The summer passes into fall as we prepare the fortresses on the islands denying their use by any raider of our kingdom. By the end of summer and the beginning of fall, a tower is on all islands that has shown use by Raiders. Justin’s old teacher has shared with us the enchantment for his gates. Now we need only watchers to summon our forces. We have gathered a few more hundred men. We may need to attack more than one group at a time.
Because of Izmira’s past treachery we decided, a demonstration of power would be in order. We decide to make them nervous and wonder just how powerful we are. We are going to go to their kingdom and leave small present for the King. We copied all the documents incriminating his Duke, all the information we gleaned from our prisoners. We will show that we can reach his kingdom, even unto his own throne room, when he cannot reach ours. We will do this now that our defenses are ready.
Before the trees have fully turned in new Cowan, we would prepare a special house to use with one of the carpets. It is similar to our pantry. It has a doorway into the house, and the inside is much larger than the exterior, unlike the pantries there is no time alteration. We need the space to store water and food for the journey. We also wish to be comfortable during our long flight. Therefore, the house also should contain living quarters.
We know the ships from Izmira do not carry enough provisions for a return trip. So turning them away from our shores will mean their death. We decided to give them warning before the loss of their merchant ships, and the innocent lives of those sailed aboard them.
It would be easier to warn them away than to figure out if they were slavers or just evil man that just happen to be merchants. Father’s emissaries have gotten word back to him that many other kingdoms were having similar problems with the kingdom of Izmira. A few of those kingdoms even proposed an alliance to deal with Izmira permanently. They have suffered greater losses than we have.
Isabel and I created new communication mirrors. We had use the elfin enchantment on those mirrors. You could hold a conversation with all the mirrors created at the same time, or to any single mirror. We sent those new mirrors to our emissaries located in those kingdoms proposing an alliance. We would need to speak to those emissaries much quicker and more frequently.
Father use one of the courier carpets along with a navigator to begin transporting the mirrors. They carried a crate with provisions for the two men. The carpet responded differently for each person, if the person feared height and speed, the carpet would fly lower and slow. If the person loved, the feel of the speed the carpet could achieve the carpet would fly very fast. It took a while to find the right two people, two that would allow the carpet to use all its speed. Giving instructions to the two, we set them on their way.
Isabel and I set about the task of planning the house, to use upon the carpet. Once we arrived, we could create a gate like the ones we had for the island keeps. After long discussions with Justin and Selena, Jeremiah and father, we had an architect draw up the plans. Jeremiah suggested that we add some rooms similar to the crates, where time slowed once their door closed. By the time, we are finished there was going to be four floors. Storage rooms took the bottom level. It has common rooms on the second level, kitchen with pantry, dining, and audience chamber, along with a training area. The third and fourth floors where bedchambers, a library and a personal retreat that father insisted on having.
The architect brought back the plans, two days later. They are on four large roles of parchment. With a deep breath, he says after spreading out the four plans, “This castle will take years to construct. Walls must be six foot thick on the lowest level with vaulted ceilings for the storage rooms. To use a flat foundation it must be nearly eight foot thick or set upon solid stone.
What Isabel and I are looking at is the building will be even larger than the enchanted keep. The enchanted Keep was physically larger than the enchanted Castle although it had a huge amount of open space within the walls. Only a tenth of the rooms compared to the Castle. It has no towers, but numerous windows. With what we had planned for the house, this far out stretched what Isabel and I had envisioned. I think father had a different vision in mind. We could bring the Keep on the same carpet. If all went well this would be a less threatening display of power. This miniature Castle would take up no more room than a garden shed if not expanded to its original size. It would give a peaceful alternative to the images what the enchanted Keep would bring to mind.
Isabel and I grin at each other knowing we will spend another month on Fox or Hound Island. Perhaps this time we will invite sparrow along with his companions. They may enjoy a longer visit, and perhaps some time browsing the library before we miniaturize the castle.
Father has already suggested that I choose the books for the library. All bring all the ones on enchanting and magical spells we have duplicated, along with purchasing and duplicating several new ones that have just come up for sale. The estate of an old wizard is selling off his possessions, along with his library. Rumor has it he was doing some very interesting work.
I am wondering what Father’s true purpose is for the miniature Castle, or should I say purposes father seems do nothing without a host of reasons.
Due to the feverish nature of my first two years as crown prince we have not gotten to visit very few of the Dukes and their lands. Before this thing with Izmira had come to our attention, we were to visit several of the dukedoms.
Over the last two years, we had increased the number of enchanted crates. We can store grain now for well over one hundred years in the enchanted crates. Now we have enough grain for a full year of famine, where every dukedom fails to produce any grain at all. That should be a very unlikely circumstance considering the length and breadth of our kingdom is quite vast. No single storm would wipe out the grain production for a single dukedom let alone the entire kingdom.
During our long history they have been several periods were great winter storms lasted far into the spring leaving us too short of a growing season for all but the most Southern duchies. Orc invasions had led to famine as well. The orcs’ invasion route took them through the grain belt, the dukedoms south of Cowan River. It took decades to recover our grain production. We would need more grain if an event like that occurred again.
Father wished us to give an enchanted crate to each dukedom. The Dukes should choose to use it for the granary. My father had devised this as a test for his Dukes. Father had determined it was time for a housecleaning as he called it. He would remove any Duke not serving his people. Too many of the Dukes had become complacent in their duties and believed themselves privileged. Bethany and Camarillo had proven the point. Jeremiah’s dukedom have produced more taxes in his short tenure than many others have over the last decade. Either the Dukes were corrupt taking the majority of the King’s taxes or their people were struggling with poor leadership from above.
We would have to get back to that as quickly as possible once the situation with Izmira concludes.
We create two more houses, one with our best knowledge of what the elves prefer. It is a present for Sparrow, it will have four bedrooms one for him and each of his companions. The house will have a library with a large glass window that can open with a wave of their hand to allow air and light in the room. All the bedrooms will have glass windows as well. We will create cabinets like ours, something that had impressed them. The library will have the duplications of some of the books we promised to share.
The second we built is for Ruth and Ben. It will be somewhat smaller although it will have three bedrooms, one master with two large bedrooms for children. A small armory, common room and office along with the kitchen will complete the house for them.
The more often we perform the enchantments to create the houses the easier it has become. Isabel and I have found magic to be a little like exercise, the more you do the stronger you become. Creating both houses took one morning to complete.
Sparrow had given us a second way of communicating although slower than a communication mirror. We could expect word back from him in a few days.
Isabel and I in recent days got the feeling of someone observing us. Sparrow’s privacy spell had come in handy many times. Occasionally those feelings did not stop after casting the spell. Sparrow had told us they stop unfriendly eyes from watching us. We may assume that Sparrow or other friendly wizards were watching judging from that.
We decided that having a friendly wizard watch was not a bad thing. We would gladly share our knowledge with friends. We have converted a few of the spells from grandfather’s tomes to scrolls. Most wizards can easily transcribe from scrolls into a book for later use. We would only asked for the minimum cost, exchange spells or freely give those scrolls to friendly wizards.
The feelings we are getting that morning, someone is watching. After casting the privacy spell, the feelings did not diminish. I take a chance and ask the air, “Sparrow is that you watching, could you come for a visit?”
In just seconds a wall of mist appears, and out steps a chuckling Sparrow. “How did you even realize I was watching?”
I say, “We felt someone watching. Since the privacy spell did not end that feeling. It must be a friendly wizard watching. Of those who would watch us, most are nearby in the city. I could feel it was from a great distance.”
Sparrow points to the sky and questions, “Can you see that eagle way up there?”
I see a small dot where he points, but from that great distance, I cannot tell if it was an eagle or hawk. Chuckling I say, “Barely, but not clear enough to truly say what it is.”
Sparrow shakes his head and says, “You cannot even see clearly what was actually watching you. I was using the eagle’s eyes for a time.”
I question, “Is it possible we felt your magic, and not the eagle’s stare?”
Sparrow raises an eyebrow and says thoughtfully, “It may be possible, but you would be the first.”
Isabel smiles and says, “Sparrow do not forget my husband and I share a strong bond. A woman can always tell when someone stares at her.” Sparrow blushes deeply which causes us to laugh, but Isabel gives him a hug. He finally joins in with our laughter.
After a few moments, Isabel says, “If we knew it was you were watching we would have asked for your opinion on our gift for you. Although we cannot place it in the trees for you, we hope we got the architecture right.”
Sparrow almost has a tear in his eye as he looks upon the house we had just created. He says, “This is a great gift. I believe I will enjoy it even if it does not rest high in a tree.”
Smiling I hand him four acorns. I say, “When you find the right place for the house to be for a very long time plant these at the edge of the corners of the house. Then simply say I am home.”
He looks at me questioning and I explain, “The acorns will grow into ninety foot oak trees and carry the house up into their branches. You may remove the house, but the trees will never return to acorns. You may place the house again on the trees, but the trees are living thing and may grow branches where the house had set. You will probably have to prune those and heal the branches before resetting the house.”
Smiling Sparrow says, “My friends this cannot come at a better time. A lightning strike destroyed one of the trees that supported my home. I managed to escape along with my friends just before the tree collapsed taking my house with it. It was just yesterday, and I am living at my daughter’s home for the present.”
Smiling I say, “Then shall we take a tour of your new home, before we complete the enchantments. If something is not to your liking, we may change it now.”
Sparrow grimaces before he says, “There is one thing, elves never use square windows. Could you please change that one thing?”
Isabel smiles and says, “Certainly, but let us look inside before we begin to make changes.”
Opening the door sparrow immediately notices the house is larger on the inside, not tremendously so just nearly double the size of the outside. Sparrow raises an eyebrow and a wide smile crosses his lips. “I will have the largest home in my city. Even the King’s home is not quite as large. I better make sure my brother does not see it before I move in.”
He sees our confusion and explains, “You did not know that my half-brother is the King of the elves? If he sees, it before I occupy the house, he may take it for his own. Not something he would do once I have moved my belongings into the house.”
I say, “Come up to the library we have a few things there for you already.”
Justin and Selena are placing the books that we copied for Sparrow on the shelves. He may share them with his people as he wishes. Sparrow shakes Justin’s hand and greets him warmly, “I see I not only have Julius and Isabel to think for my new home but you two as well.”
Selena giggles and says, “It was a pleasure working on this house. Perhaps soon Justin and Isabel can help us create a new home of our own. I just love your closets.”
Isabel and I nod yes nearly instantly and smile warmly at our two friends. Isabel says, “I am sure we can find the time one of these days.”
Sparrow is looking through a few of the books remaining on a large desk, he smiling as he reads the spell. He looks up at me and says, “This is a very old spell, elves have used this long ago, but it has been lost to us for nearly a thousand years.”
I smile and say, “That is a copy of the tome that belonged to one of my distant ancestors the first high King’s wife. They too were a bonded pair, blessed by Aphrodite. It is through her that the kingdom come to know the goddess.”
Sparrow smiles and ask, “Do you happen to know her name?”
I say, “Isabel Cowan, her maiden name was Isabel Firemoon of Forestdale.”
Sparrow a little shocked says, “That means we are of the same blood, very distantly.”
With a smile I say, “Perhaps, that is why I am wiser than many. My ancestors share the wisdom of both elves and humans.”
With a smile Sparrow says, “This is knowledge my brother will be pleased with, he is always wondered why he felt such affection to your family.”
I ask, “Do you know their story?”
Sparrow shakes his head no. So I ask, “Would you like to hear the story, it is one I first heard when father told it to little Patrick. It is really quite interesting story how the two married.” Sparrow nods his head yes.
Drawing the story fully into my mind, I begin the telling. “After bringing peace to the lands of Cowan, the nameless man took the name of the land for his. He became Cowan the wise and the first high King. The duchies on the East coast of Cowan, just across the narrow sea from your homeland had been at war with the elves for as long as people could remember. Cowan the wise send emissaries to negotiate a peace. After two years of negotiation, a treaty was ready and to seal the peace, a royal marriage arranged between Cowan and Isabel. Isabel Firemoon was the first daughter and oldest child born to King Firemoon of the elves.
Cowan the wise yet a young man had not taken a wife. Isabel had not taken a husband because the goddess promised that one day she would have a blessed bonding. The two had never met. Arrangements made for High King Cowan travel to the elves lands of Forestdale. The two were not to meet until the wedding day.
Isabel fearing her upcoming nuptials fled from her home. She was nearly half a day away from her home when a Drake attacked her near the coast road. King Cowan had made landfall and was traveling on that same road heading towards the city of Forestdale. Hearing Isabel’s scream King Cowan charged into battle against the Drake. As you know, Drakes can be very tough to kill with magic or sword.
Both strike at the beast with little effect. Finally, King Cowan plunged his sword into the beast’s eye, not nearly deep enough to be fatal by itself to the Drake. The Drake struck out blindly knocking him from his feet. With the sword still in the eye socket of the Drake Isabel cast a lightning spell striking the sword and running directly into the brain of the Drake. The flash of the lightning had blinded King Cowan. Nevertheless, together the two have killed the Drake, both having saved the others life in their efforts.
Once retaking his feet King Cowan met Isabel for the first time. Both not knowing whom the other truly was, the sounds of their battle had brought the Royal guard. They were only alone for a very short time. Isabel moved to her rescuer King Cowan blindly pulled Isabel into a hug. They shared a kiss. It had an effect that neither could deny to their heart. Now the King Cowan could see once more, he wondered at the beauty in his arms. Both had fallen in love in the gaze and embrace of the other. When the Royal guard arrived moments later, they separated the two.
The Royal guard forced Isabel to return to her home. The further away she got from King Cowan the more upset she become, by the time she reached her home she was in tears and could barely stand.
The Royal guard nearly killed King Cowan for trespassing on their lands, until he produced a letter from his future father-in-law.
King Cowan had insisted that they skin the Drake and give the hide to the maiden who helped him kill the beast. By the time they had finished he was so weak he could barely stand. His strength seem to return the closer they got to Isabel. He described it as his heart pulling him to its desire. He soon began to run forcing the guard to keep up. He never did quite catch the maiden before she had managed to disappear into the city.
With the events of the previous day, both were heartsick. The guards delivered the tanned Drake hide to Isabel. That only served to remind her of the brave man who charged to her rescue. The only person she desired held within his arms, whose lips she desired more than food.
She had decided that she would prefer death than marriage to a man she did not know or love, her heart belong to a brave man who come to her rescue. She written a note for her father telling of her planned suicide. That he should not blame the human King, it was not his fault but she cannot marry anyone except for whom the goddess promised. She was going to wait until he slept and fall upon his sword.
The Elf King had a suit of armor made for King Cowan, with the visor down to hide his sadness he entered the Temple of Aphrodite. He knew he did not love any other than the maiden he rescued, although he would fulfill his duty to the kingdom.
They both bathed and redressed, King Cowan in the full armor, Isabel in a long dress with a veil that covered her sad face. The two inter the chapel unknowing they approach their own love. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the priestess ordered them to remove the helmet and lift the veil so that they may kiss to seal their union.
Upon seeing the face of the other, they recognized their love, the one they had stood with against the Drake. Their hearts were overjoyed and they kissed happily. The glow startling the two as love filled their hearts.”
I conclude their story by saying, “From that day on the priestess of Aphrodite have asked for couples to give words of love for each other. However, only the priestess know what King Cowan and Isabel said to the other.”
Sparrow chuckles and says, “Not exactly. The elves tell the same story to our children. Although they leave out the fact, that King Cowan was a human. They were the last blessed by Aphrodite. Legend has it a couple not knowing of the story will use the same words as Isabel and Cowan on their wedding day.”
Isabel and I have chills running up our spines. Justin asks, “Do you know the words that they said?”
Smiling Sparrow says, “I have been sworn to secrecy, although since all here are married I see no harm in sharing, if you also swear not to share the words.”
Before he can say anything, I say. “You fill my heart with beauty, with love and joy. I was a blind man walking through this world until you open my eyes.”
Sparrow was stunned as Isabel continues, “Your words bring joy to my heart. My life began when you held me in your arms for the first time.”
I finish, “You are my Angel, with halo bright seen with each kiss. You are the light that I see by, the love that I feel knows no bounds, and surely, it makes us stronger. You are my soul mate. I think the goddess for making us as one.”
Sparrow sits heavily in a desk chair looking as if he just saw us transformed. Justin asks, “Where those the words used by Cowan and Isabel?” Sparrow nods his head as his handshake. Justin continues, “They were the exact words that Julius and Isabel said at their wedding, just before the goddess pronounce them married and the example of what love should be.”
In a shaky voice, Sparrow ask a question, “Isabel do you know your line, at any time are you related to your namesake?”
Isabel is unsure but I smile and say, “High King Cowan and Isabel’s youngest child was named Morgan and the founder of his clan. You never knew you were royalty all along my Love. It came up one day when there was a challenge to your father becoming a duke. Father had genealogist trace his line all the way back to King Cowan and Isabel.”
That information does nothing to steady Sparrow’s nerves. Drawing a ragged breath in he asks, “Have you ever seen the goddess other than that?”
Justin nodding his head yes, as Isabel and I count using our connection to remind each other. I finally say, “Three other times, the night of judgment in the morning, she caressed our faces. The day after our wedding where she explained how she had hidden me away. Then after sending, Isabel and I back in time for a month to destroy the Raiders this year.”
Sparrow again asks a question of us, “Has ever a priestess of Aphrodite referred to you as the chosen of the goddess?”
Justin answers, “I have heard them referred to Julius and Isabel as that.”
Sparrow says, “That would explain many things, Justin and Isabel not only share power with each other. You two also receive power from the goddess, when your purpose matches hers. That in no way diminishes your accomplishments, if anything it only magnifies them. I am sure you creating this house is not something the goddess would grant her power for.”
Isabel and I nod our head yes. Justin asks, “Perhaps that is why enchanting the Keep seems so easy.” Again Isabel and I nod our heads yes.
Sparrow finally says, “I never thought I would actually meet the chosen of the goddess, our people have nearly given up hope that you would return. I must tell my brother.”
Setting on the desk is the goddess and she smiles at Sparrow before she says, “I have allowed you to learn this Sparrow, but is not time for you to share the good news. When you will have need of them, I will ensure they are with you. They are yet busy working on a task for me.” As always, the goddess disappears as quickly as she came.
Isabel and I look at each other before turning to a pale faced Sparrow and blurting out, “Four.”
That seems to break Sparrow’s confusion, instantly he begins to laugh. We still feel the love and joy left behind by the goddess like perfume hanging in the air. Justin and Selena, Isabel and I join in for a moment before giving a kiss to our spouses. Sparrow gasps at seeing the four of us glowing.
After Justin and Selena, break their kiss. Justin asks, “Did you know that would happen? That when two people fall in love in the presence of Julius and Isabel, that they too would share in the blessing of the goddess.”
Jokingly I say, “We have been accused of being contagious. We do seem to spread the love bug. First Ben and Ruth, than these two, and only the goddess knows how many more.”
Sparrow now finished with his laugh says, “I will grant you anything in your quest for the goddess. I will give you what help I can in the task you have at hand. It will be my honor to help the chosen of the goddess, even if I cannot share that news.”
We share with Sparrow our next project, the floor plans for the keep only then that I noticed they have changed now they have six floors. The first level still is storage the second floor now dedicated to the goddess, and creates a temple, complete with chapel and ritual bathing pools. The third floor is housing for the priestesses. The fourth floor is now the common areas, kitchen and so forth what used to be on the second floor. The fourth in a fifth are as the third and fourth. The sixth floor nine large suites marked each of three languages one set of rooms for each King and Queen, Prince and Princess, and high priestess Chambers. A large central room and halls that connects the suites with a spiral staircase leads down.
Isabel looks at the plans and says, “I see they have expanded somewhat.”
Justin chuckles and says, “It would seem the goddess has her own ideas on our building project.”
I smile and say, “I will gladly do it for the goddess, after all look who I have in my life because of love.”
Isabel laughs and asks, “That would be little Patrick, right?”
With a laugh as I move, my hand atop Isabel’s expanding stomach. I say, “Let us not forget the twins.”
Sparrow shakes his head with a smile he says, “I can see why the goddess likes you. You two just simply shine with love.”
It takes the rest of the afternoon to finish sparrow’s house, readjusting his windows was the first of a few things. However, he was very pleased with most of the house and needed only to change a few colors in the rooms. Nothing major, other than the windows, which required us to gather more sand. Sparrow even made some of his own furniture, after we shared with him the technique of gathering and molding a raw material. It proved a simple task for him, and Isabel really loved the style of chairs he created for his dining room.
The next day the five of us begin working on the enchanted Castle. Given the amount of materials we would need we began along the coast gathering the Driftwood from every abandoned section of coastline. We spent several days and station several huge wooden balls near where we need to fly out to sea. We knew the islands have very little driftwood left for our use.
With Sparrow, Justin and Selena’s help, we will fly the wood out to Hound Island just before we begin building the enchanted Castle. It has a hip roof, so we also gather slate to cover the entire roof. We had to gather a small amount of metal for door hinges, knobs and knockers. To create glass one must use a special type of sand that is free of contaminants. Locating such a deposit takes us three days, just downstream is a natural copper deposit and we remove a fairly large amount of that. The sand has formed into a large glass ball, and the copper makes a huge stand so we set the ball on the ground it does not roll. Justin laughs at seeing the large crystal ball, with its copper stand. He compliments us on making the world’s largest crystal ball.
Isabel giggles and says, “I wonder if it is any good at spying on people. Perhaps we can try that before we reform the ball into glass windows.”
Selena giggles and says, “From the size of it, we probably could look down on an entire kingdom, and then look down and see what a wizard is reading over breakfast.”
Sparrow says, “I would not believe it possible to make a crystal that large. How did you keep it from breaking as it cooled?”
Isabel blinks before she says, “Magic to heat it transforming the sand to glass. Then magic to cool it evenly so it would not shatter.”
Smiling Sparrow says, “Lady Isabel you see this world differently than most. Others see the world changed by magic, but I believe you see the world and magic as one.”
Somewhat startled I say, “I thought all wizards knew the world was made up of magic and matter, it is the string that holds matter together. Our magic merely pulls on the strings bending them and matter to our will.”
Justin, Selena and Sparrow seemed shocked by this revelation, like a great truth that has not been revealed to them as of yet. Sparrow when he recovers says, “No wonder you can do so many things so easily. You could not see the eagle, but you see the smallest strings that bind matter together. The rest of us are as blind seamstresses only knowing how to stitch by what we have been taught.”
Justin smiles before he adds, “Perhaps, that is why nearly everything you make is permanent and of great power. Julius and Isabel stitch the matter and the magic back together perfectly.”
I say, “All things age and decay. Even the magic that holds the world together eventually will cease to exist. The universe will eventually fall back upon itself returning to what it once was at the beginning of time. Then only the gods will be there to create again. They will again use their power and create everything you see and so much more.”
Sparrow smiles and says, “Another thing that I suspected must be true. Such knowledge comes from the gods that is proof of your connection to the goddess.”
Sparrow finds the spell for the acorn smiling he asks, “Is this the spell used to enchant the acorns?”
I nod my head yes. Sparrow says, “Only one of elfish blood could use this enchantment. I know it will work have sensed the magic in the acorns. You inherit more from your ancestor Isabel than you knew.”
I smile and say, “Only unto recently Sparrow, I did not know my name, or my inheritance.”
Sparrow looks confused, and Justin nods his head yes. Isabel smiles and says, “I did not know I was related to the high King until just a few days ago. When Julius and I first fell in love, he cast a light spell calling it my Halo and it glowed for nearly a day. It was four years later, when Julius save me from a werewolf he killed it with the lightning bolt, which was the night we discovered we were bonded.”
I smile give Isabel a kiss on the cheek. I add, “At the time I knew I was the luckiest person alive to be betrothed and bonded to Isabel. I can barely believe how much my life changed that week. Isabel and I was wed although I was a nameless man, until my birthright discovered by father.”
This new information has Sparrow standing with his jaw slack. He pleads, “Julius please tell me the full story of your life. The fact that you were a nameless man is of great importance.”
I begin the long telling as Sparrow listens intently. I tell him every detail that I know. I tell sparrow about how my mother died, how the goddess had hidden me. I tell how I lost the only parents I had known at four years old that I knew at the time and became a slave losing my name. How Justin freed me, and how that led to the freeing of all slaves in Cowan. Isabel and I tell him of our first meeting, and how her younger siblings would tease her. Justin adds how upset her father was about the Halo, and that was why he kept her away believing that I was irresponsible with my magic. Isabel tells of the wicked Duke who ordered the marriage to his son, and how she ran away. We retail in detail the night of our meeting, how had led to our bonding being discovered. We tell the story all the way up through where father discovered my birthmark. At sparrow’s insistence, we continue on right up to the point where we met him for the first time.
Sparrow looks shaken, after taking a deep breath he says, “There is a prophecy about the return of the chosen. It is uncanny how closely your life story is to the prophecy. Obviously, the priestess know this.”
Justin chuckles and says, “I knew he was something special when I first saw him. Although just a boy and very frightened he held back his tears as the auctioneer call for bids.”
I say, “That had not been a pleasant day, I had just arrived in Camarillo and the ship had been low on provisions for the last two weeks. That meant the slaves did not have anything to eat for quite a long time.”
I remember how the aroma of the food from the inns had made my stomach grumble. An old woman had slipped me a crust of bread and I eaten it very quickly. I must had stopped because I was yanked off my feet, as the rope pulled tight. I have been the last in line. I nearly received the whip for having slowed the progress of us slaves. The old woman saved me from the whip that once telling the slave master. You will get a poor price for him if he is all bloody.
I look back to my friends and say, “For me those days are no more, but I fear others live through it. I would break the chains, cut the ropes, and free those now held as slaves. It is easy for those who hold slaves to think themselves superior. The truth is that slavery is an evil this world needs cleansed of forever.”
Sparrow shakes his head and says, “The elves have seen this also. Back in the early days of humanity the elves thought humans were little more than brute beast and kept them as slaves. The goddess condemned our practice of slavery. When those humans release many of them surprised us they have learned far more from us than we had realized. They sailed across the narrow sea and begin setting up homes in the lands you now call Cowan. They were no longer the savages we had believed them to be.”
Sparrow continues, “It was our own fault, the humans of those days long past had feared us. When we send emissaries, they were mistaken for Raiders. The humans fearing for their freedom fought the elves that landed on their shore. That led to a general mistrust between our two races. It was our mistake to start with, and we then left with no way of apologizing or making amends.
Therefore, for over two thousand years we remained isolated, not trusting the other. The goddess finally had to bring a blessed bonding between high King Cowan and Isabel to end that mistrust. Although it was not fully successful, many elves still mistrust humans.”
Selena asks, “This sounds like it was a very long time ago, hundreds of human generations have come and gone in that time. I know the elves have much longer lives, but surely none still live from that time. Is it not time for both humans and elves to get over that mistake?”
I pondered, “Perhaps that is what the goddess is trying to get us to do. We are both her children after all.”
Sparrow smiles brightly and says, “With luck your destiny is far broader than what prophecy has foretold.”
Sparrow wishes to retrieve his items from his daughter’s home where they are being stored. We loan him the use of a crate and carpet. He creates a gate and actually flies the carpet through with a crate upon it. He said it would take about a day to finish loading his belongings, and he would bring back his companions upon his return.
We use the time to move the gathered supplies, not wishing to use the same spot that surely watched from time to time. We scout Hound Island finding a large plateau atop a hill that separates the two valleys a wide meadow nestled there with a beautiful view of both valleys. The forest runs right to the edge of the meadow with many hardwood trees of extreme age. There is an area where a large flat stone protrudes from the grass of the surrounding meadow. Justin and I pace the area off finding it more than large enough to place the castle upon it and would be an excellent place for its construction.
Isabel and I cast the privacy spell over several places. Sparrow has taught us how to extend the spell so it will last for as long as we wish. Will give it two months, even if they find the spot they will not know we have already gone having finished our work and departed unseen.
The first trip is to bring all our companions who will join us on Hound Island. Early the next day we leave from New Cowan with our companions. All the houses we have stocked with provisions, and a set of communication mirrors. Father is correct we should not be out of touch for that long of a time.
Michael’s girls are enjoying flying our carpet, we have them stop by the supplies and Isabel and I, and Justin and Selena bring the four stone balls we gathered already.
As the four stone balls lift off the ground Bill asks, “Just how big is this thing going to be?”
Not willing to break my concentration I wait to tell him until the ball is stable. I say, “Far larger than I thought when Isabel and I first imagined the idea.”
Ben asks, “Just how large is that?”
Realizing my two friends will not be satisfied with a poor answer I say, “A temple of Aphrodite on the second floor, the third floor is housing for the priestesses, the fourth kitchen and dining room, pantry, Armory and exercise room, fourth and fifth floors housing, sixth floor high priestess’ and Royal bedrooms.”
Both of them look at each other then back to the four large stones that float behind us. Ben chuckles and says, “I bet you are going to need more stone.”
With a groan I say, “This is just enough for the foundation in the first floor. We will gather more stone from the stone yards on Fox Island. I just hope we have enough wood for the framework.”
Both are shocked and I continue, “The plans expanded twice, Isabel and I only wished enough room for us to travel in comfort on the carpet. Father and Jeremiah has other ideas and the plans more than doubled because of that. The goddess wished a temple of Aphrodite added, and I will not deny her. I owe her far too much.”
Michael and Juliet joined Ben and Bill as they look at the large stones Isabel and I bring along with us. Michael wonders, “The stones are nearly fifty feet across, surely that should be more than enough to build a palace.”
Getting a mental image from Isabel I say, “The palace of Aphrodite will be larger than even the palace of New Cowan, without its courtyard. Although the main building has several wings, this palace will be large square building that contains as much room as father’s castle.”
The remainder of the flight passes quickly. I warn Sophia to slow before we come to a stop the weight of the stone would be hard to control otherwise. Her sister Sonia is doing the same, Isabel and I along with Justin and Selena each control the huge stone balls and we slowly come to a landing. Finally coming to a stop near the area where we will begin construction of the Castle.
Justin and Selena show the strain of the trip, whereas Isabel and I barely feel the effort. We had been levitating the materials for over three hours. I realize something else, Isabel and I continue to become more powerful at a faster rate than many wizards have ever done. I wonder if that is a gift from the goddess as well.
Justin seeing his pupil is less drained than he is remarks, “Has the pupil now surpassed his master? I do believe so.”
With a smile, I accept his complement and say, “If I have, it is only because you have prepared me to do so. I owe you so much, my master and my friend, Uncle Justin.”
Justin chuckles and says, “I am no longer your master obviously, but I will gladly be your friend my nephew.”
Isabel gives her uncle a hug, the girls giggle as their father and mother hug them. I turned to my two apprentices and say, “Sonia and Sophia you did outstandingly at your first time controlling the carpet.” The two girls and their parents smile brightly at hearing me complement them.
We set about setting up our encampment. We expand the now four houses, and the barn. Little Patrick laughs at watching the houses expand. To him is a great experience watching what looks like a toy to him become the house we will live in for a number of weeks.
Ben and Ruth are surprised when we expand the house for them. Ruth gives Isabel a hug and we explained we purchased the old farm for them. We have a carpet so it will not take them a great deal of time to come back to the city, As long as they do not mind us visiting often. Isabel finally says, “Julius and I just need a place where we can get away from court for a while.”
Ben and Ruth nod their head yes, as they understand. Ben finally says, “As long as you are not trying to get rid of us.”
I shake my head no and Isabel looks a little hurt as she says, “Ruth, you are my friend, I would do nothing to lose that.”
Ruth giggles and says, “Yes Princess.”
Isabel begins to chase Ruth the two giggling like sisters. When Isabel finally catches Ruth she says, “Be careful my friend or I will make you a Duchess.”
Ruth has a surprise look before she says, “Isabel you would not dare, if I am a Duchess who we keep you and Julius in line.”
Isabel says, “Do not worry, I would not send you away so you could still bend my ear whenever you need to.”
Ben throws his hands up in mock surrender as he looks at me. I say, “I will make you both Knights one-day, if my father does not before I can.”
After everything calms back down, we send Sparrow a quick message letting him know where we are. We settle in for the night. Our companions join us for a dinner meal in our house. Bill, Samuel and Martin will be staying in the rooms that they occupied before.
The next day we begin moving the wood from what we have already gathered. Because of the distance, we can only make two trips and we retrieve less than half of the wood. We spend one more day and have moved most of the wood, and decide to begin the process of making the Castle the following day. Justin and Selena will bring the rest of the wood as Isabel and I begin the construction.
We gather a little the dead or dying trees from the edge of the forest, training our apprentices. They will begin making furniture for the Castle. That will give them some practical experience with transmuting matter, shaping it by and to their will. We replaced the trees with saplings and they magically grow into younger healthier trees. We are careful not to disturb too much of the forest in one location.
Since we did not bring any horses this time the barn is simply for storage. We cleaned out the barn thoroughly, and new hay covers the floor. Between the hayloft, and the main floor the girls will have plenty of space to store chairs and tables. We do not expect them to create all the furniture, but a palace this large will have hundreds of rooms many requiring lavish furniture.
The goddess’ version of the plans not only covered the dimensions of the rooms, but also cover the type of furniture selected for each room. Even the staff for the palace has large comfortable rooms, with nice furniture. As we discovered the plans had expanded quite a bit.
We had expected Sparrow to return sometime today when he has not we began to worry that he cannot even find us, or something more is wrong.
We decide to try the communication mirrors. Sparrow had given us his command that would allow us to talk to his mirror. We speak the command the mirror clouds, and then we are looking in on an elfin home. Sparrow notices the mirror as he raises from his packing. With a chuckle of relief I say, “I see you only found that the task was greater than you estimated.”
Sparrow with a smile replies, “Yes it is. Of course, I was not able to start when I wished. My daughter is in the Rangers. She left this morning to scout the edge of the orc’s land. It is something we do often, they may give us enough warning. The orcs move with the spring, but they always move south in their lands just before winter when they do.”
Isabel says, “We only worried when you had not returned when you promised. However, I see there is no need to worry and you will be here when you can.”
I add, “We really only called to see if you had need of us. As you promised to come to our aid, we would also when you have need.”
Sparrow smiles and says, “If only I taught you the spell of teleportation, I could use some help packing.” He chuckles before turning back to his task.
Isabel nods and I begin the spell of teleportation, our companions, Isabel and I pass through a wall of mist to arrive in the home of Sparrow’s daughter. Sparrow’s head pops up with a momentary look of astonishment before he chuckles. Sparrow says, “Welcome friends, I should not be surprised that you would know that spell by now.”
I explain, “I found it in the tome left to me by my ancestor Isabel.”
Sparrow has a look of wonder for a moment and ask, “Was it in the same tome as the enchanted acorn?”
I nod my head yes before saying, “Much later in the tome. It was one of the last spells she added.”
Sparrow explains, “Very few wizards could ever cast that spell they must have the power of a grandmaster mage, which obviously you do between you and Isabel.”
Isabel says, “You did ask for us to help you pack, where you need us to begin?”
Sparrow points to a heavy looking chest, Samuel and Martin moved to the ends lifting it easily walking over to the crate.
The two men chuckle as I levitate them, and they descend into the crate. Landing on the bottom, they begin to organize boxes. Sparrow looking down into the crate says, “So that is how you do that.”
Bill says, “You always can tie a rope to whatever you need to lower, if a wizard is not available.”
Sparrow chuckles looking around he says, “We have five.”
Bill chuckles and says, “That is good because we forgot the rope.”
Sparrow points to a large stack of boxes he is yet to place into the crate. He asks, “Julius if you would be so kind to lower those. They are ready to go. They just need to be placed within the crate.”
I give a nod of my head and begin the process of levitating the boxes and passing them to Samuel and Martin at the bottom of the crate. Isabel looks at stack of dishes in the sink and before anyone else can stop her she moves and begins to clean the dishes and kitchen area. Selena joins her giving her a nod with a smile. Little Patrick is wide-eyed from his vantage point in Juliet’s arms. Everything here is new and interesting to him. It does not take long as sparrow directs the process, with the additional help we give him.
Although his packing is complete, we take our time enjoying our new surroundings. From the balcony Sparrow points out points of interest, the elves have mage lights on the exterior of their buildings. Even though it is fully dark the city of Forestdale glows with a light equal to false dawn. Sparrow is proud of the city that is his home. He suggests that we go to an inn for our evening meal one he knows well. The sound of Samuel and Martin stomach growling has us nodding our heads in agreement as we try not to chuckle.
Sparrow leads the way over walkways. Some you cannot see the ground for the canopy below them, where you do see the ground is at least fifty feet below us. Some houses and walkways are even higher, and we pass the occasional elf who only stares at the odd sight of humans in Forestdale.
We arrive at the Fallen Oak Inn. At least six trees support it. Most of the houses are of moderate size, but the inn is at least three times the size of most of the houses around the city. From the sound coming from the inn, at least a large portion the city must be within. The sound of voices fills the air, along with the most delicious aroma.
The whole room quiets as we enter. Sparrow immediately waves down one of the serving girl and asks for a large table. The silence only lasts for a moment or two, as everyone seemed to a found new topic to speak about tonight.
The girl calls back, leads us to a large table near the back. My companions seem too tense, even Samuel and Martin seem to have lost their appetite. Over the last two years, one of the things I was required to learn was the elvish language. I do catch a few derogatory comments, but most are just simply curious on our presence here.
Arriving at our table, I ordered soft-spiced Apple cider. Alcohol is not good for Isabel, Ruth or little Patrick. Most of my companions would not drink hard cider under the circumstance. Sparrow smiles and orders a wine, he suggest the roast venison, and everyone nods. The server takes our orders and heads to the kitchens.
I take my seat now with my son in my lap. This is a new experience for him, and he squirms excitedly as he turns from one interest to another. It is about all I can do to keep the boy seated. He would love nothing other than to walk over and look at anything and everything about the room in closer detail.
Fortunately, the food comes quickly, and I share from my plate with my son. Testing the food ensuring it is not too hot. I wave my hand over the plate cooling it slightly. Little Patrick is definitely hungry, and a little impatient being a toddler. The server smiles at how gently I treat my son.
Giving little Patrick a piece of meat, he grins up at me. This is not the first time he has eaten while in my lap, although given the chance he prefers his grandfather’s lap. I managed to get a few bites between feeding him. The food is very good. I finished the plate once Little Patrick has eaten his fill and like most toddlers fallen asleep.
Even Sparrow is impressed. He says, “You show great patience with your son. I can remember when my daughter was his age. I do not believe I would have dared to have brought her out for dinner.”
Isabel giggles and says, “Now you know why he is in his father’s lap. He would not a set so still for me.”
Caressing my sons back I say, “He knows you are a softy my Love.” Isabel sticks her tongue out at me playfully, that brings chuckles from our table and many nearby. Isabel quickly pulls back in her tongue realizing she was being watched.
Sparrow says, “Your joy is contagious Isabel, fear not I believe none here will judge you harshly.”
The room go silent once again. As a tall overdressed elf accompanied by six armored knights enter the Inn. Sparrow glances over his shoulder, he shakes his head as he rises. He says, “My brother just had to come himself, he could not send his steward to ask his questions.”
I hand little Patrick to Isabel and rise along with Sparrow, as his brother approaches I ask, “By chance did you happen to speak to your brother about our relationship.”
Sparrow half turns and says, “I did not as of yet. I did not know how to bring that subject up without all the truth coming forth.”
As his brother arrives, Sparrow is bowing deeply and I follow suit. The elf king barely gives more than a nod to his brother. With what sounds like disdain in his voice he asks, “Sparrow who have you brought into my kingdom?”
Looking into his brothers face now he says, “Friends, who have come to help me more than you have. You cannot be bothered to even send me one of your servants, and they come from more than three thousand miles to help me in my packing.”
The look from his brother tells us that answer was not sufficient. Sparrow draws in a deep breath and says, “May I introduce Grandmaster Wizard Prince Julius Cowan, high Prince to Cowan and my friend.”
The King and many around who have turned to look all display shocked expressions. Not from the fact that I am the high Prince of Cowan, but the title of Grandmaster Wizard. Perhaps even I have a shocked expression not expecting named as such. The King seems to recover quickly he asks, “Your father finally found you? Patrick had come to our kingdom asking help from our wizards in locating you. Even our most powerful ones could not.”
I smile and say, “Being hidden by the goddess Aphrodite would make that difficult. It is a long story your Majesty perhaps at a later time, we can share the story in full.”
The look on his face displays that is something he is not accustomed to have happen. I doubt anyone in his long lifetime has denied him anything. I know I cannot tell him my full story without divulging Isabel and I are the chosen of the goddess. I am uncertain if it is time for that, even more uncertain of this location.
It is said, that the gods work in mysterious ways, I am sure I lack the knowledge to comprehend how they work. In a clear spot next to Sparrow, a vision of horror appears. A badly burned and smoking body standing over another missing its forearm also suffering from burns. As it collapses, the soft moan is the only thing that tells me life is still in the body.
The Knights instantly pull the king back, standing between him and the apparition that just appeared out of thin air. Sparrow’s eyes are wide as he sinks to his knees. Isabel is rushing to my side, little Patrick now in Juliet’s arms. Recognition, sadness and fear is on Sparrow’s face as he looks at an amulet around the neck of the one who had been standing.
As Isabel reaches me, we do the one thing no one would expect us to do except for Sparrow. I pull Isabel into a kiss. As always, we begin to glow with our love and the goddess’s power. The glow seems move to and concentrate on the two bodies.
At first people rush away in fear not understanding what is occurring, as they look back they see The King’s Knights with sword points against the floor and on their knees, they were the first to see and understand. As more see and recognize what is occurring the crowd sinks to their knees, even the King has gone to his knees after moving back in front of his Knights.
As the healing progresses, I hear Justin casting a sleep spell on the two, at the same time Selena is casting a spell to block pain. The two moved to the other side and pull in to a kiss, and their glow helps the healing process. Ben and Ruth move to their feet, and then pull into a kiss adding power to the glow. Even with the power of us three couples the healing is too slow, I fear they are too close to death.
The goddess now is among us, she caresses the faces of the two bodies. At her touch, they come back to life, whole and healthy. They actually cough smoke before taking a deep breath.
In a rush, enter the priestesses of Aphrodite they come forward then sink to their knees. Using their voices, the goddess speaks to us, “Behold my chosen. They both share your blood, and the blood of humans. Both are my children, it is time for you to be as one. Let not the mistakes of the past or prejudice keep you apart.”
As always, she gives her message and is gone. Although this time she did stop and whisper something in Sparrow’s ear.
Isabel and I break our kiss, as do our comrades. Now turning to the King I say, “Perhaps, we have time for that story now.”