Oscar froze. He tried to get his brain in running order. The King is currently meeting with Old Helen.
“Merp,” he said.
“Is everything okay, friend Oscar?” asked Thymia. “Do you want me to go in for another look?”
“No,” he said, inhaling. “They might see you.”
King Samuel was eccentric, even as far a rulers went. He had left the kingdom in the hands of his very capable advisors, and instead of ruling, the King spent his time traveling across the land, searching for artifacts spoken of in olden lore. Why anyone with as much power and gold as the King would choose to merely while away their time on the throne (like some faraway rulers he’d heard of) was incomprehensible to Oscar. He was glad King Samuel was far more sensible in this regard.
Oscar had only seen the King once, when he flew through town to visit the nearby coves. The golden ring on the King’s finger had caught his eye then. Of course, even if he hadn’t seen the ring, the spoils of the King’s expeditionary exploits were common knowledge.
From the shimmering Cloak of Concealment to the Cup of Concentration, the best known of the King’s spoils was perhaps his Ring of Rising, which enabled him to float, several feet above the ground. Oscar had been incredibly jealous— magic was incredible, and he wanted to find some of his own.
Now the very King who had soared to the town’s applause and admiration was back. Within arm’s reach, no less. Oscar could barely contain himself. Just what could be happening at Old Helen’s table? If there was talk of another artifact…his mind opened with possibilities.
“Stay behind me, Thymia,” Oscar said. He moved to the side of the door, to where the stone wall began. Thymia bobbed and followed.
With a quick jump, Oscar scaled the wall and found himself in a small garden. He was in Old Helen’s courtyard. The back of building faced him, framed by small shrubs.
The back door was open.
“No way,” said Oscar and moved closer to the door.
The sound of voices drifted through faintly. Oscar could make out Old Helen’s distinctive tone. What was that— something about the “sandy bank?”
“Why are we sneaking in?” asked Thymia from behind him.
Oscar tumbled backwards, startled. Dragged along with him, Thymia faded out and reappeared behind him. He briefly noted that Thymia still teleported if he moved, rather than the genie.
“Please be quiet,” he said, in hushed tones. “They don’t know we’re here.”
“Sure, friend Oscar,” said the genie.
“Thanks, Thymia. I’m going to sneak back in and listen.”
“I’d usually suggest you try entering through the front door. That’s the easiest way to get in. But it looks like this time it’s just as convenient to go from the back.”
“Right,” sighed Oscar. The genie’s tautological manner was getting to him. Still, Thymia made a good point. The back door was suspiciously open, in an almost inviting way.
Could it really have just been left open on accident? Was there something else at work here? Oscar paused, thoughts whirring.
Another indistinct snippet of conversation reached Oscar’s ears. He thought he heard his own name mentioned. I probably imagined it.
As he stood there, he felt himself reach a breaking point. A slew of excuses rose to battle his fears, fueled by his curiosity. There’s probably something important going on there. I’ll definitely regret it if I just pass up this opportunity.
Emboldened, he slipped through the door, hugging the wall.
Oscar saw the flickerings of light in the room across from him. Sticking to the shadows, he moved along, listening in all the while.
“…do I do with all those chests?” a gravelly voice spoke. King Samuel, thought Oscar.
“I don’t know,” Old Helen said.
“I must keep this up alone.”
“I’ve reminded you that this will be a costly venture..”
“Helen— I could care less if all the people hate me. I’m trying to save lives here.”
“I’m telling you, I know everyone here. They wouldn’t listen; it’d defeat everything you’ve worked for.”
There was a pause. Oscar felt his pulse quicken. What had King Samuel been covering up?
“You’re right,” King Samuel said and sighed wearily. “I’ll think more on this matter.”
“It’s getting late, do you want to spend the night here?”
“That’s kind of you, Helen, but I want a quieter place to think.”
“Back to the cove?”
“Yes, indeed.” There was a sound of a chair scraping against the floor.
Oscar froze against the wall. Curses where can I hide?
“Are we leaving, friend— ?” Thymia began. Oscar frantically gestured, covering his mouth. Thymia bobbed in affirmation, cutting off mid-sentence.
“What was that?” Old Helen asked.
“Sounded like a person. I’ll go check,” said King Samuel. His heavy footsteps rang through the house.
Some part of him was urging him to move. Still, he stared at the glowing room with a deep fascination. The hypnotic footsteps grew closer. He turned to see Thymia at his side, looking at him, and the spell was broken.
Oscar turned to rush out, feeling something was wrong. The footsteps had stopped; tempted, Oscar looked back to see no King Samuel looking around.
He paused, confused. Oscar stared at the empty doorway. Hadn’t the King just said that he would—
“Hello,” said a gravelly voice.
King Samuel materialized in front of the doorway.
He was looking directly at Oscar, with a hint of amusement. Internally, Oscar’s brain tried to desperately pattern-match, too late, realizing of course the King would be invisible, he has a Cloak, why did I even— .
“The night air is chilly. Won’t you come in and join us?” he asked. “And your… companion, too, of course.”
Oscar’s mind felt thoroughly beaten at this point. “Sure,” he managed to croak. He resignedly walked into the room, Thymia following.