Fall From Grace: The Story of Queen Zeal Chapter 5
For one to fully understand the history of Zeal, it is important to understand the social classes of the Zealians. The King and Queen were of utmost authority, followed closely by the Gurus. Many other cultures of the era thought it extremely strange that the Gurus were in a higher position then even the Crown Prince or Princess. It was truly the Gurus that held the real power in the kingdom, for it was quite simple to manipulate a monarch to do whatever the Gurus couldn't do themselves. Illio, Trenliria, Ytos, and several others were noted for this sort of behavior.
Queen Tilhipsi was the subject of many derogatory rumors for knowingly allowing herself to be a puppet to Guru Kreth. She had no choice, basically. Guru Kreth was her younger brother, destined never to rule as long as Tilhipsi lived, so he took advantage of her naïveté and his superior intelligence and lured his sister to always council in him before doing anything. Her reign was tough for the people, as the Earthbound at half as much food as before, and the Zealians were taxed so heavily that the economy plummeted, benefiting nothing but Kreth's pockets. Tilhipsi decreed none of these laws on her own. Therefore, with a few clever words and some powerful magic, a Guru could have the kingdom of Zeal resting in his or her hands.
"Ceres, are you done yet? It's your turn" asked Arturex impatiently, as his friend was weeding an area of the kitchen garden. He was leaning over a chessboard with ivory and ebony pieces, set in with sparkling jewels.
"This takes time, Art. If I don't pull these weeds, they'll choke the flowers, and your parents can say good-bye to this year's saffron crop. Followed by Mnead and I saying good-bye to our positions."
Although she still got down and worked the earth like she had before, unlike Mnead who strutted proudly through the garden bellowing curses at slow workers, she still enjoyed being able to plan the gardens as she saw fit. The large mutated lichen was now cleverly sculpted into a map of Zeal, and a statue of King Cannon, the first ruler of Zeal, was erected in Pharos' garden. Ceres also took the liberty to re-landscape the area around the Sunstone Pagoda, and was developing a new agricultural plan for the Earthbound to increase production. It was a great challenge to grow grain out in the fields, as most of the land's year was consumed by winter, so she responded by showing them how to mass-cultivate mushrooms in the darker areas of the caves, and every sunlit room in Algetty hosted as many vegetables in terra-cotta pots as possible. Ceres was being hailed as the "Lady of the Earth" by the ground dwellers, although she did her best to ignore this praise. She did enjoy a place, however, where she was considered a help more than a nuisance. The Queen had yet to acknowledge Ceres' existence after the fungus incident.
"Well, either hurry up or let me help you." said an exasperated Art. "Playing chess isn't very fun when your adversary only moves one of her pieces every fifteen minutes." He was waiting for Ceres to counter his check.
"Fine. I suppose you can help me, as long as Tlacal doesn't catch me 'enslaving the Crown Prince' again." Ceres sighed reluctantly, not wanting to relive the moment. "Just pull up everything except these." she said, pointing to a particular sprout growing out of the rich soil. Arturex did as she told him, and they worked together quietly for quite some time.
It was suddenly interrupted by a large glossy raven that flapped down beside them and squawked for attention. When they turned, it transformed into Guru Lilith. She instantly started to prattle off information to Art, seeming not to take any notice at all of Ceres.
"Prince Arturex. It is time for your lessons. Qambim wants you first, then you are to report to Zelri..." she suddenly interrupted her instructions with a groan "Your majesty, you weren't in Algetty again, were you? You're filthy."
Art quickly defended himself. "Madame Guru, there was another cave-in due to Lord Wrat's dreamstone mines. Once news reached me, I went to go help. There were several workers trapped."
Lilith snorted. "Your Majesty, with all due respect, you should leave Lord Wrat's problems to Lord Wrat. Now be off." Art did as he was told, transforming into a golden eagle, the plumage of the bird matching his hair.
Ceres continued to dig up weeds, dismissing Lilith's presence once Art had left. The Guru cleared her throat.
Ceres kept working for a moment, not responding until she suddenly realized that Lilith was referring to her. She had still yet to get used to being addressed as a Head.
"Yes, Madame Guru?" she said, turning as her face flushed with embarrassment.
Lilith straitened herself up and continued. "The reason I came here was to notify you that you will be taking lessons in the palace from now on. you have ben assigned to take the following: High-Level Magic, Battle Training, Scrib-"
"Begging your pardon, Madame Guru, but why?" Ceres interrupted.
Lilith coughed as she replied to Ceres' question. "Because the other Gurus and I keep an eye open for people with certain skills, and then we assign them to certain classes to enhance these skills for the good of the kingdom."
"But... battle training?"
"You have excellent magical skills. They could come in very handy if Zeal was ever in a warlike position." Lilith confirmed, although any idiot knew the Zeal hadn't been in war for three hundred years.
Ceres almost sighed, but then held it back to maintain an expression of respect for the Guru. "Perhaps I should confirm this with my parents first..."
"No need. You have plenty of time during the day. You can sacrifice a couple hours to take the classes."
"But, Madame Guru..."
"Correction! You WILL sacrifice a couple hours a day to take the classes. Do you fly?" Ceres nodded, and transformed into a falcon. Lilith sniffed a little when she noticed that's Ceres' form was bigger than her raven guise, and then flew up to the waiting Ceres and lead her to the room in which her first instructions would begin.
"Yesssssssss!" hooted Lilith as she greeted her colleagues."She's enrolled!"
"She is? That's wonderful!" Beelzebub exclaimed,and they began to dance around the room in happiness.
"Beelzebub and Lilith should calm down. The Gurusaren't immortal yet." scolded Asmodeus.
Lilith glared angrily at him. "You don't have the right to say that. I've been doing everything from the start. All you and Beelzebub ever do is sit around while I do all the work for our immortalityand please Lavos."
"Why should Asmodeus and I have to do anything when we have you around? We still attend births and the other ceremonies and do our other regular jobs. We leave you to do the hard stuff."
Lilith grumbled in disgruntlement. "Hmph. I can'tbelieve I'm sharing my immortality with you loafers."
"What? Loafers? Lilith, my dear, I think that Lavos may be able to preserve your body, but he can't do a thing for your memory. Did you forget that if it wasn't for Asmodeus and I, you'd still be apprentice under Raqol. You would have no knowledge of Lavos, and simply wouldn't be the woman you are today. I believe we deserve a little credit."
"Fine. Take your stupid credit, but when we finish our tasks, you know that Lavos will favor me, for I am the quintessence of dutifulness and faithfulness, and he will repay me greatly." Lilith said haughtily.
"You, Lilith, are the quintessence of a pain inthe ass. Now, if you don't mind, I have some musing to do."
"You can muse to your heart's content once we are immortal. We have no time for that right now." the Guru of Time responded.
Beelzebub looked up. "And, what do you we proposewe do at the moment, Lilith? We can do completely nothing until-" His sentence was abruptly cut short as the three apprentices entered the room.
"Until what, Master Guru?" Belthasar asked politely. "Until... the sky falls." Beelzebub responded hastily.Everyone else in the room simply stared at him. "And if you'll excuse me, apprentices, the other Gurus and I have some bickering... er... discussingto do."
"All right, Master. We will be in the library forthe time being." Gaspar replied.
Lilith jumped up quickly and ran for the door tothe royal library, blocking their way. "NO! You can't go in there... there's strong magical disturbances in the library... Beelzebub was experimenting and something went out of control. We're lucky that we can keep it containedin the library before it destroys the entire world."
The three apprentices looked at each other and left without a word. The Gurus heard Belthasar saying something down the hall louder then he should. "You both owe me fifty gold pieces! I told you that my Master would last longer before losing his mind than yours!"
Lilith and Beelzebub grimaced, while Asmodeus gloated on the recognition of his sanity. "So, was it Beelzebub or Lilith's statementthat was more ridiculous?"
"Be quiet, Asmodeus." Lilith growled. She then sighed. "Phew... I thought that they would find the Machine."
"I don't know why Asmodeus had to build it in the library in the first place." Beelzebub added. "If we continue to close off the library to the general populace, we're going to arouse suspicion."
"Hmph. Beelzebub suggested that Asmodeus build itthere anyway."
It's such a shame that I indirectly cause so muchfriction between my disciples.
"Lavos!" all the Gurus cried at once.
Of course. I just wanted to congratulate all of you on your excellent progress. Young Zeal is well on her way to becomingwhat Fate has decreed she shall become.
"You're really happy for us?" Lilith asked enthusiastically.
No. Whenever you argue within earshot of the Machine, it wakes me from my slumber. You know I need to gather my strength. I can'tmake the three of you immortal without it.
Beelzebub glanced at a mechanical clock that Asmodeushad invented. It had been kept a secret for a couple years just because of the fact that it had been extremely difficult to design and build, and if the public knew about, Asmodeus would have quite a lot of work to do.
"Well, our maiden should be in class with Qambimin a moment." he said.
"Don't the Gurus get their reward?" inquired Asmodeus.
You will get your reward once every thing fallstogether and no sooner. It will be but a few years until your day will fully arrive. I can't give you small bits of youth every so often if I am to have enough power to grant you true immortality once the time comes.Now I must sleep.
The three Gurus sighed simultaneously as a page knocked on the door to their quarters saying "There's been another birth in the Drang family!"
"No, not another Drang brat!" groaned Asmodeus. "Well, the Gurus should fetch the apprentices and be on their way."
Ceres looked at the large intimidating sign thathung above the door in the Royal Academy.
She sighed, wondering what ever possessed the Gurus as to enroll her in warfare classes, as she pushed on the door and enteredthe room.
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