Wizard! Chapter 515
The castle gardens had continued to grow more extensive over the years. It was hard to keep a large variety of plants happy, but magic helped with that. It was a rather expensive project to upkeep, but even with a few dozen full time gardeners paid a good wage, it was still much less expensive than buying expensive wines, magical doodads, paintings, and statues. Sure, William still had to buy some of those things, as expected of a king, but he kept it limited. Besides, why would he bother to buy a bottle of wine that was a gross of years old when he could just buy new wines and wait? Especially since he didn’t even really like to drink wine that much.
Though the gardens were bigger, the number of guests attending the wedding was smaller. Sarah could technically be considered a princess, as the sister of the king- but she wasn’t in any sort of line of succession. That line started and stopped with William- with the possibility of Lorelei reigning as regent while he was dead. Of course, most people didn’t actually know William would reincarnate if he died- he planned to never demonstrate it.
Either way, Sarah’s political power came mostly through her relation to William. Because she preferred to stay out of politics as much as possible, the party was a private one. Everyone that was invited was invited by her and Theo- the king and queen were just in attendance as guests, and the royal gardens just happened to be a place they were able to hold the wedding.
A regiment of the army was arrayed nearby to train merely as a deterrent- though anyone approaching would be seen from a long distance off. Besides those who lived and worked in the castle, William kept the area for miles around free of any other settlements, even if it made getting food and other supplies less convenient.
Many of those in attendance were magical researchers and friends of Sarah and Theo who had never had occasion to come to the castle. They were suitably impressed by the gardens, though William also found himself able to admire them even though he walked through them at least a short time most days.
There was one group of guests that William took special note of. He knew some of them… but others he had never seen. Gisila and Stefan had come, as well as three of their children he had never met- the youngest of which was a half-dozen years old.
William could barely even remember how many years it had been since he had last seen Stefan, except for that it coincided with the end of the gevai civil war. However, it seemed he couldn’t just ignore his little sister’s wedding, even if he knew William would be there.
William considered just giving him space… but he’d done that, for dozens of years. He wasn’t going to go to where Stefan lived and pretend to run into him when Stefan wanted no contact, but since they were now both in the same place… he would be remiss to ignore the opportunity. “Long time no see, Stefan, Gisila.” William bowed slightly upon approaching them.
Gisila smiled and curtseyed gracefully, “Josef.”
Stefan nodded in acknowledgement.
There were a few moments of awkward silence. Both parents and children didn’t seem to have much to say, until the youngest- a boy with reddish orange skin- spoke up. “Is that Uncle Josef?”
“That’s right.” Gisila nodded.
The boy’s eyes sparkled, “I’m Rambert. Are you really a wizard?”
William grinned and crouched down, “Sure am. See this staff? Isn’t your daddy a wizard too though?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders, “He doesn’t use a staff or wear fancy robes though. He just goes off and does research…” Rambert scratched his head near his small curved horns, “How come you never come visit, Uncle Josef? Auntie Sarah has come to visit and my friends uncles all live nearby.”
One of his older brothers- a young man between a dozen and a half and two dozen years old, crouched down next to him and whispered in his ear. Even without trying, William could hear what he said, “He and daddy don’t get along very well.”
“Why not? Aren’t they brothers?”
The older boy sighed, “Well, yes… but sometimes brothers don’t get along.”
Rambert’s eyes widened in horror. “Why not?”
“Well… sometimes people just have arguments.”
“But I still like you even when you yell at me sometimes…” Rambert hugged his older brother, “Mommy says to just talk about it and we do and then I don’t hate you anymore.”
“Sometimes that doesn’t work…” the older boy tried to explain.
William looked over at Stefan and raised an eyebrow. Stefan sighed and just nodded his head off away from the rest of the group.
The gardens had benches to sit on every so often- though William often just sat on the ground. This time, he went to one that was secluded behind some fancily trimmed hedges and sat next to Stefan. It was private enough- they were blocked from prying eyes, and William could tell if anyone approached nearby.
William wasn’t sure how many minutes they sat there. William had often thought about what he would say… but he couldn’t remember any of it at the moment. Finally, Stefan spoke, “Am I an idiot?”
William shook his head, “No more than any of the rest of us.” William paused for a few moments, “I know you live in Westwillow. I’ve ridden past there at least a dozen times over the years. Close enough to stop by, if I hadn’t been afraid.”
“You, afraid?” Stefan raised an eyebrow, “The big, scary Eternal King who crushes armies, wrestles krakens, and kills dragons with his bare hands?”
“I never fight anything bare handed… and never intended to fight a kraken at all.” William shook his head, “Even so… so they kill me? So what?” William shook his head, “Even the time I was positive I was going to be gone forever… I knew I’d had more opportunities than basically anyone else. It’s not as bad of a feeling as knowing you failed to protect people you cared about.”
Stefan’s head hung down near his knees. “I kept hearing all the stories of how strong you were, even then. I thought there was nothing you couldn’t do.”
William nodded, “Sometimes, even I thought that.” William tapped his fingers on his leg, “Did you ever hear about the battle of Diamond Creek?”
“No. Should I have? Was it important?”
William shook his head, “Not really. It wasn’t an important battle. It was just one of the few that we lost.”
“Why? Were you outnumbered?”
“Not even close. However, I wasn’t there.” William shook his head, “Commander Jordan was on a second battlefield. Some of our elite troops were on a third battlefield. The troops there were… fine.” William shrugged, “But they lost.”
Stefan held out his one remaining arm, looking at his hand, “I only have to work, and attend celebrations for children, or family friends. Even then, I can’t do all of them at once. Even when I was working as a spy, I couldn’t be everywhere I wanted to be.” Stefan sighed, “I suppose that doesn’t change even as you get stronger.”
“It does not.” William nodded, “You know, we’re lucky we aren’t humans.”
“Why? I mean, gevai have some pretty nice traits but you were a human, right?”
“Yeah… but if we were humans we would have died of old age before we made up.”
“Oh.” Stefan sighed, “I am stupid then, huh?”
“Yep. We’re just two stupid brothers.” William kicked his feet in the dirt a few times, “Let’s get back to the party before anyone thinks we got stuck in a ditch or something.”
“Yeah… the food is too good to pass up anyway.”