King Galaflor jumped to his feet, the jewels in his hair tinkling. With a swoosh of his heavily-sleeved arm he pointed at the exit and bellowed angrily, “Fescu Astrall, you are banished! That is a royal order! If you ever return to Solas Lunias you shall be apprehended and imprisoned without trial in the forgotten prison of the Secret City, where no one foolish enough to care about a waste like you will ever find you!”
The entire throne room fell silent when Galaflor finished this declaration, quivering with fury as he glared with curled lips at Fescu. Even Farin, who cared little for his younger brother, looked shocked. His pen hung limply in his fingers. The king noticed the familiar sound of the scratching pen was absent, and he rounded on Farin and shouted, “That command needs to be written, young Farin Astrall, so that Fescu may know exactly how unwelcome he is in Solas Lunias!”
Farin’s dark eyes flicked from the king to his parents, the slightest trace of concern crossing his face as his gaze fell on his tearful mother. Farin then sighed with raised eyebrows as he copied the king’s severe command into the records.
Patrinia choked back a loud sob, then proceeded to shout at the king with clenched fists. “Your Majesty Galaflor, I’ve spent my entire life under your rule, and I’m ashamed to call you my king! If I’d have known you were so cruel as to banish a boy just because you don’t like him and then threaten him with a sentence fit for murderers and spies, I’d have abandoned Solas Lunias long ago!”
In a fit of angry tears, Patrinia turned and ran out of the palace, shoving the guards roughly aside.
Galaflor looked angrier than before, his small eyes so narrowed they were merely slits, and they were now on Fosco, demanding him to explain away his wife’s disagreeable exclamation.
Fosco’s mouth opened and shut, trying to catch words to form a sentence with. Finally, Fosco curtly bowed to Galaflor and calmly recited the words he’d collected. “King Galaflor, I could easily excuse my wife’s words as those of a mother desperate to defend her child, but I agree with her whole-heartedly. I came to Solas Lunias only because my home, Astra Terra, was accidentally destroyed by its famously foolish king. If no other option were available, I would rather live under the rule of a foolish king than a cruel one such as Your Majesty. Now that I know the true nature of the king of Solas Lunias, my wife and I shall take our business to another kingdom. Good luck finding a new smith.” Fosco bowed again and marched out of the room to search for his wife.
Fescu stared at Galaflor, who was glaring at the exit, seemingly indecisive if he should remain angry at what had been said to him, or concerned that the only smith for miles around was walking out of his kingdom. The people would blame the king for it. Fescu noticed that even Farin was looking at the king as though he’d done Solas Lunias a great misfortune.
Fescu’s sudden laughter broke the silence, much to Galaflor’s annoyance. “It seems, Galaflor Your Royal-headedness, that you’re more interested in turning your citizens away than in helping Solas Lunias grow. When word spreads how you treat those you don’t like, and people see successful businesses leaving for other kingdoms, how many more will follow?”
“There are always smiths looking for work,” Galaflor grumbled as he returned to his throne. “A new family will move in and take your father’s place.”
Fescu held up a finger, a smile on his face. “Not when the new family hears how you treat anyone who displeases you. What kind of self-loathing fools would willingly subject themselves to that kind of rule? And no one has moved to Solas Lunias since the kingdom of Astra Terra was destroyed and all of its citizens had to find new homes, landing people like the Daliliis and my father here in this miniscule kingdom. No one but our closest neighbors knows Solas Lunias exists, and if you keep offending people you’ll find yourself ruling no one.”
“Go home and start packing, Fescu Astrall,” the king waved his hand. “The decision has been made. It is written.”
Fescu pressed on with a smile, as though trying to sell the king something wonderful. “Your Royal Highness, despite some of the disagreeable citizens that live here, I love Solas Lunias, and would hate to see it fall completely into obscurity. I have friends and memories here that I cherish, and I strongly dislike the thought of not going anywhere in the world I please without guaranteed arrest. I would like to make a proposal that would both benefit Your Majesty, Solas Lunias, and myself.”
“You are in manticore’s territory, Fescu!” Galaflor snarled. “Leave, or you shall be escorted out of the palace at spear point!”
“I’m serious, Your Highness,” Fescu explained calmly. “I can help bring you glory and make Solas Lunias a famous kingdom through a mighty quest. I will take on this amazing task if you will lift my banishment upon completion of my quest.”
Galaflor yearned to summon the guards to get Fescu out of his sight, but he knew that Fescu was right in how he was ruining his own reputation. Dragging a young adult out of his palace at spear point merely because he was annoying would only exacerbate the fact that he was banishing an innocent citizen for no other reason than that a few choice people didn’t like him.
Galaflor closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled slowly, and counted numbers in his mind until he was calm enough to look at Fescu without sneering. This was the last time he’d ever have to speak with the nuisance, and so he’d let Fescu talk until he was pleased to leave the palace on his own. This would deter rumors of Galaflor’s short and severe temper, and perhaps Fescu’s idea of a quest would indeed help Galaflor look less cruel if the records claimed the boy could return after proving his worth with a quest. There was, after all, no guarantee Fescu would return.
Much to the court’s surprise Galaflor leisurely said to the young Virii, “Tell us your proposal and it shall be considered.”
A huge grin crossed Fescu’s narrow, impish face. “This quest is one that many others have attempted and failed. No one has ever visited a civilization in all five of the Perilous Realms, collected proof of doing so, and lived to return from every last Realm. This is what I propose to do.”
Galaflor couldn’t help but smile to himself. Fescu would never return from his self-imposed quest, and the king would not look any the worse for it.