A War of Two

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Chapter 11

In the morning Prince Alemark woke again. “Get up,” his uncle told him rather gruffly.“I mislike that,” Prince Alemark said.“You’d better get used to it,” Lord Aleheardt said.“I am master here not you.You have been sick since your brother wounded you during the Royal Duel.You have to recover your strength and get to be a much better fighter if you are to meet him again and defeat him.”Prince Alemark thought of that for a time and got out of bed.“First I want a bath,” he said.

Lord Aleheardt gave orders to the few servants he had there. “Bring him a bath.He needs it.’’

In his bath Alemark began to think of his brother. He muttered to himself, “He must have become a magician.”He began to shudder.There was an ancient tradition of a prophecy that when a magician-priest became a king the kingdom would have a golden age.It was believed that no one would be able to oppose such a man.But he wanted to be king.

The arrangement was temporary. The prince recuperated far more and began to get more exercise.“You will have to do more,” Lord Aleheardt said.“I have sent some people to the capitol, ostensibly to sell wood.They tell me that your brother practices every day.I hear that he does two-on-one practices with those vicious Bedouin friends of his.They attempt constantly to kill him, but they do not succeed.If you are to succeed, you must practice harder than he does.You will practice with two of my men every day.”

“I don’t want to,” the Prince said. Lord Aleheardt gave his orders.“He will not be fed until he has done his practice.If you hurt of kill him, your head will be the next to fall.Do you clearly understand.”“I do,” the captain of the guard said.The orders were passed on to the kitchen.The next day they were carried out.Prince Alemark could get nowhere in getting his breakfast until he did his weapons practice.

Prince Alemark looked at the kitchen wenches and female slaves that Lord Aleheardt had here. He thought he would take them to his bed as was his want to do in the capitol.But these were old and ugly.He shuddered at the mere thought of sharing his bed with one of them.This was going to be a long and difficult time for him he thought.“But I have to do it if I want to be king,” he said to himself.“And I will make my uncle pay for every indignity.”

He dressed and ate the simplest breakfast that he’d ever had. It was filling and nourishing, but he didn’t think of that.Every day of his life he had eaten meals fit for a king.He did not like the idea of going without, even though it was only supposed to be temporary.

Lord Aleheardt came in and saw that his nephew was eating his breakfast. “When you are done with that; out to the courtyard.You will begin your practices with my men.They are seasoned men and will train you well for the Duel Royal.”

In the city his brother was doing almost the same thing. Only Willheardt was doing it much more willingly.After all he knew that he had to be in top notch form for this duel.“Good morning,” he greeted his Bedouin friends cheerfully in their own language.”

“Good morning,” they greeted him warmly back. Then they went to the armory and chose their weapons.They took their positions, Prince Willheardt between the two men, who happened to be brothers.One of them called, “Lay on,” and the exercise started.Willheardt thrust his shield to his left, blocking the blow from the younger brother and blocked the strike on his right from the older brother with his sword.Then began the constant rapid back and forth, up and down.As they grew tired they called a halt and laughed.“Devayne,” Willheardt addressed the younger brother, “You are getting faster.I’m going to have to watch you.”“Yes,” his brother Dobry agreed.“But still not so fast as you or I.”Devayne was not happy, but he knew enough not to let them bait him.That could get a man into a lot of trouble, and in battle get him killed.

Prince Alemark’s practice did not go so well. At first he did not want to stand between the two men.They solved it be simply doing a sort of dance all around him.He kept twisting and turning trying to figure out where the attack was going to come from.Suddenly it did come, from both of them at the same time.The Prince succeed -ed in blocking the one that was in front of him only to get nicked by the one behind.“Ah,” he screamed.“I’ll get you for that.”He then attacked the man who nicked him, only to be attacked in turn by the man behind him.He whirled around and around only to finally go down on the ground.He was cussing and angrier than ever when he got up.He started the same whirling again and wound up on the ground again.

Lord Aleheardt had been watching all of this. Finally he stepped on to the field.“You fool,” he grabbed Prince Alemark and pulled him up.He had a brief coughing spasm and when it passed he told the prince, “you can’t afford to get angry.You have to work on improving all your weaknesses.The next time your brother is going to kill you and my men won’t be able to stop it.You have to be faster and you have to be able to defend against the jump and lunge.”“You always used to let me do just what I wanted to do and with only one partner,” Prince Alemark complained.“That’s true,” Aleheardt agreed.“That was because I believed that your brother was dead and that you would not have to fight for your crown.But now he is alive and he is a better swords man than you are.And he is practicing to get even better.”Prince Alemark gained control over himself, got up, and continued the exercise.Finally he had to call, “Please stop.I tire.”As if to prove it, he sat down for a moment on a bench and promptly fell asleep.

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