It was another cycle in the Zone, and the High Ghost King was exhausted.
The talks had been going all Day (Or at least what counted as Day in the zone) between Mattingly, the Queendom now led by Queen Dorathea, and the Ghostly kingdom of Britain, who were previously allies with Mattingly.
The reason they were no longer allies were, in the High Ghost King’s opinion, in a word: Moronic. They, along with many other factions were allied with Mattingly previously but all of them sundered all previous treaties when Queen Dorathea forcefully overthrew her Tyrant of a brother.
Some were more than happy to reforge the treaties with little to no fuss, the Far Frozen being a prime example, with relationships even improving now that the abrasive man is no longer heading the nation.
However there were others that were fighting every step of the way to either politically subsume her Queendom because they felt that a Woman was not fit to lead, or they hoped to take advantage of her, thinking she was not as smart as her brother.
They were all learning very quickly that not only is she kinder and more approachable than her brother, she is many times his better. She is smarter, wiser, more politically learned, and solid of will, a stark contrast to her brother.
Now this in and of itself wouldn’t exhaust the High Ghost King, he is in fact good friends with Queen Dorathea and has her over whenever they both have free time. No, the problem is that he has to stop there being bloodshed when the fragile egos of some of the Kings get battered and bruised by her refusing to kowtow to them simply because she is Female and they are Male.
He has had to stop no less than a dozen fights between the two talking in the past three hours alone, and he has to restrain himself from pummeling the ghostly king, for being a “chauvinist sexist pig”, as Sam would call it.
“--ady like yourself can’t possibly handle all the goings on that your brother’s military so surely having some of my Generals to keep them in line for you is--” the greasy words of the King fell from his mouth like a toxin, oozing and slithering into the ears of those in the room.
The High King finally had enough, he cut him off with his hand cutting through the air. “That is Enough! King Dicun, since you obviously cannot listen to instructions and keep a civil tongue you are hereby barred from my Castle, if you wish to have these talks continued on these grounds you will send a Representative to continue or you will find another location to continue at Queen Dorathea’s sufferance. Fright, throw him out if you would, please!”
King Dicun’s eyes widened in both rage and fear as the Fright Knight leapt from behind his King and grabbed him by his throat, throttling any objections or threats he might have wanted to say. He struggled in the grip as he was dragged out through the great hall, the doors slamming shut behind Fright with an almighty crash.
The High King sighed heavily and let his head fall into his left hand, his fingers rubbing into temples in an attempt to alleviate a headache that had formed halfway through King Dicun’s thinly veiled and not veiled at all sexist comments made to his good friend Dora.
The King flinched slightly, unable to stop a tiny bit of a cringe when he heard the word “King.” He looked up and saw Queen Dorathea a foot away from his throne, her hand outstretched and a hesitantly worried look on her face.
“My apologies. I forgot, Danny... But, are you okay?” She reached out a bit more, a questioning look sent his way.
Danny hesitated for a second before lifting his head from his hand and gave a small smile and opened his arms. Dora gave a soft smile and enveloped her King in a gentle hug, her Seventeen year old now ageless body enveloping his much smaller eleven year old body.
He sighed contently in Dora’s arms, enjoying the way the hug felt so gentle and loving. The soft warmth emanating from within Dora’s chest, making him feel so much more relaxed than just about anything he has felt in a long time. His hands weren’t able to quite feel the soft fabrics of her dress, since they were covered in some leather gloves he had been given by the Castle when he took the Throne.
He breathed in and felt a twinge of something as he smelled all the floral scents that were in Dora’s hair, and his eyes couldn’t help but stare at the intricate braids and length of her hair as it draped around him.
He started to squirm a bit, enjoying the hug but starting to get antsy from not moving that much. With one last squeeze, Dora let go and held Danny at arm’s length, giving him a soft but bright smile before letting go.
Danny smiled back, and couldn’t stop his eyes from taking in the beautiful dress that Dora was wearing. A powder blue that had a gradient to white going down to the hem, flowing floor length dress that had very finely powdered diamonds strewn throughout to give it a sparkly look that glimmered with every movement without being blinding or overly gaudy.
“I love the way your dress looks, Queen Dorathea. It is incredibly pretty.” Danny said with a soft smile as he emphasized her new title, even as he felt his core twist in some feeling as he looked down at his, admittedly very nice Royal outfit that he had agreed to wear at the insistence of Fright Knight and the rest of his retinue.
The very soft white cotton long sleeved shirt hung comfortably on his shoulders, flaring slightly as they got to his wrists, making them drape over his black leather gloves, thankfully the gloves were lined with what felt like rabbit fur. His lower half was covered in form fitting black breeches that tucked into his black as night boots. Around his neck was a simple green gem, the same shade of green as his eyes, clasping together the cape that draped over his shoulders.
“Why thank-you your Majesty--” Dora said with a grandiose tone and an exaggerated curtsey. “Your regalia is quite handsome if I may be so bold to say so”
He gave a bit of a grimace and felt the Crown dig into his temples a bit, reminding him of its constant presence, before shaking his head and looking up at the sound of the doors opening once again to show Fright Knight striding in with his Sword drawn.
Danny’s eyes opened wide and he instantly flew off his throne and started to hover around Fright.
“Fright, what happened, why did you draw your sword? Did he try to hurt you? Are you injured, do I need to call the doctor? I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have ever let him in!” Danny flitted around him, his form comically small compared to the towering Knight.
Fright Knight sputtered and flushed as his King continued to fuss over him, ignoring the protests claiming that he was fine, making quite a fine image, a child nearly half his size lifting his arms and his cape to make sure no wounds were being hidden on his body
“My-- My king! I am hale and hearty, uninjured by such a fool! I-- Ah! I merely needed to impress upon him to not badmouth you lest I become cruel!” Fright teetered side to side for a bit before regaining his balance as Danny finally seemed satisfied that he was uninjured and took a step back from him.
A giggling could be heard and both turned to the direction of Queen Dorathea softly giggling into her hand, greatly amused by the antics of the King. Looking around, the other guards in the room had a soft smile as they looked fondly at Danny, who blushed a bright green before giving Fright a quick hug and then planting himself onto the floor as regally as he was able to. Which, despite the regalia and many months of practice, was sadly not that much as his height of four foot four was barely above the waist of the Fright Knight.
Danny cleared his throat before adopting a more regal air. “Queen Dorathea, is there any other pieces of business that you need my help mediating for?”
Fright knight bent down and whispered the correction. “ Are there any other pieces of business, My Lord.”
Danny flushed and grimaced again at the term, before shaking his head and taking a deep breath before saying. “Apologies, Queen Dorathea, are there any other pieces of business you need my help for?”
Dora smiled and nodded, showing she took no offense at all. “I do not, My Lord Phantom. King Dicun was the final one today and I do not see myself continuing the line of discussion with him any time soon.”
Danny’s eyes literally brightened in joy and a grin overtook his face. “Great! I had almost fully cleared my whole day in case the talks went on too long, so I am free until then! Would you like to join me and Fright for a walk in the Gardens?”
His face fell a bit into a hopeful look, his smile looking more than a little strained by this point. Dora’s face softened even more before nodding once, smoothly gliding over to where Danny and Fright Knight were standing.
“I would love to walk with you two, Danny.” Dora said in a soft tone taking her place behind Danny on his left.
With a giddy giggle he grabbed ahold of one of Dora’s hands and started to excitedly tug her towards the Gardens, floating every now and then with the energy bouncing within him. With an indulgent smile, she let Danny be the child that he was and babble excitedly about the different types of Flora and Fauna that lived within and around the gardens. Fright Knight sedately walked behind, eerily silent despite the heavy armor he was wearing.
“There are so many different types of flowers in here that I never got to see in the human world before I died. The castle keeps telling me all about the different names and their origins in the human world! This one is called Balsam, and it’s a very versatile medicinal plant, often used to treat burns, snake bites, and things that would cause inflammation. Oh oh oh, this one is blue chamomile, it’s fantastic for tea but a better use I feel is for softening and making scars fade so they aren’t quite so painful! Oh and this one--”
On and on he went, babbling happily as he went from flower to flower, eagerly sharing all the knowledge that he has of each flower, making Dora smile and nod along, sometimes asking questions about a specific type of flower or about some creature that skittered on through the trees.
They soon came to a small grassy clearing and he sat them all down, even convincing Fright Knight to sit beside him instead of standing guard as he was initially wanting to do, but not before Fright Knight convinced a couple of guards to come closer to guard a perimeter around the clearing. Which, after an eye roll from Danny, he allowed.
“I always was jealous of the girls who did this on the playgrounds in school” Danny said idly, braiding some flowers that the woodland creatures kept bringing to him. “It always looked like so much fun but they always chased me away because I was a boy.”
Dora frowned in concern, giving a look to Fright, who shrugged slightly in response to the look, going unnoticed by Danny.
“Well that was quite mean of them to do, Danny. You are a very sweet young boy and they were wrong to do that.” Dora said.
“Well, it’s not like they didn’t have a good reason. They had tried to invite the most popular guy, Dash, to do it with them, but he was always such a bully and would tear up the flowers and stuff when he couldn’t get it right. So they kept saying that Boys were nothing more than crude smelly destructive creatures, and I can’t really blame them, I’ve had to deal with Dash for a long time and he fits that description to a Tee.”
Danny continued to braid some more flowers into the crown, softly smiling as his fingers deftly curled and twisted the stems to tightly hold onto one another without damaging them. Dora shifted a bit closer to Danny, soon sitting right beside him. He leaned against her, obviously enjoying the contact as he always seems to.
“I remember asking my best friend Sam if she could help me figure it out but she didn’t know or care to know how to braid flowers or hair for some reason. When I went home later though I asked Jazz and she helped teach me how to make them. That was a good day.”
Danny smiled brightly as he held up his completed crown, filled with many different flowers in many different shapes, all of which were colored either Black, purple, or Teal. He quickly floated up and gently placed it over Fright Knight’s Helmet, who adjusted it to sit more centered on it but didn’t take it off, making Danny give a bright dazzling smile.
Danny quickly floated back down and started to make a new crown, this time with light blue, green and golden flowers. Dora, seeing this, decided to start on her own crown, finding Black and white and blue flowers. Danny happily continued to babble to her as they both started to work on their respective crowns.
Dora couldn’t help but shift so that she was even closer to Danny, but not before giving a quick look at Fright to make sure he wouldn’t misread it in an aggressive manner. When he gave a solemn nod and a clearly fond look at the little Royal.
“So what has been going on in Mattingly since you took over, other than the diplomatic talks with all the other factions you were formerly allied with.” Danny asked, continuing to braid the flowers.
Dora happily took up the conversation there, talking about how she was reforming the blatantly sexist systems that were in place to keep the women of her Queendom down. How she was doing away with some of the class divide and bringing the Queendom into a much more modern 1700s than the 1100s it seemed to be stuck in, and that was even before bringing modern 2010s social ideologies about those in the Queer spectrum.
Danny seemed extremely interested in that topic the second she brought it up, even going so far as to slow down his braiding and staring, enraptured by the picture she spun.
She talked about how there were so many more same gender couples, emphasizing the word gender. She talked about buildings being repurposed to encourage those who were forced to repress who they were because of her brother’s intolerant views, to be out and proud of who they are.
She spoke of how there were even some Nobles who joined in the cause, one of the Noblemen suddenly saying they were a Noblewoman and just started to wear the current women’s fashion at the time!
Danny’s eyes were wide in shock, and even some awe, and possibly even a smile that was creeping onto his face. Dora at first was worried that he was too young and would possibly even spurn those in her kingdom for who they were. Before she recognized the look of longing that she had seen before, before he shook his head with a flush and bowed his head and went back with slightly shaking hands to the flower crown.
Dora shared a worried look with Fright Knight, who shook his head slightly, before he nodded back to her flower crown with a pointed look. She shook the cobwebs from her head and she continued to talk for a bit longer on the things she had been doing for the Queer community in Mattingly. She soon drifted away from it, in what she hoped was a natural manner and talked about the mundane things that had been happening in the castle. Like replacing all the stained glass windows from the cruelties her brother did to scenes of certain landmarks in the ghost zone, a scene of Danny coming to help Dora, and even the fight between the two siblings, with her subsequent victory being brought to the medium of the stained glass.
Danny quickly relaxed under the idle talk, much less tense, and when he finally completed the Crown he seemed much more bubbly and excited and eagerly placed it on Dorathea’s head with all the solemnity he could bring with such an important artefact.
She bowed her head and gracefully accepted the wonderful flower crown, instantly thinking about how to use some magicks to permanently preserve the wonderful gift. She then presented her completed flower crown to Danny, much to his surprise, but he quickly and eagerly removed his crown and held it in his hands as he bowed his head to wear the Crown of Flowers that Dora made for him.
He eagerly stood up and started floating before giving Dora a very tight hug that she returned.
“Thank-you so much Dora, I love it!” Danny said, the royal crown held in his hand as he wore what he felt was a much more important crown than the former Crown of Fire, having transformed into a simple, yet Regal golden crown that always just dug painfully into his head.
He gained a mischievous smirk before he shoved the Crown into Fright Knight’s hands before quickly saying “Tag! You’re it!” Before tagging Dora and running into the copse of trees that was in the Gardens.
Dora blinked in shock for a couple seconds until she regained her senses before crying out. “Oh you little rapscallion, get back here!”
Dora took off into the gardens too, making sure to keep her dress and flower crown intangible so as to not have either be damaged, but greatly enjoying the chase of the very excited Child King, who had not been able to act his age in quite some months now.
Fright Knight simply stood there, after having called over a servant and got a velvet pillow for the Crown to sit on while he faithfully waited for his King to get the energy out. He was quite worried for his King, having seen the listlessness and exhaustion that burdened one so young.
He couldn’t help but remember the nights where he heard soft sobs from within the King’s quarters, the time when he went from loyal Adjutant, to trusted Seneschal, and even Friend. When he quietly opened the doors to the King’s chambers, against all protocol and training he remembered getting when in life. Going up to his King and gently holding him as sobs wracked the body of the child. He was unsure of how old the King truly was, but he knew at the very least he had died at the age of Eleven, and Fright always had had a soft spot for the children of any station, Noble or Peasant.
So he had held his King to his chest and let him quietly cry his Core out about the sheer weight of the responsibility that he held upon his shoulders. He remembered the weight that he felt settling down upon his own shoulders as he silently promised then and there to never leave his sire’s side, to take upon his burdens and to aid him in whatever power he was able to.
Looking on as his King was able to let go, however temporarily, of his worries and weight, scattered as so much snow in a frosty tundra, he couldn’t help but feel a lightening in his Core and wishing for this carefree moment to go for as long as was possible, before Duty called and brought them all away.
And so he stood there, standing vigil with the Crown, keeping an eye on his surroundings and ready to leap to action, that after what felt like time stretching into hours of screams of glee, and mischievous giggling followed by shrieks of surprise and mock outrage, the clock finally tolled for Five in the afternoon in the Mortal realm.
The sounds of laughter and joy was cut short as the bell rang out, and soon after both the High King and the Queen of Mattingly walked out of the forest, nary a smudge of dirt or scratch having shown up on the Queen, marking a starch contrast to the flushed but happy face of the high king, with his clothing being slightly torn in places, and dirt having been ground into the fabrics, marking them as essentially ruined for the day. Fright Knight spared a sympathetic thought to the head Maid, before solemnly walking to his King and getting down on one knee, and presenting the Crown to him.
Danny sighed heavily, and gently took off his flower Crown, idly happy to note that it was undamaged, but sad that he couldn’t continue to wear it. With another sigh he took the crown and practically jammed it back on his head but very gently placed the flower crown in its place on the pillow with a soft forlorn look on his face.
“Sire.” Fright Knight said with a nod, and then handed a servant a pillow with a soft order of “Bring this to the King’s chambers, place it upon his dresser set.”
The servant nodded and quickly flew off to do as ordered.
Fright Knight turned back to Danny, kneeling down and setting to rights his cape that had fallen askew.
“If you would allow me to repair your clothing, My King?” Fright Knight softly asked, prompting a tiny grimace from Danny, but also a nod from him, giving permission.
Fright Knight’s hands lit up with green energy as it suffused through the clothing and seamlessly closed up the rips and tears in the regalia, focusing first on the giant rip that exposed Danny’s Death scar, an eerily beautiful lichtenberg scar that went sprawling up his arm, the rest hidden by the sleeve.
“The Ancient, Pandora, is set to come here by Six in the afternoon. She has informed us that she will be joining us for Dinner in the Hall after your meeting with her. Tonight’s meal will be a selection of meats ranging from Fowl to Venison, as well as some mortrew pottage. The drinks served will be water, wines, and various meads. Dessert, as always, is a surprise, although Pandora told me she will be bringing some desserts from her realm for you to try if you so wish.”
As he had been saying this, he was tidying and gently adjusting the clothing so it sat more regally on Danny, who bore it all with a fond smile as he was fussed over.
When he felt that he had made Danny presentable enough, Fright Knight stood and bowed his head in deference to Danny.
“If I may make a suggestion, Your Majesty, you might wish to freshen up with a quick bath. I am certain you will not cause insult to Pandora if you do not, but I am certain you would feel better if you were clean of your fun in the gardens.”
Danny nodded in agreement. “I think I will do that, My Knight, thank you.”
“Please draw a hot bath for me, I will be there momentarily.” Danny said to a nearby servant, who nodded and quickly flew off.
Danny turned to Dora with a hopeful look on his face. “Do you wish to stay for food? The meeting shouldn’t take too long and I would so love to have you.”
Dora smiled, “I would love to, Danny, I will entertain myself with either a flight or amongst the library until Dinner time if that is permissible?”
“Of course, feel free to browse to your heart’s content, and if you should find any books you wish to continue to read, just talk with Fright Knight and he will tell you if it is okay for it to be taken out of the Keep until you are next able to bring it back” Danny said, with a beaming smile on his face.
“I must go if I wish to enjoy the bath before Pandora shows up, I look forward to seeing you at Dinner!” Danny then quickly strode out of the gardens and into the keep.
Fright Knight moved to head back into the keep, but in the direction of the Kitchens instead of Danny’s chambers, before he heard a soft. “Fright Knight? If I may have a word, please?” From Queen Dorathea.
Fright Knight turned and stared at Queen Dorathea for a solid second. He nodded and turned to a Servant. “Go to the Kitchens and get me an update on their progress, and if there is anything that is needed for tonight’s Dinner.” Before turning back to the Queen of Mattingly and tilting his head forward in question.
“In private, please, Sir Knight.” She said with a look to the sky before slowly floating up away from earshot of any servants.
Fright Knight’s eyes narrowed in slight suspicion before floating up to follow her, he kept a hand near Soul Shredder, ready to draw it at a moment’s notice if she were to prove herself treacherous.
After floating high enough that the Keep was more than far enough away from prying ears, she spoke.
“Apologies for the bit of subterfuge but I did not wish to talk about this where it might harm Danny’s reputation. You have been around Danny the longest and I am certain you noticed this... Did you see how he reacted when I talked about the Nobleman who came out as a Noblewoman?” Dora said the second he was level with her.
Fright Knight tensed a bit, before relaxing and nodding. He had noticed the shock and surprise in Danny. Before it had been overshadowed for a time by a look of realization that was quickly followed by shame.
“Yes, I had indeed noticed that, I thank you for your discretion in this, Queen Dorathea.”
“I was just thinking, do you think that Danny might be the same? That our King is in fact our Queen?” She said, and wringed her hands.
“I do not know. What I do know however, is I will follow them regardless. Until the very end.” Fright Knight softly said, but with steel in his voice backing his feelings.
“What should we do? How can we help him, you’ve seen him, the exhaustion and bags under his eyes, the bowed back, as if the weight of the world was upon his shoulders! What if this is the thing behind it all?”
Fright Knight crossed his arms, the plate mail clanking. “It is not my place to think of such things, I will support him or her however best I can serve, but in this I cannot be of help. I know not the inner workings of his mind, nor will I conjecture on such, lest it cause My King some harm.”
Dorathea continued to wring her hands. “Do you think it would be safe to talk to Pandora about this? She seems to care a great deal for Danny, And she has experienced far more than you or I have. She could have a great deal of insight into this that we do no.”
Fright Knight floated there in silence for a time in contemplation.
“I will not stop you from doing so, she is incredibly wise. If anybody could help, it would be her. However I must urge you to express caution, and speak only to her if indeed you speak to her at all.”
Fright Knight looked down to the castle, the Servants bustling about, getting the castle ready for Pandora’s arrival.
“I must be going. I need to oversee them, lest chaos take over and the preparations do not get done. I will see you at dinner, Queen Dorathea.”
Dorathea watched as Fright Knight flew to the castle and began to set the scrambling servants into organized chaos. She nodded to herself before flying out to where she could feel the power of Pandora approaching.