The Octology of the Seven Hats
Part One: An Odd Beginning
Chapter Four: The Journey Begins
Malbo and the others got up early the next morning, so early that the star had not yet risen above the horizon. They had a quick breakfast before King Botanio and Queen Zarima lead them to the dock. Ralinok, the head guard who had lead the questers to the palace, tagged along with them to see them off.
Vilhaun guided the group to their ship. As it was very early in the morning, the docks were quite still and hollowly quiet.
“So, Vilhaun,” Botanio said, “how long will it be before we come back?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” Vilhaun replied. “It could be less than a year, or it could be ten years. I don’t quite know. It depends on how quickly we can locate all seven of the Hats.”
“What is your best guess, though?” Botanio asked.
“Hmm,” Vilhaun pondered. “I’d say, at best, it will take us about five years to journey everywhere by foot and journey back. What are you going to do about the government of your kingdom?”
“That is just what I was wondering about,” Botanio replied. “If Ralinok is willing, I will leave the kingdom in his hands until my return.”
“No, my king,” Ralinok said, turning white with fear. “I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not worthy of such a job as ruling the magnificent kingdom of Tolben.”
“On the contrary,” Botanio replied. “I believe it is I who should choose who is worthy and who is not. Ralinok, you and I have known each other since we were just beginning to walk. Secondly, you have been the Head Guard of my palace all twelve years of my reign. If there is anyone I trust the most, it is you, Ralinok.”
“If you say so,” Ralinok replied. “If you believe I can do it, then I’m sure that I can.”
“Good,” Botanio replied. “It will be some time before I return, and I intend to return to, more or less, the same kingdom that I am leaving. If you wish, you can let some of the other guards and servants do some of the work of governing, but no matter what happens, you will be the one held responsible when I return. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my king,” Ralinok replied. “I have just one question.”
“Ask away,” Botanio commanded.
“Alright. How will all of the other people know that I am the temporary ruler of Tolben? If I just try to win the trust of the people, they will laugh at me, or, worse, they will hang me as a traitor and a murderer of the king.”
“Ah, yes,” Botanio replied. “I have a paper in the topmost drawer of my desk that has my seal and signature naming you the temporary governor of Tolben. And, as you can see, I have the only seal in my possession with me.” Botanio pulled a large seal from his pocket. “However, I have also told some of the other guards of my plan. I hope that there will be no trouble. If there is, I trust it will be within your ability to sort it out. Alright?”
“Alright, my king,” Ralinok replied, sighing. “I will do my best to keep your kingdom ready for your return.”
“Thank you, Ralinok,” King Botanio said. “I name you the temporary governor of Tolben. May you and your posterity prosper.”
“Farewell, King Botanio,” Ralinok replied. “You are a wise and just king. May you survive to live many years of peace and happiness.”
“And you too, my friend,” Botanio replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a quest to be attending to. Farewell, my friend! May your rule be as wise as my father and his father before him.”
Ralinok smiled and waved as the group of questers boarded the ship.
Vilhaun had succeeded in bringing the eleven unicorns along as well. Souiloen and Tagac led the beautiful, tame creatures onto the ship. The unicorns were like white horses, except the hair on their back and tail were soft like silk, so soft that it would be most comfortable to ride them without a saddle. Each unicorn had a long horn the color of brilliant gold. They weren’t large creatures, but what they lacked in size they made up for in strength. They were the strongest, fittest, and most enduring creatures on the ship.
Sofi the phoenix flew above the anchored ship. She was a colorful bird with bright red and orange plumage and a bright yellow beak. Her tail feathers and the tips of her wings were colored dark brown and, oddly, her head feathers were bright turquoise. She was quite large, having a wingspan of twelve feet.
Soon, all eleven questers and all eleven unicorns were packed safely on the ship. Dwiedle had replenished the stores the night before for the long journey ahead. Tagac pulled up the anchor and Vilhaun filled the sails with a spell from his powerstick. They watched Ralinok and then Shar disappear behind them and the Great West Sea expand before them. Their journey had officially begun.
Come back next week for Part Twelve!
The Octology of the Seven Hats copyright 2018 by Stewart Forthofer. All rights reserved. All likeness of any characters in this book to any person, past or present, is purely coincidental.