The King of Kalbem: Chapter 5 - Coming Home
Updated: Aug 3
Chapter 5: Coming Home
Will retired to his chambers and looked wistfully out the window as the guards spoke. After the palace was still, he walked up to the door and pulled the new key he had made out of his pant leg. He closed his eyes tightly as he put it in the lock. After a full month of eyeballing the prison key every single day and relying on memory to make a replica, and with four failures, he wasn’t sure this one would work.
The lock clicked and the door opened. Will breathed a sigh of relief and a wave of hope surged through him. He knew the guard was nearby, and he couldn’t sneak down those stone steps without being heard, so he closed the door as quietly as he could and beckoned the guard over.
As soon as the guard was in range, he swung the door with all his might and knocked the guard out. Fortunately there were no other guards around to hear the noise. Will swiftly started down the stairs.
He heard someone coming up the stairs and quickly retreated upwards. This was not normal. It was the dead of night. He quickly hid behind a corner and lay in wait.
A figure walked in and was shocked to see the prison open and the guard on the floor, but he just whispered, “Will? Where are you?”
Will recognized the voice, “Michael? What are you doing here?”
“I came to rescue you,” he turned to face Will, “I’ve been looking all over the nearby kingdoms for you.”
Will instinctively embraced Michael, who awkwardly patted him on the back, “There isn’t much time. We must go.”
The two scurried down the staircase and into an empty hallway. They found their way to the outer wall where Michael had a rope ready for them to climb down. They slid down as quickly as possible and started running towards a nearby grove where Michael had hidden his horse.
“We’re being followed,” Michael warned. They looked back and saw Sir Hector riding on horseback. Will sped up, but Michael stopped, “We can’t outrun him. I have to fight him. You keep going though.”
Michael turned to Hector, who was charging towards Will. He positioned himself so the horse passed him closely on the side and he grabbed Hector and pulled him off the horse. The two tumbled to the ground.
Hector stood, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Don’t worry,” Michael smirked, “you won’t.”
Will watched as the two began. Hector was slightly larger than Michael, so he came in with some force. Michael deflected his punch and delivered a few jabs to the chest. Hector kicked him back and Michael swung a clean punch to the jaw, knocking Hector out.
“Let’s get out of here,” Michael urged. “Now we have two horses to ride.” He offered Hector’s horse to Will and walked to his horse that he left in the grove.
The two set off. Will felt drowsy; it had been a long day in the smith shop and he hadn’t been sleeping well. Michael gently punched him in the arm, “We have to keep riding. Soon the kingdom will know you’ve escaped, so we need to be beyond the border by then. I know a place in the mountains we can rest.
Will grimaced and pushed on. He talked to Michael to stay awake, “Thank you for rescuing me.”
Michael chuckled, “You’re welcome, but you didn’t seem to be doing too badly on your own.”
“It was tedious work getting the key ready. I kept eyeballing it, and any time I had a spare minute, I would work on it.”
“You didn’t make a key out of silver, did you?”
“No, I used iron, but blacksmithing and silversmithing aren’t very different trades. We have the same basic metalworking skills. My trade generally works with smaller, softer items and takes a lot of detail work.”
“So all you did was look at the key and you were able to make a replica?” Michael was legitimately impressed.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” Will corrected. “I was able to guess the basic shape and size from looking at it, since I’ve done a lot of replicating in my time, but I had to compare it over and over and sometimes redo it. It certainly took a while.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re safe now. I’ve been looking all over all three nearby kingdoms for you. It took me several days to plan the jail break once I realized that you were in Tezel. This kingdom is no fool’s play. You’re fortunate I showed up and was able to take care of most of the guards.”
“Yes I am,” Will agreed.
“By the way,” Michael softened, “I heard about Lady Jennifer. I’m sorry to hear it. She was a talented lady and I know you took a fancy to her.”
Will sighed, “I may have led her on more than I should. But it’s true, she was a fine young lady.”
“You led her on?”
Will cringed, “She’s not quite my type.”
“What is your type?”
Will didn’t respond and kept riding.
* * * * *
Kat lay awake in bed again with thoughts flooding her mind. It had been a month since Will’s disappearance. She feared that there was no hope he would still be alive at this point. She desperately wondered what had happened to him. A few tears fell down her cheek and she wished she could tell him she missed him. Kat kicked herself for being too prideful to talk to him in such a long time. She promised herself that if he did come home, she wouldn’t take him for granted. She started sobbing. “Please let him be alive,” she whispered.
The following day was another sad one for those in the castle. King Alexander only came out of his chambers on official business and Kimberly was constantly mourning the probable loss of her son. Kat was completely despondent. Even her brother Phillip couldn’t cheer her up, and he was good at that. Kat’s mom, Sierra held her as she cried that evening, yet again.
“Oh momma,” she sobbed, “Will can’t be gone. He has to come home.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
Kat nearly screamed in crying, “I can’t live without him!”
“You haven’t talked to him in a year though.”
Kat could hardly get her words out from hyperventilation. “And it’s been torture this whole time. I just figured we would eventually figure things out, but now I don’t know if we’ll ever get the chance.” Her sobbing escalated.
“What about Michael? He has been good to you.”
“Yes he has.” Kat calmed some, “I’m eager for his return. But even still, he’s not Will.”
* * * * *
Will and Michael arrived in one of the southern villages in Kalbem. “Come,” Michael beckoned, “I have a friend here we can stay with.”
They rode into the village to a blacksmith shop. A short, but very muscular man came out to greet them, “Michael, my friend! It is good to see you!”
“Hello, Morgan,” Michael smiled and embraced the blacksmith, “it is good to see you as well. My friend Will and I were traveling and wondered if we could stay the night with you.”
“You know my home is always open to you.” He motioned for them to come inside.
“You’re a true friend,” Michael replied. “How is the family?”
“They are all quite well. They live just a few paces from my home. I’ll ask them if we can come over for dinner.”
“That would be delightful.” Michael nudged him, “And how go things with Beatrice?”
Morgan smiled bashfully, “She knows I’m breathing now. We often go walking together in the evenings.”
Michael smiled and clapped him on the back, “There you go! I’m sure she will be yours in no time.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Morgan sighed.
After a pause, Will jumped in, “You’re a blacksmith? I’m a silversmith, so there is a pretty decent overlap in our trades.”
Morgan smirked, “Indeed, except I make the manly items and you make the fancy ornate things for the women.”
Will chuckled, “I suppose that is one way to think of it. It certainly does bring the ladies running,” he winked. “I’d love to watch you work today, if you wouldn’t mind.” He looked over at Michael, who had just noticed an iris by the window that wasn’t there before.
Michael discretely picked up the flower and nodded, “That’s perfectly fine with me. I wanted to go for a walk anyway; I spent a little too much time sitting on the horse. You two can work on making your swords and horseshoes. I prefer fighting to craftsmanship.” He flashed a grin and walked out the door.
Morgan and Will eagerly entered the smith shop while Michael walked towards a grove of trees. Deeper in the woods, he found Jennifer.
He held up the flower, “I assume you have a message for me? The last iris you left for me had a message that stated, ‘By the time you read this, Will is going to be a prisoner of Tezel and I’m going to take a vacation for a while. I’ll be in touch though. -Azalea’. Now what was that all about?” Michael was obviously quite irritated.
Jennifer looked at him defensively, “This whole reconnaissance mission has become frightfully dull. I found all the information I’ll need and now I want to do something a bit different. Besides, you found that Will was the crown prince, so I thought I’d let your father have the pleasure of removing him from the picture so you don’t have as much competition for the throne. And by faking my death, I can disappear and have some real fun.”
“I don’t need to kill Will. I intend to beat him fair and square. The rest is just a backup plan in case he cheats.”
“I don’t understand your odd sense of fairplay. If you want something, just take it! Who cares about the rules?”
Michael sighed, “That’s what makes me a good person.”
“Better than me,” Jennifer winked. Her harsh tone turned soft and she leaned in close to him, “That’s one of the things I like about you. You’re noble and smart, but you’ll also do what is necessary.” She ran her fingers up his arm.
Michael only barely softened, “You should have discussed it with me before you led a random kidnapping and faked your death.”
She pulled his arms around her, which he limply complied to. “But then you wouldn’t have let me do it. Besides, now I can be of more use. Courting Will and acting like an airhead who could only talk about flowers and dresses is quite limiting for my skills.”
“But now if you show your face in the palace, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.”
“I’ll figure it out when the time comes, but fortunately I’m very good at going unnoticed.” She smiled coyly and ran her hand down his chest, “Except by you. From the moment you caught me lifting your pouch of gold off you, I knew you were special.”
He smiled and couldn’t help but soften, “You’re a strange girl to find catching you for theft attractive.”
She pressed her cheek to his and whispered in his ear, “It means you’re worthy of my talent.” She pulled back and looked into his brown eyes, “And I love someone who can challenge me.” She gave him a quick, light kiss, then seeing no signs of struggle, she kissed him again. He didn’t pull away, so she kissed him again and this time he kissed her back.
A wave of passion swept over as they continued kissing until Jennifer pulled away with a coy smile. “I could do this all night, but unfortunately I have to go. I’ll keep an eye on you.” She placed a red tulip in his palm and vanished.
Michael stood on his own speechless for a second and caught his breath, She is certainly a piece of work, he thought. I was not expecting the conversation to end like that, but it certainly was pleasurable. He thought of Kat for a moment and how she would feel. There’s no harm done, he concluded, it’s just a bit of fun and if she doesn’t know, it won’t bother her.
That evening Michael and Will found themselves around the dinner table with Michael’s family of eleven.
“We were so shocked and excited to hear that King Alexander has an heir after all!” Morgan’s mother gushed. “King Alexander has been the best king Kalbem ever knew. And I’m sure you will live up to your father’s legacy and bring more joy and prosperity to the kingdom.”
Michael twiched and tensed inside. She’s been trained to believe this nonsense. They couldn’t even imagine the prosperity they would have seen had my father taken the throne, as was his right.
Will nervously smiled, “Yes, King Alexander has been a great monarch. I only hope I can live up to his example of love and service. Though I’m not guaranteed the throne. My father believes that no one has a right to the kingship, so whoever sits on the throne must earn it.”
“That is so wise,” Morgan’s father agreed. Morgan eagerly nodded and Michael hid his disgust.
“I agree,” Will stated. “Hopefully it’s a great many years from now, but when the king dies, I will face the winner of a joust in a kingly task that my father has decided on, which is known to no one, save him.”
“I hope you win!” Morgan’s family chimed, lifting their glasses. Michael glared as Morgan lifted his.
That night, Michael awoke with Jennifer lying next to him, “How do you move so quietly?”
She shrugged, “Lots of practice.” She placed a hand on his chest, “How was dinner with the blacksmith’s family?”
Michael groaned, “Terribly frustrating. All of them are a really bad influence on Morgan. They keep feeding him lies about how wonderful Alexander and Will are. Morgan even agreed he wants Will to be king!”
“I’m sure that when you’re competing against Will that Morgan will favor you.”
“Let’s hope, but I worry his family will turn him against me.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if they all just disappeared?” Jennifer masked the sincerity of the suggestion as she cuddled into him.
“Quite,” he agreed, “but we’ll manage anyway. I just hate seeing my dear friend led astray.”
“We wouldn’t want that.” She rested her head close to his.
His eyes furrowed and he turned towards her, “Why are you here anyway?”
“I was planning on sticking around in this village, so I wanted to say goodbye and also see if you have a reply to my red tulip?” She looked at him expectantly.
His jaw tensed, “Jennifer, you know I don’t know the language of flowers.”
She raised an eyebrow, “Not even for tulips?”
He pursed his lips and shook his head, “What does it mean?”
She sighed, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you. Figure it out.” She flirtatiously ran her fingers down his chest, “I’ll see you around.”
With that, she slipped out as silently as she slipped in.
The next morning, on their way back to the castle, Michael and Will were both lost in thought. Michael broke the silence, “Will, do you know what tulips mean in the language of flowers?”
Will was surprised at the spontaneity of the question, “It depends on the color.”
“Red,” Michael clarified.
Will raised an eyebrow, “Jennifer told me that means passion or a declaration of love. What brings this up?”
Michael didn’t respond and rode a bit faster. Will wondered if Michael was referring to an interaction with Kat.
* * * * *
Kat stroked her pendant as she watched through the window. Recently, she spent many of her days like this. But this time, she saw Michael riding up on a horse. Her heart skipped and she jumped up. Then shortly behind Michael, it was Will! She ran to get a better view as the two rode through the gate. They were immediately sent to the throne room, to which Kat darted before they got there. “Am I permitted to be part of this reunion?” she asked the guards. After a quick inquiry with the king, Kat was allowed in.
Silas and Kimberly tearfully ran in and embraced Will. Kimberly then turned to Michael and embraced him, “Thank you for saving my son.” Samantha practically jumped on her little brother, and the king got off his throne and embraced his son as well.
Kat stood over on the side, tearfully smiling at the reunion. It took all of her strength to refrain from running up to hug Will. She didn't want to barge in when it wasn’t her place though. She was just happy to see Will safe and at home at last.
Will pulled back from the loving embraces and scanned the room. He and Michael noticed Kat's figure leaning against a pillar at the same time. The way Will’s face lit up when he saw her melted Kat's heart, as she hadn't seen him look at her that way in over a year. But Michael ran up to her and the look faded from Will’s eyes.
Michael embraced Kat, “I have missed you,” he kissed her gently.
She glanced toward Will, and back at him, “Thank you for finding him and bringing him back safely. You saved my best friend.”
Michael was uncomfortable with the statement, but smiled and hugged her again. After a few moments, she looked at him with pleading eyes, “May I visit with the family?”
Michael was disappointed, but nodded.
Kat walked towards the family. Will separated and held his arms out for her. She ran into them and started weeping.
“I'm so glad you're safe!” Kat choked. “I thought we lost you.”
Will didn't say anything, but he hugged her more tightly. She knew that meant that he missed her too.
Kat pulled away slightly and looked at Will's eyes with concern, “Where is Jennifer?”
Will looked down, “She didn't make it. She was upset with me and sped away into the woods. I was captured, but she didn't survive.”
Kat's heart sank. The truth be told, Kat strongly disliked Jennifer, but as Jennifer had been taking care of Will, she had had some fondness for the girl. After all, Jennifer was a jealous airhead, but she didn't deserve to die. “I'm so sorry, Will,” Kat whispered. “I know she meant a lot to you. I am sorry.” Kat hugged Will more tightly.
“Let’s focus on the good right now,” Will had emotion in his voice. “Like this very moment.”
More tears rolled down Kat’s face, “I’m so sorry I haven’t been there all this time.” She looked up at him, “Will, when you have time, please will you meet me in the garden? There’s so much to talk about.”
“I promise,” he looked deeply into her eyes and turned back to his family.
Michael walked back up to her, “May I escort you to the garden? There is so much to say.”
Kat looked wistfully back at Will, smiled slightly, and nodded her head.
In the garden, they discussed the happenings of the last month.
“I checked every village in Kalbem,” Michael continued. “I rode day and night, from the northern areas and to the western sea. I went to the kingdom of Volez, which as you know, is full of all sorts of shady characters. I even ran into some bandits, but fortunately I was able to overpower them. They spoke of a man and woman who were robbed, saying the woman didn’t make it, but the man was sold to Tezel. The timing and description sounded right, and I feared the worst, so I set out to Tezel. Eventually, I found that Will was being held in the tower. It took a week to plan, but I was able to break him out. There were a few minor setbacks, but then we made it back.”
“Wow,” Kat awed, “That was so brave and noble of you to go after them. Thank you for doing all of that for Will.”
“It’s my duty. But you know what I missed most of all?” He gazed into her eyes and kissed her slowly.
She smiled, “I’ve missed that too. And your strong arms holding me.” She cuddled into his chest as he held her.
She noticed Will coming towards the garden, “Michael, may I please talk with Will alone?”
“Why do you need to talk to him?”
“I haven’t talked to him in a year, and I realized that some things can’t wait to be said.”
Michael looked jealousy at Will, then back at her, “Of course you can do what you want, just take it easy on him, he’s had a very difficult month.”
“Of course,” she agreed. He pulled her in and kissed her where he knew Will could see it. She was uncomfortable with the display, but didn’t fight it. “I’ll see you soon, my lady Kat,” Michael ran his hand down her arm as he left.
Will hesitated and almost turned around, but Kat called out to him, “Will! Please come sit with me.” Tears started welling in her eyes again as she motioned to the bridge. I’ve become such a crybaby! she criticized herself.
He came up and sat by her, not feeling as warm as he did before he saw Michael kiss her. They sat there in awkward silence for a few minutes, as neither knew what to say. Finally she burst, “May I hug you?” He nodded and she melted into his arms. This is exactly where she wanted to be for the past year. She felt the pain of the past month drift away as she enjoyed the feeling of Will’s strong arms around her.
She couldn’t bring herself to talking about what was really on her mind, so she started, “I knew you were the prince.”
Will was slightly shocked, “You knew I was the prince? When did you find out?”
Kat looked up shamefully, “The exact moment you did. I was hiding in a secret passage when the king told you.”
Will found a moment to steal a quick laugh, “Sounds like you, Kat. I felt like you knew. I wanted to talk to you about it, but I wasn't allowed to.”
Kat smiled at him, “It warmed my heart that you mentioned me in that conversation that day.” She took a breath and her voice broke, “Oh Will, I have missed you so much.”
“I missed you too. I thought of you every day in Tezel.”
“Really?” Kat was sincerely surprised by this. “Thank you. But I've missed you for the past year. All that time I was spending with Michael, while you were with Jennifer. Michael was all I had.”
“Kat, you know I am always here for you.”
“But Jennifer was so much more of a lady. And you fancied her. She asked me to bow out gracefully, so I did; I didn't want to be in the way of your courtship.”
Did Kat really think that he was courting Jennifer? “Wait, Jennifer asked you to back off?”
“Yes, she said I was an annoyance and obligation to you. When I asked her if I could trust that, she showed me the necklace you made for her, and then you yourself assured that you made it as a gift of courtship.”
“What?” Will was slightly dazed. “She requested the necklace and planned to pay me for it; I did it for no charge, but not as a gift of courtship.” He looked down at the pendant Kat was wearing and then back at Kat, “Jennifer was always jealous of you. She was very talented and fun, but I never wanted you to step out of my life.”
“Really?” Some light restored to Kat’s face. “Surely you don't mean that. I saw your letters… You and Jennifer seemed really serious.”
“Letters you wrote to her.” Her cheeks turned red, “I may have read some of them.”
“But I didn’t write letters to Jennifer.”
“Really?” Kat stared in front of her as she tried to process the information. “Then where did the letters I read come from?”
Will shrugged, “I have no idea. But I can assure you I never wrote love letters to Jennifer.”
“That’s odd.” She kept staring in front of her for a while and then gave up in making sense of things. She then commented, “Jennifer and Michael really did complicate things.”
“Indeed they did,” Will sighed.
“I do like Michael a lot, but I don't want him exclusively. I only tried to look like I had a lot of beaux because... Well, I suppose it wasn’t fair of me to act like this, but... You see, Will, all I've ever wanted is...” She stopped herself as she realized what depths of truth Will might find if she continued to talk.
Will had been trying to understand Kat for years. He knew her likes, interests, dislikes, tastes, her background, her capacity, her intelligence, and most of what a man can know about a woman, but her motivations, he could never quite figure out. She made it seem that she was motivated by flighty means such as embroidery, men, and ability, but he knew that deep down, she had a passion that she hid from him; something he craved to know.
“Katrina,” Will took her hand, “what is it you want?”
“Will, we've hardly talked in the past year; I'd feel silly telling you. It's not that important.”
“Kat, I know you well enough to know how loosely you're using that term right now. There is something you want to talk to me about, but it's okay. It'll come out soon enough. I know what it's like.” He looked into the distance as if he was going through the same thing.
Kat paused, then smiled gently at him, “By the way,” she kissed his cheek, “happy birthday, Will!”
Will smiled as he turned his head toward her, “You remembered? Even despite my absence and imprisonment?”
Kat squeezed his hand, “I could never forget; my best friend, and future king is seventeen now.”
“Funny how time flies. There is so much I need to learn. I feel completely inadequate to my position.”
Kat looked into his eyes, “Will, I couldn't think of a more worthy soul. You aren't as experienced, but you have a heart of gold, which is the most important attribute in a king. And you’re wise; you’ll figure everything out. I look forward to your chance to prove it when you win the kingly task. You've always been royalty in my eyes.”
Will turned to Kat and nearly shocked himself with what he did next. He looked longingly into her eyes, then slowly, gently, he caressed her cheek and brought his face towards hers. Their lips touched, during which time, they felt like they were the only two people in the world. If ever before a kiss was more pure and selfless than that one, it can't be known since words could not describe it.
After separating, they kept their eyes closed, with his hand on her cheek, Kat smiling, and leaning on each other's foreheads. They spent over a minute in that position, just breathing and radiating pure care for one other.
Katrina finally broke the heavenly silence, “I’ve always dreamed of a moment like that.” Katrina had received many romantic kisses that left her tingling all over, but this one was unlike any kiss she had ever experienced; it was pure and selfless. Though in coming years, she would have many kisses with Will, she never forgot the sincerity and pureness of this one.
“What can I do for you?” She desperately wanted to give him everything she could.
“Gar... Katrina,” he smiled, “you give me so much in your time, and just being you. You are my best friend.”
Kat smiled more, “We’re best friends again?”
Will brushed her hair back, “You've always been my best friend, and you always will be.”
Kat hoped he meant something specific by that, which in reality, he did, but she dismissed it as wishful thinking and resumed talking the day away with him.