There were some events that transcended all others. Births, deaths, weddings, and for Spot, crown prince of Galon, his calilmal. This was to be one of the most significant events of his entire life, and more than anything else it made him feel old. The sheer idea of leaving his childhood behind and entering adulthood terrified him, and that annoyed him as well. He was leaving his silly childhood fears behind, after all, so he should be ready to embrace this new beginning. Still, the idea of being old took some getting used to.
"You are sixteen, Prince Spot. My, but aren't you getting old?"
Spot shivered. Sometimes it really seemed like Bumlets could read his mind.
"I suppose I am..." He frowned.
Spot only wished that he looked the part. He had this idea that by the time he reached his calilmal, he would look much more physically intimidating than he was. It wasn’t his fault that he seemed to take after his mother in terms of height, although Spot’s martial skills were well known and had earned him respect from Galon’s warrior community, many of whom had been vocal in their belief that Spot would be a great warrior, like his father was.
Still, Spot often felt inferior because of his height. He wished he was as an imposing figure as his father was. If only he could achieve the same glare that his father possessed… one that would freeze even the bravest warrior in his tracks. Spot had spent his entire life working on achieving that feat, but as of yet, he still had not had success upon it.
"Now Your Highness, tonight is the end of your calilmal. Everyone is attending. It will be your first test as an adult member of society. I do hope that you are prepared to face it." Spot wondered how Bumlets could speak so calmly. In all his life, he had never heard the boy raise his voice, and they had practically grown up together.
Spot turned, trying to catch the other boy's eyes, but Bumlets did not meet his gaze, as he was busy inspecting the silver clasp that would be fastened onto Spot’s cloak, not wanting any detail to be out of place.
"What was it like when you had your calilmal?"
Bumlets didn't pause at all but continued to polish the clasp fastidiously. "Well, it was strange, as a calilmal is bound to be. I daresay yours is far more elaborate than most other people's, though if that's a blessing or a curse..." It was only here that the dark-haired boy stopped to scrutinize his Prince. "That's up to you to decide."
"But did you feel like you had... I don't know... changed afterwards?"
"My dear boy, everyone feels changed. You're becoming a man, after all. It's not all that much different from being a boy, only you get more things to mess around with. Now stop fretting, you'll give yourself a seizure."
Spot felt that somehow Bumlets was laughing at him. "...That doesn't answer my question."
"No, it doesn’t, but then there is no way to answer the question as you want it to be answered. The calilmal is different for all of us." Bumlets smiled in a wry but nonetheless kinder fashion. "And it is almost over. All that is left is to endure this over-extravagant affair that your father has organized. Inviting everyone from three kingdoms!" He shook his head. "Your father has not bothered to spare any expense for you."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"Of course not," was the smooth reply. "The ceremony might seem more difficult with all the eyes of three kingdoms upon you, but as long as you follow all the instructions as we have practiced, you'll be fine." Dark eyes flicked up slyly. "But you know, you really ought to look forward to the feast. It'll be something to remember."
From the way his servant was grinning, Spot was sure that there was something he knew that Spot didn't. It irked him, just a bit, but then, he supposed, he was the guest of honor.
Spot sighed. "Yes." It made him tired even to think of all that.
"Good," Bumlets said. He glanced at his pocket watch. "Then I believe you should be ready to make an actual appearance now. Fashionably late, as is proper."
He threw the royal blue cloak around Spot's shoulders and gave him a critical once-over before adjusting it and fastening the clasp properly. "Yes, that will do nicely." Without missing a beat, he wheeled Spot around yet again and led him out of the room. "I'll go have you announced."
With that, Bumlets vanished down the corridor. Spot shook his head. He never could figure out how Bumlets managed everything without losing his composure.
When Spot reached the entrance to the grand ballroom, the herald was just announcing his name. As usual, everything had been perfectly planned, right down to the last second. Bumlets scared him sometimes. He had no idea how the older boy managed it. And it had only been two years since Bumlets was in the exact same position that Spot was in now.
Well, not the same position. Bumlets didn’t have the fate of an entire kingdom riding on his shoulders.
He entered the brightly lit hall with a deep breath and a shaky smile. The room was completely silent, which seemed unnatural and unnerved him. Every face was turned toward him, and every eye followed his progress, which unnerved him even more. His palms were clammy with a sudden cold sweat, and he was surprised to find that, at the end of his journey, his legs, while feeling incredibly shaky, had managed to support him, and he hadn't stumbled on his way down the grand stair. Even as his feet touched the familiar marble floor, Spot felt distinctly uncomfortable. There didn't seem to be enough room, which was a ridiculous notion. But the hall was filled with people from three kingdoms instead of the customary one... Even his family's ample home wasn't built for those proportions.
As he headed down the red carpet, waves of shining men and glistening women moved back out of his way. The sight of people moving away because of him gave him a feeling of wrongness, yet it was empowering all the same, since he was the center of attention, and his mere presence had caused the most powerful people in three kingdoms to give way.
But finally, no one remained between him and the dais. The king and queen of Galon gazed coldly and quietly at him from their respective thrones. Their frigid eyes and posture made Spot nervous, but he reminded himself that this was all part of the ceremony. He sank to one knee, bowing his head, and waited for his father to speak.
"Who approaches?" asked the king, his tone like ice.
"One who stands between the bridges of childhood and adulthood."
"And why do you approach us?" His mother's smooth voice sent shivers down his spine. It was cold yet gentle all at once, and while it wasn't quite as hard as his father's voice had been, it was still distant and unfamiliar to Spot.
"I wish to acquire the key which unlocks the gates so that I may cross and become a man."
The ritualized language felt foreign, but this was the way that things had been done for centuries. The same words, spoken without variation as each member of every generation reached their calilmal.
"What proof have you brought us that we should hand you the key?" said his father.
"I have had my last days of leisure. I have put away my things of play, and I am ready to become an active member of society, to take responsibility for my words and actions, instead of depending on others to do my work for me."
Spot’s voice wavered a bit. He had practiced this with Bumlets, and had had this part drilled into his head. Still, nothing prepared him for the actual ceremony. But he could not afford to fail. He would not be childish. He would not break. He would show that he could stand for himself, even though his eyes watered as his bones creaked and pressed against the edge of the rug. Ice tingled at the nape of his neck, but he continued to wait, sure that he could stand the test. No. He would stand the test. He had to because this didn't just affect him, but an entire country as well. For his people, he must hold and calmly await the official pronouncement on whether or not he had passed this final test of character.
"So you have," his father said, a hint of warmth finally showing its furry head.
Spot tried not to breathe a sigh of relief, for the ceremony was not over yet.
"You now stand before those assembled as a man. You know the responsibilities that you will carry as a man, and eventually, as a king. I welcome you to these new responsibilities. Come forth, and become the man whom you were born to be."
Spot hesitated only for a second before rising to take a step forward; he convinced himself that it was only because his knees were aching from the wait. He dropped to both knees this time, thankful for the very plush rug he had hated fervently only minutes ago. The queen placed a golden key around his neck, and the king placed the princely crown on his head. He was relieved, but uncertainly so, as if he might be executed at any moment.
"My liege." How strange, to think of his father as an overlord instead of just a father. "I thank you for this honor which you bestow upon me."
"Rise, my son, and partake in that which children may not."
"Yes, my liege." He stood. The queen smiled and winked at him secretly, a flicker of an eyelid.
He smiled and turned, inhaling deeply. It was done.
As he walked forward, the scattering of applause rose and bloomed into a field of cheers. Slowly, with each step, the feeling of trepidation slipped away and left behind it an incredible feeling of lightness. Spot was tempted to beam while pumping everyone's hand, even the servants'. That, of course, would never do. He was an adult now, and a nobleman; it was his responsibility to act like one. To his knowledge, no one had ever failed their calilmal, or worse, had it revoked before, but Spot would not fail at his new responsibilities so soon after he had accepted them. He refused to.
As Spot continued to retreat from the dais so that he could mingle with the guests, his new equals, and in many cases, his subjects, he dutifully met the gaze of some of the more important noble families, acknowledging them with a slight nod of the head.
Regal. Adult. As was proper.
Those gathered - so many people - continued to make way for Spot as he walked through the crowd. He recognized many of the faces, some of which belonged to childhood friends he had not seen for a long time. But now they could be acquainted again, as equals.
"Your Highness." Spot turned, too elated to be startled.
Spot felt delight and dread whirl slowly within him, two conflicting emotions which battled for supremacy. He hadn't seen Piker in years, not since the man had gone through his own calilmal. Piker had changed - grown, mostly - but not. He was taller, leaner, but his hair was still as black and tousled as it had always been, and his eyes still burned with the worries of a thousand lifetimes. Even as a child, he had never seemed like one, always careful and never wanton.
Piker smiled; it looked painful. But Spot had known him long enough to know that this is how he looked at his most heartfelt.
Spot beamed. He couldn't help it; it was hard to be serious around Piker; he was so intense already. It always felt as if one more drop of tension would make the room explode, so Spot tended to try to lighten things up when he was around Piker. "Thank you."
There was a long, mildly uncomfortable silence. Spot wondered if he should say something, but he wanted to be careful with his newfound adulthood and so chose to keep his mouth shut.
Piker cleared his throat. "The, um... Your father's prepared quite a feast."
"Has he? I haven't got any idea what he's done, except that he's invited people from three kingdoms."
"I think he's invited all the princesses, too."
"Has he?" Spot knew this already, but Piker was making a sincere effort at striking up a dialogue; he didn't want to discourage the man.
"Yes, I... I think he has." Piker fell silent again, as if he knew that his attempt had failed before it had even begun. He shifted uncomfortably. "Look, I..." He paused again. "I just... Congratulations, Spot. Really."
Spot smiled, but he could feel the overwhelming frustration that was radiating off of Piker. He knew how hard it was for Piker to vocalize his thoughts, and watching him try was incredibly painful.
Spot decided to save Piker the trouble, and simply said "I know, Piker. And thank you again."
Piker gave him that same smile, but Spot knew that it was genuine, and that was enough for the both of them.
There's another two pages, but we haven't edited it yet, and there's still a lot to come in the first chapter, and I'm going to be adding to it tonight.