The Royal Library

Robert walked slowly down the hall, wondering what to do. There were probably things he should do, but he didn't feel like handling them right now. What he did want was a break, a break from worrying about finding a bride, from wondering where Sakirah was and what she was doing; just an all-round break.

Robert's thought wavered as he looked up. He was surprised to see that his feet had led him to the library without his notice. However, he rather thought that his feet had a good idea. Libraries are excellent places to hide from unwanted thoughts and to escape from the dull realities. He smiled as he followed the well-worn path to his favorite corner of the library, a small recess with a bay window and several comfortable chairs.

He headed straight to the seat with the best view of the countryside and threw himself into it without looking around at the other seats. A book that he had been reading was lying on the table. He looked at it for a moment, then reached his arm over and seized it. Within moments he was comfortably absorbed in a tale of daring deeds done by a brave knight.

A soft tapping rhythm pierced his oblivion, puzzling him. A few minutes later this was followed by humming, not quite out of tune, but lacking tone. The hum gradually became words:

Softly goes the silver stream

as quietly it sings.

Warmly glows the sun's gold beam

as love about it springs.

Two birds hid in foliage green,

sing of love, to all who hear.

They, for love, they their feathers preen

and their love flows far and near.

Robert started up from his book at Kimera, who was gracefully draped on a nearby chair, swaying her foot in time to the music. He lifted his eyebrows and his eyes widened slightly. He wouldn't have expected Kimera to sing that poorly, and that was a song he'd only heard a very different version of. Also he didn't know that Kimera knew where the library was, let alone about his corner.

Her song died as she felt his eyes upon her. "Hello," she greeted. "I'm sorry if I disturbed you."

"It's quite all right. I was just surprised," he assured her. "I didn't know that you knew the library well enough to have found this corner."

She smiled her fascinating smile. It was soft, inviting, yet knowing and slightly alarming. "Peter showed me the library the day after I was invited to stay in the castle, I naturally wandered about it until I knew the general lay out. I found this charming corner, and since then have often returned to the quiet of this place," she said, somewhat dreamily, and somewhat pretentiously.

"This particular niche of the library is one of my favorite retreats as well," Robert informed her in his best snobbish accents.

She laughed. "You're better at being a snob."

"I'm not sure that's a compliment. But, well, I've had a lot of excellent teachers on the subject." Robert answered.

Kimera laughed, and her foot, which was hanging off the arm of the chair, bobbed up and down.

Robert chuckled. "So, what are you doing in here today, other than singing?"

"Well, other than that I was reading," she said as she showed him the book she had been reading.

"Hey, that's the sequel to the book I'm reading!" exclaimed Robert, smiling broadly.

"Oh, I really like that book. Sir Jonathon is so courageous, and chivalrous, and brilliant! I spent almost the whole time reading that book wishing that I was Lady Rebecca. I mean, the cleverest, most awesome knight ever admires her, probably even loves her, does everything to please her, and she doesn't notice. She just sees his good qualities as admirable, and him as a great asset to her kingdom. Has she no heart? Is she blind?" Kimera exclaimed.

Robert grinned broadly, the subject of his favourite book being quite enough to help him forget his unease around Kimera. "Oh, well, I guess Sir Jonathon does like her. But I think he does most everything because it's right, that it might please her is an additional bonus. I mean, he's a great guy. Look at everything he does, it's all amazingly difficult, and of course it's all for the greater good. He's completely loyal to everyone he's attached to, his king, his friend, his lady, his horse, and everyone else that needs him for the moment. He's not at all selfish, he's always helping out the helpless, the defenseless, and women. He's my hero," Robert said.

"He is amazing," Kimera agreed. "How many of the books have you read?"

"Not too many, I'm too busy to read as much as I'd like to. I have too many duties to get away much. Actually, there is probably something I'm supposed to be doing right now," Robert explained, his momentary happy mood fading.

A heavy crash prevented a sullen silence, and Robert and Kimera both started. Kimera uncurled with catlike ease, and with the same fluid motion put the book down and stood up. Robert had already put his book down and was quietly making his way out of the mazelike rows of books towards the sound. Kimera followed him out. They slowed to a silent stop near the loud voices of Thomas and Charles, then peered around the corner and saw Thomas helping Charles stand up from his sprawling position on the floor. Peter turned into the aisle from around another corner, scowling slightly and holding a book with his thumb between the pages.

"Thank you," said Charles to Thomas. He moved somewhat gingerly over to the bookcase and started to climb.

Thomas put his hand on Charles's shoulder, "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm climbing the bookcase," Charles replied, shrugging Thomas's hand off his shoulder.

"Climbing the bookcase, again? Why?" Thomas asked in confusion.

"What do you think I'm doing? I'm looking for people," Charles said, turning partially around. "There's a much better view up there. I'll be able to find them and ask my question. You were looking for them, weren't you?"

"You confounded fool, you have no idea what I was doing, so you just go boil your head in an empty bucket," Thomas exclaimed. "Anyways, I don't even think there is one tonight, so why bother looking finding out what time it is?"

"No, don't you play stupid with me, I know what you were doing, and I was of a mind to do the same. Not to mention I wanted to know the time," said Charles as he went back to looking for a new handhold on the next shelf up.

"Charles, you don't need anyone to play stupid with," said Thomas.

"Now, I know I'm right, you don't have to tell me anything," said Charles, absently, focused on his climbing.

Thomas groaned and threw his head back. "You, my friend, are only right when you have taken three lefts."

"I already told you I know what you were doing. I'm clever, I know. You don't have to tell me," Charles said as he pulled up his other leg.

Thomas sat down. "You are amazing, at showing your total lack of cleverness."

Robert smothered his chuckle behind his hand, this was an old game. Charles would pretend to not pay attention to what someone was saying, then make an answer, twisting what the person he was playing with into a compliment. Thomas loved insulting people, and had a rather low opinion of Charle's intelligence. He almost always played along, though Robert didn't think Thomas had ever realized that Charles was playing anything. He looked over at Kimera, who despite her confused looking eyes had her lips twisted in a sort of smile one gets when holding back laughter.

The back of Robert's neck prickled as he saw Kimera lean over, way too close for comfort, and shield her mouth delicately with her hand. He turned slightly away. "Is he being deliberately dense, or is it an accident?" he heard Kimera whisper to him.

Robert grinned, unexplainably relieved. "It's deliberate," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

Kimera nodded in amusement, and straightened again.

"Yes, yes. I know I'm clever. Telling me once was quite enough," said Charles.

"If I told you that you have any superior qualities, it would be a complete untruth," Thomas yawned as he glanced up and down the aisle. He grinned at Robert, and Kimera. Robert wasn't sure Thomas had noticed Peter.

"I grow tired of telling you to stop admitting to my superiority. I can only take so much flattery," Charles said as he continued to climb up the bookcase.

"To flatter you was never my purpose, I'm just telling the truth."

"Of course. I know exactly what you mean. Now I really don't need you to tell me anymore. I won't tell you again to stop telling me how utterly brilliant I am."

"Charles, you are a fool, an idiot, a dolt, and a nincompoop."

"What? Who's a nincompoop?"Charles asked, turning back slightly to give Thomas a look slightly too puzzled for Robert to believe.

"You haven't listened carefully to what I've been saying, have you?"

"No, did I miss anything?"

"Not really, I was simply telling you a few things about yourself. I don't think you'd like them though," said Thomas, smiling slyly.

"Oh, that's not very nice. Well, aren't we getting off topic?"

"We never had a different one," said Thomas, with his eyes closed.

Robert chuckled. "Were you looking for someone?" he asked, changing the topic.

Charles seemed to notice him for the first time. He smiled, and jumped off the bookcase, narrowly missing Thomas.

Thomas recoiled slightly. "Watch where you're going, will you? You nearly hit me."

Charles smiled innocently, "So sorry."

Robert frowned. Thomas and Charles might not always get along together as well as some of his other friends, but he had never seen them so close to actually hostile to eachother.

"So what were you guys trying to do in here?" Robert asked his chuckling companions, still curious.

Peter held up his book. Thomas gave a noncommittal shrug and mumbled something about looking up a book. Charles grinned slyly. "I was trying to see what you two were up to," he said, looking pointedly at Robert and Kimera. "You know, it makes me wonder when a guy and a girl have both disappeared." He laughed as they rolled their eyes in annoyance. "Actually, there was something we need to do this evening, and I needed to know the time."

Robert groaned and hit his head with his palm. "Charles, Kimera and I were just talking. And what is it that we need to do? I don't remember anything."

Peter gave Robert a weird look. "You don't remember?"

Robert took a long breath, and said, "What was I supposed to remember?"

"The banquet, remember?" said Peter.

Robert thought back. A banquet, why would there be a banquet? He squeezed his eyes shut. What could there possibly be a banquet for?

Charles looked at Thomas, "He doesn't remember."

"I can't believe it. Prince Carl Robert Strine doesn't remember a banquet held in his own home, in honor of him," said Thomas, shaking his head.

Robert glared at him. "Since when did you call me that? Anyways, I'm not the only one who forgot, as you can see. It should start in..." he checked his pocket watch and made a small sound in the back of his throught, "five minutes, we should be there already."

Peter started. "Five minutes? Yikes! How in all possibility can we ready quickly enough to do that?"

"In possibility? Well, I don't think we will be on time. I suggest we... run,"Robert told them, and immediately took his own advice. A second later the others followed his example, each running off in the direction of their rooms.

"I wish we could skip it," muttered Peter as he ran alongside Robert, Peter's rooms were close to Robert's.

Robert huffed what would have been a sigh if he hadn't been running, "Too bad we can't without it looking very bad."

Charles, whose rooms were in the same general direction and was a faster runner faltered in front of them. Robert and Peter looked up, and immediately slowed to a stuttering stop. Sir Alfred Rawlins, Peter's father, the Duke of Pascodi, stood in the center of the corridor, glaring at them in pompous indignation.

Sir Alfred Rawlins was a highly important person. As the king's younger brother Sir Alfred had inherited a large fortune, which he unfortunately was inclined to flaunt at court. He draped himself with too many jewels, rich furs, and gold. This, along with his mustache which he dyed a musty red and his usual supercilious expression, gave him the appearance of an indignant rooster. His position as the King's brother gave him a powerful voice in court. Unfortunately, his voice rarely said the things which Robert wished he would. Sir Alfred loved to criticize Robert, and his friends, and he loved to give lectures, preferably lengthy lectures, squawking like an angry hen the whole time.

"What do you think you are doing?" he demanded. "The Crown Prince and the heir to the Pascodi estate running through the halls like little children, completely unprepared for the feast, it is shockingly bad behavior, even for you!" He paused slightly for breath.

"Father, we-" began Peter.

"What if someone had seen you?! The disgrace! And the banquet, which you will most certainly be late for! How dare you be late! The impudence of it! How dare you risk making the King and myself and your mothers loose face! I can already hear in my mind the talk! The whole court will be buzzing with the talk! And am I mistaken, or did I see the Lady Kimera? So improper. She will be late also, and that will set the confounded gossiping tongues wagging all the more. Most improper. It is unthinkable. I cannot imagine a reason, which could possibly excuse you of this most gross assault on the dignity of our kingdom. I am ashamed of all of you, most especially of that young man who is called the prince," Sir Alfred squawked, shaking his finger at Robert, and his fat face flushed.

"Uncle, you go too far!" cried Robert, straightening to his full height.

For a moment the corridor was still and silent.

Sir Alfred took several deep breaths, his nostrils flaring angrily. "Go. Do not run, do not move too hurriedly. You will be late anyway, and it is not worth losing face before servants to be seen acting in such an undignified manner."

Robert nodded in acknowledgment, as Charles and Peter gave small bows, turned and left, his friends following.

A.N. Sorry I haven't written in a long, long time. I did edit this chapter, then re-edit, changing things around. We'll see if I can get more written and posted now.