On the foggy mountain meadow where kings and emissaries convened by morning twilight, the Land King said to the Sky King, “Cousin, take care of Master Galwynn. He is not only my subject, but a man I am pleased to call ‘friend’. For that reason, I would be grateful to have him safely returned to the service of my kingdom, and the love of his family.”
The Sky King gestured for an officer in his retinue to come forward. “This is Aaron Nimbus, a lieutenant of my Ethereal Legion,” said the crowned head of Sky. Nimbus stood staunchly at attention, with only a small gold badge on his gray cloak to signify his rank. “He has been charged to guard and assist your Master of Enlightenment in all his endeavors.”
With that, Nimbus crossed his right fist over his heart, bowed his head, and pledged, “On my honor, he will be well.”
Kevin listened intently to the Skyman’s pledge, but was not consoled. That was the problem with being enlightened: Galwynn knew this was an adventure. A man could get killed on an adventure! And no king or soldier, no matter how well-meaning, could guarantee all would turn out well in the end.
“Master Galwynn,” said the King, “do you have any questions?”
“Questions?” thought Galwynn. “Maybe there is still a way out of this predicament.”
“Now that you mention it, my lord,” said Kevin, “I was wondering if you were absolutely certain you want so humble a servant as myself to assist so noble a personage as the King of Sky. You might be better served by someone more venerable or capable than myself. The Master of Enchantments, perhaps? Or the Master of Swords?”
The King’s Master of Swords, Daithi Traynor, became more alert, while Thaddeus Álainn, the King’s elderly Master of Enchantments, suddenly looked a little uncomfortable.
The King listened to Kevin, then smiled bemusedly. “Don’t be modest, Master Galwynn. You are the best person in all my kingdom for this purpose. No other could do as well.” Out of the corner of his eye, Kevin noticed the Master of Swords and the Master of Enchantments breathe a barely perceptible sigh of relief.
From far away down the mountainside, at a small farm in the valley, a rooster’s crow announced the coming of sunrise. In the King’s pavilion, Master Álainn pulled out a golden fob in the shape of an egg, cracked it open at the hinge, and exposed a tiny, enchanted replica of a real rooster. In a thin, metallic timbre, the replica cock-a-doodle-doooh-ed confirmation of the time. “Daybreak will arrive soon,” said Thaddeus the enchanter. “We must hurry, or our guests will fade away at first light, and we will have to try again tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow may be…” Kevin began to say, intending to finish with, “a better time to start, if that’s all right with you.” But the King mistook his intent and declared, “Galwynn is right as usual. Tomorrow may be too late. We must act now!”
“Aye,” the Sky King agreed, grimly. “The crisis is already upon us, and none can say how many days we might have left.”
The King said, “Are you ready, Master Galwynn?”
Kevin looked down at the floor of the pavilion resignedly, and felt condemned by what were almost his own words, to either a great adventure, or—to what was more likely—a terrible tragedy. But he had to agree, as much as he wished he didn’t, that his king had chosen wisely. Master Galwynn was, indeed, the best man for the job.
“Yes, my lord,” said Kevin sincerely, for the King was a good ruler who had, by his wisdom and noble deeds, earned Galwynn’s loyalty many times over. “I am…ready.”