The Duke had murdered more than the priestess who had come before him. He and his men had went to the Temple of Aphrodite and killed all there. Even the youngest acolyte was murdered, and no one to officiate our wedding ceremony. No wonder he had angered the gods so greatly, to show such cruelty even unto a child.
That left us with a major problem, if we could not get all we needed in time, we would die on the setting of the next full moon. I did not fear for myself, but Isabel I could not see suffer.
It was true that we had our carpet, and the two of us along with a small party could easily travel to the next Temple, a journey of four days by foot. Only four hours by our carpet, but tradition dictated that Isabel and I could no longer travel together, once the dowry presented to her father.
Jeremiah could refuse the dowry that would force me into providing another of greater value. The first given to Isabel and I can use none of it as part of the second dowry. Moreover, I had yet to think of something greater in value, but I am sure it will come to my mind. I hope that the gods would grant me yet another of greater value.
If Isabel and I were, a part for more than a full day of our life surely would end. That gave us a mere four days to reach the next city that had a temple, and far too many people to carry on our one carpet. Even taking multiple trips, it would be very close and I doubt the clan could be packed and ready to move quickly enough.
Depending on how far they left to be safe from the justice sought by the gods we may lose more time yet today. The time that they have to return has just begun, I know not when all will be present for Jeremiah’s decision, and the entire clan must be present.
Isabel pulls on me, and we walked through the vacant city back to her father’s tent. Once inside, re-retrieve our carpet, in the open area at front of his tent I unfurl our magic carpet. I help Isabel on and step up my invisible stairs. Once both of us aboard, we lift begin our search for her father and the clan. The carpet seems to know what we need, moving of its own accord the terrain below us moves by at amazing speeds.
Over a hill and into the valley east of the city we find what seems to be most of the inhabitants of the city and the clan. They had managed to bring one large tent in many have crowded into it, not clan only. Fires burn on the outskirts of the camp, and many cook to feed the multitude.
As the carpet lowers, a great cheer rises to meet us. We land at the edge of the encampment, the Captain of the guard, Michael along with a many of the guards loyal to him clear a path for Chieftain Jeremiah and Master Justin. Children seem to move quickly through the crowds, and I recognize many faces from the children yesterday.
The Captain is the first to speak and he asks, “What happened to the Duke and his court?”
I say, “They are no more, the gods’ justice found them wanting.”
The three bowing their heads for a moment giving their respect to the gods, raising back to meet our gaze they say, “Gods’ will be done.”
Jeremiah walks to his daughter and surrounds her in his arms. He gently asks, “My daughter are you unharmed?”
Isabel replies, “Yes my father, I am unharmed. Julius I feared for his life when they brought him before me, he had been beaten and whipped so severely I thought he would never regain his feet once they threw him before the Duke.”
Justin spends me about seeing my shredded robes but no mark where the whip had struck my skin, even many of my old scars have vanished. He takes in a deep breath and asks, “How can this be, no magic before could heal him of his scars.”
Isabel continues, “All that I know I will tell. We were bound, me to the chair so they could force me to watch. Justin had the magical shackles about his wrist, chains around his ankles. When he said we should be prisoners no longer our bonds left us, we were free and moved together into a kiss. I remember nothing after that point, except for the Lady this morning. She caressed our faces, we broke our kiss and kneeled before her, she placed our hands together and we kissed, after that, she was gone.” I shake my head yes, because that is all I truly know.
I add, “The city has no one left alive within the walls. Only we two, protected by the goddess remained this morning at sunrise.”
The captain asks, “Did you see any ships on the horizon? Raiders have scouted for weaknesses for the last few weeks. An empty city would be a very tempting target.”
I shake my head no, but Isabel speaks, “I believe I did as we lifted high above the city.”
The Captain with concerned to his voice says, “The guard must get back to the city as quickly as possible, perhaps upon your carpet?”
I shake my head yes then ask hopefully, “Did any of the priestesses survive, are they any here?”
Captain Michael shakes his head no and says, “Once he finished with a one who come to inform him that Isabel cannot marry his brat, the Duke went to the temple and murdered every priestess, acolyte and even the few people there to worship.”
The Captain is signaling to his guards, he leaves most, along with most of the strong man from the clan to guard the civilians on their way back to the city. Twenty guards climb aboard the carpet, when I attempt to leave without Isabel the carpet will not move. Once Isabel is aboard, along with her father and six men from the clan we speed away back to the city.
The Raiders’ ship easily seen several miles off out to see and headed towards the city. Several rowboats tied alongside, and men stand ready to board the rowboats. The captain pointing says, they will come to within a mile of shore under sail, then they will drop anchor and all will come ashore. They have more than a hundred men to our twenty-six.
Isabel asks, “Did you forget Master Justin and Julius? Will they have any mages that could stand against them?”
The Captain says, “They do not trust mages, I doubt they will have a wizard in their party.”
I cause the carpet to lower down, if they have not spotted us yet, we would use the walls of the city to hide our approach. On our way back Jeremiah turns to me and says, “Justin and I have discussed this, and it pains me to say I must refuse your dowry. Justin has assured me that you should be able to gather one larger.”
Isabel laughs, “You did say it was merely dust, my love.”
Holding Isabel I say, “Compared to you it is. Jeremiah I understand and accept your challenge, I will provide a more suitable dowry.”
Jeremiah chuckles and says, “That is good, the one before would merely slow my people down. If we had a fleet of these carpets” He stomps his foot twice, “my clan can move much quicker and much safer. That would be more than twice the treasure that is now my daughters to do with what she wishes.”
I shake my head yes, before I can do anything else, Isabel asks, “Does Uncle Benjamin have enough rugs, I know I cannot give any part of the first dowry back to my betrothed, but I can buy him rugs.”
Jeremiah chuckles at his daughter’s brightness and says, “According to Justin he has but a few that could be of use, and they are fairly small, not as large as even this.”
Captain Michael chuckles and says, “Young wizard do not forget all that was in the keep is now yours. They are many rugs of this quality within the Dukes chambers. Moreover, that huge one in the audience chamber, I would dare say half of all the clan could ride upon that one by itself.”
Isabel squeezes my hand as the carpet slows near the wall. I look into her face and she says, “Remember I do not wish to be royalty.”
We drop two men above the East gate, all which remained of the guards there are their uniforms, and their coin purses. The two guards throw me the dead guards’ coins purses. It is tradition that to the victor goes the spoils; it will help with my dowry.
As we leave, the two close the gates and bar them, they can reopened once our people arrive. We dropped the men of the clan and they gather weapons arming themselves. We fly now just above the rooftops until we reach the West wall, it overlooks a small bluff and a wide sandy beach. There is a gate in the north wall near the northwest corner of the wall. That leads to a wide road running down to the docks. A tower is in the very corner with a wide deck allows archers with crossbow, or longbows to rain arrows down on the road and beach.
Jeremiah remains with us, as we traveled back for more of the clan’s strongmen. We should be able to make one more trip, and reinforce the men on the wall and at the gates before the Raiders even make anchor. I plan to meet them at sea, it would be much easier stopping them in the rowboats offshore, then allowing them to make landfall in force.
On the way back to the encampment, I look to Jeremiah and say, “Could I get you to assist myself and your daughter, if we can meet them at sea I may be able to prevent them from even making landfall. The problem is the carpet will not move without Isabel. I would need someone to protect her while I battled the Pirates. I will do that from his great of distance as I can manage, but that will be within crossbow range.”
Isabel squeezes my hand tightly, and I look at her and say, “We will use men with shields to protect us, you will fly the carpet, and I will attack.”
Jeremiah starts to protest, “Isabel I will not allow you to be in...”
Isabel cutting him off says, “Father it would not matter, if I stayed on the shore and Julius was struck down I would surely die with him. This way at least I can help, and together we are much more powerful.”
Justin returns with us, along with twenty strongmen of the clan, we drop them at the encampment in the arm themselves with crossbows and head towards the tower. Jeremiah has four men with shields, and armored, he grabs his armor and begins putting it on as he walks back to the carpet. Looking at me sternly he says, “I will command, Isabel you move the carpet as I direct, young mage I will direct your targets and make sure Isabel has you in range, do not hesitate to attack as deadly as you can manage.”
Isabel and I shake our heads yes, accepting the battle hardened veterans orders. As chieftain of the clan, he has led his men into more than one scrimmage, but probably not like this. Nevertheless, judging from the look in his eye, and how his Clan’s men accept his orders, he has some skill at leadership and that might proof more valuable than strength.
As we reach the West wall, we see the rowboats had already departed and are a hundred yards away from the ship approaching shore. The men in the boats appear to wear heavy armor. If we can catch them, still in deep water I merely have to sink the boats to end the battle. Although some were no armor, most do, if the boats sank they would surely die before they could remove their armor.
Jeremiah must have the same idea as he directs Isabel to move to the far left boat at all speed; he warns that if crossbows fired, he wants her to dodge to the left. I ready my spell, bringing the lightning bolt into existence holding it in my hands I can since how strong it is, far stronger than I have ever managed before. The carpet move so quickly, I am not even sure if the Pirates realized the danger. At the maximum range, Jeremiah orders me to release the spell. The man in front of the boat is my chosen target, the lightning bolt covers the distance between us and he transforms into bright light for an instant before him and the front quarter of the boat are gone. The rest sink below the waves quickly as water rushed into the remainder of the overburdened boat.
At the speed were moving I cannot even ready another spell as we pass the remaining three boats. Jeremiah orders Isabel to continue on outward before turning back onto the far left boat once again. Again, he orders Isabel to veer to the left on his command. We are coming in at the same speed before and I have another lightning bolt ready this time my target is the men at the Stern, he wears full armor too.
At the maximum range Jeremiah orders me to fire once more, as the man vanishes along with the Stern Jeremiah orders Isabel to veer off to the left. Crossbow bolts fall into the water along the path we would have taken. Men attempt to jump from the boat, which only results in it capsizing.
Again, we line up and speed towards the boats this time broadside, once in range, I hit the man in the center of the boat, men jump from either end but the boat cut in half and sinks quickly. Now the last boat attempts to turn heading back towards the ship.
Jeremiah has Isabel stop just outside of crossbow range. He shouts down at the boat, orders them to surrender, the result is them firing crossbow bolts in our direction. When none reaches us, they began to cock their crossbows once again. Again, Jeremiah calls for their surrender as they begin to load their bolts Jeremiah has us dive into range, and I again fire the lightning bolt I had prepared. Another raider vanishes in bright light along with the section of the boat where he stood. We move quickly out of range as the boat disappears under the water.
Only a few of the Raiders not in heavy armor swim back towards the ship. Jeremiah has us fly to the anchored ship. The ship seems to be deserted; no one left on board all were in the raiding party. Jeremiah has Isabel land at the stern of the ship. He and a Clan’s men jump aboard the ship called the Andrea by the name painted on the Stern.
He orders Isabel and me to go get a dozen guardsmen along with the Captain of the guard.
Speeding overhead we head towards the West wall of the city, as we near we hear the men there cheering. From our vantage point, we can see that the East Gates are now open and people are beginning to pour through on their way home. Justin joins the Captain and ten guardsmen, along with six clan’s men.
We fly back to the now captured ship, reaching it just as the first of the surviving Pirates reach the ship. We land on deck, and allow the carpet to rest fully on the deck, the reinforcements along with the Captain, Justin, Isabel and myself step onto the rolling deck of the ship.
I came to Camarillo on just such a ship, so I expect the holds to have prisoners, one of the other kingdoms would accept slaves from Raiders, a practice I would stop given the opportunity. Justin feels just as strongly about that practice. If the ship’s hold does contained slaves I expect the Pirates will have a short life, perhaps it would been better if they wore heavy armor and dragged to the bottom along with their comrades.
Jeremiah smiles and says, “You did well young wizard.”
The Captain and Justin agree, and I look to Isabel before I turn to her father and say, “Your leadership is what made the victory so one-sided my chieftain.”
Jeremiah shrugs and says, “I thought it was those lightning bolts, only four and not a single miss.”
Justin and the Captain just laughs. Isabel says, “It was a team thing, all work together perfectly.”
Two of the clan’s men have begun searching the ship, and the captain’s cabin they found to young women both badly beaten. Below deck, a room filled with a dozen more, across the hall another room holding young boys from the age of six to fourteen years. Yet another room held a dozen young girls. More than thirty-nine prisoners the Raiders had taken, two more clan’s men returned with a large chest, and say there is four more below deck.
Jeremiah says, “You are the one who defeated the Pirates, the spoil should go to you.”
Isabel elbows me, and then says, “It would make a fine dowry.”
Jeremiah chuckles at his daughter and says, “I think I would rather have carpets.”
Thinking I say, “Perhaps, two carpets with the ship and its treasure.”
Jeremiah looks to the children, “What of them?”
I say, “If it is possible, we should bring them back to their homeland and any family they have.”
Justin taking a deep breath says, “Raiders seldom leave anyone for them to return them to after the raid. Perhaps we should just adopt them out to the good people of the city.”
The captain looks at me says, “Duke Julius, it is your decision.”
Jeremiah laughs and repeats himself, “Welcome to my life young wizard.”
Justin chuckles and says, “That is what heroes get either dead or wish they were.”
The guard has taken the last of the surviving Raiders aboard, they held at sword point. One of the Clan’s men has lowered their standards, now the ship has several flags and he chooses the one that belongs to Camarillo. As the flag raised, I noticed several rowboats coming out from shore.
As they reach the ship several minutes later, the Captain nods to each of the semen and he says, “Duke Julius these men are excellent seaman and they will bring the ship to the docks you need not wait here any longer.”
Justin says, “We need to begin on the rugs, if we will have enough time to bring the clan to the nearest temple before the full moon.”
I look to the Captain and say, “The command of the ship is yours, sir. Bring the children into the keep, find rooms for them, if they know of any family that remain send messages, and we will arrange for their return. If orphaned, we will begin the task of finding them new families.”
Chuckling he says, “Yes my Duke, you are wise, and goodhearted you will make a fine leader.”
Isabel slaps me on the ass and says, “I thought I said I did not want to be royalty.”
Jeremiah laughs at his daughter’s actions and says, “Sometimes you just cannot get out of destiny.”
Justin says, “Perhaps the gods know that the city needs a good man, and a good woman to keep him in line.”
Justin, Jeremiah, Isabel and I travel back on the carpet. Placing it all the way on the ground, the Clan’s men had placed the chest on the carpet. Jeremiah says, “Use the money from the chest to purchase the carpets, the ship and the carpets are more than enough for the dowry.”
Isabel’s mother and little sister Rebecca among the children and adults run to greet us. Rebecca asks, “Is it true, have Pirates come to raid the city?”
Jeremiah chuckles and he answers his daughter by saying, “They made the mistake of showing up on Duke Julius’ doorstep uninvited. The few survivors are under guard and should arrive at the docks shortly.”
A murmur runs through the crowd, the new Duke has saved the city is repeated until it becomes a cheer. When the crowd goes to the knee before me, Isabel nearly strikes me again. Getting back upon the carpet I rise in the air, I state to the gathered crowd, “I will act as your new Duke, until the King can appoint another, I am not a royal no need to take a knee before me. Please rise, I was born the son of a farmer, taking in by Master Justin then trained as a mage. I only do what good I can to repay all the good given to me.”
The crowd slowly stands, and then someone shouts, “You have freed us from slavery as a child, now you free us from oppression. You should be Duke.”
Justin chuckles, raising his hands he shouts once the crowd has gone silent, “Born the son of a farmer he may have been. I know of no one nobler, he is royal of heart. We should ask the king to give him the Duchy.” The crowds cheer drowns out all other sounds.
The thing of it is, the nearest city with a temple is the Kings capital. Fate had us to travel there before the full moon; we would have to be there faster than many runners could, or died before the journey completed.
Wonder if fate has set me on this path. What deed could have been so great that earned me all this. First, there is Isabel, a beauty that none shall ever match, and our blessing from the goddess.
Now I am to be Duke of the city. I am not sure, but to me that means I serve the city and its people. Perhaps that is the difference between a good ruler and the poor one. The good serve the many ensuring their well-being, the poor ruler selfish and unjust serve only themselves with no concern for the well-being of those entrusted to them.
I take Isabel back into my arms and we hold each other before the crowd. I still wear the shredded and bloodstained robes, and a merchant brings forth a new finally made set, places them at my feet. He shouts above the crowd, “a gift for the Duke.”
I bowed to the merchant, not trusting that my words heard over the crowd. I accept the gift in the spirit given. I would never demand such a thing, and truth be told I would prefer simpler adornments. Nevertheless, I need to give a good impression for the city when I come before the king. The people of the city must feel the same way, a cobbler brings forth the note saying, come to my shop and I will make fine shoes for you and your lady.
A new shout goes through the crowd, “We must make ready for our new Duke and Duchess to present them to the King. Bring the best cloth in the city, the finest leather we must adorn them so the king knows that we love them. That way the King will allow them to be our Duke and Duchess.”
Now that the crowd has a purpose, they move quickly to gather all that they would present to the King as tokens of love for us. Look to my father in law to be and ask, “How can I tell them it is not necessary?”
Chuckling he says, “You cannot without breaking their hearts, they do it out of their love and gratitude to you. You have done much, much more than you realize. You have given them back hope, something the city has lacked for nearly half a decade.”
A priest walks forth; his robes mark him a priest of Mars. His hands curl about his staff, which he leans heavily on for support. His voice is gentle not what you expect the priest of the God of combat, but most do not realize that a soldier only battles to win the peace. Therefore, Mars is not only god of war but also the bringer of peace.
The priest begins, “Young Duke Julius, I have just returned unto the city. I bring word from the Gods. They would know your heart, why do you wish to be Duke.”
I search my heart in mind and only find more questions, as my habit I only say what is in my heart, “I would not if someone greater could take my place. If someone more suited could serve the people of the city, I would gladly support them. I know of no one to do so. Please wise priest, do you know of anyone to take this burden from me?”
The priest laughs, after a moment he clears his throat and says, “The gods deny any other are more suited. You will serve the people of the city with honor, bravery and loyalty. Your example will serve the kingdom well. Your King is well pleased with his new Duke.”
To Isabel and I is words ring true, we cannot help but move together and kiss. Those that remain of the crowd, the priest and many others gasp at the site of us glowing. The priest finally chuckles and says, “It is true that the gods have chosen you.”
He slips the robe off his head and shoulders, and the crowd instantly goes to their knees, in shock Isabel and I sink to ours. Before us stands King Patrick ruler of the land of Cowan stretching from the sea all the way to the mountains, some fifty duchies altogether. A half-dozen of his Knights stand at his back.
Cowan was named for first high King Cowan the wise. King Cowan gathered all the duchies; stop the warring on each other, and made a treaty with the dwarfs of the mountains. Later he made peace with the elves, to the south of the mountains, across the narrow sea. Cowan now trades with both, the dwarves have excellent skill with metal and the elves grow rare herbs, and produce some of the finest artwork.
The Kings capital known as New Cowan, the old capital burnt to the ground by Orc Raiders nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. Rebuilt in a more defensible position, with higher walls and much better defense the city has not fallen again. The planners of the city had recognized the need for expansion, and the outer walls originally built far beyond what was necessary, but the city now is crowded within those walls.
In a clear powerful voice he commands, “Rise, Young Duke and Duchess, rise all who gather here. I your King Patrick order you stand and witness that this young couple is noble.”
Someone in the crowd shouts, “Long live the King. Long live his loyal Duke.” The rest of the crowd repeats the shout as they come to their feet.
The King extends his hand to me, and I take it gratefully. He smiles and says, “Young Duke, I understand you need to get to the temple in New Cowan, along with your betrothed’s clan. A priestess of Aphrodite came to me and explained what was occurring here. I was outraged hearing of the Duke’s crimes. The priestess said worry not justice has come for him. Tell me what has occurred.”
I say, “Yes, my King. Yesterday we entered the city, and a great multitude saw us descend and land outside of the city gates on our carpet. We were early enough that the clan prepared a feast in our honor. Before that, a priestess of Aphrodite witnessed us kissing, and proclaimed that we are chosen by the Goddess for each other. She went to inform the Duke, doing so the Duke murdered her, in front of the city guard Captain. Before the city guard could arrest him and bring him to you for trial, he had taken the family of the Captain as hostages. He arrested us at the end of the feast, taking Isabel and I back to the keep. I was take into the dungeons beaten, tortured and whipped. Just before sunset, I was taken in front of the Duke.
King Patrick asks, “What crime were you guilty of to be treated so?”
Justin is quick to say, “Love sire, his love for Isabel was the only offense the Duke cared about.”
Jeremiah says, “The Duke wished Isabel to marry his son, even though the boy was four years her junior. When the priestess informed him that it cannot happen, I believe he murdered her then.”
Michael the Captain of the guards has arrived, he kneels before the King and as the King gestures him to rise. He asked, “Sire may, I inform you what occurred? I was witness to the murder.” The king simply shakes his head yes and signals for him to continue. “The priestess approached the Duke with great humility, showing the proper respect to the Duke. She informed him that a marriage could not occur with his son and Isabel. He demanded to know why, when she informed him, Aphrodite chose Julius and Isabel for each other. He flew into a rage and killed the priestess. He then went to the temple of Aphrodite, and demanded the priestess there performed the ceremony between his son and Isabel, when they refused he ordered the entire temple to be cleared. He killed every person within the temple walls.”
The Captain is actually shaking he says, “Forgive me Goddess, he forced me to kill saying if I did not he would kill me on the spot, then enjoy my wife and daughters.” He can no longer hold back his tears and they fall upon his cheeks. His voice shakes now as he continues, “He forced me to arrest Duke Julius, for the young mages part he agreed not to struggle to save my family. I knew the magical restraints placed upon him did not truly hold him, his word did. The Duke chained him to his carriage, even in that moment he sought to protect the innocent of the city. He warned us that justice of the gods would come at sunset.
The Duke was going to have a trial, already decided Julius guilty, and his death would come on the next full moon. Isabel given to his son for his first, once he was through with her the Duke was going to use her. During the few last years, he is quietly been taking girls for his pleasure. Even I did not know of this, I only knew a girl would disappear once in a great while. I sent a runner to you yesterday morning once I learned of the Duke’s crimes, only to find a runner dead a short way into the countryside yesterday afternoon.”
The King nods his head, and I moved to the Captain side, place my hand upon his shoulder I turn to the King and request, “Given the circumstances my King, I wish the Captain of the guard pardoned of any crime committed under the order of the former Duke.”
King Patrick turns to me focus solely on my face he asks, “Why would you wish his pardon? He killed innocents at the order of the former Duke.”
Again, I say what is in my heart choosing to follow it, “If it was not for the Duke holding the Captain’s wife and children I believe he would struck the Duke down for his crimes, only his love and fear held him back. He knew if the Duke died in the attempt, the Duke’s sons was as wicked as his father was. Even the justice of the gods found him not guilty; he walked out of the city along with all the righteous. He is done what he could to defend them.”
The King begins laughing, for some reason I did not fear his reaction. The Captain on the other hand I can feel shake under my hand. The King raises his hand and says, “Not only have I found a new Duke for this duchy, but a wise advisor. You speak with much wisdom for a young man. You are pardon my Captain serve your Duke well.”
Some of the clan’s men have returned with three rugs, not quite the size of our rug, but large enough for a family, with tents and some cargo to ride upon. The rugs could easily cover a normal wagon bed. I think to myself, possibly, we can use the crates of holding. Crates of holding look like a normal freight container on the outside, to foot-wide, two foot high and four foot long, however the interior of the crate once enchanted is twenty foot wide by twenty’ high, by forty foot long. Even three or four this crates could carry most of the clan’s goods.
Isabel moves close, and I could feel that she wishes to attempt the enchantment on one of the rugs; it is not something beginning apprentices should be capable of achieving. However, sometimes those lessons best found out, than explained. Justin has the book of enchantments, and he is explaining it to Isabel.
Taking my leave of the King I walk over to my betrothed. I ask, “Isabel do you wish to try to enchant a carpet? Remember it is not an easy thing to do, I failed that in my first three attempts, and only with the strength you granted me was able.”
Isabel shakes her head and says, “We will not be ready to leave until tomorrow, now the clan packs for our trip with all haste. They will continue into the night, come the rising sun we will be ready to leave if we have enough carpets.”
I shake my head yes, Isabel continues, “I wish to attempt the enchantment, but I understand I will have to learn much before I do. Perhaps I can afford carpets once we reach our destination to attempt the enchantment upon later.”
I pull her into a hug and whisper into her ear, “I am in so much trouble, because you are smarter than I am. I destroyed the first rug I attempted the enchantment on because I did not see that I was not ready.” Isabel giggles, and gives me a kiss on the cheek. That does not cause us to light up but I love the feeling.
When she finally looks into my face she says, “Do not forget that I love you, when I become frustrated because I am somewhat smarter than you are.”
With a chuckle I return, “Do not forget that I love you too, even if I do frustrate you a little.”
I had not noticed that the King had stepped closer, overhearing he chuckles, “Truly a wise man, my young Duke.”
Justin chuckles and says, “I do not know about wise your Majesty, anytime there is trouble he keeps running straight into it.”
I blush but Isabel giggles, “He would not have saved me if not. Perhaps there is some wisdom in his bravery it has made in blessed by the gods.”
The King says, “The gods do love heroes. Also, be cautious young Duke. There are forces in this world that would seek your death just because the gods favor you.”
I say, “I will remember that my King. Now that I have something that I would fear my failure would harm, Isabel is more precious to me than my own life. If I fail, I endanger the city and that is unacceptable.”
Isabel states, “Just remember if either of us fall in battle, we both die.”
Looking into Isabel’s beautiful eyes I say, “I know, and if there is any other way, we should avoid fighting.”
King Patrick says, “That is wisdom that takes many years to learn for most. Many see combat as a quick way to power, glory and wealth.”
Justin chuckles, “Apparently, Julius has found all that in the arms of his betrothed. Even a journeyman mage that he is, he now has more power than many masters do with Isabel at his side. As for glory he never cared for such foolishness, wealth well if you would see his dowries, you would know he does not worry for such.”
As Justin and the King talk, I pull Isabel over and we begin enchanting the three carpets we have. It does not take very long to enchant the smaller carpets. Apparently, the King had stopped to watch along with many others. Justin checks each carpet once we finished smiling brightly he says, “The enchantments on these are even stronger, I doubt they will ever fade.”
Isabel smiles and says, “They will follow father’s directions, and if he appoints another they will follow their directions.”
Jeremiah smiles and ask, “If I wish, them to follow me, they will?”
I say, “They will, if you say to them follow, if you say to them obey the one I give you to, they will obey that person’s commands. The clan can use them to ship anything they desire; the capital should be a four-hour trip upon the rug. It would be possible for someone to take cargo from here and return with new cargo within the same day.”
Jeremiah smiles, “Perhaps I will make this place home, now that the clan need not move altogether to buy and sell our goods. However, those rugs could not carry so much, no more than a single wagon could.”
I say, “I was thinking of that. Perhaps some enchanted crates, one that would hold nearly a barn within it.”
Jeremiah’s eyes widened, “Are such things possible?”
King Patrick chuckles, “Only unto very few wizards, but yes I have a small box enchanted by a friend a long time ago. It holds my entire wardrobe when I travel.”
Justin chuckles and says, “You still have that old box I made for you so many years ago?”
King Patrick slaps Justin on the shoulder and says, “Yes my old friend I do, and it still works just the way you made it. Perhaps you can make a few for the trip, I do not think this large of a group could travel through the gates your old master created. I fear their magic is beginning to wane after all these years.”
Justin asks, “How is that old scoundrel, is he still up to mischief?”
King Patrick chuckles, “Worse than ever, the last thing he has been trying to accomplish is a ship that flies. Without magic on top of that, using something called technology.” Justin shakes his head in disbelief.
The Captain has sent runners, he knew of our need for the carpets. Several of the servants from the keep bring a wagon holding several carpets. They carry the top one from the wagon, about the same size as ours looking at a closely I decide to reject it. The servants bring the next, which is suitable, slightly larger than ours is, at twelve paces wide and twenty-four paces long and must have come from one of the larger rooms. Isabel and I begin the enchantment, and it too creates a suitable and permanent magic carpet.
There is another carpet the same size, before we enchant it Isabel and I need some time to rest, the four rugs we have enchanted so far seem to taken a toll along with this morning. I find myself very fatigued and perhaps a short nap would be in order. Taking the new robes Isabel and I go to the tent of her father. Her mother meets us at the entrance, pulls us back to a table and orders us to eat.
The food is good although Isabel is not very impressed, she asks, “Is it Christina’s time to cook?” I later found out Chris was short for Christina Isabel’s younger sister.
Isabel’s mother giggles and says, “Yes, I made sure Chris followed the recipes. I did not let her add any more of those weird spices.”
Isabel giggles, “That explains why is rather bland, the spices she adds is not the problem, the problem is she does not know the proper amount to add.”
A young girl much like Isabel, the same blue eyes and black hair finally comes to the table. Setting across from her sister, she questions, “Then sister are you going to teach me how to do it properly?”
Isabel says a little smugly, “I do not know if I will have time, Chris. What with be in a duchess, and having to learn magic.”
The girl of possibly ten sticks her tongue out at her older sister, causing Rebecca to giggle. Rebecca says, “Did you see Isabel can glow?”
Christina looks at her sister and says, “Of course she can glow. She has outshined everybody around here for years.”
Isabel simply leans into me and we kiss, of course, we light up the tent. Now taken aback Christina says, “You really do glow.”
I chuckle and say, “Christina, cooking takes practice, magic takes practice, with patients and practice you will be a great cook, you already outshine your uncle Justin.” Isabel giggles and shakes her head yes, he may be a great wizard but is cooking needs a little something. “Magic and cooking have something in common they are both arts that need to be precise. In cooking, you must measure the spices, or you will have too little or too much. The result is the food will not taste right, and magic if you make an error and measure incorrectly the results can be disastrous. Practice cooking; learn from it how to measure how to be very precise to make sure the food taste exactly right.”
Their mother giggles and says, “I had no idea magic and cooking had anything in common.”
I smile and say, “A great meal can give you strength for days, much better than a simple spell that gives you strength for an hour. A potion mixed perfectly, is like a soufflé, both requiring patients, practice and precise measuring. Sometimes both fall short just because.”
The women giggle, both Isabel and I stretch and yon both of us needing sleep. Christina opens her mouth and begins to tease, but her Uncle Justin cuts her off saying, “Unlike cooking magic wears down one strength, the rugs you have created today are as good as your first if not better. It is no wonder the two of you need a short rest, and you should for at least two and a half hours, I will wake you when it is time.”
Isabel’s mother leads us to a bed, and Justin follows has Isabel and I lay down again we wrap each other in a hug this time facing each other, Isabel has her head on my shoulder. I am asleep even before I realize Justin has done another spell.
Justin chuckles to Isabel’s mother, “They are so tired the spell is unnecessary, but it will prevent them from being awaken and giving into their hearts desires.”
Much like two days before Justin awakes us, we stretch feeling rested. After going to the restroom, Isabel and I need to go to gather wood. Us two, along with her father and the Captain of the guard moves along the coast on the flying carpet. Isabel’s father comes along as chaperone, the Captain of the guard insist on coming as my protector. Not just dead wood from the forced, but Driftwood would be much better, the salt has preserved the wood, and what is above the high tide will have dried out nicely ready for our use.
I have taught Isabel the gathering spell, is simple enough and will not affect anything adversely. I can since Isabel wishing to help, and her father’s eyes go large as we fly a crossed the beaches lifting logs into a larger and larger ball as the wood merges. The ball floats along behind our carpet and imperfections fall out of the ball, such as rocks, sand, and insects.
After having more than enough with we return, I will need to read the enchantment spell as Isabel’s flies us back home. It looks like we pursued by a huge round ball of solid wood as we return. The Captain of the guards waves to stunned guardsmen as they patrolled the walls and catch sight of us. As we flew across the top of the wall he shouts down, “Get back to your patrols this is a site you probably will see again.”
Stunned faces look skyward as we crossed the city, landing outside of the Plaza I leave the ball fifty feet in the air. It hangs there like a mini moon, as adults and children alike stare and point at it. Justin asks, “Did you bring all the Driftwood from the entire coast?”
I chuckle and say, “No about ten miles up the coast was a deserted beach with a great deal of wood. No one was near that section of beach; no one travels that far too get the Driftwood.”
The King chuckles and asks, “I believe that must be far more than enough for a few crates, what would you do with the rest?”
I bow to the King and ask, “I am uncertain sire, I am sure if someone has a need we may be able to accomplish some good.”
The King suggests, “How about some park benches, my poor feet are beginning to swell. I have not stood this long in a decade.”
I pull off a piece of the wood, it forms into a tiny ball compared to the original, and it swirls around until it begins to come into the shape of a chair. Grass from distant fields flies overhead merges, become cushioning, spider webs transforming into silk, and cover the chair. The silk takes the color of Isabel’s eyes but the center of the back has the Royal crest. The chair comes to rest in front of King Patrick who grins as he sets down. A sigh escapes his lips, as a smile covers his face. He turns the chair to watch us. Isabel is a quick study, and she has created an ottoman matching the chair it floats down and slides in front of the King. The king quickly puts his feet up onto the ottoman.
I pull up additional would and create two more benches; I set them down on either side of the King. One of the Knights request that I place of barrier behind the chair to protect the King. Justin ways me away saying, “You get back to the crates. I will make something to protect the King’s backside.”
Isabel and I set about the task of creating the crates, in the air, we form huge boxes, and the amount of wood slightly depleted with each box. After the boxes fully formed, we began the enchanting process, the box dissents as it begins to shrink in size. With a box comes to rest it is that artfully carved, with four handles so that two men can easily carry it. No matter what you place in it, it will always waive the same about five stones. The boxes closed and on the top of the lid is the symbol for house Morgan.
Jeremiah is at his daughter shoulder and ask, “Did it work?” Other than the delicate carving, you would never expect this to be anything more than a shipping crate, with the symbol of house Morgan carved as a relief on its lid.
I say, “Let us find out. Jeremiah, if you would touch the symbol for house Morgan to open the crate, we may check.”
Like the dowry box, no seam or joint is visible until activating the lock. As Jeremiah lays his hand flat on the carving, the box lid slides back and then tilts up revealing an open box that appears deeper and wider than what it possibly could be. I had fished out a copper coin from the coin purse thrown to me earlier. I dropped the coin in. It seemed to take an impossibly long time to cover the short distance to the bottom of the box. By the time it does reach the bottom, it appears impossibly small.
I tell Jeremiah, be sure to use ropes to lower each item down to the bottom, men can climb down the ropes to move cargo around inside the box. However, this is very important; do not allow anyone to remain in the box once the lid is closed. Nothing inside the box will age once the lid is in place. The tome that describes the enchantment, warns not to place any living thing in a closed box, to do so will stop it from aging, resulting in its death. So be very careful, even closing the lid for an instant will result in death to anyone or anything within the box.
Jeremiah shakes his head yes, understanding my warning he asked, “How may I close the box?”
I tell him, “By placing your hand on the lid in the same way. Only the person who opened the box may close it. It would be a good idea for the person who opened the box be the first in and the last out of the box before the lid is closed. That would prevent any accidental closing of the lid. Other than that, anyone who is a member of house Morgan can open the lid and close it.”
Isabel warns, “Daddy be very careful about Rebecca and some of the other children, you know how they love to hide. If they hide in a box that gets placed inside of one of the crates, it would surely mean they would die.”
Jeremiah in a serious voice says, “I will definitely have to warn them, that from now on during the packing process they are not the hide in any box or crate. I will ensure that each box and crates are inspected prior their placement in this thing.”
After a moment’s reflection Jeremiah asked, “You mean if I place hot bread inside the box, and opened it a week later the bread still be hot and fresh.”
I say, “From the writings in the book, it would not matter how long. Whenever you open the crate, the bread would be hot fresh and ready to eat just as you had placed it inside the crate. Anything not living will be in the same condition unchanged from the instant the lid closed.”
The King asks, “You mean wheat from years when we have far more than enough with keep for decades until we have years of famine.”
Shaking my head yes I say, “Even until the magic within the box is fully expired, at that point the box would simply fall apart and anything within would spilled outward unchanged, if that was a year or a thousand. The only problem would be if you had it in a room too small to hold whatever was inside the crate, without sufficient room it would break down the walls taken up as much room as it originally took up in this world.”
The King thinks for a moment and asks, “Could I have a dozen? I understand their drawbacks. However, I see the use of such a wonderful creation. We could store up a few years of grain, then during times of need feed the people.”
Jeremiah says, “Additionally, with the carpets, the grain can be quickly taken to whichever duchy that has the need.”
King Patrick says, “Even in some good years for most of the duchies some have shortages, sometimes because a crop fails from a storm, with the carpets in your help my good friend, house Morgan I will hire you to distribute food, enough to fill the granary of the affected duchy.”
Jeremiah bowing says to the King, “It would be the honor of house Morgan to assist the King.”
The King being a wise man himself knows how to negotiate. “I am sure with a couple of these crates and the carpets Duke Julius and Duchess Isabel has created, you would find more than enough room for any shipment I would require of you, plus any for your business my friend.”
Jeremiah did not get to be a rich merchant by just giving favors away, but he knows the value of having the King in debt to you for a favor. Jeremiah says, “During any true emergency, the King may call upon house Morgan, and we will be at his disposal. Because it would be so inexpensive to move cargo, I would only require the cost for packing and unpacking at the place of delivery.”
The King smiles and extends his hand, as they shake the King says, “Done, when we return to the capital I will have the finalized contracts made up. I will try not to keep you too busy my friend.”
Isabel and I go back to creating another box, Isabel contributes her strength to me and again we create another two boxes for house Morgan. When we finish we are too exhausted to continue. Justin had enchanted one more rug, after we take break and getting something to eat Isabel and I have the rug from the main hall unfurled. It still possesses the bloodstains from the priestess and myself, Justin begins the spell to clean away the stains. The blood vanishes leaving the carpet unharmed. Isabel again lends me her strength, I begin the enchantment for this large rug, unlike the others this seems to take forever, and by the time we are finished we know that we can do no more enchanting this day.
After our breakfast, I had changed into the new robes given to me by the merchant. With the exertions of the day, a new set of robes would be in order, especially for my wedding tomorrow evening. A couple of the guards come by, they hand me several large purses, smiling they say this is your spoils from the guards that fell last night. I weigh the purses in my hand, then hand two back saying, “Give five gold pieces unto any widow who lost her husband last night, see me if it is not enough.”
The guards smile and the Lieutenant says, “Yes my Duke.” They depart on their way to assist the citizens of Isabel’s and my new home.
Isabel and I have to make a few errands, now that we are no longer busy enchanting crates and carpets, having enough for the clan to move tomorrow, anything we plan not to take can remain in the keep until the clan returns in a few days.
Justin asks, “Did you to forget something?” As he pointing at the now, six foot round spear of wood still floating in the air.
It probably does not have enough wood to create another box, at least not as large as the three we have created so far. However, it is something that we could use later, but I have so little magic left that to do anything other than to allow it to dissent gently to the ground would be too great of an effort to accomplish. I slowly allow it to settle to earth, causing it to flatten on one side so it will not roll and possibly hurt someone. It is then that I realized how much effort has gone into levitating it. We sigh at the reduce effort. That is something we will have to remember, it takes less effort to work with a block once set on the ground.
First, we go to the cobbler with Rebecca coming along as chaperone again. The cobbler measures both our feet checking on the fine leather he has in the styles he shows to Isabel, when she decides on a shoe he shows a matching version for me, I am rather easy when it comes to shoes they just have to protect my feet. The cobbler begins his work and tells us to come back in an hour so he can check to see if the fitting will be correct then finish the shoes by tomorrow morning.
Arriving at the dressmaker shop, which is next door to the men’s apparel shop, Isabel and I separate, I give Isabel one of the coin purses, her and Rebecca going to dress shop and me going to the men’s apparel.
The tailor has me wash in a small bathing room he has, and I quickly cleaned myself of the stresses from today. I did not realize how awful I smelled until I was clean. Once finished, the tailor did not even allow me to dress before he began measuring me for my new clothing. He said he would work through the night to have them finished for tomorrow. He had some previous finished clothing that would work for tonight. Something I preferred anyway it was a bit more informal.
Arriving on the street, the Captain of the guard is there with an attractive woman and two lovely young girls. The two girls come to me and hug me saying, “You are the Duke who saved Daddy. Thank you.”
I chuckle and say, “Michael’s good heart had already saved him. I just simply pointed out the fact, it was a decision the King had already come to on his own. It is only now that I realize he was testing me.”
The Captain of the guard says, “He may have been testing you, he may have decided I was innocent, but it was you who asked for my pardon. You stood up for me. It is not something I will ever forget.”
Michael thinks he owes me for what I did today, but I need to remind him of what he done in the past. I say, “Remember when you were younger, and a scared young boy leaned on you, I took strength in your calm hand on my shoulder. If you had not, I probably would not have the strength to identify those who murdered my father and mother. I did no less for you, than you had done for me. I will never forget your kindness to a young slave.”
Juliet Michael’s wife says, “That was the day I fell in love with him, it took me a while to get his attention and then to finally let him catch me. I knew what a good father he would be from the way he treated you.”
Michael smiles and pulls his wife close, his two daughters turned back to me and ask, “Can we really go on your carpet, Daddy said you promised us a ride.”
Michael chuckles still holding his wife he asks, “My Duke, it would be traditional if the Captain of the guard joined you on any visit to the Capital. I doubt we would need any other than the strong man from house Morgan for your protection, but I do wish to go to stand at your side.”
I say, “Well I guess if you pack by the morning, we should find a place for four more.”
The girls squealing causes Isabel and Rebecca to laugh as they return from the dress shop, Isabel is wearing a new dress it accents her figure beautifully. I do realize what a lucky man I am, for at that moment, her beauty stunned me yet again. I moved to her and take her into my arms smiling as I look into her eyes. Rebecca holds two other dresses, one obviously longer than what she can wear.
The Captain clearing his throat reminds us that we are in the public eye, and we should behave ourselves accordingly. Having our attention he says, “I understand you have an appointment with Edmund the cobbler, he will need to see you before he can finish your new shoes.”
I say, “It would be rude of me to keep Edmund waiting, especially because he has refused payment.” The seven of us walked back to the cobbler’s shop, and I sent the Captain and his family on to pack for the trip, the clan is not so large that with the crates that we should not find seating for the Captain and his family.
The cobbler makes quick work of the shoes and I wonder at how fast the man’s hands can actually work. He has the soles on the shoes completed in a matter of minutes. Isabel and I walk out with new stockings and new shoes that fit like gloves.
On reentering the tent of house Morgan I am ushered to a divided section, a small bed is set up against the curtain; I could hear Isabel’s voice on the other side. Isabel saying, “We are bonded and cannot be separated, to do so would be death for the both of us.”
Her mother says, “He is just on the other side of the curtain, surely that is not enough separation to affect your bonding.”
There is a slit in the curtain and I reach my hand through finding Isabel’s hand as she sets on the bed. I think we both shivered at making contact. Our fingers laced together, and I can feel Isabel’s lips on the back of my hand as she lifts it to her lips. Her mother says, “There, we even thought of that. The tradition says you do not get to see him on your wedding day. We will bend that just enough for you to see his hand and hold it.”
This is going to be a longest night of my life, followed by the longest day.