Chapter II

Royal Proceedings

It was a dark morning; shades were closed, and doors locked. A foul stench hung stagnant in the air as Gomerick lay in his bed, eyes wide. It had been three days, and he had caught but a wink of sleep during its entirety. He had hardly moved, let alone eaten. His stomach growled, but there was no appetite to be satisfied. There were no projects that needed completion to get his mind off of the recent events that plagued his thoughts, and the will to search for work was nonexistent. In his eyes, all had been lost; his plans and aspirations to mentor the child whom he considered his own no longer existed. While lost in a torrent of depression, accompanied by a tremendous feeling of accountability, there was a pounding on the front door.

Gomerick was unfazed at first, but forced himself out of bed when a voice cried out, “Gomerick of Enghor, I come with urgent news from the king!” He opened the door the moment the messenger had turned around to depart.

“Yes?” Gomerick halfheartedly replied. The messenger spun back to see a man whom appeared to be seeing daylight for the first time in weeks. He shielded his eyes from the bright sun and appeared frail. He had neither shaven nor groomed since the incident and was, likewise, covered in filth.

“Might you be Gomerick?” The messenger apprehensively inquired. Gomerick grunted and nodded in accordance. The messenger looked puzzled, but continued. “Hmm…I have come to inform you, as well as congratulate you on behalf of the king, that the prince has chosen your sword to be his own.”

Without delay, Gomerick replied, “That is superb. Have a nice day.” He began to shut the door, but the messenger wedged his boot between it and the frame.

“The king would also find it most appropriate to congratulate you in person with a feast when the sun is highest in the sky. Mind you, it is at this time you are to be compensated as well.”

“Very well.” Gomerick muttered.

“Wonderful, I shall let his highness know to be expecting you.” He bowed, and Gomerick closed the door.

Immediately slinking down into a crouched position, Gomerick could not help but to allow a tear to roll gently down his grimy cheek. He put his face into his hands, clenched his eyes, and took a deep breath. The time had come to regain his composure, so he did his best by, first, rising to his feet and cleaning himself up. He bathed, trimmed his beard, and put on his finest clothes. When it was time, he left his home and approached the castle gate as he had done a few dismal days before.

Awaiting his arrival was a man humbled at the sight of the greatest smith; a familiar face that bowed acquiescently to the king’s guest. “Tis an honor, Gomerick. I was wrong to have doubted the ability of such a fine craftsman.”

Gomerick, too, bowed and said, “To err is human; to seek forgiveness is what makes a man great.”

The guard, suited in full armor, picked up his head and replied, “Spoken as a man beyond his years.” He proceeded to open an enormous, iron gate blocking a long pathway to the castle entrance. “The king is expecting you.” He gestured for Gomerick to enter, and he did so seamlessly.

Once beyond the gate, lush fields of green grass stretched from the castle itself to the walls surrounding it. Flags of Enghor riddled the border of the cobblestone walk to the castle doors. The flag of Enghor derived from the tale of Enghor’s vanquishing of Caelus and Avideus long ago. Man eternalized this tale by implementing an image of a black phoenix rising from the bottom of a white flag. In the backdrop were two red, intersecting swords. The border was one of gold. It was a fiery symbol used as a way to exemplify man’s power over the supernatural forces of Caelus and Avideus; a symbol to show her citizens that, together, they could achieve anything.

Slightly uphill, the stone castle towered over its guests. Directly behind it were jagged cliffs protruding vertically from the landscape. It was a natural barrier working in conjunction with the stone walls wrapped around the royal courtyard. This was as far west as the Kingdom of Enghor spanned, as a less habitable, mountainous landscape, as well as the Northwestern Bamboo Fields, remained beyond this point.

Enghor was, and remained, the original kingdom of man. To bring to life this grandeur, the architects responsible for developing the castle followed a common theme of bigger is better. Its size alone was a powerful reminder to guests and enemies alike of the magnitude of the kingdom’s heritage. Its enormous, hardwood double doors sat beneath a stone archway. Above this, the face of the castle stretched upward into the clouds, and from side to side spanned across half of the city. At the end, in either direction, was a bastion that overlooked the kingdom; the remainder of the castle backed into the mountains. Gomerick marveled at the extraordinary spectacle and managed to convert these feelings of wonder and awe into enthusiasm. He confidently strode to the entrance where two guards stood watch. Without a word, they granted him entry.

Opening to him was a brand new world; a world of luxury and elegance truly fit for a king. Chandeliers dropped down in abundance to a grand hall filled with nothing but the most finely crafted furniture, marble flooring, brilliant sculptures, ceiling artwork, and nearly every lavish accessory Gomerick could think of. Greeting him was a superbly dressed man whose clothes put Gomerick’s finest attire to shame.

“Good afternoon, Master Gomerick. The king and his kin are awaiting your arrival in the dining hall. If you would follow me, please.” Dazed by the culture shock induced by the room and its lone inhabitant, Gomerick followed dumbfounded.

They walked in silence down a proportionally long hallway filled with masterful paintings and sculptures until they reached a magnificent doorway that opened up to an ever more magnificent room; the royal dining hall. The ceiling was raised high above, and, hanging from an obscenely lengthy chain, was a golden chandelier large enough to light the entire room. It was as if a fireplace raged above the rectangular table fit to serve a small army of hungry staff. Seated at the head of the table, in what was a throne in likeness, was none other than King Wilhelm himself. He wore a powdered wig topped with a sumptuous crown showered in an assortment of rubies and gemstones. The number of rare stones nearly doubled that of what Alonzo presented on his readymade pallet. His wide, wrinkled face presented, quite visibly, the years his deep, blue eyes had seen. He was dressed in an elegant robe lined with animal furs, and seemed to complete the room with a larger than life presence about him. To his right was his son, Rigoberto; to his left, his daughter, Meia. Rigoberto had lengthy, brown hair, and had seen fewer years than Gomerick. As for Meia, she sat in a slender dress with her wavy, black hair draped upon her shoulders. Compared to Rigoberto, she had seen fewer years still. Even so, the two brought more prestige to the room than did the smith. Altogether, the three sat peacefully to greet their esteemed visitor as one of their own. As Gomerick graciously walked toward the table to take his seat beside the prince, he was quick to notice his handiwork latched to the side of the king to be. This was all Gomerick needed to feel as if he belonged, for a part of him was now royalty. When he reached the table, he fell to a single knee, bowed his head, and waited for a response from the king.

“Ah, the master craftsman himself, I presume.” King Wilhelm began. “Please, rise and take a seat beside the man whom entrusted his life with your work.”

Gomerick rose confidently and replied, “It is truly an honor, sire.” He pulled out a chair beside the prince and took a seat.

Prince Rigoberto turned to the craftsman and said, “I believe a man of your work would be all too intimate with the specific qualities that brought me to choose his blade, but I feel I must express these to you to accurately show my gratitude.” He withdrew the sword, “First, I must say, the balance is exquisite.” He maneuvered the blade in a tight swivel, slicing the air.

“Indeed, functionality is my chief concern.”

“Second, the engravings are truly inspiring.” He held the sword down to look more closely at the inscriptions. “Many a days I shall look upon these words for strength and guidance. Third…”
“Son, I believe that is enough.” The king interjected. “The man slaved over every bit of that blade. The last thing he needs to hear on his first visit to our humble abode is a lecture on his work.”

Prince Rigoberto immediately hushed up, and Meia giggled. “I assure you, your highness, it does not bother me in the slightest. In fact, I find it refreshing to receive feedback on any of my works. It keeps me up to par with my customer’s expectations, as well as my own.”

“Why yes, that is fine. Now, where is this feast I promised?” The king clapped his hands and dozens of servers flooded the room carrying tray after tray of steaming hot meat and fresh bread, along with the finest of ales, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The aroma was spectacular. As the king’s staff frenzied to place the meal in front of those eager to see it devoured, the king took a mighty whiff, followed by a royal exhale. “Is there any greater time of day?”

“I would think not.” The prince replied.

As everyone was served, the king raised his glass and said, “Meia, would you be so kind as to give this man a toast he unquestionably deserves?”

“Gladly.” She held her glass high, as did everyone else, and stated, “To the greatest smith in all of Enghor. May he continue to forge nothing but the very best a smith has to offer, and may he one day grace us with his skill and expertise once more. To Gomerick.”

“To Gomerick!” The king and prince recited. The four clanked glasses and took a collective sip. The king then added, “Now, let the feast begin.” With little hesitation, everyone began cutting into the meat on their plates, and devouring the succulent and abundant meal.

Gomerick turned to the princess and said, “Meia, you are too kind.”

She blushed, smiled, and said, “Twas nothing.”

“However, it was funny you should mention smithing in the future.”

“Why is that, Gomerick?” The king cut in, while cutting into a mighty steak.

“It may sound foolish, but I have been craving a change of pace in my life, and keeping an eye out for any opportunities that may satisfy this urge. Recently, I caught wind of Oberon’s need for a keeper to his quarters, and I was highly considering applying for the role. If it is not any trouble, may I speak with him before I take my leave?”

“You are truly a man full of surprises, Gomerick. First and foremost, you crafted a finer sword than our own smith here in the castle. Now, you claim you wish to change professions?” The king paused and looked into the distance, contemplating the circumstances of the situation. “It is a very curious move on your part, and I believe it would be best for you to stick to your craft.” He then returned his focus to Gomerick, and spoke in a much more certain tone, “However, if you feel you must pursue other interests, I am not one to stop you, and you have my blessing.”

“I agree with my father. It would be a shame to see a man of your talent cease doing what it is you do so well, but I hold no doubts that you will excel in whatever it is you decide to pursue.”

Gomerick, truly humbled, replied, “I thank you both. It means the world to me that the two of you, representing the present and future of Enghor, are so understanding.”

“Gomerick, the more time you spend with me today, the more you will come to realize my appreciation for those whom not only master their craft, but take pride in their work, and apply themselves as thoroughly as I am sure you have done to grace us with the quality blade my son now carries at his side. No man is born great, greatness develops over time; though, I trust you know this, for you sit here with me today. Rigoberto, Meia, do the two of you have anything you wish to say to our guest?”

Rigoberto immediately took hold of the opportunity and said, “It seems as though my father considers you a part of the family. I would have a hard time even beginning to express the number of times my father has given me talks of greatness.” He began to laugh, as did the king.

Meia smiled and added, “Calm down you two, if he is to be a part of our family, I believe I deserve a say in the matter.” The entire royal family erupted in laughter, and Gomerick sat, smiling to himself, in disbelief at how well his visit had turned out to this point.

Then, even to Gomerick’s surprise, he turned to Meia and replied, “I would surely be the luckiest man in all of Enghor.” He proceeded to give her a wink. The king and prince were too busy laughing to notice, but Meia did, and immediately began to blush. Gomerick soon blushed as well as his mind processed what he had just done.

As the king’s laughter died down, he held his stomach and said, “My goodness, this is too rich. Gomerick, I must say, you have been one of my favorite guests in a long while.”

“Thank you, sire, that means more than you know.”

“Feel free to call me Wilhelm.”

“Yes, it has been a pleasure, King Wilhelm.”

The king shook his head with a smile and pondered once more. “Gomerick, I have a proposal for you. If you are interested, that is.” Gomerick nodded along attentively. “I do not believe Oberon is in at the moment, but I shall send word to him of your interest in assisting him, giving you a good word, naturally. The only condition is that you must pledge to me your willingness to forge any other blades my family or I come to need in the future. What say you of that change of pace?”

Gomerick looked at the king in utter disbelief, turned to Rigoberto whom nodded, showing his approval, to Meia, whom smiled eagerly, and back to the king, whom was anticipating his answer. Gomerick hesitated no further, replying, “It would take a fool to decline such an offer. I accept.”

“Excellent!” The king exclaimed. He held out his hand with his palm down, and Gomerick leaned over the table to kiss the largest ring on his gem-studded hand to seal the deal. “I look forward to our next meeting, which I am sure shall come in time.”

“As am I, sire, as am I.”

The once massive feast began to shrivel to an end as everyone finished the process of dusting off their plates. With service men and women taking the dishes to the kitchen for cleaning, the king proclaimed, “That time already? It is too soon to say the least.”

Gomerick took this as his cue to stand up. He bowed to the king and said, “I thank you again for honoring me with such a delicious appointment. Please pass my compliments to the chef.”

“Indeed, Gomerick, Master Smith.” Gomerick picked up his head and began walking toward the door from which he had entered. “Perhaps we shall see more of you with Oberon in the days to come. Regardless, best wishes to you, as you shall forever hold a welcomed spot at this table, so long as I remain king.” The king was grinning ear to ear. Gomerick turned, bowed once more with an equally impressive smile, and exited the dining hall.

With a full stomach, Gomerick took the opportunity to fully appreciate the exquisite nature of the castle’s interior before exiting. Before he could exit, however, the man whom had shown Gomerick to the dining hall called him back. “Master Gomerick.” Gomerick turned to see the man with a wheelbarrow filled to the brim with gold coins. “Your earnings, sire; compliments of the king.”

Gomerick’s jaw nearly hit the floor. He had what he wanted to say in his head, but materializing it into words was becoming exponentially more difficult with each passing moment. Nonetheless, he managed to ask, in bewilderment, “What am I to do with all of this?”

“Whatever it is you please.” The man set down the cart and exited the room. In a trance, Gomerick took his time walking to his pay, appreciating its splendor. Needless to say, the sum was well beyond what he had expected. The king could have easily claimed the crafting of the sword to be a duty Gomerick owed to the kingdom, but none of this mattered, and he enthusiastically wheeled out the absurd quantity of gold.

As Gomerick entered the courtyard, the sun remained high in the vast, blue sky, and the gold reflected the sun’s rays onto his smiling face. The visit turned out better than he could have ever imagined, so, with luck on his side, he approached the guard at the exterior gate, and asked, “My good man, might you know when Oberon is set to return?”

The guard turned his attention to Gomerick and, after taking a moment to envy the smith’s haul, replied, “Gomerick, my new friend; alas, I do not. Is there something I can tell him for you upon his arrival?”

The guard was sincere, as was Gomerick, who replied, “No, it can wait. I meant to inquire about the position as his assistant, but there is always time. Thank you.” Gomerick began his trek home, but paused, turned to the guard, and said, “I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“Jarrell.” The guard responded.

“Well, Jarrell, it has been a pleasure. I only hope you will be okay with me visiting from time to time because I certainly intend to.” He paused and added, “You know what, here.” Gomerick stepped forward and tipped his wheelbarrow to the side, spilling what must have been at least 50 gold pieces, “For all your hard work.”

A look of wonder and joy came across Jarrell’s face as he enthusiastically replied, “I’ll be waiting.” He frantically began squeezing as many gold pieces into the crevices of his armor as he could manage.

Gomerick began his walk home once more, and, as he did so, a peculiar carriage drawn by two massive steeds, one white and the other brown, passed by. The carriage had the look of an oversized, purple pumpkin. Its passenger was obscured, and it stopped at the castle gate. Gomerick thought nothing more of it, but, as he turned away from the castle to continue home, Jarrell cried out, “Gomerick!”

Gomerick froze for a moment, set down his earnings, and rushed back. Trying his best not to pant, he stood tall, sucked in his gut, and approached the side of the carriage. “Oberon?”

A tall, lean gentleman with an aged, but not elderly, appearance sat within the carriage. He wore dark purple and grey robes, and held a wooden staff with a peculiar, black stone at the top. “Yes, that is my name. May I inquire who is asking?”

Jarrell took a moment from crawling on his hands and knees retrieving gold to reply, “Sir, this is the finest smith in the land. He…”

Oberon held out his hand to silence the enthusiastic guard. “Let the man speak for himself.”

Gomerick bowed as he did to the king and said, “My name is Gomerick, and I wish to lend my services to you as your assistant.”

The bearded man gazed upon the smith, and a strange feeling came over him, as if there was a small tingle in his spine. Yet, he masked the peculiar sensation as he continued, “Might I ask why you are so late to apply? I have had an assistant since yesterday.”

“I do apologize for not being as punctual as I would like. As Jarrell was explaining, I am, or was, a smith. I had an important project to complete for Prince Rigoberto, and I held a duty to finish that before pursuing interests of my own.”

“I am pleased to hear of your commitment and sense of duty, but what makes you wish to become my assistant? I am not sure that the job is best suited for a smith.”

“‘Tis for that reason entirely. Smithing is all I have ever known, and I wish to become educated in worldly affairs, as well as learn more of the history of Enghor and Friedünn. I have been seeking a change of pace in my life, and when I heard of your announcement, it was as if a voice within spoke to me saying that this was it. I am unsure of how to explain the feeling, but I knew it was meant to be.”

“That is all fine and good, but as I have stated previously, I already have an assistant.” Gomerick’s head fell, but Oberon continued, “However, I do believe your mind is in the right place, and your intentions are pure. Therefore, I shall give you a task to prove your worth. Forge for me two amulets: one of gold and one of silver. Bring them to me, and I shall consider then of your fate. Jarrell, when the time comes, allow Gomerick passage to my quarters.”

Jarrell was still on the ground, but looked up and replied, “Very well, sir.” He continued to scavenge for gold, and Oberon looked on at the guard in disgust.

Gomerick’s face was hardened with determination, “I will not disappoint you, Oberon. You have my word.”

“Then we shall soon see the true color of your character. Until our next meeting, Gomerick.” Gomerick nodded assertively, and Oberon whipped the reins of his carriage, inciting his horses to trot forward.

Jarrell stood up, for all the gold had been retrieved, turned to Gomerick, and said, “It looks as though you’ll be quite busy for the next few days.”

With his face consisting of the same resolve as before, Gomerick replied, “More than you know.” He retrieved his wheelbarrow of gold and left Jarrell as he returned to his dismembered home at a vigorous pace, drawing the envious eyes of onlookers as he went. He immediately went to his bedroom and stood up his bed. Below was a maroon carpet that he quickly withdrew to reveal a large, wooden hatch. Inside was a secret storage area consisting of a floor of gold coins and several chests sitting atop. He removed one of the smaller chests from the collection and wheeled in his earnings from the king, nearly burying everything else within. He proceeded to close the hatch, cover it with the carpet, and lower his bed. He then placed the dusty chest on his bed to retrieve a key from under a candle on his mantle, and quickly unlocked and opened the chest to reveal the rare metals he would need for his new project: a single, purified gold bar and a single, purified silver bar. With steely eyes, Gomerick returned to his workspace, for the first time since Amalrich’s disappearance, and scavenged through the mess on the floor for the tools necessary to begin making the amulets.

The remainder of the night was spent shaping as much material as necessary from the gold bar into an elliptic shape. It was a rough outline of what the final product was to be, but a fair start. The following morning was spent detailing this piece, and the final look came into being. The amulet of gold was to be linked to a chain, and the ellipse would rest vertically. In the center, Gomerick left space for a gemstone to be worked in and accentuated by the matte finish.

Luckily for Gomerick, he had, in his possession, previously crafted chains of gold and silver, among others, for occasions such as this, where a project was to be finished rather quickly. The process of creating chain from scratch was as long as it was tedious, and simply needing to choose the length of chain required was a relief. He cut off a section of chain long enough to wear around the neck, so that the amulet’s body rested just below the center of the chest.

The remainder of the day was spent beginning work on the silver amulet. This one was to be a circular shape, and the outline could be seen by nightfall. Still working at a blistering pace through the night, the final shape showed itself as a perfectly rounded, silver plate by morning. In its center, too, was a spot meant to hold a gem. Before deciding on which gems would fit the amulets best, though, he cut what length he needed from the silver chain in his collection for the silver amulet; this amulet was to be worn in the same fashion as the other. With both bodies securely attached to their corresponding chain by midday, it came time to visit Alonzo.

Gomerick dragged himself to Alonzo’s shop with black bags hanging beneath his eyes. He was slightly pale, for he had not seen the light of day since beginning work on the amulets, but he maintained a face possessed. His hair was greasy, his face and arms were filthy, and it was apparent that he had been working himself to death in order to complete the amulets with as much haste as possible while still holding to his standards. Entering the shop, Alonzo was, as usual, inspecting and cleaning diamonds from behind the front counter. When he heard Gomerick’s unmistakable, heavy footsteps, without glancing upward, he said, “I trust you intend to pay me upfront this time; eh, Gomerick?”

Gomerick sighed heavily with a smirk on his face at his friend’s distinct brand of humor. “I suppose we shall see, in due time.”

Wrapping up the inspection of a diamond, Alonzo asked, “What will it be?” He paused as he set down the flawless gem on a back shelf. Bringing forth his pallet of priceless gems as he turned, he added, “As you know, there are different cuts and sizes downstairs, so if you see a gem you like, I can get you whatever size and shape you desire.” Gomerick simply nodded along having heard the spiel a hundred times before. After a brief silence, Alonzo noticed Gomerick’s current state of fatigue and asked, “Another important project I presume?”

Gomerick grew wide eyed and replied, “More than you know.” He then caught his eye on a red stone that sparked his interest. “What of that one there?”

“Ah yes, that is a red, garnet stone.”

“Does it come in an oval cut, and perhaps slightly larger?”

“Indeed it does. Will that be all?” He began to lower his pallet, but before he could do so, Gomerick noticed a second gem. He pointed to it, and Alonzo said, “Tis a blue, zircon stone. One with a circular cut, as you can see.”

“That one would be perfect as is.”

“You would like both?” Gomerick nodded. “Very well, if you would give me a moment to retrieve your other cut, we can proceed with negotiations…and no funny business.” He pointed sternly at Gomerick who merely grinned. The petite man then trotted downstairs to retrieve the other stone.

Gomerick watched the shop for a brief period of time before Alonzo came bouncing back up the stairs holding the red stone. He placed it on the counter beside the blue one, and began, “So these two here?”

“Yes, that would be most satisfactory. Tell me, how much are they worth?”

Alonzo’s eyes filled with greed, and he clenched his hands together as any businessman would. “You spoke of the importance of your current project, but as I learned last time, it would be foolish of me to cross a friend.” He cracked a small smile. “How does 125 gold pieces sound? For the pair, of course.”

“Come now, I know you can do better than that. I have been purchasing gems from you for years, and I know how much you overstate the value. 75 gold pieces is where I stand.”

A look of bewilderment overtook Alonzo. “75? You cannot be serious!”

“But I am; 75.”

“75 will simply not do. It would be a steal as before. 110, but I can go no lower.”

Gomerick calmly shook his head. “I apologize if I wasted your time, but I did not intend to spend more than 90 for this project, so unless you can do better, I am afraid I must be on my way.”

Alonzo gritted his teeth and stared Gomerick straight in the eye. A fierce silence filled the shop, and Alonzo broke it when he irately added, “I’ll split the difference; 100.” Without a blink, Gomerick grunted in approval, and slowly stuck out his hand. A moment before they shook, Alonzo quickly added, “So 102 it is.”

Gomerick rolled his eyes and laughed hardily. “You’ve got yourself a deal, my cheap, cheap friend.”

“A man’s got to make a living.” Alonzo too laughed before saying, “I imagine the gold is in that bag you have?”

“Indubitably.” Gomerick reached into a large sack filled with gold pieces, pulled out three, and handed Alonzo the bag. Alonzo was flabbergasted, and Gomerick said, “Count if you wish. You are splendidly more predictable than you might think, Alonzo. You may keep the bag as my gift to you for the years you have provided me with quality products.” Gomerick laughed and snatched the two gems from the countertop.

Before Gomerick could make it out of the shop, though, Alonzo shouted, “Wait one moment. What you said, just now, it sounds as if this is your final purchase. I implore you, tell me I am mistaken.”

“I could, but I am afraid it would be a lie. Once these two gems are implemented into their corresponding pieces, I intend to hang up my smithing gloves for good.”

Alonzo set down the bag of gold and approached his friend. They stood before one another, and, at this distance, Gomerick seemed to tower over his business counterpart. They stared in each other’s direction; not for a final look at the face of the other, but to reminisce on days of old. Alonzo blinked hard, and held out his hand. “It has been an honor to do business with you.”

Gomerick grabbed Alonzo’s hand and reached his free arm around him to give him a hug. He patted Alonzo on the back and said, “It has been a pleasure. Perhaps our paths shall cross in the future.”

They released one another, and Alonzo replied, “I shall look forward to it. You have been one of a kind, Gomerick; deep pockets and all.” Gomerick smiled at his friend for one final time before he turned to exit the shop, leaving Alonzo to rummage through his earnings.

When he returned to his workshop, Gomerick immediately began the process of implementing the stones into the bodies of the amulets. He placed the oval cut, deep red, garnet stone into the middle of the golden amulet, rotated vertically to match the amulet’s body. He proceeded to work the circular cut, blue, zircon stone into the center of the silver amulet. Once in place, Gomerick began doing final detail work on the faces of the amulets around the gems.

On the golden amulet, lines extended outward from the gem, acting as rays from the sun, nearly to the outside of the amulet, until they hit an oval a thumb’s length from the edge. Around this oval was another, roughly three quarters of the way from the first ring to the edge. Between the two etched ovals were “X”s with their edges touching to form what could be perceived as a ring of diamonds. As for the silver amulet, rays extended outward from the gem, as they did in the other piece, and reached a ring roughly a thumb’s length from the edge as well. There was another, circular ring around this, and it was placed nearly identically to the second ring on the gold amulet. However, between these two rings were small ovals rather than “X”s. They wrapped around the piece with exquisite precision.

When all was said and done, yet another night had passed, and it was, once again, approaching midday. Although, instead of polishing the amulets and rushing to the castle as he would normally do, Gomerick realized just how exhausted he had become, for he was hit with an unexpected wave of fatigue upon setting the amulets down for a final inspection. With a mighty yawn, he retired to his quarters and did not wake until the following morning. When he did so, he polished the amulets, performed his final inspection, and cleaned them yet again. It was time to speak with Oberon and, as Gomerick hoped, pack up his tools for good.

Gomerick exited his shop and locked the front door for what he assumed would be the final time for a very long while. With him, he brought nothing but the amulets around his neck, the slightly tattered clothes on his back, and a strong desire for the unknown. The skies were grey that morning and, as Gomerick approached the castle gate, a light rain began to fall on the quiet mountain city. As expected, Jarrell stood as the lone guard to the entrance of the royal grounds. At the site of the smith, Jarrell exclaimed, “If it isn’t the man I’ve been waiting days to see. I must admit, I was worried you had given up.”

“Not once did the thought pass through my mind, and good morning to you as well.”

Jarrell smiled and pulled out the key to the massive gate. “Might I see the final products?” Gomerick nodded. He held them out, and the amulets glistened in the rain as they dangled from his neck. Jarrell lost his breath. “They are absolutely tremendous.” He reached out to grab hold of one, but Gomerick tucked both back beneath his shirt.

“I am afraid Oberon is to be the only one with that privilege; nothing personal.”

“Understood.” Jarrell pushed half of the gate which swung open with a loud squeak. “Oberon’s quarters are separate from the castle itself. ‘Tis the tower to the right. He is in, so knock and he should come forth.”

“Thank you, Jarrell.” Gomerick then lightheartedly added, “If all goes well, I shan’t be seeing you shortly.” Jarrell simply grunted in reply, and Gomerick took the hint to continue on.

In the far corner of the royal grounds, beside the point at which the steep faces of the ranges’ peaks and the beginning of the castle wall linked, stood an obscure, spiral tower of stone conjoined to what appeared to be a typical, two story home. It had slipped Gomerick’s gaze before, for it looked to be aged well beyond that of anything else in the entire city, let alone anything that resided in the yard. Even the great castle itself had an air of youth in comparison. A small, dirt path connected this structure to the cobblestone pathway that led to the castle’s entrance. There were no flags and there was no stonework, nothing of grandeur led to this residence. For these reasons, the majority of visitors were completely ignorant of the building’s existence, as was Gomerick during his first visit.

Gomerick approached the ostensibly closed off structure, it had but a single window peering from the front, and knocked three times on the wooden door’s dragon-head knocker. Gomerick waited, but there was no answer. He tried again. Slowly knocking in rhythm, once, twice, and, as he pulled back for a third, a chain was released from inside, and the old knob turned. Oberon pulled open the door and towered beneath its frame. The rain continued, and Gomerick knelt down on the muddy pathway to present his work. Oberon grabbed the amulets and inspected them closely. “These will do.” He said. He then walked back inside, leaving Gomerick confused. The door remained ajar, but Gomerick remained knelt, frozen until a friendly voice from inside asked, “Well, are you coming in or are you not? Your indecisiveness is letting in a draft.”

Gomerick immediately jumped to his feet, replying, “Right away, sir.”

“Please, call me Oberon. Sir would get quite old over the coming moons.”

Now inside, Gomerick closed the door and asked, “What of the other assistant?”

Oberon had turned left into a dining area. “He is no longer of importance. What is important is instructing you of your duties, and showing you around my old home. As you can see, this is the kitchen and dining area. Nothing impressive, but, mind you, this house has been home to generation after generation of sorcerer. We are simple people with simple tastes. Now, if you would follow me.” Oberon walked through an open doorway into the largest room of the house. A glass ceiling rose high above what would be the second floor, and the walls were lined with bookshelves completely filled with hard-backed books and documents of the like. The shelves spanned from the worn, wooden floor below to the cobweb ridden ceiling above, and a ladder rolled along the shelves to reach the higher works. At the exit of the kitchen was a desk in front of the lone window to the room. “This is where I compose my works, and it is also here that I spend a majority of my time.” Oberon opened a drawer beneath the desktop and placed the amulets within it. He then walked around a bend to the right, in which the walls continued to be lined with books, and returned to the foyer. “The door to the left leads to an outhouse out back, and the stairs in front of you lead to my bedroom as well as a room I have prepared for you upstairs. For the time being, the basement is off limits, no questions asked.” Gomerick nodded in understanding. “I expect you to do what I ask, which will mostly consist of helping me maintain my study, which has become quite filthy as I am sure you have noticed, as well as help me with the composition of my works if need be. You once spoke of a feeling of destiny. I too had similar feelings at the time of our first meeting. Needless to say, I pardoned my old assistant of his duties that night. Although I am a sorcerer, I do not hold all of the answers to the mysteries this world puts before us. Thus, I do not know why our paths have crossed or what we will encounter and accomplish together. However, I am certain that we have not met by chance. Something great is to come, and if I find out what that is, you shall be the first to know. I trust you will keep an open mind to the endless possibilities Friedünn can and will produce, just as I trust that I have your unquestionable loyalty.”

With little needed to be said, Gomerick simply replied, “But of course.”

“Very well, Gomerick. You have a lot to learn, but that knowledge will come in time. For now, make yourself comfortable upstairs. There are a few of the prince’s old outfits up there that will hopefully fit.” He smiled. “If not, I shall use a bit of sorcery to make sure they fit. Your work will begin in the morning.”

“Excellent, I cannot wait to begin.” Oberon nodded, and Gomerick trekked up the circular staircase to his room. He entered the door to his right to find a tiny space with a few cushions strewn about the floor to be his bed, a wool blanket atop them, several outfits atop that, as promised, and a small desk in the corner of the room with a stack of parchment, candles, a quill, ink, and a small, slightly rusted mirror on its top. The room and its contents were far from lavish, as was expected, but nothing he could not manage. He arranged what was to be his quarters in no time at all, tried on the clothes, which fit when stretched, and took a seat at his desk. Picking up the mirror, Gomerick looked intently upon its reflection. He looked deep into the eyes of the man that sat before him, and a strange sensation came over him. It was a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of incompleteness. He looked down at his torn and callused palms, and knew, at that moment, that he had unfinished business to attend to before he could truly acknowledge his new life.

Gomerick waited up for quite some time considering what course of action to take. He also wanted to make sure that Oberon had fallen asleep before he embarked on what he was planning. As the hours passed, and he deemed the coast to be clear, Gomerick carefully maneuvered down the old staircase and out the front door. It was dark, a gloaming brightened only by the light from the plethora of stars above that shined through the spotty cloud cover guided the way; that, and the light of the fiery moon caused by Caelus, naturally. Staying low, he crept through the wet grass of the grey castle yard to the front gate and narrowly managed to squeeze his way through. He continued down a familiar path when a voice cried out, “Where do you think you’re going?”

Gomerick swiftly spun around to see the tired face of the guard he had begun to know rather well as of late, Jarrell. “Nowhere special, I simply left a few belongings at home is all.”

“Right, and I’m a gargoyle’s mother.” Jarrell sarcastically replied. “It’s well into the night, what are your true intentions?”

Gomerick knew there was no way he could fool Jarrell and his hard head, so he approached his friend to whisper the details. Speaking softly, he said, “I have rather personal business to attend to. I trust I can inform you of the details without repercussion. Is that a safe assumption?”

Jarrell nodded, “Go on.”

“There is a small boy I must look for, his name is Amalrich. I had taken him under my wing as a smith. All I wished for the child was a safe, happy, prosperous life, and upon my return from delivering my sword for the prince, he had been taken from me by his abusive parents. When I say abusive, I mean burns and bruises galore.” The solemn look upon Gomerick’s face darkened as he continued, “My home was left in ruin, and the boy’s parent’s shop had been stripped of anything of value. I searched the best I could in my distraught state for any clues as to where they may have fled, but to no avail. I have come to realize that I must search again, this time with a sound mind.”

Jarrell leaned back, and the faint light from above revealed the most serious look Gomerick had yet seen across the man’s face. After a short pause, he replied, “Let’s find these bastards.”

With Gomerick leading the way, the unlikely pair furtively made their way to Ermin and Irma’s shop. They did not rush; keeping a consistent pace, they coordinated every movement with care. If noticed at such a late hour sneaking in the shadows, and breaking into private property, everything the two men had individually achieved could be for naught, for the remainder of their days would likely be spent behind bars despite their royally appointed positions. This was a potential consequence that Gomerick in particular knew all too well. With this in mind, the two approached their destination in darkness. Slipping into the shop, Gomerick noticed that nothing had been moved since his last visit. Tables and chairs remained overturned, and foodstuff littered the floor. The only change came with the latter, for roaches and rats scurried about the ground upon which the men stood. Doing their best to ignore their copious company, and guided by the ambient light pouring through the windows, the two skulked their way to the rear of the shop. Once in the back, Gomerick and Jarrell lit the lanterns they had brought along, and the flickering of the flames, accompanied by dancing shadows, brought the room to life. “You have more experience than I when it comes to business such as this, what is it we should be searching for?” Gomerick inquired.

Jarrell was trudging through a pile of pots and pans as quietly as he could while Gomerick began sifting through the molding remains of food in the hopes of finding something of value beneath the mess. “Anything that might indicate the family’s origins. That or perhaps something that will reveal close relatives.”

“Wait one moment.” Gomerick pondered for a moment.

Jarrell turned, “Did you find something?”

“No … well, yes. I found something before that may be of assistance.” Gomerick withdrew the picture of Amalrich he had slipped into his boot during his first visit to the shop after the boy’s disappearance, and handed it to the approaching guard. “I did not recognize anyone other than Amalrich and his immediate family, but perhaps you know one of the others.”

Jarrell held the picture to his lantern and examined it closely. “Well, I’ll be.”

“What is it?” Gomerick eagerly asked.

“Quiet, we don’t want others to know we’re here. I recognize the man in the back, the one with his left arm around the thinner woman.”

Jarrell handed the picture back to Gomerick who examined it as Jarrell had. “How can you be sure?”

“Do you see his right arm? It is tucked slightly behind him. With this stance, his right hand would be nearly impossible to see, but, in this case, it is impossible to see because it’s not there. I thought I recognized his facial features. I caught this very man stealing fruit and bread from one of the local markets. I’m sure you can deduce the punishment.”

Gomerick continued to stare at the picture and blatantly asked, “How does this help us?”

“We keep records of former criminals in an attempt to dissuade them from performing the acts they had prior. Therefore, I know this man lives in the lower districts of the city with many of the other lowlifes running rampant.”

Gomerick frowned, “I have not been to the lower districts in years, are they still…”

“Yes, I am afraid so.” Jarrell interrupted. He stepped closer to his partner and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Gomerick, I know this boy means the world to you, I can tell by your actions and the sincerity in your voice, but you cannot let your hopes get too high. You know what awaits us down there, and it isn’t pleasant. It’s also been several days since the family disappeared, the odds…”

“I am fully aware of the odds.” Gomerick interjected. He turned away and continued, “This boy was a son to me, he is a son to me. If there is even the slightest opportunity I can spare him of the suffering he will surely endure, I will take that chance.”

Jarrell spoke calmly, “If that’s the case, then there is nothing more to be said. Let us move with haste.”

Gomerick nodded despite his distant stare. He could not help but to think of the evils Amalrich had already likely experienced, and the many more he would if the two could not locate him that night. Jarrell led the way, and Gomerick followed closely. They extinguished their lanterns and, as before, carefully embarked down the rocky roads of Enghor. If the city seemed large during the day, it was twice so at night, for the uneven ground, unending shadows, and numerous diversionary paths were customary in the mountainous settlement. As the men neared their destination, zigging and zagging throughout the many side streets of the city, their surroundings took on a noticeable decline in upkeep. Stone residences turned to wood, and wooden residences grew ever more run down. Some were even built alongside tattered tents that were bathed in filth. As they went, both Gomerick and Jarrell knew to avoid small caves and burrows in the mountainside, as many of the city’s most unruly residents resided there.

The night was still, and a rancid odor polluted the air. No words were spoken between the attentive men, and the silence was broken only by the nearing sounds of chaos. All around, screams and shouts echoed in the distance and fell perfectly in tune with the occasional broken bottle or beggar singing a familiar song of anguish. Often forgotten, the people that lived here had little to no hope of leading an even mediocre life, and their numbers were far greater than Gomerick had recalled. It was this prospect that led Gomerick to inquire, “Are you sure you know where the man lives?”

“Indeed, I do, and we are near.” Jarrell spoke with a fire in his eye. It was evident that he had a deeper relationship with this man than had previously been asserted, and it was not long before Jarrell began walking toward a particular home. The wooden structure was slightly different than the others, for it was maintained with much more care than anything else in the area. There was even an old knocker on the weathered front door. Jarrell wasted no time and immediately began pounding. He was undoubtedly heated judging by his demeanor. It was clear that Gomerick was not the only one emotionally invested in the venture.

“Who dat at dis hour?” A man harshly barked from inside.

“An old friend.” Jarrell growled.

“I’d reco’nize dat damn voice anywere. Get off my property!”

“I don’t do requests. Open this door before I open it myself. My partner and I have a few questions for you.” A short moment later, a wooden latch could be heard being lifted, and the door slowly began to creak open. Jarrell took it upon himself to speed up the process by blasting it open with an extremely forceful kick. He ferociously entered and grabbed the neck of the grizzled man behind the door. He slammed him into the wall, and a woman standing atop an old carpet in the middle of the small home squealed in fear. “You sit down!” Jarrell hollered to the woman. She complied, and Jarrell focused his attention back to the man as Gomerick apprehensively entered. Seeing him in person, the former thief appeared much older than in the picture, but the sight of his missing hand as he held up his arms extinguished any doubts in Gomerick’s mind, and he, too, grew irate. The man began shaking as he witnessed the realization in the eyes of the former smith approaching behind Jarrell.

“This is our guy?” Gomerick asked.

“Yeah it is.” Jarrell replied. Turning back to his captive, he continued, “Now, I’m going to ask you a question, and I want the truth the first time. It’ll make everything much easier as you may recall. Understood?” Jarrell asked the thief in an interrogating tone. The man swallowed hard and feverishly nodded. “Tell me, where is Amalrich?”

The man’s eyes lit up. “I, I don’t…”

“Where is he?” Jarrell demanded as he slammed the man back into the wall. The woman in the room gasped in fear once more and closed her eyes.

“He ain’t here!” The man shouted.

“You’re really testing my patience. If he’s not here, where is he?”

Gomerick stepped closer and withdrew a small dagger that he always kept on his person. With bloodshot eyes, he pointed it at the man and said, “You tell us, or I won’t hesitate.”

The man was sweating profusely now, “He ain’t here no more! I mean, he was, but dey long gone now. Dey left yestaday mornin’. Dey didn’t say where dey was headed, though. I’d imagine ta take refuge in anotha city.”

“A little convenient, pal.” Jarrell replied.

“It’s da truth! I swear on ma momma’s grave. I know I don’t got da best reputation, and we’s had our encountas, but I’m too old fer dis now. Please, you’s gotta believe me.”

“Not once have you given me a reason to believe your lies, scum!” Jarrell slammed the man once more, and Gomerick pulled him off.

“Stop, we lost this one.” Gomerick reluctantly stated.

“You can’t be serious; you can see the lies written all over his face!”

Gomerick looked into the man’s eyes and saw the man he knew he would become if he could not keep his emotions under control, a man tired. “He must be telling the truth, just look at them, they look as if they are the last in search of trouble out of anyone we have encountered down here thus far. There is nowhere for Amalrich and his family to even stay. Let us leave in peace before either of us does something we both regret.”

There was an ominous pause before Jarrell broke the tension of the room by unenthusiastically complying, sighing as he replied, “Very well.” He turned to the one handed man and stared him dead in the eye. Snarling as he spoke, he said, “You may have deceived my friend, but I know of your evils, and you will pay the consequences in time.” The man did not move, and Jarrell and Gomerick took their leave.

As they did so, the one handed man smiled to himself and, under his breath, muttered, “Fools”. The woman got up from her seated position and rolled the carpet she had been sitting on to the side of the room to reveal a secret hatch, similar to the one in Gomerick’s bedroom.      Unbeknownst to the men whom had so recently departed, emerging from the cramped quarters beneath the hatch was exactly the family they had been searching for. Managing to crack open his battered eyes was a nearly unrecognizable Amalrich in an ever worsened condition. He had woken to the sound of Gomerick and Jarrell’s interrogation, but was unable to speak with his father’s hands clamped over his clammy face. Yet, free now, he could see the distant silhouette of his friend walking away, and he called his name as loud as he could with his weakened voice.

Gomerick froze in his tracks. “What’s the matter, decided you want a piece of him?” Jarrell asked.

Gomerick spun around just in time to see the door of the home of the one handed man slam shut. Bowing his head, he replied, “Nothing, no, twas simply the squeak of the door.”

Putting his arm around his friend, Jarrell turned Gomerick away from the home. “I understand how you must feel not getting what you came for. I’m not good at these sorts of condolences, but perhaps you were right in leaving. You did all you could, there’s nothing more to do now other than move on.”

“Alas, I know. To say it will be difficult is an understatement, but I would still like to thank you for your help, Jarrell.”

“It was nothing, truly. This pursuit may have turned out fruitless, but it was a noble one, nonetheless.”

Gomerick acknowledged the sincerity of his friend, but could not bring himself to speak. The two began their journey home in silence as Gomerick floated adrift in a sea of thoughts. They began with a feeling of longing for the opportunity to go back and make sure to keep Amalrich by his side, but he knew it was foolish to entertain such desires. He then wondered if he had done all he could to find Amalrich, and came to the determination that he had waited too long, and the trail was now cold, as was Gomerick. Immersed in regret, he knew there was nothing he could do to fix the past, but the realization did little to ease his pain. The men returned to the castle gate, and Gomerick reverently left Jarrell at his post. He continued quietly into his quarters and did what he could to arrange his makeshift bed. Despite his strong desire to continue the search, he knew he needed to accept reality. As his eyes grew weary, he promised himself that he would give up the pursuit of finding Amalrich, but never forget his small friend.

 

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