The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Odell groaned as a new morning broke through his windows. His old bed felt too comfortable to get up, but he needed to meet with his father to debrief from the journey. Slowly pushing up, he made his way across the room—his back arced so low his long arms almost dragged on the floor.
The prince stopped to look in a mirror; his shattered crown was now only a tiny band across his forehead. The king’s royal dresser had done their best to file the jagged edges without letting it look like the cosmetic work was done, but the whole thing looked beyond stupid to him. King Fio had tried to spin it as a battle scar among the court in an attempt to shut down all the quiet whispers about the prince’s unseemly defeat. Odell wished that hats or hoods were acceptable among his people, but Hobusians quickly assumed headwear was an attempt to hide a weak crown; in the given case, they would be right.
Odell steeled his resolve, held his head high, and marched out of the room. Some servants and guards tilted their heads. They had still not widely announced what happened, but he ignored the glances as he made his way to his father.
For their meeting, the Hobusian King had chosen a wooden room with a stone fireplace. Two chairs sat angled slightly so that the people could look at the flame and each other easily, and a round table was placed in between for any important papers. They considered it a private room when the king wanted a one-on-one with no disturbances. As Odell shut the door, he twisted the lock, which would tell all servants that their meeting could not be interrupted.
“Odell!” King Fio gleefully shouted. He had already taken a chair and waved for his son to sit in the other. The Hobusian prince did so without question. “You had a long and rough journey. I am just glad to see you got home safely.” Odell’s father did not attempt to hide the tears in his eyes, clarifying why the private room had been chosen.
“It’s… good to be back, father.”
“I am glad to hear it. I know I set this up under the pretense of a debrief, but honestly, we can get to all that later. How are you doing?”
Odell jumped; his father usually was so formal it hurt.
“Honestly, not good. I hardly did anything to help in Nun. It seems all I succeeded in doing was being a heavy rock, one the others had to lug around.” Odell’s head hung. The words hurt to say more than they did to think, and he wasn’t sure why he admitted them.
“I understand. You are still so young, and I had no idea how dangerous the foes were. When you volunteered to go, I must say I was delighted. I thought Nun was causing a stir but would still hold to some principles if you showed up at their door. However, the more I thought, the more I realized how wrong that assumption was. I should apologize; when we met just outside the city, I should have drugged you home with me….” King Fio’s voice trailed off as he looked down. His words had become shaky by the end, and if he had anything else to say, it would certainly not come out clearly.
“It’s okay, Dad. I didn’t die, and meeting Tancred was a lot of fun. And modifying the Ali—I wish it hadn’t been damaged so much. We had lots of good food, and the mayor is still alive, evidently….” Odell came to a stop. He was racking his brain for anything that sounded positive, but his tone didn’t reflect the words in the slightest. “Anyway, I think I will go to the guardhouse. Platon usually runs this time in the morning, and I think I’ll join him.”
King Fio nearly fell out of his chair. He seemed to ponder a moment, staring with wide eyes at Odell. The gray prince could not tell what his father was thinking. With a swift movement, the king crossed the space and placed a hand on Odell’s shoulder.
“I commend you for your diligence, but a long battle like that does not disappear from a single night’s rest. Wait at least one, no two, more before trying anything that may strain you. Platon won’t be going anywhere; rest assured. I have ordered that no one disturb you for the next couple of days unless you call for them; only servants may come to deliver food. Take the time, get recovered, then we will work for whatever goals you have.”
Odell nodded. He didn’t want to admit it, but he wanted to return to sleep. With the last words said, he departed for his room and closed the curtains. Sleep came quickly for the Hobusian prince.