In the morning a knock at our door awakens us, I only let go of Isabel long enough to pull the blankets up to Isabel shoulder. She turns her head to look at me.
A servant enters the room, on a table, she places a tray containing breakfast, my stomach grumbles at the smell of the food. Isabel stomach grumbles in return, apparently our appetite heightened because of last night’s activities. The servant bowing and says, “The King request your presence shortly, once you eat, wash, and dress. The King should be available within an hour and a half. If there is nothing else I will take my leave.”
Once the server has left the room Isabel jumps to her feet and runs for the breakfast. She divides the food into two plates, and waves me to come to sit beside her, once I reached the couch I pull her onto my lap. Isabel giggles as I begin to feed her. Isabel feeds me in return, before long we both finished our breakfast, and I pull her up over to the bathing pool. Scented soaps and clean washcloths are on a small shelf near the pool along with some large towels. Isabel and I splash and play a little inside the pool, the water seems to stay warm without ever needing more hot water. I dry Isabel, gently caressing her with the large towel.
Isabel quickly dries me and we again dress, not in the same clothing we wore for our wedding, we have other fine garments ready for us within the cabinet. The King’s Stewart comes seeing that we are dressed he smiles and says, “The King should be ready within a few minutes if you would accompany me.”
Escorted into an audience chamber we wait for King Patrick. The King’s new blue chair and ottoman are now in one corner of the room, and other comfortable looking chairs face the chair I created for him day before yesterday. A book on an end table near the chair, apparently the King has enjoyed his chair as he read. I can just see him there reading a story to his grandchildren as they spread across the carpet, Isabel and I set holding hands and cuddling our youngest.
The image seemed so real for a moment, but how can that be. I am the son of a farmer; cast down into slavery and freed by a master wizard, now just entering adulthood, a journeyman wizard and married to the most beautiful girl I have ever known. How can I see, Isabel and my children as the Kings grandchildren?
The Kings voice as he wishes us good morning brings me back to the present. I cannot help but a smile crosses my face as I look into his eyes. The King asks jokingly, “Lady Isabel was your husband gentle enough last night? If not I could always have him flogged as a reminder.”
Isabel giggles at the King’s joke. Mischief is in her eyes, Isabel says, “My King, he was gentle enough last night, but if he ever fails to be so may I call upon you?”
My face gives away my shock as I look from the King to my wife. They can no longer hold back their merriment and laugh aloud. Isabel finally says, “I feel my husband will never give me cause to ever request such a thing sire.”
Still laughing the King manages to say, “I do believe you are correct my dear lady Isabel. His caring for you has already cost me ten gold, not a mistake I will make again.”
Seeing our confusion he continues, “Justin and I wagered, about him breaking your maiden hood, I said Julius was in such a hurry that he would forget to block your pain. Apparently, Justin knew you better young men.”
Isabel smiles warmly, caresses my face, saying, “My husband is a kind and gentle soul. He would cause no one pain if given the opportunity. However, if the need arises he has not or will not shrink from his duty to protect the innocent.”
The King says, “I have heard the story, of how the Raiders were going to attack Camarillo. Duke Julius your Captain Michael and Master Justin reported the incident. Now I find I have not only chosen well, a wise Duke, but a strong protector for that city as well.”
I smile and bow thinking the King for his complement, and wish I can live up to his trust. Smiling brightly the King says, “At least you are not like the other dukes, preferring to allow their guards and soldiers to face the danger, when the danger proves too great for their men, they run. I think you two are far too noble to allow another to face the danger in your stead. However, young Duke, I would have you not face such great danger that good wisdom should tell you to ask for assistance. One ship of Raiders I know you can face, with the ease you defeated them; possibly two would only provide you a challenge. You need not stand alone if the numbers are greater, send word and my forces will join yours.”
After he sees, I understand the King continues, “Young Duke you and Lady Isabel are far too valuable to lose. The word of your bravery now stirs the hearts of many of my Duke’s in their duties to their cities. Your example shall do more good than you could know. The warning that the gods can judge them, and their Royal status will not protect them, has yet to reach its full impact. I have been away for so long. I fear my kingdom has fallen from the righteous.”
There were rumors that the King searched for his missing son for over a decade. It said that the King would only appear once in a great while, and the dukes truly ruled in his absence. Many of the dukes were loyal and just to the King and the people. Others like the former Duke of Camarillo had become wicked, serving only their desires.
The King smiles and says, “Enough of this, we have other more joyous thinks to discuss. Along with some other minor business, for instance when can you enchant several of the crates for the kingdom’s granary?”
I smile and say, “Sire, we can have your twelve complete before the spring harvest.” There was a few crops that are planted in the fall and sprung up in and grew to be harvested early in the year. Crops like spring wheat and early barley, along with some early fruits, and most berries harvested before the heat of summer. The earliest are the berries, now in late spring they will soon be ready to harvest. Without the magical crates, the crop must be quickly, eaten or made into jams, jellies, and wine for later, or go to waste.
The King smiles, “It would be good to have fresh cherries in the dead of winter. My wife loved those, and our Cook found a way to preserve cherries and we had some fresh cherry pie on the winter solstice the last year we had together.”
Justin chuckles as he enters. He says, “The Cook had hidden a large bowl full within your box, King Patrick. You did not leave your wife’s side that year as she carried your child, when the Queen craved cherries she remembered the hidden bowl. That is when she retrieved them, and decided to make a pie your wife’s favorite.”
The King chuckles and says, “If I had known the wardrobe would worked like that, it would have been my pantry long ago.”
Isabel giggles, “Perhaps sire we can make a pantry for your cook, Julius needs only to change the spell for the crate slightly to create shells in the pantry the cook simply walks into from a doorway.”
I smile at my wife’s confidence in me, Justin says, “Sometimes, easier said than done. Although young Julius seems to have a talent at altering spells.”
With a shake of my head I say, “With my wife’s assistance I would be willing to attempt it sire.”
The King chuckles and says, “And in so doing yet another thing I need be grateful to you for the deed.”
I chuckle as I shake my head no and say, “Perhaps your cook, but not you sire. I know of many of the great things you have done. The entire kingdom owes you much, think of it as a gift from a loving citizen nothing more.”
The reason the King had been searching for his son, his mother and he sent away from New Cowan for their protection during a siege by an Orc army when the boy was only a baby. Eventually the siege was broken, but no one knows what occurred to the Queen and Prince.
The entire kingdom knows how the King routed the Orc army. King Patrick and a small number of his Knights raid the orcs encampment killing their leadership, before long the Orc army was doing as much damage to itself as our army. Eventually the remainders of the Army of Orcs retreated into their own territories.
Only three duchies had suffered greater than what New Cowan had, those were on the invasion route, two cities now abandoned, and the survivors now rebuild one, so few citizens had been left alive from the orcs onslaught. Now only Fort Raymond guards the frontier, the Fort named for the Knight Raymond who set forth the plan that brought about the destruction of the Orc army.
The King chuckles and says, “That may be so, but it will not stop my gratitude.”
Isabel smiles and says, “Perhaps then you could invite us back for a piece of fresh cherry pie during the harvest feast.”
The King smiles and bows to Isabel saying, “It would be my honor to have you as my guest during this harvest Fest.”
Isabel curtsies to the King and says, “Thank you sire.”
The King chuckles and says, “Once you have your household in order, may I visit you?”
Without hesitation I say, “Your Majesty is always welcome, in order or disarray. Isabel and I will have many children, so order may be a rare thing in my home.”
The King smiles sadly, and says, “Julius, I wish you and Isabel all the happiness and as many children as the gods can bless you with.”
Isabel’s hand drops to a top her womb. I step behind her and cover her hands and I feel the new life growing in her womb, as I kiss her neck I whisper, “Yes love, you now carry our first.”
Isabel’s eyes widened with shock and joy, she spins in my arms and our lips meet brightening the room with our glow. The King confusion shows on his face. Justin chuckles and says, “Be careful with your blessings my King, apparently they are very fast acting. Isabel is now pregnant.”
King Patrick eyes light up with joy and says, “Congratulations my two young friends, may the child be healthy and strong.”
Isabel turns in my arms again so we both bow as one, Isabel in a bright voice says, “Thank you sire.” I can hear her inner voice, (I need to tell my mother, I hope my father will be happy. Oh, Julius I love you so much.)
I whisper, “I love you too Isabel.”
Justin chuckles and says, “It has begun Isabel, be careful of your thoughts your husband should soon begin to hear them clearly.”
I chuckle and say, “Yes my love, we should inform your mother and father very soon, I am sure your father will be overjoyed.” Isabel’s inner voice is all giggles, as she comes up onto her tiptoes to kiss me once more.
The King says, “Jeremiah most certainly will be overjoyed, having won that wager. He will be here shortly. Julius can think to stop her pain, but not keep her from becoming pregnant on your wedding night. The gods truly favor you.”
Justin says, “It was not always King Patrick, poor Julius lost his parents to Raiders who took him as a slave very young in his life. Julius wears the brand of a slave to this day, sold and resold when I come upon him he was nearly eight years old, but so malnourished he looked two years younger easily. I had to do a spell to retrieve the memory from him of when the Raiders took him, one the multitude saw how he became a slave they sought vengeance on the Raiders. My spell allowed him to remember and identify those who killed his parents.”
Isabel looks confused and asks, “Where would such a brand be, I felt none on Julius.”
Justin says, “I had healers try to remove the scar the brand had created, but none could.”
The King says, “Remember the woman who sung at your wedding, several healers try to cure her arthritis but none could, when your glow surrounded us all, her arthritis was healed.” The King slides up his sleeve, “Remember the scar I received from that Orc’s sword that nearly took my arm.” Justin shakes his head yes, and the King displays his arm to Justin. Justin examines the Kings arm it has no scar. The King continues, “This morning is the first in many years I have awoken without the pain to remind me of my lost son. The goddess come to me in a dream, she said soon I would know my son. I pray that is so.”
The King has a sad smile, “I have missed so much of his life, if only I had listened to my wife and let them stay. I pray that I will miss no more, that the goddess truly did answer my prayers.”
As the King was talking, I could not help but reach behind my back just above my hip where the slave scar had existed. My hand slides my shirt up and out of the way, as my hand, slides down my knuckles catch on the loose pants as I am scratching the skin where the scar had been. I so hated that scar, and what it stood for, for years I had to carry papers saying that I was no longer a slave. Now that my magic is strong enough, no one would make the mistake of trying to enslave me.
The voice of my mother-in-law as she calls to her daughter causes me to turn. I withdraw my hand not wanting to look like I am scratching my ass. The funny thing is the spot actually itched I guess having the scar there so long it was an odd sensation being actually able to feel the skin there. I realized my clothing is in disarray as I hear a gasp from behind me. I moved to start to straighten my clothing, only to have my hands jerked away. Turning I see the white face of the King as he knelt to look at the spot where the scar had been. Suddenly he turns to Justin and shouts, “Justin, you said you scribed for him. How can he be in your care without you knowing he is the Prince? ”
Justin in just as much shock as the King says, “Sire, I truly did not know. I scribed for the Prince, others scribed for the Prince also, and none could find him. It is as if the gods wished him hidden.”
Isabel in shock looks at me, “Does this mean I am a princess?”
I say, “First I must be recognized as the Prince, I am just my father son now. Until the ceremony to recognize me as the Prince, I do not hold that title. Until that time you cannot be recognized as the Princess.”
Justin in shock states, “My Gods could it be that simple, the mistake we all made. We made the mistake of scribing for a Prince, when we should have been looking for your son my King.”
The King slumps heavily in the chair I created for him, still white faced as we move closer, and I kneel before him. Looking Into my eyes he says, “I ordered my wizards, clerics and all who had any magic to scribe for the Prince. Could we all have forgotten that no ceremony proclaiming you Prince had occurred?”
Looking into my father’s face for the first time that I can remember I say, “If the gods wished it. Perhaps it was to answer many prayers not just your own.”
Justin still shaking says, “I had many clerics, and other healers try to remove the brand a slavery and scars from Julius. All finally gave up telling me, the gods wanted him to carry the marks.”
Holding my father’s gaze I say, “Do you know how many nights I laid in torment, praying to the gods that the next day would be better, for strength so the whip would not find me. I heard my prayers echoed no slave wishes to disappoint their master. Given the power, I will see that no man is a slave. No man should have the power to brand another and call him slave. I think that is a prayer the gods meant me to answer.”
Isabel wraps me in her arms as tears freely fall, she says, “My poor Julius, no one will ever hurt you again.”
Energy practically crackles around us. The King says, “Lady Isabel I share your sentiment, Julius my son I spent so many years searching for you, so many hours every day praying to the gods that you were safe and in good health. I think I nearly lost my kingdom in my efforts to find you, but it was something I would give up for you.” He reaches down and picks up both of us pulling Isabel and me into a hug, now the energy surrounds the three of us protectively.
Is as if the King had not noticed it before and ask, “What is this that surrounds us. It does not hurt when it touches me, but I can since the danger in it.”
Smiling at my father, I say, “That is love, it protects from those who would do you harm and is deadly to those who wish you ill, it welcomes those who love you and will protect them also.”
He smiles, “How do you know this?”
There before us in the armor of light stands the Lady, the goddess Aphrodite. She caresses our faces, and the lightning vanishes as we sink to our knees. She says, “I have hidden Julius many years, his mother prayed for his salvation, as she gave up her own life to protect him. No greater act of love is there. I answered her prayer.”
“I placed him in the arms of a loving woman and a gentle man to raise him from a baby. When the Raiders came, he was far too young, but I soften the heart of the man that would have surely killed the boy. Nevertheless, a man that evil only love can do so much, so he took your son as a slave branding him. That brand covered his birthright, the birthmark shared by all male members of your line. I would not allow it healed away, until the proper time. I brought Justin to train him, to care for the boy and end his suffering.”
“Patrick this is your son. Soon you will have need of him, he will be a great man, and he and his wife will show the true power of love to many.” With that, she is gone.
Isabel and mock anger says, “I told you I did not want to be royalty. All the while, you are the son of King Patrick.” When my face displays shock at my wife’s words, she can no longer hold her laughter. My father’s laughter rings through the halls, bold and bright warming the hearts of all who hear it, those who do instantly began to laugh along with him.
Jeremiah shakes his head as he laughs, finally as everyone begins to calm and quiet returns he says, “When Justin told me Julius was a former slave, I nearly curse the gods for blighting Isabel to be bonded to him. Then upon seeing his dowry, I was humbled. Then the gods showed me how much he truly loved my daughter. Calling her weight in gold and a third in diamonds mere dust compared to her. I knew I was truly wrong in my estimation of Julius.”
Smiling at me, he continues, “Then, I find that I still had underestimated this young man. He is wise enough to take direction of those more skilled than he is. He is powerful enough to bring about great destruction when needed. He is kind enough to see to the needs of even those taken wrongfully as slaves. Truly, he is noble, kind, wise and his love for Isabel outshines us all. When it comes his time he will make a great King to carry on for you sire.”
Looking into my father’s face I say, “I would not have it be any time soon, I have lost a lifetime I will plead for the gods to give us that time twice over, that I, and your grandchildren could come to love you, not as our King but father and grandfather.”
The King says, “I know not how long the gods would grant me, but I do hope I will come to know my grandchildren, that they would love me as their grandfather.”
Isabel giggles at her mother’s confusion looking into her face she says, “I already carry our first child. The baby should be born near midwinter.”
Father nudges me, “Perhaps it would be good for you to create that pantry, and we may save some berries to answer my daughter’s cravings.”
Is only then that I realized how much my life truly has changed in so short of a time, less than a week ago I was no one other than an journeyman mage showing promise, now I am the son of the King, married to a true princess, a beauty of body and spirit.
Isabel’s hand interlaces with my hand, smiling she says, “You heard the King. We have some enchanting to do. So where is the carpet, so we can go gather wood for the job?” I kiss my wife on her cheek.
My mother-in-law looks to Justin and ask, “Is it safe for the baby for her to do magic?”
Justin chuckles and says, “It should be safe enough, because the child is going to be a mage himself. Most of their children are going to have magic.”
Jeremiah and Justin comes with us, along with two of father’s guards, Captain Michael and his wife and daughters. The cook hands us a picnic basket, with enough food for everyone. Will do our enchanting and bring back the finished items.
One of the guards carries a standard, as we fly across the wall guard salute. I am not sure I will ever get used to that, but I understand it is a way to show respect.
As we traveled we move up River, no one has lived here in many years, the land is overgrown and in need of care. Alone chimney stands in a meadow, once a farm now only ruins of the farmhouse remain. A deep wood borders the farm, and looks like an excellent source for the wood we need. I fly the carpet as Isabel gathers the wood at Justin’s directions, he points out several old and dying trees. As Isabel gathers the wood, Justin replaces the tree using an acorn from the tree taken. A young healthy tree replaces each Isabel gathers into her ball to use later.
After we gathered enough wood, I fly back to the meadow for a picnic lunch. From the air, it looks very peaceful, no sign of the troubles that caused the farmer and his family to abandon the land.
The two guards look around before they say, “This old farm is peaceful enough now, but this is where the main encampment of orcs was set up. Up there on the hill is where the King destroyed their leadership, after that the Army fell into disarray. Many of them abandon the siege, and others begin infighting try to decide who was fit to lead. We would station archers their arrows would find any the orcs who looks strong or capable enough to lead. Many a brave man died near here, but soon the will of the orcs was broken and they retreated.
Captain Michael warns his girls, “Do not go very far, and be careful where you put your feet. Orcs use poison weapons. I doubt any remain after all these years, but they have to be a reason why the farm was never reestablished.
One of the two guardsmen say, “No one wanted to live this far away from the city, it would take too long to reach the safety of the walls. The land was poison for years, not many people ever venture this way, so no one knew the land has recovered.”
I nod my head yes and say, “Perhaps I should help it along, remove anything dangerous so the land may recover more quickly.” The two guards grin and nod their heads. I direct everyone to a single spot and set the wood down near it. I begin my gathering spell pull all sharp or dangerous objects from the nearby Meadows and woods. Items clink together as they begin to form a ball of red-hot metal; spear tips old rusty swords, old knives, and other weapons of various designs. As a fine looking sword begins flying towards the ball I feel Justin reach out and take it, I relaxed the hold of the spell has on it. Only a few other items Justin removes before they melt down to nothing but base metal.
Allow the metal ball to cool growing solid, then black as water from a brook washes over it until the steam stops rising. I allow the ball to settle to the ground it being no longer dangerous. The two guards stare at how much metal is there. One states, “It is hard to believe that much was left behind. I would not believe orcs to run away so quickly to leave so many weapons.”
Justin chuckles, “It was fortunate we managed to talk a Dragon into attacking the Army of orcs, it cost the King’s weight in gold but was worth it.”
One guard chuckles and says, “We should bring the ball of metal back perhaps that will pay back the treasury some of the lost gold.”
I commend the guard on his idea. “That is a very good idea, may I have your name to ensure you get the credit.”
His fellow guard says, “Lieutenant Ben Stander, of Able Company.”
I smile and toss him my small pouch of gold coins. It only holds ten, I say “Consider that a down payment, once the metal is sold all see that you receive a portion.”
Lieutenant Stander looks stunned, “That is not normally how things work. The Duke normally keeps everything.”
I wave away the purse as it offered back. Smiling I say, “I am not that Duke. I will speak to the King if I have done anything improper. Consider the gold as my apology.”
The two guards bow to me, and they go begin walking a perimeter, each moving some distance away, one checks the hilltop, while the other checks the timberline. After they walk the wide circle, they return.
Justin, Isabel and I are discussing how to create the pantry, I am worried because it will have a doorway and more likely children, servants or even guess may step into the pantry and have the door accidentally closed. We discuss a warning spell, to be weaved into the enchantment, warning you not to close the door if someone is inside. I think that is a fair idea, although someone still make close the door not realizing the danger. If time stops when the door closed, a person stopped aging, to do that you die.
I asked Justin a question, “What if time never stops when you close the door, only slows down?”
Justin thinks for a moment and ask, “How could we do that?”
I state, “On the crates, you concentrate and see that it is closing and the sand falling through the hourglass stops.”
Isabel giggles and says, “Instead of seeing the sand stop, see it taking an hour, a day, a week or even a month for a single grain of sand to fall through the hourglass.”
Justin chuckles, “How about a year, it has to be easier to slow time than to stop it. That would make them much easier to create. All we need to do this catch a rabbit or two to test it. Drop the rabbit inside the door and close it. Open the door again and see how far the rabbit got away. If it only moved a foot or two, you knew time slows only becoming normal when the door opens. If the rabbit is all the way to the back corner when you open the door, possibly the enchantment did not work so well. But if the rabbit is dead, you stop time instead of just slowing it down.”
Isabel is a little reluctant to use a rabbit, until I explained. We will use it for dinner later, no matter the outcome. Isabel tells us she does not like rabbit, in any form for dinner.
Justin chuckles, “Perhaps that is why you did not like the stew, and you still cleaned your bowl the first night you two were together.”
Isabel’s face drains of color as she asks, “That was rabbit stew? I thought it was just really bad lamb stew.”
Justin’s face reddens and I changed the topic. “Perhaps we can just use some kind of insect? Like a butterfly or grasshopper, I imagine the girls can catch one or the other for us.”
Isabel hugs her uncle and for her apology she says, “You know I do not like rabbit, so for rabbit stew it was really good.”
Justin chuckles and says, “Just for that you guys will always cook when you come for your education.”
I chuckle and inform Isabel, “You think his rabbit stew his bad, the stew I make is worse, I do not use rabbits, it is all vegetable.”
After we chuckle for a while, we go back to creating the pantry. We start by separating a large piece of the wood, it forms into a long box, a doorway forms on one end, when the door opens I bring more wood in and create shelves. We begin decreasing the length until it is only a hand width on the outside of the box, the inside the box is still just as deep. Nearly thirty feet deep by eight feet high and ten foot wide, a central aisle with shelves on both sides deep enough to store many items. Concentrating on the effects that occur when you close the door I see the image of an hourglass with a single grain of sand falling through once a year, inside the box with the door close, while time on the outside remains unchanged.
The girls bring us back a grasshopper and we try to test the pantry. I step into the pantry holding the grasshopper and I said it on the shelf. Everything appears normal and I walk outside. I look at the grasshopper on the shelf and it looks like is beginning to get ready to jump to move further down the shelf. I placed my hand on the door and it slides back into place and disappears. There is a carved relief of the Royal seal in the center of the door, and you need to place your hand just below it to activate the door.
I suggest we have our picnic lunch, and then we can check and see if the enchantment work correctly. The girls had picked some flowers, and they give some to Isabel and a like amount to their mother. Isabel gives the two girls a hug and peck on their cheeks and a thank you.
Even the guards join us, enjoying the food the cook had stored for us in the picnic basket. I asked several questions and the guards smile giving me their answers, both men enjoy their work. They are not required to do much other than guarding the royal family and guests at their current posting. Both men are veterans, although neither were in the Army during the siege that happened over a decade ago.
As the conversation goes around they begin to ask questions of me, and I look to Justin and Isabel before I answer. When Lieutenant Stands ask, “Sir there is a rumor going around, is it true are you the lost Prince?”
Captain Michael look shocked and asks, “Duke Julius? I know a little about your past, you would be the right age. However, you have the brand from where you were a slave.”
The two guards struck silent by that information, Isabel nods her head yes and so does Justin so I inform them. “During our wedding ceremony, the brand was removed as many there were healed. Even the scar on the King’s arm from over a decade ago is gone. So is my brand, this morning the spot itched so much I ran my hand over it, that spot had no feeling from the brand until today. After the King saw my birthmark, the goddess Aphrodite explained she had hidden me away until now.”
I could have turned into a dragon and the two guards would have been less impressed. After a few questions, we start the story from the beginning, using all the information we have the patch it all together. Guards look on in wonder as we each tell our portion and at all rings true. Michael’s two girls pet on me as I described how bad it was to be a slave. I can see anger in the guards’ faces at the retelling of my mistreatment, and then Justin and Michael and their share the story.
Finally, Isabel and I have our first meeting, and how I called her an Angel and gave her a halo. Then she recalled the events that led up to our last meeting. Justin explains about our bonding, and the events that led up to my arrest. Captain Michael begins from there telling of the wicked Duke, his misdeeds and right up to the point where Isabel and I dragged off by the Duke. I tell of the torture I suffered at his direction, Isabel tells of how they were going to manipulate her. Captain Michael puts in a few more details about how the Duke and his court had run, telling of the runner and finding his dead body.
We finally tell of the night of trial, all that we remember, and the morning after. Jeremiah explains how we defended against the Raiders, and finally our trip here.
The guards stand at the end of our telling, they bow deeply when they straighten they salute. I stand in return their salute, and say, “If you salute my rank, I salute your service.”
There is crashing in the woods, as something large moves fast and not caring how much noise it creates. The guards immediately move into defensive positions, I stand with Isabel to my back, as Justin and Jeremiah moved to the flanks, and the Captain comes to my shoulder with his sword drawn and ready. Isabel stands between his wife and daughters and the rest of us.
The large black serpentine had preceded only by a four foot long forked tongue emerges from the undergrowth. A drake, not a true Dragon, but a lesser reptilian cousin, in the wild they are very dangerous. It drawn to the smell of the food, and since this area abandoned long ago, it set up its territory in the vicinity. It is possible to train them, but that requires imprinting as a hatchling. Obviously, this creature is very wild, and since were in its territory it will consider us food. If it would just Justin and myself we probably could evade the drake, but with this, large of a party that is not an option.
Before the guards charged, I bring forth a lightning bolt that strikes the drake running through its tongue directly into its body. It started to charge, however as the lightning bolt struck, its legs froze and it slid forward on unmoving limbs. The lightning bolt continues to ark until smoke rises off the tongue and around the feet. Once I released the lightning bolt, the creature drops to the ground, obviously dead.
Isabel breaks the silence, as she pats be on my ass giggling she says, “You are going to have to teach me that spell.”
Justin chuckles too, “That is one hell of a lightning bolt you have.”
The guards chuckle and say, “I thought it was our job to protect you. Now I feel like the one being protected.”
I chuckle and say, “Those who would be great truly serve the many.”
The guards give me another salute; once for sure no other creature will emerge from the woods the two guards go and begin to skin the drake. They inform me that a tannery will pay a huge sum for the skin. I tell them to use it to create a fund for widows and orphans of any guard who fell doing his duty. I tell them that we must take care of our own, I would not have a man lose his life in performance of his duty and his widow and orphans starved to death.
I think my generosity shocked the two guards more than the lightning bolt shocked the drake. As they work, I can hear them talk.
We check the box finding the grasshopper as it just begins to spring up as the door slide open. I am fairly satisfied that it is working the way we hoped, but without an hourglass at our disposal it would be much too difficult to truly estimate how well it is working.
Justin does is discovery spell on it, and his eyes widened as does his smile. He says, “I do believe is going to work just the way you wanted it to. A single grain of sand per year through an hourglass, and it did not kill the grasshopper. Although, we will have to repeat it to make sure is not a fluke.”
My father in law chuckles and says, “I would appreciate one of those in exchange for a crate. Actually, two would be great, one for the ship, one that I may transport food. Besides that I think they are better because they do not kill anything you place inside.”
I asked, “Now that we figured out how to change the spell, we can make the crates the same way. Only they would not be good for storing food for indefinite periods. Although, as slow as time moves once the door shut you can come back six months after leaving hot rolls to find them still too hot to eat, ”
My father-in-law finishes my sentence saying, “and Rebecca about to stuff her mouth with one, only to wonder why her mother is so upset over it.”
Isabel giggles and says, “To Rebecca the door shut only a second before, once it opens she would then discover the bread is too hot. I wonder if she would notice it is a different season outside.”
Justin says, “At least she would be a life to notice. I think this is much better than the old way.”
Jeremiah says, “I would not mind even the fact it would allow a rat to remain alive for a very long time within the crate, it could not eat much once the lid is closed.”
I shake my head yes, “I have always feared what could occur with the old enchantment. At least this way a mistake would not be deadly, but it made lead to missed birthdays, not the end of them.” A second thought hits me and I say, “Or seed grain that would never sprout, when you place grain in the old type crates it is dead, usable, but it will never sprout to grow again.”
Justin says, “Because time slows down and does not stop within the pantry, a person could take a hundred years to walk out, but walk out a life.”
Isabel says, “Surely someone would open the pantry before then, but I see your point.”
I say, “We will have to ensure that the door can be open from within, and once you touch it the enchantment allows time to move normally. Who would like to take ten years to open a door?”
We modify the spell on the current pantry, and create two more. Six more crates, with the new enchantment, three for house Morgan, and three for Father, the King. Once the guards have finished skinning the drake, we leave and head back to the city, the large iron ball trailing behind. Once across the wall I take the two Royal guardsmen to the tannery, and we drop off the drake hide.
A large bag of gold I hand to the Lieutenant, and he shakes his head thinking I only said it jokingly before. I instruct him to inform me when it runs low so that I may replenish the fund.
We then moved to the smelters area, many blacksmiths and metals smiths located in this area, after finding one willing to purchase the large metal ball, I accept the one thousand gold he offers, and he produces a letter of credit authorizing the transfer. I look to Justin he nods his head affirmatively, and the guards inform him that it will be going into the royal treasury.
As we return to the palace, and I set back down in the courtyard, Father is there, I even show him the grasshopper we had left in the pantry and explain the difference between it and one of the crates with the old enchantment. He smiles and gives me a hug.
The King says to one of the nobles giving him a hard time. “Do not let me catch you in this enchanted pantry; if you go missing I should leave you there for a year or two. It would only be minutes to you but paradise for me.”
The two guards addressed the King. The lieutenant begins, “Sire you wanted us to report any problems.” The King nods and looks at me. The guard begins, “As we were finishing our lunch, a drake attacked sire.” Given me a bow the guard continues, “Julius, hit the beast with the lightning bolt that must have lasted a five count killing the creature. He then had a skin the creature, selling the hide he wishes to create a fund for widows and orphans of the guard. We were at the old orcs campsite, he also gathered up all the old metal abandoned as they fled. He sold it for a letter of credit.”
I hand my father the letter of credit, “For the royal treasury, it is from the spoils of your victory.”
The guard Lieutenant says, “If I may sire, your son is a lot like you, kind and generous, courageous and powerful. I would stand at his side, any day, against any force. I would feel as I was the one being protected, much the way my father described being at your side.”
Isabel wraps her arm around me. Jeremiah and Justin chuckle as they nod their head yes. Finally, Captain Michael says, “The same as I feel in his presence sire.”
The King chuckles and wraps his arms around Isabel and me. He says, “I feel I have not only found my son, but my champion as well.” Looking at the guard Lieutenant he says, “He killed a drake.” It was a statement instead of a question.
The Lieutenant says, “Yes sire, nearly without effort, he reacted and we needed only to make him aware of any other danger. Fortunately none came.”
I smile at the lieutenant and say, “The two would rush to have fought the creature to its death or their death to protect us. They are brave and loyal.”
The King points out, “You will need a personal guard, men that should train with you, and know what to expect. Your strengths and weaknesses, wizards are very powerful, but an arrow through your heart and you are still just as dead as any man is.”
His words are true, and they come from the understanding of a father. Thankfully, he is not over protective, under the circumstances it could easily have occurred, but I think he understands and respects my strength, my ideals, as he is beginning to get to know who I truly am.
Isabel whispers into my ear, “Husband I have yet to give a dowry, we had believed you orphaned. Will you help me gather my dowry?”
I nod my head yes, “Of course my love, I will help you in any fashion that you desire.”
We possibly could remain for three more days, but I knew that soon Camarillo would require its Duke. Father was holding court; disputes either between duchies, or between matters that covered more than a Duchy brought to the King’s court. Occasionally, someone with enough power or wealth would petition the king’s court to overturn of Duke’s decision, all those matters heard, and I do realize at one time in the future I will be the one hearing the king’s court.
After presenting the pantry to father, we had to make a brief stop in the kitchen and installed it for the cook, after I explained how the magic worked, and warned her not to allow anyone to stay within, or they would have a large chunk of time missing.
The cook placed to chickens within the pantry. She wanted to ensure that it did not kill them, tossed them in the air before closing the door. When the door was open the chickens still had not landed, but clucked loudly and ran once they did.
When I explained to her that once the door is closed time slows down within the pantry without stopping, therefore it does not kill any living thing. I warn, with the door closed the person inside will not realize how much time has passed. They are aware of only a few moments that passes as the doors shuts and opens. If you do not open the door but once a season, everything you left within would be as fresh as the day you shut the door.
The cook asks, “You mean I can cook a meal on Monday and serve it Friday just as hot and fresh as it was on Monday after closing the door?”
I say, “You could prepare a pie, place it upon the shelf within the pantry, and serve it a decade later barely cooled, time only moves normally within with the door open, If the door remained open for only an hour during that decade, the pie would only cool for an hour and a minute.”
The Cook giggles now that she understands; she gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, “Thank you young wizard, I think I might finally get a day off. I will make several dishes ahead of time, to serve hot and ready without me even being in the kitchen.”
I smile and say, “Very true, and you can store away much more fresh fruit, vegetables, and berries that would spoil otherwise. You can have fresh berries in the dead of winter, but remember everything ages normally when the door is open. However, do not close the door thinking I can get something from the shelf on the end. That short walk would take you a hundred years to us. I think the King would be rather upset if his dinner was that late.”
The cook laughs, “Very true young wizard.”
The cook begins to explain to her staff, that the door is to remain closed as long as possible, opened only as briefly as necessary to retrieve or store an item. No one is to remain inside to organize the shells once the door is closed.
Satisfied that the cook truly understands and will explain it to her staff Isabel and I leave for our shopping.
We take our leave of our fathers who are talking business anyway, with the lieutenant and the other guard who accompanied us earlier today, Isabel after gathering several diamonds from the first dowry now hers, and we head to the market. She sells four diamonds, now holding a purse with over a thousand gold we buy six rugs. One will replace the rug Justin gave us. Two will be for Isabel’s father, the other three Isabel will try to enchant. Isabel buys to ornate mirrors; they are small and handheld but excellently crafted.
New Cowan, is two days walk from the coast, and two more to the major duchies along the coast road to the north another three days walk is a city of Bethany. Bethany is the major trading port for the northern half of Cowan. The next largest city down the coast is Camarillo. Only small fishing villages dot the coast to the south of Camarillo for nearly six days walk, then the city of Edmonton, along with its Duke controls much of the coast on South. They also have the largest harbor in the kingdom. A road stretches along the coast, from Bethany in the North, all the way to Edmonton in the South; the coast road connects with roads leading inland. Most of the duchies of the kingdom are rather small, some just of village with a tower for the Duke. Others have sizeable farmlands stretching in every direction from the seat of the duchy.
The problem is with a kingdom this large it takes months before word spread from one end of the kingdom to the other. With a small carpet, a messenger can make the trip within a week. Isabel bought three small carpets of sufficient quality that a single messenger with a dispatch pouch could move from Duchy to Duchy. I do believe that would be something my father would truly appreciate. He is not so much about himself as being able to serve, and protect the people of his kingdom. I am glad my wife can see that, it goes to speak of her heart as well.
When Isabel stop at a dress shop, she dragged me in with her. I was surprised when she went to the area that held dresses for younger girls. Looking through she found two of different size that looked identical in style, slightly differences in color. She asked if the Captain’s daughters about that size. I shook my head yes what I could tell the both were about that same size. The dresses might be just slightly too large for the girls now, but the girls are growing. Isabel paid for the dresses and we left.
I stopped by the tannery to which we sold the Drake hide, our two guards look confused when I began bartering to buy the leather made from it. Drake hide is extremely tough few arrows and bolts can penetrate the leather, in conjunction with chain mail, it can make a light tough armor, perfect for a mage.
Isabel spotted me the money until my treasure retrieved from Camarillo Keep, and the leather would be ready in two days. Isabel was not sure what I plan for the Drake leather. I was going to use it to protect my wife, at least as much protection as it would grant. If I cannot keep her from danger, at least I can give her as much protection that magical armor will provide. Drake leather is one of the necessary elements used in creation of magical armor.
Having set upon this course there are several other items I will need to acquire, and perhaps my father-in-law would be the best source for those items. If clan Morgan did not have the items, I am sure that they will have the contacts that can either procure them or direct me to individuals that can.
We stopped by an armor Smith, and I inquire about Elvan chain, specifically star silver, unfortunately he does not have any, and the only source within the kingdom is at Bethany, an armor Smith in Bethany purchases the star silver link material from the elves. He acts as intermediary between the elves and dwarves. The dwarves mine the raw star silver, refine it, they make some of the best swords from it. The elves on the other hand, can work it into such a fine link that the dwarves are willing to give up some of the star silver to attain the fine star silver material.
I ask Isabel, “Would you like to go to Bethany tomorrow? I have need of star silver material; it is the only source within the kingdom.”
Isabel is well traveled and educated by her parents in the ways of merchandising. Certain rare items are always in demand by wizards. Drake hide leather, star silver material, diamond dust, are but a few items used in creating magical armor. Isabel says, “That is a city that we should not linger in, the clan has lost people there. They just went missing and no search can find them. There should be enough Drake hide leather, for two suits of armor. Remember, to protect me you must also protect yourself.”
Forgetting myself, I step forward and give my wife a kiss causing us to glow. The Smith gasp as the scars from years of working the forge disappear from his hands and forearms. He flexes his once painful hands and smiles as he gives blessing to the gods.
He asks, “Does that occur each and every time you kiss your lady?”
With a smile I say, “My Angel’s halo is seen with each kiss. I am unsure if it heals all touched by the light.”
George, our second guard pulling down his shirt looking for an old scar, he says, “It does take care of the old painful wounds.”
Isabel giggles and says, “Love heals all wounds.”
The Smith looks at is pleading, “Please come to my home, my son injured his arm this morning and the physician is going to take it off tomorrow. If you can help, I will do anything, I will pay any price you ask.”
Isabel moved by his story, not the promise of payment. Isabel says, “We will come, if we can help you need make no payment, love is always given freely.”
The Smith we learn his name is Craig, a tall broad shouldered man with black hair and brown eyes, with huge hands as we walked to his home people move out of the way. Not that he is a bad person, but the look of urgency on his face and his size give all reason to move aside. His home is not very far, in the middle of the city a middle-class neighborhood. Isabel and I are accustomed to such places, but our two guards are nervous and feel out of place. I can just hear Captain Michael scolding me for going into such a neighborhood without his protection.
The truth is in a neighborhood like this one the more guards around you the larger the target you are. If Isabel and I had our normal clothing, no one would ever pay attention to the two of us walking together through a neighborhood like this. A journeyman mage and the daughter of a merchant would be a normal site for this neighborhood. Although neither of us are that anymore, I am sure the rumors of my return are spreading through the city.
We finally reached the home of Craig the Smith, slightly larger than many around it, a small fenced yard and a stone walkway leads to the front door. Many children are in the front yard, they seem quite sad most likely the brothers and sisters of the injured boy.
Craig opens his front door and holds it for the guards, Isabel, and I. Craig’s wife a large woman herself, not truly fat just tall with broad shoulders for a woman, greets us. She looks as if she could work right alongside her husband at his Smithy. It is easy to see the distress on her face, and she steps into her husband’s embrace. He explains, “My love Jenna, I brought some people who may help. Look at my hands.”
The woman examines her husband’s hands with look of hopeful wonder. She asks, “How?”
Isabel answers, “The goddess Aphrodite’s blessing, when we kiss the light of our love has the power to heal, when the goddess wishes.”
Jenna practically pulls Isabel up the stairs and I follow and then Craig and the guards. In a small bedchamber, his grandmother is holding the weeping four-year-old boy; he was in so much pain. One arm is obviously terribly broken, swollen and in a wrong angle. I immediately put the boy to sleep using a simple sleep spell. I know the arm must be straight before the healing magic will work properly. I tell Craig what we need, and what we must do first. His eyes widened as I tell him what might happen if we do not.
Only a few minutes later, he comes back with the boards, and a couple sheets we move the sleeping boy, his mother holds him, even in his sleep, the pain is evident on the young boy’s face. I cast the spell the blocks pain and the little boy relaxes. Craig extends his arm pulling at least two inches longer than the other is. Unfortunately that is necessary, I concentrate on the boy’s bones within his arm, I need to set them back into place in my hands extend as they begin to glow. Once the bones are where they originally were. I direct Craig to release the tension slowly on his son’s arm using a board to support it holding it straight and then gently rapping the arm with the sheet.
Justin had took me to several healers in the past, although they were unable to help me. I did learn a few things from them. This was not the first broken bone I had set. However, it must have been one of the worst, and on a boy so young.
Fortunately, no bone broke the skin, although many have cut the muscles within his arm. Isabel and I step close together, we move into a kiss allowing our love to come forth. We do not brake our kiss until we hear the boy’s voice exclaim, “Mommy my arm does not hurt anymore! Why do you have it tied to a board?”
His Mother Jenna unwraps the boys arm once free he hugs his mother, who has tears running down her face she is so happy. The boy asks, “Mommy why are you crying.”
Jenna says, “I am so happy, my little Patrick.”
Craig shakes my hand so energetically he nearly pulls my arm from its socket. I smile and say, “That is better than any payment, to see you and Jenna so happy.”
Isabel says, “Miracles are done by the gods. We mortals cannot take credit for what they do. No payment to us.”
I smile and shake my head yes. Addressing the child I say, “Be careful little Patrick, I do not know how many times the gods will look on you kindly.”
He says, “Okay, but I had to save Kitty.”
Jenna explains, “Kitty is his little sister, she had crawled into the street, Patrick waved off the wagon that would have hit her, unfortunately the back will hit Patrick.”
I chuckle and say, “Be careful little hero, if you save the wrong damsel in distress she may just end up being your wife.”
Isabel slaps me on my ass, and I turn wrapping her back into a hug and pull her into a kiss, again the room brightens from our glow. Looking into her eyes I say, “You my love are the right damsel for me.”
Isabel blushes and says, “Fortunately, you are the right hero for me.”
As we lean in for another kiss, Little Patrick’s voice causes us to pause as he says, “Yuck, you are going kiss again, I like the light but do you have to kiss to make it.”
Isabel and I break out laughing, smiling I say, “We have no other way to make it other than kissing.”
The little boy’s voice says, “Well if that is the only way.”
Isabel and I smile and I ruffle the boy’s hair, I tell him, “Just keep your sister from getting into the street from now on.” The boy shakes his head yes, and Isabel and I turned to leave followed by our guards.
It is getting late so I call the carpet, we wait on the front porch has the children run in, they tackled the little boy as he emerges from the house, his father pulls them all into dinner. The carpet descends has Craig asks again, “Are you sure you will take no payment? I am sure your actions more than likely saved my son’s life.”
Smiling I say, “Seeing the smile on Jenna’s face was more than enough payment.”
Craig ask, “When I give thanks to the goddess Aphrodite, whose name should I give as her messengers?”
Before I can stop him George says, “Julius and Isabel of house Cowan.” The large man’s eyes widened as he sinks to his knee.
Shaking my head as the carpet lands I say, “Rise Craig I am not the Prince…”
George again interjects, “yet. You are your father’s son.”
The Lieutenant chuckles, “That you are. Rise Craig the son of the King wishes it.” We climb upon the carpet and are quickly out of sight.
Arriving back in the courtyard, escorted into the dining hall, we find dinner in progress. When we arrive, the cook pulls me in Isabel into a hug giving us a kiss on the cheek each. Smiling she says, “I hope you do not mind the hot rolls, I made them just after lunch.” With a giggle she continues, “I even made all three meals for tomorrow. They are in the pantry, and I will have a single day where all I have to do is go to the market.”
The King chuckles and says, “She has not stopped talking about the pantry, to her it is the greatest enchantment ever devised.”
Jeremiah smiles and says, “She may possibly be right. How many people would not starve to death if each household had a King Patrick’s miracle pantry?”
Isabel giggles, “I love the name. Sire it was your idea.”
The King chuckles and says, “Isabel my dear lady please refer to me as Father, or if you like Dad. I so want to hear my son, and now my daughter-in-law refer to me as a member of the family.”
I say, “For so long I have always wanted someone to call Dad, Master Justin did a very good job of raising me, but we both knew he was not my father, but now you are my Uncle Justin. Dad when you set at court I hope you do not mind that I still refer to you as my King, Sire or my Liege. Formality where it is required, is that okay Dad?”
The King chuckles and says, “You always will be my son, my soon to be Prince, but that is more than okay son.”
Isabel clears her throat and says, “If you wish to be called Dad by me, I have no problem as long as you drop the lady in informal settings. Okay Dad?”
The King and Jeremiah both chuckle. The King says, “Yes, that goes for you too Jeremiah just call me Patrick because we are in-laws.”
Jeremiah looks at me and says, “That means you do not need to call me your chieftain also, you may call me Dad as well, or Jeremiah.”
Justin says, “Pretty good week for you, you went from an orphaned ex-slave journeyman wizard to Duke and uncrowned Prince, married with a family on the way.”
Smiling I say, “I think they will only be a few more weeks as good in my entire life as this one. Those will be good weeks as well, the ones when Isabel gives me a child for us to love.” Isabel pulls me into a kiss and the whole room chuckles as we glow.