The Tale of Ander Collins: Chapter Thirty-Three

Fiction By LoriAnn // 5/21/2010

 

 
Ander came out of Dorlan’s War Room, dazed and feeling as though someone had replaced his brain with oatmeal. Knotty oatmeal, at that.
“Ander?”
He turned to see Shyllen walking down the hall toward him with Jagsod at her side. He suddenly realized that she had called him twice already.
“Sorry,” he said as they neared. “Didn’t hear you.”
“What was that all about?” Shyllen asked, with a vague gesture over her shoulder toward the War Room.
Ander pointed to the sword now hanging in a scabbard by his side. “This,” he said simply.
His friends both recognized the sword, and Jagsod’s mouth dropped open. The white edges of a bandage still peeked out from the neck of his shirt, and he nearly fell over trying to get a closer look. “What are you doing with that?” he demanded as Ander stepped back.
“Dorlan wants me to go back to Kelner and…and be the heir.” The reality of it hadn’t quite sunk in yet.
Shyllen squealed. Yes, Shyllen, the mighty dragoness, squealed. “That’s great, Ander!” she exclaimed. “Now you can go home without getting in trouble with the king!”
Ander nodded. “That’s the plan anyway,” he said without much confidence. King Juston was going to kill him, he knew. And maybe not metaphorically.
“Cheer up, Ander,” she replied, nudging his arm with her elbow. “We’ll go with you.”
“We will?” Jagsod objected. He ducked Shyllen’s slap. “Right. We will. Right into the harpy’s den we’ll go.” He winked at Ander. “Someone’s got to keep you from making a fool of yourself.”
Ander smiled, but he wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or even more apprehensive.
And what would Mandy say?
 
 
Apparently, Dorlan had no qualms about sending Ander as soon as possible. A mere three days later, Ander and his retinue (consisting of Jagsod, Shyllen, and an honor guard of six) stood at the gates to Kelner as the wall guards slowly opened the door.
Ander was mounted on an enormous bay gelding, who—fortunately—looked far more intimidating than he really was. Shyllen had wanted him to ride into the city on her back, but Dorlan was quick to quash that notion.
“It would seem too over-the-top,” he’d explained. “We don’t want to look threatening; just supremely confident.”
Ander was feeling anything but confident as the doors finally opened fully and his company rode into the city. He glanced down at the wall guard beside the door as he passed, and blinked. It was Chester, the guard who’d made so much trouble for him when he was escaping. Beside him stood the other guard from that day—Kelber.
“Oy!” Chester exclaimed, recognizing Ander at the same moment.
Kelber followed his gaze and did a double-take.
Ander said nothing, but smiled weakly as he passed. Both guards watched him ride into the city with gaping mouths.
“Old friends of yours?” Shyllen asked out of the corner of her mouth.
“Something like that.”
The castle was built in the center of Kelner, atop a low hill. The streets sloped gradually as they rode inward, and Ander found himself avoiding the gaze of passerby. Any minute he expected to hear a shout go up, “There he is! There’s the boy the king wants!”
“Sit up straight,” Jagsod ordered. He drew more stares than anyone else in the party; looking like an ogre prince riding his proud charger. “Stop looking like someone’s going to chop your head off at any second. They can’t do anything to you now—you’re a royal envoy.”
Ander sat up a bit taller. “What if King Juston decides to declare war on the Denwold because of me?” he muttered.
Shyllen, with her sharp ears, heard him. “Oh, snap out of it,” she ordered. “You’re not nearly as important as you think. By now, the king’s probably gotten used to the idea of his daughter marrying a commoner. And if not, he’s not stupid enough to declare war because of it.”
Ander was the only one who heard her add under her breath, “I hope.”
Word of their arrival and business reached the castle before they did, and the gates were opened wide to receive them. Ander and his party rode through into the grassy courtyard before the castle and dismounted, handing their horses’ reins to waiting pages.
“His Majesty will receive you in the throne room,” a condescending butler told them with a shallow bow. He gestured to the entrance, where footmen were opening the large doors.
Ander wasn’t sure what to do, so he merely nodded at the butler and led his party to the doors, hoping that he looked confident and sure.
“The delegation from King Dorlan of the Denwold feielves,” one of the doormen proclaimed as Ander and his party entered the throne room.
“Welcome, welcome!” a booming voice exclaimed. As Ander’s eyes adjusted to the half-light of the throne room, he saw King Juston standing on a tall dais, flanked on either side with intricate tapestries and braziers burning a spicy incense. “It has been long since we had news from the Denwold, my friends—please, come closer.”
Ander obeyed and walked down the long room toward the throne. His heart was beating twice as fast as normal and his stomach felt as though it was on fire with nervousness. He cleared his throat and felt sweat trickle down his back as he came to a halt before the dais.
Shyllen placed a rolled-up piece of parchment in his hand, and he unrolled it. “Dorlan Torr, son of Ravin Torr, son of Alathia and descended in right line from Selarto the Great,” he began to read, his voice only slightly shaky. “By birth, by right, and by conquest, King of the feielves of Denwold and all the inhabitants therein; to Juston Kelner, son of Arturo Kelner the Eighth, King of Kelner and its territories and peoples: Greetings.”
Ander took a breath and shifted his weight. He didn’t dare look up, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Shyllen give an encouraging gesture with her hand. He went on.
For to prevent animosity between our two lands, which buttress each other and of which our people now mingle freely amongst each other, it is our pleasure to send forth this envoy in the body and person of our well beloved cousin and heir, Ander Collins, son of Percival Collins, grandson of Lylwint Torr, great grandson of Alathia and descended from Selarto the Great. Through him and through the members of his diplomatic party, we wish to create a lasting and binding treaty to stand between your kingdom and ours. We have given him full power of determining with your Majesty all the conditions and stipulations of this treaty, and as heir by both blood and election, he represents us and our family in every way and authority.” Ander blinked sweat out of his eyes and hurried over the last few words.
Given at our residence in Anamere Valley this eighteenth day of summer in the First Year of Victory. Signed Dorlan Torr, Rightful King of the Denwold.”
There was a brief pause in the hall, and the grand words of the letter echoed through the stony room.
“Then…” Juston said in his rich voice, “I am to understand that the Queen Celzara is no more?”
Ander shook his head. “Celzara was a usurper, your majesty. She has been removed from the throne and the crown has gone to the rightful heir, Dorlan.” He knew his voice sounded stiff and overly formal, but he couldn’t help it.
Juston nodded slowly, reaching up with his left hand to stroke his beard. “I find the idea of a treaty with the Denwold to be advantageous. We will talk, Ander son of Percival. Page!” he snapped his fingers and a young boy in green and silver livery appeared from behind the throne. “Go fetch my ministers, lad. Tell them to meet us all in the Map Room.”
Ander and his friends followed the king from the room, leaving the contingent of guards behind. He cast an anxious look at Shyllen, who nodded encouragingly.
“You’re doing fine,” she whispered, motioning him ahead. “Just be confident.”
They entered the Map Room, and the king gestured for them to sit at the central, wooden table. “Now,” King Juston said. “Before my ministers get in here and muddy up the waters with their provisos and terms and loopholes, I’d like to get something out of the way.”
Oh no, Ander thought. Here it comes…
“I have a short story for you,” the king continued, looking keenly at Ander. “It’s about a certain princess who fell in love with a soldier, and about a mysterious serving boy who assisted them in marrying and then disappeared without a trace. The only name the boy left was Ander—no last name, no nothing.”
Ander gulped. “Sir?”
“The story has already taken on mythic proportions,” Juston added. “I’ve heard no less than nine different versions, including one where this Ander was actually some sort of enchanted being that appeared in a flash of smoke, and one where it was no boy at all but a fairy godmother who waved her magic wand and produced wedding clothes for the couple as well as a priest to do the service and a page boy to serve them all cake afterwards.”
Ander felt his hands go clammy, but he forced his voice to work. “It must be a popular tale, Your Majesty,” he managed.
Juston squinted at him. “Indeed,” he said. “But there’s more.”
Beside him, Ander felt Shyllen shift uncomfortably.
“After the princess was wed, the king discovered it. To his horror, his daughter had not only eloped without any notice, but she had married both a commoner and a foreigner. The king was furious, and he immediately sent out his soldiers with an arrest warrant for the boy Ander and the priest. The priest they found easily enough, but the boy? Well…” Juston stroked his beard with a thoughtful eye on Shyllen and Jagsod. “Of the boy they found no trace. It was as if he had never existed.” The king paused—a long, forbidding pause like a snake preparing to strike. “Perhaps you who share his name, oh Ander Collins son of Percival Collins, can shed some light on this mystery.”
“It’s…it’s only a story, sir,” Ander said, desperately hoping that the king would believe that he knew nothing. “A nice story, but just a—“
“You and I both know that it’s more than a story,” King Juston said, his voice firm.
Ander looked at Shyllen and Jagsod, but the ogre only shrugged and Shyllen nodded. “He deserves to know,” she said in a voice too low for any but Ander to hear.
Ander sighed, and with a sinking feeling in his stomach he turned back to face the king. “Your story is true,” he admitted. “Well, except for the magical parts. It was just a big mess really—I wanted to help the princess because I thought that she might make me a page or something if I did. So I told her about Priest Under and stood in as a witness and…Well, sir, it was a mess.” He felt his face go hot with shame and embarrassment. “A big, royal, princess-sized mess.”
King Juston nodded slowly. “Did you hear about the reward I offered for your head?” he asked, his rich voice still low and emotionless. “I think I still have a copy of it here…”
From a stack of official-looking parchments beside him, the king extracted a sheet of vellum and slid it across the table.
REWARD! The sheet declared, For the apprehension of one ANDER, wanted for high treason and conspiring against the realm: Thirty Thousand Gold Sovereigns for his CAPTURE or proof of his DEATH. There was a fair rendition of Ander’s face and a drawing of a gallows below it. Report ALL sightings to the ROYAL GUARD.
Ander cleared his throat, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Threaten the king with Dorlan’s retribution if anything should happen to a diplomatically protected ambassador? Fall on his knees and beg forgiveness? Jagsod, in his normal blunt way, solved the awkward silence for him.
“Well, you can’t arrest him now,” he growled. “The Denwolders just won a war, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind trouncing your soft soldiers. Not to mention the fact that before you touched him there would be three hundred pounds of ogre and eighty feet of dragon to deal with.”
“Arrest him?!?” King Juston exclaimed. “You are being hasty, my friends.” He grinned, “You have not yet heard the end of the story.”
“The king,” he continued, falling back into storyteller mode, “Did indeed send out his soldiers searching for this mysterious boy, and he did indeed put out a reward for his capture. But before he could enforce these measures, the princess and her husband disappeared as thoroughly as the boy had. The king searched everywhere, but to no avail. His daughter was gone.”
Ander felt sick. What had he set in motion?
“However,” Juston continued, “Three months later the king received a shocking letter from the southern land of Ippur. I think I have a copy of that too…” again he rummaged in the stack of papers and withdrew an official looking letter written on strange, dark paper. “I won’t make you read this,” he said, “But let me summarize. The letter is from the Sultan Jimaril, who congratulates me on the wedding of my daughter to his eldest son—a young man named Carlo Kiano Jimaril, who will be Sultan after him and who had apparently been traveling the world in search of adventure.”
Juston looked up at Ander and grinned. “Arrest you?” he exclaimed “Rather, I should be thanking you!”
Ander gaped, dumbfounded by this turn of events. “A prince…?” he asked dazedly. “Carlo was a prince? But that means that I…” he shook his head. “And here I had hoped that he’d make me his page.”
“Now you’re a prince too,” Shyllen pointed out. “If you met again, you would be equals.”
“But what about the priest?” Ander asked, turning to the one thing that the king hadn’t yet cleared up.
“Your Majesty?” a quavering voice accompanied the squeak of the Map Room door as it opened. Ander turned, and there—no longer sporting a mouse-eaten wig, and now decked out in the full regalia of a King’s Minister—stood the Priest Under, looking five years younger and five times stronger than when Ander had last seen him.
Under’s eyes met Ander’s and a smile spread across his papery face. “Well,” he said in satisfaction. “If it isn’t my little Novice, finally back from visiting his ailing aunt.”
Ander stood and pulled from his pocket the token that Under had given him in the alleyway that day months ago. “I was hoping I’d see you,” he told the old man. “I’ve had this thing in my pocket for I-don’t-know-how-long.” He pressed the gold cleric’s token into the priest’s hand. “Thank you.”
Under winked in Shyllen’s direction. “Well it seems everything’s worked out alright,” he said briskly. Then, as the other ministers entered the room and took their seats, he waved back at the table. “Now, let’s get down to business, shall we?”

Comments

Now...

tell us, at what point did you know she actually married a prince? Please tell us...

COOL! Is this the end? Please say not...

Julie | Fri, 05/21/2010

Formerly Kestrel

Nice...what a wonderful

Nice...what a wonderful surprise for Ander!! :0) And ditto to Kestrel's question! ;0)

Heather | Sun, 05/23/2010

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Wow, love this chapter

Wow, love this chapter LoriAnn! Now I'm scrambling to remember the begining of the story and all about the princess and Carlo and the priest and all that...

Kay J Fields | Mon, 05/24/2010

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

*Ahem* I do this thing

*Ahem* I do this thing alot...prolly none of you ever do...it's called "winging it". I found out about the princess as I started chapter 31. LOL--I had been scrambling to figure out how to tie things up (and it will probably change drastically in draft two) and this was the best thing I could think of right now. Kay--it's all in the first two-three chapters.

LoriAnn | Mon, 05/24/2010

WhoooHOOOO!!!!

That was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hhahah love this line "Not to mention the fact that before you touched him there would be three hundred pounds of ogre and eighty feet of dragon to deal with" 

Yeah everything worked out well!

Can't wait for the end!

 

Kassady | Tue, 05/25/2010

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

hahaHA

"Not to mention the fact that before you touched him there would be three hundred pounds of ogre and eighty feet of dragon to deal with" 

 

My favorite line as well. :D

Sarah | Tue, 05/25/2010

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

GOOD! Mine too!

GOOD! Mine too!

LoriAnn | Tue, 05/25/2010