Rian hastily got into the carriage, not daring to look at the carnage he had caused behind him. The carriage interior was soft and plush to contrast with the dark rough exterior. He had been in it, or one similar to it once before, but he needn't think of it now, less he should devolve into an inconsolable mess. Maudra Fara looked at the childling disapprovingly, "This carriage will take you straight to Har'ar, once I push it along that will be it. Are you sure you want to leave things the way you did?" She expected him to barrel out of the carriage back to his father or at the very least apologize, but to her shock he simply turned his head and said, "I understand Maudra Fara."
Even though he had shown her blatant disrespect, Fara shook her head and complied with the child, as she could see there was no other option. Had she scolded him, there was a very likely possibility he could make her look bad in front of the All Maudra herself. Fara sighed hard and proceeded to get behind the carriage to get it started on its long journey. Fara waved goodbye as the carriage drove away, leaving Rian all by his lonesome.
The carriage ride was long and slow. Rian began to collect his thoughts to try to appear presentable. He knew that despite what he went through, he was going to be a representative for his clan, and he had to honor his home. He looked outside trying to focus on the mountainous terrain so as to keep his father far away from his mind.
After what seemed like hours, the exceptional childling had arrived at the steps of the palace. Horns blared at him as he exited the vehicle and two paladins escorted him into the massive home of the all Maudra and her daughters. The palace looked sleek in a modern sense, with the snow outside seeming to fit the aesthetic perfectly. Rian looked down as a chill went up his spine. Everything reminded him of home, from the paladins as castle guards to the empty halls of the palace being a stand in for the endless crystal castle corridors.
Suddenly, Rian found himself kneeling before a throne which contained Maudra Mayrin, Maudra of the Vapran, and the entire gelfing race. She sat there like a statue waiting to be awakened by the slightest wrong move. Slowly, she began to speak as if each word carried the weight of Thra itself. "Hello little one, welcome to my home. I understand that you are very talented so please make yourself feel comfortable. The paladins, scholars, and I are here for wha-"
"NO! BREA DON'T! MOM'S IN A MEETING!" Quickly, a young gelfling, about one year Rian's junior, came flying into the room and loudly crashed into the throne, landing in the All Maudra's lap. Rian immediately bolted up, "Are you okay? That looked like a pretty big crash." Rian said, jumping to his feet. The All Maudra smiled and waved her hand to make him kneel back down, which he did without hesitation. The smaller gelfling glanced at the StoneWood, but paid him no mind and excitedly told her mother how happy she was, "Look momma! Look! Did you see? I was flying! I can fly!" A door leading from another room suddenly opened revealing a slightly older gelfing, around 8 trine, with a round face and long silk like hair rushing in. "Mother I'm so sorry here I'll take her for you-" before she could get out another word, Maudra Mayrin hushed her, "Good job Brea! I'm glad you're happy honey. Now Seladon go get Tavra, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
Begrudgingly, Seladon, once again bested by her younger sister, went to go get Tavra. Rian continued to silently kneel there awkwardly. They never had lessons about how to behave in front of royalty back at StoneWood, or even the castle, but the All Maudra was much more inviting than he'd been told. Every StoneWood Rian had ever known complained to him about the Lords' favoritism towards the Vapran clan and the clan's disconnect from the other inhabitants of Thra. The scene that played out before him was a shock, they didn't look stuck up or snobbish, they looked like a regular, though rather rich, family. He could not think of what to do with himself, so he just stood there watching the All Maudra laugh with her daughter. A ping of sadness rushed through Rian, as he remembered how he would laugh and play fight with his father, but this thought was quickly pushed aside when the older female gelfing brought who Rian assumed was her sister into the room.
Tavra reminded Rian a lot of a castle guard, with her cold stone face and structured features, he felt a bit of fear in spite of himself. "Now girls," the All Maudra began, gathering her childling together into a circle. "I'd like you to meet Rian, he's an exceptional gelfing from Stone-in-the-Wood and he'll be staying here for a while. I'd like you all to introduce yourselves and get along, understood?"
The girls sat at attention and responded in unison, "Yes mother." Maudra Mayrin nodded in approval, "Good. I have some meetings to finish up so please bring Rian to his room and remember to be nice got it?"
"Yes mother" they all said, once again in unison. At this, the eldest spoke up, "Come on, it's this way, follow me." She said as they got up and dragged him towards a narrow hall. They all headed down a winding corridor as the sisters began to introduce themselves. Again, the eldest spoke up first, "My name is Seladon. I'm 8 trine and I like to sing. I'm also next in line to become All Maudra..." Rian was quick to tune out and try to study her. She seemed to carry herself in a very organized and self-serving manner, groomed to be the next in line to a vast empire, and although Rian did not entirely understand the feeling, he could nevertheless relate. He had herd Captain Ordon many a night talk about how Rian would 'take up his mantel' one day so he could retire with his mother and see Rian grow and always be there for him. He stopped his train of thought abruptly as the last thing he needed was to tear up in front of the Maudra's daughters, and continued following the conversation.
Next Tavra, clearly a gelfing of few words, spoke, "I'm Tavra. I uh like to fight? Do you like to fight? I hear all Stonewood do." Rian looked at them a bit embarrassed. "Uh well yes and no, see I can fight but I much prefer to read a book or stay indoors. I guess I'm supposed to like to fight, but my brain just doesn't want to work that way." Tavra fell silent, trying to make it up to her, Rian added, "I could still teach you more stuff if you want, I'm just not good at it, that's all." Tavra perked up at the news, "I might have to take you up on that! Mother gives us great tutors, but none are Stonewood."
Brea began to bounce up and down impatiently. "Is it my turn yet? Is it mine? I wanna go! I wanna go!" She exclaimed. Seladon groaned. "It's rude to interrupt Brea, but yes, you can go now." Brea excitedly began, "I like to read too! I heard that you were the first ever gelfing to get past 70 on the GEC, that's amazing! How did you do it? Are you better at math or reading? Ooh, I have soooo many questions!" Seladon took a sharp turn and led the group into a small room, "It'll have to wait Brea. Rian, this is your room and a key to the library should be on your night desk, which you have full access to whenever you need to use it. Come on guys let's go, it's been a long day for him, dinner will be in a few honors." With that all three sisters left the room. It was a lavish room with a soft bed next to a big window, overlooking the beautiful Har'ar horizon. Rian opened a closet door which contained softer, heavier clothes that suited the climate much better. Rian closed the window and changed for dinner.
He was surprised a few hours later when a knock came to his door and instead of Seladon or Tavra calling him for dinner, a servant simply brought it to his door and rushed away. "Excuse me." Rian asked the peasant, "Um am I supposed to eat this alone?" The peasant stopped in his tracks and faced the young gelfing,"Well I suppose you don't have too, I was about to bring this tray to the princesses next, you can come if you wish."
Rian obliged and they went a few doors down to the girls' room. "Rian? What are you doing here?" The three of them asked in confusion. "Well, I dunno, I usually eat supper with my family but since they aren't here, I just thought...I mean if it's okay...can I join you guys?" The sisters glanced at each other, with a loss for words. They had always thought that eating was something to do only with one another, as they had never had a true family meal since their parents were always busy.
Finally, Seladon spoke, "Sure, that sounds alright, why don't you play this card game with us too?" And together, they played and laughed throughout the night. The four got to know each other well, and Rian felt as though they could confide in one another. Finally, Rian left and went back into his chambers. Getting into his new, much softer bed, he nodded off to sleep. Perhaps being here wouldn't be so bad after all.