Raising the Crown

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 7 (v.1) - Welcome Home.

Submitted: July 29, 2019

Reads: 76

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Submitted: July 29, 2019

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Once we landed, it was clear to see that there were no cars here in Moscjen. Most people either had bicycles or horse-drawn carriages in a variety of style, and some people even had total electric vehicles, though those vehicles were relatively tiny. The airport was small, and simply just a runway that was big enough for this plane to take off from or land on, but now they were preparing to fly the plane back to the Slovenian border where the Xudian royal plane’s hangar was built and secured. According to Camila’s parents, it was actually highly discouraged to bring the plane even here into Xudia, because of their laws currently in place to protect the environment by eliminating carbon emissions as much as possible. However, it was allowed under certain circumstances, such as the one we faced with bringing Princess Camila home in her casket.

Once we exited the plane, I could see that there were about eight armed guards that had already placed Camila’s casket on top of a transportable platform they had prepared for her. They stood firmly in position, four on the left side and four on the right side, to carry her to the palace tombs where all royals were buried. There was also an enclosed black and royal blue horse-drawn carriage with beautiful gold decal on it that was surrounded by guards as well. Those guards dressed differently compared to the ones who were focused on Camila’s casket. The ones that guarded the royal coach had more of an appearance that closely resembled medieval knights with a more modern and slender touch, which to me was kind of weird for this day and age.

They were the ones that I figured were some of Xudian’s elite soldiers, but it sure surprised me on how old-fashioned they dressed. They carried a shield in their left arm, but in their right hand they carried a Xudian flag that had a pole length of about seven or eight feet, though I wasn’t too sure on the actual height. They also had real swords attached to the left sides of their fully armored bodies, which made me wonder how they handled the weaponry of today’s modern world. There was certainly no way they could fend off the bullets of guns, as well as any form of nuclear power, with their shields and swords. Or maybe I’m wrong, and it’s all just customary for show, because every single shield and knight-like uniformed soldier had shiny armor and metal that looked like it just came off a production line.

As for the other soldiers that now carried Camila’s casket, they looked more world-class. Even the fashion industry could probably borrow some inspiration from these soldiers. It was easy to see they wore grey skin-tight hoses with short, black, almost futuristic-looking leather boots that appeared to have no shoe buckles, hook and loops, laces, or zippers. How in the world could they get those boots on and off their feet? It appeared at first like they had virtually no means of protection, but upon a closer look I could see they did all wear hand guns and holsters right below the black sash that was wrapped around their uniforms at the hips.

The most fascinating part about their uniform was this navy blue, grey, and red almost mesh-like material that just hung freely in alternating stripes from the black sash as if it was a jester’s costume skirt, but it stopped at the knees. Between the layers of the colorful skirt and skin-tight hoses were solid navy blue breeches that also stopped at the knees, but they seemed to be a material thicker than the hoses and shoes, one that in fact matched their forearm braces, which I could definitely tell were made of Kevlar. I liked how the forearm braces went over the thumbs and up to the elbows, and I could plainly see they had some smaller weapons like knives in the pockets on the inside of the forearm braces for close combat. From the waist up it was plain to see these soldiers also wore solid black Kevlar vests, and underneath the slim Kevlar vests were navy blue short-sleeved shirts that matched their shoes perfectly when it came to the material they were made of, but had chainmail overtop. On the chest of the Kevlar vests were white bold initials of X.S.F., which I guessed was the acronym for their branch of the military service or government agency, and it must also be how they identified themselves in a crisis situation or whenever their services were utilized.

“Mr. Palladino!”

I turned my head in the direction I heard my name and immediately realized that the Xudian Police Force had held a crowd of rowdy people back and away from the back of the plane about fifty feet, several of which had cameras and tried to catch my attention. Oh, great! The paparazzi were here already? I had a feeling all hell would break loose on the internet before the end of the day. I had promised Gloria I would call her and let her know I’ve landed in Xudia, but once I would do that after we reached the palace and settled in, I had plans to keep my phone turned off for the rest of this trip. I didn’t want to be disrespectful and rude to the people of a country which already hates my own culture, and I needed to be the best example and show this nation that my people really were not bad people. I also was not ready to deal with my mother, and if the paparazzi were here, the news of my visit to Xudia would hit the internet in less than an hour, and my mother would soon call my phone tirelessly until I answered it. Xir Charles had drawn my attention away from the unruly crowd by whispering into my ear.

“Come quickly. We must get into the coach and head towards the palace before the crowds here get larger.”

I nodded in total agreement on this, and he stayed by my side, as did Camila’s parents, and Luca walked in front of us. We stepped our pace up a notch, and focused only on the royal coach, until we got inside and sat down. It was one of those enclosed carriages, so it was easy to hide my face from the crowd for now, and still be able to relax. Just as I turned my head towards Xir Charles, he spoke to Camila’s parents in Xudian, and they responded to him in Xudian. There was tension between all of us, and I just had a feeling their conversation was about me, but of course I couldn’t accuse or confirm, though Luca spoke up to me in Italian.

“You look very much like our king when he was your age,” he explained to me in Italian, which instantly got a dirty look from Xir Charles and Camila’s parents, but he threw a look right back at them before his eyes met mine, and he continued in Italian. “Have no fear. They cannot understand us. This conversation is just between you and me, but Abbo, I must tell you . . . once my people see your face, you will be the talk of our nation, and soon the conspiracy theories will start.”

This was odd. Spine chilling to be honest. Just plain creepy.

“How much do I look like your king?” I asked, and of course kept the conversation in Italian, though that didn’t keep prying ears from trying to understand anyways.

Luca was quiet for a moment before he spoke up again.

“Enough for the people to question our king’s past before accepting the crown, or enough for the people to question our king’s true Xudian lineage. Any doubt in our king means doubt in our government, which will create nothing but much civil unrest, which would be trouble we really cannot have right now.”

This had me worried, but Luca remained calm, and showed no change in emotion.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked him. “Do you think I look like him?”
“I have seen a portrait of him and our late queen when they first married. It is in his royal chambers and huge and . . . you do look identical to him. It is creepy. To many of our people, when they see you for the first time in your first official public appearance at the funeral tomorrow, it will be like looking at a ghost. Do not be surprised if the people make no interaction with you, and step away from you in fear, not because of your Italian heritage, but because of how much you look like our king from when he was young. He has aged quite a bit since he has undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer, so he will not appear anything like he used to look. However . . . when he sees you . . .”

“He’s going to have questions for me, isn’t he? Personal questions that I may or may not be able to answer, because I have no clue why I look a lot like he did when he was young. Am I going to be allowed access to see that phot-” I began to ask, but Luca knew already what was on my mind.
“No,” Luca interrupted quickly. “It is in his royal chambers, and very few people are allowed in His Majesty’s chambers. Not even Gloria or mommy have ever seen his chambers. I snuck in there one time through the hidden pathways between every room in the palace. But whatever you do, Abbo, never question the king. If he asks you any questions you cannot answer, be sure to add the words ‘with all due respect,’ unless he says you can be informal with him. The king has a very short temper, and these days, he is short on patience as well.”

I was quiet for a few moments and I could tell Luca knew I had a lot on my mind.

“Okay, we get it, we will speak English,” Xir Charles stated.

Luca put his right index finger up in front of Xir Charles, who sat across from him, and the man shut up instantly. Then Luca turned back to me again and continued in Italian. I knew he wasn’t ready to end our private conversation.

“I can sneak a visit into the royal chambers again, and snap a picture of the king’s portrait from when he was-”
“No, no, no,” I answered back. “No sneaking around in the palace, please. I don’t want either of us to get caught in something that goes against any restrictions, or rules, or laws. There’s bound to be some serious consequences with that, so no.”

Luca definitely inherited my bad habit of sneaking around and being in places he did not belong, which I used to do all the time when I was a minor, because it was a way for me to break free from all my mother’s restrictions that she had on me. Sometimes I got caught, sometimes I didn’t. If Luca would ever be a kid that gets into any kind of trouble, it would most certainly involve the act of sneaking around, which meant I would have to keep an extra close eye on him in that regard. Good God, he’ll be raging with hormones in a few years too, which meant I would really need to keep an eye on him and his habit of sneaking around. I knew Luca could tell that behind the serious expression on my face, I was a little anxious with his suggestion of sneaking around in the king’s royal chambers, because he placed his right hand on top of my left.

“Okay, I promise I won’t,” he said, but then he finally turned back to the English language. “When we reach the palace and enter the throne room, you will want to stop about three quarters of the way into the room, so that you may kneel properly. Your right knee should touch the floor and your right arm should form a ‘V’ across your chest, with your fist touching your left shoulder, and your head should bow. You must also not speak in the throne room, unless His Majesty addresses you directly.”

I nodded in acknowledgement.

“Good to know,” I replied. “Thank you.”
“It may sound ridiculous, but knowing you hardly know our culture, His Majesty will certainly appreciate these gestures,” Mr. Juric stated.
“Hardly. He will not be pleased to have an Ital-” Xir Charles immediately caught the dirty look that Luca threw him, so the man quickly corrected himself as he met my eyes again. “An outsider at the royal funeral for Princess Camila. No offense.”

“No offense taken,” I replied. “I understand there’s a lot of history between our two cultures, but I’m not here to disrespect yours. I’m here to pay my respects to Princess Camila, and to make sure that Luca is able to do this as well. Of course, as Luca’s legal guardian and father, I will do everything I can to be there for him, as he does want to accept the crown.”

Xir Charles immediately lit up with surprise and turned over to Luca.

“Is this true? You have made your final decision?” he asked.
“I have,” Luca replied quietly, calmly. “But there are matters I would like to discuss with His Majesty in private quarters with only my father to be present, before I publicly announce that I will accept the crown.”

This seemed to frustrate Xir Charles, as it was written all over his face, but he managed to muster a smile with a subtle nod of his head in acknowledgment.

“Of course, sire, as you wish,” he said softly, but then shut up for the rest of the trip.

About halfway through the ride, the soldiers carrying Camila’s casket split off from us, and so had the medieval knight-like soldiers, who continued to follow Camila’s casket with the soldiers that carried her. We had gone in the direction towards the palace, and before I knew it, I was face to face with this grand and beautiful building. Just as soon as the horses stopped this royal coach ride, I could hear trumpets sounding. I looked out the window to find more soldiers that looked like the ones carrying Camila to the royal burial tombs. These soldiers here were lined up on both sides in the form of a path for us, and stood there playing their trumpets until we all walked down this path and towards the entrance of the palace.

Just as soon as we entered, the trumpets stopped, but we were quickly taken to the throne room first. When we had arrived, I could see the King of Xudia up on his throne with a cane in his right hand, though he looked so fragile. No amount of royal blue and white garment beautifully adorned by gold and other fancy colorful jewels could hide the fact that this ruler sitting before us was practically skin and bones with his head hung low like that of a man too weak to lift his head and see who kneeled and stood before him. Truth be told, he looked like he was in his seventies, and simply too tired to carry on. In the moment I laid my eyes on him, I could sense the urgency in Luca accepting the crown, because this king before us didn’t have long for this world anymore, and the fact that this was so painfully obvious made me feel sorry for him.

Since Xir Charles was ahead of Luca, and Luca was ahead of his grandparents, I could see in action how they would kneel to their king, though I expected that Mrs. Juric would only need to curtsy. Just as Luca had told me how to do so, Xir Charles did his kneel, and one by one everyone else followed, until I was last to show my respect. Having seen how the others did it, I knew I could do it, so then I did. It certainly felt awkward, but I really did want to make a good impression, and be as respectful as I could. Then I heard the oddest phrase that I did not think I would hear from the King of Xudia.

“Vieni avanti,” he commanded, which basically meant ‘Come forward’ in Italian.

He knew Italian? He may have looked weak, but his stern voice showed me there truly was strength in him yet. I did as he asked, and when I approached the steps of the throne, the guards there immediately brought their halberds in front of me, and these axe-like weapons on their poles made an ‘X’ right smack in front of my face, which prevented me from stepping forward.

“N’os fjo’nei!” he shouted to his guards. I did not know what that meant in Xudian, but they immediately removed the ‘X’ in front of me and placed their weapons back by their sides. “Vieni qui.”

Clearly his guards did not understand Italian, but he was certainly fluent when he told me to ‘Come here,’ as he pointed towards the space before him. I slowly did as he asked, and watched his guards carefully to make sure they would not harm me, but I guess whatever he said to them in Xudian was a command to let me through. Once I walked past them, I slowly took to the seven steps before me, and I could see the king’s eyes had locked with mine the moment mine fell upon his face. When I approached him, I once again kneeled as I had done before, and bowed my head with my eyes closed. Before I knew it, I felt the king’s cane underneath my chin, and slowly it had lifted my face as I opened my eyes and once more met the king’s own eyes, which I could now see were brown and filled with pleasant surprise.

“Ahhh . . . Mr. Giovanni Vincenzo Palladino, second of his name . . . and the son of Giovanni Vincenzo and Alessia Noemi Palladino.”

How did he know who my parents were? Well, clearly he must have done his research, or hired people to do a background check on me and my family for security purposes. However, I did not know if this was my cue to respond or not, so I just stayed quiet.

“I have been waiting for this moment for many years, though I did not truly think this moment would ever arrive,” said the king quietly in English, almost in a whisper, and then he spoke once more in Italian with a phrase that really stunned and confused me. “Benvenuto a casa.”

Why did he just tell me ‘Welcome home’ in Italian? Why did he say it so low so that no one could hear him? Why did he look so ecstatic to see me and why had he waited for many years for this moment? Was there more to the story about what Luca said in regards to how I was identical in appearance to the king when he was my age? Upon a much closer look into his eyes something had changed and instantly I knew the answer to all my questions about this man, but I honestly did not know if I could face the truth, because if I did it would change everything I ever knew about myself, including my identity.


© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.

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