The Key Finder
The Key Finder
The next morning the boys awoke to find themselves on the cushions on the floor of the main room. Lilah was standing over them holding two green bags filled with objects that clanked together like metal.
"Come on," she said. "It's time."
The two boys sat up sleepily and followed her to the door. Hanan handed each of them some sort of pastry filled with the same green substance that had been in the dumplings the night before. Dowd stood next to her with a stern expression on his face and said nothing as the three left the house.
Lilah, Tony and Gabriel turned left when they reached the landing of the cliff and set off up a steep hill. It was an incredibly long climb and it seemed to the boys that it kept getting longer.
"I'm sure the top was closer than this when we started," Tony whispered to Gabriel.
Gabriel nodded in agreement. That was pretty much all he could do. He was used to sports and other forms of exercise, but this was different. It felt much harder to push through the air and both boys thought Lilah was going way too fast.
The boys were panting when they finally reached the top. They looked up and saw Rowan coming towards them.
"Sorry we're late," Lilah said to him. "Mother wanted me to let the boys sleep."
"It's a good thing," Gabriel said, out of breath.
Lilah ignored the comment.
"Ah, it's no problem at all," Rowan replied in a thick Irish accent. "I was working on my shots anyway." He lifted his arms in imitation of an archer poised and then set the fake arrow sailing through the air as he made a weird "fake arrow sailing through the air" noise.
Lilah laughed and then turned to Gabriel who was rolling his eyes at the witless banter, "You'll be coming with me, " she said. "Tony, you stay with Rowan." She looked at Rowan, tossing one of the green bags to him, and said, "We'll see you chaps later."
Rowan watched as Lilah and Gabriel went to the other side of the field and then turned to Tony.
"Dowd sent me out here to teach you some of the techniques we use in battle," Rowan began. "As members of the king's army, it is our job to protect those in the royal family. Kind of a bit of irony, I think, sending you into battle, but whatever."
Tony didn't see why that would be, but he didn't bother to ask.
"Now," Rowan continued, "as I'm sure you already know, there are only three left who are of pure royal blood and pure native descent: the king, his brother, and the queen mother. Dowd is the king's brother, captain of his royal bodyguard and chief defender of the kingdom. And..."
"So if Dowd is the king's brother, doesn't that make him the rightful heir to the throne?" Tony interrupted.
"My gracious, Tony. Didn't he tell you?" Rowan was surprised.
"Tell me what?" Tony asked.
Rowan sighed. "Well, I think it's something you need to know before I start teaching you all this stuff." He paused, obviously slightly perturbed and trying to find the right words. "No, Tony. It doesn't make him the heir to the throne," he paused again and looked Tony directly in the eye. "It makes him your uncle and you, the rightful heir to the throne."
"Me?" Tony was horrified. "But that... that can't be. I'm just not the right kind of person to be the heir to a throne, particularly one in some kingdom I know nothing about! Dowd would be much better for it! Can't I just give it to him?"
"No, you can't," Rowan was even more irritated at Tony's reaction than he had been at the fact that he had to be the one to have this talk with the boy. "This place was meant for you. Your father summoned you here for just this time."
His father. It suddenly occurred to Tony that, for the first time in his life, he knew he had a father. Tears began to well up in his eyes, but he suppressed them.
"Where is my father?" Tony asked, the words sounding so familiar to him