back at the castle
Vin and Ezra left their horses with the stablehands and went inside.
Ezra was still trying to pry more information out of Vin. "Is it something small? Perhaps a new knife to replace the one I lost in Eagleton? Maybe a new cloak? It was all Sir Buck's fault for starting that fight at the tavern in which my garments were rent. Could it be a..."
"EZRA! I'm not telling you nothing more. You want to know what the surprise is?" Vin grabbed his arm and practically dragged him over to the closed door of the Great Room. Vin opened the door and pushed Ezra through. "There! See for yourself!"
Ezra was stupefied by what he beheld. The room was decorated floor to ceiling with rich, deep blues. Blue velvet swatches of cloth and shiny, indigo silk ribbons were draped from the walls and rafters. The blue theme continued in the decoration of the tables and hearth. One table was set with a multitude of individual-sized cakes, elaborately iced. There were minstrels playing a cheerful tune in the corner while a team of professional acrobats tumbled and tossed each other to the music. They looked like the same ones who were present at JD's party--the ones he had enjoyed watching so much. And the food! Pheasant and quail, puddings of different types, meat pies, savory vegetable dishes, several exotic fruit delights, so hard to come by in this part of the country this time of year. So many of his favorites! "A party?"
"A birthday party."
"Whose birthday is it?"
Vin was grinning at him like an idiot. "Yours."
"But...but I don't have... I don't even know when..."
"You do now. It's today...by royal decree." Chris stepped up to him and put a hand on his shoulder, gently guiding him to the main table where the others were already seated.
Chris shared a look with his oldest friend. Buck had been right. He was the one who convinced Chris and the others to surprise Ezra with this celebration. Chris didn't think it would be such a good idea at first. Ezra usually didn't like being the focus of so much attention, despite the way he acted and dressed sometimes. The man had a way of hiding in plain sight. But he could see now that this party was the right thing. He should listen to Buck more often. He was a smart man...although Chris would never say that to his face. Buck would get a swelled head and there would be no living with him.
Chris sat next to Ezra at the table. The poor knight was still having trouble finding his speech--a first for Ezra. Chris leaned closer to the dazed prince, gently clasping his arm. "Happy birthday, Son."
Son? The king had never called him son before. A tremulous smile quirked up at the corners of his mouth, quickly turning into a beaming, open grin.
Chris saw the look of naked joy on Ezra's face. He hadn't realized how much this party would mean to the young man. Chris also hadn't realized the power of that one word. Son. Maybe he'd have to use it more often. Yes. He definitely would.