The next several days passed quickly. Mascherò, Alyssa, Teddy, Heather, and even Lillianne attended the sports competitions. Despite her initial apprehension at the notion of burly men doing burly men-type things, Lillianne started yelling like a gambler at one of the wrestlers. She of course kept her dignified manner while doing so. In the downtime when Lillianne was with her family and Alyssa and Theodore were doing administrative things, Mascherò and Heather conversed. He found he rather liked Heather. She acted oddly around him, always flushing red when he complimented her, but he thought nothing of it. She was equally as excited when he related new ideas for dresses that Lillianne had told him.
"She wants to try this multicolored, multilayered dress where each layer is its own color. She said she got the idea from my glamour."
"Sounds about right," Heather said.
"Not sure I like the idea. Too many colors is too active, but you were right, as always."
Heather grinned. "And how would that be, slyboy?"
"Once that girl gets her mind on something…" he started. "She never lets it go," they finished together. Both of them erupted into laughter punctuated by snorts. Heather scooted closer to Mascherò. "I was wrong about you, Mascherò." She stopped and then shook her head. "Naw, I wasn't wrong, just a little off." He rolled his eyes.
"You're a good friend. It's nice to see Miss Frou-Frou talking to someone else about her new-fangled ideas."
Mascherò looked down. "Except I'm going back to Selema soon."
Heather said, "Oh."
He and Heather conversed little after that. They smiled and waved at each other and talked while Alyssa and Lillianne were present, but they didn't speak privately. His conversations with Alyssa and Theodore, while unique to their personalities, both seemed to end on that same sour note. Lillianne refused to end their conversations like that and instead tried to redirect them to something more positive. It worked for a bit, but one of them would always say something that reminded the other about the inevitability of his leave.
And then the day came.
Lillianne's parents had rented a carriage to take Mascherò, Lillianne, Alyssa, Heather, and Theodore to the trainstation. Mascherò had glamoured his clothes to be military attire. His blazer was navy blue as were his slacks, and his shoes were a polished ebony color. On his shoulders he wore his family crest: a mirror that showed a reflection of a soldier with his sword drawn to his face. He wore a blue and brown striped tie that bore the same emblem at the tongue. He had even made his hair slightly more brunette. Alongside Alyssa the two looked like siblings. Theodore was equally impressive. His blazer was not as glamorous as Mascherò's, but it fit him well. Heather finally decided to wear a dress (of Lillianne's design, of course). It was a light cream colored dress with spring green along the hem and some grapevine patterns. Lillianne on the other hand wore a simply purple frock that had very little embroidery. Mascherò had no idea what had caused the reversal of roles. Neither girl had given much of an explanation except some stifled giggles.
Mascherò was now looking at his pocketwatch. The train was fifteen minutes late. Alyssa and Theodore waited patiently at attention as they had been trained. Heather seated herself and rested her head on her hand sloppily. Some things never change. Lillianne was reading a book next to Heather. Periodically, she'd lean over and show something to Heather who would giggle warmly. Mascherò sighed. He had only known them for 10 days, but he felt so close to everyone now. He didn't want to leave.
His thoughts turned to his father. What would he say? His father would no doubt yell at him for running away then bring up pretending to be a girl and tarnishing the family's reputation. His mother would probably stand in the background waiting for his father to be finished before stroking his arm gently and reassuring him. Everything would go back to the way it was. He absolutely dreaded that.
The sound of the train approaching snapped him from his thoughts. It couldn't come fast enough. It was going to happen, but Fate apparently wanted to prolong his dread as long as possible. Mascherò noticed Alyssa and Theodore's posture becoming more rigid. Lillianne closed her book and looked in a window at her reflection to make any last minute adjustments. Heather just teased Lillianne who teased back. Everyone seemed oblivious to the storm that was about to occur but him. As the train pulled to a stop, his breathing became more erratic. Lillianne held his hand comfortingly. He appreciated the gesture. "I'm sure they'll just be happy to have you back," she reassured. "Yeah, I'm sure," he said bitterly. The conductor stepped off the train and opened the doors. Several people filed out. He didn't recognize any of them. Since they simply flowed around him, Mascherò realized the train had not been reserved. That struck him as odd.
Then his mother crashed into him, hugging, kissing, and crying tears of joy.
"Mom," he said. He hugged her. He was happy to see her though he was taken aback. He never remembered his mother ever being this emotional, even when news of his grandmother's death had come a few years ago. She examined him carefully to make sure he wasn't hurt. Theodore had relayed as much information about the gorgons as possible. She probably knew everything at this point. She continued to fret over him for several moments. Alyssa and Theodore suppressed smiles with great difficulty. Heather and Lillianne giggled as Mascherò started to calm his mother down.
"I'm fine, mom. I'm really fine," he said. He couldn't be annoyed with her.
"Yes, yes, of course. Just let a mother worry," she answered.
He bristled. Sir Cassius Dewan stood at the entrance to the train. He had his arms folded behind his back. It was clear Mascherò got his blonde hair from his mother, and that it had been marred by his father's dark brown hair. Mascherò shook slightly. Something was off. After cataloguing his father's attributes, he realized his father wasn't frowning or looking down at him. His expression remained neutral. Mascherò didn't answer. Alyssa and Theodore saluted Sir Dewan. He nodded his head and motioned for them to relax. That was a first. Normally father ignored the lower ranks.
"It's...good to see you, father," said Mascherò. He wasn't sure what else to say.
Sir Dewan strode forward and stopped in front of his son. After another moment of silence, his expression broke down and became a torrent of joy and sadness. He embraced his son. Mascherò stood frozen, not sure of what to do. "I'm sorry," choked Sir Dewan. Mascherò now broke down as well. He knew what his father was sorry for. Lady Dewan embraced both men in her life, and the three shared a good laugh of relief that they were together again and that things would be different.
The four stood back. They didn't want to be ignored, but neither did they feel that they could impose. Mascherò turned around and smiled. "Mother, father, these are my friends." He held out his hand to Lillianne who took it daintily. "This is Lillianne Tailor. She shares my passion of style and artwork almost as much as I do," he said. She gave a deep curtsy. "I am honored to meet a knight of Prince Remul," she said.
"We are honored to meet one of Mascherò's first friends," replied his mother.
Lillianne blushed furiously. She stepped back and allowed Heather step forward. She bungled the curtsy, but neither Sir Dewan nor Lady Dewan minded. "This is Heather…" Mascherò turned white. She had never told him her last name. "Heather DeVine," she finished. Lillianne smiled. Heather seemed to be perfectly capable of functioning in high society thanks to her help.
Alyssa and Theodore stepped forwards formally after Heather backed up. Mascherò cleared his throat. "This is the eleventh envoy of Queen Orphiria, Alyssa di Solaris and her ward Sir Theodore." Theodore blushed slightly, being referred to as "sir." Sir Dewan cocked his head. "'Alyssa'? I recognized that name…" Alyssa and Mascherò exchanged confused glances.
"Ah, now I remember. Prince Remul speaks of you frequently."
Alyssa blushed ten shades of red. "I-Is that s-so? I-I-I'm honored."
Theodore rolled his eyes.
Sir Dewan turned to his son and nodded firmly. "It seems I was wrong of you, Mascherò. I kept you on a short leash because after I...ehem...isolated you for so long, I was worried you couldn't make friends without help. I see that I was completely wrong. You've blossomed extraordinarily well in such a short amount of time. You have a fine group of companions, son. I would hope you'll invite them to Selema? All expenses paid of course."
Lillianne and Heather's mouths dropped open in a particularly unladylike fashion.
"Of course, father!" replied Mascherò. Yes, everything would be different.
"Dear, I think you have something to say to our boy," said Lady Dewan.
Sir Dewan chuckled. "Son, I have never been so proud of you in my life."
Mascherò's heart grew three sizes in that moment.
Lady Dewan nodded but prodded more firmly. "That was wonderful, but don't you have something else to tell Mascherò?"
Sir Dewan grinned. "I do." He fished for a parchment in his coat pocket and unfurled it. "Allow me, Sir," offered Theodore. Sir Dewan nodded and placed the unfurled proclamation in Theodore's hands. He cleared his throat and stated:
"By Proclamation of Queen Orphiria
Once in every blue moon, we are blessed with talented individuals who will shape our lives in ways we cannot fathom. However, once in every hundred blue moons, we are blessed with such spectacularly gifted individuals, that not acknowledging their skill to the four corners of the realm would be a capital crime. Mascherò Dewan, son of Sir Cassius Dewan of Selema is one such individual. His is the most profound and talented glamour magic we have seen in these past three centuries. We are deeply humbled that the goddess had blessed us with such a subject in my realm. As such it is with great pride and happiness that we name Mascherò Dewan, son of Sir Cassius Dewan of Selema, as the royal tailor for us and our brother, Prince Remul. Additionally, he shall be consulted for any and all changes in the uniform of the royal guard in Selema and Solaris. We pray that Mascherò Dewan, son of Sir Cassiu Dewan of Selema shall accept our offer and continue to bless us with his miracle of an art for years to come."
Sir Dewan closed the scroll himself; Theodore was unable to move and neither was anyone else. Lady Dewan beamed at her son. Lillianne and Mascherò looked at each other then back to Sir Dewan in bewilderment. "How…" started Mascherò. He couldn't finish the thought. Sir Dewan answered simply, "I found some of your designs and glamours after you ran away from home. I sent them to Prince Remul a few days later when he asked about you. To say he was impressed was an understatement."
He and Lillianne embraced, and Heather hooted with joy. Alyssa and Theodore broke protocol and joined the group hug.
"Well," asked Sir Dewan, "do you accept?"
Mascherò nodded vigorously. He could only respond in garbled noises.
"Then let's be off. Prince Remul wishes to see you immediately so we can start your employment first thing next week." Sir Dewan and his wife walked through the doorway and waited for their son to finish saying his goodbyes. Mascherò turned to his friends and hugged each of them individually.
"You take care of Lillianne, you hear?"
"I did fine on my own, slyboy. Don't you worry your pretty little head," answered Heather.
"Alyssa, thanks for everything."
She nodded and hugged him silently. She didn't want to burst into tears so unprofessionally.
"Ted. Thanks for...explaining that," he said with a grimace.
"Please, don't mention it." Both boys shook hands and hugged awkwardly.
When he got to Lillianne, she embraced him first and sighed. "I'll miss you ever so much, Mascherò." He hugged her tighter. "Me too, Lillianne." He placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed both of her cheeks. She grinned. "So you do do that in Selema."
"No, I just felt like kissing you."
She backed up, her face feeling hot and steamy.
Sir Dewan and Lady Dewan smiled and put their arms around Mascherò as he entered the train. They wave goodbye one last time before disappearing. The train started before they could get to their seats. Mascherò looked out the window excitedly and waved back at his friends until they disappeared into the distance. Once he couldn't see them any longer, he faced his father who sat across from him and said, "You're going to hate me for this."
Both parents looked at their son panicked. This was the first thing he had said since getting on the train. They weren't sure what to expect. He took a deep breath. He didn't want to say the wrong thing and close down the possibility forever. "Father, we have some...catching up to do." Sir Dewan nodded stoically. He was completely aware of his mistakes these past several years. Hopefully, it wasn't too late to fix them if only partially. "Yes we do, Mascherò. I hope...you can forgive me."
"With time, but I need to ask this of you."
They held their breath.
"I...I want to live in Greenwood with my friends. Is it possible to have my operations set up there instead of Selema and correspond with his Highness via mail instead?" Sir and Lady Dewan looked at each other. He coughed and said carefully, "I suppose so. I believe Master Ettro Vadrough did the same thing several decades ago. It's just that we only just got you back-."
"Cassius," chided his mother. "We were worried sick because we had no idea where Mascherò was. Now that we know where he wants to live and that he is in good hands, I'm sure we can get used to the idea." Sir Dewan sighed in defeat. His wife always had the final say in family matters. "Yes, you may, Mascherò." Mascherò pumped his arm in a very ungentlemanlike fashion. "Once we get you situated and oriented with Prince Remul, we'll schedule a return train within the next few weeks. It'll be a nice surprise for Miss Tailor, won't it?"
Mascherò averted his gaze but was clearly grinning.
"Thank you, father, but that's not why I think you two will hate me."
Both of his parents were confused. "What could ever make us hate you?" asked his mother.
Mascherò's illusion exploded in a sparkling cloud of golden dust. Sir and Lady Dewan stood up surprised. Lady Dewan grabbed her binoculars and looked out the window at the trainstation. Lillianne and Heather were talking between themselves animatedly. Alyssa and Theodore were watching in amusement.
"Come on, have you two gone and kissed each other anymore?" prodded Heather.
"No, it was just that one time!"
"You mean two times?" Heather snickered. Lillianne blushed. "Well, yes, I suppose it would be two times, but that is all!" She let out a long sigh. "Honestly how long as you going to keep teasing m-AH!" Someone covered her eyes with their hands.
Lillianne tore off Mascherò's hands and looked at him speechlessly.
"Mascherò?! What are you doing here?"
"I live here. Why wouldn't I come home?"
"What about your ma and pa?" asked Heather.
"They were open to the idea."
"I sure hope so," said Alyssa. "I don't want to be charged with kidnapping."
Apparently, he needed to pay the carriage driver extra money for the extra passenger. Then when he got home, he needed to reglamour his house. Maybe he should add another room to it or put in a small garden? The room could be a glamour, but the garden had to be grown manually. Heather might be able to give him some guidance. And then he needed to send a letter to Prince Remul stating why he wouldn't be present at the correspondence. Teddy would help with that. Maybe Alyssa could help him with his glamour in the meantime? His magic was self-taught after all. And then perhaps he could work with Lillianne making clothes. She could have the dresses, he could help her father design the suits. Maybe he could give some advice there? So much to do, and there wasn't even a festival to prepare for.
There was nothing like being home again.