A War of Two

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Chapter 9

The duel was arranged for the grand arena. It took a few days to get it ready.After all it was also used for practice for the fighting men.Prince Willheardt could hear the work being done from his cell.He paced his cell during the day now and tried to exercise his muscles.He knew it was essential to keep his muscles in shape for any kind of fighting.That was one of the things that the fight training Mocmar and his men had given the prince emphasized.Your muscles must be in good shape.

Prince Alemark went out to a quiet part of the arena. He practiced with his personal trainer.He had a lot of hope for this duel.He hoped it give the lords what they wanted, a dead body so that they could crown him king.

The night before the duel was to happen, The Old Teacher came to Azziah again. “Azziah,” he called out yet again.“The duel will be tomorrow.We must prepare tonight for all the things necessary to defend you from all harm.”They discusses all the things that they might need.Then they began the workings that would most likely bring them success.When they were finished Azziah went to sleep for a while.But the teacher did not leave.He stood guard all night.

In the morning Aleheardt arose early. For once he had not had a lot of wine and women the night before.He wanted to be in shape to fight this duel, to end this nonsense and to get himself crowned king as soon as possible.He also wanted to be sure that Willheardt did not escape this time.So he ordered that the man from the dungeon be brought to a particular entry portico.He went there himself with a couple of his men.He had also taken other measures to be sure that he won.Alemark had ordered that Willheardt be given only the poorest sword in the armory and the poorest shield.He was to have only thin prison clothing.But he, Alemark, would have the best sword, the best shield and the best chain mail.He was determined that Willheardt would not escape this time.

But Willheardt was not intending to escape. He stood there with nothing more than the loin cloth he had been given to cover himself with and the old sword and shield he had also been given.He was sure that his brother had been given the best in the armory.He whispered a prayer to the Great Deity, his own personal gods and protective spirits.This was part of what he and the teacher had prepared the night before.Then he whispered a spell that would sharpen the sword and toughen the shield.Unknown to his uncle a light swept over the shield and from the hilt to the point of the sword.All weaknesses in both were mended and the sword was now as sharp as it had ever been.He also whispered another spell which toughened his thin prison clothing to chain mail hardness.It visibly bulked on his body, but no one was paying any attention.

Then the gates to the castle were opened and the people began to file into the new stands. First the lords and ladies took the choicest places, those that were shaded.They had retainers with them.There were also guards around provided by Prince Alemark and with special orders from Lord Aleheardt.If Prince Alemark seemed at any point to be losing, they were to kill the pretender, Prince Willheardt.

Once these were In place the ordinary people began to file in. The desert men came with them.They were checked for weapons, but the guards on the gate did not know all the ways those dressed in desert garb might hide weapons on their persons.There were a lot of throwing stars that got through. Mocmar told his son Tarka, “Watch.If you see anything amiss do what you can to help Azziah.I do not trust that Lord Aleheardt or Prince Alemark.”The people from the bizarre were also in the crowd now.Cella found a place right next to Petra’s daughter Timthé.

A few minutes later the trumpeter strode to the middle of the arena. The high priest, Cygon, stepped into the arena.He was the only great lord whose position would not be affected by the outcome so he was empowered to act in these situations.The trumpeter blew a flourish and the people settled down.“Lords and Ladies of great and minor degree,” he addressed them only since the common people were below his notice.“We are gathered here for the Duel Royal.As you all know our late King had two sons.They were twin born so that we did not know which came first.We all believed that when they were children there was a hunt held on the estate of their uncle, Lord Aleheardt.During that hunt it was believed that one of them was lost.Recently it was learned that this was not so.Today those two sons are still alive and both of sound mind and bodies.According to the laws of our people they must now fight to the death for the crown.For our belief is that whomever the Great Deity means to be king, He will preserve alive for us.This will occur here today in this arena.Let us all take a moment to pray for the proper victor and the resuming of proper government for the safety and protection of all our people.”The High Priest fell silent for a moment and so were the people.Then the trumpeter blew a blast.The combatants stepped out on to the field.

The people could take their measure for the first time. Prince Alemark was well dressed with armor a helmet, a good sword, and a good shield.Prince Willheardt had prison clothes on.He had a sword and a shield and nothing else.As he came from the dungeon opening he spared a moment to give Mocmar a salute.Then the fighters saluted each other.

They circled each other, testing for weakness. The duel began in earnest.At first the combatants circled each other.Both combatants took a couple of practice strokes at one another.Prince Alemark was surprised to discover that he could not get past his brother’s defenses even though Alemark had a full suit of armor, a good shield and the best sword in the armory.Prince Willheardt’s practice with his desert brothers stood him in good stead now.He was fast and agile and light enough to move much faster than Alemark could.

They danced around each other for several minutes exchanging blows, high, low, center, high, low, center. The Lords and Ladies watched them from the stands.Their comments came as low murmurs to the fighters on the field.The desert Bedouins watched in silence.The ordinary citizens of the town stood along the sidelines as best they might.Lord Aleheardt watched from the entry portico, murmuring “Come on, finish him.”

After a time Prince Willheardt realized that Prince Alemark did not do as much weapons practice as he should have. He had virtually no defense against the step and lunge.Alemark did not back-up very well.So Willheardt used the maneuver.Alemark managed to get his shield up and deflect the blow, but he was injured.He went down on one knee.

Lord Aleheardt saw everything that he had worked for so long slipping away. He gave the signal to the men he had placed in the stands earlier.They pulled out bows they had hidden under their cloaks and notched arrows.Tarka saw one of them.He hollered as he pulled out a throwing star and catapulted it towards one of the men.The yell warned Prince Willheardt and he hit the ground.It also alarmed the other Bedouins.They pulled out throwing stars that had missed the inspection by the guards.Lord Aleheardt had forgotten about those in his instructions to the guards.

Lord Aleheardt looked on. All he could see was that his chance to influence the kingdom for the next twenty years was in danger of being killed.He had to act.He signaled the men that he had bribed.One of the archers took aim at the two fighters.Tarka saw and launched a flying star.The archer died, the arrow went wild and killed a bystander.The action cost Tarka his life, he took two arrows in the heart and died in front of his best friend Azziah.

The riot was on at that point, with the desert men trying to engage Lord Aleheardt’s men who were trying to kill Willheardt and the ordinary people who were caught in the middle trying to flee from the arena. Everything was happening just as Cella’s cards had told her.The fat priest’s wife was hit by a throwing star and an arrow both.She died.Cella and Timthé managed to make it under the stands and shelter together there.They looked as each other as the sounds of battle increased in the arena.

Soon the arena was filled with fighting men and fleeing women and children. More than one innocent was hurt and some were killed.In fact it was a riot until the captain of the guard sounded his horn.But before that Lord Aleheardt and his people managed to get Prince Alemark off the field of battle.Lord Yssidro worked his way over to Prince Willheardt.When peace finally prevailed he said to the Prince, “So we are in the same situation we were before, no clear evidence that you are the one meant by the Great Deity to be king.”

Lord Aleheardt took Prince Alemark into the secret recesses of the Castle, to the places where those who had lived there for years did not all know about. He grabbed one of his men on the way down and told him.“You stay with him until I return.If you leave him for any reason, I will kill you myself.”He went by secret means into the town and found a healer.He literally kidnapped the man from his garden.

Dragging him into a hidden part of the castle under the walls, he brought a healer to the Prince’s bedside.“You will heal him,” Lord Aleheardt said.He wheezed a little because of his own health problems.But there was something more important now.He pulled his dagger suddenly and held it to the man’s throat.“If he dies, you die.If you need anything you tell this man, and he will fetch it for you.”The healer did not frighten so easily as Lord Aleheardt thought he ought to.But the man was prudent.He was under the control of a great lord and it would not do to antagonize that man now.

Lord Aleheardt retired then to consider what to do now. He had no doubt that he must remove Prince Alemark to his estate, but how to do it.He left the lower parts of the palace and found another of his retainers.“Get me two good horses,” he ordered the man.“Make sure their feet and muffled.Have them waiting by the old North wall of the palace at sunset.And hold them carefully.”People could be convinced that they were seeing strange things at the setting of the sun.And now they might be afraid to look too closely.They would be afraid that someone would kill them if they saw or said the wrong thing.

In the main area of the castle, Prince Willheardt moved into Prince Alemark’s apartments. He also tried on his clothes.As yet he had nothing suitable for him to wear at court.So he would have to take his brothers clothes.They did not fit him well though.They were too tight in the shoulders and too loose in the belly.Only the looser robes would due until he got the things retailored to him.

At the setting of the sun the man was where his master wanted him to be. He held two good horses with his fingers in their noses.That way they would stay quiet.Just as sunset Lord Aleheardt came to the break in the wall.He saw the man and the horses.He ducked back into the nether regions of the castle for a moment.Then he was helping the wounded Prince Alemark on to one of the horses.He mounted the other horse without a word to the man.He was wise enough to know that what the man did not know he could not tell.So he told no one where he was taking Prince Alemark.He simply rode off into the sunset, leading the Prince’s horse as Prince Alemark struggled to hold on to the saddle.

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