Castles in the Air, part 3


Tim Allen

Chapter 4

Kevin Galwynn awoke in his apartment just before dawn, which was much earlier than he would have liked. Yesterday’s events had made him achy, cranky, and exhausted. He had worked hard all day trying to piece together the puzzle of broken debris offered him; attended a feast in his honor later that night; helped Lt. Aaron Nimbus fend off the attempted kidnapping of Peter, the shepherd; and had nearly fallen to his death from a great height, had it not been for the heroism of his bodyguard, the same Lt. Nimbus. Given all that, was it any wonder that when he got back to his apartment he had immediately collapsed into bed and instantly fell asleep?

So what was he doing awake now, before the crowing of the cock?

Kevin did his morning ablutions and dressed in fresh clothes, but worry prevented him from having the warm afterglow of a dreamless night’s sleep and a slow, leisurely awakening. Perturbed, he sat down at the writing desk in the corner of his apartment, lit a candle, and took out two sheets of parchment. Then he wrote a pair of letters, each opposite in tone from the other. 

“To my beloved, Elspeth,” began the first missive. Kevin missed his wife, the clever Goodwitch Lady Elspeth Galwynn, and their two precocious children. He knew his wife would be worrying about how he was faring, and he wanted to reassure her. But most of all, he wanted to tell his family that he loved them more than life itself. And he wanted to tell them now, while he could, because he feared it soon might be too late. 

Kevin was worried that his mission to understand the supernatural events that had made the stars spin in circles, and the oracles spin in fear, was taking too long and making too little progress. The gods of the Sky domain were distraught about the disappearance of their daughter, Alta Vystra, and were eager to search for her. But Emperor Sun was duty-bound by cosmic forces to shine every day, during which time he could not search. And Empress Moon was duty-bound to shine at various times over each lunar month, and so she could not search except sporadically. But every day has a night, and the end of the lunar month was growing nigh. For that reason, Kevin rightly feared the gods would soon be free to finish their search.

Kevin didn’t know what fate befell the star-maiden, but all the oracles had sworn the gods would condemn the denizens of both Land and Sky for what happened, whatever that might be; and in their wrath they would lay waste to both domains. Galwynn’s intuition—or was it his enlightenment?—told him that he had to solve the mystery surrounding Alta Vystra before the star-child’s parents did. And judging from his lack of progress in his investigation so far, Kevin felt compelled, in this lonely hour of the dawn, to tell those he held most dear how much he loved them.

“I only have a moment to write to you before I must return to my mission,” Kevin wrote to his wife. “Kiss the children for me, and tell them that I love them as I do you.” And finally, in a well-intentioned lie, he wrote, “All is well. I hope to see you soon.”

After his letter to his wife, Kevin wrote a more detailed and truthful report to his king, care of Prime Master Francis Glenbury, summarizing what had happened in the last few days. When he was done, the address he wrote on the envelope for the Land King was, “The Righthand Waistcoat Pocket of Prime Master Francis Glenbury,” and the address he wrote on the letter to Elspeth was, “The Pillow On My Side of the Bed Next to My Sleeping Wife.” Then he took both sealed envelopes, shoved them deep into the voluminous pockets of his tunic, which he had received as a prerogative of his title, until both missives seemed to give way as if slipping through a hole in his pocket. Elsewhere, in the Domain of Land, a letter appeared in the righthand waistcoat pocket of Prime Master Glenbury, and another missive appeared on the pillow on Kevin’s side of the bed next to his sleeping wife.

Galwynn crossed the corridor to the storeroom where two guards were yawning and swapping ribald tales to stay awake, while a page assigned to the guards to carry messages had long since curled up in a corner and succumbed to slumber. “Good morning,” Kevin said affably, and then waited a moment to give everyone time to snap awake. 

Kevin directed them as appropriate to tell Lt. Nimbus to meet him in the storeroom; have at least two bodyguards escort the shepherd, Peter, from the infirmary to this storeroom; and finally, have breakfast for three sent to the storeroom. Kevin paused for a moment, remembering it was always appropriate to be considerate. “And of course, in return for your good service, have the cook include a sweetmeat for each of you.” While the page and guards perked up and then scurried to complete their tasks, Kevin went into the storeroom to begin his workday.

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