Colors radiated through the palace windows making brushes of color on the silverware. The deep mahogany tables and chairs gave luster off their waxy finish.
Queen Lydia was beaming. Seeing her mother alive had seemed to awaken her spirit. She noticed that all the girls were watching her and took full advantage to teach them the manners of nobility. She carefully unfolded her napkin, and nodded to the servants as they poured water and wine. With a quick smile and glance, she graciously prepared everyone for the blessing. After King Titus had given thanks, the Queen gestured to them beginning the conversation by asking our companions how the day had gone.
“Molly, please give my compliments. The produce seems as fresh as ever,” said the King with a smile.
“Thank you sire,” replied Molly. “We are so honored and blessed to serve under such a gracious King. Even the farmers in the field feel confident while you are on the throne. We saw Brownbeard today and it seems that he has been given a son!”
Both the King in the Queen clapped their hands together. “Ah, that is news indeed! Twombly, would you extend an invitation to the Palace for the Friday night feast. Tell Brownbeard I want his entire family including infants.”
“Now, Molly, you have said that I am a gracious King. I am honored by this. But can you tell me… what is the real difference between a good King and a bad King?”
“You are a good King,” said Molly. “That much is sure. You treat your servants with respect so that everyone wants to work in the Palace, but you constantly find ways to help the local people. Most of the farmers would gladly give you their produce in exchange for the peace and safety you provide them.”
“Ahh, thank you,” said the King. You have touched upon one major quality of a good King: he seeks ways to provide for his people. What else can you ladies think of?”
“Sire, a good King will defend his people,” said Mercy. “I mean… from invaders and armies, right?”
“Okay, Mercy,” said the King. “So here is a difficulty. Many kings have armies. In fact, I have never heard of a king who didn’t have an Army. But the question is, what does that Army defend?”
“Well, in your case I suppose it defends the city of Adelphia.”
“Right you are. So the question is, am I my just defending my Palace? or am I finding a way to defend all the people in my kingdom?”
“You must defend your people!” said Malachi.
“Well said, well said, lad,” answered the King, turning his large hazel eyes to look directly into Malachi’s. “The trouble is, many kings simply defend their own interests. But now, there is something else the King must defend if he is truly to be a good King.”
Titus paused and looked around at the children smiling broadly.
It was Molly who spoke up. “Sire,” she said meekly. It was obvious that she loved her King but felt shy to speak up. Titus looked at her with an encouraging smile. “A good King defends the church!” Her voice gained confidence as she said this until she was smiling broadly back at the King.
“That is the point most kings miss,” said Titus softly. “Think of it this way. If the church is the bride of God, don’t you think God wants his bride provided for and protected?”
Strong understanding filled Malachi. He began to understand some of those things dad had said about protecting and defending his sisters. He was bursting with the next question: “but how do you defend the church?” He asked.
The King was very pleased to have all their attention. He sat back in his chair and proposed a toast. “A toast to the value of good questions!”
“Here, here!” said Twombly and the Queen, who knew the routine. Hesitantly, the children raise their tumblers and chimed, “here, here!” They all clinked and clanked their pottery together.
Titus began, “There are so many ways in which a good King can defend the church. First of all, I set an example for my people by attending church myself. I give a tithe of my increase to the church at all times. I actually require everyone who works at the Palace to attend worship at least once during the week. When I attend church, you notice that Lydia and I are not arrayed in our Royal apparel. We are simply worshipers before our great and mighty God.” He looked around with a grin, inviting the children to speak.
“You, you did remove your robe when you entered the Cathedral,” said Martha. “I noticed. And you sat back in the pews with the rest of us. But you were guarded.”
“Yes. Set the example. Give the people a pattern to follow. Do it. Live the pattern. Oh that I might be true to God’s patterns and so really live till I die!” King Titus finished with a flourish as if quoting a play.
Queen Lydia, as if to bring the conversation back to the present, said, “now, who do you suppose helps the poor and cares for the sick in our city?”
Mercy had raised her hand: “when we were injured, we were cared for in the cloisters. Is it the Church?”
“Yes… the Church, not the Palace. People donate all kinds of medical supplies needed for the healing of patients. I couldn’t possibly bring everyone to the Palace for healing. The Cathedral communicates with smaller churches in the farm community surrounding Adelphia. What a bother it would be to have everyone coming to the Palace all the time!”
The King lowered his voice. “So you see,” he said with a wry smile, “here is where the Patternstone comes in. It’s magic restores hope to the people and reminds them of the patterns for worship and festivity –for kingdom and culture. These patterns were given by God in ancient times and we are prone to forget them. When you take the Patternstone on pilgrimage, you will find that other kingdoms have not remembered these patterns the way we have here in Adelphia. They have been lost and forgotten in personal greed and corruption. No time set aside for worship and festivity. Your task is to remind them of the patterns. Send them to Adelphia if they want instruction.”
The companions sat in silence. Queen Lydia was smiling. She made a gesture with her hand and the fiddler began playing a soft tune. The King began to chant. Our companions remembered it from the Council:
“From whence derives these patterns?
From whence, this use of time?
From heaven’s throne
to call our own
reflected in the Patternstone.
Ancient builders made them known.
‘ere hammers rang to chime.”
King Titus continued, making up verses the children had not heard before:
“What then becomes the mission?
What then becomes the task?
To live the patterns in the stone.
Through weariness of back and bone,
To show them and to make them known,
but slowly grown,
within, till on the surface shown
for those who think to ask.
The road to other kingdoms,
to those of North and South.
In company of caring souls,
avoiding dragons, beasts and trolls,
deeping pitfalls, deeping holes,
not heaping coals,
but spreading word-of-mouth.
Its fraught with dangers great and small,
yet still the call to go.
Now hear the call,
with traveling shawl,
ambling over mountains tall,
helpful to the weak and small,
though progress may be slow.”
When the king ended his chant, the companions found themselves staring at reflections, candles and the hearth fire. The call to adventure was in their bones yet they knew the first priority was for their bones to rest. “May your sleep be sweet,” said the King with a wink.
The companions got up and had started toward the large double doors, when Twombly came breathlessly into the dining hall leading Scrapper. The dog looked very forlorn and tired. His shaggy fur was matted and dirty. He walked straight up to Malachi and spat the scrap of paper at his feet.
“Now you guys will understand how he got his name,” said Malachi. “He brings scraps like this one.” By now everyone in the hall had gathered around the dog, and Malachi read the message, “”D in pipe at river 2 bl E. from Market Way. Bring 10+ men armed. Rasha +3 men bad.”
“I am saddened by this,” said the King. “I have suspected for some time that Rasha may have had foul connections. Give the dog something to drink!”
The dog gratefully lapped up a bowl full of water and another bowl of beef stew which Molly brought out from the kitchen. “Good boy,” said Molly.
“Twombly, take ten guards and follow the dog. There is something afoot.”
Malachi wasn’t sure if the Palace guards knew how to use Scrapper to his full potential. He felt shyness overwhelm him to the point where he wasn’t going to say anything. But then Mercy touched his shoulder and whispered, “tell the King you’ve been training with Scrapper.”
“I’m too chicken,” Malachi whispered back.
Mercy took the initiative. “Your Majesty!” she said loudly with a deep courtesy.
Luckily, the guards had not yet been discharged. The king knew that every minute counted for Duman. But Mercy had begun to win his trust. “Speak quickly, Miss Mercy,” he said.
“Sire,” she replied, “who here is familiar with Scrapper’s tracking methods?” The guards remained silent.
“There is none but Duman and Listener,” replied the king.
Mercy gave Malachi a look that said ‘speak up’.
Malachi came forth and knelt. “Rise,” said Titus. “Duman has been training me with Scrapper,” said Malachi. “He goes one block ahead and keeps you from being seen first.”
“Twombly, take the boy, but only halfway to the river. Send him back with Brego and escort him to bed.” Titus looked meaningfully at Malachi.