The King of Kalbem: Chapter 14 - A Liar Knows Nothing of Fairplay
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Chapter 14: A Liar Knows Nothing of Fairplay
“I should have this sword finished by tonight,” Morgan announced to Michael. “It just needs the final touches to be worthy of the king.”
“Very well done, Morgan,” Michael congratulated. “Your work is astounding. You may have single-handedly saved the kingdom from Will’s reign of terror.”
“I’m just doing my duty. I’m glad you are here to watch out for us.” Morgan worked for a while and then noted, “Tomorrow would have been the wedding, but there is still no sign of Nathaniel.”
“Oh joyous day!” Michael exclaimed. “I guess it won’t happen after all.”
Morgan suppressed half his smile, “Good riddance.”
“You realize, Morgan, Beatrice will no longer be engaged to be married. You could call on her again as soon as you’re done with my sword.”
“I was thinking the exact same thing,” Morgan smiled.
“A word of advice for you though, my friend: don’t express any happiness for her loss of Nathaniel. She doesn’t know he worked for Will, and she shouldn’t know of his plots or Will’s. Keep her young mind innocent and pure of the poisonous truth. Express sorrow at her sorrow, and show her real romance. Women do not react well to someone taking joy in another person’s demise, even if that person is a villain, like Nathaniel.”
Morgan agreed, and that evening he presented the most beautiful sword Michael had laid eyes on. “Your skills never cease to amaze me, my friend,” Michael applauded. “You will be rewarded greatly for your faithful service to Kalbem’s future king and I will give you Borin’s place as the royal blacksmith. I must leave on the morrow to complete this task, but thank you for all you have done these twenty-three days. You are a true friend.”
“You are a true friend as well,” Morgan affirmed. “I feel more alive than I have felt in over a year these few weeks with you. Thank you for giving so much to me.”
The next morning, Michael and Hector were off. “You know your assignment?” Michael ensured.
“Yes, my liege,” Hector affirmed, “I find the village Jennifer told me of, then I wait until the final day of the task to damage Will’s creation.”
“Yes, but remember that being concealed is more important than doing the deed. This is merely a precaution. I’m sure that I’ll win fair and square. But if they see you sabotaging Will’s item then I’ll be disqualified. So do it early, late, halfway, or not at all, but don’t get caught.”
“Yes, my lord.”
* * * * *
Jennifer returned to her quarters in the castle after visiting with the ladies of the court. She looked out the window, which overlooked the garden, as Jennifer had requested of her chambers. She looked at the exposed people in plain sight and thought of what easy targets they would be. Too bad I’m supposed to lay low until Kat and her little brat are kidnapped; the target practice here is so tempting, she thought. Though her taste for darts was waning as it didn’t feel exciting enough compared to her preferred methods of assassination. She smirked as she remembered how she killed Nathaniel. I should come up with plans like that more often, she thought. There is so much more sport in the hunt when more creative techniques are used.
Her lack of direction caused her mind to wander. She imagined poisoning the cook or killing the captain of the guard. She almost shuddered when she remembered the man she tested her oleander lipstick on. That was a close call.
She pulled out her poisoned blue handkerchief and considered using that on Michael in the future. She brushed the idea away, I’m certainly not done with him yet. She suddenly noticed one of the sages walking in the garden and left her thoughts behind her.
Jennifer whisked to the garden, “Hello there, George. Might I join you on your stroll in the garden?” Keep it subtle; don’t threaten his life yet, she reminded herself.
“Ah, Lady Jennifer, of course you may join me.”
“Are you excited to see what items the competitors made for the task?” she started.
“Very much so. It will tell a lot about what kind of king he will be to see what item he deems most worthy. Also the effort he puts into making it will show well how much effort he will put into the kingship.”
“Indeed,” Jennifer almost yawned. “Do Henry and Janet have any family or loved ones?”
“They have six children and a lot of grandchildren.”
“Where do they live?”
“Mostly in the village just north of the castle. If memory serves, their children are a tinker, a tanner, the wife of a taylor, a blacksmith, a miller’s wife, and a shoemaker who lives west by the shore.”
“Wow, that’s a nice big family. What about you?”
“My wife has passed through this life. We had seven children, though the second oldest isn’t alive anymore. He did have a son though who is a fine cooper in the village just south of us. Nathaniel is actually supposed to be getting married pretty soon.”
Jennifer raised an eyebrow and smirked, Small world. Maybe I should tell him I killed his grandson last week, she thought, then said, “Sounds like a lovely bunch of people. I’m sure our kingdom is safe in your hands. I must go now, but it was delightful speaking with you.” She hurried away.
When Michael arrived at the castle, she motioned for him and he followed her to her chambers. After shutting the door, she pulled in close to him, though he resisted, so she wiped her lips with the red handkerchief, “It’s safe,” she assured and began kissing him. It bothered her slightly that he didn’t trust her.
“How goes everything on your end?” he asked, more interested in kissing her than usual.
“Slowly,” she sighed. “Laying low is quite dull. When may I have some play time?”
Michael was still uncomfortable with the idea that she was an assassin and assumed she was talking about something else, “We can do that right now; that’s why I came to your chambers.” He ran his hands down her waist.
She sighed internally and added, “How much longer do I need to lay low?”
“Wait for the task to be over and the decision made. We don’t want to ruin our chances of winning. What information have you gathered on the sages?”
“They have families, so they are vulnerable in that aspect. Far too preachy and good-doers to make me comfortable.”
“Perhaps they may have a change of heart if we threatened their families,” Michael suggested. “I’m not the most fond of your methods, but they have proven quite useful.”
“I know,” Jennifer agreed, “some people just need to be removed from the picture. It makes matters much more simple.”
“At least we have the greater good in mind,” Michael justified.
“You do,” Jennifer corrected. “I’m just in it for the money, power, and thrill.” She winked and continued kissing him.
He pulled back, “Have you found the sages’ families?”
“Of course,” Jennifer was nearly insulted that he had to ask. “I’ve made notes of their entire families so we can find them if we need to. Ironically, Nathaniel was George’s grandson.”
“Well, that certainly is a good basis for threat so they will know we aren’t bluffing. Though we shall wait until they have made their decision to see if we even need to persuade them; there is no reason to cheat if I win fairly.”
“So we can’t even threaten them now?” Jennifer whined. “I’ve been so bored with this whole task.”
“Don’t worry. I have something worthy of your talents to do now. It is time to kidnap Kat and Lizzy.”
“Now that is a challenge,” Jennifer perked up. “Kat and Lizzy are practically held prisoner in their chambers with guards on them at all times except during their evening walks in the garden; it’s odd, she always walks the exact same route in the garden every day.”
“Sounds like her; she’s sentimental like that,” Michael informed.
Jennifer continued, “Will wanted to spare no precaution to keep them safe. There are guards on the secret passageways at all times. Fortunately, I’m no ordinary assassin. I already am weaving a plan together in my mind.”
“What do you need, my lady?”
Jennifer flashed a wicked grin, “Quicklime.”
* * * * *
Thomas watched as Will worked on the tin slide. “This is coming along nicely,” he noted.
“Thank you so much for helping me with this,” Will replied, “I’m really excited they will have this to slide down; I imagine it will be exhilarating for them.”
“My boys are joyously awaiting this structure’s completion. They truly adore you.” Thomas paused, “And all my children are enamored with Edmund.” He glanced over at Edmund and Dominique, who were quietly sewing in the corner.
“You seem to be referring to a specific child,” Will winked.
Thomas turned back to help Will, “I’m still not sure what I think of those two. Edmund is honorable, capable, kind, loving, and makes my daughter so happy… but he makes it no secret that he intends no lasting relationship, so he can continue in his duty.”
“Do you disapprove of their relationship being intentionally short-term?”
“It just doesn’t make sense to me to begin a relationship with the end in mind,” Thomas explained. “Why bother when you know it won’t last?”
“Have you ever taken your family on a trip to somewhere special?” Will asked.
“Yes,” Thomas replied, not entirely sure why this was relevant, “my wife and I used to take them to the shore by the west sea for relaxing getaways.”
“How long did you spend by the shore?”
“Sometimes a whole week.”
“So you took them somewhere nice for a period of time you knew would end? Why bother when you know it wouldn’t last?”
Thomas opened his mouth, stopped himself, then spoke, “I suppose because we weighed what was to be gained and lost and concluded that the gain was greater.”
“But did it make any difference in the long term?” Will pressed.
“Yes,” Thomas realized, “it gave us time to be together. It lifted our spirits and gave us fond memories to look back on.”
“One can look at the situation with Dominique in the same way. Note that I only say this because I know Edmund is an honorable and chivalrous man, so there is no need to worry for your daughter’s safety or honor. They have weighed what is to be gained and what is to be lost if they acknowledge their feelings for each other, and they determined it to be worthwhile. Also, this is a great opportunity to lift their spirits and create fond memories. Perhaps they won’t have each other in a few weeks, but they will have the enriching memories of what it felt like to care for someone so much.”
A glimmer of recognition came to Thomas’s face and Will continued, “I think they are better off together at this time. Edmund is a gentleman and Dominique is a lady; they bring out the best in each other, and though they may not get to continue to do so, they have a mutual understanding of that fact. Even so, of course there will be pain when he leaves, but pain is usually the price of joy.”
Thomas thought about it for a while, then took a deep breath, “Thank you, your highness, that really helped me. It is making more sense now. I do love what Edmund does for her right now; I’m just worried about what happens afterwards.”
“One can avoid getting hurt, but they also avoid the richer things in life in the process,” was Will’s response.
Thomas nodded and the two men continued working. Nothing more needed to be said.
* * * * *
Three days later, on the twenty-seventh day of the task, Kat was out in the garden with Elizabeth, being followed closely by Stephen and Duncan. Jennifer hid out of sight with the door to the secret passageways open, but that fact was hidden by the hedges. Michael had hidden a small bucket of water behind a bush and poured some oil around it. He knelt, hidden from sight as Kat and her guards walked. Kat followed her usual route, so as she neared where Jennifer lay in wait, Michael dropped the chunk of quicklime into the bucket of water and crept away to his chambers.
Half a minute later, the quicklime exploded, producing great heat which lit the oil on fire. Stephen and Duncan glanced at Kat and the baby to make sure they were alright and then rushed to help put out the fire. Jennifer silently approached Kat from behind, put a green handkerchief over her face, and Kat went limp. She whisked it over the child as well, then picked the woman and child up in her arms and dropped them through the door to the passageway. She closed the door behind them and rushed to get to the other side of the keep without being noticed. Three big Tezelian men were waiting inside the passage. They picked up Kat and Lizzy and carried them away.
Jennifer met Michael in her chambers. “All went smoothly,” she wiped her lips with her red handkerchief and kissed him.
“Wonderful,” he replied. “Now we just have to have me win and everything is settled.” They walked over to look out the window. The fire was out and everyone was looking for Kat and Lizzy.
“Those men won’t be feeling very well soon,” Jennifer commented. “The smoke produced from quicklime has a rather sickening effect, but it isn’t known to be permanent.”
“How clever,” Michael smiled. He pulled her in closely, “Now where were we?”
“Right here,” she winked.
* * * * *
Working outside on the play grounds, Will and Daniel were staining the structure as a crowd of children began to gather around them. Will looked around and smiled at Daniel, “I guess our work is done for the day; we have adventurers waiting.” He turned to the children, “My friends, the play grounds need to dry, but they should be ready within the next two days.”
“But I need your help,” Edmund chimed in, “the fair lady Dominique was kidnaped by sirens and is being held captive in a cave under the sea.”
They began playing as usual until a breathless Caroline rushed over to Will, “Katrina and Elizabeth disappeared from the castle,” she blurted.
Everyone froze. Caroline had joined in the games of pretend in this manner before, but her desperation was not faked. Will looked as if the air had just been knocked out of his body for a few moments and Edmund quickly dismissed the children. “I need to find them,” Will finally breathed.
“Not yet,” Edmund countered. “The task ends in three days; we need to wait until then.”
“This is my family,” Will argued. “They are more important than me becoming king.”
“But they were probably kidnapped to prevent your kingship. Kat wouldn’t have snuck out.”
Will pictured his wife and child being pulled away by conspiring men, “Then they definitely need my help.”
“That may be so, but they will be kept alive; they are leverage to be used against you, not targets to kill on sight.”
“I still need to rescue them,” Will insisted.
“Of course, but not right this moment. Hear me out. The task ends in three days. Until you submit it, you can’t get supplies from the castle, you are almost guaranteed their safety, and if you forfeit, which will likely happen if you go on a wild goose chase for them with no direction but determination, then Michael will be king, which sounds scary, considering the personality of his father. Finish the task, earn the throne, and then when the captors try to threaten you with your family, use the clues from that and get supplies from the castle to conduct a rescue.”
“You’re right,” Will took a breath and calmed himself. “I need to finish this and return to the castle as soon as possible.” He sat down and continued staining the wood. “Would you find a lamp for me, please?”
“Yes, my lord,” Edmund replied. He left with Dominique.
Daniel looked at Caroline, then at Will, and then turned to Caroline, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can ask you for a walk this evening. The prince needs my help.”
“I’ll help as well,” Caroline sat beside Daniel and aided them.
Dominique and Edmund returned with some bread and jam, “We brought some dinner for you,” Dominique started serving everyone. After they ate, Dominique brought everything back and returned to keep everyone company.
A few hours after dark, they were all still vigorously working. “I’m sorry, but I need to go home,” Caroline sighed. “I have duties at the castle in the morning.”
“Thank you so much for your help,” Will replied. He nudged Daniel and whispered something to him.
“I’ll walk you home,” he offered. He then turned to Will and said, “Let’s call it a day. I’ll help you more in the morning.”
“May I walk Dominique home, my lord?” Edmund requested.
“Of course you may,” Will replied.
Edmund held her hand, “I fear our time might be cut a few days shorter than we anticipated.”
“I understand,” she consoled, “You need to protect the royal family. I am just grateful for these past four weeks we’ve had.” She hugged his arm as they walked in silence for a while. “Promise me a chance to say goodbye.”
“Of course, my lady,” Edmund pulled her in and kissed her slowly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Hector peered through the bushes as Will worked on the task. Will he ever leave that thing alone? he sighed within himself. I have been here since yesterday and that stupid thing has not been left alone for a minute, except last night when it rained. You’d think the man would sleep at some point. I’ll give it a few hours more. He lay down to rest when a figure came up to him.
“Hector? Is that you?” the figure whispered.
“Ethan?” Hector whispered back. “What are you doing here?”
Ethan said nothing, but motioned for Hector to follow him. They walked deep enough into the woods where they wouldn’t be heard and Ethan spoke, “I’m here on Michael’s orders. He wanted me to capture the daughter of the tinker of this village. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction?”
“Certainly. I’ve seen a lot of her. It seems that Will’s personal bodyguard has some sort of relationship with her.”
“Interesting,” Ethan smirked, “I’m sure Michael can use that information.”
“She lives right that way. I saw her this morning, and she’s the first person out of the house, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to apprehend her.”
“Excellent,” Ethan smiled, “and with this handkerchief Jennifer gave me and my horse, this should be easy.”
“Glad to be of assistance,” Hector replied. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to rest.” Hector returned to his hiding place and Ethan made camp near the tinker’s home.
Edmund returned to Will, who was still going strong in staining. “You should get some rest, my liege,” he remarked.
“I wouldn’t sleep anyway,” Will sighed. “I need to finish this, and I don’t know what to do after that, but I have to do something.” He desperately kept working. Edmund sat beside him and watched over him until finally Will fell asleep on his project.
Hector got up again in the night to check on the structure. He fell asleep on it? He seethed within. So much for the ‘don’t be seen’ phrase. Maybe he’ll leave it alone when he’s finished.
Early the next morning, Dominique was fetching water by the well when a man rode up on a horse. He leapt off his horse and put a green handkerchief in her face before she had time to make any noise. She immediately went limp and he threw her over his horse and rode off.
“Dominique!” Cameron called out. He ran up to Edmund and Will, who was again staining the structure. “Edmund! Prince Will! Have you seen Dominique?”
“Not since last night,” Edmund stated. “Maybe she’s on her morning walk.”
“I found her water bucket spilled beside the well.” Cameron handed it to Edmund.
Edmund started to worry, “Where could she possibly have gone?”
“I don’t know. We’ve checked everywhere we could think of.”
Edmund turned to Will, “Permission to look for her?”
“Permission granted,” Will continued working, then added, “Good luck.”
Edmund searched the village for Dominique with her brothers. No one seemed to have seen her that morning. By noon, they had found nothing until Zachary asked his friend, Jared, about it. “I saw a man riding a horse this morning with a woman laying over it. That was weird.”
“Which way did the man go?” Zachary asked.
Jared pointed eastward towards the mountains, which Zachary reported to Edmund.
“But why?” Edmund wondered. “There is nothing in that direction.” He sighed in despair, “I hope she’s alright.”
“Go look for her,” Will suggested.
“But my liege, I have to stay here with you. It’s my duty.”
“I shall be fine. We haven’t had any dangers come up yet.”
“But if they did, I would be neglecting my duty.”
“And if they didn’t, then you would be tormented with worries. You have a duty to the woman you love.” Edmund paused as the realization of the depth of his emotions for Dominique sunk in. “Go look for her,” Will urged. “Meet me at the castle in two days. I pray you can find her in that time.”
Edmund wasted no time in leaving to look for her.
Will and Daniel finished the task later that day. “I need to return to the castle today, but let’s take the time to say goodbye.”
Will rounded up as many of the villagers as he could and made an announcement, “Our grounds for play are now ready. This is my gift to this wonderful village for such an incredible month among you. It is for the purpose of my kingly task, but I’m grateful I was able to make an item that could benefit my kingdom the most. I therefore dedicate this structure to my little adventurers - the defenders of the world.” The people cheered. “Now, who wants to go on an adventure with me?” The children all excitedly volunteered.
They played for hours. The children climbed on the overhead bars, passed over the bridge, and slid down the inclined slope. Then they would start over again. Children had to ration their time on the swings. Hardly a single child in the village missed the opportunity to play, and most every adult was standing nearby watching, enjoying the darling nature of the children having so much fun.
Will hugged each of his new friends goodbye. As he bid farewell to Thomas, he assured him that Edmund was the most astounding protector Will knew, so if anyone could find Dominique, Edmund would. He also promised to look into Dominique’s kidnapping along with Kat’s disappearance, as they were likely connected.
“Daniel, I want you to come to the castle with me.”
“I want your skill in the castle. I have to go on a rescue mission and I smell trouble, so I want you to come with me. You will be funded for your troubles, of course. Though I’ll warn you, it might be dangerous.”
“I’m not sure what I can do, but I’ll try my best to help,” Daniel agreed.
“Excellent,” Will smiled. “How soon can we leave?”
“Let me grab a few things.”
* * * * *
Hector woke up in the middle of the night. Finally, he thought, Will is gone, so he can’t possibly be with his precious structure. I can complete the deed tonight.
Hector checked to make sure no one was watching and approached the structure with some kindling. As he was setting up to burn it, he noticed something in the keep.
Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a small boy sleeping. I can’t burn the child. Unlike many of his comrades, Hector had a sense of morality. He debated moving the boy or simply cracking the supporting beams.
He stared at the young, sleeping boy. Hector, how dare you! He lectured within. I’m fine with intrigue to steal the kingdom; that is all politics, but these are children we are talking about. This young boy is probably homeless and finally has a roof to sleep under now. I can’t damage it; this is for the children.
He turned to the boy and put a loaf of bread beside him. Michael can cheat all he wants for the throne, but I draw the line at these children. Determined, Hector left.
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