A young farm girl undertakes a fantastic and perilous journey in a Medieval like world.
|The Lone Traveler
The Lone Traveler
A bitterly cold rain poured down from the dark heavens. Spring was nearing and the incessant rain was becoming monotonous and dangerous, producing mudslides and overtopping streams and rivers and creating widespread flooding. The long procession from the great cathedral was wet and miserable. Even His Holiness, Cardinal Vicarius, who led the procession like a fat soaked rat, his fine vestments dripping and clinging to his rotund body looked miserable. King George rested in a pure glass coffin, his regal features looking much better in death than they did in life. The long eulogy was finally at an end and everyone, including the Queen, was more than anxious to have it over and done with. From the cathedral, the king’s body would be taken beneath the castle to the family crypt and laid to rest with his forefathers. He would be remembered by royal decree as a great king, but most would remember him as, that monster George.
As soon as the body of the king had been entered in his stone sarcophagus, Queen Denize rushed to her private chambers to bathe and don dry clothing. When she was warm and had consumed her noon meal, she instructed her guards to ask Ser Thoragild to attend to her. She had to make plans for the future and to secure her positon as Queen Regent; she could allow no other to assume such a powerful role. Thankfully, the king’s assassin had gone the way the others had perished, turned into white powder, so, no finger of guilt could be pointed in her direction. The key to everything was Ser Thoragild; he must become the Queen Regent’s Protector, her protector. Even though Lord Alwaythe and Lord Smythwaite would demand their slice of the great pie, they were not the type of men for her to depend on, dark secrets or no.
It was almost half a bell before Ser Thoragild arrived. Her guards quickly led him into her private chambers. She knew that her guards, even the old king’s guards, highly favored Ryykon Thoragild and looked up to him as a master strategist and acclaimed warrior.
“There are other things more important than coming when your queen orders?” She asked, flashing a coy smile as the rugged warrior entered her private chambers.
Ryykon was exhausted from the lengthy preparations for the king’s burial, the overblown ceremony, the nasty weather, the infighting with the king’s generals, and from information he had just received which did not cast a good light on the queen’s past behavior. He sincerely hoped that he could quickly resign his position as the King’s Protector and retire back to his little school at Dragon Hill.
“Important things yes, Your Royal Majesty,” he replied, noting that she had removed all other chairs from the room and left only a place on the settee next to her for him to sit. “Very informative things also, I might add.”
Queen Denize raised an eyebrow then pointed at the place next to her with her elegant finger and said, “Sit,” as if she was commanding a pet to obey.
“The realm is in mourning and in trouble,” she stated, as he lowered his huge frame on to the small settee. “Prince Robert, soon to be King Robert, is in the hands of our erstwhile enemy, I have yet to be legally proclaimed Regent by that stupid Council of Nobles, our resources have been stretched to the breaking point by the extended military planning and the greedy nobles, and I have two powerful lords demanding positions of royal power. All I have on my side is you, Ryykon. I do have my dependable Ryykon on my side, don’t I?
“The two lords of whom you are referring are Alwaythe and Smythwaite I assume?” Ryykon replied with a grin, “Two of your associate provocateurs.”
“Why would you include me among men like that?” she asked. “I have always been loyal to George and to the realm. What I have done has always been in the best interest of both.”
Ryykon spoke in a serious tone; “Such as the death of Ser James Schermon and his two sons, John and Philip, the confiscation of their property, and the selling of his family into bondage. I suppose that was for the genuine good of the realm?”
Queen Denize appeared to be stunned by the words. It took a few moments for her to compose herself. “How, may I ask, do you know about that?
“I have friends in very low places,” Ryykon smiled. “Don’t go beheading your servants in a frenzy of chopping, like poor Albair and others I could mention, they had nothing to do with how I got the information. Needless to say, I cannot in all possible honor, continue to serve someone I cannot trust or respect.”
“You are tending your resignation as the King’s Protector?”
“With all my will,” Ryykon replied. “I do not wish to be ensnared in royal politics and deadly conniving and subterfuge. I have had a belly full of would be generals and pompous lords and conceited knights. My place is not in the middle of your royal quagmire. I am just a simple soldier and hope to be a school master.”
Queen Denize stood and walked to a small table and poured two goblets of wine. She took her time as she needed to digest the situation and quickly make alternative plans. Obviously, Ryykon knew more about her activities than she had assumed. Just how much he knew, she wasn’t certain.
“I could order you to remain in your post,” she stated, handing a wine goblet to Ryykon. “But I know that would not work. I am in extreme difficulty with no other options but to appeal to your profound sense of loyalty. Although you may detest some of the things I have done, without leadership, real leadership, I fear the realm will collapse and Camalund will be occupied and its people will be sold into bondage by our enemies. You have spent enough time with the lords and knights and you know none of them have the capability to lead an army in battle. Can you honestly deny that fact?”
“What of Lord Alwaythe? He has been itching to become The King’s Protector and commander of the armies for ages. In fact, I do believe he considers the appointment imminent. Of course, his pet wizard would come along for the ride.”
Queen Denize knew this was another subtle stab at the secrets between her and Lord Alwaythe. Just how much did the man know? She asked herself. “Lord Alwaythe is a conscientious and dependable ruler,” She replied. “He may think of himself as a serious tactician, but he has never led great numbers of men into battle before. You have, Ryykon. you have led thousands of knights and men-at-arms towards total victory several times in the name of your king. Every knight and soldier in the realm knows of your great leadership skills. Would you trust the safety and future of our kingdom in Alwaythe’s hands?”
There was only one obvious answer to her question. Ryykon’s face became clouded with introspection. He was a just man and he held honor above all else. He loved Camalund and its people, the serfs, merchants, wealthy and nobles. He was raised from childhood in the palace with George and later Denize, and many other great lords, but his heart had always been with the soldiers and lower masses. To see it destroyed because of his pride and honor was something he was not prepared to allow.
“I will remain as The King’s Protector under certain conditions,” he finally replied, noting the sudden flush of relief on the Queen’s face. “I must be given full command of the armies with absolute power to do what I see needs to be done even if it means life or death for anyone under my command, my word must be final. I reserve the right to select my commanders and they may select their sub commanders only with my approval. No Lord shall have the ability to contradict my orders without dire consequences even if it means his death or disgrace. And, I want it all in writing, one copy for me and one placed in the hands of His Holiness for safe keeping.”
Queen Denize smiled and grabbed his arm. She was well aware that Ser Thoragild was her last and best hope. “You are still the same old Ryykon,” she beamed. “Of course you will have what you want, but you do drive a hard bargain. What you seek will make you a king in Camalund, if not by title, at least in reality. Is there anything else you want before the covenant is drawn up?” She lowered her gaze in a seductive manner.
Ryykon bluntly replied; “I want no royal crown and I will never be a king. Two last things I feel obligated to demand; I want the name, the honor and the estate of Ser Schermon restored to his family with all titles, heraldry and compensation provided to his surviving son and family and duly noted in both the royal and Vicarus archives. I also want the authority to grant a royal pardon to any person or persons whom I judge to have been falsely or unjustly imprisoned or sentenced.”
“You drive a very hard bargain, Ryykon. Half of what you ask is traditionally and legally reserved for the King or his Regent. I am prepared to grant you all you ask, after all, the kingdom is at stake. Shall I summon the chief amanuensis so he can prepare the document? Naturally, we will need witnesses.”
“The sooner the better, Your Highness,” Ryykon replied. “I forgot to mention there must be no more hidden subterfuge between us, no more secrets or holding back information. I must be able to totally depend on your honesty. For example, you mentioned earlier that Robert is in the hands of our erstwhile enemy. Erstwhile to me means past, or former. Have you come to terms with King Domides or his regent, Lord Connahe?”
“King Domides is dead,” she replied. “I received a missive from Queen Lizbeta, now that the ban has been lifted preventing those dreadful Khelti from killing our messenger birds; she states he was murdered by your niece, who escaped on a dragon. She also wrote that the Empire of Angalund had declared war on both Alataria and Camalund for failing to honor our pledge to return their daughter to them.”
“By all that is holy, Denize!” Ryykon blasted back, not even using her formal title. “Angalund is more powerful than the six kingdoms combined. I suppose this was instigated by more of your scheming and underhanded duplicity? Why was Alataria holding King John’s daughter? That was a stupid thing to do.”
“We sort of misled him. She was my ticket to getting on good terms with Angalund, but she is no longer available for trade to Emperor John. I am certain I can have Queen Lizbeta overlook the fact that your niece killed poor little Domides.
“Why would Emperor John want my little niece as his daughter?” Ryykon asked. “She’s not of royal blood.”
The Queen shook her head; “We made him think that she was based on her unusual birth and such, but that is moot now. I am certain that Lord Connahe and Queen Lizbeta will accept you as Lord Protector of both realms,” she continued. “With your new found power, you do have the means to pardon your niece if they are too persistent. I am also positive that King Charles Lacouture and Queen Sophie will assist or join us. I am, after all, part of the royal Viturian bloodline and they share a long disputed border with Angalund. My maiden name was Champigny before I was betrothed to George. And, there’s always Lugdunum, Emperor Licinius owes me a few favors and they have been interested in a small province they insist belongs to them but George always refused to release it. With the four of us united, we stand a good chance of holding against Angalund.
“The first thing we must do, before the royal scribe is called in, is to get all that hidden information in your pretty little head out in the open,” Ryykon seriously stated. “Before I can possibly plan a consolidated campaign, I must know who is on our side and what is available to fight or defend with. I know nothing of all the royal schemes and promises that your political world is flooded with, but I do know they will play a large role in the future of this kingdom.”
Several days later, Queen Regent Denize, sat in a small room with two irate and very disgruntled figures. Lords Alwaythe and Smythwaite were glaring at her over cups of fresh wine. The Council of Nobles had finally appointed her as Queen Regent, leaving both of her conniving allies out in the cold, Smythwaite sought the Regency and Alwaythe sought command of the armies. Both were aware of, and vehemently against, the appointment of Ser Thoragild as commander of the combined armies.
“My son Robert will be King when he reaches eight and ten years,” Queen Denize reminded them. “I think I am in a much better position to guide and influence him as Regent than either of you. “
“We do not disagree with Your Grace on that,” Lord Smythwaite smoothly replied. “Your guidance will be a great help to Prince Robert. However, the duties of running the government and guiding Robert will be nearly unsurmountable. It will practically take an army of administrators, judges, engineers, and clerics to administer such a vast system. Surely you can understand that. Also, should Ser Thorgild fall in battle it is imperative that his appointed deputy be aware of his strategy and be prepared to step in and fulfill his obligations to the kingdom.”
“What do you have in mind, Lord John?” Queen Denize smiled, knowing very well what was coming.
Lord Smythwaite grinned and made a steeple with his hands and fingers as if in solemn prayer. “In the past the kingdom has made use of an Interrex when the king was killed in battle or died a sudden death. His duty was to represent the kingdom on the international scene and oversee the kingdom’s internal administration until a new king was proclaimed. He also summoned and presided over the convocation council and election council, the gathering of the nobility. I propose that you, as Queen Regent, appoint me as Interrex and commission our good friend Lord Alwaythe as deputy commander under Ser Thoragild. I have been assured by the Council of Nobles that such a plan would meet their approval. You would, of course, retain ultimate power and control.”
“I am well aware of what the title Interrex means,” Queen Denize smiled. “It is from the ancient language and means interim king. If I am correct there was always a six month time limit placed on such an appointment which automatically ended its active validity. As for deputy commander, that would place Lord Alwaythe in a position to assassinate Ser Thoragild and assume overall command of the armies. I will not allow that. Ser Thoragild is our best chance at defeating or suing for peace against the Empire of Angalund.”
“We completely understand and fully agree with that, Your Grace. However, once that goal has been achieved, Ser Thoragild will be a strong impediment to our mutual future. A man like him, beloved by a victorious army and idolized by the people, will be extremely dangerous.”
Dangerous to you, Queen Denize thought. Ryykon would never harm her or Robert, of that she was certain. The fool would most likely slink back to that ugly little school he loved so much. She also knew that without help, she could not rule by herself, and, given Lord Smythwaite’s power and position, she could scarcely afford to make him an enemy. He was the type of person who would willingly side with the enemy to gain whatever he sought. It may be better to give him a bit of power and keep him close for observation. She had no doubt that she could control the ambitious lout.
“Very well,” she relented. “I will acquiesce to your, suggestion, under the following conditions. You will publically announce that you are turning over complete control of all your knights, squires, mounted infantry, and men-at-arms to Ser Thoragild and that you will resign your position at the designated time. You, Lord Alwaythe, will never attempt to undermine Ser Thoragild and you will leave your repugnant wizard back at your estate. I will also advise you both that Ser Thoragild has knowledge of our past schemes, how much I do not know, so there must be someone feeding information to him.”
Over the next few days things began to come together piece by piece. A mutual war pact was made with Queen Lizbeta and Lord Connahe. Emperor Licinius of Lugdunum accepted the small province he long desired and opted to join them against Angalund provided he received a generous share of the war spoils. Ser Thoragild ranted and raved at the upcoming appointment of Lord Alwaythe as second in command, and reminded Queen Denize about his deceitful ways. As for the appointment of Lord Smythwaite as Interex, she knew she was playing with fire and might get burned before she could douse it, but she was certain it was an interim appointment and one she could control.
One early morning while sitting in her reception room with His Holiness, Cardinal Vicarus, a loud pounding started vibrating her chamber door. Very irritated at the unexpected interruption, she instructed her personal chamberlain to inform them that she was occupied and not to be disturbed. The chamberlain returned shortly.
“Your Royal Majesty,” he stuttered, bowing low. “Lord Noragant requests your immediate presence on the balcony overlooking the parade grounds. He insists that it is extremely urgent.”
“Very well!” Queen Denize barked in irritation. “Will you excuse me, Your Holiness?”
“Excuse you? I will join you,” the rotund Cardinal replied, rising with considerable effort from his comfortable seat.
They were escorted to the balcony overlooking the massive parade grounds where the festivities were often held. She walked up to the Captain of her Queen’s Guard, who bowed then pointed in the direction of the low stone balustrade. As soon as she stood behind the low barrier, she could see a number of mounted men slowly making their way towards the main castle walls. As they drew nearer, she could make out the pennant and recognized the sky blue banner with a black tiercel embossed on it, the coat of arms of the House of Hielgerton, that of Queen Lizbeta.
As the column drew closer still, she recognized a young figure trotting at the head of the formation just ahead of the colors. It was her son, Prince Robert, riding straight and proud like the king he soon would be. “It’s Robert!” she shouted, turning to face the Captain. “Have him brought to me here as soon as he reaches the stables. Have the trumpets sound the royal tattoo. I want all of Camalund to see that their new King has returned home to save them.”
Soon afterwards, Prince Robert slowly made his way towards his proud mother standing on the balcony surrounded by Lords and servants. He strode forth proudly and kneeled down before her, bowing his head in obeisance. “I am safe returned,” he stated. “I have been advised of my father’s, of the King’s death. I mourn the loss of such a great king.”
“As does the whole kingdom,” Queen Denize replied, reaching for his hand. She escorted him over to the edge of the balcony and looked out at the assembled masses on the parade ground below. As she held her hand up, the Royal Trumpeters sounded, Hail to the King. When the loud noise stopped ringing in her ears, she held up her hand again. “The king is dead!” she shouted, reaching for and holding Robert’s young hand in the air. “Long live the King!” She was met with a blistering chorus of shouts, long live the King! Long live the king!
Before the wild shouting even died down, another chorus of loud trumpet calls sounded, resonating off the castle battlements and walls over and over. It was the call to arms, which meant unknown and uncertain military forces were approaching the castle. Everyone crowded towards the low balustrade eager to see what was occurring. The Queen’s guards formed a circular perimeter around her and the Prince to keep them safe and to keep them from being pushed over the railing to the courtyard hundreds of feet below.
As all eyes strained to see what was happening on the expansive parade grounds and the rolling hills beyond, they suddenly heard the marching beat of thousands of feet. The very ground began to vibrate as the sound drew closer and closer. Within seconds, great rectangular formations advanced over the top of all the hills beyond the field, and continued to march towards the castle. The rhythm and beauty of the perfect marching formations was awe inspiring and beautiful to behold.
Dozens of marching squares containing a hundred warriors each held in perfect formation as they quickly assembled on the parade field. At a single command, the warriors came to a sudden halt and lowered their short lances to the ground. Each warrior was beautiful in appearance and bearing, both male and female were without blemishes, there were no imperfections. Their uniforms and weapons were identical. Their long flowing hair hung down below their waist, one block of warriors bearing pale yellow locks, the other golden red, the next auburn, and so on throughout the entire formation. Each stood a perfect seven feet tall, with no exceptions. A quick count indicated that ten thousand warriors stood on the single field.
“The Sidhe!” a man in the crowd shouted, stating the obvious.
“Yes,” Queen Denize responded in a soft voice so that only those near could hear her. “The Sidhe have come, but for what reason?”
If you would like to read more of Analia's continuing adventures, all chapters have now been posted. Chapter Eleven at: