The Other Way Around -2-

(So, A fellow traveler, are we? Well then, jump aboard:)

Chapter 2.
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‘Come here boy and let me have a look at you’. I turned away from my reverie searching for her, she was sitting at a divan her right hand caressing something that to my eyes looked terrifyingly close to a mountain lion. Now, I hadn’t ever seen one in my life, but I had heard stories about their fierceness and certainly didn’t want to get too near a live one. She studied my expression for a fleeting moment and then said to the lion. ‘Puss, be a good kitten and go to the kitchen, I’m sure there will be some fish for you’.

The lion who had been purring at her side raised itself languidly, it was even bigger than I had thought, it looked me in the eyes, took two steps and then licked my face. I didn’t dare to move, for a breathless moment I thought I would die, then it said in a petulant growl ‘ why can he stay but I have to go’. The Lady smiled and said ‘Puss, you can come back later, but for now I think you’re scaring the boy. Go now and have some fish so I can talk with him, please’. The lion gave me a last lingering lick ‘he tastes nicce’ he growled, and then he left.

‘Come here and sit’ she said as she pointed to her side, I slowly went on shaking legs for the divan and sat myself down. ‘Ah’, she said, ‘at least one can see how you look now boy, do you know where you are?’ ‘No’ I said ‘I don’t’. ‘Well boy, you are on my Ship faring toward my home, I’m going there for the summer festival. What I can’t understand is how you materialized inside it’, here she looked thoughtful for a moment. ‘My charms should keep even the strongest incantations and thaumaturgies from us, so in you I think I found a baffle boy’. ‘But I’m no one, My Lady’, I said. ‘I’m just looking for a place to stay’, and then I hastily continued with telling her my story, as little as it now was.

She listened gravely, smiling now and then as I told her about my upbringing, when I at last came to how my book had made the portal she listened with a ferocious concentration and had me describing it in detail, over and over again. At last she seemed satisfied and studied me anew. ‘You don’t look much to the world’ she said with a small catch I her voice, ‘but from small beginnings boy’, there she smiled a peculiar smile, sweet but somehow redolent. ‘Now Laurel’, she then said, ‘we’ve got you cleaned up and dressed, still there are one more thing to do before we’re finished here’.

She suddenly stopped, ‘are you hungry boy?’ My stomach answered for me and she smiled. ‘Ah well, a feast will be prepared for us, it’s a joyous occasion to have you here and we will celebrate, I promise you. Long have I waited for some new mystery in my life and you Laurel seems to promise me that. But before that’, and here she turned grave again. ‘Do you swear loyalty to me and to me only Laurel? On thy honor, and thy life? ‘I looked at her and she at me, suddenly I found myself falling into those smiling green eyes again, and yes, it was like coming home. ‘Sweet Lady’, I answered, ‘what honor i have I lay at your feet and my loyalty to’. At those my words she studied me thoughtfully again. ‘So’, she said, ‘here you are, all mine and a most loyal subject to methinks. There is reason enough for rejoicing here’, she turned to the air and commanded in a clear voice, ‘Stewards, let the feast commence’.

The Feast.

There was so much I didn’t understand, I thought. But of one thing I was fairly sure, I was lost, lost in her eyes and lost in my mind. I already knew that I would do my utmost to serve and protect her. She had given me shelter and purpose when I needed it most, and if truth was to be told, I had been smitten with her from the first time I laid my eyes on her. She took me to a banquet room where there were food in abundance laid out, a feast not only for the mouth but even more so for your senses. There were so many different people and beings, from those tiny imps to the talking mountain lions. Once there I finally realized that Puss really was a kitten, that as I saw his mother, in size more resembling a small pony than a lion.

Everywhere there was laughter and good-humored banter. The Lady had placed me at her own table at the lower end. As I had started to eat I heard a voice, ‘Excuse me’, I turned aside and found myself looking down at a dwarf. ‘Could you reach me the butter’, as he seemed a robust character of friendly countenance I gave him the butter with all haste and we then went on to talking. ‘So you’re our Lady Emilia's new page then’, he said. I gave him a confused look ‘am I?’ ‘Well, my dear boy’ he said, ‘you must be, as you are sitting at her table’ he then continued to explain that only Emilia's closest retinue were placed at this specific table and so it fell to reason that I must be her new page.

He told me also that there were more than five hundred people traveling with Lady Emilia, some of them friends of her, courtiers, attendants, servants and knights, cavalier’s from many different lands and places. It slowly started to dawn on me that My Lady had to be an rather important person, and that this summer festival was of a greater importance than I first had thought. ‘But Alfred’, that was his name, ‘what does a page do?’ I had to ask, as I knew nothing of that kind of thing. He guffawed in a amused manner at my question, his bushy eyebrows raising sardonically as he deliberated my question. ‘Now boy, that's a good question. Perhaps you will be able to inform me after you’ve done some paging yourself, heh?’ I soon found myself stopping to worry though, there was too much good food and drink at the table, and I couldn’t stop gorging myself as I sat there, soon oblivious to all other things.

The time I had spent in the Woods without proper food had given me an even stronger incentive. In the end it was all I could do to stop me from falling of my chair, beset of fatigue as I still was, and with a stomach feeling as if it was going to burst at any moment. As my Lady Emilia seemed to notice my condition she smiled at me and ordered an imp to direct me to my new room. I must admit that I was most grateful to find myself in a comfortable bed in a modest chamber of my own, it was so much better than sleeping on the cold ground. And as I mused over all those marvelous things I’d seen this day, by now fairly sure that the strange water filled seat in the bathroom must be a dwarf bath, or possibly for the imps? I slowly started to sink into a content slumber. The last thing I remember thinking before falling asleep was wondering where my book was? I had this weird premonition that I would find further need of it before this tale could end.

Morning Glory.

I woke up to the sound of a woman singing. I struggled mightily to get my bearings as I tried to remember where I was. Who i was were no problem, but where? Such a sweet voice that girl had, ‘oh girl, wish you were mine’ i mumbled to myself as I climbed up of my bed. There was an adjoining door to my chamber, as the voice seemed to come from there i carefully sneaked in to see who it was. There she stood, combing her lovely long hair in front of large reflecting plate. Now I remembered it all, she was my new Mistress and I was her? Page? What a lovely sight she was.

I just stood there rooted to the floor, mesmerized in her beauty looking at her, she was wearing a thin gray petticoat and an even thinner blouse. She looked so lovely that I had to pinch myself again. ‘So you’re awake’ she said. ‘You can follow me to day to familiar yourself with my Ship, later on I will get Master Twizt to teach you your new chores.’ Observing my hopelessly adoring gaze she just couldn’t help herself. She twirled slowly around, Courtesied and asked ‘am I to your liking My Lord’. I can still feel how my face went red, red as a beet, I hastily looked down and said. ‘I’m sorry, My Lady. I couldn’t help it’.

She went over to me and said ‘don’t worry Laurel, as long as you don’t do it in public I think we can stand it. But go get yourself dressed now, we have much to do.’ I looked down at myself, oh sh.. I was only wearing my breeches and furthermore, they suddenly seemed much to tight. Hastily I beat my retreat to my own chamber were I found new clothes laid out for me. There were also a basin filled with cold water and a towel. And boy, did I ever need that cold water. When I had calmed down, washed and dressed I went back to her door to knock again. ‘Come in’ I heard her voice and in I went. It was a day filled with labors, I thought that if every day she had were as filled as this one it was a wonder that she could live trough it.

There were people waiting for private audiences, staff meetings about diverse projects, she had a tutor in Mangravlian. Another in fencing, and yes, a Wizard who also was the Pilot of her Ship. For me it was all very confusing and, I must admit, tiresome but she didn’t seem to mind at all. At some time late in the evening we found ourselves back in her suite, I hesitantly asked her what was next on her calendar. She considered me for a moment and then she smiled, it was a strange thing this smile, it seemed to be able to fill a whole room with air and laughter and one couldn’t help but smiling back.

‘Well My young friend, how about something to eat?’ ‘Yes My Lady’ I said. ‘Shall I call for a servitor? And what would be to your liking?’ To be honest I had no idea how to call for any one at all, but if I was going to be a page I guessed that I had to start somewhere, right. She clapped her hands ‘serve us an dinner please, and some fruit for dessert would be nice to’. ‘Come’ she said and went before me into the next room, there I found a table already arranged with two plates, a bowl filled with fruit, venison, wined water, bread and lots of this and that. It all looked very inviting.

I sat down opposite her and started to eat, after a while I chanced to look up, and caught her regarding me with something nearing to sorrow in her eyes. ‘What is it My Lady’ I studied her for a clue to what I had done to make her so sad. ‘Is there something I’ve done?’ her somber appearance melted away at my consideration and she smiled at me and said ‘It’s just that I was thinking of time Laurel, do not worry boy, I’m pleased, and hope that you are to.’ ‘My Lady,’ I said ‘ How could it be otherwise, to take a stranger into your household and treat him as this. Without My Lady’s compassion I surely would have perished in the woods. I will always be in thine debt My Lady’

Her eyes sparkled with amusement as she listened to my somewhat stilted speech, ‘I thank you for your words Laurel. Be sure that I will rely on them when need arise, but for now, there is no need for formality. You may call me Emilia when were alone.’ I just sat there watching, losing myself anew in her countenance. ‘Emilia, I thank you again, but please’ and here I eagerly leaned forward ‘tell me, what is a page?' She looked at me somewhat consternated ‘ A page?’ ‘Yes, I need to know what I should do. I have no knowledge of this profession Emilia, and Alfred told me that I..’ Even before I had finished she started to laugh, so helplessly that she ended up in hiccups.

It was a most infuriating sensation, and for the first time I wasn’t taken with her. I asked her a simple question, didn't I? She didn’t need to make a fool of me for that, did she? ‘Ooh’ she said collecting herself at last. ‘You make me young again. Laurel. I’m sorry I laughed, you see, you’re nobody’s page. I’m planning to take you on as an apprentice.’ Now I was totally consternated, was I supposed to be like her? ‘That’s not possible!’ I said nervously. ‘You’re a Lady, Emilia, a most lovely one to. I can’t possibly be your apprentice.’

Now she changed her mood again, remembering it anew, it reminds me of the Sea, calm and serene, then without warning, blowing up, getting the kittens as we used to say at home. ‘What’s wrong with being a girl?’ She angrily stomped her foot down. ‘Are you one of those meddlers that thinks only men counts?’ Now I had done it, my foot in the middle of my mouth. She was truly mad, at me, no less. ‘My Lady, you heard me wrong, I only meant that I can’t be like thou, I’m a man Lady Emilia, look’ And here I stood up and showed myself. ‘A boy, not a girl My Lady, please’ She scrutinized me for an agonizing moment, and then doubled up with laughter again. At that moment I realized, for the first but not for the last time, that however wise and old one might get, there would be no greater accounting for womankind.

It felt as if I waited for a small eternity before that laughter subsided into those small hiccups again. Then she tried to speak ‘ I don’t expect you to be me, but there is something I think we share Laurel. Call it an affinity if you like.’ I must admit that I felt much relieved at her words, I had no doubts that she or her tame wizard could have transformed me, and I was deeply grateful for this not being the cause. And yes, most of all I was relieved that I still would have a chance to enjoy her company as a man, well, boy then, if you have to remonstrate. After the meal we went our separate ways to rest. Me, not much wiser but at least relieved of the burden of? Pagening, was it?

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