After the kerfuffle at the cave ended with the escape of potion master, Rib wanted to scream bloody murder for his failure. He told himself it was folly to think he deserved to rule by his beloved’s side as his queen when he allowed the very person who could have saved his life to slip away. After all the work he did he had nothing to show for it.
He sat down in the only chair in the cave, the one he strapped the master in, and sulked. He deserved to be tossed aside like so much trash after this failure. He reached into his pocket to throw away whatever tissues he might have stashed there and pulled out the grocery list. Suddenly everything that was wrong was right away.
“He was in such a hurry to escape that he forgot I had the list!” Rib giggled as he read through the list again. There were a lot of nonsense ingredients on it, he knew this now, but not everything was nonsense. He remembered he put the potion master under a mind control spell, so he had to tell him the real ingredients. He just had to whittle down the fake ones.
With renewed hope, Rib teleported to the Bone Castle and got to work on the potion. It took a few hours before he finally found the right combination of ingredients to perfect the potion. He made a mental note to copy down what he did later. But first, he bottled up as much as he could and raced to the king’s bedroom. He was disturbed to find him not in bed. He quickly raced to the throne room calling for him.
Calavera sat on his throne, still looking like death warmed over. He was reading a romance novel about gay pirates when Rib rushed in. Irritated by the disruption, he set the book on his lap and asked, “Are the Graveyard Fighters dead?”
Rib averted his gaze for a moment before admitting his failure. Before the king could voice his disappointment, Rib offered the bottle. “But I have this! Upon capturing one of them, I coerced him into creating this, a potion to restore your strength to its former glory.” He prostrated obsequiously and held the bottle above his head. “For you, Your Eminence.”
Calavera’s eyes looked upon his loyal servant favorably as he took the bottle. He eagerly chugged the contents, battling past the bitter taste, and tossed it aside, shattering it to pieces. He felt his strength returning immediately. His body warmed up from the tips of his toes to the very tips of his wispy hair. He flexed his fingers, feeling his powers pulse through every muscle.
“Yes. Yes! YES!” Calavera stood from his throne without so much as a snap, crackle, or pop from his knees. Whatever waning pain he felt earlier was now gone. “This is magnificent! I feel ten years younger!”
Seeing his love looking so happy made Rib’s heart flutter. This has to earn him a seat by his side as his queen for sure.
“You are looking much better, sire. The color has returned to your lovely face. How rosy they are.”
Calavera descended the steps of his throne to touch Rib’s face, who was still kneeling. “Raise, Ribbyn.” His servant did as he was commanded.
Rib stared into Calavera’s eyes and tried not to lose himself in them. They were two perfect black pools of darkness that expressed so much appreciation that he almost came on the spot.
“No one has served me better than you and for this you will be rewarded.” He softly caressed Rib’s face, causing the servant to close his eyes. “Whatever your heart desires shall be yours- once the Graveyard Fighters are dead.” He let his hands slip away. Rib’s head leaned forward without its support. “How those children keep outlasting you is beyond me.
Rib cleared his throat and replied, “But they’re not children anymore, sire. They are formidable men now.”
This piqued Calavera’s interest. “Men, you say?” Rib didn’t like the way he said that. “Show me these men.”
By bending light to his will, Rib was able to conjure images of Creston’s and Fox’s likenesses floating in the palms of his hands. Calavera examined them closely, neither impressed nor disappointed, or at least as far as Rib could tell.
Calavera lingered on Fox’s image the most. He remembered this man as the boy who cast the sleeping spell on him at the moment of his defeat. While he wanted to repay the boy for this, he couldn’t help being attracted to the man he’d become.
After debating what to do, the king gave the command, “Kill this one,” pointing to Creston’s image, “But capture this one and bring him to me.”
Rib’s blood ran cold when he heard this. “Are you sure, sire?” If his blood wasn’t cold already, the icy glare his liege gave him froze it completely. “I’m sorry, milord. I guess I’m just confused by why you’d spare him.”
Calavera’s expression softened to something akin to a mother adoring her son for asking a silly question. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Just bring him to me unharmed.”
The Skeleton King returned to his throne and began reading his book again. He said nothing else and didn’t make eye contact again, signaling the finality of the conversation.
There was no reason to remain unless he wanted to lose the ground he just gained, so Rib merely bowed and left the room.
He stormed into his private room and slammed the door behind him. His blood was no longer chilled; it was boiling beneath the surface. He had never soared so high only to plummet so low so quickly. How could his beloved want anything to do with that young whelp? What did that boy have that he didn’t have? Youth? Maybe. Rib didn’t consider himself unfortunate looking, but compared to the Graveyard Fighters, he was no spring chicken.
He plopped down on his bed and fumed before his anger turned to sadness. I guess I’m not going to be his queen after all. He remembered what Peg said about the king not meaning what Rib wanted it to mean. Is he right? Am I twisting the meaning into what I want to hear? Then a thought came to him and slapped in the face like a wet fish: What if I’ve only been imagining that he loves me? What if he plans to have me by his side only to have me watch him make the very boy who tried to kill him his queen?
The very idea saddened him. That couldn’t happen, right? No! It couldn’t happen. It won’t happen. In fact, I’ll make sure it doesn’t! Cal is mine!
The wheels in his mind began to churn harder than they’ve ever churned before. His love and position of queen was at stake. He had to protect what was his, and Cal was his, period. No upstart was going to usurp his place in Cal’s heart.
The plan was to capture the boy unharmed, but boys are scrappy, resourceful, and incapable of keeping still. Accidents are bound to happen when the target is unpredictable. There’s no telling what could happen when trying to capture an unwilling participant. Hell, depending on the location, one could accidentally take a long walk off a short cliff, or was a short walk on a long cliff? He didn’t know, but he liked the image it conjured. He was already planning what he’d say when he brought the lifeless body back.
Suddenly, Rib was no longer crestfallen, he was more inspired and determined than ever. It was time to put the plan into action! When he went to locate the Fighters, he realized that he couldn’t home on them. He gasped as he remembered he was surprised to see them at the cave. He had no idea they were there. How could that be?
They must have discovered the tracking spell I put on them… And then it made sense why they went to the potion master in the first place. He must have told them how to break it. Now finding them is going to be much harder. Curse you, potion master! When we meet again, I assure you, you’ll never make another potion again! You’ve made a fool of me for the last time! I will break your hands before I wring the life from… Man, I really do go on a bit, don’t I? Get a move on!
In a poof of purple, Rib disappeared, eager to put things into motion, one way or another.