Chapter Eighteen - Destiny (2/2)

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Tahir felt more than a little uncomfortable sitting at a fine feast in the King's dining hall while Oraden was left outside. They agreed it was best for Oraden to remain in the stable with the horses; he wasn't comfortable around so many humans, or being confined to walls and doors. Tahir needed to remain in the castle so he could talk with King Robert and explain their business here. They also decided that since the King was also a friend of Demetrius, he would feel obligated to offer his finest hospitalities. To do anything other than accept, might be considered an insult. Still, Tahir didn't like leaving his best friend alone in a horse's stable. They talked for as long as they dared. Tahir certainly didn't want to be late for dinner; He recalled how annoyed his mother was when he arrived late.

While Tahir and Oraden talked in the stables, Gavin gave Meelix some quick lessons on behavior in the company of royalty; how to wash for dinner and what would be expected of him. Manners were of the utmost importance in the presence of royalty.

The communication barrier between them was breaking down remarkably fast. Gavin spoke several languages fluently. The language of the little people of Rhykell was not difficult for him to learn. With mutual patience and effort, they were able to communicate.

Meelix absorbed his lessons enthusiastically. His small stature was already a disadvantage to his friends; he certainly didn't want to embarrass them or cause any ill feelings due to his ignorance. His goal was to fit in as best he could and find a way to become an asset to his company.

Gavin, Meelix and Tahir waited at the table in the dining hall while servants made the finishing touches. Right on time, King Robert descended into the dining hall escorting a young woman on his arm. As they approached, Gavin and Tahir stood, and Meelix followed their lead. The young woman smiled pleasantly at Tahir, quizzically at Meelix, and her eyes lit up when they met Gavin's.

"My dear Destiny, how beautiful you've grown," Gavin took both of her hands in his. "Why, you were but a child when I last saw you. And now, you are a beautiful young woman."

"It is good to see you again, Sir Gavin. It seems that you have escaped time's embrace. You look as I remember from my childhood," Destiny said.

"Let me introduce you to my companions...if I may?" he looked over Destiny's head, seeking the King's permission. Robert smiled at the reunion and nodded for Gavin to continue. With one arm around Destiny's waist, Gavin outstretched the other toward Tahir.

"This is my young friend, Tahir al-Din, from the deserts of North Africa. Tahir, this is Lady Destiny, youngest and, if I may be so bold, fairest daughter of King Robert."

"Hello Lady Destiny. It is very nice to meet you," She locked eyes with him and smiled, making her best effort to mask her curiosity about his foreign features.

"And this is Meelix of Rhykell, the gnome village in the forest of the unicorns where Tahir has spent many years," Gavin continued.

"Hello Destiny. It is very nice to meet you." Meelix repeated Tahir's words for fear that anything else might be inappropriate.

"Forest of unicorns?" her eyebrows rose. "Such a place truly exists?"

"Yes, yes, Destiny..." King Robert interrupted. "Gavin has been gone a long time. He has met new friends and has many stories to tell. Let us feast. We will sit, eat, and allow Gavin and his friends to tell their tale from the beginning."

King Robert led his daughter to her seat and then sat down at the head of the table. The food was served by servants standing at the ready and the King motioned for his guests to enjoy their meals.

"Gavin, how does your story begin?"

"Actually, it begins with Tahir," Gavin replied, nodding toward the boy.

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