A DEEPENED sigh bounced off the uppermost chamber of the Grand Tower, standing tall at the gateway of the Garden of Honour.
Yet that hefty sigh wasn’t that of heaviness. It was a breath of pleasant relief.
Up there in the Grand Tower stood Xandur, Protector of Olde Glassfield. He’d been gazing at his own reflection in the Silvershield. And for a long moment of concern.
Now Xandur came off his burdensome thoughts, with a relieving justification for himself.
‘I’ve won this battle again!’ he beamed a smile. And it was a big, radiant smile he had.
Many heirsens do paint their glass bodies in colourful petals, so as to conceal and patch up their cracks. And Prince Xandur had found this cosmetic practice sort of commonplace.
So in the past two tides, the heirsen prince had taken pleasure in designing his glass armour with pure gold. He painted his body in flowers of gold, that he thought befitting of the valiant prince he was.
Xandur got gorgeous paintings of golden laurels to beautify his breastplate and shoulder flaps. And he covered his glass chest and shoulders in proud garlands.
Yes, Old Xandur had started out with a golden flower wreath painted over each shoulder. It happened when he sustained a deep, painful crack across his right shoulder; and then he got his two shoulders designed in gold.
So as two tides rolled by, Prince Xandur extended his shoulder paintings to cover his entire breastplate also. To cover his breastplate in golden florals.
Now the Glassfield prince had just won the battle to still the troubled waters on his inside. For their pestering waves still rose and fell once in a while; troubling him quite a few times in a full tide.
Xandur let out the words a second time now. ‘I’ve won this fight once again,’ he breathed.
But this time the expression lacked the first bright smile. It lacked the former shine.
Prince Xandur had been guarding Olde Glassfield for thirty-three full tides.
The old city had waded through storms, and floods, and wildfire.
Yet Glassfield survived over the turbulent tides. Even when great and mighty cities crumbled and fell.
Moreover, Xandur’s Glassfield had been like a big pasture for several many heirsens. Everyone who was ready to follow the realm’s Book of Ages was allowed to graze on Xandur’s green field.
Yet Prince Xandur’s strict adherence to the tenets of the ageless Book, only made him unpopular and shunned among other princes.
But Arstol of the North had always admired this steadfast protector of Olde Glassfield.
Now Prince Xandur took a last glance at himself, in the standing Silvershield. And he gave a gentle nod of approval to his hazy reflection in the looking glass.
With that the Glassfield prince stepped out of the private chamber. And he descended the stairs leading down the Grand Tower.
Now he was ready to receive his guests of honour.
◙ ◙ ◙
Arstol of Highland North arrived. And he perched his winged unicorns at the wide-flung park, just by the Grand Tower at Olde Glassfield.
Arstol descended from his chariot, and swept his gaze around the Garden of Honour here. And for one long, breathtaking moment.
Everything was different. The Olde Glassfield he used to know had changed.
The vast Garden of Honour now shone with sparkles brighter than the day. And as though its shining lights were stars of the night sky.
It was a misty morning. Yet numerous silver lights lit up the feast arena. Like they were sparkling up a black night.
Olde Glassfield seems brighter than sunshine today, observed Arstol. Glassfield is indeed in a festal mood.
Yet Prince Arstol was dazed with shock.
He couldn’t help wondering if all of the glamour here was simply to commemorate the solemn Feast. Or if all of these were for a merry banquet he had no idea about.
Arstol really wondered if everything were for the solemn feast. The Feast of Remembrance.
The North prince was lost in wonder. He pulled out his invitation from a leather pouch; and he stared at the face of the letter scroll for a while.
He gasped. ‘I’ve never seen the Feast of Remembrance like this before! I’ve never seen it celebrated in this manner!’
Arstol was still lost in the wonder before him, when a voice called to him from behind. ‘Welcome… Prince of Highland North!’ the voice bellowed.
The North prince turned about and saw the host stepping close from behind.
Arstol stepped a little forward also. ‘Your Grace…!’ he bowed the head.
Prince Xandur wore a big smile. ‘Have you been well through the tides?’
Arstol nodded gently. ‘The Father has been most gracious, sire.’
But then again, the North prince’s eyes still lodged that look of amazement of the moments before.
And Xandur could read in those sparkly eyes that Arstol was too stunned and baffled. Too astonished at the big change around.
Xandur interjected a thought. ‘You weren’t here last tide. And the tide before the last.’
Arstol only acquiesced with a gentle nod.
The Glassfield prince took a quick glance at the invitation in his guest’s hand, and he resumed right then.
‘Well, that was why I sent you the personal invite this tide. I know you won’t refuse me,’ he grinned.
Arstol’s lips parted with a little smile. ‘Thank you for the invitation, Noble Xandur. It’s always been an honour to be a part of the Feast here…’
The North Prince had barely ended his words when Xandur interposed him with the unexpected.
‘If it is such an honour, then why haven’t you showed up since the last time?’
The North prince was unprepared for this. The words hit him right on his sore spot. And before he could hurry to his defense, Xandur was saving the day himself.
‘Well Noble Prince,’ quipped the older heirsen, ‘I hope you won’t miss our Feast of Remembrance from now on.’ He flashed a slight smile.
Arstol let out a silent breath of relief. He wouldn’t have to answer why he couldn’t make the feast through the past tides. He was so relieved.
But Xandur also didn’t ask his question to get a response. He knew Arstol had avoided the Feast of Remembrance these three tides.
And the old heirsen could tell why the North prince was avoiding the feast at Olde Glassfield.
Xandur had noticed the painted patch on Arstol’s amour skirt when the younger prince last attended their feast.
And although the two nobles never spoke about the matter, Xandur could discern why Arstol had ceased coming to Olde Glassfield.
On the other hand, Prince Arstol himself was now sure that Xandur noted the patch on his glass armour, the last time he came to the feast.
Especially with the older prince’s statement about him missing the feast now.
Arstol was pretty certain that Xandur knew these all along. He was also convinced that the bigger patch across his armour skirt now, hadn’t also escaped the old noble’s eyes.
Now Arstol envied Xandur. He envied his ever so pure and shining glass. But just then he took a deliberate gaze at the Glassfield prince. And he was dumbstruck at what he saw.
Arstol had always been consumed with his own thoughts, that he never paid full attention to anyone around him.
But now that he envied the Prince of Olde Glassfield, he couldn’t help taking a proper look at the older heirsen.
And it was right then that Prince Arstol noticed that Xandur’s shoulders and chest weren’t the pure crystal glass they used to be.
Arstol realised for the first time that Xandur had painted his breastplate and shoulder flaps. In golden floral wreaths.
And young Arstol was too shocked for words.
Xandur noticed that Arstol was staring with an astonished glare now. And he hoped that the younger heirsen would equally pay him the courtesy of silence.
He hoped Arstol wouldn’t pass a remark about his new appearance. Like he too had been silent about Arstol’s recent change.
But Old Xandur wasn’t prepared to take the risk, no. He patted Arstol on the shoulder now. ‘Come over; the feast is starting,’ he grinned.
And with that, Xandur hastened away from the younger prince.
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