Title: Such is the Journey
Spoilers: None, unless you have not read through the end of Sabriel.
Notes/Summary: The day has come for Touchstone to finally become king. His perspective.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Garth Nix.
Such is the Journey
Touchstone paced nervously back and forth through the hallway outside the throne room. He could hear the excited chatter of people inside, waiting for the coronation to begin. He, on the other hand? He was not excited. Oh no. He thought he was going to vomit all over the gorgeously restored floor.
Passing a mirror, he stopped mid-pace to look at himself for the hundredth time that morning. His curly hair had been brushed and styled with fragrant oils, his lean body covered in stunning reds and golds from his hidden undershirt to his leggings to the extravagant ceremonial robe he wore. He looked nothing like himself, and that just made things worse.
The pacing continued. Touchstone was honored that the people had wished him to take the throne once the city had been restored, but he had never dreamed that it would actually happen. Yet here he was, and the crowning ceremony was about to start – a ceremony that would end with him being the King of the Old Kingdom. Wringing his hands with frenzied motions, he finally stopped moving and leaned his back heavily against the wall.
It was then he became aware of another person in the hallway. Sabriel. She was watching him, an amused smile on her lips reaching all the way to her eyes. If she hadn't seen how nervous he was, he was sure she'd be laughing. Dressed in the traditional Abhorsen garb of navy and silver, she was stunning, standing there. Someone had pulled her hair up into some kind of braid on her head, dotted with small navy flowers. Her bells were missing, though, likely locked in a drawer in her bedroom.
Seeing her there with that smile, Touchstone calmed a bit and took a deep breath. "I'm not ready for this," he whispered softly, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall.
Sabriel walked forward and put a hand to his flushed cheek. "I know you don't feel ready, Touchstone, but you are. These people -" she inclined her head to the nearby door, beyond which was laughter and joy "-they need you. Someone must rule now, and you're the best choice for the job."
He stared at her, drinking in the happy face and bright eyes. She was right. Of course she was right. But rather than respond, he rocked forward and rested his forehead against hers, wrapping his arms loosely around her waist.
"You smell nice," Sabriel noted, chuckling. "Did they try to drown you in flower water?"
Touchstone smiled for the first time that morning and tilted his head slightly so their lips almost touched. "I have a question for you, Sabriel."
"Do you?" It was barely a whisper, and he felt the breath against his face.
The words suddenly caught in his throat, heart pounding for reasons that had nothing to do with the impending crowning. He wanted to ask, so badly. And here she was. They were alone. But instead he pulled her closer, just about to kiss, when –
"We're about to begin!" a voice shouted as an old man – the Charter Mage who would be performing the ceremony itself – shuffled down the hall toward them.
Touchstone reluctantly released her, severely disappointed. Abysmal timing, he had. Sabriel touched his cheek again to redirect his attention. "I will see you at the coronation. I will be standing beside you the whole time. The Abhorsen's place, beside her King."
A last smile, and she was gone through the doors into the throne room.
The next hour passed in a blur. Touchstone was lead up to the dais, where Sabriel and two other women were already standing. The room was packed with people from one wall to the other, and all of them were beaming up at him. Sunlight shone through the high windows, showering everyone in bright golden light – a perfect touch for the golden day. And then the ceremony was underway.
There was a lot of kneeling and speaking. Charter prayers were said over him, and he in turn blessed the kingdom. A few people in the audience began to cry. Then the newly forged crown was placed on his head, a heavy and unfamiliar weight. It was done. Touchstone was King.
He did not see Sabriel again, as he was rushed off by volunteers to undress him and redress him for the party to be held shortly. His life as a king had begun, and he sorely missed the long-ago time when he was but a Royal Guard, not even considered a true prince. As the volunteers peeled off the layers of clothing, he recalled Sabriel's smile, in the hallway before the ceremony. Calm and collected, even as she soothed his nerves.
The heavy robe was removed and replaced with a lighter tunic of scarlet emblazoned with golden leaves and vines. It was lovely. He made a mental note to ask for the name of the seamstress to thank her. The kingdom was still poor; she had made all of these clothes free of charge as a gift to him.
It took Touchstone a moment to realize that someone was talking to him, and he turned to face a young boy in the door of the changing room. "Yes?"
"The reception is ready for you, sire."
Touchstone nodded, suddenly feeling lightheaded. The ceremony was done, yes. But this party – the reception – was going to be just as nerve-wracking. At least until people started drinking. He looked around at the dozen other men of varying age in the room, all who had helped him get ready. "Thank you all. Now, where am I to go?"
He did not remember much else, save that Sabriel was not to be seen for the rest of the day but for brief snatches here and there. Touchstone's question, then, was forced to wait for another day.
Instead, he kept the memory of her smile close until he could steal away and catch her alone again.