1 Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time when magic was bountiful and good and evil fought constantly, there existed a kingdom in the western part of the land where good flourished. Kalvaria was a wonderful happy kingdom, with a prosperous trade with the Elf Kingdoms just to the East.Even the fairies traded here occasionally, and many of them lived in the kingdom.It was a place of great healing power and if you came on a faithful pilgrimage the mages would often grant the boon of healing a loved one if they thought the cause was just.Because the good things were so strong here, warring nations often held peace talks there, and this too brought goods and commerce from all over the land.
The ruling family lived in a castle fortress protected by the River of lost Souls on three sides. It was the focal point of the capital of Kalvaria. The fourth side faced east onto the town square and had a great wooden gate that usually stood open, inviting all who travelled to come within and share their adventurous tales. The outer walls were about twenty feet high and ten feet thick and surrounded inner walls, about fifty feet high and five feet thick. Although each of the four corners were protected by a tower that had the outer and inner walls for part of their structure, the army was more famous for its skills than its ability to protect the royal family.
The little used dungeon had an entrance located on the inner wall. This was on the far side of the castle, close to the river. Each tower had a flagpole and the family banners flew proudly for all to see. These banners were rectangular with a white and blue background. In the center was a red crest with the head of an eagle embroidered on it. The white and the blue stood for purity and the red for valor. The eagle symbolized the justice that was always given.
The living area was magnificently furnished, and the King insisted it be used for those who were weak from their journeys as a place to recuperate. As far as he was concerned, his family had more than they needed anyway. King Kalvin was always far more concerned with helping the unfortunate and in negotiating peaceful treaties for his feuding neighbors than in gaining any wealth for himself and the royal family.
The king was a kind man and his son, the prince of the land, was equally as gentle and strong. However, the oldest child was a daughter, who constantly bemoaned her fate. Zanna was tall, beautiful, and as accomplished in the arts of governing and warfare as her brother the Prince. She was eternally fighting against her lot in life, “Why wasn’t I born a man? Why am I a woman? Why can’t I have the kingdom to govern? I’m the oldest therefore it should be mine!” She couldn’t understand the wisdom of her father’s policies.
There came a time when the prince became ill and started to waste away, and after long weeks of fighting his sickness with every healing spell known to the mages of the kingdom, he passed away. The grieving king made the best of it and began to groom his daughter for the role she would eventually assume as Queen. He had an idea that his greedy daughter had been partially responsible for the death of her brother but there was no one else to inherit the throne.
About five years later the King quietly slipped into his final rest on the night before Zanna’s twenty-seventh birthday and on the next morning he was buried. The Princess Zanna grieved deeply for her father but couldn’t help feeling smug about the way she had insured she would inherit. She would never tell anyone about the witch who sold her the poison which killed her brother. As she was crowned Queen, she whispered to herself, “Finally it’s all mine. It was supposed to be mine anyway, I am the oldest.”
Her first act as the new Queen was to rename the kingdom and the capital city after herself, and then she ordered a completely new wardrobe for herself made of the most sumptuous of fabrics. Never again would her subjects mistake her as one of them because her clothes were sturdy and plain. Zanna’s most trusted advisers begged her to please not commit the folly of raising the taxes but she did it anyway and soon the peasants of the land could no longer raise the money to pay her.
There were consequences for her actions. Before long even the merchant class couldn’t afford to pay her outrageous demands and the once active trading which supported the kingdom was almost nonexistent. Her last loyal adviser, who was the sire of a large family, finally gave in to his wife’s demands and they started to mass all their wealth in easily portable goods. She kept telling him that their son William and his siblings, but especially William, deserved a better future.
William’s mother was quite proud of the boy, who was now six years old and better at everything than all the rest of his playmates. He excelled at all his lessons and his strength was already as legendary as a proud mother could make it. He already had one younger brother and two little sisters to protect.
Then one day William’s father came home and said, “Come, my family, we must pack up everything and leave. There is evil coming into this Kingdom that I can no longer fight. The witches are talking to Zanna and her head is swelling. She can control the whole land.”
The whole family loaded everything that was dear to them onto the three wagons they still owned and with a sigh, their wise father ordered the caravan to move out. It was quite a colourful sight, each of the wagons having been painted a different shade of blue. The wheels were all red and the last wagon had a house of sorts built on it to provide a place for William’s mother and sisters to sleep. This wagon had a deep blue base, with the house being yellow with green trim. Its door was also green, and it had one window with lacy white curtains. The other two wagons had yellow canvas covers, which hid the goods that Wottar had brought along. It was a cleverly done to make them look exactly like the colourful painted trader wagons.
Once they were underway, it was impossible to tell them from any other travelling caravan in the area. When they were well clear of the town, William’s father hopped up on the lead wagon and said to his beloved wife, “I heard that our neighbors are going to try to make a go of it despite Zanna. They sold their son to a trader the other day and are going to use the profits to pay their taxes. Pity, the boy had potential. He was such a good companion for our Will.”
“The poor boy! I wonder what will become of him?” said William’s mother.
“I wouldn’t worry, Genna. He’s a strong, smart lad and he’ll survive.” Wottar was sure the boy would land on his feet.