A War of Two

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Chapter 12

The regency council met from time to time to rule the kingdom. The first difficulty that they had to consider showed up when an ambassador, Sir Harold, from a neighboring kingdom, of Witoak, came to call.“Sirs,” he said.“I have come to speak to you about the marriage agreement made between King Wilmark and my master.”

“Forgive me for my lack of knowledge,” Prince Willheardt said, “but what master would that be.”

“My master is King Cannar of Witoak,” he said.

“It is known,” Lord Dred spoke up now, “that the King wanted to make a marriage arrangement for Prince Alemark with Absallah, the daughter of King Cannar of Witoak. But I was not aware that the arrangements were completed.”

“I have here a letter containing the arrangements,” Sir Harold said. He handed the letter to Denzil, the priest/scribe who was in attendance.Like so many of the ordinary people, Harold had not learned to read and thus did not read the letter.Varon did read it silently.“This letter,” he said to the lords, “does not speak of Prince Alemark, but of the heir to Kings Willmark’s throne.”There was a general humming and murmur in the chamber.“So the question is when will the wedding take place?”

“No,” said Lord Yssidro. “The question is, who is King Willmark’s heir?”

“But Prince Alemark fled from the field,” Harold said. “Surely you cannot still be considering him as king.”

“The rule is a bit harsh,” Lord Caipre said. “But it is meant to insure more tran -quility for the people.When twins are born it must be decided which is the elder and meant by the great deity to rule and have possession of his father’s property.But when these two were born there was great turmoil in the house.Their mother died giving them life.When all was said and done, no one knew which was the oldest.One was called Willheardt because he seemed to have such a strong and determined heart.The other was called Alemark because the birth of two was such a bad sign for the people and the kingdom.For years we believed that Prince Willheardt was dead and that Prince Alemark was then meant to rule.But now we discover that he is here, hale and healthy and it is Prince Alemark we can find no sign of.”

One evening, after the meal, Prince Willheardt asked the bard to sing him a song. “I want to hear a song that I knew was a favorite of my mother’s,” the Prince said.By that he means Mocmar’s wife. “It was called Ailtamar.”

“That song,” the bard said, “is a plaint; the sad cry of the daughter of a king. Are you aware of that.”

“Yes,” responded the Prince, “but somehow I feel in the mood for it.”

So the bard began to sing. “♪Listen my people and you shall hear of the sad things that befell a king.Listen and remember my children, respect is owed to all.For there was a King of old.Redoubt was his name.Many wives had he, beautiful and fruitful.Many sons had he too.But only one daughter.Her name was Ailtamar. ♪

“♪Beautiful she was, more than any other woman. Graceful and kind was she.But her father regarded her naught. The only wrong child he had he used to say.Not happy with her was he.But those like Ailtamar were makers of peace. ♪

“♪A woman she grew to be, and beautiful she was. But beauty can be a curse.Ailtamar found it so.For when she began to be a woman a son of her father saw her.So beautiful was she that he was completely captivated.Almosh was his name.He was the son of her father, but not of her mother.So Almosh approached his brother, who was the son of his father, but not of his mother.Edgrin was his name. ♪”

“♪Speak to your sister Edgrin,” he said. “Ask her to come and see me.I have something I would like to give her♪.”

“♪Well such a thing was not so easy to do. Almosh kept after Edgrin.“Ask Ailtamar to come to me,” he said.“Tell her I have a gift for her.”He spoke again and again.Edgrin finally relented and spoke to his sister.“I will go,” she said, “and find what my brother wants. ♪”

’“♪In my chamber,” Almosh said, “I have a wonderful gift for you. Come with me there.She went with him and beyond the Chamber door discovered the trap.For he shut it and they were alone together.There were no attendants and no guards nearby. ♪”

’“♪Oh no,” she said, “A trap this is.” She ran to the door.Yet he was much quicker and stronger.‘No,’ he said, ’you shall not flee so fast.My surprise is that I must tell you of my love for you.For love you I do and love you I shall.’” ♪

♪ ’”No,” she said. “This is wrong.For your sister I am; the child of your same father.Blood of your blood I am and flesh of your flesh.”“A father we have in com -mon,” he said, “but not a mother.So I am not blood of your blood or flesh of your flesh.”Then towards her he bound.Grabbed her he did.Strike her he did.Use her he did.Know her he did.’ ♪”

“♪ ’When he was finished with her he hated her as he had loved her before. “Get from my sight you strumpet,” he said.“Get from my chambers, you whore.I cannot have you found here.”“No,” said Ailtamar.“But you have brought this great shame on me.Treat me not so.Do what is honorable for me.”But he turned his back.Open the chamber he did and throw her physically from it he did.” ♪

“♪ ’From the floor she picked herself up. “To my father I will go,” she said.“And we will see what he will do.”So to her father she went.To him she said.“Father, father, look what your son Almosh has done.Make him do what is right by me.Make him restore my honor.”’ ♪

“♪ ’Hush daughter,” her father said. “This is but a little thing. Rest and in the morning it will all be fine.”So Ailtamar went to her chambers.But in the morning she did not come out, nor till the new moon, nor even then.More than thirty days she remained in her chamber, thinking, thinking what to do.Thinking, thinking, how to get revenge.” ♪

“♪ ’Then another King came to visit and she knew what to do. This king thought he would get her hand.What he got was a surprise.Ailtamar came out of her chamber.Bedecked and bejeweled was she in all that was of value that she had.To the main hall she went and asked her father.“Can I sing for you and for your guest?”“Yes daughter,” said her father.“Sing us a fine song.”’ ♪

♪ “’The song that they got was this. She stood before the men and sand, “I am a king’s daughter.The daughter of a king am I.But listen to the treatment that a father gives a child he does not favor.By my brother I was used, by my brother I was struck.My brother knew me against my wish.Now ruined am I and all undone.But this I have and this I will do.I will not be the wife of any man.A King has come to marry me, but I will not go.His bride I shall not be.A concubine shall I be, all my life.To the lowest of the low shall I belong.No dowry will I take from father or brother’s hand.But what I have on my back now will I take and give it to the low.”’ ♪

“♪Then from the hall she fled. From the castle she ran.She took all the fine jewels and all the great things she had.To the slave she fled and to the lowest of the low she went.The concubine of a slave she became, the plaything of the groom.He who tended the animals knew her and his get did she bear.’ ♪”

“♪ ’The King come from a far place was not happy in the hall. “A little maker of peace I was told you had to offer me.” The King said.“But now she is not here.She is fled and will not be a maker of the peace.Between you and me there was to be an alliance cemented by her hand.But here is my hand empty.Between you and me, an alliance there will never be.” So a war there came, because the king did what will ill to poor Ailtamar. ♪” That was the end of the song, just the way Prince Willheardt remembered it.

Prince Willheardt explored the castle when he had time. He had taken up residence in Prince Alemark’s old apartments.When he did not have to be the prince he stepped out on to the balcony.

Azziah discovered that there was a courtyard right outside his chamber door. He looked at it.There was a small fountain and not much else.“This would be great for a garden,” he was heard to mutter to himself.The fountain was a ready source of water and it was not yet too warm for planting.He called out to one of the kitchen wenches, old“Send me some men who know how to put in a garden.I want a garden here.”She did so and he started to work immediately.For the next few days he did his weapons practice early in the morning and this later in the day.He had herbs planted there.Sasha, the wise woman who had been left behind by Lord Aleheardt was now working in the kitchens.She saw it and went and told the girls, “It’s a magician’s garden, watch and see if it isn’t.He’s putting in magical herbs.He is a magician he is.See if he isn’t.” She continued on.“That’s why the potion Lord Aleheardt had me to give him didn’t work.See if it is not true that he is a magician.”

He had a Ra tree planted it a sunny area of the garden. When it was small he could use the sprigs whenever he thought he was in greater need of protection.When it was grown he might use the wood for making a small altar of his own.In a shady area he planted Adder’s Tongue against snakebite.It was also good for treating wounds.He put Garclive where he could reach it quickly if he ever felt the need of it.Poison was always a danger and Garclive was good against it.

But he did have to be careful of the plants that he planted. It was one thing to have these people think he was a magician.They were afraid of magicians and witches.But it was quite another to confirm the fact by having too many plants with magical properties in his garden.Also some plants he would most want for those purposes were already planted in other gardens around the palace.He familiarized himself with the plants of the kitchen garden.He could make potions out of many of them and no one would notice.

But Sasha had her own reasons for wanting people to know, or to think, that the Prince was a magician. “See,” she said while the planting was still going on. “All these plants have magic qualities.”“They are all healing herbs,” one of the other female servants in the castle said.“Maybe he trained to be a healer,”“We’ll know if he puts in Mandragora,” Sasha said.“That is the most magical of all.”

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