Home > Quests for Glory (The School for Good and Evil #4)(7)

Quests for Glory (The School for Good and Evil #4)(7)
Author: Soman Chainani

The chaplain turned to a skinny, red-haired altar boy, who carefully handed him a jeweled box. The chaplain opened it. Sunlight ricocheted through five spires like a web of gold, eliciting gasps from the mob. Tedros gazed down at King Arthur’s crown, the five-pointed fleur-de-lis, each with a diamond in the center.

Once, when he was six, he’d stolen it from his father’s bed table and worn it to his lessons with Merlin, insisting the wizard bow and call him King. He assumed Merlin would put an end to his mischief—but instead the wizard obeyed his command, bowing eminently and addressing him as Your Majesty, all the way through math and astronomy and vocabulary and history. Perhaps the old wizard would have let him be king forever . . . but soon the young prince removed his crown and sheepishly returned it to his father’s table. For it was too heavy for his soft little head.

Now, ten years later, the chaplain held out the very same crown. “Repeat after me, young prince. The words might sound a bit funny, given it’s an oath that harkens back two thousand years. But words aren’t what make a king. That fear you feel is all you need. Fear means you know this crown has a history and future far bigger than you. Fear means you are ready, dear Tedros: ready to quest for glory.”

Legs quivering, Tedros repeated the chaplain’s oath.

“By thy Lord, on wrest that Godes doth place on my head, I swear to uphold the honor of Camelot against all foel. I swear to be a beacon in the darknell to thy enlightened realm . . .”

Like the old man warned, he tripped over the strange syllables and sounds, without knowing what he was saying. And yet, somewhere in his heart he did. His eyes welled up, the moment getting to him. Just a few years ago, he was a first-year boy at the School for Good and Evil, full of bluster and insecurity.

Now the boy would be a king.

A husband.

And someday a father.

Tedros made a silent prayer: that he would do Good as all three, just like the man who had made him. A man who he loved and missed every single day of his life. A man he’d give anything to touch one last time.

The chaplain placed the crown upon Tedros’ head and tears streamed down the young king’s cheeks while the crowd roared a passionate ovation that lasted long after he’d managed to get his emotions under control.

The chaplain patted his shoulder. “And now to seal the coronation and officially make you king, you must complete the ceremonial tes—”

“Do you mind if I say a few words first?” he asked the chaplain. “To my people, I mean.”

The chaplain furrowed. “It is a bit unusual to speak before the proceedings are complete, especially since no one will hear you.”

Something fell from above, right into the folds of Tedros’ oversized robe: a small five-pointed white star, like the ones Merlin used to lay in tribute at his father’s tomb in Avalon.

“Strange,” Tedros said, studying it closely. “Why would one of these be . . .”

His voice instantly amplified for miles.

The crowd gaped in astonishment, as did the chaplain, but Tedros knew full well where such sorcery had come from.

He looked up into the big blue sky and smiled. “Thanks, M,” he whispered.

Then he put the magic star on his shoulder so it would broadcast him far and wide.

“Felt funny looking down at all of you without saying hello,” he spoke, his voice resounding over the cliffs. “So, um, hello! I’m Tedros. And welcome to the . . . show.”

Crickets.

“Right. You know who I am. Same boy who used to stand here and fidget when my father gave speeches. Just older now. And hopefully a bit better looking.”

A ripple of laughter.

Tedros smiled, feeling the warmth of the crowd. They wanted to hear from him. They wanted him to do well.

He searched for Agatha below, but the sun washed out the faces. He was so used to having his princess by his side when it mattered. But after all they’d been through, he could feel her inside him even when they were apart. What would she tell him to say?

The same thing she always told him to say: the truth about what he was feeling.

Only he was never very good at that.

Tedros took a deep breath.

“When I was a boy standing up here with my dad, Good and Evil seemed so black and white,” he said, his voice steadying. “But of all the things I learned at school, one lesson proved the most important: no one knows what is good or bad until after the story is written. No one knows if a happy ending will last or if a happy ending is happy at all. The only thing we have is the moment we are in and what we choose to do with it.

“And so here we are at this moment. A moment where riding into Camelot doesn’t feel the same as it used to when I was a boy. We aren’t the shining kingdom by which all others are measured anymore. The streets are dirty, the people are hungry, and I can feel a rot at our core. Even the king’s chamber smells a bit moldy.

“Part of it is neglect, of course,” Tedros went on, “and those responsible have been removed from power and punished. But that won’t fix our problems. Even if we could bring back my father, King Arthur couldn’t make things the way they were. The Woods have been changed forever by an Evil School Master. And though he is dead now, the line between Good and Evil has blurred. Enemies disguise as friends and friends as enemies. Look at our own Camelot, decayed from the inside.”

The masses were rapt as they listened, their bodies like trees in a windless forest.

“I may be young. I may be untested. But I trust my instincts,” Tedros declared, confidence growing. “Instincts that helped me find my way back to you even when I had Evil’s sword at my heart and an axe at my neck. Instincts that helped me choose the greatest of all princesses, soon to be your queen.”

Everyone followed his eyes to the royal gallery, where the nobles stepped back, revealing Agatha in the sun’s spotlight.

Tedros smiled, expecting applause.

He didn’t get it.

The crowd took in her pallid, ghostly face, buggy brown eyes, and witchy black helmet of hair and then seemed to look around her, as if she was a stand-in for the great princess Tedros was speaking of, as if they couldn’t believe that this was the Agatha whose fairy tale had grown so famous throughout the Endless Woods. . . . But then they saw the diadem on her head—the same tiara Arthur once bestowed upon his own wife—and their postures stiffened, a soft murmur building.

“Together, Agatha and I have faced down terrible villains and found our happy ending,” said Tedros. “But after a fairy tale comes real life. This is no longer my and Agatha’s story, written by the Storian. This is the story of our kingdom, which we must all write together. A history and future you are now a part of, even those who doubted my father, even those who doubt me. Today we turn the page.”

He took a deep breath. “And to prove that this is indeed the beginning of a new Camelot, my first act as your king is to present two members of my royal court. Two people who know our kingdom better than anyone and will protect it with love and courage.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw Lady Gremlaine leap out of her seat—

In a flash, Tedros tomahawked Excalibur across the stage, slashing open the scrim over the castle balcony, before the sword planted blade-first in the balcony’s archway.

“Presenting my mother, Queen Guinevere, and our greatest knight, Sir Lancelot!”

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