Friday, September 28, 2012
< Chapter 53 Chapter 55 >
Our hero is shocked to discover the Beloren city government blames him for their city's conflagration!
"That's ridiculous!" I said. "I discovered the city was aflame mere minutes ago! I could not have started the fire."
"They don't accuse you of setting the fire," Bane said. "They blame you for it."
"Tunnel rats started the fire," Bane said. "Retribution for those killed by the tammar."
"Saving people from these tunnel rats is a crime?" I asked.
"There's no such law on the books," Bane said, "but there's an unspoken agreement. The rats left respectable citizens alone. In return, the city left the rats alone. You broke the peace."
Glaring at Raoul, Bane added, "And saved me the fate of breaking the peace."
Turning back to me, Bane said, "The debt incurred for that is repaid with this warning. Recall my ship and-"
"Stay. I have a proposition to discuss."
Princess Callan strode from the cabin, face calm and eyes hard.
"But first, Rob's body must-" Callan began.
"I'm sorry, your Highness," Bane said, "but I escaped the flames with my ship and crew, nothing more."
Bane continued, "An entire city burns in response to Rob's death, Highness. It's a grand funeral pyre."
Callan nodded, then said, "I have need of a fleet of fighting airships. How quickly can you gather such a fleet and how much will it cost?"
"That depends on what you wish to fight," Bane replied.
"Ah, yes, the trog army was headed toward the Mordanian border. And the navy is surely dispersed, searching for you." Bane paused, "Standard mercenary wages for all ships. I'll need one day to recruit the ships."
"Agreed," Callan said.
"And," Bane said, "your father will issue a full pardon to one Martin Bane!"
Can Princess Callan agree to pardon the man who led the attack which resulted in the deaths of so many of her guards? Find out in Chapter 55, coming Monday!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Fire engulfs the city our hero left shortly before sunset!
Flames climbed into the night, raging across Beloren. Dark specks moved against the flames, airships fleeing from the conflagration. Smoke stung our eyes and noses. An ash floated down onto the deck of the Airship. A minute later, another ash followed it.
"The city must have been burning for hours if ash has drifted this far," Tristan observed.
"Is Beloren at war?" I asked.
"Trade wars, perhaps," Tristan said, "but nothing to provoke something like this."
"Master!" called Nist. "We've got a ship bearing down on us. A big one!"
"Hold course, Nist, but see if you can get above it," Tristan turned to me, "Do you recognize the airship?"
"It's a common configuration for Tartegian naval vessels," Tristan said.
"You think it's Bane?" I asked.
"I suspect so."
"Only one way to find out," I said, cupping my hands. "Bane?"
"Thought that was you, Rice!" came the reply. "Permission to come aboard?"
"Why?" I asked, then remembered Princess Callan's plans. "Never mind. Permission granted, though for you only. If any others in your crew board, we'll kill your employer's only son!"
A few seconds passed, then, "I don't know what-"
"Just drop it, Bane! We know the whole story."
"From what I've heard of the Tartegian court," Tristan murmured, "I wouldn't count on that."
Bane called, "Only I board. Agreed."
I kept my sword at Raoul's throat as Bane came aboard. True to his word, his airship moved away.
"What do you want, Bane?" I asked.
"To keep you out of a Beloren dungeon," Bane said. "The city government blames you for the fire!"
How can our hero be blamed when he wasn't even in the city when the blaze began? Find out in Chapter 54, coming Friday!
Monday, September 24, 2012
< Chapter 51 Chapter 53 >
Our hero has accused Prince Raoul of hiring the raiders who ambushed and abducted Prince Callan!
The silence stretched as all eyes regarded Raoul. Under the combined weight of those stares, he broke.
"I did not hire the raiders," he said.
"Look at me," Callan commanded.
Raoul's eyes rose to meet Callan's.
"I believe you, Raoul," she said. "But you know who did hire them."
Raoul nodded fractionally, "It was too late to warn you."
"Is that supposed to make it all better?" Callan asked.
"You no longer have leave to use my given name!"
"Yes...your Highness," Raoul said. "It's just... Those guards and Mordanian airmen -- it's not my fault they died!"
"It's not your fault?" Raoul flinched at her tone. "Tell that to Rob!"
Turning away, Callan said, "I would be alone, please."
Tristan showed her to the Pauline's cabin.
I said, "Tell us who hired those Martin Bane."
Raoul's gaze turned defiant, "No."
"My boy, Raoul has already told us," Tristan said. "Only one person could conceive such a convoluted plan to reinvent the Spare Prince."
I was ashamed my emotions had kept me from realizing it sooner.
"I've known some mama's boys," I said, "but none so pathetic as you! Nist, would you tie the Mama's Prince's hands?"
Once Raoul was secured, I asked, "Any idea what we should do with him, Tristan?"
"Before retiring, her Highness left instructions," Tristan said. "In Beloren, we find a Tartegian registered airship and give him to them."
"That's more than he deserves," I said.
"Perhaps, lad," Tristan said, "but it's politically astute."
"Master!" called Nist, pointing ahead of us. "Look!"
A distant glow rose against the night. The city of Beloren in flames!
What happened in Beloren? Find out in Chapter 53, coming Wednesday!
Friday, September 21, 2012
< Chapter 50 Chapter 52 >
Princess Callan doesn't believe our hero hired Martin Bane to kidnap her. But who did hire him?
"Are you insane?" cried Raoul. "Some guard gives a sword-"
"Rob was not some guard!" Callan said.
"That settles the question of Raoul's intelligence," I said. "But I still want to question his integrity."
Raoul started sputtering again as Callan said, "Have a care, David. Raoul is my future brother-in-law."
"Perhaps," I said, "but I'd like to know what else happened when he was in the captain's cabin."
"I have answered that question," Raoul announced. "I negotiated for our release. Nothing else."
"You didn't teach the captain how to call me a pirate in the Mordanian language?"
"Why would I do such a thing?"
"I'll ask that question once you've answered the first one."
"I taught the captain nothing!" Raoul replied. "Ship's captains have been known to memorize foreign phrases for business purposes."
"Agreed," I said. "But why would he memorize a line in Mordanian when he was talking to his crew?"
"You ask me to explain the actions of a common sailor?" Raoul asked. "Callan, this indignity has gone on long enough!"
"Whatever the reason," I mused, "that line was the perfect cue for your entrance."
Raoul gave an indignant reply, but I barely heard him. The events of the last few days cascaded through my mind and everything clicked.
"It was you!" I said, interrupting Raoul. "Everything that's happened, from the raider plot to kidnap the princess to the fight on the merchant airship's deck. It was all staged to let you play the hero and rescue the princess!"
Without conscious thought, the tip of my sword flashed, pressing against Raoul's neck.
Into the silence, I said, "You hired Martin Bane!"
Is the royal house of Tarteg behind the plot to kidnap Princess Callan? Find out in Chapter 52, coming Monday!
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
< Chapter 49 Chapter 51 >
Accused of treachery, our hero turns to Princess Callan for judgement!
"You must believe me," Raoul said. "My integrity cannot be questioned!"
"Sure it can," I said. "And I'll question your intelligence, after that!"
"Be silent!" Callan demanded.
It never occurred to me to disobey.
"Have you heard how Rob became captain of my guard?" Callan asked us.
"I... No," I answered.
"Just before my fifth birthday, several renegade nobles conspired to kidnap me," Callan said. "Palace guards were bribed or their families threatened. None stood between the kidnappers and my room. The door burst open, frightening me terribly. I began to cry as my lone defender, a young guard assigned to my detail, leapt to defend me.
"That guard was Rob. His voice rose over the ring of steel, telling me to stop my crying, that there was nothing to worry about And then, out numbered five to one, Rob began to sing a lullaby. His deep, reassuring voice calmed me as he sang and his sword sang. One attacker fell. Then another. When the third man dropped, the other two ran.
"Rob sagged onto the bed, holding the worst of his wounds with one hand and me with the other. He refused to leave my side until my parents arrived. And he finished singing the lullaby."
"A month later, as part of my birthday celebration, Rob was named captain of my guard. I was allowed to present him with a sword made especially for him. He gave that sword to David just before he died.
"That action spoke volumes. You ask who I trust, David?"
Callan raised brimming eyes to meet mine.
"Rob gave you his sword. How could I not trust you?"
Trust has been established, but will it help Callan find her fleet? Find out in Chapter 51, coming Friday!