The Elephant Gate Part 1 – Ch 11 to 15
Kevin explores his new home and goes back to school.
His room was airy, with cream colored walls and fruitwood furniture. A platform bed with a shiny gray comforter was tucked against a corner. A small student desk was on the opposite corner, already stocked with school supplies. There was no closet. The captain opened a large cabinet; one side had a series of pull-drawers and the other had two separate closet poles.
“All of your clothing should fit in here. Do you need any help to put things away?” Kevin shook his head. “Your bathroom is through those doors. Tomorrow I will drive you to the palace to start school, and afterwards we will go through your chore list and the house rules. And Noy Kevin? Welcome home.” With that, the man closed the door, leaving Kevin to explore his new surroundings.
Once he put his things away, he stepped into the bathroom. It was made with glittery gray marble; the tub wasn’t as big as the one he splashed in at the palace, but it was still big. He pulled out his new bath supplies: toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. There were two shelves of fluffy gray towels already. He placed his new slippers on top of the lowest shelf for now. Once everything was in its place, he wandered back into his bedroom. He pulled the books from the royal school room and placed them on the student desk.
With nothing else to do, he changed into cotton pajamas. For now, he was keeping his Green Lantern ones for when he goes home. Once he snuggled under the covers, he quickly fell asleep.
* * *
The bright sun slanting through the window woke Kevin. He squinted for a moment before he got his bearings. A truck-shaped clock showed it was 8 o’clock. Oh, no, what time was he supposed to wake up? He quickly climbed and raced for the bathroom; in record time, he scrubbed his face, brushed his teeth and hair, and had changed into a pair of blue pants with a darker blue button-down-shirt.
There was no movement in the hallway when he peeked out, but he could smell cinnamon in the air, so Khun Matt’ya was probably awake. He skipped down the stairs to the dining room. Noboby was there, so he went through the swing doors to the kitchen.
The housekeeper was bustling around a huge stove, stirring a pot. Scrambled eggs and toast were stacked up on plates on the metal countertop. “Hi, Mrs. Matt’ya!” he happily called out as he zeroed in on the smell. It turned out to be a bowl of spiced rice.
She spun around, spoon in hand, and dropped a quick curtsey.
“Oh, Noy Kevin! You surprised me!” Her face was wreathed in smiles. “Go to the dining room, and l will bring your breakfast out.”
“Can I carry something for you?”
“Oh, no no. I have it all. You just sit down and wait. Khun Thadchai is finishing his morning workout and will be here in a few minutes.”
Kevin sat down to another delicious breakfast. He was finally getting used to the variety of foods in each meal, although he still wished he could sometimes cereal and milk. He was halfway through when Thadchai walked in, a towel over his broad shoulders. Kevin jumped up out of his seat.
“Good morning, Cap’n!” he chirped as the older man waved him back to his breakfast. Khun Mattaya bustled in with another steaming bowl of rice. The captain dug in with single-minded purpose. “Um, what are we doing today?” Kevin asked.
Thadchai replied. “I will show you the house and property, and we will talk about chores and my expectations. All after breakfast, so finish up!”
When the plates were empty and carried to the kitchen, Kevin ran upstairs to his room, to change into a comfortable pair of pants and a loose-fitting shirt. He pulled on the brown leather boots that they had purchased the day before. He felt almost grown up as he clunked down the stairs.
The pair walked out the back door into a sunny green yard. A small fountain with a lotus finial stood off to one side. An overhang provided an area of cool shadow, with an arrangement of comfortable-looking rattan chairs and glass-topped tables. A sunburst mosaic was embedded into the tiled porch.
The captain led Kevin past the fountain to a small shed just in front of a row of natal palms. The palms were against a black wrought-iron fence with a wide cipher-lock gate.
“This is the rear access to my property. The lock number is 6-7-2-3. Be careful of the thorns whenever you are near this area of the yard.” He unlocked the gate and swung it out. The other side of the fence was a vast area of green plants in a row.
“These are sesame fields and part of the royal grounds. The barracks and these houses represent the first line of security here. Just past that copse of trees are the horse barn and the equine facility.”
Kevin spent a moment squinting in the early sun until she could just make out the shape of a building behind the trees. He nodded as the captain closed the gate. Walking back to the shed, he unlocked it and flicked on a light. Kevin peeked in and gave a quick breath.
Inside were several types of motorcycles, including a four-wheeler. Thadchai smiled at the boy’s obvious delight. “Those are not for you to touch,” he said sternly, despite his amusement. “The yard maintenance equipment is also in here.” He pointed out various hand tools and a single green push-mower. “Khun Mattaya’s nephew takes care of the lawn, but occasionally needs help. Assist him when he requests it.” After casting a final longing glance at the vehicles, Kevin stepped back so the shed door could be closed.
Continuing around the outer edge of the property, they ended up by the front gate leading to garage area. Once they were through it, the captain pointed out a door in the recesses of the carport. “I keep vehicle cleaning supplies there.” He opened the unlocked door to reveal shelves with buckets and bottles of detergent. A coiled hose rested in a large metal tub on the ground. “The truck will need to be washed every week. Here are pole brushes to scrub the places you can’t reach. “
Once he was sure his young charge understood, they proceeded inside. They walked through each downstairs room, in order to familiarize the boy with the layout. “The laundry room is behind the kitchen. There is a separate entrance in the back of the house, so if you are particularly dirty, you can go through the mud room and change there. Khun Mattaya has a shelf of clean clothes; I’ll make sure she leaves a set for you. Otherwise, there is a laundry shoot in your bathroom.”
“What’s a laundry shoot?” Kevin asked. They walk upstairs to his room, and the captain pointed out the pull-out door on a wall. It reminded Kevin of the Book Return slot at his library. “Just put your clothes in there and close it. They will travel to the laundry room, and Khun Mattaya will take care of them.”
Once they walked back into the hallway, the captain turned to look Kevin in the eye. “I’m going to show you my office, but you must never go in there without me.” The room was at the far end of the hallway, next the double doors of the master bedroom.
The door opened to a home office similar to his dad’s office, but where that one was messy and covered with rolls of blueprints, the captain’s office was neat and organized. Thadchai led the boy over to the fireplace on one of the paneled walls. There was a discreet indentation; he used it to pull out a section of the paneling.
“It’s a secret room!” Kevin crowed. It was so cool that he had one, especially like this. It was small but filled with different types of weapons; knives, swords, guns, even rifles. The captain shut the door after a quick view.
“No one knows that this room is here except Khun Mattaya, me, and now you. I wanted to show it to you now, so you don’t stumble over it later. Agreed?” He held out his hand, and Kevin solemnly took it.
“I promise not to tell anyone, or come in here by myself.” The captain smiled and ruffled his hair.
The housekeeper handed Kevin a picnic hamper. “Here’s lunch for you two when you get hungry.” The boy carried it over to the truck and heaved it inside. He surprised her by running back for a quick hug before he climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up. The captain smiled at the embarrassed woman before cranking the engine and pulling out of the carport.
The rest of the day was spent at the equine facilities. Kevin enjoyed everything from the nursing center for the pregnant mares and foals to the paddocks where the horse were trained to the commands of the handlers. As part of the schedule the captain created, Kevin would spend one day a week at the facility, to learn to care and ride for the animals. The captain promised that if he progressed well there, he would move on the elephant compound.
They bounced back over the road towards the house.
“Have you decided on a name for the little one?” Captain Thadchai asked. Kevin squirmed for a moment.
“At home, I have an elephant that I keep with me. Well, a stuffed animal. I want to name her Kandula, after my stuffed animal. Is that too weird?” He asked worriedly.
The captain chuckled. “I think it’s a fine name. I will arrange the naming ceremony once she is completely healed, Noy Kevin. Right now, let’s clean up and head to the palace; I need to consult with the king on a situation, and they have invited us for dinner.”
* * *
A short time later, he was again seated at the familiar dining table at the palace. The king had stepped away with Captain Thadchai, so it was just the three of them eating.
“I heard about your exploits at the elephant barn,” said the queen, “It was a brave thing you did for that little one. I’ve heard she is healing nicely and is able to stand on her feet without assistance.” Kevin blushed at the complement. He didn’t think he did anything special, he just wanted to help.
“Did you have fun today?” Surikitiyia piped up. “Did you go see the horses? They are my favorite.”
Kevin nodded. “Yep, we walked around all over the place. I’m going to start working there this weekend.” The little girl clapped her hands.
“I go there too. I guess that mean we’ll work together.” He was happy to hear that, since he was afraid he would be the youngest person there. “Are you ready to start school tomorrow?”
He had finished reading the study books the night before, and felt better about learning the language. “I think so. I hope I can catch up okay.”
With lots of smiles and chatter, the three companionably finished supper.
* * *
It was quiet and more intense as Thadchai and Phuna shared a meal in the king’s study. After he gave a detailed assessment of the elephant barn incident, as well as his impressions of his young charge during the tour of the horse compound.
The king brooded for a moment. “Do you think he could be the one? Our prophesied hero?”
“He fits the majority of the information we have on him, but it’s still too early to tell. I will be in close contact with both Khun Wit and Khun Tae when is around the barns. Khun Tae said he was unafraid of the horses, and they did respond to him. He will start direct contact with the horses immediately, and we will proceed from there.
“Once Noy Kevin learns to ride, we will transfer to the elephant facility. I would like to start him on some hand-to-hand training as well. Of course, we still don’t know how he arrived here or whether or not he can return. So my recommendation is that we work with him on the assumption that he is here to stay.”
“I agree. Until such time as that happens, let’s give him as much information and training as we can. I think in this situation, it will be important to be as proactive as possible.” The king’s mood lightened. “How was his first day at your house?”
Thadchai grinned. “He’s already charmed Khun Mattaya. In fact, she actually fixed a picnic lunch for us today. And you know she usually just tosses me a couple of sandwiches. I planned a few simple chores to see if he will do them without prompting. If his sense of responsibility is well-developed, I will speed up his training.”
Nodding, the king stood up. “Okay, I agree with everything. Now let’s take dessert with my family.”
Yawning, Kevin padded into his bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth. Today would be his first day at school at the palace. He wondered about the teacher and whether she would notice his accent. Because he knew he didn’t talk like everyone else here, but he wanted to fit it. For a moment, he thought about his school back home.
He felt a pang as he wondered if he would ever see his friends and teachers again. Did his mom and dad miss him? Did they know where he disappeared to, or wondered where he was? Until he could figure out how to return, he would learn everything he could here. They had trucks and hot tubs and electricity, but no telephones. His wooden toothbrush worked, but it wasn’t anything like his plastic Spider-man one at home. So maybe he was on a different planet or something.
Once he was in his clothes, he headed downstairs for breakfast. The captain was already there, so he made a quick bow before settling in his seat. The housekeeper brought in the usual breakfast, and he remembered to thank her. When they were finished, the two of them walked to the truck.
“I will drive you today, but tomorrow, you will be picked up by someone from the palace,” Captain Thadchai said, “I have to work with the troops then.”
* * *
Surikitiyia was waiting for them as they pulled around the circular driveway in front of the house. Kevin clambered out; the captain gave a quick bow to the little girl and drove away. She grabbed Kevin’s hand and towed him into the house.
“Come on, K’vin! Khun Joy is already here.” In short order, they were in the classroom. A slight, dark-skinned woman was there, sorting through papers at the wooden desk in the corner. She looked up and smiled when the children appeared.
“Hello! This must be Kevin. How are you doing today?” She seemed friendly and approachable; Kevin remembered his manners and gave her a bow.
“I am fine, Teacher Joy.”
The woman gestured to a small wooden chair in front of the desk. “Let’s have a conversation, so we can determine where you are in your studies. Khun Thadchai has already explained your circumstances.” At his puzzled look, she continued,
“That you are from another country but planning to stay here a while.”
After what seemed a long time, she was satisfied. “You have excellent math skills, so you can join in with Noy Surikitiyia immediately. Your speech we can also work on, although you are perfectly understandable. The biggest problem is your history and social studies; we will have to focus you on the history of Pratheptikundee and the surrounding countries. I’m afraid there will be a lot of reading in this subject.”
“That’s okay, Teacher Joy. I’m a fast learner.”
She smiled. “Okay, we will start with math and science today, and I will give a few books to read at home. Khun Suri, come over here and let’s start.”
* * *
The morning passed quickly, and Kevin was surprised when the teacher stopped for lunch. It was very different being in a class of only two; at home, there were about 25 students in his math class. Teacher Joy didn’t use a chalkboard, but sat across the table and talked about the lessons in the book. He thought this was a better way to learn. Did royal children at home like in England learn this way?
They ate at a poolside table, and chatted about the plants in the garden. This led to a stroll through the garden where Kevin was tutored in the types of various tropical plants and trees. They ended up at the gazebo where he first arrived.
When they got there, he gingerly sat down on the bench, wondering if it was going to whisk him back to his own place. He relaxed when nothing happened. Suri brought back several different flowers.
The first was a ring of bright orange claw-shaped flowers on a gray woody stick. “That’s called the Flame Of The Forest,” the teacher said, “And the other is a Shooting Star.” This flower had a myriad of light pink flowers on long red stems. Kevin thought it looked more like a firework than anything. There were so many different colors and shapes to the plants around him, and he was reminded yet again that this wasn’t his real place.
The sun was halfway to the horizon when they trooped back to the palace and up to the classroom. The instructor pulled several books from the shelf and handed them to Kevin. “Read through these at your own pace, and we will discuss it a little each day.” He held them to his chest, happy that he might discover where he was in relation to America.
When Captain Thadchai picked him up at the palace, he had good news. “The naming ceremony for our little elephant will be tomorrow afternoon. Of course, you will still have school in the morning, but I will pick you up after lunch and take you to the elephant pavilion.”
“What about the training you were going to do?” Kevin asked. The captain smiled.
“It’s good that you remembered. It has been pushed back a day, to accommodate this event. You have the name all prepared?” Kevin bit his lip for a moment.
“Does it have to be written? Because I know how to pronounce it, but it’s different here.”
“Okay. After dinner, we’ll sit down and determine how it should be written out in our language.” Kevin felt funny at the “our”, but already it seemed more natural to think about his current circumstances as permanent. After visiting the wooden house today, it was getting less and likely that he would be able to go home.
When the following afternoon arrived, the sun was still shining, although dark clouds on the horizon bespoke possible stormy weather. Kevin waved to Sur’kya and Teacher Joy before getting into the truck.
He was excited about the ceremony. The captain had briefly explained the steps, and Kevin was apprehensive about messing up his part. He nervously felt in his pocket for the scrap of paper containing the letters of the baby’s new name. Will she like it?
Once they arrived in the compound, they were sent to a side entrance. There, in an outside area partially protected by a metal overhang, the two elephants were picketed. Mama Kwamsoo was decked out with a head covering of red and gold. A tasseled blanket of gold was draped across her back. When she saw the new arrivals she gave a little trumpet. Kevin waved at her, feeling foolish but happy.
The baby elephant looked funny. Curly designs were drawn on her face, trunk and legs.
“Those designs are drawn on with henna and paint brushes,” the captain explained, “they are symbols of health, longevity, and good luck.” There was a bright red bow on the little tail, and a small gold blanket similar in design to her mother’s own decorations.
There were several stands of white chairs, with a low white dais in the foreground. A table covered in red and gold bunting was in the middle, with several objects in the center. There were freestanding arrangements of flowers and foliage around the area, giving it an even more festive appearance.
As the two made their way to the chairs, Kevin tried to ignore the whispering of the people that they passed. The captain ignored them altogether, only greeting with a nod to those that hailed them first. At the edge of paddock, Kevin was glad to see Khun Wit and Khun Tae. At least there were some welcoming faces.
The two handlers bowed before walking up and shaking hands.
“I hope the weather holds off for the ceremony,” the captain remarked. Wit just waved his hand in a negligent gesture.
“Even a storm heralds good news sometimes. We decided to hold it here just in case the heavens opened up before we were done. And we may run a little late; the royal family hasn’t arrived yet.”
“They will be here, too?” Kevin asked. Khun Tae, the horse handler, nodded.
“They have a part to play in the ceremony as well.”
Kevin nervously rubbed his suddenly-damp hands against his pant leg. He didn’t want to flub up in front of the king and queen, and Sur’kya was sure to tease him about any mistake he might make.
A slight puff of dust arose from the trees circling the pavilion. “The royal family is almost here.” Kevin and Thadchai quickly made their way to a row of four chairs to the right of the dais. He quickly checked the piece of paper again; sure he was going to forget during his part of the ceremony.
Surikitiyia ran over to the pair and hugged Kevin before stepping back and curtseying to the older man.
“Hello again, Cap’n Thadchai. I can’t wait for this! It’s the first time I’ve been allowed to watch.” The captain nodded as the highnesses arrived, much more sedately than their daughter. Greetings were exchanged all around, before everyone was ushered to their seats. The royal family was placed on the left side of the dais.
Posted on November 22, 2014, in (completed) The Elephant Gate Part 1 (NaNoWriMo 2014), My Fan-Fictions and Novels and tagged nanowrimo; fiction; elephant prince; young adult fiction; novel; asia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.