A War of Two

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Chapter 15

In the end it was Lord Sayer’s observations that told Prince Willheardt where to find his brother. His simple note said.“There is activity in an estate that should be quiet.I think Lord Aleheardt visits his estate here in the north, just to the east of mine. He usually uses it in the summer as I use mine.But now he is there in the winter.”

“We will go as soon as the snow is melted enough to break trail,” Willheardt said. He would need guardsmen with snow experience for that.His desert brethren were good, but their tents were not warm enough against the snow so they avoided that.So they waited, watched the hills to the north and gauged the snow around the city.

When the snow was melted to the point that horses could make it through with ease Prince Willheardt started out. He took a large guard force with him.They were almost a small army.It was a couple of days of riding.They did not dare ride the horses so hard that they sweated.In this cold the horses would have cooled too fast and been unable to continue.But neither did they stop more then they absolutely had to.They made camp as the light faded for two nights on the trail and broke it again at dawn.

On the third day they arrived at Lord Aleheardt’s estate. Since the foragers were out and no one else was expected the gates were not secured.They burst through and were in the courtyard in a few seconds.“Secure the House,” Prince Willheardt ordered.“Do not harm any of the residents unless they resist.Do not kill Lord Aleheardt or my brother.”All there knew that the Prince must survive to fight the Dual Royal.But the fate of his Lordship was another matter.

The men ran up the stairs to the main entrance to the hall. The butler tried to keep them out, but he was unsuccessful.They banged against the door and finally battered it open with a small battering ram they had brought with them.It was a very rude awakening for Lord Aleheardt.He came into the passageway his sleeping attire and demanded to know what was the matter.But the words died in his mouth as he found Willheardt’s sword at his throat.“Where is my brother,” the man demanded to know.No answer was necessary, as Prince Alemark showed himself from a room just down the passageway.He was harder to wake then his uncle.

“Don’t let Lord Aleheardt leave,” Prince Willheardt said. Then he went to his brother.“Now, brother,” he said, “we shall attend to the matter of the duel, fairly this time.”In a minute he was in command of the house.He gave orders that no one was leave the house.The men who had stayed outside would act as messengers.They would also be responsible for resupplying the people here if that was necessary.

He gave further orders that a conclave of lords spiritual and temporal were to meet him here. His brother was to stay in his room, and he himself was soon quartered in the house too.

Prince Willheardt gave his orders. “It will take time to build an arena for the duel,” he told Lord Sayers who was acting as his lieutenant.“It will also take time for a quorum of the great lords to assemble for the duel.I think it should be fought here.That is to ensure that my brother does not have the opportunity to escape again.Get the craftsmen in the area working on the arena as soon as possible.My brother should be given all the time he wants to practice.I also intend to practice as I did at the palace.I shall also use the official chambers my uncle used for any official business that comes up.”

It was in cleaning out that room and preparing it for Prince Willheardt’s use that the hunting jacket that had been given to Prince Alemark so long ago was found. “Keep it,” Prince Willheardt told Lord Sayers.“It may have to be produced at Lord Aleheardt’s trial.”For there was one thing certain now; if Prince Willheardt won the duel Lord Aleheardt would very shortly go on trial for his life.

So the days continued on and got warmer. The craftsmen cleared a suitable area near the manor house and got to work.They marked out the arena and built a suitable area for the lords and ladies to stand or sit.The messengers fanned out, even to the most northly of the lords where there was still a considerable amount of snow on the ground.The younger, more hardy ones, promised that they would come.But the quorum had to include southern lords too as well as the lords spiritual.Lord Mocmar, representing the desert peoples, had come with Prince Willheardt.

So the craftsmen worked. They prepared the grounds and the stands.They also prepared the armor and the weapons that would be used.The servants cooked and fed the men.When the snow had melted enough, the lords began to arrive.As was expected, some of them brought their lady wives with them. The lords spiritual arrived from the capitol.Some of them were very uncomfortable because of the unaccustomed cold.As many of them as possible were put in the main house.The rest of them had to camp on the grounds.That was very unpleasant, but they told themselves that it would only be for a short time.Then they would be able to get back to their comfortable homes with real beds.It would be another day before the stands were ready.The lords and ladies looked around the grounds and noticed that there was still a little snow under the pines and bushes and in areas that got a lot of shade. The next day the stands were finished and the time was set for the Duel Royal.It would be the next morning as dawn.The armorers prepared the weapons.

So finally the battleground was ready and so were the fighters was ready. Prince Willheardt had given his brother every chance to prepare.Alemark was in probably the best health he had been in, in his life.Both had good armor, shields and swords.Prince Willheardt had chosen the totem of the Atuaki people for his symbol.He had chosen the heraldic shield of his mother’s family for his brother.That way the people would be able to tell the two combatants apart. And this time the guards were very thorough in searching the spectators.No one in the stands would have any weapons.

The battle started like the first one had. The signal was given and the two warriors circled each other warily.Again they tested each other for strengths and weaknesses.Alemark was better this time, stronger and quicker in his reactions.He attacked and retreated.Prince Willheardt did the same.They lunged at each other, dodged and countered.

The fight went on and it was beginning to get hot. In the stands the lords and ladies that had been called to be witnesses watched.All of them wanted to seek some shade and some refreshment, but none of them dared leave their places.All of them were relieved that there were so signs of any archers and no throwing stars appeared.

On the field the combatants were sweating. But they did not dare quite.Too much was at stake.Once again Prince Willheardt was grateful for all the hours of weapons practice his foster father Mocmar and his foster brothers had given him.The heat did not bother him so much as he kept his eyes on his brother’s moves and countered them.He kept silent as his brother grunted and groaned.

Slowly the heat and exertion wore Prince Alemark down. Still he managed to land a telling blow or two.Willheardt had an arm wound and one on the upper leg where the armor was thin and chain mail protected vulnerable areas.Neither wound was serious or slowed him much.

Finally it was Alemark who was staggered under the heat and the stress. He dropped his guard just a little too much.Willheardt was quick to take advantage of the lapse.A quick sword thrust through the neck ended it.Alemark was dead a minute later.His brother knelt by his side and removed his helmet.

He knelt beside his brother and allowed himself a few moments to mourn. “My brother,” he whispered.“I am so sorry I had to kill you.” A heartfelt tear did fall.Then he rose and went to the sidelines.He allowed the healers to bind his wounds.

“I would speak with the lords inside the house,” he said. It was a request that was not really a request.In the house he spoke to them and showed them something that he had found during his days there.“This is the coat that my brother wore on the day we last hunted together.I believe that it is evidence that he and my uncle Ale -heardt conspired to kill me.This seems to indicate that at least one person knew that I was the first born.I happened to over hear my uncle giving this to my brother and telling him to wear it that day.He said his men had special orders concerning this coat and the one who wore it.I think that by then my uncle knew that he would be able to dominate my brother easier than he ever would me.”

Prince Willheardt had one more painful duty to carry out. “I order a council of the Lords Major to convene immediately in the hall.The body of my brother should be removed and prepared for a royal funeral.”The servants began their job as the lords filed into the hall.Once they had all found a place to sit Willheardt addressed them.“Is it now clear to their lordships who the Great Deity meant to be king?”

“Yes,” said Lord Cairpre, “it is clearly yourself.”

“I have a request to make of you.” The Prince was speaking loudly to all the lords. “Lord Aleheardt is in the house under house arrest.It was he that ordered the illegal attack at the first Duel Royal.He has committed crimes of so serious a nature that I believe he should be bound over for trial in the temple.I must put him in the charge of someone here.”

“I will take care of that,” Lord Sayers volunteered. “He shall not easily escape me.”

“They have no great love for each other,” Lord Yssidro volunteered.

“Then I must call my personal guard to attend me. I ride for the camp of King Cannar on the border.” Prince Willheardt ordered.

“Is it wise for you to do so, wounded so?” Lord Cairpre asked. He remembered many men dying under such circumstances.

“I must,” the Prince said. “If I do not many more may die.”

“Then you must take an entourage with you,” Lord Caipre said.

“No,” Prince Willheardt ordered. “A few men will travel much faster.King Cannar is already in his war camp preparing for the campaigning season.I must get there before the battle begins.It is my intention to keep the bargain my father made.You must take my brother’s body back to the temple and prepare for the funeral.I want that to be done before my coronation.”

Willheardt rode hard for the border and the war camp of King Cannar. The fact that he was wounded distressed him somewhat. Yet he managed to make the trek. His colors preceded him into the encampment so that King Cannar was ready for him. He was outside his royal pavilion.He stopped the rider who looked the most like the king he had known.“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am Willheardt,” the rider answered. “I am the heir to King Wilmark.”

“And what did you come here for?” Cannar asked.

“To honor my father’s promise to you,” Willheardt told him.

“When shall the wedding be?” King Cannar asked. He went on to comment, “I would like it to be here as soon as possible.”

“So far as we are concerned it can be here tomorrow” King Willheardt informed him.

“We require that there be a male and a female witness present on both sides,” Cannar told him. “There is already a female present, attending on my daughter.But I do not see one on your side.”

“We do not require it, but we can send for one if you wish,” King Willheardt responded.

“Please do so.” King Cannar requested. Willheardt dispatched a rider who knew the area to the nearest great lord to ask if his lady would attend upon them here.

Three days later he was back with the lady. It was Lady Caipreson. Willheardt asked, “Did they tell you what was wanted?” “They said that King Cannar required a female witness for your wedding to the Princess Absallah.”“Yes,” Willheardt said.“That will happen tomorrow.For tonight, we will make you as comfortable as we can in one of our tents.”“That shouldn’t be too hard,” she commented.“The nights are getting warmer.”

That night as the King was preparing to retire, Lord Mocmar asked for an audience. When it was granted he stepped into the inner chamber.“Azziah my son,” he began, “there is a subject about which your father would be talking to you now if he were here.Since that is impossible I must act in his place and tell you this very im -portant thing.”Since Mocmar had addressed him by the name he had given Willheardt when he adopted him Willheardt decided to respond in kind.“What is it my father?” he asked.

“It is about the begetting of heirs. You have seen my rams when they leap upon the ewes.Well…” he paused, considering how to proceed. “As a man you are built somewhat like those rams.And the Princess is somewhat like those ewes.To have heirs to your throne you will have to leap on her like the rams do on the ewes.Only in the case of men they should face their wives while doing this.

“You mean I have to…” he pointed and grunted. “Yes,” Mocmar said.“But there are some differences.You are not a ram and will not be able to do it more than once a night.But then she is not a ewe either.There is no season other then the dark of the moon, when she will refuse you.But it is the only way that heirs ever appear just as it is the only way lambs appear, or calves or foals.The male must enter the female every time and then after a time the baby appears.”That gave Willheardt something to think about, and it did disturb his sleep some.

In the morning he dressed in the best he had brought with him. Lord Mocmar helped him.This time the man was silent and Willheardt used that silence to compose himself.The actual wedding was performed in the outer chamber of the King Cannar’s tent.A priest of their faith was there and so was the one who had accompanied Will -heardt.There were a few prayers said to the deities.Then several papers were signed.There were two copies of each so that each party had a copy.Basically they said that the Princess Absallah was the wife of King Willheardt and would be his most ranking wife, but understood that she probably would not be the only one.There was one saying that the bride price had been paid and was acceptable.There was another saying that the dowry had also been paid and was acceptable.Then everything was packed up and the wedding party prepared to depart. Queen Absallah was accompanied by one attendant and Lady Caipreson.Any security she required would be provided by her new husband and his men.They rode directly to the capitol.

When Cella got the word that there was a King in the castle again she had to know who it was. She knew of only one thing that would tell her right away.She through on an outer garment and grabbed the torch that was outside her stall at night.She went immediately to the gate. “Guard,” she called out.“Guard.”The guardsman came to the crenulations at the top of the gate.“Who calls there,” he asked.“It’s me,” she said, pushing back the hood of her garment and holding the torch she was carrying high.“It is Cella the fortune teller from the Bazaar.I want to see Willheardt.”The guard immediately came down and opened the gate.

He was preparing for his coronation the next day in the temple. “How do I look,” he displayed for her.He had the crown on his head and the royal regalia on.He was also holding his father’s scepter in his hand.He opened his arms and pivoted so she could get a good look.“Wonderful,” she said.

The next day she watched him on his way to his coronation. He looked great on a fine black stallion.He paraded through the streets to the cheers of his people.

In the temple he processed across the great court yard. There were small chambers on either side.In each of those chambers were minor gods and goddesses whom peoples other then the people the king belonged to worshiped.Allowing them to be there helped keep those self same people in line.The king noticed out of one eye the statue of a being with the head and forequarters of a bull and the feet and hind quarters of a man.A few steps later on the other side of the court was a female figure with the head of a goat and the body of a woman.At the end were three great cham -bers.The side two were empty and were used for affairs of state such as meetings of the great lords to discuss problems and trials of criminals.In the center was the altar and the place for praying to the Great Deity of these people.There was no statue of him there, but images of all the things he is supposed to have created.Now in that chamber there was a seat for the high priest and a seat for the king.

The king entered that chamber now. The high priest Cygon began the prayers to the Great Deity to bless his reign and make him fertile so that he would have many children.Cygon also preformed the obligatory sacrifices that went with those prayers.

When he sat on the throne all the great lords swore homage to him.Minor lords would not swear to the king directly.They only swore through their liege lord.It saved a lot of wear and tear on both of them.

After the crowning of the king came the crowning of the queen. The lords were not required to pay homage to her since she was only the king’s most ranking wife.Then they returned to the palace for the feast.It was then that Lord Mocmar spoke to the king again.“I know this is much to ask,” he said.“But I also know that my people would consider themselves much more bound to a man who was not just a brother by adoption but also a brother by marriage.You know that Danziah has loved you from the time she was born.If you had remained in the camp you might have married her.Now I ask you to take her too for wife to bind your western lands more closely to you.It would make you a more secure western border as this marriage secures your eastern border.”

“You’re right,” Willheardt said. “If I were not the king it might not be necessary.I have always liked your daughter Danziah.But I must tell you the truth; I did not think that I loved her as much as a husband should.I have felt about her as though she were a female Tarka as she was Tarka’s sister.”

“That is true,” Mocmar said. “They came from the same mother.But she has always loved you; that should count for something.”So a month after his marriage to Absallah he married Danziah also. Cella knew that she would never have the rank to be his wife.But she knew that if he asked her to be his concubine she would not say no to him.

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