The Standing Stones
“Draw back to the corner of your mouth gently, and make sure the string touches your nose,” I instructed. “because if it doesn't—”
“It will hit my nose when I release,” my twelve-year-old sister Andrea cut me off. “Logan, you tell me that every time. Can I shoot now?”
I sighed and stepped back, nodding. Andrea released the arrow. It landed with a light thunk in the center of a big oak tree we were using as a target. Come to think of it, it was probably the largest tree in the forest outside of our suburban house. I whistled sharply.
“Bullseye,” I said. “Well done.”
After retrieving her arrow and putting it back in her leather quiver, Andrea nodded at me. “Your turn.”
I pulled my own arrow out and nocked it into the bow I got for my fourteenth birthday last month. I pulled back and aimed for the tree.
“Oh, good,” Andrea said sarcastically. “It's touching your nose.”
I rolled my eyes and released. To my surprise, the arrow sailed past the ginormous tree and into the forest. I lowered my bow with wide eyes and heard my sister laugh.
Andrea walked past me, heading for where my arrow disappeared. “Come on,” she called over her shoulder. “If you can't hit the largest tree in the woods, you can at least help me look for the arrow.”
I followed after her, slinging my bow over my shoulder.
Although I knew every bend and branch, I stumbled a couple of times. It had rained last night (not surprisingly, it is Vancouver after all) and the rocks were wet and slippery.
Andrea had no problem navigating the forest. She and I practically grew up in it, but she seemed to know it much better than I did. Her copper ponytail hit her quiver and bow with every bouncy step she took, without so much as a stumble. She was still dressed from her western riding lesson, because she never got a chance to change when she got home. Her white tee-shirt and black-and-red plaid over shirt was dusty, and the bottom of her jeans and leather riding boots were wet, with grass and hay still plastered up against them.
I had just come back from paintball with my best friend, Jordan, and I was still mostly in camouflage, but I had undone my jacket to show my paint-stained white tank top. My combat boots were wet, and I could feel the rain seeping into my left wool sock. Darn it, I really need to fix that hole in my boot...
“Logan?” Andrea asked after about a minute of not talking. If I said silence, I'd be lying because the forest was full of birds chirping and our footfalls that I liked to listen to.
“Why do you think mom and dad fight?”
I paused, but kept walking. Whenever our parents were fighting, we grabbed our archery gear and ran outside to the woods to practice. Our parents fought often, but they've never divorced because I suspect they believe that Andrea and I shouldn't have to go through the pain of losing a parent and each other. So over the years, we learned to memorize the forest. I wasn't sure what today's fight was about, but we left before they noticed us. Something about a coffee mug. I finally settled on saying “I don't know.”
I could tell she was uncomfortable about this topic by the way she was fiddling with her thumbnail like she always did. I was uncomfortable too, but she continued to talk about it. “Do you think they'll break up?”
This time I stopped and grabbed her arm, pulling her to face me. “No,” I growled. “Don't talk like that.”
She nodded, turned around again and began to walk, but with less bounce in her step.
“It's okay, Andrea,” I whispered. My voice bounced through the trees making it louder than I intended.
“What is?” Andrea asked sharply. My ears perked up to the way her voice still wavered.
“It's okay to ask for help.”
She didn't answer that, but I could see her muscles tense in her back. She wanted to ask for help, I could see it. She was just afraid. I was afraid too. It felt like because I was the big brother, I shouldn't be, but I was scared. One hundred percent.
We walked in silence for a couple minutes more, (how far away wasmy arrow? I didn't think I shot it that far...) before Andrea stopped so sharply that I knocked into her. “There.” she said.
In the middle of a clearing, was a large circle of standing stones that I was pretty sure neither of us had seen before. In the middle of it, embedded in the ground, was my arrow, yellow and white feather fletchings gleaming in the sun. Although it was late afternoon, there was a low sheet of mist inside the circle, none escaping. My body was screaming at my brain to get out of there. There was something wrong with the place.
Andrea started forwards, and I caught her arm just before she entered the circle. She turned towards me with a confused look. “What? We found your arrow, and I'm going to get it.”
I shook my head. “There's something wrong with this place, Andy.”
She broke free of my grip and narrowed her eyes. “Don't call me that.”
“Don't you feel it? There's something... off,” was all I could say. “Is it weird that we've practically lived here forever, and neither of us has seen this before?”
She shrugged. “I suppose. All the more reason to investigate.”
Investigate. One of my favourite words in the world. A brief memory came into my head from when I rescued my best friend's dog from the forest after it ran off. My hands twitched and I took a step forward. A strange smell of something wet filled my nose and made my eyes water. I shook my head and took two steps back. “No way.”
Andrea shrugged again. “Suit yourself.”
She strode straight into the center of the circle. As soon as she entered, the mist seemed to follow her, chase her, wind around her. I started running towards her just as she wrenched the arrow from the earth. The mist began to cover her, like someone invisible was curling over her. Andrea looked up just as it enveloped her back, her eyes wide.
“Andy!” I lunged towards her and tried to shove Andrea out of the circle.
My sister flew backwards, her arms outstretched as if trying to grab me and take me too.
“Logan!” Andrea screamed, just as the fog covered me instead of her.
“I'm sorry,” I whispered. I squeezed my eyes shut and let myself disappear.
A second later, I opened them, to find myself lying down in the middle of a gravel street, Andrea nowhere to be seen.
I stood up and looked around. Where was I? Where was Andrea? Did I push her out in time?
I was definitely in an old village with cottages made of mud and bricks with thatch roofs. The village was in bright colours, unlike the calm greens of the forest.
“Andrea?” I called out. I began to walk around one of the cottages, the only nearby sound was gravel crunching beneath my foot. I heard other distant noises like people chattering and laughing. “Andy?”
I spun around to find Andrea sitting in the same street I arrived in, rubbing her head. “How many times have I told you to stop calling me that?”
My eyes widened in relief as I ran towards her, swooping her up into a bear hug. “You're okay,” I whispered.
“Um... yeah. Are you?” Andrea asked, backing away.
“Fine. Where are we?”
She shrugged. “Beats me.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? You get transported by a misty portal in the middle of our forest, into this old fashioned town, and you haven't explored?” I asked. “Who are you, and what have you done to my sister?”
She raised an eyebrow. “I just got here.”
“I don't know what's going on, but it appears everything is dressed up for the Medieval Ages,” she said. “You know, like in dad's museum?”
As if Andrea summoned him, a boy about my age turned the corner and stared at us. He had floppy light brown hair and wore a dirty tunic, pants and boots. He stared at us. More accurately, he stared at our clothes. “Allo,” he said in a light, English accent. “I heard your voices from behind Mrs. Finch's house. How may I help you? Are you fortune tellers, or something?”
“Um... we're a little lost,” I said. “Could you tell us where we are?”
“London, England, of course. Where might you think we are?”
Andrea and I gaped at him. “What?” she said.
“London, England,” the boy repeated. “My name's Arthur.”
“Arthur?” Andrea asked. “As in King Arthur?”
The boy—Arthur—laughed. “King? Hah! If only.”
We looked at each other. “How did we get to England?” I asked.
“Beats me,” Andrea and Arthur said at the same time.
Now it was Arthur's turn to stare at us. “Might you be performers? Bards? What type of clothes are those?”
We looked down. What should I say? Regular clothes? Paintball clothes? Go-practice-archery-in-the-woods-while-our-parents-fight clothes? I thought.
“Um... we're tailors,” Andrea said suddenly.
I looked up at her. What? I mouthed.
She carried on, ignoring me. “We're tailors and we were experimenting with new... outfits. I was designing something for horse riding and my brother was styling a new set of...” she looked at me, scanning me up and down. “armour.”
Arthur slowly nodded, looking at both of our outfits. “But why are you wearing your new clothes today of all days?”
“We... got dye on them! On our regular clothes,” I quickly said. “We had to throw them out, but these were the only clothes we had, so... yeah.”
“I have some spares, if you want them,” he offered. “They're a little messy, but they'd be sure to fit,” Arthur turned to Andrea. “I'm sure I can find you some lady's clothes, M'Lady...”
“Andrea,” she answered, blushing. “And thank you.”
“And I'm Logan,” I said, extending my hand.
Arthur shook it, leaving a bit of dirt on my hand and he inclined his head in a little bow. “Please, follow me. I'll fetch your clothes.”
We followed him through the town, getting strange glances from the towns folk. Everyone was dressed in Medieval garb, and I was wondering if there was some sort of fair going on. But Arthur had acted as if he'd never seen our clothes before...
“Please, wait here,” Arthur said. We were in some sort of courtyard. “I'll return immediately. I must first speak with my cousin, Kay.”
Something about that name tugged the memory strings at the back of my head. Arthur... Kay... Medieval...
“So...” Andrea said, sitting down on a rock as soon as Arthur was gone. “He seems nice.”
I sat down next to her, taking in the scenery. We must have been in the town square. Old cottages, old bakeries smelling of fresh bread, old blacksmith shops filled with smoke and the sound of a hammer hitting metal... it was something out of time. “I suppose so, if not a little weird.”
She looked at me. “What do you mean?”
“Did you hear him? He acted as if he had never seen our clothes before.”
“Maybe he hasn't.”
“Maybe he hasn't?” I repeated, my voice rising. “What are you implying? That this is his first time outside? The people acted the same way too! Are you saying this is London's first time outside?”
Andrea stood up, facing me with a furious expression. “In case you didn't notice, I saved our butts back there, saying we were tailors! If I didn't do anything, we could have been thrown in jail, or something! You saw how he was acting towards us!”
“By lying?” I asked, getting my voice under control. “You shouldn't have lied to him, Andy.”
She didn't respond, not even to tell me off for calling her Andy. She was staring at something behind me, open mouthed.
“What?” I asked, turning around. “What is—”
I stared at the monument behind me. Anyone would have known what it was.
It was a large stone with an anvil sitting on top. Inserted in the top was a large, magnificent sword.
Arthur... Kay... Medieval... Sword... Stone.
I suddenly knew where we were. Andrea knew it too, no doubt.
We were in the Medieval Ages, before King Arthur was king. The Arthur we just met.
We were staring at the Sword in the Stone.
The New King
I'm pretty sure we stood there, staring, for a couple of minutes before either of us spoke.
“We... we're in the Medieval Ages,” Andrea breathed.
“But that's impossible,” I said. “It would also means we just made friends with our ancestor,”
She looked at me with wide eyes. “Ancestor?” she repeated.
I nodded. “Remember I had a school project on our family tree? We're related to King Arthur.”
“The Arthur we just met?”
“Well, if he wasn't some hired actor, yes.”
“Logan... do you know what this means?”
Andrea pointed to the sword enthusiastically. “Being related to him, we can pull that out!”
“What?! No! We can't!” I protested, grabbing her hand and turning her to face me. “Only the true ruler of Camelot can, if any of this is real. It's probably just a prop. Arthur—”
“Who we're related to,” Andrea cut in.
“—is the only one who can pull it out,” I finished.
“But, he's family, so I bet I could pull it out too. So could you.”
I gaped at her. Why was she so thick-headed? “No! Someone could see us and get us into trouble.”
“I could be queen,” she said with a flick of her ponytail, walking towards the monument.
“Andy, stop! If we mess up the past, we could mess up the future!”
Her hand gripped the jewelled handle and she grinned at me. “Wish me luck!”
“No!” I cried, lunging towards her. If this was real, I couldn't let her be separated from me!
She yanked hard and the Sword slid out of the stone neatly and glittered in the afternoon sunlight. She stared at it in awe. “I... did it.”
There was a crunch of gravel behind us, causing my sound-sensitive ears to perk up in alert. It sounded like footsteps and they was getting closer. Andrea noticed it too, judging by the way her eyes widened and her grip tightened against the Sword's hilt.
“Andy, give me the Sword,” I hissed desperately.
She slowly looked at me, fear written all across her face. “Logan?” she whispered.
“Andrea!” I wrenched the Sword from her grip. I began to try to insert it into the slot just as someone came around the corner of a cottage.
It was Arthur, holding our brown and grey Medieval clothes. He stopped suddenly, gaping at the Sword in my hands. His eyes went to the stone beside me, now empty. He dropped the clothes in shock and took a step back. I finally inserted the Sword into the slot in the anvil.
Andrea held out her hands harmlessly and took a step towards Arthur. “Art, this isn't what it looks like.”
“You...” he stuttered. “You're the king.” he pointed to me. His words were starting to attract unwanted attention from the townspeople.
“Arthur, I'm not! I swear!”
“But the Sword...” he said, backing away again. “You pulled it out.”
“Arthur!” Andrea cried, pointing behind him.
He turned around and I saw a girl, no older than 14, my age, with curly, blond hair. She clutched a basket of wild daises close to her blue dress and stared at me. She kind of looked like a blond version of Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz. “You're the new king.” she said softly.
“Lyn, what are you doing here?” Arthur asked. “I thought I told you to stay with Keaton.”
Instead of answering, she bolted away, dropping her daisies.
“LYN!” Arthur hollered, running after her.
“The king!” she cried. Even more townspeople turned towards her voice. “The king pulled the Sword from the Stone!”
“STOP!” both Andrea and I screamed. The three of us began running after her in hot pursuit.
We now stood in a street with a castle in the distance, surrounded by medieval-ly dressed people.
Lyn turned at pointed at me. “I saw him pull it out with my own eyes! He's the new king!”
Townsfolk gasped. I flinched and gripped Andrea's hand with white knuckles.
A tall, burly man came out of the blacksmith shop, approaching us. He had dark brown hair and sweaty, dirty muscles. “Is this true, boy?” he asked. I gulped. Even his voice was intimidating.
“N-no sir,” I managed.
He turned to the girl. “Lyn?”
“Yes,” she said. I was done for. Who would the smithy believe: me, or someone he already knew? “I saw him put it back in the anvil. Arthur was there too. He said it.”
He turned back to me. “Well then...” the smithy put a meaty hand on my shoulder. “If he did it before... he can do it again.”
I struggled as I was dragged to the town square by a burly blacksmith.
Andrea and Arthur were following me (thank goodness, I don't know what I'd do without her) as well as the mob who wanted to see the new king pull the Sword. They smelled foul, like someone who hadn't brushed their teeth for weeks and just went to the gym, wearing no deodorant.
No matter how hard I squirmed or how loud I protested, I was brought to the Stone with an audience. All eyes were on me. It reminded me of the time I was in middle school and I fell off the stage in our play. I hated it.
“Pull it!” an old lady yelled from the crowd.“I betcha me flock o' chicks 'e's bluffin'!”
I don't want to! I thought rebelliously. But there were many more people yelling for me to pull the sword and if I said “no” out loud, they could have killed me.
I glanced around to see Arthur shoving his way towards me, Andrea behind him. He stood in front of the Stone, in front of me, and cleared his voice. Andrea slipped her cold hand in my sweating one.
“Listen!” Arthur cried. “We have forgotten about the Sword in the Stone for years. The King's tournament we were planning is tomorrow! Why do we care about it so much now?”
“Why is he helping me?” I whispered to my sister.
She winked at me. “My charisma worked on him.”
“Because the heavens were true!” a man called out, sarcasm dripping all over his words.
“He is the true king!” retorted a young girl I recognized as Lyn.
“What if he doesn't want to be king?!” Andrea yelled.
This silenced everyone. They were all staring at her now. I was a little relieved, but it didn't last long.
“This boy is my brother!” Andrea continued. “And he didn't pull the—”
“I did!” I cut her off. I knew what she was doing. “I pulled the sword.”
The townsfolk gasped and started shouting in shock and anger. Andrea slugged me in the arm and Arthur was rubbing his forehead in disappointment.
“We were trying to save you!” he said. “Couldn't you at least follow the plan?”
“Prove it!” an old man called.
“Pull it again!”
“Stop mocking us!”
Andrea whirled on me. As I expected, she was flushed and angry. She looked like she wanted to punch me again. “Why did you do that?” she whispered, yanking me into a hug.
“Because I couldn't be separated from you. Not again.”
“But you think it's fine if I am?”
“No!” I cried. “I would never!”
She pulled away from me. “Okay. But this had better be a part of a bigger plan.”
“I promise.” I whispered.
A knight grabbed Andrea roughly and started dragging her away, telling her not to touch the king. She kicked and screamed at him to let go, but to no avail. I pained me to see her like this, like someone plunging an icicle into my heart.
I spun around and grasped the handle of Excalibur and yanked it out. It was surprisingly easy to pull out and light in my grasp. I pointed it at the smithy and Andrea.
“Apologize to her and put her down,” I ordered. “Now.”
The knight stared at me and released Andrea, dropping her with a thud on the dusty road. She stood up, rubbing her back, and staring at me in terror.
“You...” she whispered. “Logan... what did you do?”
The townsfolk cheered and the someone hoisted me up on their shoulders, Andrea forgotten. They began marching to a castle I hadn't noticed in the distance, no doubt my new home. I couldn't see Arthur or Andrea, the mob had swallowed them up. I tried desperately to find them, to escape by kicking my captor/mount, but it was in vain.
The town ushered me into the castle, and forced me down in my throne. Lyn stood next to me and muttered “sorry.” I could barely hear her. She was going on about some sort of robe fittings, assigning guards, and hiring servants.
The throne room I was in was cold, with walls and floors made of stone. There were tons of villagers roaming around doing things like lighting the torches in the room, but I still felt like shivering. There was next to no furniture in the room apart from the wooden throne I was seated in, a round table propped up against a wall and a large fireplace to my left.
Every time I stood up at the glimpse of copper hair like mine, one of the two knights guarding me sat me down again. When he pushed at my shoulder, it was almost like he was trying to be gentle and rough at the same time.
Finally, I saw Andrea and Arthur, pleading something to the guards outside. The “guards” shook their heads and stood their ground.
“Andy!” I yelled, standing up.
The knight grunted and forced me down again.
I glared at him. “Stop! I'm trying to talk to someone!”
He took a step back, surprised, giving me all the time I needed to stand up and race as far as I could to the great wooden doors. I shoved my way through the crowd. People turned to me to shout something mean, but as soon as they saw my face, they seemed to change their minds.
Some of the townsfolk were pushing them closed, slowly, making large groaning sounds from the rusty hinges.
Andrea looked up at me, her eyes filled with fear and sadness. I felt a cold, metal gauntlet on my shoulder stopping me, and begin pulling me backwards. One of the knights caught up to me.
As the town closed the grand doors, the last thing I saw was Andrea's face, her freckled cheeks red with anger. She ran towards me, but it was too late. The doors closed with a heavy boom.
I silently swore that I would escape, that I would make Arthur king, and that I would see my sister again, and we would never be separated again.
King For the Day
Hours after the crowning ceremony, which I had blanked out for most of it, I sat on an uncomfortable wooden throne as some washerwomen cleaned the golden one. I had been fitted for velvet robes and my camouflage clothes had been taken away from me. I found a bunch of townsfolk trying to figure my clothes out and it was rather funny to watch, but I had to tell them to clean them, not wearing them or throwing them out.
I had to choose an advisor a couple minutes afterwards, and settled on Lyn. I tried to find someone like Merlin, but no luck. At least I knew who Lyn was. Arthur did too, so... yeah.
“Lyn?” I asked.
“Where are the barons right now? I thought that they were choosing the land they wanted to control.”
“I—I'm not sure,” she stammered. “I walked past their room a while ago, and I heard some rather raised voices.”
I sighed and stood up, marching over to the meeting room. Like Lyn had said, there were raised voices coming from behind the door. I groaned again and slammed open the doors, causing the two barons inside to look over in surprise. It was funny seeing them in their poofy shorts, feathered caps and tight leggings. I only saw clothes like that in a circus. The room was recently dusted, with embroidered red and gold carpets covering the cold stone floors. There was thick wooden bookshelves that lined every wall and many dark wooden tables in the room. It reminded me of our study room, if we were a little more rich. A large map spread across the nearest table with many quills, inkpots, paperweights and candlesticks across it. I soon recognized that it was a map of the world, but it was missing North and South America. There were sea monsters in the water and an image of a ship falling off the edge of the world. I bit my tongue trying not to laugh. Of course, people still thought that the world was flat!
“Sir!” one of the barons cried, bowing. “Please, would you talk some sense into this buffoon? Sir Silas does not understand the meaning of true loyalty! I'm sure that as soon as he can, he will betray you and not give you the taxes from his land that you, the King, gifted to him yourself!”
“That is completely false!” the other protested. “You would be the first to hog all of the taxes for yourself, Sir Alistair, you crooked-nosed knave!”
“Everyone knows that you are the skamelar in the room!”
“How dare you, you ronyon! I'll have you know—”
“What's going on here?” I asked.
“Your majesty, this—this hedge-born fool wants to betray you and he's blaming me for his foul-smelling sins! I have always been loyal to the crown, your majesty. Please, would you explain to him that—”
“Enough!” I yelled. These barons were almost as bad as my parents! “I don't care if his mother was a hamster and hisfather smelled of elderberries, but if you want land, you need to work together. I can't be king and babysit you at the same time. Do I make myself clear?”
“Your majesty, I assure you, you are clear, but I suggest that you get rid of that—that cumberground from your castle as quickly as possible! He will just—”
“Do I make myself clear?!” I asked, my voice rising.
The barons quieted down. They nodded.
“Good. Now, if you want to be useful, find a girl named Andrea. How? I don't know. I don't care. Find her. Look her up on whatever medieval equivalent of Google you have here!” I turned around and stormed out of the meeting room. Behind me, I left them whispering “What's a Google?” and “Should we be concerned?”.
In the hallway, Lyn stared at me with wide eyes.
“What?” I asked, sounding harsher than I intended.
“Are you all right, your majesty?” she asked quietly as she escorted me to the throne room. “You seem... tense.”
I scoffed. “You don't know the half of it.”
After sitting down in my chair again, Lyn stood next to me in silence.
“You want to say something,” I said, sounding more like a statement than a question.
“Don't lie to me, Lyn. I know you do.”
She took a shaky breath. “Wh-what's a Google?”
I stared at her for a while. She looked really nervous, as if she had said something wrong. Then I burst out in laughter. It was the first time I had laughed in a while. “I take it you don't have a phone book either,” I managed to say through my laughing.
Lyn shook her head.
As I continued to laugh, I spouted out random modern words. Lyn made a strange face next to me.
“It's okay, Lyn. You can laugh.”
She let out a nervous chuckle next to me, then her laughter grew as well. Soon it was just the two of us laughing, a momentary escape from the troubles ahead, the troubles to come, and the troubles that I would try to escape.
Price of Freedom
The next day that passed felt like a blur. I couldn't get Andrea out of my head, her heartbroken face when the doors closed in front of her, separating me from her for who knew how long.
I sat on a throne, slouching. Lyn stood behind me, reading out something, but I wasn't paying attention. She had been appointed as my herald and rarely left my side. Neither did the knights, Sir Keaton and Sir Barrington, who were competing in the tournament that was cancelled who appointed themselves as royal guards, although they were the only guards I had so far. When I wasn't moping over my sister, I kind of missed the idea of Merlin as my advisor/wizard.
Excalibur was sheathed and propped up against my armrest. From my eyes, everything looked gloomy. Honestly, I would be thrilled to have a real sword of my own at home, but as long as my sister was by my side.
“Lyn?” I asked.
“Do you have any siblings?”
She was silent for a while. “Not really, sir. I used to have a brother, but he died in the war.”
I looked at her, my gaze piercing her nervous one. “Do you miss him?”
Lyn nodded fiercely. “Every day I live.”
I sighed. “I've never wanted to say this, but I feel the same way.”
“Why, m'lord? Forgive me for asking.”
“Andy...” I started. My eyes stung and my nose tingled like it did whenever I was about to cry. No. I will hold it in. “Andrea. My sister.”
“Did she die in the war as well, m'lord?”
I looked up at her, aghast. “Die? Good grief, no! She's the girl who everyone thinks is crazy because she wears pants,” I quieted down again. “And I'm never going to see her again.”
“M'lord! I'm sure that's not true!” Lyn fidgeted with her rolled-up scroll. “That girl... the one I saw you with at the square... was that Princess Andrea?”
With all my strength, I held back my tears. “Y-yes,” I choked out. “That was her.”
Lyn looked around. “Where is she? Did she have her royal bath? What about her gown? I'm sure she'll look lovely...” she trailed off at the sight of me turning away from her. “She's not here... is she?” Lyn asked slowly.
I could only shake my head.
My eyes were scrunched shut, but I could feel a small cloth dabbing at my face. “Your Majesty...”
“Please,” I said in a strange voice that came out a few octaves higher than I intended, “call me Logan.”
She was quiet. I wondered if she gave a glance at Sir Keaton, asking if it was okay because I heard a grunt behind me. “King Logan...”
“No. Please. Just Logan.”
“K—Logan, do not fear,” she said softly. “It may be too late for Raydan, but it is not for Andrea.”
I looked up at her, mouth slightly open. “What did you say?”
She looked both confused and petrified at the same time. “I believe I said it is too late for my brother, but not for Lady Andrea. She can still become the Princess.”
I stood up quickly, suddenly filled with energy. “That's it!”
Lyn cocked her head at me. “Pardon?”
I spun around to face her, and a bewildered Sir Keaton behind the throne. “Is there a law that prevents me from giving the crown to someone else?”
“Uh... as long as that person is related to you and is male, you're allowed to make them the king,” she answered. “But that normally happens on a deathbed.”
“Wonderful!” I cried, taking the heavy crown off of my head. It was beautiful, but I didn't need it. “That means I can make Arthur the king!”
Lyn stood up and gasped. “But, your majesty!” she said. “Logan. Arthur has no family. His only family is his uncle and his cousin who are both barbarians!”
I groaned and sat back down. “Of course! I'm not related to him yet.”
Lyn stared at me as if I was crazy, but didn't ask any questions.
I drummed my fingers on the sheath of the Sword. “Then I suppose I must put it back.”
A heavy hand slammed on my shoulder. “No,” growled Keaton. “We need a king, boy. You can't put that sword back just because you don't want to be king.”
“M'lord!” Lyn cried. “He is still king now!”
“Enough, Lyn!” he barked.
Her pale face was flushed with anger, but she remained silent. I saw her ball her hands into fists at her side.
The knight poked a sausage-sized finger in my chest threateningly. “You will stay here, whether it's the last thing I do. This town needs a king and you're him, whether you like it or not.”
“Logan?” Lyn asked once he was gone.
I sighed. “Yes?”
“Maybe... maybe someone else could put it back for you,” she suggested with a shrug. “If you aren't allowed to leave, I'm sure someone else will.”
“Thank you, Lyn, but your master will see that I don't have Excalibur with me, and he'll kill me.” I stood up and began walking towards my rooms. I heard footsteps behind me, informing me that Lyn was following me.
“Don't say things like that. My master's just angry because he was probably going to be the next king if the tournament was held.”
I furrowed my brow. “He would have been the king if it wasn't for me?”
“Yes. You certainly changed his future.”
I reached my door and opened it. Someone had oiled the hinges recently so it didn't squeal in protest as I entered.
The room was far too large for me. It was the size of my cul-de-sac, but much more nicely decorated, and mostly gold. Honestly, the wardrobe was the size of me and my sister's rooms together. I would probably sleep in there if I had to.
Behind me, down the winding stairs, there was a sound of clattering metal and someone cried out in pain or shock. I took a step forward, but Lyn held out her hand in warning.
“No. I will deal with it. It could be assassins.”
“But I was just crowned yesterday!”
“The black market works quickly here.” Seconds later, she was gone, her light footsteps on the stone receding to silence.
“...how do you know that?” I asked to the room.
I headed over to the large window and flung open the curtains. The sun was shining at magic hour, but everything seemed gloomy to me. It was like my loneliness was casting a shadow over everything I saw.
I suddenly heard footsteps again and the door opened once more.
“Lyn? I've been thinking about telling Andrea something.”
She didn't answer. She didn't so much as acknowledge me. So I carried on.
“My parents... fight. Not like the Barons, but they definitely argue. About stupid things, like what to cook for dinner, what backpack to buy Andrea for school, even what type of sweater I should wear in the winter. Whenever they do, argue that is, I take Andrea outside and we practice archery. Lately, we've been doing it more because our parents are fighting, even more than usual. I know that Andrea has a hard time asking for help, from teachers, from friends, even from me.” I took a deep breath. Why was Lyn so quiet? Did she not want to interrupt me? “But... she doesn't know why I take her outside when mom and dad fight. I don't even know. But I'm afraid that they might harm her somehow, physically or emotionally. We're incredibly close... I don't want her to get hurt.”
Lyn was still silent. I slowly turned around.
“Lyn?” I whispered.
She was not there. Instead, another girl was, a girl with familiar copper hair and freckles. Her turquoise eyes were wet and her cheeks were streaked with tears. She wore a ripped grey skirt, white, flowing shirt and tight, black bodice. She wore familiar brown riding boots and her hair was up in a ponytail.
“Andy?” My throat seized up and my heart skipped a beat.
For once, she didn't correct me. She ran into me and sobbed. I quickly swept her into a hug and closed my eyes. We stood there for a couple of seconds and then let go of each other reluctantly.
“I... I know,” she choked out. “I know...”
“What?” I asked gently. “What do you know? You know how to get home?”
“Logan... I know.”
Her next words made my blood run cold.
“I know why mom and dad fight.”
“Andrea... what are you talking about?” How could she know why our parents are fighting? “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “Y-yes.”
I put a hand on her shoulder and escorted her to sit on my large bed. Sobs were still wracking her body and she was looking at the floor. “Why? Can you tell me?”
“Dad... It wasn't his fault,” She finally met my eyes again. “Dad got really angry once. He hit me.”
I gaped at her. “Why didn't you tell me?” I asked softly.
“Because I knew what you'd say,” she hiccuped. “You would try to get me away from Dad. You would hold a grudge against him. I know you, Logan. You're my big brother.”
“But if he hit you...”
“It was one time!” Andrea cried. “You were out with Jordan, playing paintball. I was at home. It was a few months ago. Dad came in... he looked at me as if I was in trouble, because I was reading on the couch and drinking hot chocolate out of his expensive mug from Peru that he doesn't like if anyone uses it. Mom came in just when he did it.
“He tried everything to make it up to me. I've forgiven him, of course, but Mom hasn't. I want to somehow make her realize what Dad did for me afterwards, but I'm afraid. What if I just make everything worse?” She clasped my hands tightly. “Logan, help me. Please. I don't want them to fight anymore.”
I stared at her. She finally asked someone for help, I thought. Me. I gave her a big hug. “Andrea, we'll tackle this problem. Together. I promise.”
I heard the door open, and we turned around. Lyn was standing there, her hands clasped in front of her.
“I'm so sorry, Logan. I heard everything. I was listening at the door.”
Andrea glared at her, but I squeezed her hand. “It's all right, Lyn. I need to get out of here and put the Sword back.”
“I understand... you need to go home. But Logan, I need to warn you. My knight heard the noise and is coming. Your sister must hide.”
Andrea looked at me with wide eyes. “I'm not going anywhere,” she declared stubbornly
“Andy, if you think you're being brave, think again. If you let that blacksmith find you, it's a suicide mission.”
Lyn nodded. “It's true. If Sir Keaton finds you, he'll be enraged. You'll wish you jumped out a window.”
“Lyn, lock the door. It could buy us some time.” I said.
She nodded and closed the door quietly and bolted it shut. “If he believes you're in danger, this door won't hold him for long, even if it is mahogany.”
“It could still buy us some time.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, there were heavy footsteps marching up the stone staircase.
“There goes our extra time.” Andrea said.
I ran to one of my walls and flung open my window. “Andy, go.” I ordered.
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you crazy?”
The door rattled. “YOUR MAJESTY!” hollered Keaton. “OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!”
“He's busy, sire!” Lyn replied, holding the door shut. “What should you be busy doing?” she whispered to us.
“Uh... microwaving lunch?” Andrea suggested.
Lyn looked confused. “What's a microwave?”
“OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW, LYN!”
“Why is he so angry? If you're the king, shouldn't you be bossing HIM around?” Andrea asked me.
I shook my head. “He's the regent. He's in charge until I become of age.”
“What should he be doing?!” Lyn whispered fiercely. She struggled desperately at holding the door closed.
“I don't know!” Andrea cried.
“WHO'S IN THERE?!”
“Andrea, jump. Now.”
The door exploded off of its hinges in a shower of splinters. Keaton walked in, sword at the ready. His eyes landed on my sister. “You.” he said, glaring at her. “You must be the assassin.”
“Yes. Me,” she said boldly. It made me want to tackle her to the ground to make her stay quiet. “But I'm not an assassin.”
“What are you doing here,” he growled. It sounded more like a statement than a question.
“I came for my brother.”
“He's King now.”
“I don't care.”
Her last sentence made me wince. Keaton's eyes narrowed into tiny, blue slits. “You should.”
Without another word, he grabbed my sister and flung her over his shoulder, carrying her out of my room.
“Put her down!” I yelled. He didn't seem to hear me, whether by choice or by accident. Andrea squirmed and kicked at him.
“Father, stop! NOW!”
He hesitated that time, but kept walking. With a kick of his boot, the door slammed shut on me and Lyn. I heard a key enter the keyhole and click the lock into place.
I turned to Lyn. “What should we do?”
She walked over to the still-open window. She turned to me. “We save Andrea.”
The Great Escape
In one moment, she jumped, her light blue dress and blond ringlets disappearing over the ledge. I ran to the window and looked out. There was a splash, but Lyn didn't come up for air.
I nearly hit myself on the head. She must not know how to swim! And before I knew what was happening, I took off my heavy cloak and jumped too.
I landed with a splash, but honestly, it felt like hitting wet concrete. I nearly yelped in pain, but refused to let the air out of my mouth. Paddling around, I spotted Lyn struggling to swim, her dress holding her down. With ease, I kicked my way over, grabbed her hand, and swam us up to the surface.
Both of us gasped and swallowed large quantities of air. Lyn coughed. “Thank you.”
With her on my shoulders, I beached us on the edge of the moat and helped her climb out. I heaved myself out and lay down on the grass. “Right,” I panted. “We're outside the castle. Now what?”
“Well, Andrea found a way in without passing the guards. We find the way in she did. You're lucky I know where it is.”
I held up one of my hands. “Hold up. We jumped out of the castle just to break in again?”
“Of course,” Lyn said, smiling. “You didn't expect to go through the front door, did you?”
I sighed and stood up. I shook my head like a wet dog, sending water droplets everywhere. “Fine. Where do you suggest we get in? Surely the entrance is secret, or else everyone would know about it, including your knight.”
Lyn rubbed the back of her neck and a cheeky expression lit up her face. “I may or may not have snuck into the castle once or twice when I was younger.”
I gaped at her. “You did? How—”
She waved her hand dismissively and began walking with confidence. “I was curious. Anyways, It wasn't just me. Arthur was there too. He's a pretty good sneak and he knows where it is, too.”
I nodded and ran to catch up to her. “How many others know about this?”
She shrugged. “Just me and Arthur. We used to sit on the throne and pretend that Arthur and I were king and queen,” her voice suddenly became small. “We had a lot in common, Arthur and I. My mother and father died when I was young, so I became the squire to the knight. Actually, he adopted me and I made myself he squire. He never spent much time with me, when Arthur's uncle and cousin practically made him a slave. We spent lunch here, often. That's how come I know it so well.”
I fell silent. I know what it's like to be ignored from your family. But after hearing Andrea's story, I began to wonder. What if they were reading it wrong? “Why doesn't your knight talk to you?” I asked.
“He says I look like his dead wife, but she died in childbirth. Kid got lost too. I guess I remind him of her.”
I quieted myself again. I didn't know what to say. I never knew what it was like to lose someone I loved. I always had Andrea, and Mom, and Dad.
“We're here.” Lyn announced.
I looked up from the grass. I could still feel cold water sloshing around in my boots, but tried to ignore it. We were in front of a tall stone tower, like the rest. There were a couple of worn stones in the wall, but apart from that, everything looked normal. Just another wall next to the forest.
Lyn put her hands on the worn stones and shoved, swinging a door open. Inside was a narrow staircase, winding upwards, with no torches lit.
“Wow,” I said. “I feel like Harry Potter when Hagrid opened the wall to Diagon Alley!”
Lyn stared at me. “Who? And where's Diagon Alley?”
I waved my hand. Right. Harry Potter's modern. “It's fine. Just something I read. Ignore that I said anything.”
She shrugged and headed up the stairs. “Fine. Don't light any of the torches, we don't want to warn anyone that we're here.”
I entered and swung the secret door closed. It closed with a quiet, heavy boom and I turned to try to find Lyn. I could barely make out her outline in the dark. I groped around with my hands and feet until I managed to get the hang of walking up the stairs.
“Where do the stairs lead?” I asked loudly.
“Logan, be quiet! I'm right in front of you!”
I blushed, glad that the darkness hid my red face. “Sorry!”
“They lead to the servant quarters, and the entrance to the dungeons are right next to them. I assume that the entrance is for servants who are late for work,” Lyn whispered, letting out a quiet chuckle.
Moments later, Lyn swung open a door, sending the sunset's bright rays into my eyes. I blinked rapidly, trying to get used to it. There goes my nightvision.
We were in a rather plain room, with multiple neatly made beds. There were wooden trunks at the foot of each bed. It was like entering one of those sad orphanages in the movies.
Lyn walked to a door in the far wall that I hadn't noticed. “Come on,” she whispered. “Do you want to save your sister or not?”
I nodded and followed her. It lead straight to another set of winding stairs going down. We clambered down as fast as we could until we were at the bottom. I bit my lip. I could only hope that Andrea was there.
Lyn swiped a set of keys on our way into the dungeon. It was damp here, and smelled heavily like mildew. All of the doors were open... except one. I heard pacing coming from inside.
“Andy?” I whispered.
The pacing stopped. “Logan?” A face appeared through the bars. My heart leapt into my throat.
I ran towards her and grasped her cold hands. I held them up to my face. Why was she so cold? “Andy... it's going to be alright. I promise.”
I heard a click and the dungeon door swung open. Andrea flung herself into my arms, trembling. “Thank you, Logan.”
I hugged her back, fiercely. “Come on, let's get out of here.”
Andrea whispered “Let's go home.”
She just followed me out, alongside with Lyn. When we reached the doorway to the exit, Lyn hesitated.
“What's the matter? Aren't you coming?” I asked.
“I... I need to get something. I'll meet you at the Stone.” With that, she whirled around and ran back the way we came.
Andrea and I looked at each other, but continued running. Minutes later, she and I reached the Stone, staying in the shadow of the buildings around. We crouched down and embraced each other, waiting for Lyn to come back.
We decided to hide in the square with the Stone. I couldn't say Sword and the Stone, because the Sword wasn't here yet. I heard light footsteps coming from around the corner of a nearby cottage, light like a child's. I grabbed Andrea's hand and yanked her behind a bunch of barrels.
“Why are we hiding? It could be Lyn,” Andrea whispered. She made a move to go back to where we were, but I tightened my grip around her arm.
“What if it isn't?” I quietly said. “What if it's a guard? Or the knight? People are looking for me now, you know. I had to escape from my room to get to you.”
She looked at me in awe. “You... you did?”
I nodded. The footsteps had stopped now, but I could still hear the person talking to himself. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but that voice was... familiar...
Andrea gasped and flung herself out into the clearing, figuring out who it was. “Arthur!”
I followed after her. Sure enough, Arthur was standing right there with Andrea chatting with him. He looked up and his whole face lit up when he saw me. “Logan! Andrea found you!”
I walked over. “Hey, Art. Good to see you again,” I looked at him from top to bottom. “Hold on... what were you doing in the forest?”
His eyes widened. “How did you know I was in the forest?” he asked, sounding panicked.
I grinned. “Your shoes are soaked, there's mud and grass stuck to your trousers, uh, trews, and...” I laughed, untangling a small branch from his dirty blond hair. “I believe this gave it away.”
He let out a chuckle. “I don't know... I didn't notice it.”
Andrea grinned at both of us. “I sent Art out to find a circle of Stones that might take us home. You remember, right?”
I nodded. “Good idea, Andy,” How could I forget? I was so terrified that I had lost Andrea forever after the mist swallowed me up. “Did you find one?”
Arthur nodded. “Absolutely. It's in the woods right behind the bakery here,” he turned to me. “I hope you'll explain to me what your sister was talking about. She was very strange and insisted that I could not go into the circle at all costs.”
“Unfortunately, I can't. Sorry, Art. Maybe Lyn can explain later...?”
He shrugged. “It's fine. Now, Andrea, you promised me you'd find a sword for Kay? He gets rather grumpy when he finds out I lost it.”
I glanced at Andrea. Sword? Is she tricking him into finding the Sword in the Stone? I never liked tricking or lying, but we had to set the past right. “Yeah... Lyn's getting it now.”
As if I had summoned her, the blond-haired girl turned the corner and, with a sheathed Excalibur in her hands, gaped at Arthur. “Art?” She asked. “What in the name of the barley stew are you doing here?”
He stared at her. “I... I was helping Logan and Andrea find a way home. Is that the sword they said I could give Kay?”
Lyn's eyes flicked to me and I nodded furiously. “Y-yes,” she said slowly. “Here you go, Art.”
I looked at Arthur with a gaze of utter bewilderment.
She smiled politely. “How many times have I told you not to tell me that? Only my knight calls me that when he's calling for me. Call me Lyn.”
Andrea looked at me purposefully. Merrylyn, she mouthed at me, practically buzzing. Merlin.
“Okay... well, we've got to go. Thanks Art, thanks Mer—I mean Lyn. See ya!” I called, dragging Andrea away and into the woods. Once there, we exchanged a glance, then hid behind two trees to listen to the rest of the conversation.
“Lyn, why's your hair wet? It wasn't raining.”
“Long story, involving jumping out of the king's bedroom and into the moat.”
Arthur laughed. “Well, it's a long walk to Kay's place... I've got time.”
Lyn grinned. “Lead the way.”
I turned away from the scene and stared at Andrea. She smiled at me. “That's done,” she said. “Now we go home.”
We turned and, hand in hand, began to walk to the barely-visible stone circle we came here through. I pulled Andrea into a noogie and rubbed her head. “That was fun,” I confessed. “But I'm not saying we should do it again anytime soon...”
She broke out of my grip and lightly punched me in the arm. “While you were trapped in a luxurious golden bedroom the size of our neighbourhood, just wait until you get locked into a moulding dungeon!”
We laughed together, as if a weight was finally off both of our shoulders. “Now...” I said, stepping into the circle. “let's go home.”
I opened my eyes to a very familiar forest and tried with all my might not to shout in glee.
My sister didn't do the same.
“YES!” She yelled, punching the air in victory. “WE MADE IT BACK!”
I winced as her voice echoed through the trees. “Alright, Andy. Calm down.”
She grabbed my hand and started dragging me through the forest. “Come on! We need to go tell Mom and Dad!”
I turned around and saw that the Stone Circle was gone, with only a small trail of mist in its place. “Wait, Andy—It's gone.”
Andrea turned around and stared. “W-what? But... where did it go? We can't see Lyn or Art anymore?”
I gave her a reassuring hug. “We can still do something.”
She looked up. I saw there was worry in her eyes, next to determination and bittersweetness. “Yeah. Let's go talk to Mom and Dad.”
We walked out of the forest together, my arm draped over Andrea's shoulder. Our house was the yellow one with a large willow tree out front. I fished my house keys out of my boot (My favorite hiding place. Don't judge.) and unlocked the door. I could still hear arguing coming from inside. I slammed the door open, causing our mom and dad to stop and look at us.
“Mom. Dad. We need to talk.”