The Brother’s Who Would Be Kings: A Fairy Tale About Sibling Rivalry, Chapters I-III

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Hello, I have written the third chapter in my fairy tale about sibling rivalry. Very inspired by my own children, but I am pleasantly surprised to see my characters take on lives of their own! Its been so much fun getting to know them. Feel free to just read chapter III if you wish, or start from the beginning. I would love, love, love any feedback!

Diana Ray

The Brothers Who Would Be Kings

A fairy tale about sibling rivalry

Chapter I

I. King Greploch

There once lived two princes who fought like cats and dogs. They fought so bitterly that their father King Greploch, in a fit of frustration, threw his second favorite wedding gift (a glass decanter that held his most favorite mead) out the window, where it promptly shattered against the ugly stone gargoyle that was meant to keep intruders away. The servants upon seeing them together would flee the room, knowing that at a moment’s notice royal fists might go flying. Their mother merely wept from a broken heart. Theirs was an unusual story, for these princes came from a long line of brothers or cousins who had ruled as dual kings for the past 200 years. King Greploch had ruled peacefully with his only brother for 10 years, until the unlikely day that the King mistook an allaberry for a wappaberry. Allaberries are poisonous, and having picked and eaten several, the uncle who was king clutched his stomach, let out the most gigantic and heinous smelling burp, and then with a loud thud dropped to the ground. The whole incident took mere minutes. So it is with great disappointment and dismay that these princes who were brothers fought so bitterly, as it was their duty to rule the kingdom together someday. But how could either of them cooperatively rule, when they could barely stand the sight of one another?

It was with a heavy heart that the King confided in his oldest and most trusted friend, Himalah. Over a pint of meade in Himalah’s cozy lair, Greploch lamented, “I fear these boys whom I love with all my heart will fail in their duty to rule together, with peace. Oh Himalah, my oldest and dearest friend, how can I help these pig-headed boys understand the true meaning of brotherhood?” Now Himalah was not just the King’s oldest and wisest friend, he was also his most clairvoyant. On more than one occasion Himalah had forseen the future for Greploch, and it was he who introduced the King to his most beloved wife and Queen, Besita. When Himalah spoke, King Greploch became silent, “Your son’s intolerance for one another is truly sad my friend, and I grieve for the pain it has caused you and your ancestry. There is only one way that these boys will come together to learn the true meaning of brotherhood.” King Greploch was on the edge of his seat, for when Himalah spoke so prophetically, it meant he surely knew the answer. “What is it Himalah,” the King said practically shouting, “Tell me, I am at your mercy!” Himalah looked the King straight in the eye, “An act of selfless bravery” he pronounced, suddenly becoming sleepy. Having second sight for the King was exhausting work. “An act of selfless bravery?” said Greploch, “Pray tell, what does that mean?” “They must come together in selfless bravery,” said Himalah as he stifled a yawn. He could say no more, as these were the only words that came to him. Unfortunately, these were not enlightened times. Most people valued tradition and history, over new ideas. Greploch too, would have to learn the true meaning of parenthood, in order for him to teach his boys how to be the country’s future Kings. He had no idea how inflexible he and Besita could be. But.. that was a conversation for another time. Himalah, no longer able to hold it in, spoke as he yawned, “I am off to sleep my old friend, foreseeing the future for you is extremely tiring. I bid you goodnight King Greploch.” The King wanted to keep talking, but knew it was pointless. When Himalah said he was tired, he knew he was done. “Good night to you Himalah,” said the King bowing his head in respect to his friend who always gave him the best advice, “May sleep rejuvenate both your body and spirit.” The two friends parted ways, the King returning to his castle and beloved Besita, while Himalah fell into his bed made of the finest feathers, a gift from the King for introducing him to Besita. A deep, heavy sleep overcame him immediately.

II. Fuego

“I was born first; it should be my right to be the only King, never mind a silly old tale.” Fuego was talking to Gleck, the son of the groundskeeper and head cook. Gleck spent his time helping both of his parents in their duties, his most favorite being sure the moat was well-stocked with stones, sticks and other sharp objects. Fuego and Gleck were both born in this castle two months apart. Fuego upstairs, amidst silk and satin upholserty; Gleck two months later and two floors below, was born into a tub of warm water. Delivering in a tub of water is how his mother’s family had been giving birth for three generations. Afterwards, the placenta was cooked and eaten by both the mother and the father, knowing that strength was needed in the coming days. That part always made Gleck shudder, who couldn’t imagine his parents having eaten something that was once connected to him. So he chose to forget about it.

Fuego and Gleck weren’t just close in age, they were raised together, with much of Fuego’s time spent hanging out with Gleck, and sometimes helping Gleck help his father. Of late this was frequent, as Fuego could barely stand to be around his family, especially his brother. “You know this is more than a silly old tale, “ said Gleck with an air of scolding in his voice. He knew Fuego too long not to call him on his dishonesty. Fuego frowned and grabbed a hot fresh bun off a tray Gleck’s mother had just taken out of the oven. Gleck moved the tray away, knowing Fuego’s capacity to eat hot fresh buns may mean none for dinner. “I know, I know, I know,” Fuego said with a full mouth of bun. He stomped his foot in frustration. “I know all about the curse of the king’s rulership,” Fuego spit food as he spoke, “Whoever of my ancestors came up with such an ill-brained idea” {Fuego was known for the dramatic}, “I hope that they experience indigestion forever in the afterlife!” Fuego gave a loud burp. “And that is what I think of that!” Fuego stomped off, leaving Gleck a pile of crumbs to clean up. Gleck sighed. He had witnessed the evolution of these brothers who were princes, who were destined to rule together as kings, their whole lives, and even he had to admit it was complicated. For starters, Fuego had been insanely jealous when Sati was born, to the point where if left alone, Fuego would have hurt Sati terribly. Queen Bestia was furious, and tried to send Fuego to stay with her sister on the other side of the kingdom, but luckily Gleck’s mother Rai stepped in and said that Fuego could stay with them at night, and that she would watch him during the day. The Queen softened and said “Thank-you,” to Rai. While friendship between servant and royalty was rare, in this family nothing was typical. Rai and Besita had also been childhood friends, as Rai’s mother had been her family’s cook when she was a child, and when Bestia and Griploch were married, she took Rai with her to be her family’s head cook. Rai was equally talented as her mother with cooking, in both skill and presentation. Rai’s mother still cooked for her parents and younger sister, and on the last Sunday of every month, both families would come together at the Castle for a gigantic feast. It was here in the Castle where Rai met Suchie, Gleck’s father. The two of them had their babies at the same time, which pleased them both. A wonderful tradition to be passed on. And Rai was right; Fuego needed to be home, with his family. Besita accepted Rai’s offer of letting Fuego sleep over for a few nights, something Fuego and Gleck had already begun to do, and of watching him during the day. Bestia was exhausted, and going crazy trying to keep Fuego away from Sati.

And of course, it was even more complicated than that. Fuego had extremely high levels of energy and high levels of sensitivity, two things he did not need in such abundance. An older prince is supposed to be the epitome of rules and order. Gleck knew that Fuego struggled with this role immensely, as it was difficult for the older boy to keep his body settled for the quantity of time expected of him as he received his education, both in academics and refinement. Being intelligent was expected. Being graceful, a given. Fuego was smart, and enjoyed the academic portion of his day, which for him was pure mental stimulation. But the two hours of refinement that followed, oh, how Fuego loathed this! He loathed it so much he wrote an extremely dramatic poem entitled, “Ode, To A Pile of Vile.” Learning how to sit, listen, attend to others, none of that came easily to Fuego, and it was often that he found his mind wandering, with his body quick to follow. He was getting in all sorts of trouble lately with Jemo, his and Sati’s refinement tutor, with Fuego actually skipping the last two days. Of course his parents were furious with him, which upset Fuego tremendously, not that he would ever let them know. “May a pig puke on me while I sleep,” thought Fuego, as he promised himself he would maintain his steely veneer, something he tried but faltered with. In reality, Fuego loved his parents. But he just couldn’t do it–sit there and listen and do such boring things for two straight hours! “Let Sati learn that crap, he’s better at it anyway” Fuego said, as he kicked a stone toward the woods. There was a favorite tree he liked to sit in, had been sitting in since he was young. “And may Sati go to an all suffering hell for all the sounds and noises he has been making lately!” Fuego was tired of his parents telling him that Sati couldn’t help it. These noises bothered Fuego to the point of delirium; it was like someone scratching metal inside his ear drum. He could barely stand to be around him, and it was all he could do not to smack Sati to keep quiet. So he yelled at him instead, not having any control around this issue, feeling horribly ashamed afterwards. If only his parents would let them stay apart from one another forever! But instead he is bound by some stupid history and destiny to a role that seems entirely impossible. It’s not that Fuego did not love Sati; he just couldn’t tolerate all of Sati’s noises. Also, if he were to be honest, Sati brought out the worst in Fuego, who was still jealous of his younger brother’s adoring nature. He acted on this from time to time, treating Sati terribly such as calling him names or pinching him hard. In fact there was this general drive to bug the crap out of Sati. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t control his brain or body half the time, and it was this half that was a total mud-pie towards Sati. “Poor Sati,” Fuego said suddenly, surprising himself. It was Sati who was good at all the refinement, all the quiet listening. Boy could Sati listen to any old duke drone on about any old thing! And behave so politely, on top of it all! But poor Sati was such a lousy student, and always has been. Struggling with the table of elements was something any 10 year could do. But Sati’s brain just didn’t work this way, and no one could blame him for not trying, because Sati was working his hardest during every academic lesson. Unlike Fuego, who was presently skipping his refinement lessons. As quick as it came, Fuego’s compassion for Sati was gone, “I hope he falls down a hole dug by an Antelou!” Antelou were four legged creatures with long, twisty, horns. They were known for digging deep holes where they would go to crap.

III. Sati

Sati lay in his bed, a large round circle of light making the most beautiful glow on the wall, light that found its way through the smallest of openings around the heavy drapes that had been drawn the night before, and thought about the day. It was going to be a good day, a day with meetings and games, and chocolate and Jinsk cake. Jinsk Cake was Sati’s favorite, a combination of woppaberries and chocolate, with tiny rainbow jizzies on top. “Wappaberry, not allaberry , “ Sati reminded himself. His only uncle and once King had died from eating an allaberry which he mistook for a wappaberry. He would never let that happen to himself! Sati was named after his uncle, his full name being Satior, although everyone called him Sati for short. Satior the first had died when Sati, who just turned 10 last month, was still in his mother’s womb. It was after this accident that his mother, in a fit of grief, went into labor. “The fact that I was a boy, unknown to either of them until the moment of my birth, was a blessing,” Sati would tell the various dukes and monarchs that would come to visit from across the lands. Sati loved schmoozing and hanging out with his father, King Greploch, and eating sweets and being treated like a prince. Sati loved being a prince! He looked forward to being King one day. If only he didn’t have his giant clod of a brother getting in his way. Sati frowned when he thought of Fuego, his large oxen-like body taking up even too much room in Sati’s mind. He grumbled to himself as he pushed-half swung- half-flung himself out of bed, a feat in and of itself considering how many feathers his mother insisted his bed be stuffed with, and how ridiculously large it was for a person his age. Sati had been catapulting himself out of his bed since he was 5 years old. At 5, Sati had needed three catapults to get off the bed. Now at 11, he could do it in only one! Bring on a bigger bed!

Sati saw his breakfast tray sitting on his dressing table, a compromise made by his parents with Fuego and Sati to let them eat breakfast separately in their rooms, as most meals ended with the two boys rolling on the floor, screaming and shouting at one another. Sati sat down and took a sip of hot chocolate, then picked up a small bowl of ever so sweetened whipped crème, and dropped a giant dollop into his cup. This reminded him simultaneously of the Jinsk Cake, which was frosted with a similar kind of thickened creme, and of Fuego, who was likely at that moment also dropping a dollop of crème into his own hot chocolate. His parents had tried for years to get Sati and Fuego to eat a meal together, but it was Fuego who could not stand to be near other people while they ate. “Too noisy, too foul smelling, it makes me want to wretch like a sailor who is lost at sea in the most powerful of storms!” Fuego would announce to whoever was around. So they no longer ate breakfast together, and did their best to muster through a horrible lunch and even worse supper. It’s not that Fuego didn’t try; he wore the finest ear muffs made of the thickest Niel Rabbit Fur. The insides were lined again with layers and layers of Wakka Hyde. This helped with Fuego’s sensitivity to noises. Sometimes he wore a knight’s helmet to shield himself from their sight.

In reality, Sati knew that Fuego would die of embarrassment if anyone outside the castle knew how crazy he was. And Sati knew that Fuego was actually crazy!! For starters, he still wasn’t over having a little brother. “We come from of long line of brothers and cousins who ruled peacefully together as kings,” thought Sati. “A tradition that has gone on in our family for over 200 years!” There was no way that Sati was going to let this tradition die with him and Fuego! He would make Fuego get over it; make him get his royal butt in gear! Sati knew that Fuego had skipped his refinement lessons the past two days, knew how much he hated this part of being prince. “I need to be free, with the people!” Fuego has said on more than one occasion. It was common for Fuego to go and stay with his aunt and grandmother every other weekend, in the village below. Sati got it, he really did. Let him go be with the people, and let him, Sati, do all the governing. A brilliant idea! If only his clod-brained oxen of a brother could get on track. True, Sati was a twitchy kid, and maybe even made a noise or two (ok, a lot). And true, his uncle who was King, Satior the first, whom Sati was named after, also suffered from the same kind of uncontrollable noises and movements of the body, thus likely making it inherited and lifelong. But get over it Fuego, and grow up!

Sati threw a pillow across the room. All this thinking about Fuego and their problems made Sati’s blood boil. As he picked up another pillow to throw, Sati suddenly stopped, closed his eyes, and breathed. Part of his Sati’s refinement lessons was learning how to control one’s temper, through the breath. Sati breathed 10 in, and 10 out, and slowly opened his eyes. He was still angry, but much less. Breathing really helped calm Sati’s temper, and boy, did he have a temper lately! It sort of crept up on him…he remembered always being upset as a small child, as there were a period of years where Fuego beat the crap out of Sati daily, leaving him bleeding and screaming on the floor. That eventually passed as Sati and Fuego both grew older, maturity making Fuego less interested in hitting his younger brother, and size making Sati a more formidable opponent. Now when Fuego came at Sati, Sati fought back. All of Sati’s noises drove Fuego insane. Fuego’s expression of insanity made Sati very, very angry. Which explains why their meals always ended in yelling and shouting. Sati was the first to agree with his father; everyone in the castle was miserable. But what to do? Sati was in fact, only 10, and despite his gift for governing, still had the mind of a 10-year-old and had no clue how to handle this kind of conflict. So instead they reacted to one another. No wonder his relatives had been comparing him to his 3-year old cousin, who would fly off the handle without warning. That is how he had been acting lately around Fuego, and sometimes his parents, King Greploch and Queen Besita. With Fuego, it was a lot of reacting to his actions, such as Fuego teasing him or screaming at him to stop making noises. With his parent’s, he wasn’t sure what it was, but lately all they did was make him mad. Sati felt ashamed, but quickly swallowed his feelings and moved on with the day.

Today the Duke of Verbina was coming to talk with his father about building a road that would connect their two Kingdoms, Dymondia and Verbina. Sati was curious to see how this would unfold, as a valuable patch of Trukar, a mineral highly coveted in the open markets, was discovered by a Dymondia farmer during the last planting season, his farm being right on the border between the two countires. Likely, some also lay on the Verbina side of the border. Was this the beginning of a new alliance between Dymondia and Verbina, or was Verbina trying to take all the Trukar for themselves? The Verbinian government was known for taking things that did not always belong to them, and then claiming ignorance upon exposure. The most recent Verbinian King seemed like a very fair man, and had yet to behave that way. But really, who knew? Sati could not wait to sit back in silence and watch. Fuego, who was always expected but never came to these meetings, would most definitely miss out. Afterwards they would all eat Jinsk Cake.

Brothers Who Would Be Kings

A Fairy Tale About Sibling Rivalry

Chapter II

I.Seras

Seras stopped rubbing the two stones together and checked out his work. He ran his fingers along the edges of the point he was attempting to create, shook his head, and went back to rubbing his stones. He had been working on this piece for over two days, and still the end wasn’t sharp enough. Seras was attempting to make a lance with a tip made of sharp stone. A lance was a long, heavy pole with an arrow like tip, used in a variety of games. Seras was obsessed with competitive games that involved weapondry, with jousting being his second favorite. Seras’ most favorite happened only once a year, at the Festival of Donar, the God who fought against evil with a magical gavel. The gavel was thought to be at least half the weight of Donar, who is legend to have muscles strong enough to lift two worlds. At the Festival of Donar, a contest was waged with who could life the heaviest gavel. Last year the winner lifted 300 migs! Seras began rubbing the two stones furiously, to the point where the stones became so hot, Seras dropped the whole piece when he felt the edges for sharpness. “May it rain frogs for 100 days!” swore Seras. He had been using that phrase lately when frustrated, introduced to him by his cousin and prince in line to be King, Fuego. Seras loved Fuego’s dramatic nature, and often made himself memorize some of Fuego’s ranting declarations.

“Time for a break, “ thought Seras. Despite his frustration, he was more than proud of his work. Once completed, Seras would use the lance in this summer’s jousting competition. It would be his first competition, as Seras finally hit the height requirement to compete. He was almost there last year, and was furious that a half a lentimeter kept him from competing with his friends. “A rule is a rule!” they told him after he had snuck back in with 2 lentimeters of dirt in his shoes (like they were really going to fall for that!). “Come back next year, laddie,” the overly hearty man said as he smacked Seras so hard on the back he was winded. “And eat some yak fat, for the love of God! You’re as skinny as a Pie Tree!” The man and everyone around him roared with laughter. Pie trees were small, skinny trees the young children of the village loved to climb. Once you hit about age 7, most kids moved on to climbing Inot trees, which shot 100 mentimeters in the sky. The reference did not amuse Seras. Damn his petit mother! He had to take after her, while his older sister was as tall as a giant.

Seras left his room and went down to the kitchen where Merdow was cooking. Merdow had been his family’s cook for as long as Seras could remember. Her daughter Rai lived with King Greploch and Queen Besita, his aunt and uncle. Seras’ mother Abbra, and Queen Besita were sisters. Every Sunday he and his mother, father, older sister and grandmother, had dinner with his aunt and uncle in their castle surrounded by the most treacherous moat Seras knew of, this side of the Ashkin Caves. Merdow and her husband Vat, Rai’s mother and father, would come as well, and the two families would have an incredible feast, with Rai and Merdow cooking up a storm! It was on these Sundays that Seras, along with Fuego and Gleck, would check the moat to make sure it was well stocked with sharp odds and ends. It was on last Sundays inspection that Seras became inspired to make his own lance.

Seras bounded down the stairs and jumped over the last three, landing with a thump in the spacious kitchen that was his favorite part of the house. Merdow was standing in front of the stove, stirring something steamy that smelled sweet. Seras, knowing that Merdow’s hearing was poor and had not likely heard his loud entrance, snuck up behind her, tapped her left shoulder, and when Merdow turned to look, Seras grabbed a spoon and dove into whatever was cooking on her other side. Despite Seras’ ignorance of the dish, he knew his odds were good; everything Merdow cooked tasted delectable, whether savory, sour or sweet. But to Seras’ dismay, both his tongue and throat began to burn the moment he swallowed. “Silly boy, Seras,” scolded Merdow as she pushed him away with her many layers of aprons, and thrust a glass or water in his hands. Seras drank the whole glass in 2 seconds and gasped for more, “For the love of the Sun, what is that?” rasped Seras, unable to speak any further. Merdow handed him another glass of water and gave him a look, “I am dyeing your fathers robe to wear in this summers’ festival games. The dye is made from a red igua radish; one of the hottest spices in these parts. Serves you right, you little Geja Man!” Merdow laughed as Seras gulped down yet another glass of water. The Geja Man was a little devil, who in Dymondia mythology would come and play tricks on a person until they grew insane. Seras’ face and shirt were covered with water, but at least he was finally able to speak. “You are correct, my most favorite cook in the kingdom!” laughed Seras. He was always trying to sneak some of Merdow’s cooking in between meals. They sat down together and Seras told Merdow about his problem sharpening the lance. “Ahh,” said Merdow with a far-away look, “The summer jousting competition. That is where I met Vat, who was that year’s second place winner.” Seras’ eyes grew wide as he took in this information. “Really?” he squeaked. “Second place? Did he make his own lance?” Maybe Seras would get some advice from him! “I believe he did,” said Merdow as she stood up and turned back to the stove. “Spent a long time sharpening it, just like yourself. Used some special kind of sap from a tree I can’t recall.” “A tree? Which tree?” Seras was practically jumping. At last! Something that might actually help him get ahead before the competition. Now if he could only get the name of the tree…he would have to go Vat directly. Seras bowed in front of Merdow, as he bid her farwell. After all, she was the one who fed him every day! “Always a pleasure, my most favorite cook in the kingdom!” Seras yelled as he ran out the side door. Vat would be in the stable with the horses. Seras’ father Roon, bred Clatskin horses, magnificent creatures known for their strength, health and longevity. Vat was the main person in charge of these horses.

Seras ran at full speed down the hill that led to the stable. His mother, who was sitting in the garden drinking her morning tea, shouted something to Seras that he did not hear. He was thinking only of the sap that would make him this year’s jousting champion! By the time Seras reached the stable he was gulping for air, much the way he did after he drank that putrid broth made from the red igua radish. Vat was measuring how much feed was left until the end of the month, when more feed would arrive. When Vat heard Seras’s gasps for breath, he looked up from his clipboard. “Well hello there my fine lad,” spoke Vat. Seras loved Vat’s voice, and instantly felt soothed by his presence. Vat’s voice was deep and rich, and when he sang to the horses, something he did throughout the day, their eyes would glaze over, lost in pure delight. No wonder the horses bent to his will! Seras attempted a bow, but still could not speak. Seras always bowed when he said hello or good-bye to an elder, a move he learned from his cousin, prince in line to be king, Sati. Because of him, Seras knew the value of respect. “Our elders are our teachers,” Sati would lecture, sharing often what he learned from his refinement tutor, Jemo. “True wisdom is not gained by respecting only those in power. True wisdom is gained by respecting those who have lived longer, knowing that their history is a gift greater than any money or kingdom.” Vat was one such elder that Seras had tremendous respect for. The fact that he had won second place in the annual jousting competition made him even more God-like. Finally Seras could breathe. He was so excited he could barely get the words out, “Merdow said you won second place in the summer jousting competition!” Vat laughed heartily, for while Seras understood perfectly what he was saying, he was speaking so quickly that his proclamation came out more like, “Merdtellyou wonsecinjousting!” Vat had known Seras his whole life, and had seen this behavior more than once. “Calm down boy, and slow yourself down,” Vat’s voice, so melodious to Seras, had an effect instantly. Seras took a deep breath, and sat down on a pile of hay. “Merdow says you won second place in the summer jousting competition when you were a lad.” The same twinkle that appeared in Merdow’s eyes also shined in Vat’s at the mention of this old memory. “That I did, my lad. Almost came in first.” Seras drew in a deep breath, eager to hear more. “What happened Vat? What made you lose first place? Was the winner bigger than you?” Vat knew Seras’ obsession with growing, as many of his friends had become tall and heavy enough to compete in last year’s summer games, leaving Seras alone on the sidelines. Vat’s eyes twinkled even more. “Nope,” he chuckled, “Lost to a little guy, like yourself. A little guy who knew exactaly where to hit me so that I would lose my balance and fall. It was the final round, and tied. For me, I had made it that far on strength. For him, on strategy, as most of the men were twice his size.” Seras was enthralled by this story. “And it worked!” Vat declared, “He was the better player, won fair and square!” Vat began to laugh, and once again Seras became soothed by the rich overtone of his voice. A little guy like him had beat someone like Vat? He had struck a pot of jewels! “Merdow also said you used a special sap to make your tip really sharp.” Seras stood up. Vat was easily 7 mentimeters, and Seras was only as tall as a bit past his belt. Vat’s family was originally from the mountains, where people stood a good 5 lentimeters taller on average than those who lived in the valley. Something about the local leafy greens they ate, combined with the highly charged nial air. Nial was an element mined in that area, mostly by the mountain villagers who lived there. The percent of Nial in the air in the mountains was 100 times greater than down in the valley. Seras was insanely jealous. In addition to height, the mountain folk on average also lived longer lives. “Now that one is a lie,” scoffed Vat. We live and die same as everyone else, only taller.” Seras did not agree. The few times he ventured up into the mountains with Vat, he saw more wrinkly arms, necks and cheeks than anywhere in his village. And the stories the people would tell! Seras wanted to move up there, if only to have good company while he grew ridiculously tall!

“Ah, the sap!,” lamented Vat, “Made my lance tip so soft, sharpening was a dream. Then you wiped it off, and it would harden. Mine could split a hair I tell you! Too bad you can’t find it anymore.” Seras suddenly sat back and inhaled quickly. No more? Then he began talking very fast, “What do you mean? Why can’t you find it anymore? What’s happened?” Only it came out sounding like, ““Whadyoume? Whycayofitanymore? Whappened?” Vat, suddenly getting what this was about, grabbed Seras by the shoulders. “Get yourself together boy, and I’ll tell you.” Seras stood up, bowed, and bent his head. “As you wish, my mighty one!” In addition to respect, Seras also knew the value of charm. He had worked his way out of many a situation on charm alone. Vat laughed. “The sap came from the Chula tree. The Chula no longer grow in these parts. They were disappearing even when I was a lad.” Seras’ eyes grew wide, the wheels of his brain spinning fast…there must be a Chula somewhere?! When Seras spoke he tried to sound confident, although the cracks in his voice gave away his desperation, “There must be a Chula tree somewhere!” Vat gave him a sideways look and chuckled. “Sure there is. If you want to go to Ishima Jay territory. That’s the only place I hear of them existing these days, if one can live to tell the tale.” Ishima Jay was the formal name of a dragon species that could grow to be 8 mentimeters long. It was not uncommon for these awful creatures to have extra appendages, an extra arm, leg, maybe even a tail. They were mostly vegetarian, unless intruded upon, where they would capture their victums, fatten them up for a few days, and then feast upon them alive. At least that is the story that floated around the Kingdom. Seras smiled his sweet, most charming smile. “Of course not, “ he said matter of factly. Who in their right mind would do that?” If it was one thing Seras had learned, it was not to tell the adults around him his true intentions with anything even remotely out of the ordinary. While Vat was his hero, he was most certainly an adult. He would never understand Seras’ need to win at least final place in this summer’s jousting competition. Of course he was going to Ishima Jay. He had to get the sap. There was no other choice.

The Brothers Who Would Be Kings

A Fairy Tale About Sibling Rivalry

Chapter III

I Fuego and Seras

Fuego stomped through the forest in his heaviest jousting shoes, the scent of crushed pines and needles strong in his nose. How he enjoyed the sounds and smells of the forest! Fuego lost consciousness here, becoming so absorbed in the Earth around, that time disappeared. Fuego sat down on a large rock overlooking a murky pond, and peered below. “A whole different world exists down there,” whispered Fuego, as he threw a small stone into the pond. Quiet, wavy ripples cut through the static water. “A world where sights and sounds don’t matter; you are what you are. Fuego stood up and held his hands up to the sky, “If the Gods would grant me one wish now, it would to be an insect!” Fuego pounded his chest. He knew he was overdoing it, but he at least he felt better.

Fuego reflected on the morning that had just passed. He and Sati had fought at breakfast, with Sati being the initiator, a surprise for everyone at the table. Sati began to insult Fuego about his avoidance of all royal matters, a behavior that started the day after Fuego skipped the meeting with the King of Verbina. Queen Besita told Sati to stop, which in recent days had been enough. This morning was different. Sati would not stop, and then out of nowhere, grabbed a hot bun and threw it at Fuego. Fuego stood up, his blood boiling, his hands clenched into fists so tight, he felt his fingernails cut both palms. Then he stopped. Even he had had enough of his behavior. Fuego looked at Sati, who was already staring at him. The two locked eyes. “Sorry,” said Sati, a little embarrassed that he had created such a fuss. Fuego knew very well what his brother was thinking: it was one thing to defend oneself, another to be the cause of the injustice. Fuego turned and walked out.

It was half past noon, and Fuego was expected at refinement class in 15 minutes. His inclination was to flee, skip it, go anywhere but where Sati was. He hated refinement class anyway, with all its rules about how to act and behave. Fuego wanted freedom! Freedom to explore, to learn about life outside the castle, to exist as something different than Prince in line to be King. Fuego stood up and brushed the leaves off his pants. Then he heard it: crunching sounds only a human could make. Who could this be? Fuego was always exceedingly careful when he ventured into the woods, as his parents had been trying to follow him ever since he began skipping lessons 4 years ago. Thus far, they had not succeeded. Fuego was a mastermind at disappearing into the forest; he knew every tree nook, cave and hole in the ground in this land and the next. He was excellent at climbing trees. And no one ever came here anyway, as this part of the forest was known for having vicious wild Ak, of which there were many. Fuego left them alone, and they him.

As the crunching sounds became louder, Fuego saw a shadow get close. It was now or never: he could take, or be taken. As the shadow began to descend upon him, Fuego swung around and did his best kun ja kick, a sideways swipe that left its victim flat on its back. Fuego saw a medium sized blur fall to the ground; a large thump followed. “Ow!!” screamed Seras grabbing his backside, which was now covered with dead forest leaves and dried Ak crap. “Fuego, you miserable Geja Man, it’s me!” Fuego jumped back, shocked to see Seras lying at his feet. Fuego quickly helped him up and brushed him off. “For the love of Donar Seras, what are you doing here?” Fuego scanned the area around them, but saw only forest. Seras knew Fuego would be concerned that he had been followed. “Don’t worry my renegade, crazy cousin,” Seras grabbed Fuego’s hands and looked him in the eyes. “While you are crazy, I can assure you I came alone.” Fuego sighed with relief, than gave Seras a giant embrace, something the two always did when they met. “So,” encouraged Fuego, “what are you doing here?” While it was wonderful to see Seras, he was troubled that his secret place was found out. Seras began to dance around, something he often did when excited. “Well my dear, older cousin, let me explain.” Seras proceeded to tell Fuego about his conversations with Merdow and Vat, how he was going to get the sap from the Chula Tree, and most importantly, how he was going to place (maybe in first!) in this summer’s jousting competition. Seras was so winded from dancing and talking that he sat on the ground and began panting. Fuego frowned. He knew of such a magical sap, but it could only be found in the land of the horrible Ishima Jay Dragon. Seras must be joking! But when Fuego looked at him panting on the ground, and recalled how obsessed Seras was with the jousting competition, and how he had been trying to sneak past the height and weight requirements since he could talk, he knew he was dead serious. Last year Seras had come so close to competing.…..even he had to agree that half a lentimeter should not have mattered, and that the judges should of let him compete. But they didn’t, and now Seras was more determined than ever.

Fuego sat down next to Seras, who had stopped panting and was drinking large gulps of water. “Seras is always drinking water,” Fuego noted to himself. Then his voice became stern, “You don’t mean the tree that grows where the Ishima Dragons live? You can’t be serious Seras!” Fuego’s emotions surged while he spoke. “If those dragons catch you, they will tear you apart!” Fuego’s eyes bulged while his hands gestured wildly. He had gone from quiet to ranting in mere seconds. Seras looked at Fuego in surprise. He of all people should have understood his need to get the sap. Seras was not scared of any dragons, extra tails or not. Like Fuego, Seras was a strategist when he wanted to be. Moving with stealth and quiet, he would be in and out of Ishima Jay before the dragons even knew what happened! Plus, he was so petite he could slip in and out of places no dragon could ever fit.

Seras sized up the situation. He could be honest with Fuego about what he was doing, maybe even ask him to join. After all, it was Fuego who always preaching, “Seize the day, explore the horizon!” Although he had to admit it was always followed with the adage, “But don’t die along the way.” Seras now understood that this most certainly fell in the “might die category.” He thought quickly on his feet. “Actually Vat told me that Ishima Jay was not the only place to find Chula Trees anymore.” Seras knew he would eventually get in BIG trouble with his mother and father for telling such a lie, but by then he would have the sap. Dealing with Fuego would be different, as he and Fuego had blood sworn to always tell the truth to each other. He and Sati had an identical agreement. The three of them had done so when Sati was 3, Seras 4, and Fuego 5. They all pricked their fingers with the needle from a Taki plant, barely aware of the stingy cuts obtained earlier from wrestling the needle off the stem. Taki needles were covered with a thin yellow film that was as soft as velvet, and as sharp as glass. After the 3 of them had gotten about a dozen shallow cuts each, Fuego went home, got his jousting shoes and gloves, and scraped the yellow film off with armour. It was so exciting none of them even minded getting cut! (Abbra and Besita had been horrified). After their fingers were pricked, all 3 made the declaration of life long honesty, than drank each other’s blood. Seras drank both Fuego and Sati’s blood, and they his. Fuego and Sati would not drink each other’s blood, but at that age, what could you do? The consequences of breaking such a pact, Seras did not know. He looked into Fuego’s eyes, which had shown serious concern only 2 minutes before. Now they showed relief.

“Really?” said Fuego, grateful for this news. It was strange telling his cousin who was only 1 year younger not to seize the day, but Fuego knew first-hand how horrible these dragons were. Two years ago Fuego had attempted the journey to Ishima Jay alone, wanting the sap for his own jousting stick. After 2 days of traveling in the forest (his parents had been worried sick and sent men on horseback to search for him) he came across the most awful creature he had ever seen, an enormous black dragon with 2 arms and 2 legs, each appendage adorned with 3 large claws that could slash a man with one swipe. Giant red sores oozing a thick green slime covered the dragons’ body, which writhed around in pain. The slime gave off steam as it hit the ground, and the smell was putrid. The dragon, which was obviously injured, lunged powerfully at Fuego, who was barely able to get away. That the dragon was injured is the only reason Fuego is still standing today.

“So tell me,” said Fuego, never once suspecting Seras deception, ’“Where are such trees? I thought the Chula had become extremely remote.” “Well…….,” said Seras, pausing with effect. He would take any extra seconds he could get! “There’s a small farm north of the Asai Ruins that has been working on growing the Chula tree.” Not entirely untrue. The farm Seras spoke of had tried growing the Chula tree 5 years ago, without success. This was common knowledge. It was unlikely that Fuego would know whether they had attempted it again, which they hadn’t.

“Won’t take me more than an hour to get there by foot” said Seras, itching to get on his way. It would be better to continue as if nothing was wrong, as if the lie Seras had told was really the truth. Fuego smiled at the mention of the Asai Ruins, as that was also one of his favorite places. “Well then my dear cousin!” boomed Fuego, as both boys stood up and embraced. “You must be on your way; you know your mother does not like it when you are late for supper!” Fuego gave a hearty laugh, as Aunt Abbra had so many rules at supper time that meals could last for hours. Seras joined in the laughter, partly from relief that the conversation was finished, and partly because what Fuego said was true: his mother was insane when it came to supper. A typical supper consisted of 8 or 9 dishes, with Abbra insisting that each dish have its own silver utensil. There were so many utensils for different foods, it was impossible to remember which was which! It was at the Harvest of Gaya 2 years ago, that Besita, Abbra and their mother had cooked a feast. A total of 20 different dishes were served, each with its own piece of silver (Abbra’s insisted). Seras had remembered how large the place settings were, with 20 pieces set around each plate. Roon, Seras’ father, had been up all night with Vat delivering a Clotskin colt, and had just woke up after sleeping all day. He was tired and sore from last nights’ delivery (he had actually stuck his hand up the horses vaginal canal and pulled the colt out), and did not have the mental capacity to keep track. By the fifth plate (spit roasted Ak), Abbra’s furrowed brow and quiet scoldings had been enough for Roon, who only wanted to go back to bed. “Quiet woman!” roared Roon. Then he grabbed the head of the Ak with both hands, bit off its nose, and spit the entire contents onto Abbra’s plate. Abbra fled the table, mortified, with Roon at her heels. The rest of the family looked at one another and shrugged. They knew full well that this would pass, and why spoil a fine meal? Roon adored Abbra, had for 20 years. Mostly he indulged her neurosis; occasionally he snapped.

“It wasn’t the first time,” said Seras, as he wiped tears of laughter from his eyes, “and it won’t be the last. Mother is insane! It most certainly runs in the family.” Fuego laughed so hard he was bent over. “I remember a giant splatter of Ak grease getting on my helmet.” Fuego gathered the few things he had brought with him. His original intention had been to write, as he was working on a story about a peddler who travels the world, but that was interrupted by the visit from Seras. No matter. All this talk of the Asai Ruins had put Fuego in a good mood; he would have to go there soon. Maybe he would show up late to refinement class. It would certainly create peace between him and Sati, and most definitely between him and his parents. Suddenly Fuego felt an urgency to return, something that was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Behaving with thought was so unknown to him….. “I bid you farewell cousin,” bowed Fuego,” who was now feeling his own itch to go. “And I you, dear cousin,” returned Seras, relieved that Fuego had believed his story. Something about the Asai Ruins had put Fuego in a remarkably good mood, something that was never certain with either Sati or Fuego, both were so moody.
Seras and Fuego embraced, and Fuego began walking back towards the castle. In a minute he was swallowed by the lush forest, leaving Seras alone on the large rock above the murky pond. Ak droppings lay in random places, and there were many sharp stones and twigs on the ground. With jousting shoes this did not matter, as the protection and weight of the shoe made ones foot impermeable to the wildness of the forest. “Seras will not have a good time walking in his shoes,” thought Fuego, suddenly remembering that Seras had been wearing regular shoes, whose fabric and soles would surely shred by the time he returned. Fuego smiled and shook his head. That Seras. It was so like him to do something ill prepared.

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