The Duke and the Duchess

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Chapter 12

Nick sat up, wide awake in a moment. Someone was trying to get into his bedroom, rattling the knob and pushing on the door.

"Who's there?" he called out.

The rattling stopped. "Your Highness, I am Rodrigo; I have been appointed to be your valet. I have clothing for you, but I cannot open the door."

Nick got out of bed, touched the light rune on the wall, pulled away the chair, and opened the door. He was wearing only his underwear, but the small, dark man in front of him seemed to take it in stride. There was a large cart behind him with neatly folded clothing on two shelves, and a high rod holding hanging jackets and pants. Incelians didn't wear vests or scarves.

Rodrigo pulled the cart into the bedroom to a large armoire and began unloading it without a second look at the duke. When everything was put away, the valet removed a gaudy suit of red and gold and said, "Your Highness is to meet the king this morning. This will be appropriate. Does Your Highness have the correct matching jewelry?"

"I was touring a fishing village when I was kidnapped, so no, I didn't bring my crown with me."

"I will borrow a few things for you then, Your Highness." Rodrigo left and Nick closed the door behind him. The duke cleaned himself up and dressed in the recommended outfit. His new valet surely knew more about appropriate Incelian Court attire than he did.

There was a breakfast buffet laid out in the sitting room with slices of unidentifiable meat, filets of a flaky white fish, scrambled eggs, fruit, tea, and wine. Nick took eggs, fruit, and tea, and wondered what was done with all the leftover food; the amounts being presented to him would easily feed eight or ten people.

He had just begun eating when there was a knock at the outer door, and Nick called, "Come in," expecting Prince Matthew had come to take him to his audience. Instead, two strangers entered, a man and a woman both dressed in red and gold too.

They were both tall and slender, middle-aged, and blue-eyed. The man said with what Nick thought was false heartiness, "I'm your Uncle Simon, and this is my wife, Aunt Irene. I see they've got you in the uniform of the day. Formal Courts are always color coordinated you know. May we join you for breakfast?"

The duke had everything he wanted off the buffet and he said, "Of course, Prince Simon."

"No, no, first lesson. I'm a dragomancer and so is Irene. We can never be more than 'lord' and 'lady'. And just call me Spider in private." He and Irene were loading up plates with food and then came and sat near Nick.

Lady Irene said, "Of our three children, one is a dragonmaster. We're very proud of Princess Carmen."

"We're proud of all our children," Lord Simon amended. "After all, you can't help how you're born. Lord Ferdinand and Lord Peter are fine young men; they just don't have useable magic."

"I'm sure they are," Nick said politely. "Spider, I was wondering about what you said about being color coordinated."

"Mother Magda had red and gold as her colors before she lost her mind and went all white. Queen Helen had purple and silver, but since Prince Matthew's wife Francine is a dragonmaster and has chosen blue and silver, he wears those colors. Princesses Mirella and Katrina are also dragonmasters so they have chosen their own colors too.

"And all the dragonmasters will be wearing coronets and tiaras and such; we're forbidden," added Lady Irene. She herself was wearing a large gold comb in her hair.

"So the king will be in purple and silver?"

Spider shook his head. "No, since he's king he wears his father's colors, pale blue and black with gold accents."

Nick decided it was all too confusing, and he felt the fuss over who gets to wear what was just silly. The outer door opened and Rodrigo returned followed by Prince Matthew.

Lord Simon and Lady Irene abandoned their plates, bowed to the prince in blue and silver, and left without a word. The valet went to the duke and put several gold chains around his neck, a gold and ruby circlet on his head, and pinned a large ruby on his shirt at his throat.

Prince Matthew nodded approvingly. "Now you look like a prince should. Are you ready?" He turned without waiting for an answer and headed toward the door. Nick gulped the last of his tea, wiped his face and hands, and followed him through the castle halls.

The throne room was huge, and there were knots of people dressed in matching colors loitering, waiting for the king. Queen Mother Magda was the only one in white and silver and was easy to spot, standing to one side with Lord Simon, Lady Irene, and their children. There was a lot of green and silver and green, black, and gold near the throne. Prince Matthew headed that way and then motioned Nick forward while he veered off to merge into a family in his same colors.

Nick was joined by Lord Simon, who spoke to him in a low voice. "I will introduce you and then step back. Answer the king's questions, address him as 'Your Majesty', and when he's done back up three paces, turn and come over to us. And don't trust Rodrigo. He's fine with clothes, but he can be bought."

The duke barely had time to register that last sentence when a sentinel called out, "King Benedict the Third and Queen Mirabelle!" Nick bowed with the rest of the crowd as the royal couple entered from behind the throne and sat down. He was average height with dark hair, and dressed as predicted in pale blue and black with gold stitching and ornamentation. His crown was a gold mass encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. The queen, blond and slightly taller than her husband, wore dark blue and gold and had a similar crown half the size of the king's. The quantity of precious gems in the room made the duke wonder if there were mines in Incelia.

Lord Simon led him forward, muttered, "You just bow," to Nick and went down on one knee while the duke executed a bow appropriate from a prince to a king.

"What have you brought me, Spider?" the king asked.

Lord Simon rose and replied, "Your Majesty, I have the honor to present dragonmaster Prince Henry Nicholas Warwick, son of my sister Ariella."

King Benedict was frowning. "He can't possibly be a dragonmaster, what are you trying to pull, Spider?"

Lord Simon shrugged. "I am as surprised as anyone, Your Majesty. Test him."

The king finally addressed Nick. "You are an Anglian prince, but you claim to have power?"

"Your Majesty, I am an Anglian prince with an Incelian mother, and I do have power. I've used it successfully in battle against the Francks."

The king leaned back and gestured to a middle-aged blond woman in green, black, and gold. "Mirabella," was all he said. She stepped forward, and everyone else retreated to positions along the walls, leaving just the two of them in a large open space.

"Princess Mirabella," she said to Nick. "I am a very strong dragonmaster. You may not survive my test. Do you still contend you are powerful?"

"I do, Your Highness," Nick responded, deciding to be polite and give her the honorific even though she had not done the same. He was fairly confident he could stand up to her magic after his experiences with Franckish sorcerers.

"You will defend first. That way, if you are not what you claim, the test will be over quickly. Are you ready?"

Nick erected double buffered shields, not knowing what she was going to do. "Ready when you are, Your Highness."

She began throwing things that looked like fat arrows at him, the objects appearing in her hands from nowhere. From that, the duke knew they were energy bolts and strengthened his energy shield. Whatever they were, they exploded when they hit his shield. Six of them hit in quick succession, the force of them making him stagger back a step. At the end of the volley she threw something else--a very solid knife.

Nick quickly angled his matter shield down; he didn't what the knife flying off into the crowd. It hit, rebounded to the floor, and skittered halfway across the room. He was amazed the blade hadn't shattered at the impact, but he could see a small gouge in the floor where it had hit. But he hadn't sensed iron when it hit his shields, which made him very curious about what it was made from.

Someone dressed in her colors retrieved the knife and returned it to her. Princess Mirabella said, "Well, Nephew, you have some ability anyway. Your turn."

Nick considered for a moment. His usual fire and lightning could endanger others in the room, so he went with his concentrated fire. Raising one hand, he pointed at her and let the tight beam flow, and flow, and flow.

It didn't penetrate her shield, but he could sense it was weakening, and wondered if he should stop. But she stepped back, erected a second shield and dropped the first. Nick decided he owed her a second attack, so he used his other hand to create his trip line while continuing the beam of fire. He slithered it around her shield and used it to lift the hem of her dress. She jumped, smoothing down her gown and looking around for whatever had moved her gown while still holding her shield. He ceased both attacks.

The duke thought she was angry for a moment, but then she dropped her shields and laughed. "Very good, Your Anglian Highness." She turned to the king. "Your Majesty, I think we have a new dragonmaster, and a most unusual one at that."

King Benedict nodded. "Thank you, Princess. Prince Matthew, you will mentor him? Coming from Anglia there are undoubtedly gaps in his training."

Nick saw Lord Simon had started forward, but stopped in confusion as Prince Matthew came up to Nick, bowed to the king, and said, "Of course, Your Majesty."

They executed the three steps back, bowed, and then retreated to a crowd wearing blue and silver. The duke felt odd, being the only one in red and gold in the group. The rest of the audience with the king consisted of people he didn't know making proposals or asking for judgments. It took an hour before Nick's boredom came to an end and the Court session concluded.

He thought he might have been able to find his way back to his suite himself, but Prince Matthew accompanied him anyway and left him at the door to go change out of his formal clothing. The duke went in and did the same, just wearing whatever Rodrigo suggested.

It wasn't long before he had visitors. Princess Katrina arrived with two young women and introduced herself and Princesses Bella and Connie, her unmarried dragonmaster daughters. Moments later Prince Matthew returned with his wife Princess Francine and daughter Princess Helga, who appeared to be about fourteen years old.

Nick tried to be polite, but it was clear to him that he was now considered as a prime candidate for marriage. Servants showed up with refreshments and he suffered through two hours of tea and cakes and gossip, mentioning that he was married at least three times and having the statement disregarded by everyone.

He was relieved when the impromptu party ended and everyone left. It wasn't long before there was another knock at his door and Lord Simon entered. Nick was pleased to see that he was alone and carrying an armload of books.

His uncle seemed uneasy and stood just inside the door. "I know Prince Matthew is supposed to tutor you so I can't really interfere. I'm a nobody, you know. But these books are from the library and I thought you might like to read them. Some of them are too elementary I'm sure, but maybe you'd like to see how we prepare our young people who are expected to be dragonmasters." He moved forward a few steps and held out the books. Nick hurried to him and accepted them. Lord Simon explained, "The first three are the children's books, the next three are the first books for young mages coming into their power. And I'll show you the library anytime you like, that is if Prince Matthew doesn't."

"Thank you, Uncle Simon. I very much want to read these. The Anglian law against witchcraft has been modified to exclude a potential group of witches under my command, and I'm supposed to train them. I wonder if I could get copies of these books to take home with me."

Lord Simon smiled. "Spider, please. Of course, there are quite a few copies in the library and I can have a nice clean set put aside for you. So you can have them when you go home, or wherever you end up." The end of the sentence was said very quietly, but Nick caught it.

"You don't think I'm going to be allowed to leave, do you."

The dragomancer was clearly reluctant to answer, but he did. "Frankly, no. And you might like it here better than Anglia anyway. You're among your own sort, our weather is much better, and you're already very popular among the dragonmasters since there are more females in your age group than males."

Nick thought it might be a good idea to change the subject. "Spider, how did you get your nickname?"

His uncle smiled. "As a boy I was just fascinated with them. I loved the beautiful webs, and had a couple in my room as pets. The maids refused to come in, which was fine with me. My room became a haven for a lot of the boys since most of the girls stayed out."

Nick nodded. He'd felt that way about girls too, not so many years ago. He asked a more serious question. "Why was my grandmother so anxious to get magical energy from me? Couldn't she just get some from you and Lady Irene or your daughter Carmen whenever she wanted?"

The older lord hung his head a little. "We're just dragomancers. Irene's aperture never opened and mine is very small. I can only pull a tiny bit of energy at a time, and can't really do anything with it anyway. And dragonmasters aren't supposed to give energy to dragomancers. We want Carmen to obey the rules, become a full-fledged dragonmaster, and restore prestige to our family."

"None of your ejectors work?" Nick asked, wondering if Prince Matthew was right and Spider would lie to him.

"One, but it's undersized as well so it's difficult to use. It's usually not worth the effort."

The duke decided not to push it. "So what does Queen Mother Magda plan to do with the energy she got from me?"

Oh, she's already used quite a bit of it, just for little luxuries that all the dragonmasters have. You know her magic system is fine, except for her aperture; it's the weakness on our side of the family. She's powered up light and temperature runes in her quarters and tried a few little experimental spells she's read about and wanted to try for years. I hope you'll give her more in the future. It's been so hard for her, having been a queen and having dragonmasters provide all the things she wanted, and then losing her husband and being demoted to just another nonentity."

There was a knock at the door and Prince Matthew entered. Lord Simon immediately said, "Your Highness, I just brought a few basic books on magic from the library, I hope you don't mind. I can take them back, of course."

"Fine, but leave now Spider, I have things to discuss with Prince Henry."

As soon as the door closed behind the dragomancer, the older prince said, "What kind of lies is he telling now?"

Nick was taken aback by his sharp tone, but replied mildly, "He was just telling me that Lady Irene can't pull power at all and he can only pull a tiny bit, so neither of them can supply Queen Mother Magda."

"Good thing, too, or who knows what that family might get up to," Prince Matthew said, apparently forgetting Nick was part of that family. "And as a dragonmaster you are not allowed to give power to a dragomancer. I know you weren't aware of that when you supplied Magda, but now you are so don't do it again. I came to tell you the only ship in harbor at the moment is a Turgoman merchant vessel on its way home, so it won't be going anywhere near Anglia."

"There's an Anglian embassy on Incelia, isn't there? Have they been informed I'm here?"

"Of course, but they can't do anything about it either until an Anglian ship shows up. Now I have things to do; since you have those books, you might as well spend the rest of the day reading them. There are more in the library when you finish them, anyone can show you where it is."

Prince Matthew left. Nick set the books down next to a comfortable chair, but decided they could wait. He was starting to think it might be necessary for him to take things in his own hands to get back to Anglia. To begin with he needed to be able to navigate the castle by himself.

The duke opened his outer door. There was still guard there, but he ignored Nick as the young dragonmaster went out into the hall and closed the door behind him. His room was the only one with a guard that he could see. But as he started down the hallway, the guard followed him.

That would complicate things if he had to sneak out, but it was actually convenient at the moment. Nick motioned him closer and asked him what was down various halls as they walked. He found where the different family groupings lived, the throne room, the library, a huge state dining room, the kitchens, servants' quarters, and the hall that led off to the barracks. There was a hallway with a number of classrooms, and past that were large practice rooms for magic. He also found the front door and three other less conspicuous exits and went out one into a garden.

Nick and his guard did a complete circuit of the castle, the duke using the guard to help orient himself to the interior layout from the outside. They also visited the stables and a number of outbuildings including two forges, a grain mill, a woodworking shop, a lumber mill, a stonecutter's workshop, storehouses, and a jeweler's workshop.

As a test, they went back into the castle on the opposite side from Nick's suite and he was able to find his way through the halls without much difficulty. But he didn't go directly back to his quarters; instead he knocked on the door to his grandmother's suite. When she called, "Come," the guard stationed himself outside the door and Nick went in.

Her suite was much smaller than his, although nicely furnished. He was surprised to see her wearing a red and gold short jacket over a white dress.

"Good afternoon, Grandmama," he said politely. "I thought you didn't wear those colors."

"I do now that I have someone to be proud of in these colors. Of course there's Carmen, but she's just a schoolgirl. Come in and sit down, Henry." Nick complied and she asked, "Are you here to give me more magic?"

"I've been told I'm not supposed to do that. But there's no reason I can't stop by and power up your runes when they need it, at lease until I go back to Anglia."

She smiled sadly at him. "That's very kind of you. The energy you gave me before has them going quite well at the moment. You must be aware by now that you're not going to be allowed to leave."

"I know there are people planning my wedding for me, but I am going to go back home whether I'm allowed or not. Grandmama, I need to ask a question, and it needs to stay just between you and me."

"A secret? I love secrets, and I'm very good at keeping them. Ask."

"If a child is born with a small aperture, but it is successfully stretched over a period of years until he has dragonmaster level power, is that person a dragomancer or a dragonmaster?"

She looked at him quizzically, and he could see her mind working to figure out who he was talking about, but not coming to a conclusion. "He's a dragonmaster, regardless of how he came to be one. But who are you speaking of? It can't be you and there are no other mages in Anglia."

"It is me. My mother came to me every year on my birthday and stretched my aperture, and when I turned fifteen she opened it completely."

Magda frowned. "That's impossible, Ariella died shortly after you were born."

"She came to me as a ghost. I'm told she had very little magic, maybe that's why she only came once a year, it was all she could manage."

The queen mother stared at him and then slowly shook her head. "I don't believe you; that's not possible. I can understand why you have made up this story, you hope that others will believe it and not want to keep you here since if it was true you would no longer be a desirable mate."

"It's true, I swear it."

"And you don't really want me to keep it a secret, you think because I'm an old woman that I'm a gossip. Henry, I'm not going to tell anyone your outlandish story. I want you to stay here. I want you to bring honor to the colors I was allowed to choose when I was queen in spite of my lack of power."

Nick stood up. "I'm sorry you don't believe me, but I have told you the truth."

"Truth? No one is going to believe a dragomancer came back as a ghost and successfully performed very difficult magic; we don't have that ability. I suggest you change your story to include a powerful mage, hiding his magic because of Anglian law, and helping you in secret. It's more believable."

He shook his head. "But that's not what happened, believable or not. Maybe you should be wearing that red and gold for Ariella, if she did something so difficult with so little magical ability. Let me know if you need your runes charged."

The duke went back to his quarters trailed by his guard, who took up his station outside the door again. Nick flopped down in a chair and read the magic books. The first three were very simple, interspersing stories of dragonmasters doing heroic deeds with basic information like the names and functions of the parts of a mage's magic system. The next three were more advanced, but there really wasn't anything in them he didn't already know. Servants brought another buffet while he was reading and he snacked his way through the last two books.

It wasn't all that late when he finished. He wandered around his suite and checked the light and temperature runes, and added power to some of the light ones since he'd left them on night and day except in the bedroom. The temperature runes were a little different from his heat runes and he studied one for a while until he understood it well enough to be able to replicate it. He was wondering if he should take the books back to the library and get some others when there was a knock at his door and Prince Matthew returned.

"Prince Henry, I hear you've done some exploring today. Can you find your own way in the palace now?"

"Yes. By the way, why is there a guard on my door during the day? A man with a sword isn't going to be able to protect me better than I can protect myself."

"It's just so you won't be annoyed by dragomancers seeking favors."

Nick didn't believe that, but let it pass. "I should be living with my family; everyone else seems to be grouped with their closest relatives."

Matthew shook his head. "There's no point in moving now, when you marry you'll be moving to your wife's suite and changing to her colors."

The duke didn't like that but didn't argue about it. He knew he wasn't going to marry anyone here. "I think there's something everyone should know," he said. "I was born with a small aperture and it was stretched and opened for me. I may be a dragonmaster now but my children may be all dragomancers, even if my wife is a dragonmaster.

"Interesting," Prince Matthew said blandly. "And who was this person who performed this miracle for you?"

Nick hesitated, but decided he wasn't going to lie about it. "Ariella. She came back as a ghost once a year on my birthday and worked on it. She opened it fully when I reached fifteen."

The older prince laughed. "I understand you don't want to marry here, you feel committed to your Anglian woman, but please don't make up silly stories to try to get out of it. It's not going to work, and we need you far more than she does."

"Well maybe I need her far more than I have any use for staying here!"

"Please be calm, Prince Henry. I'm not saying you can't return to Anglia someday if you really want to, but you have a duty here far greater than to your father's land. You'll have to remain until there's a ship for you to leave on, and that could be weeks or even months; we don't have a lot of trade with Anglia this time of year. At least give Incelia a chance. Keep an open mind about the possibilities."

Nick sat down and said, "Fine," but he knew he wasn't going to change his mind. The Incelian prince was right about the timing though, most ships from Anglia brought grain in the fall after harvest.

The older prince sat down too. "You seemed to be interested in the mage wars when I mentioned them yesterday, so I thought you'd like to hear the story."

"Yes I would." Nick sat up straighter. "It must be really ancient history."

"Have you ever wondered who was the first mage?" Nick nodded and Matthew continued, "His name was Odowyn, and he was one of the Oak Tree People. They lived in the forests of Anglia and had little to do with the towns and farms. Odowyn's power soon made him chief, and he took as many wives as he wanted from within the tribe. It's said he had forty-two children, be we don't know if that's true. We do know that over the years, magic ability spread through the tribe and they began taking whatever they wanted--nice homes, food, land, whatever they fancied. They became the rulers over southwest Anglia, and their reach expanded as the number of mages grew."

"I've heard of them. Every mage was one of the Oak Tree People?"

For awhile, but there were by-blows among the locals. At first the Oak Tree People adopted anyone with magic into the tribe, but later saw them as dangerous foreigners and used them as sacrifices. Eventually there were people fleeing their territory who had the talent or who had children developing into mages. Of course ordinary people in other areas weren't pleased to have 'witches with evil powers' settling among them, so the exiles tended to band together. They developed separate communities with centers for young mages to study with more advanced ones, and became what we call the Learned Mages."

"I've never seen any references to Learned Mages. How do you know all this?"

"We're their descendants. Eventually the Learned Mages realized they were going to have to fight to survive since the rule of the Oak Tree People kept expanding; petty kings without magic couldn't stand against them. The learning centers were in contact with each other. They made a plan and enlisted unhappy non-mages who'd had their property seized or a family member killed as well. Then they attacked the tribe at multiple points without warning, driving them back in confusion. The Oak Tree tribe was caught unprepared, many were killed, and the rest fled to a large island."

"Is that what they called the Sacred Western Isle?"

"Yes, that's what the Oak Tree People called it. That was the end of the First Mage War. The tribe spent decades rebuilding their strength and increasing their magical abilities. The Learned Mages settled in and consolidated their gains, believing the Oak Tree tribe was gone for good. But they kept studying and increasing their numbers and abilities too. In some places they ruled, in others they were just advisors, preferring to spend their time and attention on learning magic and other subjects. They were scattered and only loosely in contact with each other when a hundred years later the Oak Tree People came back out of the Western Isle and attacked. Both sides had more powerful magic and the battles not only destroyed man-made objects, but damaged the land itself in some places."

"And the Learned Mages came here?"

"No, they went across the channel to the mainland and settled in places near the coast, particularly in what are now Franck and Ibarra. A few went further inland, and we don't really know what happened to them. But that was the end of the Second Mage War and all of southern Anglia came under the rule of the Oak Tree People."

"I take it there was a third."

"Yes, and it was terribly destructive. For one thing, the Learned Mages found a way to create dragons as weapons of war. They were made by magic and need magic to survive; that was how they were controlled since they have no way to pull in magic themselves. They were designed in different sizes and colors to match the function planned for each. The dragons that brought you here are shore dragons. They are big and strong and can feed themselves from the ocean. They were made to destroy ships by simply grasping the masts and rolling them over and sinking them, to keep the enemy from escaping and protect friendly ships. Their other function was quick transport of supplies and heavy items."

"So dragons need magic but the only way they can get it is from us?"

"They can't fly, breathe fire, or think well without it, and eventually a dragon completely cut off from magic will die."

"Shore dragons don't breathe fire. How many kinds are there?"

"We're not sure how many were originally created. There are four left for sure. The dark colored sea dragons were supposed to take care of any ships that reached deep water and cut off the Western Isle from the rest of Anglia so the tribe couldn't resupply or replace fallen mages. But they were never really much use; there was so much magic during the war they didn't have to do anything to earn it, and the mages that were supposed to control them couldn't stay close when the sea dragons dove deep. We see them occasionally when they come in close to shore to pick up magical energy and they may attack a ship if there is a mage aboard. If it ever happens while you're sailing, just toss some magic out away from your ship and they'll go after it and leave your vessel alone."

"Good to know. So each type of dragon had a mage that was really a dragon master?"

"Actually several mages, each one controlling dragons of a certain color so they could see from a distance which dragons to direct. There were originally five or six shades of shore dragons, but interbreeding has blurred the color lines. The third type of dragon was the forest dragon. The Oak Tree People tended to establish camps in the forest where they could hide from an air attack out of sight under the tree canopy, so the forest dragons were designed to stay in the trees unseen and drop down on them. They're various shades of green with markings like tree limbs and don't fly terribly well, but they can stay motionless for long periods. They do have long spiked tails as well as teeth and claws."

"Prince Matthew, could there still be dragons Anglia?"

"Unlikely, they need magic and there hasn't been much in Anglia since the end of the Third Mage War. After the end of the war the local populace did their best to wipe them out."

"But the forest dragons would be hard to find, and if they had a place where magic was soaked into the ground? I suppose the end of the war dragon hunt is the source of tales of knights killing dragons."

"Remotely possible, and yes, there were dragons found in relatively inaccessible areas for years after the war was over. The fourth type of dragon is the true war dragon, generally in shades of red, purple, and blue. They are the fire breathers, well armored, fast and agile in the air, and very aggressive. We have a few of them in Incelia, but they stay mostly up in the mountains and canyons where there aren't many people. Occasionally they'll fly through the areas we've set aside for the shore dragons and take the magic we leave for them. The shore dragons just get out of the way, they're not by nature very fierce."

"If the dragons don't obey the people here, why do you keep them around? If you don't give them magic they would die, right?"

"Three reasons. One, we feel responsible for them. Our ancestors created them; it's not their fault they are what they are. Two, we can usually bribe them if we really need them to do something, and three, since we do give them magic, they will defend us. There's no army in the world that could attack us and win between our dragonmasters and the dragons that live here."

Nick nodded. "So the Learned Mages lost the third war?"

"No, not exactly. The fact is the Third Mage War was so horrific it killed most of the mages on both sides and quite a lot of the local population. Rivers were changed in their course, mountains raised up that didn't exist before, coastlines altered, and the entire Western Isle destroyed as well as some smaller islands. When most of the mages were dead and the rest injured and exhausted, the remaining non-mage population rose up and started killing anyone who could do magic regardless of what they called themselves. Mages fled Anglia, two shiploads reaching here, mostly Learned Mages but a few Oak Tree People as well accompanied by some dragons. Mages and dragons in Anglia were wiped out."

"And afterwards anyone who could do magic was an 'evil witch' and was executed."

"In Anglia, yes. Some of the mages went back to Franck and Ibarra to rejoin their families. But word of what happened on Anglia went with them as well as some dragons and soon the local populations started attacking mages there too. Some went further east, some hid in the general population, and others came here. That's why there are more mages in Franck and Ibarra than on the rest of the continent."

"And the Anglian history I know starts after the mage wars with the first kings who were able to pull together armies and rebuild castles and towns."

"That's right. Any questions?"

"Not about the mage wars. I suppose there are books in your library that give more details?"

"Of course."

"I do have another question. When can I go to the harbor that's open to foreigners? I want to visit the Anglian embassy."

Prince Matthew became very still. "That's not advisable."

"Why not? You said the embassy has already been informed."

The older prince stood up. "Don't do anything foolish, Prince Henry. The port isn't a safe place to go alone. Get to know the people here, enjoy the library, there are hundreds of books on magic. When there is a ship available to transport you, I will accompany you to the port. Meanwhile don't leave the palace grounds. The dragons won't bother you if you don't go wandering off."

"I see," Nick replied, and he did. He was a prisoner, although a valuable and well-treated one. Ships would come and go, but there would never be one suitable to take him home.

Prince Matthew left. After a while Nick heard voices outside his door. He looked out and found he now had two guards. He needed a plan. He went to bed that night with that thought in mind.

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