Gender: Male Age: 45 Location: N/A
Of love and The Duke: Chapter 3
The priestess was browsing the market and shops of house Morgan when she overheard the rumor that a blessed couple, a young wizard and Isabel Morgan have entered the tent of her father. The goddess spoke to her giving her the feeling that she must see the couple. She dropped what she was doing and immediately walked to the tent of Jeremiah Morgan.
Entering she witnessed for herself the couple glowing, and proclaim that they are a blessed couple. She lingered having the feeling she needed to witness a little more. The couple kissed again and she wondered why Jeremiah become irritated seeing them glow. It is a gift from the goddess to the couple.
The priestess watches in wonder as the young wizard displays and offers his dowry to Jeremiah. A large gold block that opens to present an astonishing number of uncut diamonds that are even more valuable than gold, she has never seen a dowry so large. Truly, a dowry fit for a princess. When she hears the young wizard proclaim it to be mere dust compared to his love, she can hear the truth in his words. She then takes her leave, thinking the goddess for letting her witness a love so great.
The priestess of Aphrodite returns to the Temple as quickly as she can walk, it would be undignified and lack the grace required of her if she ran. Entering the temple, she needed to discuss the events she has witnessed with the head priestess and what she had learned. After a long and intense discussion between the priestess and head priestess of Camarillo’s Temple of Aphrodite, they send a message by magical means to the high priestess in New Cowan. They fear the Duke has become unstable. They also know of the love’s discovery spell in limited time the couple have. The message simply informs the high priestess of what they intend to do, and request her blessing.
The priestess wondered why the Duke insisted on such a hastily performed wedding between Isabel and his youngest son. Even though house Morgan was quite wealthy, surely, other matches would be available for the young boy, someone of higher standing, another Royal closer to the King perhaps. Isabel’s dowry was quite extensive, but barely met what one would say expected for a commoner marrying a noble. Isabel had not truly wanted to wed the Duke’s son, a boy four years younger than she is.
It will take hours before the message received at New Cowan, and most likely the morning before reply sent. The head priestess does not believe there is enough time; she believed the wedding between Julius and Isabel should be this evening if possible. If the two give into their carnal lust, they would incur the wrath of Aphrodite, as tradition and experience in these matters have taught. The head priestess wondered if there would be time to summon the clan, and prepare the Temple for the wedding this evening. Surely if the girl is already married, the Duke would give up.
The Duke had been strongly insisting that the wedding performed as soon as Isabel could be located. Now with her return to the city, it fell to the priestess to inform the Duke that no ceremony between Isabel and his son will ever occur.
The head priestess orders that no one should perform the marriage ceremony requested by the Duke. To do so would be an affront to Aphrodite herself, not something any of her priestesses would ever consider doing. The head priestess retired to her chamber to pray for Aphrodite’s intervention, as she sent the priestess to inform the Duke.
The priestess enters the keep, requesting an audience with the Duke. An hour passed before she granted an audience with the Duke and brought to the lavish and over ornamented audience chamber where the Duke waited impatiently. She kneels before the Duke and begins to explain, “Your Lordship, with all humility I regret to inform you that your son’s wedding to Isabel Morgan cannot be performed.”
The Duke infuriated shouts, “You dare come before me to tell me you cannot do something your head priestess has already promised.”
The priestess tries to remain rational and calm, knowing it would be death to show anger at his superior attitude. It would not be the first time someone it had an audience with this particular Duke only to be struck dead by him. Sometimes she wondered why the King still has not replaced such an evil man, she wondered if the rumors were true that he was not even in the kingdom and had not been for years.
In a respectful voice she apologizes, “Your Lordship I am sorry, but we did not know that the goddess had other plans for the young woman. She has a blessed bonding to a young wizard. They must be married before the first night of the full moon.”
The Duke and his smug attitude questions, “Has this young wizard a name, and provided a dowry one greater than my sons.”
The priestess answers, “He is Julius, apprenticed to Justin of Benton. His dowry is her weight in gold, and a third of her weight in uncut diamond. I have beheld the treasure myself and it is far greater than any I have ever seen before. His love for her is strong sire; he called it mere dust compared to her. Their bond is so strong when they kiss they glow. Only a very few bonds have ever been blessed so by the goddess.”
The Duke was also a greedy bastard, and he knew how the laws worked. If Julius were unable to marry Isabel, his dowry would transfer to Isabel. Then upon Isabel’s wedding to his son, and her eventual death, untimely of course the treasure would be his sons, for him to take. The Duke pondered all this as the priestess kneeled there in front of him. Unknown to the Duke that their bond is so strong, so blessed that who would interfere with it risk the wrath of Aphrodite. One should know Aphrodite first is a woman, and hell knows no fury greater than a woman scorned, or in this case, a goddess scorned.
The Duke coming out of his throne he stocks forward, anger drips from him. Only two paces separate the kneeling and unmoving priestess, “If she had not run away, the wedding to my son would have been performed. I insist that their wedding be performed dowry or no.”
For the first time she raises her eyes to the Duke. In a shocked and concerned voice she warns, “Your Lordship to do so would be an affront to Aphrodite, and mean the death of both Julius and Isabel.” She drops her gaze, uncomfortable with the evil she sees in his face.
The sound of his sword as it withdrawn from its scabbard is the only sound otherwise in the silent audience chamber. The Duke orders, “You will perform the wedding ceremony.”
Again, the priestess raises her eyes and says, “No...” The next sound heard is the priestess’ lifeless body falling upon the floor.
A gasp from the Captain of the guards alerts the Duke to his presence, the guard Captain had been a leftover from the former Duke who he had taken over from five years ago. The Duke knew he suspected him and many of his wrongdoings, the message from the runner he had intercepted and killed earlier confirmed that. The Duke was going to either corrupt the man or see to his death, he had already been working to corrupt Captain Michael, but the captain had resisted. The Duke had another plan one he knew would work, as his loyal guards escorted the Captain’s wife and young daughters through the hall as the Captain turned seeing their presence.
The Duke waves the Captain over, “First I will have you know if you do not follow my orders I will kill you surely as I killed the priestess who failed me. Then I will enjoy your wife and daughters as your lifeless head looks on from the post of my bed.”
One look over his shoulder, after seeing the four evil man now holding his family the guard Captain’s resolve is broken, the look of defeat in his eyes tells the Duke all he wants to know. He orders to the guard Captain, “Follow me then or you know what will occur. We have business in the Temple.”
Meanwhile back at the tents of house Morgan a feast has been prepared. It is tradition that the wedding announcement held in such a manner. At the beginning of the feast, Jeremiah gives a toast to the newly betrothed. Jeremiah toast, “As you are aware, my daughter disobeyed me recently. She refused the Duke’s son. Running off to her uncle Justin, she ran into Remus on a dark night a werewolf attacked. Before his death, Remus managed to defend my daughter, and prove his love and bravery to the clan. Young Julius having heard the beginnings of the fight ran with all haste unfortunately he was not early enough to save Remus. In his own words, he found magic greater at that moment within him than he ever knew. He easily defeated the werewolf, and defended the life of my daughter.
Julius is a member of the clan because of his apprenticeship to my brother-in-law Master Wizard Justin. Therefore, falls under the laws of the clan, not being a direct blood relative to Isabel Morgan by those laws they are betrothed.
Isabel requested her uncle to do the discovery spell to verify Julius and her bonding. Justin perform the spell, finding them bonded strongly. The young wizard has provided an incredible dowry, greater than any I have ever seen. I give them my blessing.”
The clan cheers, and toast the betrothed. When the noise dies down Rebecca shouts, “Come on Isabel give him a kiss. I want to see you glow.” Isabel and I kiss; as the glow begins, there is a moment of stunned silence before it is broken with even greater cheers.
As the feast comes to its conclusion, the Captain of the guard appears. It almost looks as if he is fighting back tears, he so angry. He steps forward, and places a charm set of wrist restraints on me. I look at him questioning and he says, “The Duke orders your arrest.”
I ask, “Surely my arrest is not enough to anger you so greatly.”
Captain Michael whispers, “I watched the Duke murder the priestess of Aphrodite. Before I could gather enough loyal men to seize the Duke for his crime, he took my family hostage. I am sorry. I have no choice.”
I whisper in return, “For your family I will offer no resistance. If you promise, my family will be left alone.”
Michael whispers, “I will do what I can, I will put loyal men on the East gate tonight so they may slip away.”
The Duke with the smell of death about him strolls in to the tent. He behaves as if he is above all law and justice cannot touch him. Accompanied by four of his personal guards, who knows how many stand outside, walking up to Isabel he says, “I knew you would come to your senses, my son waits for you.” He roughly handles her, it is all that I can do not to break free of these shackles; I sense I have the strength. However, lives depend on my cooperation. The Duke pulls Isabel out of the tent, and I am led behind her. At least half the city guard is there, I knew then that the man was a coward.
Isabel pushed into a carriage, and a chain connected from the carriage back to my shackles. A momentary flash and I know the goddess’ judgment is coming and she will protect us. As the carriage pulls away at a trot, the Captain of the guard left behind. I can feel Justin’s anger boiled before I mentally tell him, clear the righteous from the city. Let none even look upon it until the sun rises tomorrow; you have until dusk, for the goddesses’ vengeance falls on the city tonight.
The Duke orders his driver to make better speed, yanking me from my feet, and dragging me over the ground, and yet the Duke orders him to move faster. I barely managed to get back to my feet, and at this pace I slam into walls nearly on every turn, the driver takes pity and slows down only to have the Duke screaming for him to speed up yet again. Even before we arrive at the Keep, I am already bloody and bruised.
Only the righteous heard the call, the ones who feared justice left quickly. In the years that I have not been within the gates of the city, many have fallen from the true path. The Duke’s corrupted guards seem to be blind to the people leaving. Captain Michael even managed to walk into the keep unopposed and retrieve his family and leave. The righteous took only what they could carry, leaving quickly in the four hours before sunset they all had departed the city and walked out of sight of the East gate. All seemed to fill the need to be away from the city, even the guards that did not follow the Duke closely left.
The Duke had decided to try me for treason at sunset. He needed the time to bring his lackeys and to exclude all others to ensure his victory by trial. He thought to direct justice down his chosen path, but sometimes justice is not that blind.
I was to endure four hours of torture before the sunset; my time had not yet come. I am beaten and thrown in a cell only to allow the guards to rest. Then removed from the prison cell to allow the guards to continue their evil game, one will punch me knocking me into the other and again. Finally, they chained me to a whipping post. Nevertheless, the hour of my salvation rapidly approached. As the whip reopens old scars on my back, the sun finally set, they dragged me bleeding and bruised to the audience chamber of the Duke. Chains were about my feet, their shackles still dug into my wrists, even in this dark hour I did not feel abandoned.
Thrown roughly to the floor only a few yards in front of the Duke, I still see the bloodstains from the priestess. I could hear Isabel’s soft cry above all other sounds even though the guards were shouting for my death.
My mind reaches out to Isabel, (Are you all right my love? Have they hurt you?)
Isabel’s mind answers, (They have been unable to break me, but they threaten that if I do not allow the Duke’s son to have his way, that you will be dead before morning.)
A smile is on my face as my mind reaches out again to Isabel, (Justice comes now my love. Only the wicked remain in the city, except us two prisoners. I say let us be prisoners no more.) With that thought my shackles drop from my wrists, the chains slip off my ankles and rattle on the floor. The bindings holding Isabel vanish, before anyone can react. Isabel and I rush to each other, we meet in a kiss in the glow instantly surrounds us.
Like always, our eyes close in the world outside vanishes. Isabel and I only exist in our kiss. Nothing will disturb us once were in our kiss. The wounds I suffered vanish under the glow that surrounds Isabel and me.
To the rest of the castle they hear the Duke screaming to have us killed, he orders his archers to fire. Each arrow vanishes in the glow that surrounds Isabel and I, and the glow grows brighter the longer we kiss, with each attack the glow grows brighter, with each attempt of violence the light that surrounds us grow stronger. The Duke orders his mages to attack, their magic rebounds and again the light becomes even more blinding.
Finally, the Duke himself using the same sword he struck down the priestess with steps forward trying to kill his hated enemy. The sword tip enters into the light and the Duke begins to scream as the sword begins to glow red-hot. Lightning travels down the length of the blade, the Duke screams in pain with every jolt that travels through him, the lightning arcs out striking all who followed his commands. The lightning continues on striking all who followed the Duke, the city glows now as the light travels with the lightning. No corner in the city left dark, not a single follower of the Duke left untouched.
As long as our kiss continues the light grows yet brighter, and nothing has caused us to break our kiss.
Justice has come, all of the wicked all who would do evil to his fellow man, who would deny love punished, only one left to witness that punishment, and he left unseeing and cannot feel, or taste his life would know no joy, so disfigured that all who saw him shriek and recoiled at his presence. No one would ever recognize him as the Duke. He could speak no orders and only knew pain and suffering, he would hear this shrieks and cries of fear at his approach, to remind him of the monster he is.
As the sun rose, the light took on a form, her hand touched our cheeks and we knelt before her presence. With a wave of her hand she sent the Duke away, no one would ever guess who he was.
All we felt was the overpowering love and joy in her presence. She placed our hands together and we draw back into a kiss, when we broke this time we were truly alone. When we kiss next, we found that we could leave our eyes open and see the glow for ourselves.
Hatred had struck at love, when love finally struck back nothing could stand against its power. All who denied love felt it sting, leaving them empty and lifeless. Perhaps that is the real lesson here; never deny love even if it is for someone else.
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