Thats how it began for Rory. For me, it started much earlier than that day, a week before. I didn dream every night and not every dream I had was a glimpse of the future. Most of them were, but not all. I could usually tell the actual dreams from the prophetic ones, sometimes though the dreams mimicked reality so well it was harder to tell. That week, I dreamt every night, the exact same thing.
Rory is wearing a crown on his head, in his left hand, hes holding a large stick? No, its far too big to be a stick, a branch maybe. The branch is curved at one end with a purple rock floating in the middle of the curve. He mustve hurt his other hand somehow, I realise, because Rory is not left-handed. But hes still in his school uniform so maybe its an accident in PE. Hes surrounded by dense white fog, the kind youd expect to come out of a smoke machine. Theres lots of yelling and Rory catches my eye.
Then the dream shifts suddenly and Rorys face comes into focus. Hes covered in dirt, bruises and dried blood. His lip is split and theres a rather nasty gash on his temple, its bleeding profusely. I always feel a tightness in my chest then, and a panic. It feels like this is all my fault, somehow. Then I wake up.
Maybe thats when it all started for me. The first night I had the Dream, I was staying the night at Rorys house. We were sleeping in Rorys twin sized, back to back. I woke up with a start, and woke him up too. We lay for a moment in silence, shoulder to shoulder. We were pressed so tightly that I wasn sure where I started and Rory ended. Once I settled myself down, I turned my head.
”Tell me a story ” I said quietly, I always liked Rorys stories. Sometimes, when he was in a good mood, or knew the story really well, he would do funny voices. Other times he just summarised in a way he knew would make laugh. ”Something nice though, nothing tragic or sad ”
”Okay, give me a minute ” Rory responded without taking his eyes off the ceiling. He didn ask why and I didn tell him. I supposed he knew better than to ask, I knew Id tell him eventually. I always did. ”Have I told you about Perseus and Andromeda? ”
He already had, but I shook my head anyway. I wanted to hear it again, I didn mind. As long as Rory was willing, I would listen to anything he had to say.
”Right, so Andromeda was a princess, yeah? And she was super beautiful, like gorgeous, and her mum Queen Cassiope was really proud of that. She was bragging about how pretty her kid was, she even said that she was more beautiful than sea-nymphs ” Rory explained, talking with his hands. I was surprised he didn hit me while gesturing wildly. ”They went and grassed to their dad, and seeing as their dad was a god, shit went down. He sent a sea-monster and flooded their kingdom, the villagers decided to sacrifice her by tying her to a rock on the cliff and- ”
”This was supposed to be happy ” I complained, pushing myself off Rorys shoulder and closer towards the wall. ”Its not happy so far ”
”Well not yet ” Rory turned his head and made a face at me. ”Perseus came along and rescued her, he fell in love with her at first sight ”
”How romantic ” I sighed, voice dripping with sarcasm but feeling a lot better than a few seconds ago.
Rory shrugged and turned back towards the ceiling. ”I suppose its not ” then he paused for a moment. ”You did mean that sarcastically, right? ”
”Yes I did ” I confirmed. We didn get to sleep until much later and Rory never asked what was wrong. It was possible that Rory didn realise anything was wrong, but surely he wasn that stupid. I knew it was because Rory never pushed, not when it came to this. I could never tell him how grateful I was for that.
And every night that week the same dream. On most nights, I didn have Rory right next to me to tell him a story, nor to check that it really was a dream and that he was still alive and well. Most nights I had to settle on staring at the ceiling until I had the image of my best friends bruised face out of my mind.
That brought me to right now. In my mind, Rory still wanting to deliver the letter was the single stupidest thing in the world. I wanted to get out of there as soon as we could.
”We absolutely should not deliver the letter ”
”Oh come on ” Rory groaned and turned over the letter in his hands. ”I can read what it says but just think about it, it could be exciting ”
I looked at him for a moment. This ridiculous boy would be the death of me, figuratively and perhaps literally too. ”It could get us killed ”
”Hardly ” Rory shook his head, having very little to no self preservation instincts.
e not a hero ” I pressed on. I knew I was being a little harsh but I had to get it through to him. I didn want my dream to become true.
”I know ”
”You haven got magic ”
”I know that ” Rory sighed, exasperated as if he was the one trying to remain calm, while attempting to convince his friend not to do something that could be extremely foolish. ”I just think it might be fun ”
”We have very different ideas of fun ” I responded and glanced back at the mirror. ”Lets try to head back ”
Rory didn say anything but he didn argue either so I turned and took a cautious step forward. I put my hand up to the mirror, expecting it to go through. It didn . The mirror was as solid as youd expect it.
”I think we should really deliver this letter ” Rory said quietly from behind me.
I turned back to him and sighed. ”Fine, but only because we can get home ”
Rory nodded, barely able to contain his excitement as he rocked gently back and forth on the heels of his feet. ”Okay, deliver the letter and go home ”
”Straight home ”
”Aye aye sir ”
I laughed, not being able to help myself, its not like I could stay mad at him for long anyway and we both knew it. I let Rory lead the way out of the semicircular room. I expected to come out into a hallway but instead, we found ourselves in a smaller room. This one had a large window to their right and a table in the middle of the room. A young woman with dark hair sat just behind it. There was paperwork laid out, forgotten as she leaned back in her chair and read a book. Her clothes were strange, I noticed, they looked like a set of armour. The kind youd see in medieval museums.
Rory found his voice before I did. ”Excuse me ”
The woman looked up. She seemed unfazed about our sudden appearance. ”Hiya, what brings you to Caldale today? Have we got our travelling permits? ”
”Travelling permits? ” we glanced at each other.
”Ah, not to worry, my loves ” She smiled sweetly at them and picked up a piece of paper from her desk. ”Just fill out this form and youll be okay ”
Rory shook his head. ”No, weve got a letter to deliver ”
”Ah, my apologies, you two are from the postal service ” She put the sheets back down and opened a desk drawer. She rummaged through it for a couple of seconds before taking out two stickers and handing them to us. ”Pop that on your tops, you lot usually have a uniform though thats strange ”
”Oh yeah, its our day off ” I lied, I didn want to get caught out nor did I want Rory to tell the woman the truth. I didn know what would happen if the woman found out we had just, basically, wandered in. Of course, Rory looked over at me. He gave me The Look, it was the same look he gave me whenever I did something that didn align with his rigid moral compass. Its not that he was a goody-two-shoes nor that I was a terrible person, I just always thought that white lies never harmed anyone. ”Just doing a personal favour for a good friend ”
The woman laughed, kindly. ”Oh don I know it ” she said and straightened her back. ”Now, who are you two looking for? ”
Rory glanced up, he was smoothing out the sticker on his jumper. The sticker had writing on it in a language I couldn understand. ”Famir ” I said, putting my own sticker on. ”Know where we can find them? ”
”Oh! The King ” the woman frowned, as if she was remembering something awful that had happened to her. ”You will need to head straight out and to the throne room, ask any one of the guards to help you get there ”
”Thank you ” Rory said, before leading the way out. I never liked leading the way, Rory always the braver ones of us and arguably much more impulsive too.
We walked through the door, out into a long hallway. On either side of the door were two men, guards. They wore chainmail armour, with dark blue and silver accents on them. Their swords were sheathed and Ian was glad of it, I didn want to be on the opposite end of the blades.
While I was silently analysing the men, Rory was found quite the opposite. He stood just there, eye level with the guard on the left, arms crossed over his chest. He looked like he was gearing up for a fight. In fairness, I thought Rory always looked like he was gearing up for a fight.
”Excuse me sir,
” he said, his tone polite and completely different from his current stance.
e looking for the King, weve got a letter. ”
The man nodded, then looked over to his partner and nodded again. ”Follow me. ”
And we did. We boys followed behind the man. I made sure to keep as close to Rory as I could, you never knew what he might do. Getting Rory on edge wasn a hard thing to do, he was usually fidgety or overstimulated by simply just existing. As we walked, I felt a hand near my own. I looked down to see Rory had linked our pinkies together. It was a silly, childish sort of gesture that weve been doing since the dawn of time. It was a small thing that seemed to do wonders for Rory, and I didn mind at all.
We walked and walked, and walked some more. I thought they might never make it. The halls we were walking through were long, from time to time I could spot a closed wooden door or a window, or stairs but we never went anywhere near them.
Eventually, after what felt like hours, we finally reached a large wooden double door. It was closed. The guard didn offer them much help, he grunted something and left us all alone.
”We deliver the letter and go straight home, got it? ” I looked at Rory meaningfully.
Rory didn look at me, it wasn uncommon for him to avoid looking people in the eye so I didn take it personally. ”Got it, yes, letter then home. ” Rory nodded, letting go of my pinky and pushing the door open without knocking. Typical.