Friday, June 28, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 50

< Chapter 49                                                                                                   Chapter 51 >

Raoul is also being held prisoner by King Rat!


"Rice?" Raoul asked, his voice rising in the darkness.  "Is it really you?"

"Of course not.  King Rat held David Rice sound-alike contest and I won," I said without inflection.

"Oh," Raoul replied, his voice dropping.  I could imagine his shoulders drooping.

"For God's sake, you moron, of course it's me!" I snapped.  "What's the matter with you?"

Raoul gave a shuddering sigh, "I've been down here for a long time and had given up hope that anyone would come to rescue me."

Rescue him?  I wouldn't cross the street to rescue Raoul, much less cross a desert!  "Have you forgotten the time you tried to have the airship captain kill me?  Or when you abandoned my friends and me to the tender mercies of the trogs?  Or-"

"Forget I said anything, Rice," Raoul snarled, sounding much more like his usual self.

"If only it were that easy," I said.  "But it doesn't matter.  I'm as much a guest here as you."

"So you got captured, too?" Raoul asked.  "I'm sure Callan is worried sick for her missing boyfriend."

"Husband," I corrected.

"What?  King Edwar chose a commoner over Rupor?" Raoul gasped.

"With half the Tartegian royal house conspiring against his daughter, what do you think?" I said.  That news was months old.  Raoul had been down here longer than I'd imagined.

We both fell quiet.  I pondered my options, mulled plans, and waited for something to happen.  According to my implant, twenty-two hours passed before I was summoned.

As I was led away, Raoul begged not to be left alone.  In spite of myself, I felt pity for him.  I forgot all of that when I entered the throne room.

Martin Bane stood before King Rat!

Martin's plan to get an audience with King Rat appears to have worked, but what is he going to do now?  Find out in Chapter 51, coming Monday!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 49

< Chapter 48                                                                                                   Chapter 50 >

David has been lowered into the tunnels beneath Beloren.


Hands dragged me along the tunnel.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I recognized the route my captors were taking.  They were leading me to the arena where Callan's personal bodyguard, Rob, had given his life in exchange for hers.

Could my guesses about King Rat have been wrong?  Was I on my way to quick execution?

I was led into the arena.  Unlike my first visit, the vast room was dimly lit and almost empty.  A few people gathered on the far side of the room, but it was nothing like the frenzied crowd I'd seen before.  As we approached the people, they fell silent and stepped back, opening a path a seated man.

We regarded each other with interest.  The man before me was lean and smoothly muscled.  He looked both quick and capable.  I'd been expecting a brute of a man, perhaps starting to grow fat.  If this man was King Rat, he was nothing like I expected.  The feeling appeared to be mutual.

"You're not that impressive now that I see you close up," he asked.

"I could say the same about you," I asked in return.

"Ha!" he slapped his knee.  "And not scared of me, either!"

"Before these witnesses, I challenge you to a duel for the rat kingship!" I said.

"My, you're a well-spoken young man!" King Rat said.

"That's me," I said, "a traditionalist.  Are you too afraid to face me, Vraal?"

"No, I'm too smart to face you without need," Vraal said. To his men he said, "Throw him in the cell with the other one."

We walked down hundreds of stairs before my captors chained me into a dark room.

"Hello?" asked a voice.  "Who's there?"

I responded, "Imagine meeting you here, Raoul!"

What is Raoul doing in a Tunnel Rat cell?  Find out in Chapter 50, coming Friday!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 48

< Chapter 47                                                                                                   Chapter 49 >

Terran scout David Rice, the newest member of the Mordanian royal family, is on his way back to Beloren to pay for the crime" of rescuing Princess Callan!


Twelve hours after we left Morda, the envoy's airship rejoined the vast fleet from the southern city-states.  It took three long, boring days for the fleet to cross the desert.

It did give my implant plenty of time to translate the language spoken in the city-states -- a fact I kept to myself.  Along with Boost -- which I hadn't used the first time I was in Beloren -- knowing the language was the only advantage I would have in the tunnels.

I ran through everything I knew about King Rat.  The only things I knew were what the envoy told us and what I had seen -- King Rat went in for over-the-top execution spectacles.  That last bit gave me some hope -- things like that had to be reserved for special occasions.  I was sure to be a special occasion all by myself, but probably as the main event rather than the only event.  That meant rat boy would need a few days to capture more victims and build excitement among the other rats to a fever pitch.

So, I'd have a few days to find a way to kill King Rat.  And I was going to have to kill him.  If I didn't, he'd just intimidate the lords of the city-states again and we'd be right back where we were now.  Maybe there would be some tunnel rat tradition I could call on and force him to fight me.  Maybe I could find an ambitious underling to help me.  Maybe I could do a lot of things, but I wouldn't know until I was underground.

When we docked, my hands were bound and I was taken straight to a tunnel entrance.  Without ceremony, they lowered me into the darkness!

What awaits David below the streets of Beloren?  Find out in Chapter 49, coming Wednesday!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 47

< Chapter 46                                                                                                   Chapter 48 >

Queen Elaina offers her help to rescue David!


"You want to help?" I asked.  Of all the things my mother might offer, this was the last thing I'd expected!

"Why are you so surprised?" Mom asked.  "David is part of our family!"  The corners of Mom's mouth quirked up, "Besides, I'll get grandchildren all the sooner if you're, ah, enthusiastic about your husband."

"Rescue before reunion, okay?" I sighed. 

Who knew my mother had such a bawdy imagination?  Well, I suppose my father-.  There are some things a child shouldn't know about her parents.  I forced my mind back to the rescue.

"Martin, how can Mom help?"

"She could get the crown jewels for us," Martin suggested.

"Why, pray tell, do you need our crown jewels?" Mom asked.

"Everyone is waiting for me to revert to form," Martin said, "I thought I'd live down to expectations, use my new status to rob the treasury, and flee to Beloren.  The jewels will get me back in the good graces of Beloren's criminal class and maybe gain an audience with the Rat King."

"You'd ruin your reputation for David?" Mom asked.

"In a heartbeat," Martin said.

"David is a rather remarkable young man," Mom agreed.  "Would you be willing to have a naval squadron chase you south?  Call it a pursuit escort for Callan.  And they'd have an excuse to stay nearby."

Martin nodded and Mom turned to me, "Were you planning on taking Kim with you?"

"No, she's going to stay in these chambers and pretend I've shut myself away in the bedroom," I said.  "With luck, no one will know I'm even gone."

Mom nodded, "Kim and I will make sure of that."

Hours later, at midnight, Nist piloted the Pauline to my balcony.

Looking south, I said, "Hang on, David.  We're coming!"

Meanwhile, what's been happening to David?  Find out in Chapter 48!