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Subject: Cinderfella, Chapter 21 Creid King’s Warriors Story: Cinderfella 2: A New Life Chapter: 21 Creid King’s Warriors Author: Eric McQueen ail) Mature Readers only due to sexual situations and graphic sexual content Freedom of expression is precious. To do that Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! Creid King’s Warriors After dinner and before we retired for the day, we gathered in the large living area with our guests and talked. We sat on the two couches in front of the fireplace. I watched these men from Creid interact with each other. Beau was looking around the house at the various paintings and sculptures we had. The sculptures were displayed all around on tables, shelves and on the large, polished mantel. There was a large painting over the mantel done by a very famous artist five hundred years ago in Parasia. Gateau. He was a breakthrough artist. Paintings done before him were rather two dimensional. He had perspective and gave depth. He was also known for being a bit mad. It was a beautiful landscape of a beautiful lake with mountains in the background there were swans and other fowl and you could see. It was sunset as you saw the sun was setting and life was slowing down. It was on a wide elegantly framed canvas. There were other objects such as little statues and figurines he looked at carefully. Arthur and Candor managed to “acquire” some beautiful things. Yes, I knew they were stolen. The picture over the mantel I knew, but we didn’t know who the owner was or from where it was being shipped. From where did Candor acquire the others? Who knew? Someone during Beau’s childhood must have told him, “you can look, but don’t touch. Put your hands behind your back and hold them.” Because that’s what he was doing. I smiled as he peered over one statuette to see the back and he held his hands tighter as he did. Dennis walked over to him, “Whatcha doin’?” He asked casually. “Lookin’,” Beau said casually without stopping. Beau looked at Dennis. “This one is very pretty.” He pointed to a white marble statue of a woman seemed to be on a bluff in strong winds that made her dress and long hair move in the air. It was a good one. The hair looked like it was flowing. She held her left hand over her brow and leaning forward, it was obvious she was looking with anticipation for something or someone. I speculated if it was someone from the look on her face. It was that damned good. The expression told me it was someone she loved very much that was supposed to be there but hadn’t gotten there yet and she was worried. The expression was clearly on her face. Such detail. That detail was what made Romano famous as people wondered how he did that with marble. It was rock!? “There are a lot of pretty things here. I like pretty things.” He looked at the statue again. “I like this. I think I like it best.” He looked back at Dennis. “What’s your favorite one?” “Over there.” Dennis pointed to something on the room so Beau couldn’t see exactly what Dennis was pointing out. “Where?” Beau asked. Dennis took his hand, “Come on, I’ll show you.” I noticed it right then. Dennis and Beau spoke the same language. What I mean is, Beau responded like a child speaking to another child. Despite the size and age difference, they were two little boys just talking. That gave me a warm sensation inside. Reese was talking to Seth on the couch when Reese saw something in the corner of his eye. He glanced over and saw this little, black, green-eyed cat who decided he needed to come and investigate these new arrivals in his home. His nose was sniffing the air to sniff out dangers and to find out more about them. I liked that Reese didn’t react badly as a lot of people do. “Oh, look, a little kitty.” He said nicely and quietly. He held his hand out to Kitty. “Want to say hello? I’m friendly. Come on. Here kitty, kitty.” He sang the high-pitched song softly we all know and probably have used. His use of the generic name for a small cat was amusing. He didn’t know that “kitty” was Kitty’s name. Kitty knew this one didn’t smell wrong and this person knew his name and called him to come to him. He jumped in Reese’s lap and began a closer smell and began purring. “It’s certainly a friendly cat,” Reese commented a little surprised as he stroked Kitty gently making Kitty arch his back and want more. “Yes,” Seth nodded and rubbed Kitty once, but Kitty was staying where he was. “Well, you called his name.” He chuckled lightly and explained. “He was a kitten and a present for Dennis when he was two. Dennis named him. Thus, the name Kitty.” He stroked Kitty’s head again. “He became a member of the family quickly. He sleeps every night with Dennis. They’re best friends.” Toby had asked Val why he chose to be a soldier. Val was the leanest one of the four but he was also the tallest by an inch or two. Val’s biggest difference was his serious personality. The next thing was his mannerisms. He even sat differently than the other three. He sat upright, didn’t slouch, and never gestured his hands. In fact, his hands stayed in his lap. The others would just sit. He sat comfortably with his legs crossed at the knees. “There weren’t many choices for me,” Val used an even tone with not much emotion in his voice. “I could be a miner or a farmer if I found land and could afford it. I went to school for six years as a child. I loved school.” He sighed. “I wanted more.” He shrugged slightly. “To get more I’d have to pay the few in Creid that had a degree and could teach me. There wasn’t a college in Creid then. As much as those men in Creid charged for the education, I might as well move to Blethos’ Capitol and I seriously considered it.” Then he did what he almost never did. He chuckled. It was a short one, but a chuckle. “I would just have to keep where I was from a secret. We Creid weren’t liked much anywhere then.” “Because everyone thought all of you were brutal and savage,” Toby stated the fact and nodded. “I don’t think you are. Everyone I’ve met from Creid has been nice. You’re nice.” Val gave a slight smile nodding once. “Well, thank you.” “They also said you guys had bad manners and ate like a wild animal,” Tony said. “I watched you eat and you ate like everyone else.” Val gave the short smile again for a second. “All the previous kings saw the need to protect ourselves. There weren’t that many of us in the past. Long ago, a thousand years in the past when we nothing but criminals and those who were trying to evade pursuit. All were outcasts. We began to thrive there instead of just hiding. There are times we had to be brutes and savage. Others would come from the other kingdoms, Blethos included, and take what we had. We struck them back giving them the savage, brutal, and barbaric attacks earning us the reputation. Over the centuries we did attack some who may have a doubt about that reputation was true still. We reminded them by striking back very viciously. Over the millennium we had the reputation and kept it for our protection.” He did point, if you call lifting his index finger with your hands still clasped and in his lap pointing. “Your Dad was the one to break the ice.” “I was little then, but I know,” Toby nodded and looked at Val carefully, “You don’t look mean.” “Oh, but I can,” Val admitted with the tone saying he was very scary when he needed to be. “You apparently got the education you wanted,” Toby observed. “How’d you get it?” “There were people with books. I’d borrow the books and I tried to educate myself,” Val said. “Finding someone with a book from which I could learn was difficult. I joined the military.” He did lean a little toward Toby like he was telling something in secret. Toby’s deaf, he wouldn’t hear anyway. He could have just mouthed it and Toby would get it just the same. It was more for effect. This was giving an air of importance. “I joined because I would have access to the palace and the palace had books,” He gave another short laugh. “I had asked permission and was allowed to use if I didn’t damage anything. King Mordor came in for something that he wanted one evening and was surprised I was there. I guess not many of the soldiers did that. The King’s Warriors did, as they were usually more educated than soldiers if the soldiers had any at all. Many could barely read. He said what the book was he was looking for and I knew exactly where it was. I got it for him, gave it to him and said I liked it especially this one part. He was rereading it for relaxation. I described the part I mentioned and gave my opinion on it. He ordered a few of those men that taught for money to teach me.” This time he smirked and then it was gone. “One of those men I had asked before I joined the military if he would teach me in exchange for me working for him. His reply was, I was wasting his time and why would he teach a farm animal to read.” Toby looked surprised at that and frowned. “That was just mean. Why would you turn away someone that wants to learn? Why did he say that?” Val did smile again that short smile. “He explained later that there were few college-level jobs in Creid and I’d just end up mining or smelting with a college education. I did get the education and King Mordor was going to put me in the King’s Warriors,” Val said in pride. “I had to pass the physical part of that and I did. I was one of two that made the Palace Guard and King’s Warriors without having done a great deed or proving myself in combat during a campaign. I had the good manners preferred by the Warriors because my mother insisted I learn them.” He did smile a little bigger this time. “I wanted my life to mean something so I can leave something that says I was here. Now I have books to read all the time. Except when I’m away like this.” “You don’t have to be without.” Toby brightened. “We have a library! You can see if there’s anything in there you want to read. I’ve read a lot of them.” He got up. “Come on.” There were books and we had some, but creating a book took time. Many were handwritten. Only for about one hundred years has it been possible to make books faster using block letters. They could make a hundred pages of the same book at a time and then put them in a leather cover. Thus, the price. That’s why the Book Lender was so strict about taking care of them and charging so much if damaged. Val looked uncertainly at Seth and me. “Books are very valuable, won’t your Dads mind?” Toby must have picked it up at school because he’s never used with us. He waved his hand at Seth to brush him off. “Nah,” His saying the word did not quite have the same impact, but he got the dismissal across. Taking Val’s hand that hadn’t moved from his lap, “I’ll show you,” Toby almost pulled Val to his feet and then pulled Val toward our library. Whether Val wanted one or not, he made a friend in Toby. Someone who liked books as much as he did. “There’s also the Book Len…” and his voice faded away. I was talking with Max as we sat on one of the two couches. “Is Yannick sending two of you to A’Dore?” Max shook his head. “No, instead he’s sending the same amount to A’Dore the regular way.” He gave me a sideways glance and smirked again. “He said to tell you, that way you don’t have to worry about revealing the doorway/mirror.” He was next to me, but the widening of my eyes and surprised expression on my face told him what he expected. He sort of leaned away from me and cringed a little with a grin. He withdrew in case I would yell or even hit him as he raised his hands slightly to prevent that possibility. He hurried on. “It’s not his fault. I figured it out.” I wasn’t angry. I was just surprised. It was understood we didn’t tell anyone we didn’t need to. Why would he even hint about the mirror with Max? “I can’t believe he told you about that!” I said. He chuckled. “I told you it wasn’t his fault,” Max sat up slowly and that grin never went away. I was still in shock but asked him. “How’d you figure it out without him telling you?” “Well, he didn’t at first in so many words,” Alex said still chuckling. “You need to understand something about Yannick and me.” He relaxed and got a little more serious. “I’ve known Yannick for almost twenty years.” He explained. “Almost my whole life.” He smiled remembering something. “I was ten and orphaned, skinny and well…Yannick saw me as he passed by one day.” Max shrugged. “I was pitiful and cold. He was just beginning his warrior service and every knight needs a page. He asked if I wanted to do that. I did! I was with him almost every day until I was eligible to join myself. He liked having me around. I make him laugh, he says. I think he liked that I didn’t care if he was the Crowned Prince, which I didn’t know when he asked me to be his page. The only thing I knew was he was someone important. I came to really care about him. Hero-worship or love, I would do anything for him. He trusted me and he began to talk to me. Telling me some things and then it became more personal things. I realized; he was confiding in me. He could tell me what he was afraid of, his hopes and dreams. I will never betray Yannick. I would bursa escort never betray his confidence and he knew that. He kept doing it even after I became a soldier. He told me everything.” Max smiled. “I say all that to tell you I trust what Yannick would tell me without question.” He settled more smiling at me. “He told me about you. He told me about Seth and the vineyard. He told me so much I felt like we’d already met and were friends already. He also told me about this house and the work you had done to get those little warriors. I found the clues in his stories.” He threw his hands up a little and asked me. “I mean, how could a man do so much in A’Dore and Blethos. They’re a thousand miles apart and he couldn’t have gone back and forth as he said did.” He chuckled as he shook his head. “I never doubted he did. So, I asked him how.” Max shrugged. “So, he told me.” I had begun smiling when began this explanation. In the end, I was liking Max even more. “And never once doubted it?” “Not once,” then he gave a shrugging nod. “Okay, I considered maybe he hallucinated it or he was drugged at first.” He gestured and had animation in his voice. He was very charming and fun. I only imagine what he did as Yannick’s page. I could see why Yannick said Max made him laugh. He was making me smile! He was entertaining. Max continued. “I knew those little warriors were in King Christian and you came here to get them out. Yannick had the serum. We’re talking about a month he was gone.” He gestured with both hands to the left of him, to the right of him and back to the left for the journey back and forth. “Two thousand miles in a month and he still finds the time to bring home a girl he could marry from Royal Valley? That was impossible without help from magic or something. I asked about that something.” I couldn’t help but say, “You are me.” Max’ brow wrinkled a second or two. “Huh?” He asked confused. I laughed lightly. “You are to Yannick as I am to Christian. A little brother.” I watched Max grin at that. “I try to make my brother laugh all the time. He would confide in me and tell me his dreams and fears. Christian would use me as a means to complain or ask advice. He could yell and had an audience. A soundboard. Me. I have his trust and confidence. Just as you do with Yannick.” Max nodded, “Yep, that’s right.” He chuckled. “He told me to be myself with you and we’d get along fine. You’d like me better this way. Are we doing that?” “Yep, we are.” I shook my head. “You and a close friend of mine would get along great together. He’s delightedly wacky, too.” Max’s grin was a little sly now. “A wacky close magical friend that goes by the name Demetrius?” I knew my eyes had grown, I felt it. “He told you that, too!?” “And the others. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone,” Max grinned. “Who’d believe me if I did?” He chuckled. “Is there nothing secret!?” I asked. “Nope.” Max gave a one-sided shrug. “Not with Yannick and me.” “I can see what Yannick saw in you, now,” I said. “So, we get the Royal Valley’s Royal Approval?” Max asked now grinning very big. I narrowed an eye. “You know, I don’t know if Harlan has any rooms left at the Inn. You may have to see if any of the men will let you bunk with them.” I growled. Max wasn’t bothered at all. In fact, he laughed a little harder. He knew I wasn’t serious because of the smile on my face when I said it. “I don’t get it,” I shook my head again. These men were hard to figure out. “I knew the Creid were nice people. Forgive me, but with the job you do… You’re a very happy person. How can you be this happy?” Max smiled. “I am happy! One of the first things we do when training is learning to segment our mind. A good while ago, there was this Native Shaman who taught us how to do that.” He recognized the confusion in my eyes. He gave a quick, short breath and thought about how to explain it. He began to tell me slower as he was thinking as he spoke, “The person that you see right now, is the real me.” He thought more. “The person who is the warrior is me, but not the real me.” He looked at me, “Understand?” He turned slightly and propped his elbow on the back of the couch. “I bring that me out when doing battle.” He grimaced. “In the past, we had so many warriors were affected by what they did. Even the savage is bothered by what he’s done sometimes.” He shook his head looking at me. “We were too few to allow our warriors to commit suicide. The king at that time wanted to find a solution. That’s when he brought us the Shaman. He taught us to put our memories and feelings somewhere and not to dwell on them.” I was impressed. “It obviously works. Here you are. Does it take long to learn?” Max shook his head. “The techniques I can teach pretty quickly. To have it work well takes practice. I was taught it at twelve and have done it nearly every day since then. I can bring that part of me up in seconds. What’s better, I can put him back in seconds.” “Would it help at first,” I asked. “If you teach us how to use it, how long until we can use it? Put it somewhere? Where? It’s still in your head.” “It will help immediately,” Max said. “It will take time to use it well. Think of it as building a junk closet in your house. The bad things are still in your head, but you don’t think about it. Even I get the occasional unwanted memory come back in my head. I just put it back in that closet. As they get better at it, those we soon teach can learn to put memories they have after they get them in any battle or conflict and put them in there.” I had read where there are people influenced to do or not do something. “That sounds like hypnosis.” Max shrugged. “Maybe, but we do it ourselves. It even works for old memories that lurk around.” “But some memories need to be dealt with,” I said. I looked at Seth who was laughing at something with Reese. “Maybe start with him.” Max nodded. “Yannick told me what those people did to Seth. That was awful, but he seems to be handling it well now.” He smiled at me compassionately. “It won’t hurt to try it.” “Is it hard to learn to use?” “No, it just takes practice.” He looked over to Beau who was still talking with Dennis. He smiled affectionately at Beau. “It took him a little longer, but he got it.” Dennis gave long “no” of disbelief at something he was told by Beau who was chuckling telling it was true, whatever it was. “He’s a special guy.” It was genuine affection. “What’s his story if I can know?” I smiled as Beau and Dennis were getting along so well. Max turned and hesitantly said, “I guess you noti…” I interrupted him, “that he is a happy man who is gentle and kind. He sees the world in child-like appreciation?” I nodded with a smile. “I noticed.” Max smiled back and pointed at me. “That was good! I’ll have to remember that.” He settled back and relaxed. “When he was a little boy he would come and watch the warriors as they exercised and trained. He wanted to be one of them. When he reached the age to become a page he went to join. They said no.” He chuckled. “He begged to do something with them. They let him clean up. He imitated what was taught from the instructors that were wanting the trainees to do.” Max smiled even more with a chuckle. “That little boy proved he had the fastest reflexes. He was equal to the level of those about to go in the warriors in their twenties with their training completed! He was only eleven!! They did train him after seeing that!! He blossomed. He was a natural. He even began to beat the trainers occasionally at only fourteen. He was let in the warriors and rose in the ranks.” I was really getting positive feelings about that and what he accomplished. “Again, forgive me but, an officer is more than brute force. Can he come up with strategies? Come up with tactics in new situations?” “Not well,” Max admitted. “What strategies he uses he learned and that was hard. He can read well enough, but not well. The other trainees and some of the instructors themselves helped him. He makes up for it determination and effort. He worked hard to get in the warriors. He earned his rank.” He grinned again. “And I chose him personally for this battalion. No one works harder than Beau.” They all loved him. They loved each other. They were a unit and solid. “I can’t wait to see him in action.” And I truly meant that. What he lacked he made up for in his heart and by being a prodigy at being a warrior. He was a sweet, lovable man. Yes, the Creid Reputation was still dying. Even for me. We did visit a few minutes later when Seth suggested the boys get ready for bed. There was the usual groans of reluctant agreement and Seth’s assurance they’d all be here in the morning and they left grudgingly. Kitty, who had been lying contently in Reese’s lap suddenly hurried after his friend making Reese chuckle watching him leave. Beau sat down beside Val who had returned with a book. Beau pointed at the boys. “I like Dennis. He’s funny.” I chuckled. “He gets that from me.” “And smart!” Beau has been impressed. “He gets that from me.” Seth grinned at me. Val nodded, “You’re son Toby might be a genius.” He said seriously. “He read some of those books and he is a child.” And then he added, “And he finished them. He was telling me what they were about and one I had read and we had a discussion about the book’s subject matter. So, I know he’s a genius.” Seth and I nodded and said at the same time, “We know.” Reese tried to stop a yawn and shook his head quickly to clear it. “I’m tired, do you mind if I go to bed?” Max rose from the couch, “I will, too.” We all decided to call it a day. As Seth and I were taking our boots off before our nightly bath. There was a knock on our door which was open a crack. Toby’s dark head peered around the door. “May I speak to you two?” Toby asked cracking the door open further. Seth looked up and waved him in. “Sure, we were just getting ready for our bath.” I looked at Toby. He was bathed and clean, wearing his nightshirt that would soon be too small. He had an expression that said he was thinking about something heavily. “Is anything wrong?” Seth stretched across it to hear. “I was just wondering…” Toby began. “We could see that when you walked in the room,” Seth smiled. “You can’t hide many things from us.” “Except for when you learned to talk,” I added. Toby laughed and nodded. “Not from either of you.” He looked more directly at us. “What can I do when I grow up?” I smiled getting out of the chair I sat in to take my boots off. “You’re very, very smart, son. I don’t think there’s anything you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” Seth grinned, “And there’s always the vineyard and winery. That’s part of you. You’ll have a job here if you want, but I think you’re capable of doing whatever you desire.” “You have a while to decide that” I said. “You’re just ten.” Toby gave a sideways grin. “About to be eleven.” He joked as he always did near his birthday. “Don’t rush it,” Seth moaned. “The older you get, I do, too.” He smiled propping up on an elbow. “Is it due to your conversation with Val that started this?” I saw Toby’s eye widen not understanding how I knew that. I assured him, “Hey, you’re the one with great eyesight with that amazing vision! With your peripheral vision, you can practically see behind yourself. I have good hearing and I overheard you. Okay?” Toby grinned shaking his head. “Yes, it does something to do with that, but only partly.” He narrowed his eyes at me and then to Seth. “You two are what brought it on.” “We did?” I sat back a bit. “How’d we do that?” Toby nodded, “Yes, you.” He sighed. “You are both so smart and can do any job you want. Dad was king…” “Now that’s not something you achieve with being smart or stupid,” I said. “I know, it’s something you are born to be usually.” Toby was nodding quickly to say he got it. “But Dad was born to it. It was that nasty Thorne guy that messed things up for him.” He looked at Seth. “That vineyard is growing because of you, that’s smart. You came up with the way to keep the frost off the grapes. I saw you map out the irrigation.” He looked at me. “He was a good king, wasn’t he?” I nodded smiling, “Yes, he was.” “If Thorne hadn’t done what he did, I know Daddy would have been a great king. You and he are practically kings now in Royal Valley.” Toby still looked at me. “And I don’t think there anything you can’t do, Dad. Uncle Ryan is begging you to become a doctor. I knew what you two did to get the little warriors and you were the ones that started new fields in medicine…and you haven’t even gone to medical school yet, Dad.” He shook his head. “The world is open for you. It’s not for me. I can’t hear. I can’t be a doctor.” “How do you know that?” Seth asked surprised. Toby frowned. “I’ve seen Uncle Ryan examine a few patients here. There was a man with pain in his chest and Uncle Ryan used this odd cone-shaped metal thing on the man’s chest, the wide side on the man’s chest and Uncle Ryan put his ear on the small end. I saw him tell the man he was listening to his heart. He did the same with the man’s stomach to listen to him digesting something. The man had escort bayan gas.” Toby explained. “I wouldn’t be able to do that.” “Diagnosing patients is only one part of medicine,” I said. “Medical Science has many sides.” I touched his face. “I bet looking through Seer you’d see more and more accurately than anyone. I didn’t know you were interested in medicine.” Toby gave another smirk. “You know me. I’m interested in everything,” he looked at us. “There are some jobs I can’t do. For instance, if I wanted to be a soldier and do what you did the other day with Uncle Darrin. Can I do that?” “I don’t know,” I admitted. Then smiled at him. “You won’t know until you try. You weren’t supposed to talk and yet you’re talking with us now.” Seth was smiling now. “I agree with your Dad. If there’s something you want to do, you’ll find a way to do it.” He rolled over backward on the bed so he was sitting next to Toby. “You will be a gift at whatever you choose to do.” “Life gives us challenges,” I said. “You were given another challenge and you’re doing extraordinarily well with that.” I shook him by the shoulder lightly. “You are in a position people rarely get. Most people have to find work, any work available to stay alive. You can choose. I know you’ll do things that will change the world.” Seth and I were enjoying our time in our bath in the peace and solitude it offered. We had moved way beyond needing words now to communicate. Our comfortable familiarity was what we both wanted and we were getting better and better at it. He rested back against my chest my head against his as I gently washed his hairy chest. It was very dirty. I was a little startled when Seth spoke. Not because he was loud since it was little more than a whisper. “Don’t misunderstand,” Seth began. “I pray there won’t be an attack, but I like what’s happening here now.” I smiled at that. “Since you mentioned the possible attack, I know you’re not talking about you and me right now.” Seth chuckled. “I like what’s happening here, too, but I was talking about Royal Valley.” He said. “What I said to Keith that day is true. We are getting closer as a community.” “Yes,” I agreed. “Uniting under a common cause will do that.” “It worked with the three countries, too,” Seth said. “I really like everyone I’ve met from Creid.” “Me, too.” I paused and sprung a thought on Seth. “I think we should take Max with us to see Christian tomorrow.” Seth nodded. “Who else is going to A’Dore from this group?” “None of them are going,” I said. “Yannick is sending another battalion there.” Seth shifted slightly. “Then why should he go? Does he even know about the going to A’Dore tomorrow and how?” “He has for a while,” I said. “Yannick told him.” “He what?” Seth sat up and looked at me. “Why?” I gently pulled to his previous position and explained what Max told me about their connection. “He had to have friends in Creid.” I said logically. “Max is just closer anyone. I’m glad he has Max.” The further I got with the explanation he relaxed more. “I think Max should be there because of his knowledge of Creid’s current condition.” “Can Yannick afford to send so many men?” Seth asked. I shrugged slightly. “With whoever is attacking his supplies, he probably thinks it will stop this land blockade of food and other supplies sooner.” “This whole thing seems to be more than just some angry natives on the warpath and some criminals.” Seth pondered deep in thought. “They are stealing gold to buy what from whom?” He shrugged which I felt more than saw. “They can steal all the gold and then what? Stockpile it?” I knew he was just thinking out loud and didn’t expect an answer from me. “What do we know about the northwest portion of this continent?” I thought about what I had seen and read. “Not a lot. It’s cold in winter and very wet. I remember reading that. There were people that went there, but they said there was a huge mountain range and very tall.” I continued to think. “A lot of this continent has yet to be discovered. Most of what we know about our far western coast we’ve gotten from the Asians. Saw settlements in the southwest. Developed by those from natives to our south and they’re usually in conflict with other tribes there. They have limited export and small ships. The Asians reported they saw none in the northwest.” “And we didn’t settle there because it was cold and wet,” Seth followed logically. “We needed to be somewhere warmer to raise crops.” He pondered more. “How much land is still unexplored and have no kingdoms?” “Plenty of land, but no kingdoms,” I said. Seth turned around slowly. “Are you sure?” “About the kingdoms? If there is, we haven’t met them yet.” “But there could be.” Seth offered. “Something new has happened. Kingdoms rise and fall all the time.” He went on with his thinking. “Think about it. They don’t want to destroy us. They can’t. There are too many of us. But they can weaken us.” The excitement of what he had come up with was driving him now. “They sent these brute squads that have been attacking, but not really killing.” I was about to say there were and Seth nodded and held up his hand. “Yes, there have been some, but when dealing with criminals it is going to happen.” He was almost dismissal about it. “They’ve come in and scared a lot of people, stopping production and slowing things down by chasing people away. That will weaken all of us….Blethos, A’Dore, and Creid.” “To take some of the fight out of us before they invade,” I nodded. “This all started happening after we became allies with Creid,” Seth added. “These people will use the gold to buy what they need, to do this from other kingdoms like in Asia and others.” “That’s possible,” I admitted. Seth grinned and then shrugged. “We know it’s someone. It’s just a theory.” He said to me and his tone said he was probably wrong. He turned to lay back again, but I stopped him grabbing his face pulling into a somewhat hungry kiss. Here were his doubts again. He was constantly thinking he couldn’t think as well as others because he didn’t get the education he thought he needed. “Seth, it’s a good theory. A theory that you came up with after knowing the facts and what evidence to support that theory.” I nodded. “That’s a good one.” He smiled wrapping his arms around me, “Thank you.” “Toby is right,” I said softly. “You are smart.” Seth chuckled as his lips worked on my neck. “Smart enough to kiss you first.” I pulled him closer as I nodded. “Yeah, that was very smart.” We bathed and dressed and went downstairs. The morning mayhem was added to with our four guests. Coffee was the most important part of the lives of those in Creid as it was for Seth. Grace had more on staff that kept up with that need. Then adding our sons, it became louder. Dennis had to sit by Beau who was smiling at seeing his new little friend. Toby greeted everyone but sat in an available chair, but he looked at Val and I knew he wanted to talk to him. All were in a chipper mood. I grinned as Max came in the kitchen whistling. “Good morning, all!” He was a happy man! “I hope you all slept as well as I did.” He got his coffee and sat near me and Seth. Seth looked at Max. “We have a morning meeting this morning to go over things about Royal Valley and the kingdom. We’d like you to join us.” Max nodded. “Sure,” he looked at his other three of his men. “A meeting with whom? Should I ask one of my men to join us?” I grinned. “Only if, like you, they know how we can meet with Christian.” His eyes widened with new excitement and he leaned in and whispered. “You’re going to let me use it!?” He sat back and clapped his hands lightly once and said. “Hot damn!” “Hot damn?” Seth chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve heard that before.” Max waved that off. “We say it in Creid.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Especially when we expecting to have a great time doing something.” He smiled even more. It’s a good thing we put in for plenty of supplies. Those four ate a lot! “What’s on the agenda today, Max?” Reese asked eating his second helping of eggs and bacon. Not to mention the three more biscuits took out of the basket. “We need to start with an introduction to the local militia,” Max said pointing to the three. “I need you three to see that our guys are behaving themselves and we’ll meet in the square.” He glanced at me. “I have a meeting. When that’s over we’ll join you.” “Do we put on our leather armor?” Reese asked. Max shook his head. “Not for this.” “Good,” Beau said in relief. “I get hot.” He explained. The other three chuckled. “We know, Beau.” Max smiled at Beau. “We do, too.” Breakfast was consumed and the three headed off to do as instructed. Dennis went with Beau, but Toby came over to Max, Seth, and me. Max had a single eyebrow rise in a silent question. Seth chuckled. “Yes, he’s going, too.” We went upstairs and uncovered the mirror. Activating the crystals and one more person was having trouble believing what he was seeing. We stepped through to A’Dore and was greeted by Christian and Thomas. “Max, meet my brother, His Royal Majesty King Christian of A’Dore,” I waved at Christian to Max. “This is the Captain Maxwell of the battalion from Creid.” Max bowed instantly. “Your Majesty.” Christian shook his hand. I smiled. “Beside him, this handsome man is my nephew, His Royal Highness Prince Thomas and Crowned Prince of A’Dore.” “It’s an honor to meet you both,” Max said smiling and looked back at the mirror again. “Hard to believe that I’m meeting you at all,” he turned back. “But an honor.” “Are you one of the two Yannick was going to send?” Christian asked. Again, Max explained what was happening. We caught up with the latest from A’Dore and we told him what Sam had communicated by homing pigeon with Blethos. Max told Christian about the cut off of their imports and exports. “Why are they doing this?” Christian asked. I elbowed Seth slightly. “Tell them, Seth.” Seth was a little embarrassed. “It’s just a theory, but… they’re weakening us. They strike and fall back, but don’t really do that much damage,” He said. “They do damage because of the numbers of outlaws in the groups attacking, but not really. We only know they’re after the gold. I tried to figure out why. They really only started after we and the Creids became allies. We don’t know where they’ll strike next. We spread our forces out weakening our defense. They know we’re allies and now that the Creids are involved they are really hitting it hard.” Christian nodded. “That’s true, but who are they and where are they?” I looked at Max. “Have the Creids sent anyone to the northwest territories beyond that great mountain range?” Max looked surprised at the question. “Not officially,” he began. “There were a few expeditions in the past, but not a hundred years.” “What did they report finding there?” I asked. “Just more of the same,” Max said. “It was cool there. It hardly snowed because of rainy conditions. There were reports of natives that lived in the area and made a life, but no better or worse than other native tribes.” Christian looked at Seth. “You think they’re there? Why?” “I’m thinking these attacks are supported by someone with access to resources,” Seth said. “We know of the many settlements there are beyond our borders and know basically where they are. The ones based on ideas and beliefs we don’t share. There are the ones based on religions we don’t have,” Seth stressed. “We know approximately where they are. We don’t know who is in that area. We need to find out. To wage a war so far from their home turf requires backup. Alexander of Greco? The Roma Empire? The Mandaria in Asia!? They were and are empires of this size. I think whoever this wants to the same thing here and we are the first conquest.” I was nodding, “Which is why we need to find them before they reduce us so much they can just walk in.” I added. “It makes sense.’ “Sending troops would make things more difficult here and in Royal Valley,” Christian said more to himself than us. “We could send some from all three kingdoms.” “Agreed,” Seth said. “Perhaps a small group of a dozen or so?” “That could work,” Max nodded. “Yannick was going to have me suggest some scouting parties into the areas outside our borders.” Christian nodded. “We still might.” “What made you think of that, Uncle Seth?” Thomas asked. Seth shrugged. “The size of the attacks and what was done in each of them.” He shrugged. “To start a war of this size from far away is hard, they had to have resources. They themselves have to be sizable. The only place for a group that size had to be there.” He said like it was just logical. And it was. “We need to get together again and talk about who we send,” I said. “This could take weeks or months.” “Or longer, but the sooner we start,” Christian urged quietly. “The sooner it ends.” I felt sorry for the poor pigeons that had to carry all I would write about this and send them to Sam and Yannick. We stepped back into Royal Valley and Max’s only comment, looking back at the mirror was, “Amazing.” Seth nodded and walked on. “Yep.” We got to the square and saw no one. There were the usual people bursa escort shopping and doing errands, but no one from Creid ‘s, Blethos’ or Royal Valley’s military. Beau came jogging over from the side. “We moved,” Beau said. “I’ll show you.” They had moved to a grassy field nearby. We had remained in the square because everyone used it as a gathering point. Now, that had the people knew and what there was to do, moving here made sense. There were some of the guards from Blethos and the men from Creid standing about forming a circle, but there was a division. There was almost no milling around. Blethos’ guards were on one side and the Creid were on the other. There were also those from Royal Valley scattered around. Val and Reese were in the middle were sparring in the middle with two of the wooden practice swords. Reese, for as big as he is, had fluid movements. They weren’t sparring very hard right now, it mainly gave them something to do. “Sorry, everyone,” Max said happily with his single clap to get their attention. “I was delayed by the meeting this morning.” He looked at everyone. “I am Captain Maxwell of Creid. Please call me Max” He waved to Val and Reese. “He is Val and Reese and he waved toward us. “And Beau. We and these men are from Creid. My men here will be joining those from Blethos for patrols and duties.” Looking around, he frowned at them. “I assume everyone bathed.” There were chuckles with the nods they had. “So, no one stinks.” He waved both arms around the circle pointing at them. “Intermix, people. Blethos, Creid, and Blethos.” Darrin walked up next to Seth and me. “Did I miss anything?” I shook my head. “You will be trusting the man next to you will watch your back and they will trust you watch theirs.” Max continued and the proceeded to tell them what he told me last night about segmenting their minds and they would teach us. “It is important this is done before exercising or exerting yourselves. We’ll begin that training in the morning. For now, let’s go over the basics. I’m sure Darrin showed you some, but we’ll review and do it again. Today you will be sparring with each other.” We taught them the thrusts and blocks. We told them what to look for and what to pay attention to. What happened next was more to show the others that what they perceived did not hold true. He put Beau in the circle with Val to spar. What happened next was unbelievable. Val came at Beau who moved quickly he almost became a blur! His thrusts were quick, his blocks seemed to be there before Val even swung his sword. Using his legs to try to knock Val off his feet. Val was very good. He had to be to keep up with Beau. Beau counter-moved all of Val’s moves. Val countered Beau’s moves barely. There was a spin by Beau as he thrust his leg out at Val, kicking him in the mid-chest knocking him down and like I had done, Val flipped over and back on his feet. There were the “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the others watching. “Damn,” I said amazed at the viciousness of this sparring. “Yep,” Max chuckled nodding. “He is very good.” He said proudly. I was glad they hadn’t chosen him as their champion when I first went to Creid! I would probably have lost. The look on Beau’s face was almost pure fury. Every hit was as hard as he could and that alone nearly knocked Val down from the impacts. Then suddenly Val was on his back having been tripped as he moved backward by Beau’s foot. Val lost his sword. Beau’s face transformed to what it was before and he approached Val. “I didn’t hurt you bad?” He asked hopefully reaching down for Val with his hand out to help Val up. Everybody was clapping vigorously. Val shook his head chuckling. “No, Beau,” He panted a little. “You didn’t hurt me badly.” He put his arm around Beau’s shoulders and shook and squeezed him in affection. Beau hugged him. “I’m glad.” He smiled at Val. “You tell me to try hard each time. I did good?” “Yes, you did.” Val patted Beau on the back. “Give it your best each time.” Max also patted Beau on the arm as he went to the center of the ring. “I had them do that,” Max began, “Because if Beau tells you to do something, you need to try to do it.” I wondered if he could defeat Yannick. I was kind of glad Dennis was in school and hadn’t seen it. I could have lost a devoted fan. A few hours later many of those that volunteered had to go to work. Then up walked a man from Blethos’ Capitol who took me to Creid that first time with Darrin. “I’ll be adding the men from Creid to the rotation.” The new man told me grinning knowing I wasn’t expecting him. “I guess that trip to Creid those few years ago was a good idea after all.” “Quaid!” I greeted happily. “It’s been years!” I hugged the man. “How are you?” “I’m great.” He smiled. “I’ve been assigned here again!” “Wonderful!” Seth nodded. “Welcome back!” I sent the plans for what we wanted to do to Sam and Yannick. I know it seems like we were just having a good time and we were, but the situation was growing more dangerous as time went on. The gauntlets were finished, loaded, and buried so they couldn’t be seen easily. It looked as if we were somewhat ready. There were troops and guards here in more numbers and more patrols. The facts were, we were a prime target for several reasons. A success here would be a statement and cause the other towns around us to give up easier. If we couldn’t deal with it, what chance did they have? Second, we had more gold here in one location than anyone but the palace. Third, it would be a blow to both kingdoms in Blethos and A’Dore. The limitations in communication was a problem and also worked to our advantage. Whoever was here to spy couldn’t report as readily as they wanted to those in charge. Even if they used the fastest horse and rider, going nonstop, it would take a while. It would be difficult even with homing pigeons. It was just before dawn. There was only the slightest glow on the horizon when this high-pitched whine whistled and woke me up followed by a loud boom and flash of bright light through our window. It was the signal from one of the watchtowers. Seth and I shot straight up in bed. My blood ran cold as I realized this was it and it was real. They were attacking. I sprang up grabbing my sword, putting my pants and shirt on quickly as did Seth who grabbed a bow and a quiver of arrows he strapped to his back. Quickly putting boots on without really lacing them all the way up, we ran into the hall where all four men from Creid were racing down the stairs. Dennis and Toby were looking out their door as we went. “Is it happening, Dad? Is the attack happening?” Dennis asked nervously holding Kitty who wasn’t sure what was going on either. Toby looked carefully holding a lamp up as it was still kind of dark for him to read lips. Seth and I stopped. “Yes,” I said. “Go downstairs to Grace,” Seth instructed firmly. “You three hide in the storage cellar under the house.” “We want to help, Dad,” Toby said. Seth nodded. “You can help your Dad and me by getting yourselves as far out of danger as possible,” He hugged them both. “Do it!” The boys were in motion, Kitty was carried by Dennis. He wasn’t taking the risk of losing Kitty. The watchtower that signaled and was still sending smaller ones was to the northeast. We could hear this dull roar that was growing louder. The other guards and soldiers came into position. Archers were the best defense when the enemy was still distant. Seth stood in that row. That roar now became the many voices shouting the charge as men were rushing toward us. There were a thousand? Perhaps more. They were a shadowy silhouette waving swords and spears in the dim morning light. Their archers sent hundreds of arrows in our direction as they arched the sky. We had shields for just this scenario. A moving archer had to stop and take aim quickly and their aim wasn’t that accurate. The metal tips hitting the shields and bounced off. There were a few hits on sides as some of the men got an arrow in the arm or legs, but nowhere fatal. Seth was to give the command to fire. “Steady,” Seth shouted. “Almost there.” He said watching they approach. Once the enemy was in the zone we marked off in our minds. “Now!” The lever was pulled and in seemed thousands of arrows burst out of the ground toward the attackers. There was a whistle as they headed for their targets. The arrows fell into the crowd sending many to their knees injured or dead. They carried no shields as they had not been expecting much resistance like the other towns. They kept coming as they fed on the adrenaline rush of the charge. Their numbers were cut almost in half. “Second volley now!” Again, thousands of arrows flew from the ground toward the men coming. Some of them I saw running away when again most still charging dropped, but a few still headed toward us. With their numbers reduced, we could handle them. The men of Blethos and Creid worked well together. The four that were the King’s Warriors just transformed. They were savage and they were barbarians. All of their faces were distorted in rage as they attacked this enemy. They all gave a hundred and ten percent to the fight. Beau became a blur again and was striking one after the other left and right as his rage was on full. Seth had a determined look on his face and fired his arrows with skill at targets. The sun had risen more when it all died down. The stragglers who could scatter to get away. We let them go. They could tell whoever what happened. Seth came over carrying his bow with an arrow ready to shoot but put it to his side. “I have got to train myself to do that.” He pointed at my sword and pulled me in for a kiss. “Are you alright?” “Fine,” I smiled looking him over. “Are you?” He nodded. I looked around at the many bodies on the ground. Some were still alive and struggling to get up and run like the others but couldn’t. Their cries for help would go unanswered. Others were moaning with arrows in various parts of their bodies dying. I saw both natives and white men struggling to do this. “Now what?” Seth asked he waved at the injured and dying. Quaid walked up behind us asking if we were alright. “Those able to be moved will be sent to Blethos’ palace and thrown in the dungeon. The others that survive more serious injury will also be sent once they’ve been stabilized.” “We need to question some,” I said. “If not all of them.” Max came over. That warrior part of him wasn’t quite gone yet. It was still in his eyes as he growled. “We’ll go over them to see who has survived. Those that are dead will have to be dealt with and disposed of to prevent disease.” He looked over at some of his men. “We need someone to go out there and gather up all the arrows that didn’t hit anyone. We need to reload the gauntlets.” Seth and I quickly went back to the manor and got a relieved Grace and our two sons out of the storage basement below the kitchen. We both looked terrible. We were hot and sweaty and I had blood stains on my clothes and assorted bruises from impacts that had made contact. “Is it over?” Grace asked hopefully rising up cautiously. I nodded being hugged by Dennis who raced up the steps to do this. “This one. For now.” “There will be more?” Grace asked. Seth nodded, “Probably. We need to locate who sent them and where they are.” I leaned down and spoke to Dennis, but Toby could see. “There was a battle and we won this time,” I said. “You promise me now, neither of you will leave this house. Do not even look out the window that way.” I waved toward the battlefield. “There are things out there you don’t need to see.” Seth nodded. “Say it.” They swore it. The local militia and others from Royal Valley were doing some of the cleanup while we went through the bodies. Some were dead and others were dying, but they attacked us. I didn’t feel any compassion for any of them. They didn’t and wouldn’t have compassion for us. Ryan did a triage of our injured first. Whatever it takes for our troops. He was still Creid. Seth and I didn’t even bathe before I sent Yannick and Sam the message on what happened. We also had the advantage of getting messages to and from all three kings in days. Not weeks. That wasn’t fair, I know. It was an unearned privilege, but it was here and we used it. Max came in with the other three from Creid. Max was now getting back to himself. His blond hair askew giving him a wild look almost like a lion. Slapped me on the shoulder he said. “You’d make an excellent King’s Warrior and Creid.” I smiled. “Thanks?” “And Seth! You were quick with those arrows. Right on target,” Max stated impressed. Seth nodded. “I can’t do what you five can do with a sword, but I do well with a bow and arrow.” He said proudly. “Beau!” Dennis almost shouted with joy at seeing his friend as raced to him hugging the man. “I shouldn’t,” Beau said smiling. “I’m dirty.” “I don’t care!” Dennis said continuing to hug him. Max grinned. “A little warning.” My eyebrows rose. “You’re giving a little warning,” I pointed out. “Now?” Max nodded smiling. “I don’t know if you know about the crash.” “The crash?” Seth asked. I had heard of it, but never experienced it. “It will happen soon,” Reese said chuckling. “That rush and burst of energy will wane off.” “You’ll barely be able to stand,” Val added. “You fought hard,” Beau said. “My advice is go where you want to be,” Max began. “Take whatever off and collapse. You will anyway.” Battle Aftermath

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