"No. Absolutely not!" his mother exclaimed, setting her cup down onto her saucer sharply, looking down the table at her son, who, at the moment, had adverted his gaze from his mother. "That is out of the question, Gordon."
"Ah don' see why yeh're gettin' so upse', Mum..." Gordie replied, stirring the contents of his food around on his plate. Suddenly he had lost his appetite, and that was saying something, considering his usually insatiable appetite. "I's no' like ah've never done this before..."
Pomp... perhaps he should not have brought this idea up to his parents after all. Granted, his first plan of action would have left his parents, especially his mother, far more upset, had he gone through with it without their consent. But judging by the tone of his mothers voice, he surmised it would not have been by all that much.
During these last few weeks following Caramels departure, the Prince of Gourd could not seem to shake off his depression. He couldn't sleep well, his appetite was not what it used to and his outlook on things were far too bleak for his comfort. There had been attempts by his friends to help (all against his will, of course). But still, there seemed to be nothing that could break him of his horrible mood. It frustrated him to no end, and he hated himself for feeling the way he felt. He hated feeling so weak and vulnerable, as dramatic as it seemed. But he had no choice in the matter. His heart was broken, it yearned for comfort and a way to escape the ache.... and if food and drink and sleep and friends could not help... then he was left with only one option....
Yet by the tone of his mothers voice, one he knew all too well, it was beginning to sound like that option was going to be tossed out the window. And he didn't even need to look up from his plate to know that she was watching him with her sharp, amber eyes. Should he dare to look up at her, he knew he would visibly flinch from that look. Young or old as he was, he knew that look would always scare the pomp out of him.
"Yes, but never for so long!" she replied without a moments hesitation. "Two weeks are very well with me. Even three. A month is pushing it... But for six months, Gordon? Why, that's just absurd!" He heard her lift her cup once more, somehow feeling the finality of her decision reaching her lips. "The answer is--"
"Ahm no' bein' absurd, mum!" he interjected, now rising his own amber eyes from his plate to look up at hers. Oh yes, he caught her by surprise, he could read it on her face. "How is askin' for six months t' mahself absurd?"
"Because you, my dear laddie, have duties that need to be performed as the Prince of this Kingdom." she answered matter-of-factly, taking a sip of her tea. He could see it now: she would make her decision and that would be the last she would say in the matter.
"Wha' duties? Royal protocols? Sittin' behind a desk and signin' papers all day long?" he retorted, intent on keeping the subject open. "Goin' t' meetin's where th' mos' ah do is si' and listen t' old men argue abou' Glob knows wha' durin' Glob knows when? C'mon, mother!"
"Yes, that is precisely what you are going to do."
"Mother, tha's no' fair! Can' yeh jus'--"
"Fair? Fair?" she set her cup down sharply, enough that some of her favored tea spilled onto the large, oak table. To hear defiance from her usually compliant son! Goodness! She would not stand for it! "Gordon, this isn't abou' bein' fair! This is abou' responsibility! Yehr responsibility, migh' ah add, as th' Prince o' Gourd! And ah will have yeh ac' like one."
Oh, he was pushing it. Once his mother's accent began to surface (something she absolutely hated), he knew it wouldn't be long until she got really upset, but gobbit, he would have his way! He needed it!
"And how can ah?? When ahm like this?" he gestured to himself. "Ahm angry... and hur' and... ah can' think abou' anythin' other than her" Glob... he couldn't even come to say her name. And at once, thoughts of her came to his mind, and now his need turned to desperation. And his mother could see it too, her harsh expression softening, but just barely. And that was some give... enough, hopefully, to sway her. "Don' yeh see... ahm no use t' anyone here... Ahm a wreck, mother. Ah wan'... ah need t' ge' ou' o' here. Please.... if only jus' for a lil while... Please?"
How quiet it had suddenly become then, as his mother thought it over. She wasn't a heartless woman and she was not blind. She knew how badly her son, her only son, had become these last few weeks, and it broke her heart to see him so. How she hoped he would have jumped back, like how he had with the other young ladies he had courted before, and then things would have gone back to the way they were.
But he had not... Yes, some time to himself could help... but could she really let him go? In the state he was in? Oh so many conflicting thoughts ran through her mind as she mulled this over... but one thought always rose into her head. One constant worry she had since the day he was born.
How small he was, how sickly....
Her fear for him, and how she never wanted to have him out of her sight. And it was this thought that she was focused on, besides the others, when she turned to her husband, who had been silently eating the entire time mother and son argued.
"Patch! Talk some sense int' yeh son!"
Ah yes.... his father. He had nearly forgotten about his father. But could he be blamed for that, when his father had sat by so quietly? He glanced over at him now, awaiting what he had to say. His father wasn't the one who made most of the decisions in their family. No, that was all left to his mother. After all, his father was an adventurer long before he had met the Princess of Gourd and after a series of events, eventually fallen in love with her and became her husband. However, his father seemed to be quite the diplomat when it came to final decisions.
So now the large man, whom the Prince resembled in every sense of the word, set aside his dinner (his second helping, going on third) and returned his sons waiting gaze. And then he looked over at his wife, who was earnestly waiting for her husbands agreement. And now he turned back to his son and sighed, lacing his large fingers together as he rested his elbows upon the table.
"Yeh realleh need t' go for six mon's, lad?" he asked, now breaking the silence.
"....Yes." Gordie replied hesitantly. "Jus' six months. Ah need t' think... and ah can' do i' here... no' when everythin' reminds meh o' her..."
"Well... mah hands are tied then." he said, opening his hands. "Yeh're ah man, Gordie. No' ah chil'. If yeh need t' go, then go."
At those words, Gordie had let out a long sigh of relief and smiled at his father, gratitude written all over his face. "Thank yeh, Da'. Thank yeh."
His father nodded then and with another sigh he turned to his wife, who was quick to move her hand away when he made to take it. It would be many days before she would allow him into their chambers. Until then, he would make due with one of the guest rooms. Still, he would not let this deter his decision. "Dumplin', now dunna be so angry. I's only six mon's. No' six years."
"No! I will be as angry as ah see fi', Patch Pumpkin!" she snapped, pointing an accusing finger at her husband. "If he ge's hur', this is all yehr faul'! Do yeh hear meh? All yehr faul'!"
"Don' yeh Dumplin' meh!" and with an angry huff, she rose from the table and left the dinner hall, slamming the large doors behind her as she did, causing both father and son to flinch. After a few moments of silence, it was Gordie who spoke up first.
"Ahm sorry ah go' yeh int' this, Da'..."
"Hmm?? Och, dunna yeh worry abou' tha', lad." his father chuckled. "This isn' th' firs' time we've ever gotten int' an arugumen' over yeh, and i' mos' certainly wouldn' be th' las'." he then pulled his plate towards him, and left his seat to then sit beside his son. "Yehr mother means well, dunna yeh doub' tha'. She's jus' worried for yeh. As yeh well know. Stubborn woman tha' she be, she will never admi' t' tha'. Bu she cares. Do yeh ken, lad?"
"Aye, o' course yeh do. Smar' lad, tha' yeh are." he chuckled, now taking to sliding some of his food into his sons plate. "Had she stayed a bi' longer, she would've heard meh tell yeh this: Ahm only allowin' yeh six mon's. No maor, no less. And ah wan' yeh sendin' us word when yeh can. Every chance yeh ge' or opportunity. No' for mah sake, bu' for yeh mums." he nudged his son on the side and pointed at the food with his fork. "Ea'. Ah'll no' have a son o' mine leavin' this table with a full plate. Yeh wan' t' shame mah name, lad?" he grinned.
How could he refuse such a thing from his father? And how could he not return that cheeky grin of his. Of course his father wasn't going to let him go off without any set rules. With a compliant nod, he ate, still not as hungry as he should be, but the excitment of leaving slowly had it coming around.
"Good lad. Now then. If yeh're anythin' like meh, ah dunna doub' yeh have yehself already packed and ready t' go, aye?"
"Heh.... yeh know meh well." Gordie chuckled as he forked up a few vegetables.
"Course ah do. Spittin' image o' yeh ol' man." his father replied proudly, giving his son a good pat on his shoulder (had he done so before Gordie had swallowed his food, he would have most likely choked because of it). "Was th' same when ah was yehr age. Always ready and se' t' go...." he sighed and scratched at his beard. Now his father had grown somber, his brows furrowing to convey his own set of worries. "Lad... wha' happened between yeh and yehr lassie... t'was a horrible and unfortunate even'... bu' yeh know tha' runnin' away from this... i' won' heal yeh th' righ' way. Matters like these... they be bes' faced head on."
Gordie nodded then, his new found appetite diminishing slightly as he listened. "Ah know...." he answered truthfully. "Bu' ahm no' runnin' from i'... no' entirely. Ah jus' need t' think abou' this... maybe... even move on? Find closure?"
"Hmm... aye, tha' be a good way t' go abou' this. Bu' promise meh, even if yeh can' find all th' asnwers, or even find yeh closure, tha' yeh'll allow yehself some peace, no matter wha' yeh discover ou' there. Promise meh, lad?"
Ah.. now that promise was not something he could readily do. But for his fathers sake, he nodded. "Yes. Ah promise." Glob, how it left a bitter taste in his mouth to do so. Yet it was enough to satisfy the large man besides him, who's smile returned and he patted him, once more, on the back.
"Good lad. And when do yeh plan on leavin'?"
"Now, if ahm able. Ge' an early star'. Or rather, ah late one." And this was the truth. He wanted to be on the road before the sun set completely, and truth be told... had they consented or not, he would have most likely taken off in the dead of night. His father nodded a final time before standing, and pulled his son up.
"Then off with yeh, lad! Gather yeh things. Ah'll go and have Lumina pack yeh some food and such. Go and make sure yeh have all yeh need. So help meh, ah'll even go through yeh pack mehself if yeh so much as give meh ah "ah think ah have everythin'" answer."
With a grin, Gordie made towards the door, but stopped and turned to hug his father. "Thank yeh Da'. Really."
"Och, don' thank meh ye'." he chuckled, returning his sons' hug. "Now gi' goin'. Go'wan."
With another pat on his back, he released his son, watching him hurry out of the dinning hall to his room. As much as he had his own reservations in letting his son go off like so, he knew it really could not be helped..... It could not be helped.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
"Ok... tha's all done and packed..." he said, tying his pack up for the fifth time as he double, tripled and quadruple checked his things. "Welp... tha's i' then. Ahm goin' t' be off...." he turned then and sat down upon his bed. "Listen.... ah know i' so sudden, and ah don' wan' yeh thinkin' i's because yeh weren' good enough t' help meh ou'. Ah know yeh tried yeh bes'. All those nigh's when yeh slep' by mah side... i' really was comfortin'.... ah don' think ah could've asked for a better friend. And ah jus' wan' yeh t' know tha' before ah go.... Now, don' yeh give meh tha' look. Ah said i' wasn' yeh. I's meh. Ah jus' need t' go. Yeh understand, don' yeh?"
He looked over onto his bed, only to see Shadow give his paw another lick before yawning and then flopping over onto his side like the lazy cat he was, purring aloud. Gordie laughed and reached out, giving his cat a few good pets before just plucking him up entirely. To which Shadow did not mind, in fact, he rather enjoyed his masters pets and hugs.
"Yeh're horrible a' goodbyes, Shadow. Yeh pompon, lazy cat..." he chuckled, nuzzling into his cats fluffy side. And the answer he got in return was a purr and lazy meow. Ah what more could he ask for. He lay back in bed, holding his cat up above him, who only looked back in a lazy, half dozed way of his. "Ah lef' BSB instructions t' on yeh snacks and such.... bu' ah lef' yeh some in yeh scratch tower. Yeh'll find them soon, ah be'. Bu' try no' t' ea' them all a once, cuz BSB is no' easy t' sneak trea's from. So promise yeh'll ea' those sparingly. Promise?"
Again, another meow, this time adding on a playful bap to his nose. "Close enough." he chuckled.
He looked towards the door, finding his mother standing by it, her hand folded neatly together as she walked in. She looked as composed as ever, but the puffiness of her eyes told him she must have been crying for a while.
"May I have a word with you, Gordon?"
"Of course, mother..." he answered, setting Shadow down and rose from his seat. Glob, he felt horrible; he made his mother cry and it must be adding insult to injury for her to see his things already packed and so soon. And so they stood before each other, neither saying a word, both unsure how to do so. Until, at last, his mother let out a shaky sigh and bowed her head.
"I'm not going to stop you, Gordon. If this... if this is what you want... then I... I give my consent to it."
She held up a hand and rose her head once more, and yes, there was her defiance once more. "I did not say I liked it. I will never like it, and you can be sure that when you return home, I will make you pay for my sufferings, you ungrateful child..." though this, she said with a smile. And this was how it was all made right. He smiled as well and then began to laugh lightly, pulling her into a hug, to which she quickly walked into, holding onto her son closely. He kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back comfortingly.
"I's jus' six months, mum. Ah'll be ok. Ah promise."
"I know, Gordie... oh..." she looked up at him and now held his face in her hands. "I just worry so much for you... I don't mean to be so harsh with you, you know I don't. But darling, must you? What if you get sick? What if you catch the frost or the mumps or--"
"Muuuum." he chuckled, taking her hands. "Ahm no' goin' t' catch fros'. And ah already go' th' mumps. Yeh only ge' those once in yeh life."
"You can still catch them! Your great uncle Fergus had! And he barely survived that!"
"Mum. Grea' Uncle Fergus was only near someone who had mumps, and tha' doesn' coun' as catchin' i' twice."
"Are you calling your Great Uncle Fergus a liar?"
"Yeh told me he said he once caugh' dragon pox, and we both know Gourdians can' catch dragon pox."
"That's not the point, dear! The point is that you will be away from friends and family... Can't you ask Nicoli to join you? Lupe? Rico-- well maybe not Rico, the poor dear... Or all three?"
"No mum. Jus' meh. They go' their own problems and things t' deal with... Besides..." he stepped away to gather his things and hoisted them onto his shoulder. "... ah'll probably drive them nu's before they do meh. Now c'mon..." he took his mothers hand and linked it around his arm as he walked with her out of his room. "Ah heard Da' talkin' outside. He mus' have Maxi all ready and waitin' for meh t' go..."
The walk downstairs was in complete silence and as they came closer to the entrance of the castle, did he feel his mother give his arm a squeeze. glob he felt awful, just terrible, to be putting her through this. And even as they walked outside, he nearly had to pry his mothers hand from his arm.
"All se', lad?" his father said to him, glancing over at his wife, who huffed and turned her head away in her haughty manner. Yet this only had his father grin and roll his eyes. How he loved that woman.
"Yeah, all se'...." he said, tying up his things to Maximus. Now this was it. He was taking off. He looked back at his parents, now standing besides each other; his mothers' anger at her husband momentarily forgotten. He walked up to his mother first and kissed her cheek. "Ah won' be far tonigh'. Ah'll be campin' ou' by th' river and then se' ou' firs' thing in th' mornin'. So if anythin' happens-- honestly, happens," this he added quickly as he saw a devious little look working on her face, which quickly disappeared at his mention of honesty. "then send meh word. Ok? Ah love yeh, mum."
"I love you too, Gordon." she sighed, leaning in to return the kiss on his cheek, this his forehead and once more on his cheek. "Just be careful, darling. You're all I have..."
"Eh?" her husband added indignantly.
"...besides your father, of course." she added off handedly with a smug smile on her face at the sound of her husbands added huff. Gordie laughed and nodded, then going over to his father, he was pulled into a tight hug (and he swore he heard his bones crack from it)
"Keep ah sharp eye, lad. Dunna ge' distracted easily. And for pomps sake, enjoy yehself. And bring meh back souvenirs for meh trophy room!"
"Wha'??" he laughed. "Migh' as well ge' somethin' ou' o' this?" and he muttered under his breath so only his son could hear. "Ahm goin' t' be spendin' a lo' o' time in tha' room, ah be'." and with a hearty clap to his back, he released him. "Now off yeh ge'! And dunna yeh come crawlin' back tonigh', or ah'll send word t' yeh friends abou' this. Don' think ah won'!"
"Yes, ah don' doub'!" Gordie laughed, climbing onto his stag and taking up his reins. "Ah'll be back soon! Love yeh both. And if anyone asks, jus' tell them ah'll be back soon." with a click of his tongue and whip of the reins, Maximus took off, and Gordie gave his parents one last wave before he faced forward to the road.... and was soon gone from sight.
This was a trip he needed, and he only hoped that once he came home, he would be a stronger man for it.