Blood: Chapter 2

Every day that Twist and his companions had spent on the private royal beach, Twist and Myra stood waiting for the carriage to arrive at precisely two o’clock. The palace guards were dressed in Western-looking, militaristic costumes of bright red jackets and black trousers, shiny black shoes, and feather-plumed hats. They opened the carriage door and gave Twist and Myra a cordial bow, inviting them in.

Well, don’t they look snazzy?” Skye muttered to Jonas, standing as she was between him and Twist. “I was kinda expecting grass skirts.”

Twist glanced aside at her. Today, Jonas and Skye had been invited to the palace as well, thanks to Myra’s pleading on their behalf.

These islands are perfectly civilized,” Twist said, striding toward the carriage.

Twist’s black frock coat felt heavy and thick on his shoulders under the warm sunlight, and his feet seemed quite unhappy to be shut up in his boots. He took his black top hat off as he climbed into the carriage after Myra. A part of him wished that the royal family wasn’t as civilized as they were. Not wanting to offend the king and queen, Jonas, Skye, and Myra had all changed into more respectable clothing as well.

Myra now wore a simple but flowing pink cotton dress with frills at the hem and over her shoulders. Skye wore a silver men’s suit, complete with a tailed coat, an amber waistcoat, and a matching silver bowler hat on her short, ember-red hair. Jonas had tucked his white shirt into his chocolate-brown trousers and put on a jacket to match, but his waistcoat remained unfastened, and he still refused to wear a hat.

The ride into Honolulu was relatively short. The capital city seemed to claw for free air from the dense jungle and tall grasses that surrounded it. Even so, it had a distinctly Western look to it, which always amazed Twist. The neat little square houses looked wholly out of place with the wild mass of palm trees and tropical flowers all around them.

The palace itself was set in the center of a wide, very trim, and stately garden. Palms stood at just the right angles. Flowers, nestled in their orderly beds, matched each other presentably. The brilliant green grass, which grew as tall as a man everywhere else on the island, was cut short here. As the carriage pulled up to the front of the huge, square, stone palace—with its complete ring of columns around both raised floors, and four turret-like caps at each corner—Skye and Jonas leaned out of the window for a better look.

Wow, what a place!” Skye said excitedly. “I’ve never been to a real palace before.”

I have,” Jonas pointed out instantly. Skye shot him a look. “But this one is nice too.”

Some of the palace staff stood on the steps before the huge, recessed, slightly raised entranceway. They came forward when the carriage came to a stop and opened the door to help Twist and his companions out. One of them, an older man with broad shoulders and warm brown skin, spoke to Myra in the language of the island. Myra responded in kind, with a light and happy lilt to her voice. He smiled to her and then looked to Jonas and Skye. “Welcome to Iolani,” he said with a thick accent.

Thanks!” Skye said brightly.

The older man led them up the stairs and inside, while a pair of maids quickly and quietly took their hats and jackets. A wide hall filled the front of the house with open air. The rich, dark, shining wood of the floor stood like a still pool between the high white walls, while elegant archways led off deeper inside. In the center of the hall, a huge, gleaming stairway spilled down from the second floor in the brilliant daylight that filled the palace. While Skye and Jonas gawked at the spectacle, Twist and Myra followed their guide with now-jaded eyes.

They were all taken into a large, open room with high ceilings, lush silver carpet, and tall windows. Each window was shaded with a luxurious bright blue curtain, and each ornate wooden chair and settee was upholstered with the same color of blue. A crystal chandelier hung from the intricately molded ceiling in the center of the room, and painted portraits of Hawaiian rulers hung on the wide white walls.

The queen stood in the center of the room, beside a small table that held a large, decorative golden clock, and smiled when Twist and Myra entered. The king had met them on the first day they had entered the palace but since then had only appeared as his free time allowed. The queen, on the other hand, seemed to so enjoy her conversations with Myra that she’d made the time to meet them every day.

The queen was now of a respectable age: her elegantly arranged black hair was beginning to gray, and her plump stature gave her appearance an added layer of warm beauty. Her gently brown skin seemed to glow against the bright cream color of her long and billowing gown. Myra fell into a low curtsy as Twist gave the queen a bow. Behind them, Skye and Jonas did the same. The queen stepped forward as they rose again. She spoke in the bubbly language of the islands to Myra, who responded bashfully in the same.

I’m glad to see you again,” the queen said to Twist in English with a light accent.

Thank you for inviting us,” Twist replied, smiling.

These are our friends,” Myra said brightly to the queen, introducing Jonas and Skye to her. “And this is the Queen of Hawaii,” she said to them, gesturing back to her.

The queen extended her hand cordially. “I’m pleased to meet you.”

Jonas took it and bent to kiss her gloved fingers. “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well, Your Majesty,” he said, stepping back but keeping his eyes low.

Yeah, nice to meet you,” Skye said brightly, dipping into a bow as well.

The queen smiled thoughtfully at Skye. “Myra tells me that you were once a circus clown. Can you do any tricks?” she asked with a slightly coy tone.

Tricks?” Skye asked back.

We royals all enjoy entertainments,” Myra said with a shrug.

Well…” Skye said slowly. A smile snapped back onto her face, and she took a step away from the others, leaving herself well clear. She then took a breath before leaping suddenly into the air, executing a flawless backflip. She landed upright again and opened her arms with a flourish and a smile. “Ta-da!”

Startled, the queen put her hand to her chest as she stared at Skye in wonder. Then she laughed and clapped her hands. Skye laughed too and bowed. Jonas and Twist shared an amazed glance.

You’re just chock full of surprises, aren’t you?” Jonas said, shaking his head. Skye flashed him a smile, which he only have caught a glimpse of before looking away.

The queen spoke brightly to Myra in Hawaiian and turned to take a seat on one of the chairs. Myra beckoned Jonas and Skye to sit as well, already beginning to translate as needed to Jonas and Skye. Twist found it curious that the queen only used her English sparingly and seemed to prefer having Myra translate, but as Myra didn’t seem to mind at all, Twist held his tongue on the subject. After all, they were in her country. It was only polite to use her language as much as they were able.

Oh,” Myra said, glancing to him after the queen had said something. “If you would, darling,” she said, gesturing to the clock on the table in the center of the room. “She said it’s a present from the French king to Kamehameha the Fifth,” she added with a hushed but excited tone.

Of course,” Twist said, already pulling his fine clock-mending tools—wrapped neatly in a leather bundle—out of his jacket pocket.

As the others got into pleasant conversation with the help of Myra’s diligent translation, Twist turned his attention to the clock. It stood just over a foot tall, with a large white face, white marble columns wrapped in thin golden ivy, a hanging pendulum in the shape of a golden rose, and countless, gilded, flowery ornaments. The pendulum and the three tiny hands didn’t move at all. He laid his fingers on the white face and closed his eyes. In the space of one breath, his Sight filled with every intricate nuance of the clockwork within.

Having seen what he needed, Twist walked around behind the clock, opened the back, and began to remove the outer gears to get to the one misaligned cog that was causing the trouble. As he focused on his work, Twist felt his mind ease. No matter the chaos and uncertainty life threw at him, fixing a broken clock always put his thoughts back into order. He only wished that the king and queen had an endless supply of clocks for him to mend.

Tending to all of the palace clocks as payment for staying on the royal beach was a price Twist was very happy to pay. He was very grateful that Aden had made the arrangement with the king, which had also allowed the Rooks free access to search for information about the dragons that had once lived on these islands. Now that most of the dragons had left Earth to explore the solar system—thanks almost entirely to Twist and Jonas accurately calibrating their astrolabe—there was precious little left of dragon magic now to study.

As Twist placed the last gear back into place and wound the spring, the clock began to murmur in its constant, soothing, and gentle voice. Twist smiled in satisfaction as he reset the time and stood up to wipe the polish and oil off of his hands with his handkerchief. He looked up to find that tea had been served while he hadn’t been paying attention.

Oh, is it finished?” Myra asked.

It was just one misaligned cog,” Twist said easily. “No trouble at all. It must have just been knocked out of place. It’s a very nice clock and should run fine for a long time.”

Myra translated for the queen, who responded to her. Myra nodded and turned to Twist. “She said it was probably the last good-sized earthquake that caused the problem. She wishes she could keep you on to fix everything again after the next one.”

I’m at your service for as long as you need me,” Twist said to the queen with a smile. “Could they bring in the next clock?” he added with a glance to the stately butler who stood waiting at the doorway.

The queen called orders to the butler. He gave her a bow and left the room. The queen then turned to Myra and spoke unhappily for a moment.

Oh dear,” Myra said with a frown as she looked to Twist. “She said that that was the last one. You’ve seen to every clock in the palace.”

The butler then returned with some other palace staff, who began to carefully transport the clock out of the room.

Really?” Twist asked, his spirits falling.

The queen looked at Twist kindly. “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t be so sad,” she said gently to him. “I am grateful for all your hard work. Here, have a cup of tea,” she added, gesturing to the tea tray.

Myra hopped to her feet and reached for an empty cup before Twist could.

Workaholic,” Jonas said with a smirk.

I miss mending clocks,” Twist said, sitting in a chair beside Myra’s. “All this adventuring is very distracting, of course, but I do still adore the simplicity of clockwork.”

Myra handed him a cup of aromatic, orange-colored tea with milk, and he thanked her before taking a sip.

Wow, your life’s got to be pretty crazy before clockwork seems simple,” Skye said darkly.

I keep forgetting about where you came from,” Jonas said musingly to Twist. “You’ve changed so much, so quickly. But traveling is still new to you, isn’t it?”

Twist looked at him and found his eyes to be a light lilac color. The image of Twist’s dark, cold, quiet little house in London flashed unexpectedly to mind, with the chilly sound of the rain, the scent of soot and damp, and the emptiness of nothing but clockwork company. He shook his head to clear out the image and looked around him again: at his friends and the queen of an island country, at the palace around him in the warm, moist air with the scent of flowers that was everywhere here.

You know, it is,” he said to Jonas with a sigh.

Poor Twist ran out of clocks to fix.  But he’s sure to find other things to take up his attention, very soon.  If you’re wondering what will happen next, click right here to read Chapter 3!

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