Chapter 1 part 2 ........... Uncle James
| Meeting Uncle James Continued from The Wizard on the Porch Chapter 1 part 1
I watched the Wizard rise abruptly from his chair and was surprised to see Father bounding towards him exclaiming, "Big Brother!"
"Little Brother!" The wizard cried out.
The two men embraced in a bear hug which lasted a few moments longer than one would expect. I thought the two made an interesting pair, whereas my uncles unusual height and width spoke of great strength; Father, a few inches the shorter was lean and seemed best suited for swiftness and agility.
As I observed the two I came to the realization I was being scrutinized in return. "A fine boy I expect," said the Wizard placing an arm around my father's shoulders.
"Yes and your nephew has already achieved great things."
"Indeed. So I should be a proud Uncle then. But what great deeds could one achieve as young as he is?"
"I have been very impressed with his choice of comrades. William has already gathered a following. Five friends all trustworthy and true. I think they would follow him anywhere."
"Indeed, a fine accomplishment. You take after your father, Nephew. He also is an excellent judge of character."
I found myself unable to speak so after a pause my Uncle went on.
"Leadership! it is a rare gift. You will find that your dearest friends are your most likely key to true power, a power greater than swords or magic. William, come up here and shake your Uncle's hand. I expect the two of us to become the best of friends."
My Uncle was an imposing figure and I hesitated, I sensed danger here but also an attraction.
Father looked at me confused, I was not normally shy, but intuitively I knew what an extraordinary man I was meeting and that perhaps my fate now swung in the balance. Father walked down the steps and gave me a push up the stairs to the porch, then without notice the Wizard stepped forward and swept me into his arms lifting me clear off the ground.
"Now there is a proper greeting. I have missed you boy. Often I have wondered what you were doing and how much I would have liked to be there. But my travels concerned the family business and could not wait, in time you will understand"
"Now then, about those friends of yours, do you think they would in fact leave their homes and follow you if need be?"
"Yes... I believe they would," I did not pause for a moment in my reply, I should have, but I wanted to speak with some sense of authority and I was indeed proud of my friends.
"Ah, well done William. We will have need of such men."
I immediately regretted my worlds. "What have I said!" came to mind. I had no intention of committing my friends to anything, in any case not without asking them first.
"Well that's settled," said the wizard, "We'll pick them up on our way North,"
I felt... Well, I didn't know how I felt. I knew this was a mistake. My friends were farmer's sons not adventurers. Many thoughts crowded my mind, most concerned how I was going to un-do this thing I had done.
"Err... Travel North, Uncle James?" I was most alarmed at the thought.
"Not now boy, no more questions. I may have said too much, that is my habit. We'll talk inside where it is safe."
"Safe. Now what does that mean?" I looked about half expecting to see spies hidden behind every structure in sight. Although I could not fathom why anyone would care about anything any of us had to say.
So, the Grand Wizard invited us inside and I followed my Father and Uncle into the foyer of the Royal Drummond. All conversation went silent in the lobby as the two brothers stood side by side in the doorway, everyone else seemed small by comparison.
"So William, what do you think of this guest house. I designed it myself."
I gawked at the fabulous opulence of the place. I looked at the many windows and fine timbers carved with the flora and fauna of North Andor. In the front of the lobby a tall, complex oak desk greeted visitors and at the rear of the room a curved grand staircase lead to the second floor. Great arched doorways to the right and left open onto other wings of the building.
"You own... ah, all this?" I asked solemnly.
" Sir James owns every stick and stone of the place," interjected an eager, stocky teen from behind the desk. "I am Rose and I bid you welcome to the Royal Inn at Drummond Hill."
"Thank you, Rose. That will do," My Uncle gave her a look seemingly intended to keep her quiet. "This is my family, Father Jonn and his son William" then the Wizard whispered to her, "keep it to yourself."
"Bye the bye nephew, as I do own all of this place and since there is the very real possibility I may depart on one of my adventures never to return-- I have left all of it to you in my last bequest."
James paused and gave me a long look. "Brother, I don't think this boy is entirely well, he looks a bit flushed?"
"Yes, I know, he has seemed feverish ever since we left the Inn this morning. I think it is the city air." Father replied.
Rose spoke up immediately, "Master William, should you have need of anything simply let me know. Anything at all." She was a sturdy girl with big bones and a bigger smile, such girls are much admired in the valley and I suspected Rose attracted the attention of many young men. I was no exception.
I did not think it was the city air that was causing me to feel faint and slightly nauseous but I did not want to stop now. Despite some unnerving surprises this was the greatest day of his life. I heard himself say, "Thank you, Rose, don't worry, I'm fine. Maybe we will have a chance to talk later. I'd like that."
"Oh, me too. I will see you later William," said Rose blushing slightly.
"All right then, let's go on up," and my uncle headed for the stairs. I looked over my shoulder at Rose as we walked away.
The three of us climbed the grand staircase, then went up more stairs to a third floor where we came to a pair of heavy, ornate doors set into a thick stone wall, it appeared that the Inn had been built around a tower and the wall of the old fortification protruded within the building. Inscribed across both doors was a large compass face with a map of the far North within it, the Great Northern Spire and the surrounding mountains were at the center and cut in high relief. A few minutes passed with much pointing and discussion of the map's details.
I said, " Did you make this map Uncle James? I love maps, especially the ones that have stories about the empty places."
"I did discover much of it, yes. I have only recently returned from a circumnavigation of the North sea. I am the first in recorded history to accomplish such a thing."
"That is incredible Uncle James! I can't imagine doing anything that would take so long to do"
"Well... yes, I know... But they were ten good years" James brushed his fingertips across the map and seemed lost in thought for a few moments then he spoke again."Now then! One more set of stairs and I will show you my home."
The heavy doors were unlocked and pushed open. Inside was an unadorned, large, round room with and a single door to the left and right, two tall windows pierced the far wall and a wooden spiral staircase sat in the center.
Father and I followed our host up the stairs and into a magnificent room. The room ran the entire length and breadth of the main building, an absence of any interior walls allowed for the city to be seen through all the windows at once. Maps, scrolls, books, armor and arms, trinkets of all sorts covered every wall, and all the tables. The equipment of an explorer was hanging from large wood pegs anchored securely to all the beams. What could not be hung on the walls was hanging from the roof, five small boats, one with a folded mast and sail, were clinging via ropes to a high peaked ceiling where all the timbers were exposed.
"Uncle James, are these wheel-lock pistols?" I eyed a wood and glass case near the stairs. My father had once described this type of armament.
"Why, yes they are. You have a keen knowledge of firearms, very few people have seen one of these. They are the most recent and deadliest advance in modern weaponry. Notice that no fuse is required as with the match-lock. Now one can walk about with a loaded and primed weapon ready to fire at a moment's notice.
William looked closely at the magnificent instruments of death. He had a passion for black-powder arms.
"And," added added my uncle, "Just between you and I. A friend of mine is working on something called a flint-lock; which might be even better. A revolution in firearms is coming, mark my words"
I noted there were six pistols stacked in the case. "Are they not very expensive?"
"Yes indeed, exorbitant in price, but a sound investment I believe. Would you like to fire them?"
"Yes, I would" said I without hesitation, I raised my eyebrows as I looked to my father who waved his hand in agreement.
"Oh joy," I thought. Father almost never agreed to hasty plans. He always wanted to think things over. I had received extensive training with black powder arms from my father but that was regimented with everything thought out in advance.
"This is far too good to be true! Thank you Uncle," I exclaimed, my respect for my new uncle had increased substantially since we first met less than one half hour ago. This wizard obviously knew what he was about.
"When can we go?" I asked.
"Right," Uncle James spent a few moments methodically looking me up and down.
"Let me see your hands... and now your sword," said the Wizard. "Yes, very good, I think you will do nicely."
"I intended to go out for a ride this afternoon in any case. I am looking for a friend of mine who may be passing this way. Once when we are done talking and your father leaves to attend to his business then you and I shall ride out of town and do some shooting. How would that be?"
My large smile said everything. I wondered if this is what Father was talking about when he said Uncle James was a dangerous man.
I soon noted that we were not alone, an older man sat partially hidden at a high desk in a far corner of the room. He had a narrow face, close-set grey blue eyes, silver/grey wavy hair and a short pointed beard. He was a slim man in bespoke clothing, wearing an odd-looking long yellow tweed jacket and matching vest, straight pants of fine black fabric touched the tops of his shoes.
The man stood up.
"Good morning, Sir James," said the thin man, " would this be Sir Jonn and Lord William?"
"Aye, this would be my family and it's high time you met them."
"It is an honor to make your acquaintance. I am Bartholomew, James' secretary." He bowed his head. William politely bowed in return but this father did not.
"Dad! He said I'm a lord?," I blurted out, "and you're a knight!" The secretary appeared susprised at these words.
"Not now son. I will explain later," Father frowned and looked perturbed.
"Oh, why not explain now," Uncle James seemed ready to burst with excitement.
"Bartholomew here has my complete confidence. He knows more about us than we do and William is fifteen and that makes him man enough to take up the family business."
Father let out a sigh and found a chair to sit in and waved at my uncle to continue; clearly, he would be going on and on.
James paced as he spoke, "You see William," then came a long pause, "your father is a Paladin."
"Father! A paladin?" My eyes went wide with shock and I looked over at father. "But the Paladin are extinct. They were giants who defended the poor and sick and no one believes they really ever existed."
"Extinct! myths! Whatever has your father been teaching you."
Uncle James went on sounding exasperated, "The Paladin are no more extinct now than they ever were. Among the Wise there is no doubt concerning their presence and strength. They were never very numerous and they prefer to do their work anonymously. The Paladin is the oldest noble house in all Andor. They are still recognized by the kings in all the nations as Lords and keepers of the Law. You are the son of a Paladin and that makes you Lord William in this land or any other land under the Highlander's protection. Our King, Clarence the Courageous, knows your father well and what he really is. Your king will expect you to fulfill the duties of a Lord when you come of age, now how does all that sound, eh?"
"I cannot believe all this.I thought you had to be born into nobility?" I answered.
"Ack, a Paladin earns his nobility and that makes your father and his kin nobler than most nobles I know."
I was stunned into silence but not for long.
"Uncle, what is this "family business"? I heard you mention it before." I inquired shyly. I was afraid of the answer.
"We are warriors of the Free."
I whispered, "The Free?" I did not want to sound ignorant but had no idea what that meant.
The wizard waved his arms about as he spoke, "Nephew! the truth sets us free and good does conqueror evil. That is the way of things. It is the path we follow. We fight and toil and endure for the freedom of the world!"
"Why has no one told me of all this?"
Father broke into the conversation "Because it is a dangerous world in need of dangerous men to set things right. Far better and safer for you to grow up the son of a prosperous merchant priest. These things we speak of are very perilous matters and, until now, you lacked the maturity to keep such secrets. Remember this William, everything said here must remain confidential. You must say nothing to no one outside this room, except perhaps, your mother."
"Father, I would never have guessed. Are you really a Paladin... like in the legends. Is it possible. I didn't believe in all the old stories."
"What I am is your father and that will always be my proudest title. Yet, I am also a Paladin and I am not alone, so is your Grandfather."
"Grandfather." I spoke softly, I had never met my father's father.
This was a quandary. I had been thinking to impress my friends, especially the noble born, with this fabulous tale but all this secrecy and danger were taking much of the joy out of the thing.
"I can tell this to no one. Nothing, nothing at all, to anyone?" said I.
"Our lives depend on it," responded the Wise Old Wizard.
Continues at the Wizard on the Porch Chapter 1 Part 3