A War of Two

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Chapter 7

Lord Aleheardt returned immediately to the castle. He went immediately to Prince Alemark’s chamber.There the Prince had been indulging in wine and women if not song.Lord Aleheardt could hear the sounds as he came down the passage way.He entered the chamber without knocking.“Get out,” he ordered the women.They looked at Prince Alemark.

“That is rather rude,” he said to his Uncle, meaning the man usurping his authority and not his treatment of the women.

“We have business to discuss,” Aleheardt said. “Get rid of them.”

“Back to the kitchens,” Alemark said. The girls left.“Alright,” Alemark said.“What is it?”

“I’ve just come from the assembly of the Lords.” Aleheardt said.“I admitted to them that the prisoner in the dungeon is your brother.I told them that we thought he might be suffering from amnesia, that he had lost his memory.”

“Great,” Alemark said. “What did they say to that?”

“That isn’t all,” Aleheardt said. “I knew they would wonder why he returned to the capitol now.So I said that we thought he had just recently recovered his memory.But I told them we thought he might be in a delicate mental condition, that he could lose his mind at any time.”

“And,” Prince Alemark insisted on interrupting again.

“They said that a committee of Lords would have to see him to decide for themselves if this was so, that he was weak minded. If they do see this, it would be a clear indication that the Great Deity means you to be king and there would be no reason not to proceed immediately and have you crowned.”

“Great,” said Prince Alemark. “Let’s do it now.”

“It is not as easy as that,” Lord Aleheardt said. “It is obvious to me that he is not weak in any way.So first we will have to prepare him.I told the Lords in the committee that they will have to come tomorrow.”

“You are not the committee?” Prince Alemark asked.

“No,” his uncle hated to admit it. “In fact I am not even on the committee.”

“Who is on the committee,” the Prince asked him.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lord Aleheardt said. “What I propose is this.You know that I travel with a wise woman who prepares my medicine.I intend to have her fix a drink for your brother.It will make him appear to be an idiot for the time that we need him to be incapacitated.The Lords will then be granted access to the dungeon, see this, and decide that you are to be king.After you are crowned, you can keep him in the dungeon, in the tower, or he can meet with some unfortunate accident.”

“Sounds great,” Prince Alemark said. He finally got out of his bed then.He staggered a bit and grouped for some more wine.“Do it,” he belched.“And send the women back in.I feel like some more slap and tickle.”The Prince sat back down on the bed a little harder then he’d intended.Lord Aleheardt left the chamber to carry out his plan.But he did not send for the women.Let the Prince do that himself if he could.

In his quarters Lord Aleheardt called for the wise woman Sasha. “I want you to fix a drink,” he said.“It should be such as to make a man go mad.Put whatever you need into it.But it must be delivered to the dungeon for the prisoner there who resembles Prince Alemark.”

“Uh-huh.” She said. She thought about what she ought to put into the tea.She went to her usual work area and about her business making a tea of Basil.She sent it to the dungeon.“It’s to be given to that man what looks like the Prince,” she told the page she sent with it.“It’s Lord Aleheardt’s instructions.”

Lord Aleheardt also gave instructions to the jailor. “Have the prisoner bath before he sees the Lords.After all we don’t want them thinking we are mistreating him.”Actually it was done to help deal with any tell tale scent of drugging.

The tea was delivered. Prince Willheardt smelled the Basil.He knew the effect that it was supposed to have, to make him mad or insane.He checked the tea out.He smelled it, looked at it, and tasted it very carefully.It had nothing but basil in it.He knew of it from his teacher and that it did not have the properties it was thought to have.So he drank the tea.Nothing happened.

He decided that just sitting on the bed provided was not going to help him. He needed to keep his muscles strong.So he pushed against the floor and the walls with his arms and legs.It was all he could do for exercise.In the morning more of the tea was sent, and again it had no effect.Then he was given ordinary water to drink.“I’m told you should wash yourself,” the jailor said.“You’re going to have visitors.”

So the man put a bucket of water in the cell and Prince Willheardt washed himself as best he might. When the jailor informed Lord Aleheardt that the prisoner had been given the tea and had drunk it and had also washed himself in preparation for his visitors the Lord went to the gate of the castle and let the committee of Lords in.

In the dungeon he went only so far as to speak to the jailor. For some reason he did not want to be there when the Lords opened the door to the cell.“Did the Prince drink all the tea that I had made for his comfort?” Lord Aleheardt asked.“Prince,” the jailor asked.“Yes,” Lord Aleheardt asked.“We have established that the man is in fact Prince Willheardt.”“But he’s dead,” the jailor voiced the belief of the common people, the one that Lord Aleheardt tried so hard to promulgate among the lords for so long.Lord Aleheardt shook his head.“Aye,” the jailor said, “he drank the tea.He’s had a bath too.That way he don’t have no lice or anything like that.”

“Alright then, let the lords see him,” Lord Aleheardt order-ed. The Jailor opened the cell door.The Prince was lying on his bed when they opened the door.He came to a sitting position.“Get up man,” the High Priest urged.“We are a committee of the Lords Temporal and Spiritual.We have come to speak to you to find out who you are and to judge your mental and physical condition.”

“Ask your questions then,” Prince Willheardt said. “I will answer.”The eyebrows of virtually all the lords rose at that.The man did not sound mad or mentally unstable as they had been told he was.

“Where have you been these last 20 years,” Lord Yssidro asked.

“Living among the Bedouins,” Prince Willheardt said, “The tribe of Mocmar to be exact. His is the western most group of those that live in the territory that my father conquered when he was a young man.”

“What happened the day of the hunt,” the priest Varon asked.

“I was attacked by members of my Uncle’s guard. They were intent on killing me.”

“How do you know that,” the high priest asked.

“I heard my uncle and my brother conspiring the night before. He gave my brother a special coat to wear so that his men could tell us apart.I heard him tell my brother that he had ordered his men to attack the boy wearing the royal insignia on his coat.But he had told them to leave alone the boy who was wearing the insignia of his house.”

“All can wear the insignia of both houses,” Yvan Caipreson said. “Most choose the insignia of their father’s house because that is the insignia of the land they will inherit.”

“That is true,” the high priest said. “Why did you not return to us before now?’

“At first I thought that I would need allies before I could do that. Then I also knew that I would need training in weapons and size and strength to defend myself.Living and training and working among the Bedouins would give me the last and possible the first too.Then one of their elderly men asked to take me on as his special student.He was a Wise Man.He was knowledgeable in many things and he taught me all he knew.”He stopped short of telling these people that the man was a magician know -ledgeable in the occult arts.He was not sure just how far he could trust these men just yet.How afraid would he be of people who knew the things that he knew and could do the things he could do?

“Well,” said Varon, “so much for the mental incapacity. Now for the physical examination.”

The Prince simply nodded his head and removed his outer robe. He stood before them with nothing more than a twist of cloth about his groin.They could easily see what good physical shape he was in for all the years of life in the desert.It was obvious that his teacher had demanded that he maintain his physical strength.That was done by allowing him to play vigorously with the other boys and train at fighting with them and even herd sheep with them from time to time.His skin was tanned and healthy as Prince Alemark was pale and unhealthy.

“We have seen and heard enough,” Lord Yssidro said.

“You may robe again,” the High Priest said. They stepped out of the cell and the door was closed behind them.

The High Priest stepped to Lord Aleheardt. He was where he had not heard the conversation that took place in the cell.“We will let you know our decision in the Temple in an hour.” The man told him.

“You can make a determination so soon?” Lord Aleheardt asked.

“We can,” the priest said.

When they got to the Temple Varon asked his superior. “Why did you tell him that we would give him our decision in an hour in the Temple.”

“Because I don’t want to be under his power when we tell him,” Cygon said.

“I agree,” Yssidro said. “In fact I think it might be a good idea if we had some of the Temple guard standing by.”

“They will be,” Cygon said. At a signal from him Varon ran ahead.The Captain of the guard met the returning Lords at the door of the Temple.“Send some men to guard the Legislative room of the Temple.Allow all the Lords to enter without hindrance.But be ready if there is a sound of trouble from within the room.And send runners to the Lords known to be in the city.Tell them to attend upon us immediately.”

Once they were inside the chamber, simply for the sake of form, Cygon took a voice vote. “The Vote,” he said.“Is simply whether Prince Willheardt is capable of fighting the Duel Royal to determine which of the two is the one that the Great Deity means to be king.”Only one word was heard from all throats, “Aye.”Cygon went and changed into his High Priest robes.This would be official and it would be important.

The runners went out and everything was ready. In an hour Lord Aleheardt was there to hear the decision of the Lords.Murmurs were heard about where people were planning on having lunch when this was over.

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