Freidrech felt conflicted so he asked the headmaster for guidance.
"I won't deny, your answer is nearer to the right answer, Your Highness. So I want to ask the headmaster for his judgment. Here is the right answer, they all lied. Since the three of them wanted to be freed, they wrote their own names on the paper. When they were asked to read the names, they lied by mentioning their names instead. That's why no one was freed."
Everyone looked straight to the headmaster, waiting for his verdict.
After a long wait, the headmaster stood.
"Prince Theodrech's answer is somewhat nearer to the right answer but he emphasized more on not admitting their inadequacy than the real problem which was lying for their own gains, which is a severe case. So, his answer can't be considered equal to the right answer," said Lord Rhabras.
Suddenly, someone started to clap. Everyone turned their heads to the person. It was the king.
"Good job, a well-thought riddle," said King Thierri as he stood, still clapping. The spectators followed suit and gave a big hand.
After everyone settled, the headmaster announced, "The prince will now give his last riddle and the score is nine points in favor of Freidrech and seven points for the prince. If Freidrech can't give the right answer, we will go for a tie-breaking riddle, of which I'll provide. It's your turn now, Prince Theodrech."
All eyes were now on Theo. Whether this would break him or open a way for a tie-breaker chance.
Theodrech didn't speak yet. He remained silent for a while. His heart was pumping like crazy. This could be the end if Freidrech could answer this one.
He breathed deep. 'Here we go. Please don't answer it. Go for a tie. I begged you,' he prayed.
"We hurt without moving. We poison without touching. We bear the truth and the lies. We are not to be judged by our size. What are we?" asked Theodrech.
The whole stadium was completely still, a simple cough or a foot's rustle could be heard.
Even Theodrech could hear his heart drumming in his chest.
Then Freidrech smiled, a heaping one…
As they saw his smile, the pro-Freidrech's faces brightened and their hands were itching to clap because they thought that it meant he knew the right answer. While the pro-Theodrechs were beginning to lose hope. A few covered their faces and on the verge of crying, but most were dejected but they still prayed he would say the wrong answer.
Theo thought he understood what that smile meant. He was crestfallen and about to say congratulations, but…
"Let's go to the tie-breaking riddle. I can't guess the answer," said Freidrech.
The whole stadium instantly exploded in an uproar, displaying various types of emotions. Some screamed, a few cried, a handful was bewildered, others were shocked, but most of the audience burst into laughter. Then wild clapping filled the place and could be heard even blocks away.
"Damn, you, boy. It was a nerve-wracking wait," said one of the enjoying noblemen. Then he felt the boring stares of the people beside him and went red in shame for speaking similar to an uncultured person while in the company of his equals.
Theo threw his hands up and yelled out the tension building inside him. Nevertheless, he admitted, this was the most enjoyable brain battle he ever experienced.
"Everyone, let's not dally. Let's go for the tie-breaking riddle," said the Lord Rhabras.
Out of the blue, the king intervened. "Lord Rhabras, I believe this is enough for today. The two had proven themselves and I pronounce them both as victors."
"Huh?" "Wait." "No." The spectators sighed in unison. They wanted more.
The king snickered upon hearing it. Still, "This is in consideration to the boy, Freidrech. He still needs more rest after his long journey." The king then looked at Lord Rhabras and the latter understood.
"As the king has said, this riddle battle is officially closed. Let's show our appreciation to our two brainy-contenders for giving us this exciting event by giving them a standing ovation."
All the people stood and thunderous applause rang in the whole stadium.
"Congratulations!" said Prince Theo as he approached his opponent and shook hands.
"Congratulations to you, too, Your Highness."
"Uh huh." Theodrech shook his head as he wagged a finger at Freidrech. "You promised, you'll call me Theo from now on."
"Haha, fine, Theo."
Theo pulled the other and gave him a good hug. "Welcome to Griftein Veimu, Fred. Fred is good, right?"
"Fine by me."
"Good, good, because I hate to call you Freid, though it means free spirit, it also rhymes with afraid."
The two cracked up with the comparison.
While the two were busy in their own world, the whole stadium was still in pandemonium. The commoners and the soldiers' sides were the loudest chanting their names.
"Theodrech, Freidrech, Theodrech, Freidrech."
"Hail to the two Drechs," said one of the knights and the spectators echoed, "Hail to the two Drechs."
The chanting became louder and faster.
Then the king broke into a hearty laugh, enough to overwhelm the rejoicing noise.
"I love this type of battle. Let's do this again," said the king with exhilaration as he lifted his hands wide open. Deafening clappings, whistlings, and shouting in glee charged their ears as the people expressed their excitement with the announcement.
"I agree. Make this an annual festival for the school and open for all students to participate," said the queen to the headmaster.
"Perhaps, a city festival, Your Majesty. Every citizen, regardless of his status in society can participate and win a tempting prize to encourage the children and youngsters to study," said the headmaster.
"Yeah, grandpa. That will be brilliant. I believe the children will be excited with the idea," said another young prince.
"We can have the academy to plan for this," the king said to Lord Rhabras.
The headmaster bowed in acceptance of his assignment. "As you wish, Your Majesty." Then, he looked up. "All the students go back to your classes." Yet, a group of students started to flock around Freidrech but the blue-suit guys blocked them away.
During the commotion, someone in the audience suddenly asked, "Your Majesty, what is the prize for the winners today?"
"Yes, Father. You promised to announce it today," chimed Prince Lowis, who was on his way to the king ready to suggest a prize for Freidrech.
However, the king gestured Prince Lowis to step aside to give room for the king's adviser.
"Boy, come here," commanded the king to Freidrech.
Freidrech obeyed and walked near the king. The people stopped on their tracks to watch.
"Come closer and kneel."
Freidrech bent a knee in front of the king. The king raised his hand to the adviser, who handed him a scroll. King Thierri kissed the scroll and it unfurled on its own. Then floated above Freidrech's head.
"From this day forth, you are no longer the chief of Wrilon village. Thus, you will bear a new name. From now on you will be called Freidrech Gerboud of Amberdrift. Your first assignment as the young Lord of the house of Amberdrift will be to become Prince Theodrech of Xaeviel's study companion. . ."
"What?!?" shouted Freidrech as he looked up abruptly to the king. His desire was to become the Royal Academy's Headmaster's apprentice, not a prince's nanny.
"Preposterous. How dare you speak disrespectfully to the king," the king's adviser shouted.
Freidrech panicked. He acted out of impulse. His unbound behavior in the village kicked in and forgot the proper protocol in front of the king. He bowed lower but still kneeling.
"I'm sorry for my disrespectfulness, Your Majesty. That was uncalled for. Please forgive me," said the shrinking Freidrech.
The king stood with his full authority in his towering height in front of the kneeling youngster.
"I don't mind your lack of decorum, but I do mind your reaction. Why? Is it undesirable to become my grandson's study companion? Do you resent my reward and all the privileges that come with it?" the king said with a voice as calm as still water to the spectator's ear.
However, what pervaded Freidrech's ear made him flinched and shudder in fear. It was like a combination of a fearsome roar of a lion and a heavy shrieking of an eagle, trying to subdue not just his body but also his spirit to submit. For the first time, Freidrech felt the immensity of the Xaeviel king's power.
'Is this the power of the Griftein King of which Popa told me before?'
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Reminder: If you have words you don't understand or can't pronounce in your minds, just go to Glossary of Terms in the auxiliary chapter above Chapter 1.
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