Chapter 18:

Interlude: A Dream

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

 Paltar was caught between a memory and a dream.

He blinked, and was a child again. His heart was racing. Why? He couldn’t say. He was lying in the warm hay, where he could listen to the animals around him. It was peaceful. But still, he was so excited he feared he might burst.

“Paltar, where are you?”

His mother was calling for him, and as fast as he could, he scrambled to his feet and ran outside. There, his whole family was waiting beside Old Ingolf’s cart, dressed in their best clothes.

“Where were you?” His mother came forward and looked him up and down. “You didn’t get any dirt on your clothes, did you?”

“Of course not!” he protested.

Paltar had every right to be annoyed. After all, he was the one in his family who took the best care of his clothes.

“Alright, young man.” With that, she plucked a bit of straw from his back. “Off you go!”

They all got into the cart, and with Old Ingolf whistling a tune, they set off for the city. Slowly, Paltar remembered why they were going. Today was the royal parade! It was the first time in his life that he could see actual nobles, and the clothes they wore. With that thought in his mind, it made more sense that his heart was racing.

Their journey was over in an instant, and when Paltar looked around, he was surrounded by a mass of people. The adults were laughing and talking, while some children were running around, weaving through the crowd like squirrels.

But Paltar didn’t want to join them. Instead, he wished to be taller, so that he could see the parade instead of the adults, who were as tall as trees in his eyes. He sighed and tried to get to the front of the crowd.

No chance.

No matter how much he pushed forward, there were always more adults blocking his way. They ignored him, and even squeezing past them just revealed more people blocking his view. Why did he have to be so small? And why couldn’t he forget his old life and live unburdened by it?

Sometimes he missed Satsuki. Most of the time, actually.

Sometimes, he heard the cadence of her laugh in the voice of the seamstress. Sometimes, he saw a cat that reminded him of Mikan. Sometimes, he would doze off and dream of her. Sometimes, he saw someone who looked like her, disappearing into the crowd. He tried not to think of her.

It hurt.

But right now, he shouldn’t focus on that. Instead, he tried once again to push himself to the front of the crowd. It didn’t work. Why was he so small?

It was frustrating. But no matter what he tried, he failed. In the distance, he could hear the first trumpets announcing the arrival of the royal family.

“Come here.”

Suddenly, he was lifted onto his father’s shoulders, and his entire viewpoint shifted. Below him, he saw the other children playing. His father was not a man of many words, but it was gestures like this that showed Paltar how much he cared for him, even if they often didn’t see eye to eye. One day he would make him proud, even if it was as a tailor and not as a farmer.

Soldiers in shining armor arrived, their weapons gleaming in the sun. They wore colorful, mismatched clothes that were of higher quality than Paltar’s, but still resembled his own. The royals on their horses were a different story. They wore carefully coordinated outfits of one or two deep, saturated colors. The women hid their hair under detailed veils or hats, and their dresses were adorned with intricate embroidery. The men wore heavy, golden necklaces, their fingers adorned with gemstone rings, all while they exuded an aura of both responsibility and superiority.

They looked silly. But this was the perfect opportunity for Paltar to study their clothes, and with every noble that passed by, their clothes seemed to get more and more intricate. His eyes darted left and right as he made all sorts of mental notes in his head. Should he learn embroidery? No, that would be too expensive for his poor mother. He would have to wait for his apprenticeship to try that. But what else could he learn, in this small body? There was no way he could learn to make hats, and he didn’t even want to. But he remembered some cute hats from his previous life, like a straw hat that went well with a blue-checkered pinafore he made, or a tiny black top hat for one of his more classic EGL dresses. Still, he had – and always would, probably – preferred hair bows to match his dresses. Maybe he could find a way to introduce them to society in this life.

The nobles that passed them grew in rank, and with that, their clothes were getting more and more gorgeous. Soon, he would be able to catch a glimpse of the royal family. What were they like? How did they dress? They must be on the cutting edge of fashion, he was sure.

Paltar tried to eavesdrop on his parents’ conversations about the current affairs in the kingdom, but they usually kept quiet when their children were around. He didn’t blame them. It wasn’t as if he cared much about politics.

With a loud, triumphant tune, the king and queen finally appeared. Surrounded by even more warriors in shining armor, they looked truly magnificent. The king had a slight smile on his face, as did the queen next to him. But while she looked strained, it was difficult for Paltar to read the true expression behind the king’s smile. Perhaps he was tired as well.

Somehow, he reminded Paltar of his old boss at the office, who was never seen without a cup of coffee in his hand and a strained smile on his face. He almost shrank back out of habit, but after a moment, he focused on the royal family’s fashion instead.

Besides the king and queen, looked like all of their children were there as well. Most of them had the same brown hair as their father, but two stood out because their hair was silver like their mother’s. One was the eldest prince, perhaps twice Paltar’s age, with a sword at his side and—for a child—an uncharacteristically stern expression on his face. He would be the next king, Paltar was sure.

The other one was a girl, about his age, with the strangest dress. While the other princes and princesses were dressed appropriately in blues and purples that showed their wealth, the youngest princess wore a strange dress of many mixed colors, as well as layers upon layers. She twirled and turned around with the biggest grin on her face. Paltar could only guess, but he though that this girl and her strange sense of fashion were the reason why the queen looked so tired.

He laughed.

Perhaps there was someone influential and weird enough who could support his vision of a fashion revolution in the future.