Fate had played a cruel card indeed. In a matter of a few short days, Arthur's meager existence as a noble's youngest son had escalated to being the Queen of the Land of Spades. And not only had this young, naïve gentleman become Queen, but he had also become the personal puppet of his power hungry father, Alistair Kirkland. Oh yes, fate had indeed dealt quite the hand for young Arthur Kirkland, much against the lad's desperate wishes and pleas.
"I am naught, but a marionette… a puppet on strings…" Arthur muttered to himself, feet slowly shuffling on in front of the other as he wandered the blue grasses of the castle grounds. In the past week or so of him being Royal, Arthur had found it rather comforting to wander through the tranquil gardens the graced the property of Spade Castle. The Midnight Roses had close into small buds as per their usual day time routine. Midnight roses only unfurled their velvety petals when the moon's pale light shined down upon them. Arthur sighed softly and stopped by one of the hedges, gently caressing the flat side of this thumb over one of the closed rose buds. Things had grown so complicated as of late. Arthur wished he could curl up like one the Midnight Roses and block out all the harsh, unforgiving light of day. Life would be so much simpler….
Despite the fact Arthur had been Queen for no longer than a few days over a week, he already could feel the weight of his responsibilities. Though the new Royal Party had not yet been released to the public, the council and party advisors were already seeking Arthur's approval on nearly everything. And though the King had yet to be discovered as well, a grand coronation ceremony was already being planned to celebrate the dawn of a new age. The planning committee could not so much as pick a single table cloth without first earning the noble opinions of their Majesties the Jack and Queen of Spades. From the moment Arthur opened rose in the early morning to the time he finally fell asleep (Granted his insomnia didn't rear its ugly head) It always seemed as though someone needed him for something. Sign this paper, review this document, what fabric should be used for the drapes in the library? Arthur was a man who very much so enjoyed his solitude and he had so far received nothing of the simple luxury. It was all the young gentleman could do to slip away from all the pandemonium and disappear into the castle gardens so he may spend some quality alone time with his thoughts…. Unfortunately his thoughts were not so forgiving.
The only things Arthur could think of was just how dire his situation he was and how much he wished for this all to the end up being one god awful dream. Royals were Royals till the clutches of death plucked them from the throne…. Arthur would be Queen for the rest of his life. Every day for next forty or so years of his life Arthur would be constantly called upon when all he wanted was solitude, constantly under the pressure of the council, constantly scrutinized by the judgmental eyes of the public. It was… it was overbearing…. "Fate must hate me…. Truly it must…" He found himself muttering.
"Oh come on, now. I'm sure it's not all that bad." A voice suddenly came forcing Arthur to nearly jump clean out of his skin.
The Queen's wide emerald eyes darted back and forth in search of the source of that voice. Where had it come from? Was he hallucinating from the stress and lack of sleep? Had some manner of specter come to teach him some sort of mystical lesson? No, it was nothing quite so irrational. It was simply a man sitting on the base of a nearby sculpture with one knee curled up to his broad chest. Alfred could not see if face too well with the way the man was positioned, but could tell that his frame was broad and muscular. His skin was tanned and kissed with the rays of the sun in a way that was only possible by spending countless hours roaming out of the safety of the shade. His clothes were tattered, a bit torn, and smeared with dried mud and other various forms of filth. "W-Who are you!" Arthur demanded, voice faltering only a bit in the aftershocks of his initial surprise. "You don't belong here!" Arthur wasn't sure of that. For all Arthur knew, this man could be a groundskeeper, but the Queen had never before encountered anyone else out here all the other times he had snuck away from his duties.
"Well how do you know?" The man replied, still looking away from Arthur and tilting his face up towards the pale blue sky. "I don't think I've ever met you before. So how can I say I don't belong here if you don't even know a thing about me?"
Valid point, Arthur thought vaguely. "… Please excuse me… you merely surprised me and people do not usually react to well to people suddenly appearing out of nowhere…." Arthur compensated though his voice still held a bit of defensive venom. Who was this peasant to say such things to him? He was Arthur Kirkland, son of Alistair Kirkland and member of the noblest and most prestigious family in all of Spades. This peasant was criticizing Arthur when clearly it was the man who had caused the discord.
"It's all good." The man said brightly. "Why don't we start over again?" It was then that the man finally turned to face Arthur and the Queen first looked into his endless blue eyes as pure and clear as the seas surrounding Spades and the sky overhead. "The name's Alfred F. Jones. What's yours, stranger?" The newly named man inquired, a bright, friendly smile spread up on his rather full lips.
It took Arthur a moment to reply as he was momentarily stunned by the shine of Alfred's eyes and the radiance of his smile (Not that he would ever admit that was the true reason for his hesitance). "Uh… I'm Arthur… Arthur Kirkland…"
"You're a Kirkland?" Alfred asked in some awe, his shaggy, wheat blonde hair falling in front of his crystalline eyes.
"Yes…. What of it…?" Arthur's asked, one prominent brow arching in question.
"Nothin'," The lad answered with a little shake of his head. "I think the land where my dad worked was owned by a Lord Kirkland…" He mused, titling his chin up towards the sky and gazing at the clouds that rolled by at their leisure.
Arthur's eyes briefly glanced up at the sky as well. He vaguely wondered what about it that was so interesting that Alfred kept staring at it. "Lord Kirkland is my father…. He owns several pieces of property. Gem mines, farm land, harbors…"
"My dad worked in the mines…" Alfred replied slowly, his long, ashen lashes slowly closing over his eyes and casting little shadows on his tan cheeks. There was something lingering low in Alfred's voice. What it was, Arthur wasn't entirely sure, but… it definitely made him unsure of what to say next.
"Oh well then… I ask you to thank him for his hard work…. The Kirkland Establishment would be nothing without its loyal workers…" It was the default setting for whenever a situation like this occurred. Arthur had been taught to smile, look dashing, and offering a small word of appreciation to feign the appearance of being kind and caring. This was a skill his father had engraved into his brain since the time he could speak….
"As much as I'd love to extend the favor, my Dad's been gone for a while now…" Alfred spoke, looking back at Arthur and offering a small, weary smile.
The young gentleman's cheeks burned softly. He hadn't meant for that, "O-Oh um… then I'm very sorry your loss… I wasn't aware…"
"Enh," Alfred made a small noise accompanied by a shrug of his shoulders. "It's okay, I wouldn't expect you too. I'm not exactly someone on the front page of the newspaper." He said with a little laugh escaping from between his rather white teeth.
Now Arthur was really unsure of what to say. A stagnant, awkward air flooded into the air between the two men making Arthur's palms sweat in the bow tie around his neck suddenly feel all too tight. The young gentleman wasn't very adept with social situations…. "Um… in any case… you do realize that this is the Royal Garden, correct? Civilians are not allowed to be here unless they have been invited to do so by the Royal Party or the High Council." He said very properly,
"Is that so…?" Alfred hummed softly, looking down at the statue base he sat upon and idly scratching at some of the chipping marble. "Still, I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be here. My mom told me told me so."
Arthur chewed the inside of his cheek, "… Well um… does your mother have a connection to the council…?" The young gentleman inquired.
"Nope. We've got no one that fancy out where I live. I just came into the kitchen one morning and my mom took one look at me at said, 'Alfie, you have to go the place straight away'." The younger lad explained, mimicking a very stern, proper tone to imitate the way his mother had spoken.
Arthur felt his thick brow arch in question once more. Peculiar, why would his mother ever say such a thing? From what Arthur could tell, Alfred was naught more, but a country bumpkin. What possible business could he have coming all the way here? "… And why would she say that…? Is it work you're looking for…?" Perhaps he had come for employment in the castle. The boy was strong and exceptionally able-bodied as well. Perhaps he was signing up to become a soldier.
"No, not work. I had a job working on a farm back home, but Mom made me quit. She said the new job I would get in the palace would pay way more than digging up vegetables in the fields."
"… And what job is that…?"
"I don't know…" Alfred breathed, shrugging his shoulder slightly as he stood up. "But she said it's got something to do with this." And it was then that the strange country boy peeled back the collar of his worn, tattered shit and revealed a mark on his sun kissed skin. There, on the space just above Alfred's heart, was a small blue spade and hovering above that was an intricate letter 'K'.
Arthur had suddenly found himself completely and utterly flabbergasted. His eyes had widened to the size of dinner plates and his mouth worked up in down a fish desperate for water. Of all the people in this vast country of Spades, the King had to be this… this country bumpkin! Both the Jack and Queen were of noble lineage, but this… this was just…. Arthur struggled to find the words to describe it. And as his inner turmoil raged Alfred continued speaking. "I got real sick a couple nights ago. I was shaking and runnin' a fever, hell, I couldn't even stand properly. My skin burned so bad and I thought I'd come down with some kind of sickness on the count of me working out in the fields all the time, but then this thing showed up." He explained, giving a brief glance down at the mark on his chest. "D'you know what it means? I've never seen anything like it in my whole nineteen years of livin'."
The young gentleman was still so completely dumbfounded by this information that it took him a few moments to process Alfred's inquiry. "D-Do I know… w-well I… you honestly mean that you don't?" Alfred didn't say anything, just continued to pry an answer from Arthur with nothing else, but the look in his clear blue eyes. Arthur supposed he couldn't blame the younger man. He himself had no idea of what had happened to him when he had begun transforming so how would Alfred? "I… I don't believe it is wise for us to speak of this at the current moment in time. I have to take you inside, bring you to Yao; he'll know what we should do…" Yao seemed to know more about the subject than Arthur did on the count the easterner's old great-grandmother.
Arthur took the younger man by his raggedy sleeve, "We have to move swiftly and be wary of our surroundings. We cannot allow anyone to see you quite yet." And like that he started leading Alfred back down the path he himself had traveled before, being careful to slink along the hedges out of sight from the sentries stationed along the upper castle walls.
"What's the big deal?" Alfred asked rather loudly which forced a sharp, harsh hiss to escape from in between Arthur's clenched teeth. The younger man brought his voice down to a whisper, "What's the big deal…? Does that mark mean something bad…? Am I a fugitive or something…?"
"No, no that's not it at all; it's just… well…" He would just have to break it to him…. "Alfred… you're… you're the new King…. That mark indicates that you're to take the throne as the new King of Spades…"
Alfred's blue eyes spread wide in his mouth hung ajar (A very similar expression to the one Arthur had been wearing only a short time ago). "Are you fucking kidding me!" He shouted very loudly this time which earned yet another furious hiss to cease making noises.
"Shh! Are you trying to get caught!" Arthur breathed in a harsh whisper.
"B-But…" Alfred ad obviously sustained some sort of serious shock from the information which was no surprise to Arthur. The young gentleman had just not suspected him to shout at the top of his lungs.
"Hush now…" Arthur offered a minor soothing word instead of another severe hiss. "The sooner we find Yao the sooner everything will be explained to you properly, alright…?" The young farm boy pressed his full lips together and only offered a small nod of his head as an answer. "Good, now let's get going…" Arthur started moving again, slinking like a shadow along the line of hedges until they came to the gate where he had exited the castle. The young gentleman made sure that the corridor was deserted before stepping inside and dragging Alfred long with him. He proceeded with just as much care through the somewhat familiar corridor that led to the Royal Suites where all of the party's bedchambers and personal rooms were located. Arthur was quite sure that Yao would be in his private study working on his calligraphy or his herbal remedies as he had been with his spare time.
They had nearly reached the correct wing when Arthur saw a cluster of guards and other various persons gathered around the junction between the main hall and the Royal Wing. They were all chatting and laughing and… this was bad…. How could Arthur get around them without drawing attention to himself or Alfred…? And it was then he remembered his practices. "Stay quiet…" He commanded softly and Alfred nodded in agreement.
The Queen drew his pale lids over his jaded eyes and drew in a deep, calming breath. As he relaxed his mind and his thoughts he could feel the gently flux and flow and time moving around him and throughout the corridors of the castle. He could hear the gentle ticking a distant clock quietly muttering into his ears and he focused on it greatly. Now to slow things down…. Arthur opened his hand palm up towards the high arched ceiling and slowly closed his fingers back into the center of his palm. He could feel the chatter or the people growing slower and slower; feel their movements become more and more labored until they ceased all together.
Arthur smiled broadly, happy that he had successfully managed to pull of such a feat. He had not yet had the experience of using his Time Mage abilities in a real life situation before and it was positively thrilling. Alfred had also frozen as he was close enough to be caught in the wave, but as soon as Arthur once again gripping onto his raggedy sleeve the country boy was free of times frozen grasp so he too could move with Arthur through the vortex.
The younger man seemed astonished at the sight and gaped at the frozen, statuesque figures the passed by. "Whoa… how did you do that..? That's… whoa…" Alfred seemed a bit at a loss for words to describe something so remarkable. Arthur was sure that the country boy had never before witnessed something quite like watching a Time Mage at work… well, a novice Time Mage….
"Before I came here I was training to become a Time Mage: one who is able to control and manipulate the time vortex…." Hopefully, whether he was Queen or not, Arthur would continue to pursue his dream of mastering the art, but… he wasn't sure if he would be able to now….
Alfred's clear eyes shone like stars, "Whoooaa…." He breathed out in awe. "That's so amazin'! I've never seen anyone do something that cool before!"
Arthur felt a sudden rush a heat rise on his ivory cheeks. Alfred thought his… his skills were… amazing? The young gentleman had never heard such a thing before…. In the Kirkland family, all males went to serve time in the Royal Army. Aberline- Arthur's oldest brother- along with his other two older brothers, Seamus and Bryn, had all served their time and earned high ranking titles in the process... Arthur had been too frail and sickly to join the military and… and that disappointed Alistair greatly. The older man believed that Arthur's training with the Time Mages was tom-foolery and was an absolute waste of precious time. Still, Arthur was the youngest and not in line to be the next heir to the next head of the Kirkland family so Alistair really didn't care what Arthur did. The man already had three able-bodied boys before Arthur and that was all he needed…. So… never before had someone actually praised Arthur for his practices and it was… it felt… good…. "Why… why thank you…. I practice quite hard so I am pleased that all of it has paid even if just for a little bit…." A small smile graced his thin lips, but he turned his head away for Alfred wouldn't see it.
When they were far enough away, Arthur released the guards from the frozen clutches of the slowed time vortex and the returned to their conversation as if nothing had happened. Perfect. Arthur led the new found king down the long hallway of the Royal Wing. Luckily, the Jack's quarters were first in line followed by the Queen's and lastly the King's located in the deepest parts of the corridor. The Queen drew in a calm breath as he stood stiffly outside of the door to the Jack's study before he brought up a shaky hand and gently rapped his knuckles against the wooden door. "Come in…" A muffled voice echoed from within and slowly Arthur twisted his wrist around the crystal door knob.
"Yao, it's me…" Arthur said quietly as he popped his head in through the open door. The eastern man was stationed at his desk; sleeve pulled up gently and brush in hand. Arthur had obviously caught in the middle of his calligraphy practice as the Queen had suspected he would.
"You're majesty…" Yao addressed formally, still a bit surprised to see the Queen at his study. "Do you require my assistance…?"
Arthur bit his lower lip softly before he spoke, "Yes… yes I am and… I need you to stay quiet…"
One of the Jack's jet black brows arched in question, "… Yes… yes of course, your majesty…. I will be sure to aid you to the best of my ability."
The young gentleman's green eyes darted the floor, "Well I… I think I've found our King…"
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