The King of Kalbem: Chapter 19 - Why Goodness is Strength
Chapter 19: Why Goodness is Strength
One benefit to Daniel’s awkward and underconfident demeanor was that he was hardly noticed by the guards as he walked around, taking notes of the gate’s entrance. Two sets of portcullis and a drawbridge, he thought to himself. The drawbridge is oak, and the portcullis are oak reinforced with iron. He looked up. It’s pulled up by chains. Let’s see if I can figure out how it works up there.
He went up to the next floor to the place where the portcullis would be pulled in. There was one Tezelian guard there. Daniel found a vantage point to scan the mechanism. It was fairly standard. The chains connected to some pulleys which connected to a big winch. There was a gear stop on the edge which prevented the gate lowering unless the release was hit. There were two places for the wooden leavers to be inserted when lifting the gate. The drawbridge was also wound up on a winch, but Daniel didn’t bother with that since it was an easy release.
This isn’t too bad, he psyched himself up for it, all I have to do is get rid of the guard, drop the gate, and replace the jobs of two men twice. I can do this… I hope.
It took him a while, but he found a strip of boxwood, two iron bars, and some strong rope. “Caroline,” he rushed into the kitchen, “I need you to help me distract a guard.” He hesitated slightly, then took her hand and led her out. When they neared the door to the machinery, Daniel handed everything he was carrying to Caroline except one iron bar, which he took and stood beside the door with.
“Help!” Caroline called to the guard, “This is far too heavy!”
He began to walk towards her and as soon as he cleared the door, Daniel hit him in the head with the iron bar, knocking the guard out.
“Come on,” Daniel beckoned as he dragged the guard into the room. “Watch the door. I need to open the gates.”
Caroline nervously stood at the opening, shaking visibly. Daniel hit the lever which dropped the bridge. He then went to the opposite side of the mechanism usually stood at to lift the portcullis and put one of the levers in the lowest socket. With great effort, he began to lift the lever.
“How are you doing that?” Caroline gawked. “That is made for two men to lift.”
After lifting the lever, he took it out and placed it in the next socket. “I’m pushing it up instead of pulling it down,” Daniel explained with strained grunts. “Two men pulling can only pull as much as their body weights, but to push it up is only limited by my strength.”
He quickly grew tired and switched to lying on his back to push the lever with his legs.
Finally, the first portcullis was up, and Daniel nearly collapsed from exhaustion.
“There is no way you can do that again,” Caroline sighed. She was very impressed that he could get the gate up by himself and wished she could be of more help.
“I’m not going to,” he replied, “that’s why I brought these.” He held up the wood, rope, and iron. “I’m going to make a better lever.”
Caroline gasped, “Someone is coming!”
Daniel dropped the wood and one piece of iron. A guard rushed in, demanding, “Why is the gate coming up?” He then saw Daniel, but before he could reach for his sword, Daniel threw the coiled rope at him. Catching it instinctively, the guard was rendered unconscious by the iron bar in Daniel’s hand.
“Perhaps I should put his clothes on,” Daniel noted, “that will buy us more time since we’ll probably have more visitors. He proceeded to dress, then stashed the unconscious guards behind some barrels in the corner. He took one barrel and brought it near the other portcullis mechanism. He lashed the iron bars on both sides of the lever and boxwood stick, providing an extension to the lever. “This is mechanical advantage,” he explained proudly to Caroline as he worked. “By doubling the length of the lever, I have halved the weight required and can do the work of two men by myself.”
Daniel stood on the barrel and put the lever in its socket. It reached above his head, but without too much difficulty, he was able to move it down to the side of the barrel. He then took the lever out and continued to repeat the process.
“Another guard is coming!” Caroline warned.
“Quickly, stand over there! Hopefully he won’t notice you.”
Ethan walked in, “Why are the gates being raised?”
Daniel shrugged, “I’m just following orders.”
“I thought the gates were to remain closed until the wedding.”
“That’s not what I was told,” Daniel continued to open the gate, “you can go ask the prince yourself, if you want. He told me specifically to open the gate. Our reinforcements are almost here.”
“Why are you doing it by yourself?” Ethan questioned.
Daniel looked down, then back at the guard, “Can you keep a secret?”
“It depends on the secret,” his eyebrow was raised and his hand touched the hilt of his sword.
Daniel hopped off the barrel and approached Ethan in a friendly manner. “First, the reason we don’t know each other is because I’ve been undercover in Kalbem for a long time. But while I was innocently tending to my duties, I fell in love.” He started to shake slightly, “Please don’t tell anyone, because she is a Kalbemite.” He looked at the guard with soulful eyes, “Have you ever been in love?”
The guard looked down, “Yes, but she wouldn’t have me.”
Daniel put a consoling hand on Ethan’s arm, “Then you know how painful it is to lose the one you love. Please don’t tell anyone; I would lose her.” Ethan nodded in agreement, so Daniel continued, “I was instructed to open the gates, and I wanted to see her, so I found a way to do it myself.” He gestured to Caroline, who shyly came and stood by him.
“She is beautiful,” Ethan agreed. “And you share his affections?” directed to Caroline.
She smiled and looked at Daniel, “More than you realize.”
For a moment, Daniel forgot Ethan was even there. He gazed into her brown eyes, then leaned in and kissed her. Drawing away, he saw her smile and then visibly startled as he realized what happened. His widened eyes were redirected to Ethan, “Sorry, I got caught up in the moment. I need to get these gates up quickly before Prince Michael gets mad at me.”
“I’m going to double check with Michael on this order,” Ethan stated and whisked away.
Daniel immediately got back on the barrel, “I need to get this thing up now.” He worked quickly, and instructed Caroline in jamming the quick release for the portcullis. “And thanks for not slapping me,” he added later.
“I didn’t know you had it in you,” Caroline remarked to herself. She then looked out the window, “The army is coming! We’re saved!” She then looked through the doorway, “And we’re about to be captured.”
Guards rushed in and apprehended them. They tried to close the gates unsuccessfully, then noticed the army coming in. “Quickly, bring them along,” Ethan ordered, “I’ll warn Michael.” He rushed ahead as Caroline and Daniel were dragged along.
“You did it!” Caroline congratulated.
* * * * *
With Dominique held captive on one side of the hall and Michael held captive on the other side, Ethan ran up, “Prince Michael!” He then paused to realize what was going on. “I came to ask about the gate, but you appear to be preoccupied.” He looked at both sides uncomfortably as if he had walked by in his underclothes. “Do you need something, my lord?”
“I’m fine,” Michael said with a sword to his throat and hands held behind his back. “What did you say about the gate?”
The men began conversing as if the situation with Dominique was paused. “One of the guards was raising the gate. He said you told him to do that, and I wanted to make sure you did.”
“Of course not!” Michael nearly shouted. “Go get some guards, close the gate, and bring him to me.”
“Yes, your majesty,” Ethan replied. He looked at the situation again, “Are you sure you have this under control?”
“Of course, they were just about to trade me for Dominique so we can kill them.”
“That wasn’t exactly what we had in mind,” Will corrected.
“On second thought,” Michael said, “send reinforcements.” Ethan nodded and left. “So what will it be?” Michael asked Will. “You can kill me, killing Dominique, and then torture your consciences for the rest of your life. Or you can make the trade and then we’ll kill you.”
“How about a third option?” Will suggested. “Allow the women safe passage out of the castle.”
Edmund took a dagger from Michael and hit him on the head with the hilt, knocking him out. He then pointed it at the man holding Dominique, “You touch her and you are dead.”
The guard was dumbfounded, “What did you just do?”
Edmund walked forward boldly, drawing his sword, “I don’t know, but I promise that if you hurt her, there will be no question that you are dead.” Edmund’s eyes glared with determination. The guard felt weak in the knees as he felt like Edmund might be able to kill him by looking at him. Edmund continued to approach, “You are holding the woman I love; she is under my protection. So take your hands off her right now or you will have no hands left to hold her with.”
Despite seeming to have the upper hand, the guard knew there weren’t very many options at the moment. He could continue to threaten Dominique, which would either result in him getting killed or Edmund backing down, which didn’t seem like it would happen. The guard made his decision to release her after which he fled speedily. Dominique ran to Edmund and he held her tightly, “I love you,” he whispered.
She looked up at him with shining eyes, “I love you too!” He pulled her in and kissed her.
“We need to get the women to safety,” Will determined. “What do we do with Michael?”
“You hand him over,” Jennifer’s voice was hardly recognizable with its harshness. “Guards, seize them; they attacked the prince.”
Several guards rushed down the hall and grabbed them; there were too many to fight. Jennifer came to Michael and put some liquid in his mouth. She then pulled out smelling salts to wake him. “Michael, we appear to have caught our enemies.”
Ethan rushed to Michael, “Sire, the gate is opened and the Kalbemite warriors are coming in to take over. It appears Morgan is leading them.”
“That unfaithful rat!” Michael sighed in disgust. “I suppose they need motivation.”
They found a safe, but visible place to catch the Kalbemite army’s attention.
“People of Kalbem!” he called. The image of the royal family all held hostage stopped them dead in their tracks. “You have a losing battle ahead of you,” he continued. “Here we have the royal family and closing in quickly is the Tezelian army. If you attack, then Will, Katrina, and Elizabeth will be killed, giving you no heir to the throne.” Murmurs echoed through the army.
Michael sneered, “Then, before you can close the gates, the Tezelian army will have caught up. You know Tezel is superior in numbers and brute force. And even if you miraculously took the castle, I have the perfect escape route, so you won’t get us. Surrender now to avoid the awful bloodshed that is certain to occur if you proceed.”
The men looked at Will, Kat, Elizabeth, Edmund, Dominique, Daniel, and Caroline, all held hostage, knowing their leader, Sir Aaron was also captive inside. They glanced at the steadily approaching Tezelian army behind them. Morgan stepped forward, “Very well, we will surrender, but you must let them go.”
“How about imprisonment?” Michael offered. “Though you really don’t have any bargaining power here. I’d just hate to see you as a casualty of this pointless attack.”
The Kalbemites laid down their weapons. Michael turned to his guards, “Take the royals to the throne room. I’m sure my father will enjoy meeting them. As for the others, I don’t care what you do with them, just get them out of my sight.”
The guards looked confused for a second and put the others in the dungeon.
A messenger was sent to the army that the Kalbemites had surrendered, so the army rode in peacefully.
* * * * *
In the throne room, Will, Kat, and Elizabeth were being held firmly. Jennifer stood in the shadows, while Michael sat on the throne. When King Frederick walked in, Michael ran up to embrace his father.
“I am so proud of you son!” Frederick congratulated. “You worked hard, and you finally were strong enough to take Kalbem back.”
“Thanks for always believing I could do it,” Michael smiled, grateful to know his father was pleased with him.
“As I always say, only the strong have the right to power.” Frederick patted Michael on the shoulder. “And now I’m going to take what is rightfully mine. Guards, seize both of them!”
The king’s guards grabbed both Michael and Jennifer. A wave of panic swept over Michael’s face, “Father, what are you doing?”
“What I just said. Taking the kingdom that was rightfully mine.”
“I thought you wanted me to be the King of Kalbem.”
“Only after I’m done with it; I just wanted you to take it for me.”
“But,” Michael’s emotions were racing, “all my life…”
Frederick cut him off, “All your life I prepared you for this. And you have done wonderfully well, my son. Now Kalbem is mine. You’re still the prince and you’ll inherit Kalbem when I’m done with it.”
Jennifer laughed, “My what a shocking reveal we have here. How exciting!” She turned to Michael, “I’m surprised it took you so long to figure out. My mother used me all the time... That’s why I disposed of her.”
She turned back to Frederick, “She did teach me that in order to get anything you want, you have to gain control and take it. Well played. However, I have a little leverage of my own. You see, I’ve poisoned Michael, and if you want the antidote to preserve an heir to the throne and your legacy, you need to give me what I want.”
Without a word, the king walked up and stabbed her. Her eyes widened. She turned to Michael and choked out, “Why Katrina?” She fell to the ground, eyes still on Michael as she faded.
Michael looked at his father in horror, “What did you do?”
Frederick’s tone was patronizing, “She’s far too dangerous to leave alive. From the moment I hired her, I knew she’d eventually have to be removed, especially after I encouraged her to pursue her study of the art of assassination. Pity though, she was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and at such a young age.”
“How will you get the antidote now?” Will blurted out.
Frederick turned, “I almost forgot you were here, son of the traitor. I’ll enjoy this one.”
Michael struggled against the guards, “Father, why did you kill her as soon as you knew she poisoned me?”
Frederick turned back to him, almost annoyed, “Because she’d poison me next. She was attempting to buy time while I negotiated for the antidote, and I didn’t want to give her that time. It will be a terrible shame if she was telling the truth though. You’ve accomplished so much at such a young age.”
Michael gasped at his father’s apathy, and the guards also held back their shock.
“Now back to business,” Frederick turned to Will, “it was unfortunate I wasn’t there to witness the death of Alex. I was sad to give Jennifer the order without even getting to be there to savor the moment and let him know it was my doing. But I can make it up in the next generation.”
He grabbed Will by the hair, “Your father took everything from me.” He punched Will hard in the face. “I won this kingdom by right, and then Alex took both the kingdom and my intended bride from me.”
His tone escalated as he vented his anger on Will, both in words and in physical attacks. “Then I took Tezel as a consolation prize and waited patiently as my son grew up to take the throne back for me.” He shouted, “That was twenty-five years of my life that Kalbem should have been mine!”
His anger started to overwhelm him as he smiled menacingly, “Now I’m going to enjoy this. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I want to watch you and your family starve, so I can see you slowly fade, day by day.”
Michael pulled at the guards holding him, “How could you torture them like that?”
Frederick turned and raised his eyebrow, “It’s not my first time watching people starve to death.”
Michael countered, “But you were the one who brought Tezel out of starvation.”
Frederick sighed, “Who do you think convinced the king to starve them in the first place?”
Michael’s eyes widened, and felt his heart rate rise as he broke into a cold sweat, “You did that?”
Frederick shrugged, “You have to sacrifice to get what you want.”
Michael lunged at him, but was held firmly by the guards, “How could you let people die just to accomplish your own agenda?”
“The same reason you did, my son.”
Michael’s staggered back in shock. His breathing got heavier as realization sunk in. Then his eyes dilated and he started to lose his balance, “I think the poison is taking effect.” He squinted at the light and leaned on the guard holding him.
“Take him to his chambers,” Frederick ordered, “and let him calm down.”
The guards led Michael out towards his chambers and Frederick turned to Will’s family, “Now let’s chain Will up over there, chain Kat over there, and the baby can be put here.” He pointed to separate places in the room for each person. “That way they’ll get to enjoy the view with me.”
Will had his right hand chained to a pillar that was close to the throne, Kat had one foot chained to the pillar opposite to him (since her wrists were too small for the available cuffs), and Elizbeth was put in a basket by the entrance. Elizabeth cried and Frederick laughed, “Now you’ll get to listen to that throughout the evening.” He smiled for a few minutes as he watched the family struggle. After he had his fill and beat Will some more, he and his guards left.
Kat desperately reached for Lizzy and shook at her chains, but to no avail. She cried in frustration.
Will hung his head, heartbroken by the vision before him. The cries of both his wife and child were like knives in his chest. He looked around desperately to find some clues.
Eventually, Lizzy cried herself to sleep. Will and Kat both extended their reach as far as they could towards each other and barely overlapped their fingertips. Will winced, but concealed the pain in his collar bone.
“I hate to see things end like this,” Will sighed.
Kat sobbed and tried to grab his whole hand, but couldn’t, “At least we can die together. But why do they have to hurt Lizzy?”
“I don’t know,” tears were running down Will’s face as well.
They looked into each other’s eyes. Neither knew what to say, but they took some comfort in their eye and fingertip contact.
Unfortunately Will couldn’t extend his reach for long and both sat up. They spoke some, but mostly looked at each other. Hours later, Will stared at his chains in the dim candlelight. He suddenly noticed the links on his chain were improperly forged. “Who forged these?” He squinted his eyes then chuckled, “Of course, this is Borin’s work. He never did anything right.” Will gasped as an idea came to mind.
He started twisting the chain around in circles, stepping over it so he wouldn’t get tangled up. When he could no longer turn the chain any farther, he started putting as much pressure on it as he could without breaking his arm. He then untwisted the chains and examined each of the links. “I found the weakest link!” he proclaimed.
He then pulled his slender iron tongs out of his boot and wedged it into the chain link. After a good bit of leverage, and stepping on the piece as hard as he could, it finally broke.
He immediately ran to Kat and embraced her. “There isn’t much time. The sun is beginning to rise.”
He fetched Lizzy and gave her to Kat to take care of. “I’m going to try to find a key,” he gave her a quick kiss and snuck away.
Shortly after he was out of sight, Frederick and his guards walked into the throne room. Frederick was shocked to see Will missing and a broken chain anchored to the pillar, “Where is Will?” he shouted.
His guards turned and left to find him while Frederick approached Kat threateningly. “Where is that precious prince of yours?” She felt as if his glare would cause her to catch fire. “Did he run away without you, like a coward?”
Kat held her child protectively. Her heart was racing and she was shaking, but she countered, “This is coming from the man who would let his own son die so as to not risk his own life? What you’ve done to your son and kingdom is despicable.”
His mad rage was slowly growing, “Oh really? I can show you despicable. Who is here to protect you now?”
“I am!” Will pushed him away from Kat and stood protectively between Frederick and his family. Kat and Frederick didn’t even notice him approaching earlier.
Frederick laughed, “The crippled, starving silversmith? I’ve won more fights than you’ve made cups. Perhaps when your arm heals, you’ll be able to lift a sword.”
Kat noticed Michael sneaking towards them and Frederick continued, unaware. “But I grow weary of waiting. My patience has run out. Time to remove all of you with a single blow.”
He unsheathed his sword and Will turned to his family and hugged them. As he started to deliver the blow, Michael jumped in between and clashed his falchion with his father’s broadsword.
“You won’t hurt this family,” Michael growled.
“Glad to see you still alive, son,” Frederick mocked, “but your defiance will end here.”
They engaged in combat. Both were expert fighters in their prime, but Michael was still weak from the aftereffects of the poison and Frederick was much older than his better days.
After several exchanges of blows and parries, Michael lost balance and the king took the opportunity to slash his legs. Michael collapsed to the ground, but Frederick continued by slashing Michael’s left arm, which he had been using to fight.
Before Frederick could administer the killing blow, Will jumped on him from behind, pulling the chain still shackled to his wrist around Frederick’s neck. Pain surged through Will’s body. He could feel his collar bone jostling around as Frederick struggled. Being significantly better grounded and taller than Will, Frederick threw Will over his shoulder onto the floor.
Will quickly recovered to a knee as Michael slid the falchion to him. Frederick swung at Will from above, which Will barely managed to parry with the falchion. Frederick pushed down on his sword, using both his weight and strength to bear down on Will. Will used his left hand on the blunt side of the sword to counter some of Frederick’s weight, causing unbearable pain. Will knew he couldn’t overpower Frederick, but then he looked at the sword and had an idea.
Will triggered the release on the hilt and a dart shot out from the handle into Frederick.
Frederick faltered, giving Will enough time to push his sword off him. Frederick collapsed to a knee, then fell to the ground. Within a minute, he began to tremble and thrash around violently. Then he was still.
Will collapsed in pain and exhaustion, but still crawled to Michael. He started putting pressure on his wounds with his good arm, “I suddenly have a lot more respect for your kingly item. Thank you, Michael.”
Hector, who had entered the room during the fight rushed over to Michael as well.
Kat pulled at her chains and Michael ordered a guard to release her. She rushed to Michael and Will, “What happened?”
“I was a fool, is what happened,” Michael replied. “The intrigue, Jennifer, you two, and everything was a mistake. Especially my father. I didn’t realize what he was until I became what he intended me to be.”
“But you aren’t him,” Kat comforted, “you helped save us.”
“I’m the one who put you in danger to begin with,” he chuckled weakly.
“What of the poison?” she blurted.
Michael was getting light-headed from the loss of blood, “I was definitely poisoned. But either immunity runs in the family, or that wasn’t a deadly dose. I think the worst part is over, as long as I don’t bleed to death.”
“You just need rest,” Kat consoled.
“I know an amazing herbalist who can come help you recover,” Will added. He turned to a guard to have a message sent to Hannah, which brought up the current status of the castle.
“I need to talk to the people,” Michael stated, “but first, I need both of you to forgive me for all I’ve done to you.” Will was a little more skeptical than Kat at first, but both agreed.
“Now, as for my people,” Michael continued, “I think you should take the kingdom of Tezel. I do still believe the kingdoms should be united under one ruler, but after much consideration last night, I realized that that ruler isn’t me.”
Michael requested Hector to take the royal seal from his father. “Please write it into law that the kingdom will go to Will and Kat. They will take good care of Tezel.” He placed the seal into Will’s hands. “Though I should tell the people myself. Guards, please carry me to where they will be able to see me. I’ll need a harold as well, since I can’t project my voice.”
Will wanted to help the guards carry Michael, but couldn’t take the weight on his left arm. He walked reverently with Kat alongside Michael.
The herald repeated the words Michael said to his people, “My people, you have been deceived and led astray by my father, the former king. King Frederick has fallen. He sought the throne of Kalbem with no regards to the lives of others. Twenty-five years ago, he convinced the former king to withhold resources, causing the uprising he led to put himself on the throne. While he did help build Tezel back up, he was the initial cause of all the suffering. King Alexander and King Frederick were brothers. Their feud caused the war and suffering between these two fine kingdoms. I believe our kingdoms need to unite, so I leave you with a most capable ruler: my cousin, William, the rightful King of Kalbem. I implore you to not live your lives in bitterness; it’s worse than poison, as it causes more destruction and lasts longer. I will still serve in the kingdom, fate permitting, and I know that King William will lead Kalbem and Tezel to prosperity like they have never before seen.”
The guards carried him to nearby chambers and laid him on the bed. Will and Kat took special care of him as he stabilized and started recovery. A messenger was sent to find Hannah, but that would take at least a day, so Will and Kat stayed with him for that time.
Copyright © 2019 Doles