Characters Go Out Together

Characters Go Out Together

“It was a dark and stormy night.” Balancing the electric torch in one hand, Dormal illuminated his face while he wriggled the fingers of his free hand. He had perfected the ‘spooky’ voice in his teenage years, but his brother didn’t seem impressed.

“Kind of cliché, isn’t it?” His brother arched an eyebrow, a teasing grin on his lips.

Dormal let the torch slide into his lap. “Who’s telling this story?” he countered, trying to emulate his father’s sternest tone. He must have succeeded; Valerian sat up a little straighter.

“I didn’t realize we had reverted to our teenage years.”

“Not all of us get to spend our time traveling from one end of the planet to the other. Kings mostly have to rely on retelling the stories of others, believe it or not.”

Without standing, his brother offered him a mocking half-bow with a flourish of one hand. “Yes, your majesty. I’m terribly sorry, please do continue.”

Dormal snorted. “Very funny Prince Valerian.”

“Ugh,” his brother winced. “I haven’t thought of myself that way in years.”

“I don’t think that changes anything.” Rather than resume the aborted story, Dormal clicked off the electric torch and tossed it back into his bag. They were a bit old for ghost stories around the campfire, anyway. Besides, his brother had seen so much, he was unlikely to fall for any of the old tricks. “Ah, but there are days I envy you. Usually the ones I spend in endless council meetings trying to explain to my lords and advisers why only serving their own interests isn’t best for the entire kingdom.”

Valerian grinned. “Mother had the best way of dealing with those days.”

He laughed, recalling the flippant way her mother would dismiss her councilors and spend the rest of the evening lounging in the hot tub. He never had managed to replicate her sharp tongue. He had too much of his father’s reservation in him.

“I rather like this solution.” Dormal motioned to the campfire, the two bedrolls off to one side and the drying dinner dishes. “I might not be able to manage it every year, but every few is better than nothing. Even a king is entitled to vacations, and the main perk of my position is that we no longer have to ask anyone’s permission.”

“I’m surprised Domerin doesn’t protest more, to be honest.”

Dormal barked a laugh. “Are you kidding? He trained us both. He knows I’m in capable hands when I’m with you. And besides, he’s not the captain of the guard anymore.”

“How long you think his ‘retirement’ is going to last this time?” Valerian prodded the fire with a long stick, then added two more logs.

“Forever, if we can keep him busy with other things.” Dormal grinned. But those were considerations for another day and the conversation soon moved on to other topics. Dormal managed to get his brother to tell him stories all night instead. True stories about his travels, the ones that hadn’t yet made it into his letters. Meanwhile he dried the dishes, packed the bags and spread out on his bedroll to observe the twinkling stars. There were few things he loved more than sleeping beneath the open sky.

* * * * *

Despite his inexperience, Dormal tackled the mountain climbing with zeal. He had spent the last few days assuming the descent would be easier; that turned out to be his first mistake. His second was trying to pull himself out of a steep slide by catching an outcropping in the midst of a jagged rock bed. Momentum, rocks and arms, as it turned out, didn’t mix very well.

“It’s broken,” Valerian confirmed with a frustrated sigh.

“What’s with the doom and gloom? It’s not as if you have to answer to Mother.”

“How are we ever going to get you out of the palace again after an incident like this? I’ve broken the king’s arm. That’ll be the end of my suggestions.”

“Oh yeah, because you took it between both your hands and applied the right amount of pressure. Cool it, Val. I’m in charge now, remember? And I’m the idiot who slipped and couldn’t regain control of his descent.” He hadn’t tripped over a sheer cliff edge, and if he hadn’t reached for the wrong handhold, he probably wouldn’t have received more than a few bruises. “If it takes us a couple extra days to get back, it’s not the end of the world. Silverbell’s as good at dealing with the arrogant council members as mother was. Trust me.”

Valerian didn’t have to take his word for it, and his wolfish grin confirmed it. Who would know his twin sister better than him? “Can you Heal it?”

“I think so. But I was never as good at this sort of thing as Mother.” And Healing oneself was always more difficult.

“I’ll help you,” Valerian promised, using a few flat sticks and a set of bandages to splint it for now. “But we have to get to a better place first. A much better one, since it’ll be our camp for the next few days.”

“Are you worried you won’t be able to find a suitable place?”

Valerian didn’t answer right away, lifting his chin to survey the mountainside. As far as Dormal was concerned, they were on a small outcropping poised above a ticket of heavy trees. It would have been a short, easy climb down to the next level, and there was likely a clearing within an hour’s hike. But it was difficult to climb with just one arm, and he wasn’t sure Valerian had the energy left this late in the day to lower him down and then make the descent himself.

“No, I know the perfect place actually. It’s a little far, but it won’t require a lot of you. There’s a small cave set into the rock face and a nice spring in the back. We might have to share it with a few denizens of the forest, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. What about-“

“If you’re worried about a delay in my return, don’t be. I didn’t set a specific date. I know enough about your adventures to give us that leeway. Besides, if we can get a message through to Silverbell, I’m sure she can manage a few extra days.”

“If you boost me, I’m sure I can get the message through.” He reached down and helped heft Dormal to his feet.

Despite the pain in his arm, Dormal grinned. “I’m not going to complain about a few extra days out of the castle. Perhaps this evening I can talk you into regaling me with more tales of your travels. I’m using them to plan our next outing, you know.”

Check out what my writing partner did with this prompt (hint: it involves Domerin as a pony and is hilarious)!

If you’d like to participate, share a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week. And don’t forget there are plenty of other prompts to choose from!

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