“An Audience With the King”
He drew strange looks even as he approached the city gates. The pair of gate guards, one to each side of the gate, did not normally stop those headed into the city, however, they leveled curious and suspicious gazes at the tall stranger. He was clad in colors of the sea from head to toe; his open-fronted shirt sparkled in the sun like the scales of a fish, his leggings were the color of a sandy beach on a warm day. And topping the image off were the outrageous cloak and hat, both sea-blue, the hat plumed with a gull's feather. His teal-colored eyes offered no indication of his disposition, or his heritage. The thin-lipped mouth gave no hint of any mood or emotion.
It was the cutlass that tore it. Who but a pirate would be wearing that sort of weapon? One of the guards shifted, as if considering whether to stop and question the strange man. The other, seeing this motion, began to move forward, but the man had already passed, lost to their eyes in the crowded streets of Sul.
The stranger walked with a purpose, ignoring the many covert looks, and a few blatant stares, that came his way. He threaded his way through the crowd with the ease of a local, his footsteps bearing him ever closer to the intimidating granite facade of Castle Clarious.
The drawbridge was down this day, and the front gates of Castle Clarious hung open just wide enough for a man to pass, for today was a Gathering day. Already, noblemen and women from all over Sundania were starting to trickle in, despite the early hour. By mid-day, the king would be hearing reports and grievances from all over the kingdom.
A single, bored-looking man stood by the castle gate, his right hand resting carelessly upon the pommel of the longsword that hung from his belt. He lifted his other hand to stop the stranger.
“State your name and purpose,” he sighed, with an air of one who has been saying the same thing over and over again for hours.
“My name is Teal,” the stranger replied, “I seek an audience with the king.”
The guard's lips quirked in irritation. “Your real name?” he pressed, an edge of sarcasm sneaking into his voice. “King Telbren Clarious does not offer audience to titles and false names.”
The stranger, Teal, gave the guard a helpless smile, raising his palms in a gesture of openness. “I swear, I mean no slight,” he said, “I have no other name to give.”
The guard tried a different tack. “Where are you from?” he asked, studying the stranger's sandy brown hair, teal-colored eyes, and lightly tanned skin. “Sokel?”
The taller man shook his head. “I come from the west.”
“Port Clarious, then?” the guard suggested.
“Something like that.”
By this time, a small crowd was beginning to gather behind the man, mostly nobles waiting to get into the castle for the Gathering. At least one of them looked to be in a foul temper due to the hold-up. And with rumors flying wild of Sindavian assassins having infiltrated the city of Sul, the guard didn't exactly blame them.
“Sorry,” he said stiffly, brushing the stranger aside, “but I have to deal with the people that are supposed to be here.”
As if in response to those words, two of the bodyguards trailing one noble suddenly drew short swords on their employer. The guard moved for his sword, knowing in the back of his mind that it was already too late. The nobleman, catching sight of the motion, screamed in terror...
A sea-blue flash suddenly appeared between the terrified noble and his would-be assassins. At seemingly superhuman speed, the man who called himself Teal darted to the rescue, his last step bringing his elbow into one man's throat. The cutlass was already in his other hand, defeating the other assassin's strike.
The man whose sword Teal had parried turned to run, but a flick of Teal's wrist sent the cutlass through the back of his knee. As the man collapsed, his partner attempted to make a move, but Teal had pulled a flintlock pistol out from somewhere in the folds of his cloak, and was already cocking it.
The assassin ignored the instruction, making a move as if to come at Teal. However, before he could move, there was a sudden sound of blunt metal impacting with bone, and he slumped to the ground, unconscious, revealing the triumphant gate guard standing behind him, a smug look on his face.
Teal put the hammer on the flintlock back to its normal position.. “I was wondering if you were going to help me at all,” he commented casually as he concealed the pistol once again in his cloak.
The guard eyed Teal warily, but, after a moment, lowered his sword. He regarded Teal anew, gaping in unabashed amazement.
“Who in the thirteen layers of Hell are you?”
The stranger smiled. “My name is Teal. I seek an audience with the king.”