer the formalities, if it doesn’t… offend. Your Highness.” Gilsa looked away as he said it. “It’s been a very eventful few days, and if I may say, I’m extremely nervous. I… I really didn’t expect to follow your Highness on such a dangerous quest, then find not only the White Sword, the sign of the Rainbow Knights preserving, but be asked to follow my King into his private quarters….” Gilsa took a breath, and then he could face Siegfried, “It is… quite a lot to have done in the span of a week.”
Siegfried gravely nodded, pulling his boots off. “I know. I’m the King.”
“Whatever I can do to lessen that burden, your Highness, let me know and I shall.” Gilsa insisted, pressing a hand to his heart. “Upon my Oath, I will.”
Siegfried nodded sadly. “I trust you will, Gilsa.” He morosely responded, his voice sinking toward sadness.
“Ah.” Gilsa quietly said, coming to a quick understanding. He walked over to where Siegfried was, sitting on the lounger beside him, and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to suggest, Siegfried, that you couldn’t confide in me. As a friend.”
Siegfried’s eyes lifted to see Gilsa’s their color lost in shades of gray, but the deep sympathy in them obvious. “Thank you. Gilsa.” He lifted his hand to hold Gilsa’s for a moment, squeezing it.
“I think that for now, you should rest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it will help.” Gilsa took his hand back, but didn’t move aside from where he sat with Siegfried. “Today, you shouldn’t worry about your skills, or my training in the Royal Guard. We’ve both had a very eventful… adventure, and I for one would like to bathe as soon as possible. I am a Royal Guard, you can call upon me whenever you wish.”
Siegfried listened, and thought about the words. “You’re right. I’m just… I’m just still thinking about everything. Everything you did for me, these past days. And, don’t be surprised, but your position in the Royal Guard - that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. More than your training, and my incompetence.”
“Your - you aren’t incompet, Siegfried.” Gilsa assured him, “That stablehand was.”
“No. I know I would not have made it very far without you beside me.” Siegfried lifted his head and twisted to look at Gilsa. “I won’t pretend that - that you didn’t make this a success. Not because you would have benefited either, but because you wanted me to succeed. You wanted me to be safe, and you don’t even know me.”
Gilsa tried to give him a reassuring smile. “You’re my King, that’s all I need.”
“But Gilsa - what I want to ask, what I’m trying to say, is that for these past few days, you’ve done all that for me. You’ve been so reliable, and loyal, and I want to reward you for it, except….” Siegfried looked away, then turned back to him, “Except, I want to ask you to be my personal guard.”
Gilsa turned thoughtful, but nodded, not showing a sign of disapproval, or distain at the words.
Siegfried reached out and took hold of both of Gilsa’s hands holding them tightly as he looked directly into his eyes. “I want you to accompany me, wherever I go, when I go. If it’s just to fulfill my Kingly duties, or even when I discover the location of the other Swords: Gilsa, I want you beside me.”
“I will gladly follow you, Siegfried. It would not be a burden. It would be an honor.” Gilsa smiled as he spoke, tilting his head so his black hair swung across his forehead. “One that I never imagined I’d have the opportunity for. Truly, it is a great reward.”
Siegfried let out a tight breath, falling forward with the exertion of confessing his feelings and the rush of not having been denied. Gilsa let his head land on his shoulder, and tried not to laugh too obviously. Gilsa would speak to his King, and his new friend about himself another day. Gilsa wanted Siegfried to know why he so readily agreed, the selfish reason that he truly followed him and would continue to. It didn’t seem honest to keep his own motivations hidden from his King who depended on him so openly, and whom Gilsa knew so much more about.
Gilsa wrapped an arm around him in a light hug. “I’ll tell you everything you wish to know once you are rested. Sleep will do the both of us good.”
Siegfried nodded, his head hitting Gilsa’s shoulder, and then he pulled back with a guilty look. “I have one more thing to tell you.” When Gilsa only continued to look at him with compassion Siegfried continued. “I promised to Reicket he may accompany me as well.”
Gilsa didn’t bother hiding his chagrin. “Though… I personally do not like him, if it is your judgement to let him tag along, I will protect him as well.”
“Thank you, Gilsa. And I’m sorry. I - I think he’s very friendly, and I like him.” Siegfried confessed. “He’s very forward thinking, and though he’s a bit…”
“Moronic beyond belief?” Gilsa scoffed, grinning despite his harsh words.
“A bit impulsive,” Siegfried laughed, “I like his attitude. And he seems willing to put in the work.”
“He seems willing to rush to an early grave and take us with him.” Gilsa smiled at his words, “But if you see something in him, then I believe you, Siegfried.” He rose as he spoke, standing to his full height and as confidently as when they left six days ago. “Get some rest, and I shall be sure to find you at the party to continue our conversation, your Highness.”
Siegfried pouted slightly at the title, though after a moment he sighed, “It’ll be hard to get you to stop calling me that, won’t it?”
“For as long as you are the King, yes. Sleep well, and call on me if you need.” Gilsa gave Siegfried a bow before he turned and left his room. He felt better, he barely even felt tired as he left the room, and closed and locked the doors behind him. Gilsa knew he would be returning to a whirlwind of chaos and need to give endless briefings and reports, but even then he knew he’d be happy to. All he had to do was visit one place first, and then he’d return to his position in Yellow Squad.
Reicket came into the room to a chorus of cheers. The two guards who had brought him into the massive ball room peeled away to the side and stood beside the door. “His Honorableness, Reicket Volo has arrived.” One of the knights shouted, prompting a smattering of applause at his introduction and even though Reicket felt horribly out of place, under dressed, and judged - Reicket smiled and basked in the force clapping.
“Reicket!” Siegfried called out, and immediately the adults parted before him like the King he was. “I’m glad you could make it!” Siegfried held his hand out and someone took from his fingers a glass. Siegfried practically blinded Reicket as he walked forward, his vestments glittering with hundreds of crystals. His collar was rimmed with speckled soft fur that completely covered his neck, his sleeves were rimmed in fur as well, and his face was painted in colorless makeup, and his brown hair was tied in two thin braids that hung in front of his ears.
Reicket laughed, covering his smile. “You look ridiculous.” He laughed, and then calmed himself, “But I’d make it here, even if the room was on fire.” He held his hand out and Siegfried shook it, letting out a nervous chuckle as well.
“I always feel a bit ridiculous in this.” Siegfried admitted, “But it’s….” He turned his eyes around the room at the adults gossipping and drinking and taken with themselves. “It’s not the worst thing. I suppose.” Siegfried turned to Reicket with a smile, and both of them stared for a moment at each other, then laughed at the long pause.
“Come on, you wanted a steak, right? I had the chefs prepare seared tenderloin, some meatballs, a-” Reicket covered Siegfried’s mouth and shushed him.
“Let me be surprised.” Reicket told him, “You really just want to spoil all the fun before hand, huh?”
“I just thought it’d make you more excited. But okay: all the buffet is this way.” Siegfried began walking and again the people in front of him completely moved out of the way.
The image of the buffet seemed to appear specifically for Reicket, the people pulling aside like a curtain to show the beautiful painting of an endless table covered in heaps of steaming food. There was so much food, platters were elevated in towers. Things which were speared, things which were already cut, vegetables and sliced fruit soaking in sugar. And a small founder of chocolate surrounded by cheeses and fruits on sticks.
“Can I… just eat all of it?” Reicket wondered, amazed at the variety of sweet smelling and mouth watering looking meat.
“I will pay you to stick your hand in it.” Gilsa appeared at Siegfried’s side, scaring both of them and making them flinch hard enough to bump into each other. He smiled and took a loud slurping sip of his bubbling drink as he stared at them.
Gilsa was dressed in a waist coat covered in small ribbons and metals, his white shirt underneath collared and cuffed with lace, all of it an afterthought to the dashing mess jacket he wore, the back of it long and ending in two points. His pants were pleated, and he wore heeled shoes that had buckles. His long black hair had been slicked back with cosmetics so that it all stayed out of his eyes and his ears.
“Uh, when did you get here?” Reicket grumbled. Gilsa opened his mouth to respond, but then Reicket turned away, “Never mind, food will cheer me up.”
Gilsa shook his head with mirth as he watched Reicket take a plate and begin building a mountain of food. Siegfried only shrugged, though he was happy the two didn’t get into a more obvious argument. He felt more relaxed with the two of them by his side, and less stared at. That might have had something to do with how Reicket was picking up food from across the table and shoving it in his mouth to see if he should take more or spit it into one of the waste bins.
“Oh! I wanted to talk to you about the Royal Guard.” Siegfried said, folding his hands into his robe. “And, I suppose, thank you again for everything you did.”
“I live to serve, your Highness.” Gilsa freely said, “And ask-”
“Um-” Reicket came back balancing his tray of food precariously and grabbing the pieces of cheese that threatened to drop, “I’d like to point out that soldier-boy here wanted us to turn back at every opportunity. If you’ll recall, your Highness.”
“I do.” Siegfried quickly said before Gilsa spoke, though he seemed to hold his tongue professionally nonetheless. “I told Gilsa as well, that I valued your optimism.”
Reicket clamped his mouth shut at the words. Shocked, and feeling completely praised in a way he hadn’t expected. Reicket wanted to poke a little fun at Gilsa’s serious attitude, and how he’d made mistakes as well… he didn’t expect Siegfried to compliment him at all.
“I also value Gilsa’s level-headedness.”
Gilsa turned a bit so his blush wasn’t obvious and drank a bit more of the flute that had been shoved into his hands.
“That is why, I still want both of you to help me finish this quest.” Siegfried stepped forward a bit,t hen turned so he could both of them. “I wanted to go alone. Both of you insisted to come, and I see now I was wrong in trying to be a King indepent of my people. My Father led beside his advisors. He fought beside the Rainbow Knights, as well. If it weren’t for you, both of you - I think I would have turned back, or worse, failed.
“Together, I know the three of us can find the remaining Swords, and bring back the Rainbow Knights. Reicket, with your enthusiasm and instance to preserve I know we’ll never balk at any danger no matter how perilous. Gilsa, with your skill and quick-thinking, those dangers can be conquered. I’d want no one else by my side more than you.”
Reicket was at a loss for words. He’d gotten exactly what he’d wanted. Dreamed of. Never imagined having, and here he was, being offered a knighthood in the legendary Rainbow Knights. Being told he’d become one of the King’s closest friends and advisors, being praised for his actions despite his mistakes.
Gilsa raised his glass, and turned away from them both. “A toast!” He called out instead, his voice booming across the room and demanding everyone’s attention. “A toast!” He repeated, “To the King, Siegfried of Crystalandia! Leader of the Rainbow Knights and wielder of the White Sword! To King Siegfried!”
Around them the room erupted in the cheer. Glasses and hands were raised, voices echoing Gilsa’s toast and drinking to it happily. An aura of pleasure spread across the bored people raising their spirits as they echoed the toast a second time just to drink. Reicket watched it with a glow of pride spreading through him, like the cheers were for him. Siegfried accepted it with all the grace he could, glad for the powder that covered his hot cheeks, not sure how to respond to such open adoration.
Gilsa turned around to look at the both of them with gleaming eyes. “I think that there is no one else I would rather follow than you, Siegfried.”
“Seconded!” Reicketed shouted. “Finding the Rainbow Knights with you is the best thing I can think of! The moment you hear that call of adventure again, Siegfried, you have to come get us, first thing!”
“Come get me. First thing.” Gilsa pointed out, “Him second.”
Siegfried chuckled at their banter. “I swear to do nothing else. Now, Gilsa, about that training I keep meaning to talk to you about?”