Steven and Alex have some lunch, and Meet the King. Steven picks a fight.
| Steven and Alex were carried into the fortress away from the group Rox and Diana were in. Steven was not yet concerned with Rox and Diana. So long as they were together, he felt they would come out all right. Steven and Alex’s procession went up a large stair way, down a hall, and around and up several smaller stairs ways. Finally they were brought into a private banquet hall. From his last time in the palace, Steven figured they were in a non-public wing.|
This was a medium sized hall with windows on one side; rows of tables were arranged around the room. The cage did not allow much detailed examination of the room. The procession entered on the short end of a long room, and turned to the left and proceeded around the outside perimeter of the room under the tall windows. As they turned, Steven was able to get a look at Alex. He was visibly scared, but not panicked. As he looked at the trophies on the inner walls Steven realized that the styles were too diverse to have all come from local smiths. They had come from conquered armies. Steven wondered where his and his son’s swords might go, if they stayed. He then wondered just how this was going to turn out.
Their cages were marched around the hall and the tables and stopped at the corner of the row. There was a man in rich dress standing to receive them. The cages were set down. The litter with all their stuff was put down on a side table in front of the man.
The man looked the litter over. He drew Alex’s sword from the pile, and set it aside, apparently recognizing its general origin. He then drew Steven’s sword out, and unsheathed it. He tested it, feeling its weight and balance. He then turned it over in his hand admiring the blade and the hilt. For all of its history, so far as Steven knew it, it was a very plain sword; purely functional and sharp.
He put the sword down on the pile and stepped away. He ordered Steven and Alex’s pants pulled from the pile and given to them as he moved to the chair at the head of the table, where a steward helped to seat him.
Two guards each pulled Steven and Alex out of the cages, took the blankets, unbound their arms, and handed them each a pair of trousers. One ankle at a time was unbound then rebound as they put the pants on. Steven then tried to move to his son’s side, but was held to his place. Despite being bound and separated, Steven still felt upbeat.
The cages were taken beside the fire place on the inner wall and dismantled, the component wood stacked for the fire.
The man watched Steven and Alex. “I am the king of this country. Please sit down.”
The King had been toying with some food after sitting down. He motioned Steven and Alex to some spots on the side as more food was brought in. The tables were arranged in two concentric U’s. The King sat to the center of the outer base.
Stewards took up place near an entrance across the room from Steven. The remaining guards scattered, with two flanking Steven and Alex holding on to the chains as they sat down; Alex moved to Steven’s right, away from the King. They were close enough to converse, with slightly loud projected voices, and so the King did as he commenced to eat.
“After you retrieved your children, why did you come here?”
Steven smelled the meat. It did not smell foul, so he took some and a roll and made a sandwich of it. Alex followed suit.
Steven then spoke. “We figured that your troops would continue to pursue us. So we decided to cut the pursuit short and come see you in person.”
The three ate for a moment.
“What do you hope to accomplish?”
“This prophecy we learned about, that told of all this. We hoped to speed its end. And end all the silly chasing around. We came to stop you and yours.”
They continued eating.
Just then, Roxanne and Diana’s stuff flashed and disappeared from the litter. The flash got the attention of all in the room.
The King looked at the two guards by the main door. “Send to see what is going on down there.”
One of the guards left the room. Steven and Alex looked at each other as the guard ran by.
“Mom’s causing trouble again.”
“I dare say she is.”
They ate and finished their sandwiches. There was not anything else to do until they could get to their swords.
A guard came back, running, and slid to a stop near the end of the table by that entrance. “The mother and the Queen fight.” A nearby explosion punctuated the report.
Alex smiled again. “Mom’s causing trouble.”
The King smiled at Alex’s boldness then turned back to the guard. “The Queen can take care of herself. But have guards ready to enter the Arbor should she loose.”
The guard saluted and left as fast as he came.
The King looked at Steven. “If the Queen wins, you will be joining her. Your son will stay here and be taught all he needs to. If your wife wins, she will be brought before us.”
Steven thought about this. Then decided that now was as good a time as any. He grabbed the chains and yanked them out of his captor’s hands. He stood and used the chains to thrash the guard to his left, and moved for his sword. None of the guards moved to stop him save the one by the litter. Steven lowered his shoulder into him and smashed him into the wall. Steven then had his own sword in hand and turned to face any comers. There were several arrows ready, but all waited.
Only the King moved, having yelled for his men to stay as they were. He stood from the table, and drew his sword from where it had been put down. He then pointed to the guard that Steven had not attacked. “You. Unbind his chains, and take them away.”
Steven was not sure of this, but let it happen. He then scooped up his shirt and pulled it on. He shifted hands with his sword, not wanting to set it down. He stepped back to the table, and tossed down a drink. It was a weak wine. It cleared his mouth, and deadened his thirst.
Steven was now as ready as he was going to get a chance to be. He turned to face the King, who had come to the head of the isle between the table and the wall.
“It had been a while since I have been on the battle field, or a dueling pitch. I could have my guards shoot you down now, but that would not be personally satisfying.”
They saluted each other as they stood. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Both men took that as the cue to close the distance and commence, their movements punctuated by the ring of their swords. Both realized that they wielded the wrong swords for actual fencing, and so moved toward a style more fit for their weapons.
Steven was quickly aware that this man had more skill and experience. Steven was younger and thus better shape, but that was dulled by 6 days in a cramped cage with barely any water or food. He gave ground, as he got warmed up. Then he realized that he did not have to win. Just stay alive until Alex could get into this.
The King was simply enjoying the challenge, though he quickly realized his advantage. And that for what ever reason the magic of his equipment was not running. So much more the challenge.
Steven relaxed as best he could and watched his opponent, working to get to the level of perception where he could see the moves start. Once he got there it did not make things easier, just less strenuous to defend against. Fighting with broad swords was going to wear both men out. Not that they really fenced with them; it was more like knocking the other person’s sword aside and see whether you could then hurt him. Steven knew he needed help, and Alex was all he was going to get. He stepped in and body checked the king against the wall, then ran for the pile of stuff. He knocked the guard there a second time, and took the top off another’s helmet while knocking that one’s sword aside.
He grabbed the hilt of Alex’s sword and pulled it from the pile swinging the whole pile aside and right into the King, using the sheathed sword for a club to knock the man over. One of the packs came open, spilling its contents. More thunder sounded. Closer this time.
Steven went to the table, clubbing one of Alex’s guards away, and stabbing the other causing his retreat. He put the sheathed sword down in front of Alex, and vaulted the table. “Cut the chains with your sword, and join me.”
Steven then backed away down the isle, as the King had vaulted the table and was coming after him. They continued their duel with more vigor. The guards tried to move to aid their Liege, but he ordered them to stop and stand away.
Alex drew his sword and ducked under the table. He turned to the bindings on his ankles, and cut the leather straps. One of the guards tried to drag him out by his chains, but only got just the chains and bindings. He tried to reach in after Alex, and got his hand sliced for it. Free of his restraints, Alex finished crossing under the table. As he started to get to his feet he felt the hair on his body start to rise, and he dropped to the floor covering his ears.
Two loud successive crashes of thunder shattered all the glass in the windows and on the table.
All in the room were staggered by the crashes, including Steven and the King. No glass fell off the table, or went beyond it from the windows, leaving Steven and the King a clear isle to fight in. Somehow the two had turned around and Steven was backing toward Alex. There were more than just guards in the hall now as ministers and bureaucrats had come to watch. Alex wanted to do something, but hide under a table was all he could think to do. As his dad and the King got back to where he was another crash of thunder went through the hall but this one sounded different than the rest.
Steven and the King went past, and Alex waited where he was for a moment. He then tried to grab the King’s legs, as Steven tried a lunge. Steven missed. The King just shook Alex off and into some chairs.
Neither man spoke, neither needing to. They stood with swords ready for a moment, breathing hard. Then they continued, swords ringing. Both starting to get through the others defenses and show nicks and cuts. Their swords were not in the best of shape either; broad swords were battlefield weapons, not dueling pitch weapons. Whenever Steven tried to choke up and on his sword, or otherwise close the range, the King was able to defend against it, risking Steven’s fingers. Alex got up from the chairs, holding his sword at an instinctive ready and followed the King.
Steven was at the cross isle of the tables when he saw Alex peripherally, then had to change his attention as a change came over Alex’s face. He looked more serious and solemn than ever before. Suddenly Steven was more concerned over Alex than he was of this King.
The King saw the diversion of Steven’s attention and was about to take advantage of it, when he suddenly felt he better see what would divert Steven’s attention. He deflected Steven’s sword wide away, and used the momentum to spin on one foot to see behind him. It was only the boy with his sword.