Glory – Part 1
NaNoWriMo 2016 (be warned, there may be rambles and this is not edited)
It was one of the most revered traditions of their kingdom. To explore, to learn more about their land and people, to prove how much those of the royal family cared for their citizens…
Of course, traveling away from the stuffy schedule and atmosphere of the castle was a wonderful perk as well.
The journey itself was boasted to be for glory, for those next in line for the throne to prove themselves as the rightful heir. Many members of the royal family used it to better educate themselves on the land and people of their kingdom, having a decent caravan filled with loyal soldiers and mapmakers and scholars, maybe even a cook who knew how to make a decent meal out of food found on the road.
While he was interested in learning all he could, Ephraim was more interested in the exploration and freedom aspect the whole journey would grant him. Therefore, he was only planning on taking his two most trusted retainers, sure that the three of them would have an amazing adventure together.
So why was Finn being such an ass about it?
“I thought you’d be excited,” Ephraim said, his shoulders slumping when Finn’s reaction hadn’t even remotely been close enough to how Ephraim pictured it. Sure, Ephraim hadn’t expected the other man to have literally leaped for joy, but rolling his eyes with a groan muffled by his face planting into the book on his desk.
“Excited?” Finn lifted his head, his reaction a near squeak at how high his tone had been. “Excited to gallivant off to our doom? Why in the name of the gods would I be excited about that?”
“I’m not leading you to your doom,” Ephraim said, not bothering to hide the exasperation in his tone. He leaned against the threshold of his friend’s room, crossing his arms and trying to keep his expression nonchalant when Finn merely raised a thick, blond eyebrow. Ephraim soon cracked and demanded, “Oh, come on, what makes you think this will be disastrous? Don’t you remember the amazing stories of the kings and queens of the past and their journeys? How much they had learned and changed and helped others with their travels?”
“I had the same history tutors as you,” Finn deadpanned, “and recall that no less than twenty-seven of your ancestors died on this idiotic quest for glory.”
“But, Finn, it’s a tradition—”
“That mind-bogglingly still exists despite all those deaths,” Finn interjected.
Ephraim’s arms fell to his side as he sunk lower against the wall, disappointed that his planned companions for his journey wasn’t going his way at all. Ephraim watched as Finn got up from his desk and stomped over to the chest of drawers next to his bed, opening the drawers with a slam that rattled the healing staff that had been propped up against the adjacent wall. With barely a glance, Finn reached out with one long arm and caught the staff before it fell, gently tossing it onto the bed while his other hand rifled through the drawer.
“When are we leaving?” Finn asked, the question sudden enough to make Ephraim jump.
“What?” the prince asked.
“I said, when are we leaving?” Finn, looking none too pleased, turned back to Ephraim. Finn’s fingers tapped impatiently against the drawers as Ephraim tried to understand the question.
“Wait, you want to go?” Ephraim blurted out.
“Did you listen to a damn word I said?” Finn took out a couple of shirts and slammed the drawer shut. “Of course I don’t want to go, I think this whole thing is ridiculous, but if you’re going, you sure as hell are not going without me to make sure your damn ass stays alive.”
It took Ephraim a moment to comprehend his friend’s response before grinning broadly. “Aww, Finn—”
“Don’t get sappy,” Finn said, cutting Ephraim off. “When are we going?”
“In about a week,” Ephraim chirped, bouncing back up straight.
Finn glanced at the book on his desk, no doubt calculating some sort of schedule with whatever research or work he had going on. “Alright, then. Who else is coming? Got a decent entourage?”
“Uh, no.” Ephraim did his best not to deflate again at Finn turning to him with another damn raised eyebrow. “Thought we’d travel light and swift to better cover ground and to not waste supplies.” That sounded like a well-thought out plan, didn’t it?
Perhaps not, as Finn’s expression fell from stern and suspicious to confused and almost dismayed. “You’re not seriously just planning on you and me going, are you?”
“Of course not,” Ephraim said. He waited a heartbeat before saying, “It’ll be you, me, and Lia.”
“Yeah.” Ephraim tried to make his response sound casual. Finn took a sharp inhale and Ephraim barreled on. “It’ll be great, you’ll see. Just the three of us out on an adventure—”
“The smaller the traveling party,” Finn said, his fingers not massaging his temple, “the easier the target.”
“Not always,” Ephraim said. “We’ll be so fast, that those who would trouble travelers won’t notice us.”
“Really now.” Finn narrowed his eyes, but Ephraim noticed a corner of Finn’s mouth trying to twitch into a smile. “I suppose I can live with that… The faster we move, the faster this gods-forsaken journey will be over.”
Ephraim tilted his head. “Uh, that’s not what I meant—” Finn gave him a crooked smile, and Ephraim returned it, understanding that his friend was teasing him.
“In all seriousness, though,” Finn said, his attention back to the few articles of clothing he was stuffing into a pack, “is it really just going to be us and Lia walking across the land?”
“Well, no,” Ephraim said. “We’ll get horses.”
Finn dropped the shirt he had been holding and groaned. “Ephraim…!”
“It won’t be that bad—”
“You know horses hate me.”
“We’ll get you the tamest mare—”
“And I hate them.”
“Well, maybe you should try to warm up to them,” Ephraim said. “Animals can sense those kinds of attitudes, you know.”
“Why would I want to warm up to a smelly beast?” Finn said. His poor shirt, wrinkled from being dropped, was now getting stuffed roughly into the pack.
“Because they’re beautiful creatures with awesome instincts and will probably help us – and not just as riding companions – a few times before the end of the journey,” Ephraim said. Finn glared at him.
“And your father is okay with his insane plan of yours?” Finn asked.
“Father approves of it,” Ephraim said. “He kind of has to. It’s up to the heir making the journey that gets to decide the entourage that will be going along on the journey as well. Sure, Father wishes that I have more soldiers planned, but he is confident with yours and Lia’s skills, not to mention my own.”
“My stepbrother thinks I’m a bit daft.” Ephraim rolled his eyes, a smile on his lips. “He said he expected it, though, and didn’t outright protest. He didn’t have too many companions either when he took his journey and, may I add, came back all in one piece.”
“Amon had half a dozen soldiers with him, all highly skilled,” Finn said. “You’re taking only two others. While Lia is a fine knight, I’m a healer. The best I’m going to be able to do if we get into a fight is bash people on the head with my staff.”
“But there’s no one else I trust more,” Ephraim said. Finn merely gave his head a soft shake before going to his desk and books, most likely trying to figure out what he would need to bring with him and what could be left behind.
Ephraim, after watching Finn for a moment, shuffled further into the room. “You really don’t mind going, Finn? You do have a choice, you know. I’m not going to order you to come with us.”
“Ephraim…” Finn sighed and scratched the back of his head. “I don’t like this so-called tradition because of how many things can go wrong, and while I’m flattered you have such a high opinion of Lia and myself, you can’t blame me for being worried. I know you’re excited about all this nonsense, and I hate to be so pessimistic—”
“Don’t kid yourself,” Ephraim interrupted. “Being pessimistic is your favorite pastime.”
“Shut up, I’m trying to say something nice,” Finn said. “I’m saying I’m going for you, and I really hope you appreciate it enough to not lead us into any obvious death traps.”
“I think your sentiment was lost somewhere there,” Ephraim said with a light chuckle. “Don’t worry, Finn, I totally appreciate you, which is why I want you by my side during this journey. Who else would I want to share this with? Or at least trust to be just pessimistic enough to make sure I don’t do anything outrageously stupid?”
“Are you planning on doing anything outrageously stupid?” Finn asked.
“Of course not,” Ephraim said, “but if I were to, you would be there to stop me.”
“So, you’re placing this all on me?” Finn said. “What’s Lia’s role in all this?”
“Muscle, I suppose,” Ephraim said, “because, let’s be honest, she’d go right along with any outrageous plan I come up with, and with plenty of enthusiasm too.”
“So, essentially,” Finn said, “my role in this is to be a babysitter.”
“I resent that,” Ephraim said. “…Honestly, you’re okay with going?”
Finn drawled, “Your Highness, you will be the first head I smash with my staff if you ask that one more time. Now, hand over that book on the shelf above your head.”