Justice For The Queen

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Chapter 18

In the morning the camps were broken up, all of them. The King and his people, including the shee, moved toward the sea. Sgt. Koruth and students continued their tracking. The main camp of the chimerans moved to where their scouts had told them was better hunting. They left marks for when their younger hunters returned as to where they had gone.

When they reached the sea, the humans saw no sign of Matyes. He had gone further south. There he had all his property set up in a cave. And there his neglected horse was running wild and free. Matyes continued to work on his trident, which he fancied was a pretty formidable weapon. But he had to master to show him how they were really properly made.

He fished for himself, and managed to provide some pretty good meals for himself. He even managed to set up a rack in the open air to dry some of his fish. That was when he found out about the aerial predators. They had no problem stealing some of the fish off his drying rack. He had to be constantly on watch against them when he was drying fish. Then he felt that he needed a much more enclosed area to smoke the fish. Drying would pre-serve them for a few days. Smoking would preserve them for much longer.

It was about noon that King Jehan and his party got to the sea. Those men who had never seen the sea were amazed. One young man asked the cook, who was from a southern hold, “Is that the sea?” “Aye,” said the cook, “not much different from what I remember as a boy. I was about the age you are now when I left my home and went to the capitol. At first I was in the service of King Jehan’s grandfather. A fine fair man he was too.” “Does King Jehan look like him?” the boy asked. “No,” said the cook, “he takes after his mother. Now there was a fine lady for you.” Then the cook crawled back to the back of the wagon to check on his patient. Sir Kendrew was still alive, being stronger from the outset then Shishak was.

At supper they had moved a few miles south. Sibelius had something to report. “My men have spotted your’s.” “Where is he?” the King asked. “A few miles to the south of here and a little in land. He set up a rack to dry fish on. Apparently, he had been quite successful with his fishing. He was guarding that rack against predatory birds. It seems that if he didn’t they would steal his whole catch.” “Drying fish?” the king asked. “It preserves them for a few days at least. We shee did the same thing when we were assisting the nyads against the pirates at the Island Castle.” The King was not aware that the fish had to be dried to be preserved.

“So we should reach him tomorrow,” Sibelius said. “The thing that I am a little concerned about it where is his horse. My scouts reported that they did not see one with him, nor sign of one in the area. I wonder how he lost it.”

“I would to,” said the King. “At any rate, we will learn tomorrow.” They both retired for the night then. In the morning Sibelius said, “He is close enough to us now, we do not believe it is necessary to move the camp. We think we will find him in about an hour. When we have captured him we will bring him back here.”

“Right,” the King said to his men, “Mount up.” They did, and were on their way. Matyes was awake. He looked first and saw the pegasi in the sky. “Shee,” he said. “What are they doing here?” He was out in the open there, trying to figure how to start his smoke house. He knew the only way to hide was to get under some sort of cover, but it was a long way to cover. He looked then, for his horse. But the animal was nowhere to be found. Then he thought of where he had left it. And he realized that he had not seen it there for some time.

Now he was running, just thinking to escape from the shee. He wanted to get back to his charger and weapons. He ran as fast as he could in that direction. Some other horseman beat him to it and soon had his charger and the weapons secured so that Matyes could not use them. He kept going, hoping to get around and still get to his weapon. He realized too late that there were also horses there. He tried to use his trident to ward them off. Some of the horses did shy, they had never seen such a thing before. But their masters easily controlled them, and on they came again. Soon he was completely out of breath. He stopped breathing hard.

Matyes looked up and recognized the knight in front of him was none other than the King himself. There was murder in his eye. With one slash of his sword, King Jehan destroyed the weapon that Matyes had made for himself. “I surrender,” Matyes said. King Jehan managed to restrain himself from killing Matyes because he wanted his queen to be present when Matyes and the other two knights died for what they had done to her. “You will die,” he said to Matyes “at the pleasure of my queen.”

The man was taken and bound by two of the men and thrown across the saddle of one of them. It was a most uncomfortable way to ride back to the camp. When Matyes objected, the man simply knocked him unconscious.

Sibelius urged his mount to the ground. “Is that the man you wanted?” he asked King Jehan. “It is my friend,” the King said. “Thank-you for your help.” When they got back to the camp, Matyes was placed in the wagon with Kendrew. There he was shackled to one of the main braces with shackles they had brought with them from home. They also had pairs for Kendrew, when he recovered, and Joopi.

“Well,” said King Jehan, more hopeful then he had been for a long time, “with two of the men caught, I am hopeful that we shall bring the third one to heel soon.”

The next day they broke camp and headed back north. In the north, the young men and their Sgt. were continuing the tracking. They crossed rocky areas and he taught them to cast around for where the tracks picked up again. They crossed streams, and he taught them to estimate where their quarry came out of it again. “You have to pay attention,” he said. “A warry prey that knows you are coming will move up and down the bank,” he said. “First he will look for the best place to enter the stream. That is what we saw here. Then he will look for the best place to exit on the other side. So you send one of your men across to see where that is. A truly warry prey will try not to come out of the water right across from where he went in. He wants to confuse you more than that. So cast around again for any tracks. Never forget that he could easily lay a false trail.”

So they waited on one side of the stream while one of the young men urged his salamander over. Like all lizards, salamanders take to water quite well. Also, Joopi did not know that they were coming. So he had made no attempt to hide his tracks.

In the wagon of the humans, Sir Matyes came to. He looked over and saw Sir Kendrew next to him, feverish. Matyes hollered out. The cook came and checked what all the hollering was all about. “What do you want?” the cook asked. “Sir Kendrew, how did he get like this?” Matyes asked. “Did King Jehan get him into this condition?” “No.” said the cook. “though no one would blame him if he did. We got him that way from the chimerans. The King gave me orders that I was to look after him. He’s not to die until he gets back to Shinna, the same way you will.” He felt the man’s head. It was burning. “Looks like he needs more medicine,” the cook said. “Hold his head up for me, and I’ll try and pour some of this down his throat.” Sir Matyes did manage to hold Sir Kendrew’s head up. Then the cook did get some medicine down him.

The next morning King Jehan and his cohort broke camp and set off for where they remembered the chimeran camp was. They believed that they would hear word from the group that was tracking Sir Joopi there. Again, it took them two days. Sir Kendrew moaned most of the time that they were moving. But he did manage to sleep a little at night. “That is a hopeful sign,” the cook told King Jehan. “It means he’s beginning to recover.” The next day they discovered that the camp had been moved.

“We’ll camp here tonight,” the King told Sibelius. “Aye,” the man said. “The horses and pegasi are tired.” The humans and shee had long since given up their two separate camps. They had decided that the incident with Shishak and Borus was just a tragic mistake.

In the north, Koruth and his students were also camping. “I believe we are so close to the human now that we can smell him,” one of the young men said. “Can you smell cooking meat?” Koruth asked him. “Not other than the meat that we are cooking for ourselves,” the young man said. “Then,” said Koruth, “we are not close enough to smell him. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.”

They made camp that night. Sir Joopi holed up for the night where he was. He was satisfied that the hunting was good here and that he could shelter in these caves in the winter. Live was good, and he was happy.

In the morning the chimerans broke camp and went on hunting for the man who had offered a king such an insult. Joopi was lazy that day. He fed his horse, then went for a swim in a nearby stream, then lay on the grass and took a nap. It was not long before Koruth could smell him. “Here,” he said to his students who were with him. They drew up beside him. “Take a deep breath,” he told them. “Do you smell that?” he asked. “Yes,” said one of the students, “but what is it?” “That,” Koruth explained, “is the scent of a human. Now we are close enough to smell him.”

They topped the ridge, and there was Joopi lying in the grass below them. Koruth ordered his men to silently withdraw a little distance. They did that. “You,” he said as he grabbed one of the young chimerans by the shoulder. “You’ve got a fast mount. You go immediately to our king. Tell him we have found one of the men that the human king is looking for. Bring him here, and the human king as well if you can find him. If the shee are also there, bring them along.” The boy went quietly to his salamander. In a second he was mounted and urging the beast to top speed.

The boy raced along until it was too dark to see. At that point he had to stop and rest his salamander and himself. He was considerable past the point where the group had camped the night before. Trail rations of dried meat would do for himself and his mount. That night Sir Joopi slept the easy sleep of the ignorant, once he had tethered his horse and banked his fire. For he did not know that he was being watched from the trees.

For their part the chimerans in the trees had a cold camp, no fires. This was because even at night, Joopi could not help spotting that. Again they kept watch this night according to the schedule Koruth had already worked out for them.

The next morning, for Joopi, it was more of what he had been doing. He had already built a drying rack to dry his meat. It was dried when he checked it. He began to think of smoking the meat to preserve it longer. He gathered wood, beginning to think in terms of how he would make it. He wanted it big enough so that he could turn around in it easily. He laid out saplings that he cut down to see how long it should be and how wide. He would just have to estimate the roof.

All of this Koruth watched him do. At the same time his messenger was again speeding south. And, at that time, King Jehan was making it to the new chimeran encampment. He pulled the wagon in. King Kirillo saw that he had another prisoner there. This one was rather hale and healthy compared to Sir Kendrew. “Is this one of the men who committed that insult against you?” he asked. “Yes,” said King Jehan. “But the real ring leader of the group is still out there. Joopi is the one I want the most.” While they spoke, the shee brought their pegasi down and dismounted. Then they tethered their mounts in the sky. The beasts began eating the tender new shoots of the trees.

It was evening of that day when the messenger from Koruth arrived in the camp. He went immediately to King Kirillo. “Sire,” he reported, “we have found one of the men that King Jehan searches for. I have been sent back to tell you. I can take you there if you wish. But right now I believe my salamander will not stir a step until he has been properly fed.” Salamanders tended to bond very much with their riders. It would not due for him to take another.

“You also must have food and rest,” his King told him. “You will take us there in the morning. You,” he indicated a guard, “find King Jehan and bid him come to my tent. You, scout, get something to eat and then come back to my tent.” The scout nodded and left. The guard went to King Jehan.

“Come in,” King Kirillo said when King Jehan got there. “I was bod to come to your tent,” Jehan said. “I have news for you,” King Kirillo said. “But that will wait until after we have eaten. He roared a little and the servants brought his food. They also brought food for King Jehan. When they were finished King Kirillo cleared his throat. “A scout has come from Koruth,” he said at last. “He will join us soon. He has seen your man.”

“I am very anxious to see him,” King Jehan said. “Guard,” King Kirillo called. “Is that boy back yet?” “He is here, sire,” the guard reported. “Bring him in,” King Kirillo ordered. The boy came in. Finding both kings there, he was a little nervous.

“Sire,” he said to his own king, bowing slightly. Then again, “Sire,” to King Jehan. He did not know which one should be given preference. His King spoke to him first. “You said Koruth had found the last man that King Jehan is searching for,” King Kirillo wanted to know. “Where?”

“At the low side of a ridge three days from here,” the scout said. “You made it back in 2?” the King asked. “I did, sire,” the scout admitted. King Kirillo had maps that had been made brought out. The maps were rough, but they were better than nothing. “Show me where,” King Kirillo ordered. The young man indicated where Koruth was and the area where they were now. “It is this way,” he said. “Uhmm,” said King Kirillo. “I know that area, good hunting there.” He considered, stroking his chin.

“Come,” King Kirillo said. “We will go there in the morning.” He folded up the maps without really thinking. But King Jehan and Sibelius thought it would be better to humor him for the time being. In the wagon, Sir Kendrew took a little nourishment that Sir Matyes gave him.

In the morning the messenger and his mount began to lead them back to where Koruth was hiding. They had all managed to eat, feed their beasts, and get some rest while keeping a watch on Sir Joopi. For himself, since Joopi did not know anyone was there, he proceeded to act that way. He took care of himself and his horse, allowed it to loll in the sun for so long as the sun was up. Went into the cave at night and got it into its stable at night. In the morning the horse acted a bit nervous. But Joopi got it to quiet again and led it back out to the pasture and to the stream.

The entourage that was following the scout could not move so fast as he could. It took them two days to cover the distance he had done in one. He was pleased that someone made camp for him and fed his salamander for him. He enjoyed watching the shee land their pegasi. They all seemed to come down in such good order. Once the salamanders got used to it, it didn’t make them nervous any more.

In the morning, they were off again. They managed to make it to Koruth’s camp just before sunset. He could not help but notice the arrival of the shee. His salamander got nervous at the arrival of the pegasi. “Shee coming sir,” the camp guard reported. “Yes, I see them,” Koruth said. “That means the human King and our own King will be arriving soon. Don’t forget, our own king receives precedence.” “Yes, sir,” the guard said and returned to his post.

They came into the camp, and again it was just about dark. The guard saluted his king and reported. “Welcome, sire,” he said. “Where is Koruth,” he asked. “On the ridge sire. He has been observing the human for the last 3 days.” “Where is the human?” King Jehan asked. “In a cave just over the ridge. Right now he is cooking some meat for his supper.”

“Show me where you are watching him from, with your highness’s permission, of course,” King Jehan said. “Of course,” said King Kirillo. They went to the ridge and climbed it as carefully and quietly as they could. As they neared Koruth’s position, Joopi thought he heard something. But it was not enough to know exactly what it was, besides his dinner was now ready.

As King Jehan and King Kirillo watched, Joopi settled down to eat his food. “That is him,” King Jehan whispered. The men moved back from the ridge. In the camp, King Kirillo asked King Jehan, “Will you attack him tomorrow?” “I would attack him tonight, if it were not already so dark,” King Jehan assured him.

“Will you help him?” King Kirillo asked Sibelius. “Only if he really needs it,” Sibelius said. “I think he would prefer it that way.” “Thank-you my friend, I would.” They retired to their tents that night and got what sleep they could. Joopi slept the sleep of the ignorant. He did not know what tomorrow was going to bring.

In the morning, Joopi decided to take his horse and do some exploring of what more this area had to offer. So he took his saddle and all his weapon out of the makeshift stable. Then he led his horse to water and to some grazing before bringing him back to the stable.

In the camp King Jehan awoke. He had breakfast, then some of his men helped him with his armor and others brought up his horse. He mounted his horse and rode to the site of the cave. Joopi did not even know he was there until he entered the clearing below the cave.

Joopi’s horse nickered at the approaching horse. When Joopi saw who was coming, his face turned ashen. Then he saddled his horse, got into his armor, got his weapon on his mount, and got on himself. He rode into the clearing a little way with the one and only lance he had in his hand. “Your Highness?” he asked. “The same,” Jehan called back to him. Joopi put his visor down, and steadied his lance. Both men spurred their mounts at the same time. Both chargers reacted as they had been trained to do and charged. Both lances crashed against armor. Jehan rode on past, but Joopi was on the ground. His charger ran off and was rounded up by one of Jehan’s men. It would not be allowed to return to its master. As was the rule, Jehan now dismounted. He ran back to Joopi, who was up with his sword out. Jehan drew his and again started to test Joopi’s defenses. They were good, but in a second, the King knew he was better. They circled, and circled back. In less than 2 minutes Jehan found the opening he wanted and made use of it. Joopi’s sword was flung to one side and he was flat on his back on the ground. Joopi used his shield to knock the king off balance. But Jehan was up again before Joopi could retrieve his sword. Jehan threw his sword a little distance and then was on Joopi with just his shield. But Joopi still had his dagger. He tried to get that passed the king’s shield and past his armor too. That simply did not work. A stab at the king’s shield with the dagger broke the dagger. Soon his shield was also wrenched away and Jehan had his dagger at Joopi’s throat. “I yield,” Joopi said. In the end he too was a coward. The King stood there, breathing hard for a moment. By then the wagon was coming into the clearing with the other prisoners in it. Peering through the back of it, Joopi could see the others prisoners in it.

“What will happen to us?” Sir Joopi asked, dejectedly. “You, peh, peh,” was all King Jehan could get out, he was so angry. He had to stop and take a few deep breaths before he could speak again. “The crime you committed against your Queen is so heinous that the death you deserve is the basest possible. You will be taken back to the capitol and hanged like common criminals. I want my queen to see that you are dead and to know that you will never do to another what you did to her. After that your bodies will be left to rot. We’ll see if the birds of the air will have you, for the ground will not.”

Most knights would rather die by any other means then that. So the men who were guarding the prisoners stayed on their toes. They kept their weapons on the prisoners but too far away for the prisoners to reach them. They rode on back to the capitol.

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