I was quite surprised that there were so many errors since I had done a full spell check. I reread and made corrections hope I got them all.
Even as a babe in a crib I was aware... I might not have undestood everything but I was aware.
What I was the most aware about was the soft sweet smelling creature that held me and comfored be and fed me from the soft containers on her chest. Dangling from her neck was a gold chain with a medalion whose image was that of a gold greeneyed dragon
Two years later I came to know the soft creature that held and cared for me was my Mother. I still liked to play with the medalion around her neck.
She often talked to me about it., “Your name is Rafter De Louis, your Father was the Crown Prince Duvalson of the Kingdom of Dulciana, Remember this medalion identifies you. Your uncle John Mare De Louis had your grandfather and your father killed. His minions are looking for you.”
I listened to everything she said and I remembered, “The night your father was killed he hung the medalion around my neck to give to you when you are ready”
In my young mind I remembered the soft beds and the tapestries that hung on the walls... but now we hid in a tent and lay upon old blankets and mother cooked over an open fire. She had to fetch and carry water and we only had her old maid servant, I did not understand.
One night my mother rushed into the tent pulled off the medalion and said to maid Ceil, “John Mare is searching every tent...Take Rafe and flee.” She leaned down and placed the Medalion around my neck.
Maid Ceil grabbed me up and ran out the back flap of the tent. This was the last I ever saw of my Mother.
Maid or rather, Mama Ceil as I came to call her took me to a Wizard's Keep. No one in their right mind would ever try to search a Wizard's Keep. There we lived a peaceful life till... Mama Ceil caught the ague and died when I was eight.
Mama Ceil knocked on the door of the Wizard's Keep. After several knocks the door was opened by an elderly gent wearing an old grey Robe...
“Yes ...may I help you?”
Mama Ceil says, “ My mistress Rebecca said if the time came... I was to come to you...and here we are.”
“Yes you are … but who are you and time for what?”
Mama Ceil stammered and stuttered then her face lit up and she said , Oh, Oh I forgot, Rafe show him the medallion.”
I proudly displayed the medallion that my Mother had given to me.
The old man hardly able to speak said, “Put the medallion away oh my goodness inside quickly, quickly”
That is how my new life began, I made friends with some of the children of the village especially the younger weaker ones. I stood up for them against the bigger and older boys even at three I hated bullies. I myself was as large as the bullies and they tried to get me to favor their side. It didn't work, the first time they started picking on a weaker child I jumped in and started swinging. I didn't know at that time but my blows were magically enhanced.
My best friend was a kid we called “Sneaker” he could fit in the tiniest places. He was just small. Next was Bean he was a skinny kid and Lump, well he was fat and it wasn't from eating to much. Most street kids rarely had more than a meal a day and often not even that. Lastly was our tomboy Mira a red haired freckled face waif who wasn't afraid of any thing She tried her best to hide the point to her ears.
Although we were not supposed to tell about it, The thieves guild was three houses down from the Wizards Keep. I guess you can say I was being hid right under John Mare's nose in the capital city, Dulci. They called me Rapper be cause I busted heads of Bullies.
The thieves I guess you could say adopted us... it wasn't long till we were all quite adept at snitching purses as well as other things. Sneaker became a 'caser' He and Bean made a team. Bean would lift Sneaker up to a window, that I had checked for wards, I was able to read magic. I didn't yet know how to bypass the wards as yet but my wizard training would soon teach me that..
Sneaker would case the place while Mira would watch the front and Lump and I would watch the sides. Afterwards Sneaker would give the info to a Housebreaker and after the job was done he would give us a share.
By the time I turned twelve I was learning how to fight hand to hand and with clubs and night sticks. I quickly learned that although the night stick was good … there seemed to be something missing. I bored a hole in the handle and threaded a leather strap through it and then placed the strap around my wrist. With a flick of the wrist I would add eighteen inches to my reach. Thugs were quite surprised when they were expecting the nightstick toward the head but instead it hit in the groin.
Sneaker had remained small, Bean had grown taller, Lump was no longer fat he had turned to muscle.
Mira was beginning to look like a girl, but you better not get caught starring at her charms. And me I was 5'10'' and about 180# it too was muscle.
Tommy the Rat was a guild master he had asked our group to join up but we said no and that we would help when needed but to us it was just fun.
Since The Elder insisted I learn reading and writing as well as the spell books it was decided that my friends be taught as well. We were able to earn extra money as messengers.
One day while I was training at the Keep the elder sent me on an errand to the spice shop for cinnamon. It was an excuse to get me clear for awhile and I knew it. I hid out and watched, about an hour later four Horsemen stopped at the keep.
I had Sneaker hide out close so he could listen and report.
“The elder opened the door and ask the Horsemen if he could be of any help.
The leader of the four asked if there had been a maid die from the Ague recently... The Elder replied that was the truth. He asked if she had a boy with her. Elder said no and that the only boy at the keep was his apprentice. The Horseman demanded to see this apprentice and was told he was away on an errand and was not expected back for hours.”
For some reason this upset the horseman and he drew his sword. “The elder waved his fingers and chanted. The Horseman and his companions repeated after the Elder. The boy is not here and never has been,” they got on their horses and rode away.
Sneaker asked, “Whats going on Rapper?”
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
As I grew older my second sight or intuition seemed to be stronger. It seemed that I could fathom what people were thinking. Especially if it pertained to me.
I liked to eat lunch at the Sleeping Lion. Momma Mavis was the cook, she called us ruffians but our bowls always seemed to be filled higher than the regular customers. Today I was dipping into the lamb stew, it needed a bit of salt.
I looked and the salt was at the other end of the table, I put out my hand thinking of my need for salt. I tried to get some ones attention but there was an argument in progress and everything else was being ignored. I was getting exasperated and thinking harder about my need for salt when...Whap! the salt bowl slapped the palm of my hand. My mouth fell open and I looked around but no one seemed to notice.
I was puzzled as well as surprised, I had a class with the Elder Wizard after lunch I would ask him. That decided I went back to eating and joking with Mira and put it right out of my mind.
The Elder gave me a spell book and a book with blank pages and had me copy from one to the other. He kept telling me that because of who my parents were I was going to be a Mage. As usual I laughed. Then I reached for the inkwell and it landed in my hand.
Elder gasped and pointed at the inkwell, “Did you just call that inkwell with your mind?”
I looked frightened but answered truthfully, “Yes.”
“What else can you do that you haven't told me.” The Elder was glad that he had released my friends from this part of the class. This needed to be kept quiet for a while.
So I told him about the voices in my head but they were hard to understand because there were so many. Also guard Logan was picking on Mira. So I had used my mind to Pinch Momma Mavis's fat bottom. She turned around and dumped the Water pitcher she was holding on his head. He ran out of the Inn with Momma in Pursuit.
Elder had a big laugh about that and said, “ Your training will change starting tomorrow I will try to teach you how to control the voices as well as other things. Be careful and not use your mind powers so someone might see. The King, he sneeringly replied is suspicious enough as it is, And for the Gods sake keep that Medallion hidden.”
Acting King, or rather The Regent, John Mare De Louis, was pacing back and forth in the throne room. Speaking to his Chamberlain. “We have to find that kid without that medallion the Cardinal will not crown me King.I am a farce now. Even the peasants are laughing behind my back.”
The third man in the throne room stood out of the shadows, Master Assassin Haver Was so non nondescript that he could blend in with any crowd. “I have told you give me a free hand and the guild will find him and retrieve the medallion, 100 Gold pieces. Just say the word.''
“I am not ready for the Chaos you would cause to the country. Besides the Elves of Bramble Wood is just looking for an excuse to start a war. Right now it is a war we could not possibility win. But if I have the Medallion that would be proof that Prince Rafter De Louis was dead. The Cardinal would have no choice but to crown me King. John Mare ended the meeting by saying he was hungry and pulled the bell cord to summoned a page.
Haver was disgusted with the Regent not allowing him to put a deadly search together. He was sure he could get results and he probably only have to kill eight or nine people to get those results. He decided he would still keep his eyes open.
The Chamberlain was opposed to the Regent but since he enjoyed living he chose not to speak of his opposition of the Regent. That didn't mean he had to help him either. He looked back before leaving the Throne room in time to see the Regent slap the page for some minor infraction. He hated cruelty.
Rapper was relaxing in the Market square. He leaned against a post on the fringe of the square he had spent a silver at the sausage stand. The rest of his friends had tasks to complete. Rapper was glad he didn't have any tasks today. He watched the Nobles and Merchants and tapped in to the workings of their minds. He was still struggling to separate the different thoughts it was like trying to understand a maelstrom.
Then he felt a clear thought blasting at him.”I will find him then I will charge the Regent a fortune... he has to be here some where. “
Rapper was startled, he scanned the crowd but was unable to discern who the thinker might happen to be. No Luck, Rapper edged back and behind the vendors carts. He observed the square and tried to pick out the person with the errant thoughts but no luck. He hung out till almost dark before sticking to the shadows he made his way to the Keep.
The Elder was waiting for him...Rapper told him everything and how the voice had entered his mind with out him seeking. They talked and laid some guide lines for his attempts to hone his skills.
They were up till the wee hours and the candle was almost gone.
I was rudely awaken by the slamming of the door to my room. I raised my head expecting the Elder. Instead there was Apprentice Mage Arture. “Whats the matter Arture ? Are you crying? “
“It's Bean he's been taken by the City Guards.”
“He was standing outside a Nobleman's window. “
I rushed out on the street and found Lump with tears in his eyes, “It was my fault I was on watch. Last night I ate sumpin' that messed up my tummy. It hit me hard and I had to run to an outhouse. By the time I got back... they had him.”
“Nobleman Frane, you know next to Noble Pritcher.''
“Pritcher isn't that where Maggie works in the Kitchen...?” Maggie was one of our friends and she slips us goodies from the kitchen on occasion. Noble Pritcher knew about it but turned a blind eye. We classed him as a good Noble.
We went around to Noble Pritcher's kitchen an called to Maggie. We told her what had happened and she just smiled and said she knew what to do. Maggie was 16 and what we called a looker. She spoke to the cook then filled a basket with rolls and bread. When she came outside she told me to go with her
She told me not to talk unless she nodded. She stopped at the Guardroom and knocked on the door.
A guard opened and said, “What'cha want?”
Maggie smiled, “I was told one of your Guards took my delivery boy Silas”
The guard Captain stepped up and asked, “Well if he is your delivery boy why was he outside Noble Frane's house?”
“First time he has been there he just got the houses mixed up.”
The guard Capt. Said, “Well just who was he delivering too.”
Maggie looked at me and nodded. I smiled and spoke up, “He was to deliver them to me for the Wizards Keep, I am an Apprentice there they call me RD and I am sure the Elder is getting upset waiting on his bread.”
The Capt. Told the jailer to release Bean. When they brought him in the Capt admonished him and reminded him to be more careful from now on.
We all kept a straight face till we were well away from the guard room then we let out a sigh of relief. Maggie handed the basket to Bean and directed him to deliver it to the keep kitchen just in case the Guard Capt. Did a follow up.
Off sped Bean with the bread and we thanked Maggie profusely then I went to check on Sneaker.
Sneaker and Lump was standing with Mira on the street corner. I asked Sneaker, “Who were you doing the casing job for?”
Sneaker replied, “ Gomer''
“When you give him your report tell him that he should put off the job for at least two weeks. The guards are going to be watching the house just in case.” I pretended I over heard the Capt. Telling this to the guards. Really I had a moment of clarity and was able to pull this from his mind. He really wasn't sure we were telling the truth. The Cook, May, told me later the Guard had been around checking to see if the bread had been delivered.
May told him. “Yes are you hinting for a piece.” The guard stammered and thanked her when she cut him off a piece of bread and slathered a mess of cheese on it .
I was getting better at grasping one voice and clearing the rest of random chatter, The major problem was I still could not discern which mind was sending the thread. Then one day it was like a vision... I could see out of someone elses eyes and I had a clear path to his thoughts . I was still surprised when he grabbed a lady and drug her down an alley and began ripping her clothes off. When he pulled down her bodice and her white breast popped out I almost stumbled.
I ran to the alley while slipping my hand through the leather strap attached to the night stick. I turned into the alley as he was lifting her skirts, I could see her milky white thighs. I flicked out the night stick and it flashed out and made contact to his shoulder. He grunted and turned toward me, I noticed his size, he was a good ten inches taller than I was and he held a large knife in his hand.
I flicked the nightstick again the handle appeared to be headed for his face he put up his knife hand. The handle reached the length of the strap, the handle came to a stop. Inertia caused a pendulum effect and the end of the nightstick was on a collision course with his manhood which was in view. He was ready to take advantage of the lady. Then contact was made he screamed and went down. I rapped him across the back of the head and he went down and out.
The lady hadn't seen any thing her dress was still over her head. Momentarily I admired her wares, the first I had ever seen, oh well. I helped her up and directed her back to the square and told her to scream for a guard. While she followed my direction I slipped into the crowd and vanished.
The next day it was all over the square about the gallant rescuer of a Noble Lady that was almost raped.
The rapist had been captured but the gallant rescuer had disappeared. The Noble Lady's Father had offered a reward. Many attempts were made to collect it but none had the real story. I had kissed her inner thigh almost to the VEE before helping her up.
I often followed her when she came to the Market, but she never knew. I often thought of the musky smell I had been near and how I was drawn … I knew I had no chance with her not only was she of Noble birth but she was at least eight years my senior.
I began watching Mira more often and noticed the small protrusions on her chest. One day our group was outside the gate and romping through the woods and I fell in to the river. It was in a small cove where the water ran slow as to be gentle. To be truthful it was our swimming hole and we would have ended up there sooner or later. The next thing I knew the rest of them were in the water also. We played for hours then crawled out to enjoy the afternoon sun. Without thinking we all stripped off our shirts and laid them out to dry.
We were all laughing and joking till Mira raised back up from spreading her shirt as she set back she put her hands behind her and stretched with her eyes closed. Suddenly everyone went quite her breast with nipples the size of the 1st joint of a pinkie finger was standing proudly. None of us, except me, had ever seen a bare chested girl before.
Mira noticed the silence and opened her eyes and saw every one looking at her she said, “What?”
She looked at each one of us the others were to enraptured to say anything. She looked at me, I nodded my head and stared at her nipples again.
She looked down at her chest and her face turned Red and she put her arm across her chest and grabbed her shirt, turned her back and put her shirt back on. Sneaker couldn't leave it alone and asked, “Where did you get those, they sure are pretty.” We all nodded.
Mira jumped up and ran back to the City gate. Before following I had to explain all I knew about the birds and the bees. By the time we reached the gate they knew as much as me... which was almost nothing.
The years flew by and we grew up, Sneaker was still under 5' and could still get into small places. Bean was close to 6'5'' and still skinny but still quite strong. Lump was 6'2'' and weighed 220 all solid muscle. Mira was a vision her bosom was the size of small grapefruits. Her red hair appeared to be flames while her freckles were just enticing, this delectable package was on a 5'3'' frame. Her ears .had become more noticeable and cause many fights. I had grown a little as well I was 6' even and weighed 220 and no fat. I was 17.
John Mare De Louis had become a fat slob and his rule was becoming heavy handed on the people of the realm.
One day the Elder called me to his office and said, “The time has come the people are repressed and have been taxed till they can hardly buy food. The City Guards favor the masses but the palace guards seems to lean toward brutality.
After listening to the Elder I began to plan. The first thing was a whisper campaign I had my core group start the rumors.
“Have you heard, the real king has come of age, and he is not pleased with his Uncle. He is raising an army to reclaim his throne.
There were a large number of break-ins at Nobles and Merchants homes. It seemed odd that it was only the supporters of the Regent who were hit the hardest. A little Redheaded Elf paid a visit to the Bramble Wood elves.
A caravan consisting of two wagons pulled by huge draft horses. Wagon one was occupied by the Red headed Elf. The second by the Wizard Elder. The rest of us walked it took us a week to reach the border between Dulciana and Bramble Wood. There we stopped and set up camp. We made no overt moves in fact other than a night stick (mine) and a Staff (Elders) we carried no weapons. We all were a little uncomfortable in the fancy clothes the Elder had supplied. That is all but Mira she reveled in the finery she was dressed in today.
Each day as we made this trek that begun with six people. Each day others joined us, by the time we reached the border we were Two hundred fifty strong with more arriving daily. The Elder used his Magic only to provide food for the masses.
We waited at the border for four days. On the morning of the fifth day three Elves appeared in front of Mira's tent. Mira invited them into her tent and sent word to the Elder and I to join her. I entered the tent and stood behind Mira. While awaiting the Elder I observed the Elven party. Each was blond with hair to the shoulders, their noses were almost pointed. The stand out feature was their eyes, they seem to penetrate deeply into the soul of the person before them. All three of them were locked onto Mira not even acknowledging that I was even there.
They remained so until the Elder entered. He they acknowledged and slightly bowed. The Elder nodded and moved behind Mira next to me.
Mira spoke, “The rightful King of Dulciana has come of age and seeks an alliance to over throw the Usurper John Mare De Louis. I am Admira cousin to king Felies ruler of Bramble Wood. I by my own choice have lived in Dulciana to keep the peace between the two lands.”
“ The time has come to declare your recognition of the True King of Dulciana and to bring out the treaty of Bayer Bridge which our two countries vowed to support each other.”
The Three Elves, none looking to be over twenty, huddled together. Then one stepped forward, “I am Admiran brother of Admira and Cousin to King Felis. To my right is Sir Slender Shoot in Command of the Palace Guards. To my left, Prince Felieson, Crown Prince of Bramble Wood. Heed my words we have reluctantly kept our side ot the treaty of Bayer Bridge. All though it has been trying, John Mare has continued to raise tariffs for the goods we have imported to Dulciana. It has been almost useless to trade with them.”
Mira looked at me. I nodded, She stated, This will be evaluated and an agreed on tariff will be set for each lands imports.
Admiran continued, “How do we know the rightful King is prepared to agree and that he is ready.”
“Take our delegation before the King and all will be made clear.”
The Elves again huddled together, Admiran stepped forward, “ You will have our answer before the third Sun sets.” They turned and left the tent an the camp.
“Well what do you think, I said as I paced inside the tent.
The Elder as usual played his cards close to his chest and Mira said “I guess we will have to wait and see.” *******
The Elf delegation wasted no time before they were in the presence of King Felies. They bowed to the King but he waved it way … “Yes, Yes, what did they say ?”
Prince Felieson acted as their spokesman, “Father they said that if they were brought before you, all would be made clear. I think the young man is the rightful King. Our cousin Admira is to confidant for that not to be the case.”
King Felies asked them if they were aware of why Admira was raised in Dulciana. They all nodded “NO.”
The “Treaty of Bayer Bridge”
King Felies leaned back from the table and looked steadily at King Duval De Louis the ruler of Dulciana. They had been discussing the terms of the treaty which would make their friendship official. The final codicil of the treaty would be the eventual joining of the two family's. King Duval had a new born Grandson. King Felies had a female cousin In the direct line the two were bound to each other. She and her Mother would live in Dulciana and be raised with the Crown Prince's son. When he came of age they would be married.
Two years later King Duval and his son were dead...and the grandson was missing. King Felies did the best he could with the Treaty. He was still hoping the rightful ruler was still alive. And Now....
King Felies told his son, “Yes bring them before me.”
Mira had been aware of Rafe's identity for years. Once when they were swimming in the river she had seen the Medallion and recognized the Dragon of gold with green eyes. She kept her silence, she was aware of the Treaty and that she was promised to Rafe. She had always known …
She looked toward Rafe and smiled ….
There was a loud noise out side of the tent and people yelling a head was shoved into the tent and an Elf yelled, “Quickly you have to get across the Bridge. Dulciana's Army is on the march.”
We all rushed across the bridge only to be swallowed up by the Elven Army. A squad of them took down the tents and hitched the wagons and brought it all across the bridge. Then the Elven Army lined their side of the border. At the Bridge itself was a group of Elven Mages Led by the wizard Elder.
An Elf walked to the center of the Bridge with a paint brush and bucket of paint, He drew a line three inches wide and wrote Dulciana on their side of the line and Bramble Wood on the other.
In less than an hour the Dulciana Army came into view. Nearer and nearer they came till they were at the bridge. The Baron who was leading the Army walked to the center of the bridge and was close to stepping over the line when the elves on the bridge lowered there Lances toward the Baron's chest. He stopped and backed up. Only then did he notice the freshly painted border.
The Elven Commander asked the Baron, “What business do you have in Bramble Wood.”
The Baron stated, “I have been dispatched to arrest a traitor.”
“And just who is this traitor and what did he do?”
“ I am not sure of his actual ID but he is one of four street kids, and as to what he actually did I don't know. What I do know is he is wanted by the King John Mare De Louis.”
The Commander smiled, “As you can see we have near 300 refugees and at least 50 of them fits that category. But first King Felies has informed me he does not Recognize anyone named John Mare De Louis as any thing... except as a criminal.”
“I advise you to turn this ragtag bunch around before My archers lose their strength and loose the 100 arrows that are aimed at you and yours.” “ On the Count of ten My Lancers are going to clear this Bridge.”
The Baron began to back away from the bridge and set up camp. He set up a bridge watch at the Dulciana bridge end. The Elves did the same at their end. Traffic was not stopped on the Bridge but was closely scrutinized.
A messenger was received at Mira's tent and she was informed that King Felies was ready to receive them.
A few hours later they were ushered in to King Felies's presence. King Felies asked for introductions.
Mira stated, “I you know but I am Admira Cousin to you King Felies and promised to Rafter De Louis.”
Rafe's mouth dropped wide open not in disappointment, just surprise.
Mira continued, “You also know the Wizard Elder, The rather small gent is Lonnie Better known as Sneaker. Next to hin is Silas Better known as Bean, Next to him is Tom also known as Lump. Last but not least is Rafter De Louis, known as The Rapper or Rafe or just RD. The rightful King of Dulciana.”
All of his friends were mouth agape never suspecting their friend was a Royal. King Felies says, Lets see proof.”
Rafe stepped forward and reached inside his Tunic and removed the medallion...The green eyes of the gold dragon transfixed all who saw it. All of Rafe's friends dropped to their knees and bowed before him. He told them to stop bowing it made him uncomfortable.
“ I was raised by The Elder and by Mamma Ceil, My mother was Rebecca and my Father was Crown Prince Duvalson, Son of King Duval De Louis. Both were killed by Assassin Haver by order of John Mare De Louis.”
Word has been sent to the Cardinal that I have come of age.
“I accept the betrothal of Admira, I looked at Mira and she was blushing and smiling, Wedding to take place after I am crowned.”
I turned back to King Felies and asked, “Sire what say yee?”
He looked to the Elder, “Elder what is your story?” ********
“ I will first tell Mama Ceil”s story. I was folding clothes in a tent out side the village of Collie while my charge Rafter De Louis played on the floor. My mistress Princess Rebecca rushed in and told me John Mare's men were searching every tent. She said I was to take Rafter to the elder. She removed the medallion from her neck and placed it on Rafter's neck and told him never ever lose it ..He was three.”
“He and I crawled through a tear in the rear of the tent. We slid out and down to the river which was near. I waded out in the river and holding Rafter I turned on my back with Rafter between my breast we floated down the river.”
“We neared the Bayer Bridge, I directed us to the Dulciana bank. We followed the roadway although we stayed in the forest. There were merchants traveling along the road which allowed me to snitch enough food to keep us going. It took us almost two weeks to make our way to the Elder's Keep. We arrived near the hour of noon but waited till almost dusk before knocking and asking for the Elder.”
“ I was enjoying a glass of ale when I heard a pounding on the door of the keep I was alone my compatriots were all on errands. There was not many of us to begin with. I am Mage Sabron but called Elder. Also abiding in the Keep was Mage Aquinas, Mage Arture, Arture's apprentice Jody and their cook/maid, May.”
I went to the door and opened it to find a woman and a babe, they both were filthy. “Yes can I help you.” The woman spoke.
“My Mistress Rebecca said that the time would come and we was to come to the Keep and here we are.”
I said , “Well yes you are but who are you and time for what.”
The Woman's face turned red and she stammered and stuttered and then said, “Oh I forgot Rafe show him the medallion”
The boy pulled out the medallion, I got flustered and told him to put it away and pushed them into the keep. I made him a leather bag to put the medallion in it had a drawstring so it kept the medallion covered. Mama Ceil helped May in the kitchen until she came down with the Ague and died I think the boy was about eight. By that time he was already the protector of the weak.
“I knew he had a magic background so I began to train him. To insure he learned everything I also recruited all his friends so they also have been schooled except in magic. I did not try to influence them but allowed them to view the world and to make up their on minds. I am proud to say the weak and downtrodden have always been taken care of by these few. They also learned from the street and learned to bypass the cruel. “
“One other thing Look at him closely. Now the picture that was painted at the signing of the Bayer Bridge. Look close at his Grandfather.”
Every one turned to the picture hanging on the wall. It looked like an older Rafe. The elder said, That is all I have to say.”
King Felies thought about all that he had been told and all he had seen. He remembered his friends voice and was surprised to hear that voice coming out of this young man.
The King rang for a page and told him make ready rooms for my party. I stopped him and told him that we have over 250 followers at the River I will stay with them, my friends nodded that they agreed.
We departed for the camp. As soon as we arrived the Baron was asking to speak with me. I met him at the center of the bridge.
“Might I see the Medallion.” I removed it from my tunic. He stared at it. “I must do some thinking I was sure you were dead and with that thought in mind to try and protect my people. He asked and I gave my oath. Now I know not what to do.”
I looked deep into his heart and said, “I am sure the right decision will be made. In fact I would bet there will be a lot of soul searching going on.”
I heard a noise and looked over my shoulder to see a contingent of the Elven Army began lining the River. Their Commander walked onto the bridge and Handed the Baron a scroll. He opened it and read aloud.
To John Mare De Louis, “We the kingdom of Bramble Wood do here by recognize the rightful King of Dulciana ' Rafter De Louis'.
In so doing I King Felies place the Army of Bramble Wood as his to Command.
The is a formal Declaration of War, Not with Dulciana but with the armies of the Usurper John Mare De Louis. You are here by given Five Days to answer .
Signed: King Felies
Ruler of the Kingdom of Elves Known as Bramble Wood
The Baron ordered his men to fall in... and departed at once... The Baron called his fastest runner and gave him the scroll to deliver to the Regent.
Upon reaching the crossroad, straight was to Dulci, right was to his Land Holdings. Baron Phelps hesitated then called a halt. He called all his Officers to a meeting.
He looked to each one, some had been with him for years and some just a short time. “Our long lost King Rafter De Louis has come of age and is demanding his rightful place, to the dismay of the regent. A few years ago I gave an oath to the Regent.” He noticed some shuffling and whispering among them.
“Twenty years ago I also gave my Oath to defend the Crown. Since the Crown belongs with Rafter De Louis and not the Regent that is the oath I must honor.”
“Any of you who wish to be absolved from your oath to me and wish to follow the Regent is free to do so. But first I wish you to speak these words to your men. I leave for my home in one hour. All who wish to honor their oaths can follow. All who wish to follow the Regent may depart with honor.”
The Baron's Page lay a cloak in the shade of a mighty Oak. The Baron sat and leaned back and closed his eyes. From the noises he was hearing there must be quite a discussion going on. After a few minutes … nothing but silence. He nodded off to sleep.
Until his page gently shook him, “Baron the hour has past.”
The Baron opened his eyes to see all his troops lined up and prepared to move out on the path to the right. He stood walked to his horse and said, “Very Well Mount UP.” He tried to hide his emotion as he brushed a wayward tear from his eye.
“Messenger, take this Message to King in Waiting Rafter De Louis. We the men of Baron Phelps Stand to your right.”
Even before the Baron could reach his estate the power of gossip had raised its ugly head. It had been shouted throughout the lands that Baron Phelps Favored the King in Waiting. As he rode into the grounds of the Estate there were messengers from his fellow Nobles wishing to confirm his decision. Some were condemning him but most were aligning with him and offering their help.
I stepped out of the tent to a blast of noise . I was almost stunned, overnight the supporters had increased to over a thousand men and women. There was also a line of messengers awaiting his attention. One by one he read the messages. The list of support by the Nobles was staggering. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Baron Phelps had been the first to issue his support.
I sent message to them all accepting their support and asking them to Join me for a meeting and to bring their second in command as well. The Elves set up tents and supplied food stuffs. We searched through our people and was soon able to fill the tents with cooks and kitchen help.
Bean and Sneaker began interviewing our masses. It took over two weeks to establish what each was good at. The first and most important was Scouts and Runners. It was a welcome to know we had a core group to train others. They consisted of twelve lancers and eight archers all thanks to the City Guard. They were led by the Captain of the Guard I smiled when I learned they had brought the entire armory of the City Guards. I had the Captain set up companies and squads and begin training.
It wasn't long till the ladies were making vests with a Green Eyed Gold Dragon in the center on a field of blue. I was even more surprised when a spar was erected and a silk flag of Blue with the same Dragon represented. I never knew where the material came from.
I was most surprised by the lack of response from John Mare. I had sent scouts into Dulci and awaited their return. Days later I had my answer. There was desention in the ranks and mass desertions. It was said he was hanging his own men. I guess you could say there was a trust issue.
According to the Scouts What was left were mercenary s and men who were just there for the money with no real desire for the sake of the Kingdom.
So this is war.
With the support of the Nobles and the peoples of the land we had an Army of about 10,000 strong. We knew we would be facing about 30,000 all better armed.
Lump surprised us all, he had a real gift of strategy. He told me we were missing and important item... Supply lines. Which were open to Dulci from the South. I assigned him a troop of fifty mounted men and named them Tom's Raiders. They traversed the miles to Dulcianas Southern border. They carried few supplies, which meant either make successful raids, live off the land or starve.
Lump, Tom, Lead his Raiders south never coming in sight of any road except when it was necessary to cross one. They scouted the roads entering Dulciana from Langdom to the south and to Arrington to the East. Their fourth day they heard the squeaking of the axles of a heavily loaded wagon. As the wagon with five outriders entered the clearing which was ringed by the raiders. When they were completely inside the clearing, including the 4 outriders at the rear..
The archers stepped out of the bushes with their Bows fully drawn. Lump spoke, “ Well gentlemen please lay down your weapons and step away from them. You two on the wagon get down. Please lay face down on the ground with arms and legs spread.”
Each were checked over and knives and night sticks removed from their person. Their hands and feet were bound. Lump placed two men in the wagon and started it onto Bramble Wood Border.
“I am sure it will not take you long to free your self. I suggest you turn back to Langdom and not return. If you had put up a fight all of you would now be dead and we would have all regretted it. But none more than you.”
Lump had given orders for the wagon to move as fast as it comfortably could toward the rest of the army. They were also prepared to ride like the dickens at the crossroads to Dulci.
He was not aware that there was a squad on watch near the cross road Which escorted them the rest of the way.
Each day they would watch an incoming road and were averaging at least I shipment a week.
Dulciana sent out troops to try to protect the incoming supplies. The raiders ambushed them and wiped them out to a man.
After a month the Dulciana Army began to move. We nipped at their heels and ran away. When they chased us we would ambush them. Their losses was about 10 to 1 of ours. Theirs was an Army while ours was a bunch of skirmishers or back alley fighters... We didn't fight fair.
John Mare brought in Mages from Drummond which was to the North west We wondered what he was promising them. The Elder had warded our raiders against magic. We attacked their rear with arrows then rode away. The Mages were frustrated when their spells returned toward them and they had to go on defense against their own spells. We found out later that John Mare had not told them anything about the Elder supporting us and he knew nothing about me, and that I too knew magic.
With out informing most of my officers or King Felies I left camp with four scouts and Mage Arture. Our plan was to sneak as close as we could to Baron Ronin's HQ tent. Baron Ronin had designated himself as General Ronin.His only thing that qualifed him to be a General was... he was the richest Noble in the Kingdom. Also the most arrogant and the least knowledgeable of how to run an army.
His officers were getting very frustrated.
I cast my mind into the tent. As usual there was an argument going on. Captain Cross of the Palace guards and Major Nells of the Dulciana Army were already at their wits end. It was impossible to get through to General Ronin that you could not attack some one who was already gone. The General decided they would leave a squad of Calvary behind. Then when the Raiders slipped in behind they could attack and wipe them out.
When we arrived back at the Camp, we made our own plans. Rather than attacking the rear we honed in on the right flank. We held back a reserve and when his trailing Calvary came around to attack our raiders they were met with our reserves and a hail of arrows.
To embarrass them more Sneaker slipped in and stole the Dulciana Flag. We hoisted it up the spar where our Dragon flag flew. It was flown second to our Dragon.
It would have been simple to take out General Ronin. But he was their worst enemy so we left him alone.
King Felies was very incensed when he discovered my scouting foray. “What in the world did you mean by leading that scouting party? Kings don't lead raids they direct from the back ground.”
I looked at him and smiled, “ As yet I am not a King, and I do not follow...I lead... by example.”
I talked with Mira and Sneaker, Mira had an idea to scare the hell out of Dulciana troops. For three days one tent was a beehive of activity and only a certain few were allowed in. Late on the third day Mira walked out of the tent and nodded to me. Three of the smaller scouts who were experts in stealth and Sneaker all entered that tent... nothing else happened. Soon it was forgotten.
The camp of Baron Ronin began to stir....Then it turned into a male storm... Each was holding and looking at a small piece of parchment. Baron walked out of his tent also holding a piece of parchment , demanding to know who was responsible for the parchment....
He looked back down at his which was on a piece of rawhide and was around his neck. The parchment had a drawing of a dagger and the words you could be dead ...next time for real. He started screaming where are the guards... they were found with their throats cut and a piece of parchment held to their chest by a dagger.
For the next week there were desertions and some worn out soldiers that appeared to have not slept for awhile. Every night someone was killed in their sleep and Baron Ronin collected another piece of parchment.
Before the last part of the plan could be put into play Assassin Haver had his try. I began getting reports of a black clad figure fliting in and out of tents around camp... In some cases there was a body to go along with the report. Elder immediately said an assassin I added Haver.
I begin to browse with my mind...near evening time I started to pick up traces of Haver. I turned in about 11 pm. At about 2 am I said, “ NOW ! “
Sneaker removed the cover from a lamp and light blazed into the unsuspecting eyes of Haver. Elder stepped into the tent and enwraped Haver in magical restraints. Haver tried to turn his head towards me and spit.
I was expecting something of the sort and sent a magical force into his face which cause him to swallow what he tried to spit at me. He began to gasp and his face began to have a bluish tint and he crumpled.
Elder checked him over and said he was dead. He and I using our magic and not touching the body carried the body to a cairn outside of camp which we had prepared earlier in the day. We placed the body on the cairn and set the pyre alight. First we warned everyone in camp to stay away and especially not to breathe the smoke.
The two army's had been camped close for weeks each trying to be an irritant to the other. It was almost a war of attrition. But we had plans, and I assume they did too. We just had to be first.
On the first day of Winters Chill... Baron Ronin awoke to silence, he dressed and threw back the tent flaps To find himself facing Sil Slender Shoot and Silas Bean. It was almost amazing when the soft spoken Bean unleashed his true vocalizations of his stately rich baritone voice.
“General Ronin You are surrounded by the forces of free Dulci and the army of Bramble Woods.. For your treasonous acts you are hereby stripped of all land and titles and exiled with only the clothes on your back. Or you will be put to death by hanging...I almost forgot if you accept option one...and ever decide to return. Option two is automatically enforced.
Ex Baron Ronin was escorted by Tom's raiders to the border of Langdom. He was pushed across the border begging for at least a horse... which he did not get.
With the addition of Baron Phellps army, our Volunteers and the Army of Bramble Wood we decided it was time to take the war to John Mare
King Filies called a meeting and after much discussion we came to a decision... We wished to make them worry as well as to pay. We decided to make it seem as if we were on parade. We put up a facade of joyous playing around. As if we had not a care in the world. The truth was we had thousands of mouths to feed.
In each camp the Elder assigned an apprentice who fed the troops by magic with platters of piping hot food. Our daily marches were short not starting till near 10 am and stopping nigh 4 pm.
On the third day John Mare's army took the bait. They moved up to attack as we would be making camp for the evening. What they didn't expect was before they could get the word to attack...Arrows came flying out of the trees all around them.. They lost over a hundred and sixty men that day and the surrender of fifty more
They thought they had laid the perfect ambush of an unwary group. When in essence they had been missing one detail. First a number of scouts would search out the next nights camp ground. Only one would return to act as guide.
Second as dusk began to fall a troop of about fifty men would peel off into the night. They would go to the next nights camping area and prepare an ambush. When John Mare's soldiers moved through they did not realized they were passing with in inches of our men.
There was a watch kept on their Officers and the attack came before he could give his orders to attack the camp. From our positions we were driving them toward the camp where they were met by... Number three, a well placed group of lancers.
We lost three injured and two dead..... We heard their Army was disgruntled and saying things like we don't fight fair.
The days turned into a week before the walls of Dulciana loomed into sight The buildings outside the walls were empty
I rode up to the Gate “John Mare come out and face me... You have been trying to kill me for over 17 years.... “ I heard a swishing noise and a soldier's body hit the ground in front of me. I glanced to the side . Admiran was notching another arrow... he smiled.
We had scouts in trees, not close enough to make an attack of any sort but they were not there for that purpose. They were there to observe and report. Each scout had a long glass and watched and re ported the gathering of John Mare's mercenary Army. Soon we would engage.
Again we used subterfuge … we grew up in that town and all of us knew how to enter and leave without being seen. Again the Wizards Keep played an important part. In the basement of the Keep was a secret passageway that opened into the tack room of the barn in the Smithy. The Smithy and corral was just inside the wall of the town.
Once inside we could scatter throughout the town. Our first night, Lump, Bean and Sneaker went in checking the access. The second night each of them led a group of fifteen men each, our stealth fighters.
They hit the barracks and the guard shack near the North and south gate. They set fire to the barracks then attacked the soldiers as they tried to escape. They never knew what hit them nor how to respond. This was our manner of harassment for two weeks. John Mare's troops were tired but afraid to sleep. They were making mistakes, just what we were waiting for.
The next thing was to take out the guards on the west wall, open the gate and to fill the square with our troops all before John Mare's Army awakens.
John Mare De Louis awoken to men shouting and the clatter of weapons falling to the ground. He rolled out of bed and looked at his empty table and was instantly angry. That lazy Perdon was late with his Breakfast again. He pulled his bell chime cord angrily three times.
On the third pull his door opened...He was all set to rail against Perdon when he saw that the two men entering his chambers were armed and their Sashes were the colors of Green and Gold. Not his Red and Black he rushed to his weapons.
They smiled and one of them said, “ By all means arm thy self Just as Crown Prince Rafter desires you.We are here to escort you to the battle yard. “
John Mare grabbed a lance, his Sword and a brace of throwing knives. Thinking to himself, “This kid has never had any training with weapons...What chance does he have against me, a sword master.”
** Truth be known John Mare was not near as good as he thought...I mean seriously if you are practicing with an unstable King just how hard are you going to try to win.**
Bean and Lump escorted John Mare to the Battle yard. He entered and found himself alone he looked above at the viewing area... it was full of Men, Women and Elves. The 1st face he recognized was the Chancellor the second the Cardinal.
The door began to open, John Mare drew his sword, he was ready.
He almost burst out laughing...The young man who entered, he assumed was his nephew, was only armed with a nightstick dangling from a rawhide cord.
“Good Morning Uncle... I was told I had to give you a chance, Thus I chose to face you with a nightstick. Since I don't wish to kill you, only beat you senseless I thought it only fitting.
John Mare smirked and said, “Quit crying and lets get on with it so I can eat breakfast.” All the time he had been talking he was moving towards Rafe.
As he drew near and was ready to swing his sword. Rafe's nightstick struck like a snake hitting the knuckles of the hand holding the sword which clattered to the ground. The audience roared. John Mare was stunned not seeming to understand what had happened.
Rafe backed off to allow him to pick up his sword. Never taking his eyes off Rafe, John Mare reached for his sword. Thinking Rafe a fool he again started forward. He had taken two steps when the nightstick flicked out again and caressed his elbow... His arm went numb and his sword again fell to the floor.
John Mare realized the sword was useless. He lowered the lance he had been holding in his left hand. Rafe was watching his every move. When John Mare made his thrust, at the last instant Rafe stepped to the side and flicked out the nightstick it met John Mare's chin with a cracking sound.
John Mare was so keyed up he didn't seem to realize his jaw was broken. He swept the lance to ward Rafe who stepped back and loosed his nightstick. John Mare thought he was prepared and whipped his head back. Again the fulcrum effect took over and the nightstick took the lower path. The only thing that saved his manhood is that he had turned his body. The nightstick struck his left thigh bruising it deeply.
John Mare was finding it difficult to stand. He retained the lance but was now using it as a cane. Rafe flicked out the nightstick again in the direction of John Mare's left wrist. He retaliated by swinging the lance butt striking Rafe in the rib cage, cracking a couple of ribs. Rafe missed with his attack.
John Mare tried to follow up on his good fortune, pull his dagger and lunged forward. The night stick was already on the way headed for his manhood. John Mare's lunge put his head in the way and the night stick caught him square in the forehead and down he went.
Rafe waited but there was no movement from John Mare, Sir Slender Shoot and his medical man Fever entered the Yard,. Fever felt for a pulse and nodded, yes there was a pulse he was just unconscious. Slender Shoot called for three men. They trussed John Mare up like a Christmas Turkey.
I looked up to the Audience and announced. “He will have a fair trial, “
I Looked around as they drug John Mare to the dungeon. “Runners take a message to Langdom, Drummond and Chelsea And any other near by Country we have dealings with, speak to the Chancellor, asking them to send a representative. To sit at this trial they must also have authority to negotiate Import export Tariffs. Also Must Represent their Country. In my Coronation and wedding to take place, I turned to the Chancellor and motioned...”
The Chancellor spoke quickly, “ Six Weeks for the trial and in two months for the festivities.”
“Also I wish a runner be sent to Mountain Home for a Dwarf representative to be here as well.”
Time seemed to drag even with all that had to be done, The household staff had the Palace to clean up and prepare for all the guests. It had been decided that the Coronation and the wedding would be held in the Court Yard so that all who wished could attend...after all I did grow up on the streets.
I made a few appointments, Lonnie/Sneaker to head the Intelligence corp. Silas/Bean Secretary and Treasurer, Tom/Lump Head of the Palace Guards and Baron Phelps Commander General of the Army of Dulci.
Six very active weeks went by and the Dwarfen Representative, Smash Stumpf Foot, had arrived. The trial began... “John Mare De Louis You are charged with High Treason and Regicide How do you plead.”
John Mare stared around the Court room, “ How dare you . You have no right to try me I am a King...!”
There was chuckles and noise from the spectators. King Felies shouted “S I L E N C E” As acting Judge and a King the silence was instanious. “We will take that as a not guilty plea.”
The first witness was Mama Ciel's younger sister. “My name is Myra”
The Chancellor, acting as Prosecutor asked her what she had to offer at this trial.
My Mother had been a Ladies Maid and my older sister was as well. My Mother died in child birth and my sister Ciel raised me. Ciel was Ladies maid to Princess Rebecca she spoiled me. I was always hiding and eavesdropping. She would laugh at the things I told her, she thought I was making them up. One day when I was seven and Prince Rafter was a Babe I overheard John Mare and a man he called Haver Talking.”
John Mare said “Haver I will give you 100 Gold to assassinate The King and his family.”
“How do you want it done?”
“I don't care Make them pay but make sure you get the Medallion from around Duvalson's neck.”
I didn't understand what assassinate meant and I got sidetracked and went to play with my friends. Later I asked my sister what assassinate meant. She asked me why and I told her. She told Princess Rebecca and I had to tell the story again. Princess asked me if they said when.
I said, “They said something about a boar hunt.”
Princess Rebecca got all excited and said “That is today.” She had Ciel grab a few things and they left the Palace. I never saw them again. “Later that evening a messenger brought John Mare a note saying the King and his Son was dead.
After that John Mare tried to get Crowned King But the Cardinal refused unless he had the Medallion proving he was the last of the family line.
“John Mare was ruthless he had servants beaten for no reason and he raped the castle ladies including me.”
John Mare Leaped up and yelled it was his right to rape the women he was the king.
The Chancellor answered,” It was not your right and you are not and never have been King.”
Many were called but none spoke for John Mare. It was really a farce as Trials goes. The verdict was known by everybody.
King Felis stood and told John Mare to rise. “John Mare De Louis you have been tried and convicted by a court of your Countrymen. You have been found guilty of High Treason, Regicide as well as later added Rape charge. I argued vehemently for the Death Penalty but soon to be King Rafter De Louis argued for a more lenient sentence of life in the mines. Smash Stumpf Foot Take him away he is all yours.”
John Mare De louis screamed NO NO as Stumpf Foot placed him in chains.
I was glad for that part to be over and it seems like everyone was in agreement. The moment John Mare was pulled through the door and it shut behind him. I stepped forward and...
“Ladies and Gentlemen The Wedding will take place in Two Weeks from today. One week Later the Coronation will take place.”
The Wedding was a frantic rush between beating out Trade Concessions and agreements and trying on Wedding Clothes. Finally the day arrived. The wedding was held in the City Square. This was necessary since I had Promised no one would be turned away.
I had never seen such finery in this city and then Mira stepped out escorted by her Father, The Elder agreed to stand with me.
We turned and Knelt in front of the Cardinal. “We are gathered here together to join these two. Crown Prince Rafter De Louis and Princess Admira Felies....That is the last I remember till I heard the Cardinal said I now pronounce you Husband and Wife... You may kiss your Bride.
I hesitated, Mira said, “ Go ahead I won't Hit you... “
I smiled and gathered her in my arms and we shared our first Kiss... then we disappeared to our Chamber which was kept personal.
The reception lasted two full days and the Chancellor stated well there goes the treasury just to feed the crowd.
The next few days we finished hammering out the trade agreements. And then it was time.
The Cardinal read the rites of the Coronation as Mira and I again knelt before him and then...” I crown you King Rafter De Louis King Of The land of Dulci. He took the Crown from The Elder and placed it upon my head. Then he completed the ritual for Mira. Admira Felies I crown you Queen of The land of Dulci thus Joining the Two lands of Dulci and Bramble Wood. May God Bless and Guide you both in your Rule. “