Chapter 3 - Peace Stone

Chapter 3 - Peace Stone

A Chapter by Leigh
"

Lord Virintis arrives in the capital, Perendith and lays a peace stone.

"
Chapter 3 - Peace Stone

"I remember the battle here," Virintis said as he sat on his horse looking at the ruins of the Black Castle. Leorra glanced at him sideways, saying nothing. "I remember how everything hung in the balance that day and how we held out in there, as the walls were battered by their giant catapults and battering rams. We thought we were surrounded," Virintis looked at Leorra smiling, Leorra gave a reassuring nod of confirmation. "Until…well until you stepped in and made me see sense. I should've listened to you earlier on that day. You saved my life then and you did yesterday too. I just feel bad for Bran, for Boaze and for Balzor. You have saved the Kingdom of the North more than once,"

"I got lucky," Leorra said quietly, looking ahead into the distance at the beginnings of the borderlands that met Perendith.

"Lucky! It was more than luck. You rode out and broke their line, others followed and that was the turning point," Virintis insisted. "I saw, I know, I was there,”

"Yes lord," Leorra said dutifully. Brice tugged at his sleeve and he turned to see his inpatient manservant.

"Don't forget what the lady wanted you to tell," Brice whispered, not making eye contact with Virintis.

"Ah yes," Leorra said collecting his thoughts. Virintis looked at him expectantly.

"Lady Amoros wanted me to convey to you that a person has gone missing. Agatha, the miller's daughter disappeared the night after you left,"

"Went missing? Well I'm sure she will turn up; it happens,"

"Yes lord, I'm just relaying the message. There was a search and no one was found,"

"She's probably eloped," Virintis said looking at the one of the remaining towers, his eyes examining the narrow slit like windows, designed for arrow shot. "It happens all the time with young girls, and boys I suppose,"

"The story goes that she set off from her home to walk the three miles to work in the morning, but didn't arrive at the other end,"

Virintis looked at Leorra intently. "Oh I see," In his mind he imagined the route she might've taken as he knew the area where she lived. There was a section of riverbank that was remote, but wasn’t far away from the safety of her village. However, she could've have been taken from around there; snatched, but who by and why? Unless a wolf had strayed in, they were few and far between these days, but still roamed the countryside.

¥¥¥¥¥


The white marble walls of Perendith straddled across the land ahead and in the middle of them, straight ahead was the huge north gate with its two high and imposing towers. It shone in the weak afternoon light, giving off a hazy white glow that was dazzling to the eyes. On top of the towers, guards looked down at them through the castellations, judging their status and level of threat. The road straightened, flattened and widened as they approached.

The group of three men eagerly brought their horses on, knowing they were now safe and after gaining entry through the large wooden gates, split up. Virintis headed for the Palace of Peace and Leorra and Brice went to the house allocated to Virintis on the outskirts of the north side of the city. As Virintis trotted his horse on to the citadel he was greeted by the occasional market stall holder. They politely bowed or nodded respectfully as they realised who he was. There were few horsemen on the bustling market streets and so Virintis carefully weaved his way forward between the shoppers and drinkers as he went up the gradual slope to the walls of the citadel. The citadel’s gates were open and guarded. The guards crossed their spears, blocking his way as he approached.

“Good day, I am Lord...,” he said stopping his horse directly in front of them.

“Good day Lord Virintis. What is your business here?” one of the guards asked, stepping forward to the side of the horse, patting its flank in a relaxed, casual manner.

“I bring news for the king and request entry,”

“The king is not expecting any visitors, but you may pass. I will let him know you are here,”

“Thank you and as is my duty, I wish to continue the building of the Palace of Peace,” Virintis said loudly, in a traditional manner. He steered his horse through the gates, going around the King’s Palace and stopped at the bottom of the steps of the Palace of Peace. As he ascended the steps a man came to greet him, it was Stuart Overlander, the keeper of the Palace.

“Lord Virintis you have been away too long,” Stuart Overlander said holding out his hands in greeting. “What brings you here? Are you here for long?”

“Stuart, hello, I come with news for the king,” Virintis said engaging Stuart Overlander in an arm lock. The two men ascended the steps and entered the dark cool surroundings of the palace’s outer chambers. The palace itself was arranged as a perfectly square villa with a large courtyard in the middle.

“If your news is urgent you must go there straight away, this can wait,”

“The news can wait,” Virintis said getting out a shaped marble stone from his leather shoulder bag. “I am a man of tradition,”

“I see,” Stuart Overlander said looking at the stone. The stone was flat on its top and bottom and rough and uneven around its sides. It had crystalline in it and reflected the light. “This fine stone will make a nice addition to your wall,” They walked through to the central courtyard and in it were four separate walls at various stages of construction, each one a side of a building that would, when finished be square in shape. There was a wall for each kingdom, Virintis went to the wall on the north side, which was his own and started to look for a position to put the new stone. “I’ll mix you up some cement,” Stuart Overlander said and disappeared behind a door while Virintis brushed off the wall around the part he had in mind to build upon. He then rinsed the area of the wall with cold water and waited for it to dry. Looking around the courtyard he saw the other three walls and compared them to his own. The wall of the West was similar, being several courses high and unfinished along the top. The wall of the Eastern Kingdom was only a few bricks altogether, an indication of the seldom visits to the capital by Lord Sands and maybe his lack of commitment to the union and peace! Directly behind a proud and magnificent wall stood. It was nearly complete and was wide and high. It shone in the dull light it's white stones reflecting in their uniformity, the coursework perfect in its manufacture. This was Lord Tullis's wall of the Southern kingdoms. The Southern Kingdoms that were rich and warm and had many islands; he was somewhat envious of those lands. His mind drifted back to them, having visited as a child and then he thought of the lands across the sea and what they might be like. They might be rich and fertile lands, enough to build a great kingdom.

"Here is your cement Lord Virintis," Stuart Overlander said. He held a bucket and trowel out to him.

"Thank you Stuart," Virintis said as he started to butter the top of the wall. "How are your family?"

"Well, Lord, very well,"

"Your son, how is he getting on?"

"He is ready to take over from me, here. I am in my sixtieth year and am ready to retire. I have two sons, the other is in the army,"

"I had forgotten that,” Virintis paused, looking Stuart Overlander straight in the eye. “And your wife, how is she?" He placed the stone he had brought. He tapped the stone down with end of the trowel's wooden handle, making it flat. He regarded the keeper of the palace closely and saw a white haired older man, who was overweight and wearing loose flowing robes. He didn't see the man he remembered from many years ago.

"She is happy in our home, which is not too far from here in the citadel. We plan to travel next year to see some of the kingdoms. I have never been to the north,"

"What's it like living here in the capital?" Virintis asked as he watched the stone settle in place on the wall.

"Quiet most of the time, not much happens, people come and go. It's peaceful inside the walls of the citadel. King Juan has always been good to me,” he paused, momentarily. “I can see to this if you need to go,"

"Thank you, I'll be on my way. Good bye Stuart Overlander and enjoy your much deserved retirement. Let me know when you are travelling north and I will get a guide ready for you," Virintis made his way out and headed for the King's Palace.

"Good bye Lord Virintis," Stuart Overlander said as he discretely re-positioned the peace stone.

¥¥¥¥¥

At the palace steps Virintis heard laughter and excited shouting. He walked through the giant stone columns as the voices echoed around the stonework. He was checked over and then allowed through the main doorway, after having his weapons taken. Slowing as he approached King Juan's main court room, he listened to the voices and as he got closer he recognised more than one of them.

“Lord Virintis of the Kingdoms of the North,” a guard announced as he walked in. Seeing king Juan he stopped where he was and bowed.

“My king,” he said, his tone serious and solemn.

“Aahh Ciren, it’s you, I wondered when you would get here,” a small diminutive figure said, slurring his words. “Will you have a drink?” he poured wine into an ornate silver goblet and handed it to Virintis, who took it, but drunk nothing.

“I’m sorry I was held up, I would’ve been here sooner otherwise, your majesty,”

“Well never mind, you’re here now, that’s the main thing,” Juan laughed a crazy laugh that filled the whole room. He greeted Virintis with a kiss on the cheek and a rough rub of his shoulders. “Why are you dressed in dusty armour you must be hot,” he said looking at the tall physique of Virintis, staggering backwards and knocking into a giant plant pot. The room was lavishly decorated in gold and had numerous large potted plants and freezes of battle scenes. It was well illuminated by wall mounted braziers and the courtyard to its rear. There was the large throne that dominated the central open area whose metal frame shone in the weak sunlight.

“Did you get my letter, your majesty?”

“Yes, yes, you got a letter and I got a letter and then you sent me a copy of your letter,”

Virintis looked at him, confused, not understanding what he was saying. He knew what Juan was like and knew it would be like this all the time. There would be nonsensical riddle talking. There would be drunken arguments, confrontations and enforced debauchery. “I also sent a rider, my king,” Virintis said as he followed Juan into the courtyard..

“Yes I know you did, but he was killed and never got here. He was stripped naked, there was nothing on him when my men found him, no message, nothing of any value,” Juan stared at Virintis, swaying, his eyes bleary. “You know it gets very lonely up here in this castle, castle come prison, you could call it a palace I suppose and that’s why I appreciate it when people come to visit. Lord Tullis is here,”

From behind the green leaves of a plant Lord Tullis appeared. He held out his hand in greeting and Virintis shook it. It was a weak handshake, that was purely for the king’s sake. There was too much history between the two lords, too many battles and too many wars.

“Virintis,” Tullis said.

“Tullis,” Virintis said.

“Come on now you two, say it with more feeling, we are all friends now, the wars are over. That is why we built this great city, is it not?” Juan stood between the two men, who were both taller than him and he put a hand on each of their shoulders, linking the three of them together. “I need you two to be friends and also I order you to be. It saddens me that you are not. It annoys me,”

The lords looked at each other blankly as they were led by Juan around the courtyard. “I have invited Lord Sands and Lady Aurora of Westhuizen here as I am calling a meeting. Sands should be here tomorrow night. Its about these letters from the Venturer,”

“Lett-errs?” Virintis questioned, not understanding.

“Yes, letters. You see your news was not news for long Lord Virintis, I knew about the new lands too, as a Vaknor flew in just the other day from the Venturer. I’ll show you. Necron get the letters,” he shouted. A few minutes later the old figure of Necron shuffled towards them carrying some scrolls. He walked with a stoop, his hair was long and white, but he still had a twinkle in his eye.

“My lords,” Necron said. He handed them the scrolls and one by one they all read them. It took several minutes for them all to read both letters, and while they read they drunk.The letter the king had received was of the greatest interest.

¥¥¥¥¥

To all,

As I have made daily entries into the ships log that no one may ever see, I have written this letter as my final entry. I hope and pray that this scroll reaches you as it is the last communication I will write. All the crew are dead and I know I am next. The whole trip has been beset with tragedy from us reaching land to its bitter finish and now it seems I myself am at an end. Before I go there are things I need to say while my strength remains:

Firstly - The new lands explored appeared to be normal, but they are anything but. There are things here that are unexplained and are against man. Creatures have come and attacked our camp and killed many men, leaving the remainder in a state of terror. They watch us by day and attack at night. Escape is impossible as our boat has been damaged by recent storms.

Secondly - The scale of terrain strongly indicates lands much larger than our own. I would predict at least ten times the size of the known world of Perendithia. There is no sign of civilisation, the land is untouched, but markings and tracks have been found.

Thirdly - Although the land is vast most is uninhabitable and ways of moving are blocked, to the west is desert and to the east is dense forest. A path north was being explored until casualties became too great.

I urge you to not come to these lands. This letter has been delivered by my best Vaknor, Joey, I know he will make it to you and survive.

Love to all my family and friends. To my wife Jennifer and my two daughters Rose and Violet. I am sorry we have failed you all.

Good bye

Captain Marks
Captain of the Venturer

¥¥¥¥¥

"Two letters that tell two different stories, one of hope and one of terror," Juan said laughing madly and pouring himself another drink from a glass decanter. He poured into Virintis's goblet and it overflowed on to the floor. "You have drunk hardly anything, come on I can't get drunk alone," he looked to Tullis, who held out an empty goblet for him to fill. "That's more like it,"

Necron shuffled away into the shadows, having taken himself a small drink. He sat on a stone bench, next to a large muscular man, who carried a sword, but was not a guard, they both listened to the lords.

"Anyway enough of all this for the moment. What news from the north?" Juan said walking towards the back of the courtyard that led out on to a wide balcony that overlooked a view of the city. Juan stood facing the view, not looking at his two Lords. Tullis used the opportunity to pour his wine into a large plant pot.

“There has been no news recently, other than the message, which has caused a stir,"

"And here too, to those I have told and it's leaked out to. Nothing else then?" Juan said glancing a look at Virintis.

"Not as such. Industry is good, the people seem to be happy...Oh yes there was something, someone mysteriously disappeared, I am going to investigate when I get back,"

King Juan turned to face Virintis and locked onto him in intense concentration. "Who was it exactly?"

"No one you would have heard of, it was the daughter of one of the miller's, Agatha,"

“A young woman, in her twenties?”

“Yes, that’s right,”

“What was she like?”

“She was a lovely girl, always seemed happy, fairly quiet. She was about twenty-five, twenty-six,”

“Yes, very nice Virintis, but what did she look like?”

“She was beautiful and had many admirers,” Virintis said. The other two men looked disappointed at the short description. “She had blonde curly hair, quite tall, classic looks and a nice figure,”

“Lord Sands has had a young woman go missing too, I’m now trying to work out if there’s a relation.”

“It happens, people go missing all the time,” Lord Tullis said. Virintis looked at him, realising that had been his initial reaction.

“Her name was Barbara, she was a water carrier, mid-twenties, good looking and had a string of admirers. Sands will tell us more and as you say Tullis, it wouldn’t be considered unusual, other than the fact she did just disappear. A lot of people are upset; we need to be more on our guard,” the three men stood in a gloomy awkward silence, not knowing what to say. “Anything more to report?”

“I was attacked on the way here and lost three men,” Virintis said after a brief dramatic pause. Lord Tullis and king Juan stood in silence, listening. “I was injured as you can see,” he held up his bandaged hand. “Raiders and well organised too, if it hadn’t been for Leorra I wouldn’t have made it, one of my men, Sean Emerson, a scout ran off,” At the mention of Leorra, Tullis’s face tightened.

“I’m just glad you are alright Lord Virintis, aren’t we Tullis?” Juan said, prompting Tullis with a playful nudge. Tullis nodded slowly, breaking into a slow smile. “These are troubled times we live in,”

“Leorra cost me many men,” Tullis said bitterly.

“Yes, well we are not going to talk about the past, it is only a place we should visit if it pleases us. What did you think of Captain Marks’s letter?” Juan said as a servant refilled their glasses.

“Doesn’t sound good. I think what Marks said was clear and sound advice, he may have been touched by madness, but we should follow what he had said. Having said that the thought of vast new lands is a mind blowing prospect,” Virintis said.

“What do you think Tullis?” Juan said, sounding like a schoolteacher who was getting all the wrong answers.

“I agree with Virintis. If what he has said is true, it's disturbing to say the least. I’m trying to imagine the new lands and what happened to the crew, and how much of it is true. A million questions. We have enough problems here, we don’t need to generate anymore,”

“By the gods you are both so boring and conservative, where’s your sense of adventure?
I have called you all here to discuss what we do,”

“You mean to send another ship?” Virintis said.

“A fleet might be more suitable,” Juan said. “Considering what is out there. Come on it’s time to eat, drink and be merry,”

¥¥¥¥¥

In the palace’s great hall a banquet was laid out on low tables and entertainment was provided in a large central area. A small crowd of people stood around watching and talking. The fire eater was the worst of the acts. His flames, blown from handheld fiery sticks were irregular in size and power and quickly became out of control. On more than one occasion he set his wide blue pantaloon style trousers alight. The lords and their men got drunk as they watched from the layers of silk cushions they sat and lay on, served drinks by a host of waiting staff . Leorra and Brice came, Necron and several of the king's wives, Tullis and his beast of a man Ursul were there too.

The dancing horses gave the most entertainment, three of them burst in through the double wooden doors at the far end of the long rectangular room, opposite the banquet table. They were white and had their manes braided, they circled the floor, their eyes wide, but not startled. A man with a crop ran in with them, followed by a small group of musicians. The horses lifted their front legs high as they spun around in a tight knot. The horses shivered as they moved, their nostrils flaring, staring around in controlled panic. As their hooves pounded the floor, their flanks ruffled in waves, their manes seemed alive, but they kept to their dance. The dance was of tight twirls and rotations, they looked pretty with their red feather plumes on their heads and shiny white coats. It was an interesting spectacle, but the men weren't fully entertained by them. After the thunder of hooves disappeared in a cloud of dust, closely followed by the musicians, the last act of veiled dancers appeared.

The veiled dancers were young women dressed in colourful semi translucent costumes that had small jangling bells attached to them. They had veils of tine material over their faces, which they gradually took off, revealing their faces. There was more than one dancer for each man and they danced to the fast playing music on the tables, knocking over drinks and plates of food, jangling all the time. One dark haired girl danced in front of Virintis and tried to get him up to dance. She pulled his hand and tried to lift him from his chair. Juan laughed at Virintis as he took his own veiled dancing girl onto his lap. Lord Tullis had a girl on each arm and was trying to kiss one of them while the other looked on in disappointment. Neither of them had their veils on and both were very pretty. The dark haired girl lent in to say something to Virintis. Her sweating body pressed against him.

“I will come to your room later,” she said in the strong central accent of the capital.

“Please don’t, I have three wives already,” Virintis said aware that Leorra was watching him. He looked at her face, but it was still half covered.

“They are not here are they,”

“No,” he said taking a drink from his goblet, trying to act uninterested. She knocked it out of his hand and danced around him, brushing herself against him like he was her prey. She took off another of her veils, leaving only one and through it he saw her obvious beauty.

“At least dance with me then,” she shouted over the hubbub of music and voices. Realising he had had too much to drink Virintis got up and started to imitate her dance. He wiggled his hips and raised his hands over his head, rocking in time with the rhythm. The men sat around clapped him on and the girl laughed and slowed her movements to match his. They danced together for a few short minutes, the centre of attention of the whole room, then Virintis collapsed down, his head spinning, the room in rotation. Behind his shoulder Juan stood, he was drunk, but in control.

“Im glad you have enjoyed yourself Lord Virintis, but clear your head for tomorrow, there is much to discuss and while we wait for the others arrive I have something I want to show you and Lord Tullis,” Juan said. He rested his hand on Virintis’s shoulder briefly. “I will say good night,” he walked off and disappeared through the crowd without looking back.

“Yes, my king,” Virintis said, he felt tired and felt his head drop, as he looked up again he saw that Tullis was staring directly at him. Tullis was perfectly composed and although he had been taking drinks all night, he hadn’t been drinking any of them, he had been quietly pouring it away into the many large potted plants. Virintis waved at him, got up, bowed and made his exit. Tullis raised a steady hand in salute.

His room on the top floor of the palace was luxurious and was cool and quiet being on the south side that overlooked the Gardens of Peace. In his full clothing he collapsed on the massive bed and fell straight to sleep. When he woke in the morning the dark haired dancing girl was there; she wore no veil.

¥ End of Chapter 3 ¥


© 2019 Leigh


Author's Note

Leigh
In Chapter 4 the Room of Artefacts is opened

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You have a great story here, Be. I had to read it in parts because it was a rather long chapter. But it was very entertaining. Great descriptions, good imagery and vocabulary. Liked it very much. Well done. :) Rudi

Posted 3 Years Ago


Leigh

3 Years Ago

Thanks Rudi, yes the Chapters are averaging 3-4000 words and so are longer, this is due to the amoun.. read more
pretty good chapter b,i enjoyed the read

Posted 3 Years Ago


Leigh

3 Years Ago

Thanks for feeding back to me
Be,
Another excellent chapter,well written. Easily kept my interest. Good explanation of events to keep reader informed and ready to want to follow the story. Very good description of dancing horses, creating solid imagery. Nice use of minor characters to create depth and help flesh out your story.
Your writing continues to improve and has a professional gloss. I truly enjoy reading your work. Looking forward to more fine writing.
Richie b.

Posted 3 Years Ago


Leigh

3 Years Ago

Thanks Richie, your review is music to my ears
I like the imagery and descriptions of characters. Although like the others, i also wanted to hear more of Agatha. I like the end, when the dancing girl is there with him, but do we get to know more about that later on? great story, hope to read more soon!

Posted 3 Years Ago


Leigh

3 Years Ago

Hope you stay with it and thanks for your review

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Added on June 1, 2016
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Leigh
Leigh

Bristol, United Kingdom



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