David laughed. “I should think we’re more than past that by now. Is everything okay? You seem nervous.”
“Ah, s-sorry, uh...”
Thankfully, the Queen’s arrival saved him further embarrassment. Compared to his previous encounters with her, however, she looked decidedly different, thanks in no small part to her midnight blue gown with elaborate swirls of white, silver, and gold. He almost didn’t recognize her, the change was so stark, but after a moment, he vaguely remembered seeing her in dresses on television. Before all this, he’d never paid much attention to what the royals were up to. If he’d ever expected to meet any of them, that might have been different. The King and Lynn both followed her into the room, and all three of their faces lit up when they saw him.
“Hector!” said the Queen. “I was not expecting to see you here! What a pleasant surprise. I have been wanting to speak with you.”
As all eyes turned to him, he had to resist the urge to run out of the room. Instead, he merely flushed crimson.
Garovel floated up next to Hector and addressed Helen as he said, ‘Really? If you wanted to ask him something, you could have just asked me.’
‘Nah,’ said a smirking Mehlsanz, who had of course accompanied her servant into the room as well. ‘This is the kind of thing that should be discussed in person.’
As soon as the Queen sat down at the table, the food began to arrive. Hector pulled down on the brim of his hat and turned away from the door, not wanting to risk scaring any of the staff members. Perhaps the Queen understood this, because as soon as the last dish was set, she ushered the attendants out of the room and told them not to disturb her meal. She returned to a very quiet table, however, and had to throw a curious look across it.
Clad in a guardsman’s attire, Roman broke the silence for everyone. “I think we’re all wondering what you wanted to talk to Hector about.”
“Ah,” said Helen. “If you must know, I wanted to discuss the matter of Hector’s heroism in the preservation of Atreya and its citizens. Specifically, I wanted to ask what manner of reward he would like.”
Everyone looked at Hector again, then back at the Queen.
Helen smiled warmly. “What do you think, Hector? I was thinking something along the lines of, perhaps, a castle.”