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Roland’s Quest

E. P. Arundel
Roland’s Quest

“But there is one other, is there not?” the old Oracle asked his assistant
Baxter.
“No, your eminence, these are all of the candidates,” Baxter replied,
believing the lie.
But the Oracle knew that there was one other. Baxter had presented the
Oracle with many candidates, but none of them were quite right. None of them
would pass the final test. The Oracle raised one eyebrow in question, and Baxter
shrugged.
“The Deodar claims the position, but we both know that he can not...”
The Oracle smiled as he interrupted. “I will see him.”
***
Roland was surprised to see the message from the Oracle’s assistant on
his terminal. He printed out a hard copy and asked two of his father’s clerks to
verify it. The clerks both confirmed that the message originated from Baxter’s
personal terminal. While Roland was surprised, he still got down to the temple
as fast as he could.
Baxter sort of grunted when he saw Roland even as he made the proper
sort of bow that Roland deserved as the son of the king. Roland bowed slightly
in return and let Baxter show him into the Oracle’s presence.
The Oracle was an old man. When he was much younger he would have
stood to honor the presence of the Deodar as was proper and right, but when
Roland entered the Oracle remained hunched over in his chair. The Oracle
looked ill, but the Oracle looked ill most of the time now. Roland bowed
properly, and he would have remained standing except that the Oracle offered
him a seat.
“I hear that you have been making quite the nuisance of yourself, young
Deodar,” the Oracle said.
“I only wish for what is my birthright,” Roland said calmly, quietly. There
was no arrogance in the statement.
“Ah, you believe yourself to be my successor,” the Oracle said. “What

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makes you so sure?”


Roland did not have an answer for that. How could he explain what he
had always just known?
It had started when he was a small child. Roland sensed things, knew
things that he should not have known. He knew when his mother tripped and
fell down a flight of stairs; Roland had called the medical team from his personal
terminal not more than a minute after it happened. When he had a major report
to finish for his history tutor, Roland printed out a copy of his work just seconds
before the royal palace’s entire computer system crashed. On his father’s last
birthday, Roland found a small trinket, and the king said that he had had one
just like that when he was Roland’s age, but had lost it years ago.
These sorts of things should have scared Roland, but Roland had become
accustomed to them and they no longer shocked him. So, when Roland heard
that the old Oracle was dying, he just knew that it was to the temple that he
belonged. He said none of this, but the Oracle still saw the answer in Roland’s
manner.
The Oracle nodded, and waited. It was Roland’s turn to speak, so Roland
said what he had come to say.
“I have tried to do as my father asks. I have followed all the precepts of
my position. I have studied with the priests and I have completed all of my
lessons, but no matter what I do nothing works as it’s supposed to. Father has
consulted learned scholars as well as the most talented of the priests, and no
one has been able to tell him why I can not pass through the Hall of Honor.
“I know why. I belong to the temple. The priests won’t teach me the
lessons of the priesthood nor would they even do the proper tests to find my
proper place. I know that I must undergo these, for I am sure that they will
prove that I belong here, and hopefully I will prove worthy enough to succeed
your eminent position when the time comes.”
“And what of your rank?” the Oracle asked. “What of the position to
which you were born?”

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“I am not the rightful Deodar,” Roland replied.


“You are the second born, to be sure, but you are the eldest living,” the
Oracle said. “Even if your honored father and mother had had another child, you
would still be the one in line for the throne and crown.”
“Am I the eldest living?” Roland asked. “Catherine is only presumed dead.
There is no proof that she did die.”
The statement was so unthinkable as to bring a gasp from the Oracle.
“The Overseers make no mistakes,” Roland continued, “so why can I not
complete the tasks that the Deodar must complete before his ascension? Why
do I know that my place is here and not as the successor to my father? I have
tried, oh I have dutifully tried, to do that which I was asked, but I could not.
There is only one reason that makes any sense. Catherine must be alive.”
The shock was so great that the Oracle perked up and looked more
animated than he had in a long time.
“Where would she have gone? How would she have lived? If not me,
then shouldn’t one of the seers have seen such a thing?” the Oracle asked.
At this the Oracle’s assistant Baxter came into the room. He gave Roland
a nasty look for he did not like seeing his master this upset. Baxter would have
been able to shoo Roland out of the room had not the Oracle then regained his
composure.
“No, Baxter, his highness must stay. We have much to discuss,” the
Oracle said.
The Oracle and Roland talked for a long time. They discussed Catherine.
Catherine was Roland’s elder sister even though Roland had never met
her. Before Roland was born, before Roland’s mother had even met the king,
the king had another family. Catherine was the bright, beautiful baby that every
parent wished for, and the entire kingdom was overjoyed at her birth. Catherine
underwent all the usual rituals for the new Deodar, and the priests all proclaimed
her the hope of the future. And life was good for a while.
But then one day Catherine was kidnapped. The kidnappers asked for a

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ransom, the king’s guards got involved, and the ransom never made it to the
kidnappers. The kidnappers said that they had killed the baby as punishment for
the king’s arrogance in trying to outwit the kidnappers, and they were never
heard from again.
This was all too much for the queen to take, and she called in seers and
priests, and she even consulted with the Oracle. None of them could offer her
any hope. The queen was devastated, and she lived the rest of her life—what
there was of it—in sadness and misery. She did not outlive her daughter by
more than five years.
Eventually, the king remarried, and he and his new wife had a son. While
the kingdom once again celebrated the birth, this time the celebration was
tempered with a touch of sadness. Catherine was still remembered.
“I should have seen such a thing,” the Oracle said. “I would have known
if she had survived.”
Roland had heard such things all of his life. Every priest said the same
thing. If Catherine were still alive, the signs would be there. If Catherine were
still alive, then they would have found her years ago. But Roland couldn’t be so
sure.
“Perhaps this was her path,” Roland said. “Many people have said that
the palace is too insulated, that we do not understand what the ordinary folk
have to deal with. Maybe it is Catherine’s quest to bring more relevance to the
monarchy.”
“And so the Overseers would have kept her continued existence from all
of us,” the Oracle finished. “I suppose it’s possible. I do not understand the
ways of the Overseers.”
“’None of us can know God’s plans’,” Roland quoted, “’except for those
that Oversee them.’”
***
Roland began the rigorous tests that would determine if he was truly
meant for the priesthood and if he was the rightful successor to the Oracle.

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Roland was the only one who expected the tests to go as they did. He breezed
through them easily, as if the Overseers couldn’t understand why the priests
were bothering with the formality. But there was one test that Roland hadn’t
passed yet, and that was going to be the hardest of them all.
The Oracle called Roland in to see him. Roland knelt down as was proper
for a novitiate to the priesthood and waited patiently for the Oracle to speak.
“Your father has been by to see me, and he is not pleased,” the Oracle
said.
Roland had had a similar discussion with his father, and Roland felt that
“not pleased” was probably the best euphemism that the Oracle could come up
with.
“So, while I do agree that you do belong to the temple,” the Oracle
continued, “something is going to have to be done. It is time for you to go on
your quest, and I know just what that quest should be.”
A quest! Roland was thrilled, though he maintained his obedient kneeling
posture and tried to betray no excitement. If he was to go on a quest that
meant that the Oracle intended him for the priesthood.
“You must find your sister,” the Oracle said.
Roland was not surprised. He had expected as much. If he was going to
leave his father’s house, then he was going to have to make sure that someone
filled the position of Deodar, and he was sure that the Overseers had intended
that all along. But Roland had no idea where to begin.
The Oracle called for his assistant, said something to him that Roland
could not hear, and then he turned back to Roland.
“You will need help on your quest,” the Oracle said. “Agnes is a very
smart girl. She inherited her mother’s looks and her grandmother’s brains.”
Before the Oracle could say more, Agnes joined them.
“Good morning, Grandfather,” Agnes said with a formal bow.
The Oracle explained to Agnes that her help would be needed if Roland
was to complete his quest. Agnes, though surprised to be asked, was happy to

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be of any assistance that she could render. The two of them got right to work,
but there was one thing that Agnes needed to know.
“What is this quest that you’re on?” Agnes asked Roland once they had
left the Oracle’s presence.
Roland explained.
“But she’s dead. Everybody knows that Princess Catherine is dead,”
Agnes protested. “Are we looking for her body or where she’s buried?”
“She is not dead. She can’t be dead,” Roland said. “She is the rightful
Deodar.”
Roland expected Agnes to protest more, but she nodded. She seemed to
take the information, process it, and accept it readily.
“Where do we begin?” Agnes asked.
“Ah, that is a good question.”
***
“What kind of life has she had, assuming that she is still living?” Agnes
asked. “Raised by her kidnappers? I wonder if she has any sort of mind left.”
“She does,” Roland said. “I suspect that she’s probably very normal and
well-adjusted. If she were crazy or otherwise damaged in some way, then the
Overseers wouldn’t have chosen me to succeed your grandfather. I would be
needed at the palace, to be Deodar.”
“But then how could the Overseers allow her kidnapping in the first
place?” Agnes asked.
“The Overseers had nothing to do with that,” Roland said. “They can not
control the actions of men.”
“But they are supposed to be all powerful,” Agnes protested.
“Men act according to their own desires and wishes,” Roland explained.
“If the Overseers were to make men do as the Overseers wish, then the men
would no longer be in control of their own actions, and then what would be the
point of that?”
Agnes shook her head. She did not understand, but Roland knew that he

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could not explain it to her. Agnes would have to figure it out on her own when
she was ready.
However, Agnes did know where to begin their search.
“If she is normal and has had a normal sort of life, then she should be
easy to find,” Agnes said. “Do we assume that she’s had public schooling?”
“Yes,” Roland replied before he had had a chance to think. Once his
intuition faded, he began to logic out why assuming that his sister had a public
education was the right way to go. He frequently did this--got an answer using
his psychic powers, then found a way to explain why his answer was correct.
Once he had an idea, he began to speak and let his higher consciousness use his
voice.
“If Catherine is still whole and sane, and we have to assume she is, then
her kidnappers couldn’t have locked her in a room for twenty years,” Roland
said. “And if she was out in the world, then her kidnappers would have wanted
her to have an education, but I doubt that they would have had the resources to
educate her themselves. So, she must have graduated...When?”
With a place to start, Agnes showed just why the Oracle chose her to help
Roland with his quest. Roland put his father’s clerks to work accessing all the
records that they would need, but Roland and Agnes actually went through the
data, and there was a lot of it. Roland had a general idea of what his sister
should be like, but his ideas were too general, and many girls fit that description
just in the local area. They needed something more to break down the search.
It took several days, but eventually Agnes came up with another idea.
“Don’t the authorities need some sort of proof of birth before they allow a
child into school?” Agnes asked.
Roland didn’t know. He had lived a more sheltered sort of life.
“Perhaps Catherine has adoption papers,” Agnes said.
Roland was about to retort that the sort that turns to kidnapping wouldn’t
have any trouble forging documents when his intuition told him to agree with
Agnes. Catherine had been adopted.

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“That is a rather odd thought,” Roland said instead. “What made you
think of it?”
“I don’t know,” Agnes replied. “It just popped into my head.”
But looking for adoptions proved to be too big a task as well. When
would Catherine have been adopted? Was she adopted right after the botched
ransom or later than that? What name would they have used? There were too
many variables.
After weeks of sitting in front of different computer terminals and going
through all the records that Roland could get, and since Roland was Deodar, he
could get all of them, Roland was discouraged. There had to be something else.
There had to be something that they were missing. He went to see the Oracle.
Roland explained his problem.
“If it were an easy task, then it wouldn’t be a quest,” the Oracle said.
“I’m just beginning to think it impossible,” Roland replied, disheartened.
“I find that when attacking a problem and finding no solution, it is best to
take a step back and let the solution find you,” the Oracle said.
Roland wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded like good advice. He
just wasn’t sure how he was going to let Catherine find him. She wasn’t even
looking.
Roland needed time to think. He told Agnes not to come by the next day,
and the day after that he sent word for her not to come again. Roland had other
duties to attend to, and he concentrated on those. His mother was glad to have
him back.
“I need for you to make an appearance at the flower show,” the queen
told Roland. “The ladies think that you’ve found yourself a romance, since
you’ve not been around lately. You haven’t, have you?”
Whenever Roland tried to discuss his calling, both his parents tended to
try to talk him out of it, so Roland deflected the question.
“I’ve been working on a project of my own. For my ascension ceremony,”
Roland lied.

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The queen seemed pleased. She asked him no more questions for which
Roland was grateful. While Roland generally hated lying, he found that this
particular lie didn’t bother him at all.
Later that evening when Roland was checking his terminal, and he had
been neglecting this task lately so there were many messages he needed to
reply to, Roland found a message from Agnes. She wrote to ask if Roland was
giving up the search. Roland had to look back through his appointment book
before he understood why Agnes would be pestering him. It had been many
days since he had even worked on his quest. And the message from Agnes was
two days old.
Roland still had no idea how to proceed, and a solution had not “found
him”. He didn’t want to ignore Agnes though for she had been a big help, so he
sent back word for Agnes to meet him at the flower show. He would be doing
what his mother wanted, and he would be checking in with Agnes. He made
sure that his staff added her to the admit list, and then he went to bed.
As soon as Roland arrived at the flower show, Agnes accosted him.
“Are you abandoning the search?” Agnes asked.
“I am stuck,” Roland admitted. “Unless you have a new direction...”
Agnes shook her head no. She was as stumped as the Deodar. Roland
was feeling really low, but he couldn’t show it, not in front of all of society and
the court. Roland explained that he was “on duty”, and Agnes replied that
maybe they just needed to get their minds off of the search.
It turned out that Agnes knew quite a lot about the different plants on
display, and she was an excellent tour guide. Roland began to understand why
the Oracle placed so much trust in his granddaughter—she seemed to know
something about almost everything. Roland tried to pay attention to Agnes, but
his mind was still on his missing sister. There had to be something that he was
missing...
And then Roland’s attention was pulled away from Agnes, to a movement
behind him. He turned. It was just a woman enjoying the show—an ordinary

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sort of woman, but Roland felt it. It was her—his sister.


Agnes read the expression on Roland’s face, and she turned to look where
he was looking.
“She’s not that pretty,” Agnes said.
Roland ignored Agnes and turned to one in his entourage—a secretary of
some sort. He pointed out the woman and told him to find out everything he
could about her. The secretary nodded and left on his errand. Agnes watched
this with interest but didn’t say anything until the secretary was out of earshot.
“What was that all about?” Agnes asked.
“That’s my sister,” Roland said.
“No,” Agnes said, but more with awe than with denial. “How do you
know?”
“Can’t say for sure. I just do,” Roland replied.
Roland knew that before he talked to Catherine, he had to prove his
psychic intuition. The secretary would gather all the information that Roland
would need. And Roland knew now that it would all fall into place.
By the end of the day the secretary met Roland at the palace and told
Roland Catherine’s life story. She wasn’t using the name Catherine, though.
Roland’s secretary said that her name was Daisy. But that would make sense,
he thought. If she knew that she was Catherine, then she wouldn’t be attending
the flower show. And the rest of the details fit about what Roland had sensed.
Catherine…or rather Daisy had been orphaned when her “parents” had
died in a freak accident involving lightning and some sort of farm equipment.
Daisy had been about three years old when this happened, and she was quickly
adopted by a couple in the area. Then the secretary gave Roland all the usual
sorts of information—dates of important events like graduations, a description of
what Daisy did for a living, and the general information that Daisy was well liked
by her friends and colleagues.
Now the trick was going to be proving that this woman was Catherine,
and Roland wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. The dates all fit for what

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Catherine would have done, but that wasn’t proof. There had to be something
that would definitively prove that this Daisy was in fact Catherine.
The next day Roland related the whole story to Agnes when they met
back at the palace. Agnes wasn’t convinced. She questioned everything.
Roland understood her skepticism, but there wasn’t a lot he could do to change
her mind. But then Agnes’ concentration wandered, and Roland followed her
gaze.
“Who is that?” Agnes asked.
Agnes was looking at a portrait on the wall. It was a portrait that had
been hanging there for as long as Roland could remember, and as such he
barely noticed it anymore. He saw what it was that he saw in the woman at the
flower show. There was something around the eyes. And the shape of the
mouth and how the nose pointed just so. Roland nodded at Agnes.
“That’s my father’s first wife,” Roland said.
Agnes no longer had anything to say against Daisy’s being Catherine.
The question now became just how to approach her.
***
Roland and Agnes left the question of how to approach Daisy/Catherine
for the time. There were duties that Agnes needed to attend to at the temple,
and Roland found that he was once again called upon to act as Deodar. The
king cornered his son and made it clear that they had to talk.
“I have been hearing some strange rumors, son,” the king began.
“Since when do you pay attention to rumors, Father?” Roland asked.
“One must always pay attention to rumors,” the king said. “Even if they
turn out to be untrue, they contain insight into what people are thinking, and
they usually must be addressed. Don’t you wonder what these strange rumors
are?”
Roland could just imagine. He said something about being too busy to
worry about such things, but the king just ignored this.
“You have been seen around the temple a lot lately,” the king said. “And

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you have been asking interesting questions—questions that the staff around here
hasn’t anticipated and can’t quite figure out.”
Clearly the king had a prepared speech, so Roland just waited. It would
do no good to argue or explain until his father had finished what he planned to
say.
“You have been seen around town with the Oracle’s granddaughter which
is not necessarily something that I would disapprove of, but you don’t seem to
be courting her. What are you up to?”
Roland again waited. The king often answered his own questions,
continuing to speak until he had exhausted a topic, but this time the king waited.
Did he really want to know what Roland was up to? He had to have formed
some sort of hypothesis, but as the silence lengthened, Roland realized that he
was expected to reply.
“What do you think I’m up to, Father?” Roland asked.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking.”
Roland realized that the Overseers had now presented him with a solution
of sorts. It was time to bring the king in on the quest, and perhaps the king
would know what Roland should do next. Roland felt that it was right, but he
still chose his words carefully.
“I have been on a quest,” Roland said. “I have been looking for
Catherine.”
“Catherine is dead,” the king said quietly, simply.
“I don’t think so. I think I found her,” Roland said. “I just don’t have the
proof.”
This completely blindsided the king, and it took some moments before he
could reply. When he did speak, it was in a whisper, “Where?”
Roland told his father everything that he had found out.
***
When the king returned to the palace later that night, he found his second
wife and his son sitting, waiting. The queen set down the menus that she had

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been working on to pass the time, and she looked to her husband kindly. She
did not speak. Her eyes asked the question.
“I think so,” the king said. And then he turned and walked out of the
room towards his bedroom. The queen followed.
***
At least that’s the story that Roland told me, but later, of course. I was
busy with my own problems at the time and I wasn’t paying much attention to
what the royal family was up to. My oldest friend Aaron and I were in the
process of opening a small nursery/garden shop.
Aaron knew everything that there was to know about plants, and I liked
dealing with the business end of things. I had procured financing and found a
suitable site while Aaron had the contacts to get all the product that we would
need. Now all we needed was an auspicious day to open the shop.
It took several tries before we were able to make an appointment with a
priest, but we finally got a message through and back, and so on the appointed
day we made our way down to the Oracle’s temple. Aaron had heard good
things about this priest, so we hoped for the best. We made sure that we were
early, and the priest was right on time. He showed us into his office.
It was a smallish office outfitted in the usual way. Aaron and I took a
seat on the opposite side of the priest’s desk, and the priest smiled
authoritatively at us.
“What can I do for you today?” he asked.
Aaron explained our business venture as the priest nodded sagely.
“Yes, this is a particularly good time to be working with the outdoors,” he
said. “There will be many good days to open, but let me find the best one for
you. I will need some information.”
As Aaron gave the priest his information, the priest entered it all into his
terminal. Then it was my turn, and we ran into some difficulties.
“I don’t know my exact date of birth,” I said.
“How can this be so?” the priest asked.

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It was so rare that I had to explain my situation that I stumbled a bit over
the explanation.
“I don’t actually have a birth certificate, and for some reason my
information was never properly entered into the central database,” I said. “My
parents apparently were a little wary of...”
Aaron interrupted, “You can say it. They were paranoid.”
“We don’t know that for sure,” I said. Then I turned back to the priest,
“But Aaron’s probably right. They didn’t leave much behind when they died.”
I then explained how the orphanage had approximated my date of birth,
and that while it was good for most things, for the sort of calculation that the
priest was to perform, I knew that the approximation wouldn’t be good enough.
“Hmmm,” the priest said while he stared out just beyond Aaron and me.
“I think I can come up with a compromise. It won’t be as good a date as it could
have been, but I think it’ll do. Tell me then—the date that you were adopted.”
The priest paused then, looked at his terminal, noted something on it and
“hmmmed”. Then he looked back up at me.
“Yes, we can call that your birth into the life you have now. But I’ll need
something else.”
Again the priest looked to his terminal, and then he pulled out a sheet of
paper and a pencil. He made some scratches. Then he looked back and Aaron
and me and spoke again.
“And the date that the two of you met—an approximate date will do. Yep,
that should be enough.”
Those dates I had, and the priest entered them into his terminal. Within
seconds the priest had an answer.
“Isn’t this interesting,” he said more to himself than to us. We waited
with the question apparent on our faces, but he didn’t notice us for some time.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he finally realized that we were still there. “Daisy, your
personal chart is quite a mess. Your influence on the shop, or rather your lack of
influence on the shop is quite pronounced. It is all very strange. There is

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something that is not quite right about all of this. You are not supposed to be
here.”
The priest said it all very kindly with no malice at all, but I still felt as if I
had been slapped. Where was I supposed to be, then? I was frightened and I
wasn’t processing much at all in my mind. Aaron had put his arm around me,
but I barely noticed.
“I don't mean that you are supposed to be dead,” the priest said gently.
“I just mean that you have been taken from your rightful path, and that the
Overseers are trying to guide you back. That will all happen in the Overseers’
time. For now you both want to open this shop.
“I will give you a two dates. They are very fortuitous for you, Aaron.
Daisy, I do not see you in this partnership for long, but for as long as you are,
the shop should be lucky for you as well.”
Then the priest gave us the dates that we had come for. I barely even
noted them, and then we left. I couldn’t get what the priest had said out of my
mind. I didn’t belong here? Priests did not say such things. At least, priests
were not supposed to say such things. Priests were supposed to be encouraging
and supportive.
I could not get my head around the priest’s words for a couple days, and
then frankly I just decided to ignore them. Then once I was thinking again
about our shop, I looked at the dates that the priest had given us. One was a bit
too close to get the store up and ready, but the other looked to be about right.
It was several days further away than I would have strictly liked, but the one
thing I knew about having a successful business was that luck always helped.
Because we had a bit extra time, we had time to attend the annual flower
show. Aaron looked forward to it all year, and he was very happy that we were
going to be able to go. We dressed in our best finery—royalty always attended
these things—and we made sure to get there early.
At least I enjoyed myself. I caught a glimpse of the Deodar, but neither
the king nor the queen attended this year. Aaron made some good contacts and

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made all the dealers aware of our new venture. It wasn’t too hot either, so it
was a good day.
Then a couple days later I got the strangest message on my terminal at
home. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I almost convinced myself that
the message had been misdirected and wasn’t intended for me at all, except for
the fact that it was addressed to me specifically. I didn’t do anything with it for
almost a day, but then my curiosity got the better of my sense, and I accepted
the invitation.
I didn’t tell Aaron why I had to leave our preparations at the shop that
day. He gave me a curious look.
“Is this still about what that priest said?” Aaron asked. “I know you were
spooked, but this is ridiculous.”
“Spooked is a good word for it,” I replied. “I’m sorry. I can’t change this
appointment. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Aaron looked like he wanted to ask, but he let it go and only shot me a
mild glare as I left him alone to unpack all the shelving units for the indoor
section of the shop.
By the time I got to the temple my curiosity was no longer pestering me,
and I was about to turn around and leave when an official sort of person saw me
and questioned me.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “You look a bit lost.”
“I...” I pulled out the hard copy I had made of the message setting the
appointment, and the woman glanced at it. Her demeanor changed. She had
been polite before, but now she became even more courteous. She personally
took me through the halls to the back reception room. She handed me off to a
priest behind a desk who instantly knew me even without seeing that message of
mine.
“Miss Daisy,” he said. “The Oracle is expecting you.”
I couldn’t imagine why. I followed the priest into the reception chamber.
The Oracle was seated in a high-backed chair, and standing next to him was the

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Deodar. I was so shocked by the sight that I almost didn’t give the proper
obeisances, but a movement from the priest who had directed me—he backed
out of the room and closed the door—awoke me from my trance. Luckily, I
didn’t have to begin the conversation.
“Thank you for coming,” Prince Roland said as he came forward to meet
me. He was a young man, not out of his teens, and he was a round sort of
individual. By that I mean that he was not thin. He carried his frame well, and
he dressed in the smartest and richest styles, so he did not appear sloppy or
slovenly.
I replied with something that sounded appropriate, and I prayed fervently
to the Overseers that I didn’t make any major blunders. I waited for the Oracle
to jump in and say something, and then I had a thought, quickly suppressed,
wondering why the Oracle and the Deodar were both in the same room. But
then my mind flashed to why was I here, and my mind started racing. Luckily,
Prince Roland still had something to say.
“Um, yes, well, I wonder. How much do you remember about your
parents of birth?” the prince asked.
The question startled me. Most people did not know about my adoption,
but I reasoned that the prince would have access to information that most
people didn’t. I still thought it an odd question, so odd that I couldn’t come up
with a response right away. I stood dumb for a moment before I forced myself
to speak.
“I have flashes of memory,” I said. “Odd bits of feelings and smells—a
few sounds. Most of what I know was told to me later. They were farmers.”
That last bit was idiotic. The Deodar would know that they were farmers
if he knew that I was adopted. I stopped talking before I said anything even
more stupid.
“Yes, well,” the prince started, but stopped. He said something else to
which I said, “Beg your pardon, your highness, would you repeat that?” but the
prince would not. It sounded like he said, “This is much harder than I thought,”

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Roland’s Quest

but that couldn’t have been what he said, and I dismissed the thought. Prince
Roland tried again.
“Perhaps I should just say it,” the prince said, but he looked like he was
directing his comment to the Oracle. The Oracle nodded, and I received a quick
but kindly glance from the old man.
“I don’t think that they were your actual parents,” Prince Roland said. “I
believe that they kidnapped you.”
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to respond. I didn’t.
“I believe that you are actually Princess Catherine,” Prince Roland said.
***
I left Aaron a message saying that I had to get away for a while. I
couldn’t tell him why. I couldn’t say it out loud. I needed to go home, and
Aaron was just going to have to understand.
I packed a small bag and caught the first transport heading out of the
city. It was going in the wrong direction, but I didn’t care, and the trip ended up
taking me twice as long. I barely noticed. My mind was racing.
It couldn’t be true, I thought. I thought about the doctors and the tests
that Prince Roland had insisted upon. Those would prove I wasn’t, right? It was
all a mistake. It had to be a mistake.
I got back to my childhood home well after dark, but luckily my parents
were home. I couldn’t explain why I was there. All I could do was say that I
just had to come and could I please stay?
For the next two days I sat in my room and thought. I found all my old
things. I looked through boxes of school detritus and I remembered. I
remembered my life. It was a life that I thought I understood, I thought I knew
what I was about. I tried to put my experience in some sort of order with what
my life had actually been, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reconcile the two ideas.
My mother was very kind and she didn’t pry. She brought me food at
appropriate moments, and she gave me kindly looks. Finally, when she came
back to retrieve some dishes, I stopped her.

19
Roland’s Quest

“Mom, what do you remember of my parents of birth?” I asked.


“Well, um,” she began, “I never met them. They kept to themselves
mostly, and not too many of their coworkers even knew their names. I have told
you all this.”
“I know,” I said. “I thought that perhaps you knew something else,
something that maybe I was too young to know or understand.”
“If you would tell me what this is about…” my mother began, but I shook
my head, so she continued on, “we never kept anything from you. There wasn’t
a whole lot to tell, so we told you everything.”
I thanked her, and she left. I went to the room’s terminal and turned it
on. I tried calling up records of my... What do I call them? My kidnappers?
How could I be sure who they were?
I couldn’t bring myself to think about it, so instead I called up another set
of files, and I read through them. I don’t know how long I was at it, but I don’t
think it was too long when my mother knocked on the door again. I told her to
come in.
My mother was carrying a good sized box. She told me, “This is
everything that came from your house, with you, when you came to us.”
Then my mother saw my terminal screen. She gasped and dropped the
box. I turned, looked back, and saw the picture.
“Is there a resemblance?” I asked. “I can’t be sure.”
My mother looked back to me and then back to the picture of the late
queen. She looked strange. The eyes that she turned back on me were the
eyes of a stranger and not my mother.
“What has happened?” she asked.
I finally found the words. I told her everything.
***
When I finished talking, my mother just looked at me for a long while. I
had expected her to have something to say. I hoped for comfort or at least
thinking that was clearer than mine. When I could stand the silence no longer, I

20
Roland’s Quest

spoke.
“But Prince Roland is wrong. He has to be wrong,” I said.
“He’s right,” my mother said. The surety in her voice startled me. There
was no doubt.
“How can you be so sure?” I asked. There were other things I wanted to
say, other protests I wanted to make, but my mother moved first.
“Look at it,” she said. She swiveled the screen on my terminal to match
my eye level. I did as she bid, but I didn’t see anything that I hadn’t seen
before. It was just an old picture of a dead queen.
“What has that got to do with anything?” I asked.
“You look exactly like her,” Mom said.
“I do not,” I replied. “If I looked so much like her, then why didn’t you
notice until now?”
I did not say it with anger. At least, I did not intend to use anger, but my
mother looked taken aback. She looked as if I had slapped her. For a long
moment she sat there, and I tried to find the words to tell her that I didn’t mean
it like that. I needed her to see that I was no royal. We both tried to speak at
the same time.
“I mean that...” I said.
“I can’t believe...” she said.
We both laughed.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry too. I should have seen it.”
“Why?” I asked. “It’s not like you thought you had a princess in the
house.”
Mom looked like she was about to cry. “I should have seen it,” she
repeated.
Mom looked back at the terminal’s screen. I remembered the day of the
queen’s death. Mom had been horrified. She dressed in black for weeks, and
we were the only house in the neighborhood to place the black wreath on the

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Roland’s Quest

door. Mom had held a wake for the neighborhood and everyone came. It was
strange. It was like a family member had died, even though Mom and the queen
had been no relation. But Mom was devastated.
“Everyone thought the princess, I mean, I was dead,” I said. “You
couldn’t be expected to look for a dead girl.”
I wanted to bring Mom out of it. I wanted her to smile, to not cry, but my
words did not help. I changed the subject and we talked of other things.
***
I don’t know how long I slept. I went to bed early, and I slept and slept
and slept on. I didn’t realize that I could be that tired. It was nice to be back in
my old bed.
No one was home when I got up. I made myself something to eat, and
then I went out to walk the streets that I knew so well. I ran into some old
friends, and we did the usual what are you up to stuff, and then I’d walk on.
When I got back to the house my mother was still gone, and so to pass the time
I went on the terminal to check my messages.
I had a message from Aaron asking me when I was planning on coming
back plus some other choice words about my absence. I deleted the message
without sending a reply. There were a couple other messages from friends
asking the usual sorts of things—was I going to an event, would I be available to
help set up for a party, etc. And then I saw a couple messages from someone I
hadn’t expected to get messages from. I opened the first one sent.
An image of Prince Roland came onto the screen and he said, “Where are
you?” That was it.
The next message was dated as having been sent this day, and it took me
a moment before I could open it. Again, the message was short.
***
I sat and stared at the blank terminal when the message had finished. I
heard someone behind me, but I did not turn. I knew that it was my mother.
She placed a hand on my shoulder.

22
Roland’s Quest

“You have to go back,” she said.


“I know,” I replied.
Yes, I did know, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t
know how to behave like a princess.
“They’ll teach you all that,” my mother said after I had told her my fears.
“Do you think they’ll like me?” I asked.
“Who?”
“Everybody.”
My mother smiled. She told me that she was sure that everyone would
love me, but she said it in that mother tone that we all learn to ignore. Of
course our mothers think that. We wonder if anyone else will.
“What am I going to tell Aaron?” I asked.
I didn’t really expect an answer. My mind had wandered, and I thought
of that business that we had started, and I felt a little guilty. I was going to
have to abandon him.
“I think he’ll be happy enough to have a princess for a friend,” my mother
said. “That should compensate for any trouble you’ve put him to.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Oh, I do.”
***
Prince Roland’s last message had been rather urgent, and I found that I
could not longer remain with my parents. I was still going to call them my
parents no matter what. I couldn’t think of them as anything other than that. I
repacked my bag, and I got on the first transport going in the right direction this
time. I was back in town within the day.
Prince Roland met me at the station. I hadn’t replied to any of his
messages, so I was rather surprised to have someone to greet me. However, I
didn’t know what to say to him. I just stared at him as he stared at me. One of
the people with the prince came over and took my bag from me and walked
away. There was nothing else to do but follow, and that’s what both the prince

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Roland’s Quest

and I did.
***
I didn’t know what I had expected. I guess I hadn’t been thinking about
it too much, so I was surprised when Prince Roland and his group took me back
to the royal palace. I didn’t want to do this, but I didn’t say anything. I could
feel my stomach going flippity-flop, and it was getting difficult to breathe.
Once at the palace I was led into a grand sort of room--the sort of room I
expected to find in a royal palace—and everyone except Prince Roland left. I
looked at the prince, and then I finally found my voice.
“What now?”
Prince Roland didn’t have time to answer. A door on the other side of the
room opened, and in walked the king. I watched as he got to our position, and
it wasn’t until the prince nudged me that I realized that I was holding my breath.
I wasn’t sure what to do, whether to bow or nod or what. It turned out I
didn’t have to worry, for as soon as the king reached me he pulled me into a
hug. It was then that I noticed that he was crying. And so was I. I felt it—I
was home.

24

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