As they approached the city (sooner than they had anticipated) Bren and the others were greeted by a crowd of people, each of them smiling, some of them introducing themselves and one or two hugging them like old friends. Jon was rushed off to meet family members and Bren, Jenna and Rebecca had been left on their own in this strange city.
They came across one of the most spectacular men the children had ever seen; a dark skinned, dark haired man in white robes – the whitest robes they had ever seen! He was dazzling. Bren and Jenna didn’t want to bother him, but Rebecca knew that they were lost and that they needed help from the dazzling man.
“Sorry sir.” She tugged at his robe. “Me and my brother and sister are lost. Could you help us get home?” although she wanted to see the city, she hadn’t enjoyed the crowds and they had been away from home for almost two days already; their parents would soon be getting worried about them.
“Certainly” said the dazzling man. “But you do look tired and hungry. Why don’t you join us for The King’s feast? We can set off after you have rested and had something to eat if you wish.”
They were all tired and hungry and Bren was particularly excited at the prospect of meeting The King (if you remember, when Bren was initially told about The King he had not believed even in his existence, but after seeing Elysium he was not so sure that everything was as clear and explainable as he had once thought; he would like to question this King and find out what was going on). They all agreed and they followed the man into the palace.
As they stepped into the palace they were immediately whisked away into their own private rooms where they were told they may stay until the feast. By the time the feast came, two or three hours later they all came down into the hall dressed in the robes that had been laid out for them in their rooms. They searched for their seats for ages – as one does at a party (one in which there is a set seating arrangement) when they are not sat with whom they are expecting to be sat with. Well, actually they didn’t know who they were expecting to be sat with as they didn’t know till two or three hours prior to this moment that they would even be at the feast, but they knew who they weren’t expecting to be sat with; The King.
They searched for several minutes – although it felt more like several days. It is a very embarrassing thing to still be looking for your seat when everyone else is enjoying the feast – until Rebecca noticed The King (sat on the left hand side of the dazzling man) beckoning them over and waved back at him. The other two then spotted him and they all approached him gingerly (except for Rebecca who was excited to be sitting next to The King).
He had dazzling white hair that flowed over his shoulders in magnificent locks and he too wore white robes – equally as white as the robes of the dazzling man – his skin glowed and he had an aura about him that put Bren and Jenna in awe of him before he had even spoken.
“Bren, Jenna, Rebecca,” his voice boomed like thunder. It was spectacular! “Welcome to Olympus: The greatest city that there ever was or ever will be. You have already met me in the form of Prince Misericordioso, for me and The Prince are of one mind” he pointed to the dazzling man, who agreed with him “and I am King Justus. Now that we are acquainted, will you dine with us?”
There were dishes of all sorts spread across the table. The King was cutting a piece from the most splendid roasted pork that the children had ever seen and they all assumed that he was cutting it for himself, but to their surprise he offered everyone else in the room a piece before taking one, starting with the best piece and taking for himself only the better of the pieces that were left (although that too looked like the most wonderful roasted pork that one could ever hope to find anywhere outside of Olympus). Once everyone had taken a piece (or not, if they declined, though few were peculiar enough to decline) and had filled their plates with whatever wonderful and fascinating food they chose, The King announced that the feast had begun.
Bren was so full of surprise and astonishment, he didn’t notice till part way through his bowl of soup that he was eating it with a desert spoon. He looked around for a soup spoon, but could not find one. What is the point of a soup spoon if we do not use it for its one purpose? He thought (as he always had). Until now he had barely spoken to The King out of fear that he might say something stupid, but this troubled him so much that he had to say something.
“I wouldn’t trouble yourself about it” replied The King. “Worse things happen at sea and all that jazz, but you can have a soup spoon if you wish.” Once he’d returned from the kitchen with the spoon, conversation happened more readily and both King and Prince explained about Elysium and the greatness of Olympus. They explained all about the people they had met on their way and snakes and trolls and giants.
“So if the city is so wonderful, why are there people who choose to live outside of it where all these awful things live?” asked Bren at one point “There is room for them.”
“There is.” Admitted The King “In fact, I have made homes especially for them to live in and invited them to stay in the city, but they are afraid of me and they become ashamed when they enter my presence. Because of their shame, they would rather live outside of the city; outside of my provision and protection; far away from my presence.
However, they are no different from the people you see inside the city. These people love me and want to spend their time in the city – with me. They are my subjects and I am their King who protects them fiercely, provides for them and comforts them when they are sad or lonely.
I love both sets of people just as much – my subjects and those who reject me. But those who do not stay in the city have made a choice because they are afraid of me and in doing this they make life much harder for themselves. I grieve for each of them, but there is nothing more I can do; they have rejected me.”
The King had become solemn. He truly grieved for the people who daren’t enter the city and the people who avoided the city just to spite him. He would have loved nothing more than to feast with them too and to protect them, to laugh with them and to guard them against the evil that is present – even in some parts of Elysium. They had a good evening though – without a doubt the best evening they had ever had. If it were up to them, they would have never left, for they enjoyed being with The King and with The Prince also, but they had been gone for more than two days now and their parents would soon be getting worried about them.
“Your parents will be getting worried about you by now,” observed The King once the feast was done, “but I cannot send you home without Winni, Terri and Theo. How about exploring Elysium a bit further before you go home? The others should be in the mountains to the north-west of Olympus. Would you send for them, and then you can all go home together?”
Bren liked this Idea very much, for Elysium was beautiful and much more interesting than The Bump, but Jenna and Rebecca would have happily stayed in Olympus with The King and ate cakes and puddings merrily until he came back. He couldn’t go alone though and it did sound like an exciting adventure, so they all accepted gladly and, after being equipped by The King himself (As well as a horse each, plus three spares and some essentials he gave Bren his very own sword – It was enchanted with the same sort of magic that Excalibur was and it didn’t miss; he gave Jenna a net – one that never failed to catch fish and usually brought back large quantities of fish too; and he gave Rebecca a whistle – the meaning of this gift will become clear later on) the three of them headed for the North Gate that lead out into the mountains north of Olympus.