A War of Two

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Chapter 5

In the desert two days later Aboive reported to his father. “The water and the grass at the center Oasis are fine,” he said.“They will support our people and our animals.And the dates will be ripe by then too.”

“Good,” Mocmar said. “Then you will take the herds and the women and half the men to the center Oasis.”They called it that because it was in the center of their range.

“And what will you do father?” Aboive asked.

“I will take the rest of the men and go with your brother Azziah to the capitol. We have just learned that the King is dead.We will go to confront the man who tried to kill your brother.No one who has done such a thing should be king.”

Tarka spoke excitedly, “Father can I come too?”

“Of course,” his father said. “One would not think of taking Azziah without taking you too.After all you two have been playmates since you were 10 summers of age.”

Cella was standing beside her stall as the desert men entered the bizarre. She saw them riding by on their proud desert steeds.But all of them had their faces hidden by that voluminous headdress they all wore.When the breeze blew it could be seen that they were wearing the same sort of weapons all warriors carried.Nothing new there.She retired to the inside of her stall and waited more customers.

That evening she did have an unusual customer come to her stall. One of the desert Bedouins.“Woman,” he said.He spoke her language roughly.“Tell me tomorrow.”She assumed that he wanted to know his future.

“You will need to remove your head dress,” she said slowly. He looked confused.She mimed him removing the thing that masked his face and hair.He did so and she saw that he was a dark man.She picked a significator card to stand for him accordingly.Then she handed the cards to him and mimed that he should shuffle them.This took some time.She had to take his hands and show him the easiest way to do this.He finally got the idea and did what she asked.Then she laid the cards out.

“This surrounds you,” she told him.He did not understand, so she mimed it again.It was the Two of Cups.“You are loyal to a friend,” she said.“This is behind you, it is part of the past.”It was a card for a lover.Again she had to mime it and the meaning.A picture began to come into her mind.The next card was Temperance – reversed, indicating conflict.There were a lot of upper arcane cards indicating that this was significant.The Hanged Man also appeared.The final card was the 10 of swords, indicating terrible loss.“You have a friend,” she said to him.“He will need your loyalty and possible self-sacrifice or there may be a disaster.But it may not be that you will have to die.”

Just then there was a voice outside Cella’s tent. “Tarka,” the voice called from out of the darkness.“Come, we must go.You are wasting time here.We have much to do before tomorrow.”

“I just want to know from someone else if we have a chance for success, Azziah.” He said.

Azziah looked into the stall. Tarka was sitting with a pretty, young fortuneteller.That was rare, Willheardt thought.Most fortune tellers were older, or at least tried to look that way.It inspired more confidence in them. “I have told you that there is a strong possibility for success,” Willheardt said.“Now give the lady a piece of gold and come.”In the dim light he could see and did a masterful job of hiding his reaction.This was the female that he had dreamt of.

Tarka did as Azziah suggested. Cella had heard the voice from the darkness speaking in a language that she did not under-stand.By the reaction of her guest she assumed that it was the language of the Bedouins.The man paid her and left.She closed her stall, prepared her dinner, and went to bed.

Azziah and Tarka walked quickly through the streets, Azziah finding the way back to the inn where they had taken a room. “What did she say,” Tarka wanted to know.

“I don’t know all of it,” Azziah said. “I only heard the last part, and I did not see the cards.”

“Well,” Tarka started to describe them. Azziah held up his hand for silence.“But I can tell you that I would never ask you to sacrifice yourself if I have the choice.”They arrived at the inn where the desert men were staying.“Go to the room now,” Azziah told Tarka.“I will join you shortly.”

Tarka went up to the room. This time Azziah really was looking to relieve himself.He found the necessary behind the inn and made use of it.When he came out he was accosted by a gang of street urchins looking to steal his money.There were many of them and he did not want to hurt children.He fought them.But in the darkness one of the larger ones got behind him with a log.The urchin struck him a hard blow to the back of the head and Willheardt was felled.The children went quickly through his pockets and found only a little money for their bother.But the commotion attracted the notice of the Innkeeper.He came and saw and called to the guardsman passing through the bazaar.

“It looks like they got the Prince here,” the Innkeeper said. He had seen Prince Alemark here from time to time.The man liked to bugger his wenches from time to time.“But I wonder why he is dressed so strangely, like those desert men.”

“Well,” said the guardsman, “best get him back to the palace. Did you see who did this?”

“Street urchins,” the Innkeeper said, “the usual ones.” He helped the guardsman pick up the unconscious Prince and sling the man over the guards shoulder.

The guardsman walked to the palace gate. “Got his Highness here,” he called to the guard.They immediately opened up.“What happened?” one of the men asked.“He went out to one of his favorite haunts.Went to use the necessary and got accosted by a bunch of those street urchins.”

The captain of the guard ordered two of his men, “Might as well go out and pick them up.” They went off to do just that.“But I can’t understand why he is dressed so strangely,” the guard echoed the Innkeeper’s sentiments.“He’s dressed like a desert dweller.You said some of them came through the bazaar earlier,” he pointed to the guard from the bazaar.

“Aye they did,” the guardsman said, “And they took rooms at the Inn.” They were beginning to wonder then just what was afoot.Just then Lord Aleheardt happened to be passing.The captain of the guard noticed him.

“Here, Your Lordship,” he called out. “We’ve got the Prince here.”Lord Aleheardt came close to have a look.He had just left the Prince moments before in his chambers.He came and took a look at the men and let out a gasp.This was not Prince Alemark.This was disaster.Willheardt was still alive.“Send your men back to their posts,” he ordered.He wanted as few people to know about this as possible.He had to think.This was the man whom he had reassured everyone was dead.He would kill the servant who had lied to him about this.

“Alright,” the captain of the guard said. “Back to your posts men.His lordship and I will deal with his Highness.”The men went back to their posts.The guard from the bazaar was finished for the day so he went to the barracks.

“This is not His Highness,” Lord Aleheardt told the captain as soon as the men were gone. Lord Aleheardt was breathing hard as he spoke.“He had just gone to bed in his chambers.This is a pretender.He looks very like the Prince and no doubt intends to challenge for the crown.But he is discovered now and we will keep him in the dungeon.His evil plot is foiled.”

“It is,” the captain of the guard was surprised. He picked the man up and fol -lowed Lord Aleheardt to the dungeon.There the jailor was told the same story.Lord Aleheardt saw the man locked into one of the dungeon cells.“Keep him alone,” he ordered, “And don’t listen to anything he says.I expect he will be delirious after that blow on the head.”He did not want anyone to hear or pay attention to anything that man might say to them.“And take off that head covering,“ Lord Aleheardt ordered.It was dangerous to let anyone see how much he looked like Prince Alemark, but unavoidable.At least in the dungeon he could limit the number of people who saw the man.The jailor did just that.Lord Aleheardt left the dungeon just about the time the guardsmen came back with the street urchins they had rounded up.They were thrown into another cell of the dungeon, together.

“Do you think we really got the Prince,” one of them asked.

“Didn’t have much money on him if he was,” another said. He took out two small copper coins and through them to the ground between them.

Once out of the dungeon and on the backstairs of the palace Lord Aleheardt virtually ran to the chambers of the Prince. He got part way up and had to stop, out of breath.It had to do with the heart trouble he had been plagued with since he was a child.He found Alemark in bed, sleeping.“Wake-up,” he whispered loudly in the Prince’s ear.“What,” the Prince woke slowly.“Wake-up” Aleheardt said again, a little louder.

“Uncle Aleheardt what happened?” the Prince asked, not terrible inclined to be generous.

“Disaster,” the man said, sounding angry.

“What, are you angry at me?” the Prince demanded to know.

“No,” the Lord answered, “at the mischance that brought your brother back now.”

“Back?” the Prince, now fully awake demanded again. “How can he come back.He is dead.”

“No,” the Lord said. “I saw him moments ago.He is locked in the dungeon.”

The Prince jumped out of the bed, threw on a dressing gown, and raced for the back stairs. “I will see for myself.” He said.Lord Aleheardt ran after him, trying to stop him.But again the heart was a problem.He had to stop, out of breath.In the dungeon Prince Willheardt had come too.He reached up and touched his face.That startled him.His face covering was gone.He knew that with it his disguise was also gone.Seeing that he was in a dungeon he guessed that his identity had been discovered or guessed.There was no sense in trying to hide who or what he was now.A face appeared at the small window in the door of his cell.“Hello Alemark,” he greeted his brother.“I’ll bet you thought I was dead.”Willheardt was not happy to be in the cell and his emotion showed in his voice.When he was a child that tone would have gotten him punished by Mocmar.Alemark hissed and shut the small door on the window.

In the Prince’s chambers Lord Aleheardt caught his breath. Then he grabbed one of the pages.“Run to my quarters,” he said.“Get my advisor, Rodrick.Bring him here.”The boy was frightened and looked into Lord Aleheardt’s face.The man let go of the boy.“Go,” he wheezed.“Go now.”The child took to his heels.

Prince Alemark left the dungeon and returned to his quarters after making a stop at the guard robe. Aleheardt was waiting for him there and he seemed to know it.Rodrick had also arrived in the meantime.“We’ll kill him,” Alemark said.“I simply order you to execute him as a pretender to the throne.”

“Execute whom,” Rodrick asked innocently.

“A pretender,” Aleheardt said.

“I think that would not be a wise idea,” Rodrick said. “It is known that the Prince was born a twin.The people have always believed that when this happened The Great Deity would make known who He wished to be the next king by having the one he did not want die in childhood.But the story always was that the Prince’s brother was lost as a child and his body eaten by wild animals.This story has never satisfied the Lords.They did not say anything because the King was still alive, but they always thought that some evidence of this should have come to light a long time ago.If this man looks enough like the Prince’s brother then it might be a good thing to say that he is the Prince’s brother.It could be put about that he had lost his memory and just recently got it back.Then the Duel Royal could be set up between them according to the proper traditions.Once the Prince has killed this man, then he could be crowned king.”

“Does he know?” Prince Alemark unwittingly let the cat out of the bag by asking this question of Lord Aleheardt in Roderick’s presence.

“Know what?” Rodrick asked. He schooled his features carefully, so as not to betray his thoughts.

“No.” Aleheardt chose to answer his Prince. Rodrick could think what he liked.“But I think we will do what he suggests.It will be a way to get you crowned that might not happen otherwise.”Suddenly Rodrick knew too that the twin had returned.

In the dungeon Prince Willheardt’s headache subsided. The jailor removed the light and all was dark again.The urchins were asleep again in a few minutes, being warmer then they had been for several days.Dungeons below ground level were like that.In the darkness Prince Willheardt heard a much loved voice again, “Azziah,” The Old Teacher called.“Azziah, wake up.”“I am here master,” Prince Willheardt spoke softly so as not to wake the urchins.“Your brother and your uncle are planning evil against you.They will use all the things that they think will harm you.Remember what I taught you.Be prepared for attack from multiple directions.You will also have to remember the fighting skills that the men of the Bedouins taught you.You will need it all to survive.”“I will remember master,” Willheardt promised him, “but for now please go.Those urchins might awaken and tell.”Suddenly there was a feeling like a cool breeze where no breeze should be and the teacher was gone.

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