King Kyran could not remember his name. And it bothered him like a pesky fly that wouldn’t stop buzzing around his face. Berta cared nothing about it, calling him ‘man’. But the king was adamant that he should have a name, until he remembered his old one. But he couldn’t decide.
“Berta, do I look like a George?” he asked. Berta didn’t glance his way and said that he didn’t in the slightest bit.
“What about an Ulric?”
She looked at him incredulously, put down her needlework and walked over, gazing over his features as if contemplating whether he did look like an Ulric. And as she spent more time gazing into his hopeful face, a smile sneaked onto his features.
“No,” she blurted out. Berta walked back to her old rocking chair and restarted her needlework, satisfied with his disappointment. Although she hated to admit it to herself, it was incredible fun watching his surprise.
“Why are ya’ so obsessed with a name anyway, man?” she asked.
“It’s one of the things that separate man from animal,” the king protested. Berta looked at him with a bit of amazement.
“And where did ya’ hear that?” she inquired, curious to the origin of the sudden philosophical statement of the amnesiac.
King Kyran tried to remember, and a faint trace of his memory returned back to him. As a young child, he was sitting in a giant library, with a somber tutor in front of him, and a book in his hands. Although King Kyran had been a giant supporter of material luxuries, he loved books. And it was in one of those books, a philosopher’s guide written by a genius that died centuries before, that he read that statement.
His head went up with a jolt and he replied, “In a library.”
“Ya’ don’t say. Where?”
“I don’t remember, but the place was immense.”
“Well, that doesn’t exactly narrow it down, does it now?” Berta asked.
And King Kyran agreed that the bit of his memory which had come back to him was practically useless. He didn’t know that regardless of whether or not he regained his memory, he would be found by his reluctant betrothed.
They headed for Isle Loret, where the dragon had been brought from. Their ship, the Hera, was a sturdy little thing that had braved stronger storms and more violent tides than many of its kind. Although the ship had not suffered much from its misadventures, the captain was a man hardened by his journeys.
Captain Krull was a weatherworn man. The salt air made his skin like leather and made the steely glint in his blue eyes even more prominent. He spoke little, most of his conversation being one-word barks at his sailors. He treated the travelers with cold respect, unused to their military pomp and disliking their pride.
Ben was the only exception, and he earned the captain’s respect quickly, displaying his knowledge of ships without any pride, in much the same way that he won over Miranda. Ben’s father, who had died at sea, had taught him the essentials of sailing at a young age, and as he clung to his father’s memory, he remembered those lessons.
Miranda spent most of her days in her cabin, trying to practice her fighting inside the miniscule room. Ben kept her company while the other soldiers tried to bide their time playing cards and making fun of the hard-working sailors behind their backs.
Finally the day came when Miranda’s feet were on solid ground again. She rejoiced for a moment, happy that she could eat things without them coming back to haunt her once again. Ben waved goodbye to the captain and they set forward to Lord Loret’s castle.
Miranda was happy, because they’d had to leave the carriage behind and she rode on her own horse in the open air, a welcome change from the stuffy cabin. She talked to Ben the entire way, earning them suspicious glares from the other soldiers.
In two days they reached the large demesne that Lord Loret claimed his own little piece of paradise. Part of Castle Loret was forest, part botanical garden, and part palatial mansion. He lived better than the king in some aspects, because everything that he ever needed he could retrieve from his own lands.
People said that he had a horrible secret. But no one could ever figure out what it was, because it was the best kept secret on the entire island. Lord Loret was not technically a Lord. Yes, he was the sole heir of Lord Loret before him, but if his secret was found out, all his riches, all his status, would be gone before one could say, “Wait!”
When Miranda first entered through the halls, it was to unexpected splendor. It was evening, and the foyer was more like a ballroom. A giant chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, a combination of glass and candles.
They were greeted warmly by Lord Loret. He was a young man, younger than Miranda yet with more maturity. There was something strange about him that Miranda felt the moment that she shook his hand. He was a skinny boy, completely covered by robes and heavy clothes.
His short blonde hair was feathery and in a pixie cut, and his features were soft. His big blue eyes drew a person in, and it was evident that he had some secret. He rarely spoke, and when he did it was just a few words, in a low husky voice.
Miranda bowed to him as he walked into the foyer with a few servants at his back.
“Thank you Lord Loret, for your hospitality,” the head of the guards said. He was an old man, almost at the point where he could no longer serve.
“Please, all of you must call me Jordan,” their host pleaded. I shall tell readers later why he wished it so later on. But we must get back to King Kyran, and his extreme desire for a name. He was in a state of turmoil, and Berta was mentally torturing him.
“I need a name Berta!”
“No ya’ don’t, you’ll get your memory back soon enough,” she replied. The steady click-clack of the sewing machine droned on as they spoke. King Kyran was different simply from two weeks of work. There was a considerably less amount of avoirdupois on his body, and he was much healthier.
“You know what, Berta Bighorn, I’ll just name myself! From now, you’ll call me Joseph.”
Berta snapped. She hated when someone massacred her ancestral name, it had a heroic history. Her great-great-grandfather slew a dragon and presented its long horn to the Lord Loret back then. Their name had been changed from Wood to Longhorn as a gift.
“It’s Longhorn!” Berta screeched. The momentary loss of concentration made her prick her finger and she immediately put it to her mouth.
Miranda, in the grand dining hall, put her finger to her mouth too, but just for the taste of the chocolate cake she was being served. It was a temporary reprieve from the continuous suspicion that she felt towards Lord Loret.
She looked up from her plate at the Lord as he ate. He had dainty fingers, and held his utensils as if they were glass. She observed her very strange host until she was off to bed, and even then she couldn’t discard the feeling of dread. Something was going to happen, she could feel it in her bones.
Ben too noticed the strange behavior of their host. The others of their group were too busy taking in the hospitality to notice. But he said nothing, trained in the army to keep secrets well.
After Lord Loret made sure that his guests were fast asleep, the copious amounts of food having made them drowsy, he went up to his rooms. No one was ever allowed into these rooms, the one exception being the most loyal servant in the entire castle.
Matilda had watched over the Lord since he was born, and she greeted him at the door to his quarters. The mousy middle-aged woman had no children of her own, and treated Lord Loret as if he was her own.
Lord Loret walked into his suite of rooms, settled on the couch, and dropped all traces of the false demeanor that he displayed in front of everyone. He shook off his shoes and sighed, leaning back into the sofa.
Matilda gaped in shock. She picked up the shoes and threw onto Lord Loret. She yelled, “Is that the way I raised you, girl?!”
Lord Jordan of Loret, who wasn’t really a lord, hung her head in shame. Her secret was her gender, and it was a secret that had been kept with immense care since that moment she was born. She was the last of her line, the only person standing between Isle Loret and a future of tumultuous wars for power.
“No, it isn’t Matilda,” she admitted. She picked up the shoes and put them in a corner. The secret is out, Lord Loret, Jordan, was a girl. But there were only three people in the world that knew her actual gender. One was Matilda, the others were her teacher Leonard, and her minister Bartholomew.
Jordan relaxed and drank some tea. It had been horrific all night, trying to look as if she was oblivious to the suspicious glances of the princess and her soldier. But she wasn’t, and she loathed the way that the princess’s green eyes had bored into her, trying to find her secret.
She didn’t want to act as a male, speaking in a low voice hurt her throat if she did it too much and she hated having no friends her age. Instead of friends, she had power. She didn’t have family, instead she had Matilda.
Jordan wallowed in self pity for a moment before going to her bedchamber to sleep. Matilda stayed back, wondering when the charade would end. She knew that Jordan hated what she did. She knew that Jordan should have been happily spending the last years of her childhood calmly.
But Matilda knew that her opinion, or Jordan’s future, mattered little when compared to the future of the entire isle.
Jordan would be bound to her disguise until the day she died, unless something happened. And something would happen, something that would change the future of the island forever.