Adoration's Ascension

Talon Belfour. You have been summoned by the Crown. Please proceed at once.   A thousand thoughts, all deafening in their repetition and intensity, clouded Rachel's mind as she made her way to the throne chamber. Others noticed her presence, and they all stepped aside and allowed her to pass - as if the official summons projected itself as a tangible field around her person, advertising its urgency and importance.   It has been two days since Jacob's ascension to the Throne, and three since the disaster at Falkner Square. When she was deployed with the other Talons en masse, she feared the worst - that he would have been among the bodies of the slain, slaughtered alongside his family. To the relief of her heart and her sanity, he was already at Castle Manhesto upon her return - it took all of her effort to not embrace him then and there.   However, her duty as a Talon came first. Her duty as a Feather - the first of the elites - must come first, before any selfish desire. Anything less would result in the ultimate failure of her mission. And the Feathers as a whole had failed - she failed in her foremost duty. The King and most of the Royal Family was dead, and over half of the Feathers went with them - brought low by an unknown and pernicious foe.   As she passed the late Mabel's room, a frisson of panic ran through her nerves for a moment - did Jacob summon her to admonish or perhaps punish her? He trusted her as a friend, and she let him down in the worst way by allowing his father, mother, and brothers to die. Would he ruthlessly destroy her for betraying the faith he held in her as one of his father's Feathers?   There was no point in speculating, the rational and analytical portion of her brain commanded. What mattered is that she was summoned, and she was to answer it posthaste.   As she swallowed her saliva, held her head tall, and passed through the double doors into the throne chamber, she took in the fact that no-one else was present within the hall. Normally bustling with nobles, menials, and other functionaries of the Royal Court, it was deathly silent - a silence that unnerved her to no end. The rational part of her mind reminded her that many of the lords and ladies were caught in the crossfire of the previous day, and they were no longer part of the mortal coil. The irrational portion of her mind sounded that they were either being lazy or being cowards, refusing to meet at a time when the kingdom (and where Jacob) needed unity and stability the most.   Taking a deep breath and clearing her thoughts, she walked along the maroon carpet towards the throne dais, where she saw that Jacob was seated. He was wearing a simple gold band on his head, but was dressed casually, even as his eyes opened up. Faint whispers of rainbow dissipated from the corners of his eyes as he noted Rachel's approach, and nodded once. "I would say I was not expecting someone to come to me with such haste, but you have never disappointed, Rachel."   The little bit of praise simultaneously alleviated her worst fears and sent her blood pressure through the roof, and she knelt down in reverence (and to conceal the blush growing at her cheeks). "I live to serve you, my lord. What is it that you request of me?"   "Relax. I get called Lord and Majesty so much now - it has become a headache. We are still friends, no?" Jacob chuckled, even as he stood up. "My father, when he was alive, spoke highly of you. I wish to see those qualities that he speaks of for myself. Shall we walk?" He asked her, as he offered his hand to her. She rose and gently took his hand, steeling her mind and suffocating her bashfulness with years of stage practice.   "To where shall we go?" She was curious as to where he would take her, and for what reason. It was only then that she realized that there was absolutely no-one else in the throne chamber - it was just him and her.   "Just a walk around the castle grounds. With the state of how the rest of the world is, I doubt I'll be leaving this place anytime soon," he replied, even as he began a slow easy walk out of the chamber and towards the dining room, beckoning for her to follow. "I imagine you wouldn't be going anywhere urgently, would you?"   "Not at all. Please, do lead," she replied, following behind him. Her steps matched his own, a silent shadow to a silent king.   --   Entering the dining hall, a few orderlies and some functionaries were consuming their meals in relative silence. The events of the past few days, in addition to the shakeups with the new appointments to replace those who perished, left little to humor about. Rachel noted that most looked down, keeping their heads in their meals and in their own thoughts, until one orderly looked up and saw that Jacob and Rachel had made their way into the center of the dining hall without anyone noticing.   "Our apologies, Lord Jacob," the orderly quickly stated, with the words striking sudden activity in the rest of the functionaries, who all stood from their meals in reverence of their liege. Jacob merely waved his hand, and permitted them to return to their meals - not caring for the "lack of proper respect" as one of the nobles would've phrased it. He was not here to be gawked at and praised, but instead wanted a familiar meal from the kitchens - one that he would make himself, just as his mother had made it for him.   Entering into the kitchens with Rachel following behind, the kitchen staff were about to stop what they were doing to acknowledge Jacob's presence, only for Rachel to lift her hand and bidding them to remain at work. Jacob noticed her initiative, and nodded his approval, before taking off his jacket and hanging in on a hook, taking up an apron to begin helping to make some meals.   "My Lord," one of the chefs began, "forgive me for my questioning, but why are you helping us?" The other kitchen staff began to note the commotion, as Jacob rolled his sleeves up, and began to wash his hands in preparation for cooking.   "You need not apologize," Jacob started, even as he took up a knife from a nearby block and honed it. "I intend to utilize the kitchen for my own needs, but it appears that more mouths need to be fed, and I am willing to volunteer my time. I am not doing anything else important at this junction, and I would rather get to know the various members of the castle who had fed my family in the past, and who will feed me and my family in the days, months, and years to come."   The kitchen paused for one moment, before they stood tall, a revitalizing wind coming through the kitchen. If their King was here to get to know them and to help them, then they must show their best - just as King Marcus praised them. "It has been difficult with the lack of hands, sir," one of the cooks began. "If you may help us with cutting the greens and..."   "It would be my pleasure." Jacob smiled, even as he began to work the kitchen, the other workers taking a moment to blink away their disbelief before following behind and keeping up with their tasks. "Rachel, please be a dear and help with plating some of the pasta?" Rachel nodded and began to work just as hard, though the staff kept a careful eye on her - fearful that a Talon of all people was in the kitchen.   --   Once the lunch rotation was complete, the staff departed from the kitchen to take a needed break, with everyone thanking Jacob for his assistance with the meals. As they left, two managed to slide into the kitchen, and the kitchen staff gave them a wide berth.   "It smells delicious," Jason Marune commented, even as Iris was beside him, while they watched as Jacob plated the last of the pasta on a large slender porcelain dish. Rachel was beside him, and she looked up at the two newcomers, before recognizing them as Jason of the Endless Rainbow, and Iris Arlenia-Mitfield - Jacob's wife. Hiding her jealousy behind a cool mask, she bowed her head before the two, before Jacob looked up and smiled at his friend and his love.   "How is Kaylee?" he asked, even as he brought the plate out to the main dining area, a table having been set aside for them. Some of the remaining functionaries were using the dining area as a quiet place to read or to perform clerical work, and they did not seem to mind the impromptu royal lunch that was taking place.   "She is doing much better, and is going to make a full physical recovery," Iris replied, even as she stepped forward and embraced her husband. "Mentally, though? ... that's going to take a lot, if I must be honest," she added in, a downcast frown on her face.   Jacob could not help but longingly sigh - the pain of losing his family to such vicious violence still stung badly, but he forgot how Kaylee must've felt, hidden underneath bodies while the chaos erupted around her. "I will be sure to visit her later on today, even if I have to sneak out of the castle." Iris's frown was broken with a small but genuine smile, even as Jason chuckled - his friend's penchant for seeking trouble has not waned in the slightest.   "May I ask who this is?" Jason inquired of Rachel, who remained standing at the edge of the table. Jason knew the outfit of a Talon from his time working alongside them on the Endless Rainbow, and he could immediately identify that Rachel was not a typical Talon.   "Rachel Belfour," Jacob coolly replied, even as he pulled out chairs for all of them to sit together. "One of the last surviving Feathers from my father's time, and the one I want as my Talon Grandmaster." This statement appeared to hold little value to Iris and to Jason, but Rachel herself was floored, and she nearly stumbled out of her seat, only for Iris and Jason to catch her before she collapsed. "But... why me?"   "Because out of all the Talons that have served me, you are the only one of them I call friend." Jacob's answer left no room for rebuttal, for he spoke the truth - the Talons viewed serving and protecting the Royal Family as their only purpose, and Rachel went against that grain in her selfishness to reach out, and have her connection reciprocated in kind. "The Retainers I plan to raise will not just be competent, but also people I can wholly trust, for I am not an easily trusting person. Iris and Jason already know that, and now you do as well."   Rachel could not help but smile, and bent a knee before Jacob, her head hung low. "Then I will always be your shadow, and always of service to you... Jacob."   "I know you will be, and that is why you will be confirmed before the Court at its reconvention tomorrow." Jacob smiled at Rachel, before turning his attention back to Iris and Jason. "Do either of you think I am making a mistake?"   Iris shook her head. "I have seen Rachel work in the castle many times before. She is focused to the task, and it is clear she treasures her friendship with you. I do not have anything negative to say against her." Iris smiled at Rachel, who could not help but smile back.   Jason also shook his head. "She appears to be beyond competent, and is clearly one who places her duty first before anything else. I believe that we will get along splendidly, Miss Rachel." Jason stood and extended a hand out to her. "Jason Marune, former first officer of the Endless Rainbow, and Champion of the King. At your service," he concluded with a faint smile.   "I look forward to working with, and getting to know the rest of you." Rachel shook Jason's hand, even as she resumed her seat, while Jacob blessed their meal before doling out portions for everyone to enjoy. As she enjoyed the pasta, she glanced at Jacob and Iris savoring their meals, and sympathized with them for a moment - this was one of the items from which they will remember the late Lady Amelia. She burned the taste into her memory - how Amelia's cooking was but one of a thousand symbols of love for her family and for all her sons, and how Jacob kept that memory alive.   --   "Rachel Dana Belfour. I command you to kneel before me." Jacob's voice was quiet, but carried the weight of command, even as the reassembled Royal Court bore witness to Rachel's promotion.   Among the crowd, Evan Belfour could not help but smile at his "wayward" daughter's advancement into the highest of the ranks of their society. She may have not been a great mage, but her talents laid elsewhere, and now she (and by extension, the rest of the house) possessed unrestricted audience to the highest echelons of Mithambian power. He could not be happier with how events had turned out, and plans in his mind began to write themselves out on how to exploit this new opportunity.   "By my authority, I hereby, in front of the assembled Court of Mithambe, ascend and appoint you as my Talon. You are now the Grandmaster of the Talons, and it is through you with which I will wield them. Do you accept this burden?" Jacob help his sheathed sword out, with Iris and Jason flanking him, and Clarisse watching from the sideline. In her mind, Jacob was doing well with court etiquette, even though he needed her assistance but a night ago to familiarize himself with the correct passages and rites once more.   "I do accept, my King." Rachel almost slipped up, but kept herself in check long enough to properly enunciate her words and to amplify herself throughout the entire court. She will not embarrass herself or Jacob by stuttering in the face of the same ones who would've thrown her to the wolves in times' past. By fortune's providence, she was now the wolf they feared, and the eyes that gazed at her did so out of caution. She knew her father was in the crowd, but paid him no mind - if he wanted to attempt to use her to get close to Jacob, he would find out the hard way just how deep her adoration and devotion to her King runs.   "Then rise, and take your place at my side. Let the Court be witnesses to my decision, and may Amarise bless you and keep you righteous." Jacob tapped Rachel's shoulders with his sheathed blade, before kneeling down and planting a kiss on the crown of her head. Aside from being a public display of affection for the one he calls friend, he also injected a fraction of his soul and a fraction of his Authority into her, permanently marking her within the bounds of his Emanation.   As Rachel rose, she noted the crowd that began to politely clap for her. She smiled and nodded, truly paying them no mind, as she took her new position at Jacob's side. There was no other place that a weapon like her yearned to be.


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