The King of Kalbem: Chapter 2 - Discovery
Updated: Jul 14
Chapter 2: Discovery
One fine summer day, Kat found Will playing in the garden, where they had spent most of their young lives. “Look, Kat!” he called. “I found a lizard!” That was something these two always connected on.
“Ooh, it’s a big one,” she squealed in delight. “Let’s make it do the tail thing!
It didn’t take much effort to terrify the lizard enough for it to remove its tail. Will released the lizard and the two watched the tail flip around. Kat picked up the tail, “I’ll add this one to my collection.”
Will scrunched up his face, “You collect animal body parts?”
Kat looked sheepishly at him, “Don’t tell my mother.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” Will’s older sister, Samantha, called from a nearby rock. She was painting some birds. “How many animals are you lovebirds going to traumatize today?”
Will and Kat both instinctively looked away from each other when she said the word, “lovebirds”, then Kat winked at Will and replied, “As many as we can.”
Phillip ran to them, “I want to help!”
“Sure thing, little one,” Kat smiled at her brother. “See the toad right there? Go get it!”
Phillip scampered off after the toad as Will caught a small snake.
“Aw, it’s so cute!” Kat gawked.
“Just look at what it can do,” Will agreed. “I wish I was that strong.”
“I caught the toad!” Phillip announced and brought it over. The snake lunged at the toad and the toad lubricated Phillip’s hand and hopped away. Phillip sadly watched it leave.
“Here, you can hold him,” Will handed the snake to Phillip and the light returned to his eyes.
“Do you hear that?” Kat asked Will.
Will looked around, “It sounds like some sort of squeaky chirp.”
“Let’s go find it.”
They wandered around, following the sound, until they saw a baby robin hopping around.
“The poor baby!” Kat exclaimed. “Did you lose your mommy?” She picked up the chick in her hands. “We need to take care of him,” she declared to Will.
“What a brilliant idea,” Samantha commented. “It would be great practice for you two when you start having kids of your own.”
Kat looked up at the tree to her left and Will looked at the patch of grass to his right as she said that. Neither one would deny what she said, but neither would comment in the affirmative either.
After a pause where they didn’t really acknowledge Samantha’s comment, Kat started, “We need to make a shelter and find food and water.”
“I’ll get the shelter,” Will offered.
“I’ll get the water,” Phillip volunteered.
Kat started picking berries as she held the chick in her right hand. Will and Phillip shortly came back, and they made a nice little place with a box, grass, and a tin of water. Kat then handed some berries to Phillip, Will, and Samantha, who had come over to see the chick. They all started taking turns feeding the small bird their berries.
Kat watched as Will tenderly dropped berries in the baby bird’s mouth. Will was so attractive when he acted fatherly in any way. She felt somewhat reassured. She and Will were still close. They had fun together. He was so sweet and knew her so well. He could always guess what she thought and how she felt. Being with him was where she wanted to be. They could get married in a few years and live happily ever after. But Will wasn't as romantic as he used to be. Kat had been told that it's important to keep the romance alive in a relationship, so she made an attempt to pull it out of him.
“Will,” she stammered as soon as Samantha returned to her painting, “why do you never call me Gardenia anymore?”
He paused, then shrugged, “Well, you aren't a flower, are you?”
Phillip jumped on Will, “She talks about it all the time! She says…”
Kat covered her brother’s mouth and glared at him, saying nothing. Her face lost a little color, despite her best efforts to look natural. Will had forgotten! What was she to do? He had to remember, but she couldn't just tell him.
Little did she know what was going on in his mind. She had probably concluded that he didn't think at all, but this was far from the truth. He had never forgotten that solemn vow made by his six year old self. He cherished it just as much as Katrina had, but he wouldn't let her know that.
He himself had begun to wonder if she remembered their promise. After all, she spent much time with the other boys in the palace and the western village. She was constantly talking about boys and trying to figure out everything she could about relationships. He knew that talk couldn't have been about him; after all, he had always been quite consistent, and there wasn't anything more to analyze about him. She knew him well. Clearly, she no longer cared for him in that way. Though he was just as determined to never break his promise, he was pretty confident that she had forgotten.
His train of thought was broken by a giant fireball coming in their direction. He instinctively tackled Kat and covered her as he ducked. The fireball flew over them and crushed a tree dangerously close to the keep. The fire immediately caught, creating a wall of flames, trapping them in the garden.
Will looked back to see what happened and then looked into Kat’s eyes. As he was tackling her, she had seen how closely the fireball skimmed over them. “Thank you,” she blurted in a panic. Without thinking, Will ran his hand down her cheek and turned to grab Samantha. Kat grabbed Phillip and Will returned with Samantha. By now, the fire had spread quite extensively, and they appeared surrounded. Kat looked at Will desperately and he suddenly ordered, “Into the stream!”
Phillip clutched the bird in his hands as Kat held him with both hands. Will led them with one arm behind Samantha and one around Kat. They all hopped into the stream under the glass bridge and huddled together. They knelt in a row, watching the world around them in flames. Phillip nearly squeezed the life out of the bird as he dug his face into Kat’s sleeve. Kat held him close as she and Samantha both clung to Will for security. Will was shaking, but tried to be brave for the women.
They sat there waiting while the smoke built up and it got harder to breathe. “Will,” Kat coughed, “if we die, I want you to know…”
Will cut her off, “Don’t say that, Kat. We are going to be fine.” He coughed some.
“Here,” Kat tore four pieces of fabric from her dress, “everyone, try breathing through these. It might help block the smoke.”
They each struggled to breathe and they felt faint.
“The birdie died!” Philip screamed in horror.
Kat held him closer, “I’m sorry, little one. The smoke was too much for its young lungs.”
Philip cried into her dress. Eventually he let the bird go into the stream.
Each of them started to feel woozy and Kat feared they would pass out. Will lay on the bank under the bridge, had Samantha and Kat lay beside him resting their heads on his chest, and Phillip on top of them. “All we can do now is wait,” Will said as he held them nervously.
Kat was terrified and shaken, but despite the flames around her, Will’s presence had a calming effect on her. He was holding her. She put a hand on her brother’s chest so she could keep track of his breathing. Then she pulled in tightly to Will and closed her eyes. Even with the heat beating on her and the sounds of fear, she felt a degree of peace, knowing that at least in that moment, Philip was still breathing and she was with her precious Will.
What felt like days of fire and fear, but minutes of enjoying clinging to Will’s side, the fire was finally starting to die. Kat caught herself dozing off. She roused and looked up at Will. He looked at her, but the closeness of his face made her feel awkward and she turned away. “I think the fire is out,” he whispered to her.
She felt for Phillip’s heartbeat again and pulled him in closer. “Should we try to go back? I’m sure our parents are worried sick.”
Will nodded and the four got out of the stream and into the ashes of the garden. They walked cautiously as they left the garden and went inside. As soon as they were seen, Sierra and Kimberly embraced their children. They were given a brief explanation for the ball of fire catapulted at them: Tezel had just waged war on Kalbem.
* * * * *
Kat's twelfth birthday followed shortly after. Will walked with her through the ashes of the garden. There were a few trees that hadn’t been destroyed by the fire, but most of the plants had died. Kat sadly looked at the various flowers that were no longer there and awkwardly looked at Will for comfort.
“Let’s sit on our bridge,” Will suggested. Kat smiled inside that he referred to the bridge that way. They sat together on it in silence.
Will fingered his pouch for a while and then turned to Kat awkwardly, “I'm learning a lot as a smith! I just made something... out of pewter... for you.” He gave a terribly forced smile as he practically shoved the gift in Kat's face. “Happy birthday, Kat!”
She smiled as he spoke; he was so cute when he was awkward. As her eyes came into focus, she saw he was holding a medallion. It was almost heart shaped as it had two dragons facing each other, almost as if they were kissing and holding tails with their wings up behind them. Between them was a ruby.
Kat's eyes widened and she gasped, “For me? That is so beautiful! You made this? It's the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”
Will took a breath of relief as he placed the necklace in her hands. “Part of my training in detail work. It reminded me of you.”
“Really?” Kat's eyes were sparkling at this precious gift. “Thank you so much, Will. Will you help me put it on?”
Will's hands trembled as he linked the chain on her neck.
Kat held it lovingly in her hands, “I love it so much. I can't think of anything I own that I like better, Will.” She hugged him.
That day, Will left that garden feeling like a prince. Kat was upset, but he saved the day and made her very happy.
Later, Phillip ran up to Kat and exclaimed, “Kat! Samantha said that Will gave you a necklace! May I see it?”
Kat proudly held her pendant for him to see. “Don’t touch it,” she warned.
“Wow! Those are dragons!” He reached for it and she pulled away. “Eww, are they kissing?”
“Not quite, but they want to.” Kat kissed her brother on the head and they went inside.
* * * * *
Kat had a knack for snooping. She knew of many secret passageways in the castle which was one thing she never even told Will or her family about. Will’s family was called to the council room on Will's thirteenth birthday and Kat felt she had the right to listen in, because Will was invited and she wasn't. The king was there, as were Will's parents, Silas and Kimberly, and his sister, Samantha.
The king began, “Dear William, happy birthday. I suppose you are wondering why the king would seek the audience of a silversmith in training?”
“Am I in trouble?” Will asked, “I am a slow learner, but I’m doing better than Borin in metalworking.”
The kind chuckled and shook his head. “No, you aren’t in trouble. I'm not entirely sure how to tell you this, especially during a war. Perhaps I should have told you years before, but it would have altered your upbringing and been quite a weight on your shoulders.” The king shifted in his seat, “Tell me, young sir, what do you know of my late queen?”
Will got a little uncomfortable, “She was the only child to the king and queen before you. You were the knight who won her hand. The queen passed away around the time I was born. My mother, Kimberly, spent much of her time attending to the queen in her sickness. She and Lady Sierra were both with child, that is, Katrina and me. Some rumor around the kingdom says the queen was poisoned by our enemies, though my mother says those theories are questionable. I honestly don't know much about her, sire. I'm not sure what you are looking to hear.”
The king looked wistfully at Will. “It is well, William. First of all, I’m not the knight who initially won her hand. My older brother, Frederick placed first and I placed second in the competition for her hand. We both spent a good deal of time with her after that and she ended up begging her parents to let her marry me instead of him. To cut it short, he is the King of Tezel now, and relations between our kingdoms have been bad ever since.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Will was wondering what relevance this had to him.
“More importantly,” Alexander got back on task, “I'm afraid the truth has been hidden from you, for good reason, I will tell you. Allow me to share some more information about my queen. She was young and vivacious. She loved the outdoors and all things beautiful. She loved her kingdom and her people. She always believed that the greatest ruler was a servant, and she spent much of her time in a work dress, without a crown, helping others. Her favorite activity was gardening. And she did die of a sickness in a way, but the truth is she died giving birth to you, William.”
Kat covered her mouth to keep her gasp from echoing into the room. Her William was a prince? And a crowned prince at that. In her mind she immediately started correlating all the events that were affected by this fact.
Will was also stunned. He was dumb for a moment and then thrust out the words, “Me? But that would make me a... I mean, I'm just... that would make you my...”
The king gave a nervous smile, “Yes, William, I am your father.”
Will stared at him in complete confusion, then he looked at Silas and Kimberly, who he thought to be his parents for the past thirteen years, “Is it true?”
Silas held Kimberly close as this was painful information to give; though he wasn't their birth son, they raised him and felt he was their own. “Yes, William,” Kimberly said with tears visible on her face, “At the request of the queen, we took you as our own. But you are still my son; you are ours. We are a family, whether you were carried by me or the queen.”
Will gave Kimberly a hug, “Yes, Mom, Dad, and Samantha. You will always be mine; we are family, after all.” Will turned to the king, “Your majesty... Father? Might I inquire why the queen wanted this information kept from me?”
The king sighed, “You do deserve to know, my son. Since Sierra, the lady-in-waiting, was with child at the same time as my queen, Kimberly took on a lot of the responsibility of caring for the queen. The queen had complications and knew she would not survive. After you were born, she called all of us present into the room. She named you William to remind you that your will is the only thing that can't be taken from you. She told us that you needed a mother and should be raised properly by a mom and dad. Though she regretted that she could not be the one to raise you.”
The king sighed and continued, “Also, Frederick has always desired this kingdom. He wouldn’t let me meet his child out of spite and I don’t want him to know about you as he uses my loved ones as leverage. This was not the only reason though. We wanted you to experience life as non-royalty so you could understand better how to serve in your kingdom before your kingdom served you. We came to a mutual consensus that Silas, my silversmith, and his wife, Kimberly, would take you in as their own. I must say, I am very pleased with their handiwork; you have grown into a fine young gentleman.”
“Thank you, your majesty. I mean, Father?” Will stuttered.
“Now, in the midst of war, it is still not time for others to know that you are the crowned prince. You will continue your life as a silversmith until we deem it safe to let it be known that you are royal. Do not tell anyone you are my son.”
“May I tell Kat?” Will asked. Kat was flattered to know he thought of her.
“You would,” Samantha remarked.
The king hesitated, “No, it would be best you don't. Katrina is a good girl, but we can't let this secret spread yet.”
“Yes, my lord… King… Father?”
The king smiled, “I have longed to hear you call me your father.”
“I already call them Mom and Dad, but you and the queen can be Mother and Father.”
The king smiled again, “You are a fine young man. I'm sure the queen couldn't dream of a better title. Your mother is proud of you.” He glanced at Kimberly, “Both of them are.”
The young man cried and embraced the king as one would expect of a boy who just found a father.
Later, while leaving the room, Samantha commented to Will, “Wow, I was right all those times I said you were adopted. Don’t worry though, I don’t want to sell you to the gypsies anymore.”