Space Opera Books

 

Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 5

Chapter 5


“This is not good news, my son.” Samathon Cartwright said again. They were in the main room of the house. It was separated from the door and entrance hall by a stout oak door, for in winter having that kept the chill from the house when guests entered. This side was a room that was used as a common room for all. Comfortably furnished with chairs, and benches with wood backs that had embroidered cushions upon them. Clustered in front of one of the two fireplaces that kept the room snugly warm in the colder months. In the front of the hall was a window, and there were three interspersed on the west wall as well. The back of the room had an even greater invention, a door of glass with panel windows to each side that opened to the back gardens of the house.

Jac had repeated the tale three time for his parents. All that he had asked come to their home had finally arrived. Master Gearman being the last to join them. Jac’s sister Kathierin was a surprise, arriving just before the guildmaster.

“It is in the hands of the gods,” his Uncle said. He was an Under ArchPater of Krien. Most likely he would succeed ArchPater Larwellton, which Jac had learned from the Princess that day. Uncle Linc had not been at the palace earlier in the day, but he had learned of Jac’s appointment from his ArchPater. It seemed that two members of the family were destined to serve on the King’s Council.

That was, should Jac survive the duel.

“You must not draw your sword. Nobles can choose a defender, and that is why Pad and Lem serve you. They will take the blows…” Master Gearman said.

“I fight better than they do.” Jac said. It was true. He was a better student of the sword than any of his bodyguards.

“But do we want people to know that?” The master said, more aloud as a question, than as a decision.

Kathierin laughed, “What will it hurt if people know that Jacklincoln is trained in the sword? Even if he is better at it then many others? In the city everyday more train and learn to fight, if they can afford it. It was even so before the Creators became a guild, Master Mikonal. I do not think you should worry about it. I think that if anything, the noble’s sons, those that are such a bother to the rest of Firtoskin, and that is Prince Edmanstow and his friends, would do well to be taught a lesson.”

Under ArchPater Lincarjirt had been taking a drink of Samathon’s ale. It was a very good ale as he had money of his own, and largess from his children that allowed him to buy the best of such simple pleasures. Linc spluttered ale out of mouth and nose, choking a little when he heard his nieces statements. Kath though was always saying such progressive notions and it should not of shocked their uncle. He had years to have grown accustom to her statements. The priest reached for a towel to wipe himself clean.

Melissandier was next with an opinion. “There are some nice lords amongst the Prince’s party, but this Riclarpur isn’t one of them. He is one of the worst. I think Lord Riclarpur would rape me, were he able to get me alone. He may have raped some of the girls in the chorus for they are less protected then I.”

As a featured actor in her troupe, she would never be left alone unless she wished it. The girls who were of the chorus, and might only act in one play before they left for some other profession, would have little or no protection. Jac looked to Col, and then towards his own guards quickly. Col caught that. From then on their sister Mel would have her share of guardsmen shadowing her. The brothers were not going to allow their sister to be injured. They would be devastated.

Their father started up again, “This is not good news, my son.” Jac knew he was concerned. Samathon Cartwright thought his children all led lives that should be quieter. Recently he had been saying they should take the money they each had and go back to the foundry in Cawless. He wanted to turn it into just a small shop where they could tinker, and live in old uncle Milosk’s house, like they had before Jac had left to become a Creator.

There was a pounding from the gate in the courtyard. Their mother was closest to the window made of the new transparent glass. She looked out to the front courtyard.

“Oh my.” Vivan said. “First the Prince has an altercation with Jac and now it seems Princess Annaxier has come to our house.”

Vivan looked into the courtyard and repeated that it had filled with royal guards and the Princess. Their uncle rose from his seat, still wiping at the ale that stained his robes, and swore. Jac knew that Uncle Linc had met the Princess many times.

Only Master Gearman and Col knew that Jac tutored Annaxier. Jac had not told the rest of his family. When he had mentioned that he had become a councillor of the king that day, he did not say it was because of the work he did with the princess. He let them believe it was because he was the Creator GrandMaster. “Melissandier, please straighten your hair. Katherien, straighten your, oh no that won’t do. Just please do not say anything insulting. She is a princess.”

The house was such that a minor noble might have lived in it. Before Samathon and Vivan purchased it the house had been that of the king’s admiral. Upon his death, the son already had his own house, and sold this to the Cartwrights. The new admiral lived nearer the docks and his fleet.

There was a staff of fifteen in the house to serve Jac’s two parents and his youngest sister. Melissandier, could afford her own house, but her profession caused Samathon to place his principles before her freedom. She would remain at home until she married. Katherien, had her own house, but their father did not think that the oldest girl was in a profession that would lead to her getting into trouble.

The chief steward came in saying that the Princess had come. Right after him Sergeant Formilham entered. He looked around quickly and exited. “Ah, thank you, Jastenson…” Princess Annaxier said. Learning their steward’s name so quickly and thanking him showed her kindness.

Since he had last seen her, Princess Annaxier had changed again. He was still in the clothes he had worn to the ceremony at the palace. Annaxier now wore a dark houppelande. Her sleeves were so full that he feared were she to allow her arms to fall, they would drag across the floor. But except for white trim with some sort of gold design, the dress itself was black. There was a train and it was dragging across the floor, much as his sisters dresses did. The look on Kathierin’s face showed she studied every detail of how the Princess was dressed.

“Mistress Samathon, I hope you will forgive me for coming without our being introduced. But I have recently heard that my brother is causing dissension amongst my father’s ministers, especially our newest one. I thought to come and speak to GrandMaster Cartwright at once. With your permission, I would ask that I have a chance to do so?” His entire family and Master Gearman were somewhat shocked.

“Mother, I shall just escort the Princess to the garden so she and I may talk of the matters of court,” Jac said.

“Yes, dear, of course.” Vivan Cartwright said. Then she curtsied and motioned towards her daughters to do the same.

Jac hurriedly went to the Princess and took her by the arm and guided her from the room. In the hallway the princess’ guards and Jac’s were doing their best to ensure that all the servants stayed back. As the two appeared there was bowing and curtsying again as the entire staff honored Annaxier. “If your highness will come this way. My father is particularly proud of the gardens and spends most days there, tending his plants as any master gardener.”

Annaxier said, “I should be honored to see what his efforts have produced.”

They didn’t say anything else until they reached the garden and were quite alone. The guardsmen pacing themselves off to all sides. Annaxier said, “I am sorry, I did not forsee my brother doing this. He means well I am sure, but wants to establish his dominance over you, for the day when he will be king.”

“He will not be a very good king if he has to use dominance, threats and violence to gain my loyalty, or that of my colleagues in Creationism. We do not work well when motivated by threats or pressure,” Jac Said.

“Yes, I have seen that. I know that. My brother though lives in a world that threats and pressure are all there is. He thinks that Hornik will find its way through use of our military might,” she said.

“We talked of that a half moon ago. You and I know that we have the men, though we do not use them. That we may need to increase our soldiers to outnumber our neighbor’s warriors. But were we to fight one kingdom, the others would join with it, and we would be outnumbered. Fighting in defense, we must do. To take action against our neighbors would be a disaster.”

She nodded. They had spent near an entire round talking of that. Jac thought the kingdom would fall if their neighbors all decided it was time to take by force Hornik’s great wealth. But it was a real possibility.

“I went to my father, but he had already heard of this duel. He asked me if I thought you were any good with the sword. I know you train each day, and you have Sergeant Formilham wondering if you are good, but I did not know how to answer him. I believe he expects that you must fight Lord Riclarpur. My brother has used him to scar several others,” Annaxier said.

Jac nodded, “Master Mikonal told me that the Duke of Conlinton is rich, but his land is bereft of the peasants that it used to have. More money, and less people. He is conflicted in whether he is better off, or not. However, he has tried to find those peasants that have left his lands to make an example of some, even if he has no work for them.”

Annaxier nodded. She said, “He is not a nice man and of course is on the King’s Council. His son, I fear is worse. When father postponed looking for a marriage alliance for me with the princes of other kingdoms, I think Riclarpur thought he could wed me, for they are rich and Riclarpur connotes that with power. Not in levies though, since so many men have fled to the towns. The Conlinton levy will be smaller than it was a few years ago. Riclarpur probably thinks he can raise a great force. Most lords probably think that. Duke Holsatzin will have a full levy should he ever need it, and command of my father’s armies until Edmanstow comes of age.”

Jac nodded. They were talking of other things then the fight he would clearly have to engage in. “I should rather learn more of how the young lord fights, then talk of such grand things presently, highness. I fear that once the heralds arrive and they say I am baron, then the men the lord has called seconds shall arrive.”

Annaxier nodded, “Formilham, come here. The sergeant speaks this language of fighting. He shall tell you all you need. As for the heralds, they shall arrive. As a baron you will outrank Riclarpur, for though the son of a Duke, he is but the son of a true lord. You will be a true lord once the heralds have written your name in the book of arms this night. My brother sometimes does not know what he does, my father said. You might use that to your advantage.”

Formilham had arrived. “Aye, GrandMaster. I would call for broadswords alone, no shield, or daggar. The choice of weapons is yours. The lord does not do well with the balance in one hand of the blades and would use two to grasp it well. You, if you have trained with Fredardic should know how to best use such a weapon.” Jac nodded, for he did.

“He likes to start on the attack. I expect you know how to wait for an opening. Good. His actions suggest that if he can overpower an opponent he can win quickly. He uses this, and his rank to intimidate others. Many fear his father. An even bigger man and possibly more dangerous then the son. Though the father at least has fear of the king.”

That was enough for Jac to work with. “I understand. Do not worry about me. It would seem that the lordling will stop at scarring me, and will not wish to kill me. I may not be under such a compunction. Perhaps I should mention that. It might give him fear at the right time.”

Formilham grinned. With his beard, the way it was, it looked very wolfish. The Sergeant withdrew. Annaxier said, “I may not stay long, though I would take my leave of your mother, for it is considered mannerly to do so.”

“You are a princess. That is the manners of the commons,” Jac pointed out to the princess.

“Still, I shall do so,” She was as good as her word and his parents were overwhelmed at the friendship she had for their son. After Princess Annaxier left his sisters wasted no time and began teasing him about his friendship with the princess. They wanted details and were attempting to extort them when the Heralds arrived and asked that he record his arms with them.

Jac had the Heralds place the image of the Steam Twirler in the upper corner of a shield, a sword reversed in the lower corner, the kingdom’s griffon in the right upper corner, and then a cart on the last quarter. It would serve all to know that he was the Cartwright that had invented the Steam Twirler and did so in service to the kingdom. If he proved himself the next day, then the sword would be well shown. If he fell by it, that too would bear meaning.

He had his mother’s soup and then took a drought of heavy liquor that he would sleep, for it was hard to do so in anticipation of what would happen the next day. The seconds had arrived and Col and Master Gearman dealt with them. At sunrise he would face the duke’s son on the banks of the river. All too soon he would rise in the dark and see how well he could do to appease the prince’s notion of honor.

In the morning it was not long before he was standing in the cool fog near the bank of the river, Jac noted that the lords were late. “Cortormain, fetch some chairs. Henry, get us some mead to drink, out of good Makory pewter if you can manage that. Hurry lads, I should like to be all of a piece when the prince arrives, for he seems to be late. If one of you can find some ham for my breakfast, that would be good as well.”

They were near the Creatory, for Jac had chosen location and weapons, even time. Though it had been suggested by his opponent’s seconds. Jac also was smart enough to have his own healers near, as well as several others who would serve as witnesses. Two carriages, with nobles inside had drawn nigh, but no one showed themselves behind the windows. One he did not need to guess who was inside, as Sergeant Formilham was perched atop the carriage.

HJace had a knife out and was peeling an apple. Jac had an apprentice sharpening his blade. Master Fredardic sat with Jac’s brother Col discussing when Col would come to learn how to fight. Fredardic had nodded to three other Blademasters that had gathered to watch or officiate. A duel was a thing to be respected, Master Fredardic had said.

“Do not get carried away with trying to make an image. It will all come down to the blades, and your bladework,” he said then.

“No, Master, this is not the trials. This is a bully who, if you have taught me anything, should be taken down a notch or two. Even the Prince should be taught manners if this is something he has been indulging in,” Jac said.

“Do not think to use this duel to teach a prince manners. Even if so, you are still a commoner…” The blademaster stopped himself. “I am sorry Baron.”

“I may have been made a noble so I could be taught a lesson, but it would be better to be the instructor,” Jac said. Words that Fredardic had often said.

“Just do not get yourself killed. I am sure there are more Creations inside your skull, and to lose them would be a sad thing.” Master Gearman said. A third carriage arrived and pulled up to the other two. Sergeant Formilham seemed familiar with the other driver and guards.

“I think that is why we have so many spectators. I should like you to offer my chair to her highness when things start. Why not have her sit as witness where all can see,” Jac said.

“Nobles don’t do that, Jac,” Master Gearman rebutted.

“You go ahead and offer this to her. You tell her that all of societies mores need change. Master Fredardic, will you do this?”

“Aye, might as well. Should she sit here, she will have a better view. But here are all the lads and lasses, with the makings it looks like of a feast.”

The chairs had come, and all the journeymen and apprentices from not only Jac’s Creatory, but other nearby ones as well. Near sixty new arrivals on Jac’s side of the field. As the sun was now up, streaming over the river, Jac and his friends were soon seated and eating a hearty meal. Three of the apprentices even had instruments that they had fetched and were providing music, when the Prince and his handful of companions arrived.

“I see the new Baron has taken to his status quickly. Well I should not think he will be so happy once he has faced you, Riclarpur,” the Prince said loudly. He looked to the carriages, now five of them, and scowled. Sergeant Formilham seemed to smile larger at that moment. “Best you get on with it. There is a Council meeting this morning and I do not wish to be late.”

Jac let out an explosive laugh. “Well said little Prince man. Well said. These friends of the little Prince man are more than a round late. Have I not sat here and fought this duel already and they lost. Why the tale has gone back and forth through all of Firtoskin three times.”

“Do not try our patience. We are not late,” Riclarpur said.

“Unless you are as stupid as you are a fool for the dupe you are, then you are very late, and my boys and girls here have told all and sundry how you have fallen at our sunrise duel. If you look, you will see that the sun is well up. Who is there to dispute such a tale. Shit, I knew that the nobles were stupid, but this idiot, how did he ever grow tall enough to kiss a horse’s ass?” Jac’s being offensive was having the desired effect.

“Come, it is time for the two to duel,” Fredardic waved to the other Blademasters who came and took over. Fredardic gave Jac a look. Quietly he said to Jac, “Don’t push at the Prince’s pride. He will be a king.”

“No more discussion amongst the combatants. Please go to the field. No weapons but your sword, else we shall have to intervene as the terms were stated. We shall call begin and that is the signal to start. If we call halt, you must bring your sword up and withdraw from your opponent. You may not leave the marked field. You may not taunt each other again until we speak to start your duel. Now please, to the field,” one of Fredardic’s friends said.

Jac smiled widely and walked to the field, a sandwich of ham in one hand the other dragging the sword behind him leisurely. Fredardic surely did not like that. The Blademaster, though, went as he had been asked, to the carriage they thought conveyed the Princess. Jac stretched his neck and then took another bite of his sandwich.

He waited for the two Blademasters that were going to officiate to come and see that he was ready, and that his blade was proper. There were no tricks aside from trying to make Lord Riclarpur think that Jac was not whom the other thought he was. They could not taunt one another but Jac saw the man’s eyes widen and flow to where Fredardic was no doubt talking to the princess. That was behind Jac and he did not want to turn around. Surely, the fool lord recognized Fredardic.

Jac had gone to at least one day of the three day weapons trials each year since he had moved to Firtoskin. Sometimes all three days, but that took a lot of time away from the Creatory. “Are you ready, Baron?” Jac was asked. “I would suggest you finish your sandwich before we start. Else if you tell me you are ready, I shall withdraw to a vantage point and we will begin.”

“Do you not think I can take this blowhard with one hand holding a sandwich? You go ahead and call the start of the duel he insisted on fighting. I promise not to throw the sandwich at him when we begin, and I am not such a fool that I would fight with it in my hand.”

Jac at least told the judge that. Jac was not sure if he actually weren’t just such a fool that he might fight with the sandwich in his hand. The Blademaster then retreated to the sideline, and nodded to the other judge, “Begin.”

“You are a bastard, aren’t you?” Jac said loudly before anyone else could hear a word. “I mean they say you are the son of a Duke and all so I went to have a look at this father of your’s but you don’t look a thing like him do you? Do people tell you about that?”

Riclarpur let out a bellow and was charging Jac. Jac still held the sandwich in his off hand and his sword still had it’s point in the dirt. Riclarpur was still screaming as he used two hand to bring his sword up and swing towards where Jac’s head was atop his body. Jac was not moving. He had cocked his head left, and said “Bastard?” Then cocked his head right, “Bastard!”

Jac fell to one knee as the sword, with all it’s momentum in his opponents two hands was still aimed towards where his head had been when he stood. As he fell he leaned back, arching while his own sword whipped up and struck Riclarpur’s sword at an angle forcing it further up.

“Hmm, that worked well,” Jac said, his back now straight and getting to both feet. His sword recovering and in a circle and slashing across his opponents tunic before the man could recover, even as he tried to dodge out of the way and to the right for his charging momentum carried him that way. Jac was now standing and turning to face the man who had stumbled by him.

Riclarpur was not that ineffective, snapping his own blade to defend himself as he passed Jac. The two swords clanged as they hit each other and those observing were surely impressed. As the lordling recovered, and noted his cut tunic chest, Jac took another bite of his ham sandwich. He hoped it would upset the Duke’s son. That was not only important, but he thought it would help as the fight played out. Jac now had turned almost all around and was facing the other side where his friends, journeymen and apprentices sat or stood. Several guardsmen stood around a woman who sat in one chair that had been brought forward to watch. The princess. Now Jac was sure that nothing untoward would happen.

“I will kill you,” Riclarpur said looking at his cut clothes.

“Because I cut your pretties? Are you that vain. I could have cut your face. Now that would be a reason to kill me. But we fight to first blood.” Jac spoke loud enough so that all could hear him say such things. Riclarpur roared again and this time his blade came lower, towards Jac’s torso. Jac however blocked it with a defensive stroke, using very little motion.

Riclarpur continued to roar and brought his blade in arc to the other side of Jac’s torso. Again Jac was there blocking with very little motion. A third time, a fourth, a fifth, and each time it took little effort for Jac to block the attacks. Jac stepped forward one pace, and Riclarpur was put off his sixth stroke but came in lower at the ankles. Jac deflected the blow with the tip of his sword. Jac was too busy to take another bite of his sandwich and contemplated throwing the meat and bread from him so he could use both hands.

Riclarpur stopped his bestial growling and brought both hands to lift the sword, advancing himself. Jac deflected another attack and brought his blade close to the man’s left arm forcing the noble to shift his weight and force him out of his close attack stance. “You are somewhat well trained,” Riclarpur said.

“I have a Blademaster sitting at my table. I should think that would be an indication that I am somewhat well trained,” Jac said.

“But not well trained enough,” Riclarpur launched another attack. Again with ease Jac moved to the left and defended, four, five, seven times. Little movements against bigger ones. Jac just concentrated on using his blade to be where it needed to be to block, not to attack and allow any opening in his defense. Then one moment and Jac flicked his wrist more to the right and touched the man’s forearm with his very sharp blade. A little pressure and the cut must have drawn blood, yes Jac noted red spots on his own blade as well as on the tunic sleeve of Riclarpur.

“Touch!” Called one of the Blademasters observing. “Halt!” he shouted.

Jac immediately backed up away from the Duke’s son, but Riclarpur kept advancing. “Halt! Lord Conlinton! You must stop. Withdraw to your side, away from Lord Cartwright. Do it now!”

Riclarpur had stopped advancing towards Jac, and so Jac stopped withdrawing, but the noble did not withdraw. “Ric! To your side, now my lord!” That was the prince crying out.

As if the man’s head was on a cord and it had been yanked, Riclarpur looked to the prince with a fast twist of his head. What was exchanged between them was a sight that Jac could not see. He was sure that the look was not pleasant. Jac could see the face of the Prince, but he knew the boy was not pleased. Riclarpur shook his head, but moved back to his side of the field where one of the two Blademasters went to attend him. The other came to Jac.

“Do you wish to continue? There has been blood drawn and honor is served.”

“I did not provoke this fight. I do not serve at the brat’s pleasure. If Riclarpur would stop, so would I. If he wishes to continue, then let him come,” Jac said. It might not have been loud enough for Riclarpur to hear, but those behind Jac, for his people had rushed to be behind where he stood, shouted their defiance and support of Jac. Master Fredardic scowled, then shrugged.

“The boy is right. The lord is right. This will not end until the nobles have had their sport.” Fredardic said towards the Blademaster. They were friends, for once that level of skill was reached, it was best to be friends with the other Blademasters. An enemy amongst that group of professionals could make things ugly.

Jac shook out his limbs and then gave the remains of the sandwich he had carried to one of his apprentices to take back to the table. The Princess stood and looked to the Prince, Jac saw. She said something but Jac was too far away to hear.

The Prince held up his hands as if he had nothing to do with the fight. Jac watched as the other Blademaster, who had asked the same questions of the Duke’s son that Jac had been asked, went to meet with the Blademaster who had attended him. They conferred in the center of the field for a moment, then one turned and announced, “The combatants wish to continue…”

Before he said more, the Princess said quite clearly, “This is dishonourable, Riclarpur. I shall ensure that all the court will know of it.” Jac watched as the man turned his gaze to the Princess as if a challenge. Then, at that moment, Jac decided that lord Riclarpur would pay and never forget. In the rounds since this challenge had been made, Jac had found that the lord had hurt seven others. One victim had lost the sight in an eye, three others were scarred, and one could not open or close his left hand from the cuts to the man’s muscles. He was not a good man, even if he served at the pleasure of the Prince.

The Blademasters were asking if the combatants were ready and Jac nodded. “Begin!” Came the call and as Riclarpur came at him once more, a charging attack, Jac did fancy hand work. That is what he and the other students of Fredardic called it. Moving his wrist with the sword as an extension, it went in and out of intricate patterns.If one looked at the patterns, they could discern the skill and discipline that it took to move a blade so.

The patterns were not flailings around of the heavy blade, but tight and controlled. Even Riclarpur had to realize that Jac must be a very good swordsmen, or he was a fool. Jac deflected the man’s attack and broke the lord’s grip on the sword, sending it flying. Forcing the noble to walk to pick it up. “Don’t worry. I was not a noble born like you. I won’t stab you in the back while you can not defend yourself,” Jac ensured all watching heard him. Riclarpur had attacked one defenseless man he had dueled before in that very way.

Riclarpur picked his blade up and now stood on the defensive. The first smart thing he had done since the fight had begun. There were two ways to fight, Jac knew. When he fought in the studio of Master Fredardic, he never would speak, for that was a distraction. But here, baiting his opponent into errors was important. Blademaster Fredardic was frowning at the tactic, Jac was sure. But it was working. It was working very well.

“You are really quite an idiot, and not much of a man, aren’t you, Conlinton’s get? You think you are a lord and privileged, but you jump to wipe the prince’s ass even before he has to shit!” Jac said loud enough again so all heard. He was sorry he was so vulgar in front of Princess Annaxier, but it was important to live and not die. Jac was pretty sure this would take care of that. He did not want to end life crippled with out the use of his hand.

“You dog, you do not want to insult the Prince!” Riclarpur shouted.

“I would insult the king if he proved to be such a fool as his son, or the idiots that the son has follow him, licking his balls in the hope of gaining some royal favor. Do you and your fellows not know that royal favor is for those who have something to contribute that the kingdom needs? Not what the petty whims of a tyrant needs?”

Riclarpur faked an attack but Jac did not take the bait. He stood ready a few feet outside of the range of his opponent’s reach. “You should stop your speech else you will find your neck stretched by a rope…” Riclarpur began.

“I am a noble now, else you would not be able to fight me. I am ennobled by the very turd that you would embrace. My head needs be separated by an axe now!” That was an even better taunt. Direct and to the point.

“Or my sword!” Lord Riclarpur attacked Jac again, though after he had his little sentence. That was showing the move to Jac with ages to spare. Jac blocked the first part of the attack, for it was a combination, and complex. It ended with Jac slashing Riclarpur from forehead to cheek, at an angle scoring the Duke’s son. More pressure, which Jac had withheld, and the man’s eye would have been sliced through. In moments Riclarpur would have to close that eye as he would not be able to see from it with the blood now pouring from his forehead.

Riclarpur screamed and now slashed awkwardly but determinedly at Jac. “Stop, or I shall scar you worse. You will not like what I shall do to you as payback for what you have done to others,” Jac said.

Jac was dodging and batting at the blade that kept trying to score on him. Riclarpur just yelled louder, and so Jac went and did what was needed. A horizontal slash that cut way part of the ear on the other side of the man’s face. He was going to be disfigured. He still would not stop.

“You blinded a man. You ruined one’s hand. Stop, or the same will happen to you.” Jac had spent time trying to find if this man he fought had any value to the kingdom other then being the bully for the prince. As far as he and several others could find, that was all he would ever be good at it. That and inheriting all the riches his father had been accumulating, just as the Duke of Conlinton before had done, and the one before that. The Conlinton’s had last put on armor in defense of the kingdom close to a hundred years before.

They lived on the contributions of past Dukes. “Stop, Riclarpur, or be hurt beyond belief,” Jac warned one last time.

The man would not, and Jac said it louder. “Stop, or you will be crippled for life.”

Still Riclarpur growled and tried assaults that would have killed an unskilled swordsman. Jac defended, and after several ticks he then cut low at the calf muscle behind his enemies right leg. A clean slice and Riclarpur fell. A hamstring like that would not be fixed by the healers. Riclarpur would not lose the leg but he would need a cane to walk for life, for he would be lamed. Until the cut was bound, and had healed he would not walk at all. Jac walked back towards the side as the fallen man screamed curses, in between his screams from the pain he was having. The healers were rushing to the fallen lordling.

Jac walked to stand in front of the prince, “Your champion shall not trouble this realm again. You are a boy, and would be a king. You obviously do not understand what is happening to the kingdom that you stand to inherit. I do not either, so I won’t lecture you. But if you want a kingdom to rule when you have grown to a man, best you try to understand and become prepared to rule. Oh, and should you send someone against me again, I won’t hold back. Your little shit of a man, I could have killed in the first pass with the Cetemaron response. If you do not know what that is, ask the Blademasters.” Jac pulled up his sword and spun very quickly lifting the sword in a figure eight and around until it rested between his arm and torso, pointing backwards. “The Cetemaron response.”

Jac walked away to his own table and people where he handed his sword to one of the guards that it should be wiped clean of all the blood. Quietly, he said without looking back to the Prince, “Has the boy wiped the blood from his face yet, or is he staring in shock trying to think of what to do?” Jac smiled.

The Princess was not amused, “Taking down the Duke’s son was foolish enough, but taunting my brother was stupid. He will be king one day. He will have you killed.”

Jac said, “Oh, that reminds me, I am sorry for my swearing upon the field Princess. It was not the best use of my tongue, but the man needed to be goaded into more mistakes. He was very proud.”

“Do not change the subject. I can not protect you when my brother becomes king,” Annaxier said.

“If your brother wants my head when he becomes king, then he can try and take it. The kingdom has a great many ills, one of which are these idle nobles who do not want to solve the problems that the kingdom has, but are preying on those who can help all. That is why your brother needs to be, oh, spanked like a baby. If he does not see that he should be doing more, then even your father needs to be taken to task no matter how ill your mother is. His responsibility is to the kingdom also. With beasts such as lord Riclarpur, the kingdom is not safe. I wish my swordarm were better that I could help defend it from other such vultures that exist.” Jac did not raise his voice. He even tried to keep his response relatively quiet so few ohers would hear. But close to the princess, were such people as her guardsmen, as well as Jac’s. Master Gearman and Fredardic were also close at hand. Jac should have known to curb his tongue.

The Princess starred at him with wide eyes, then shaking her head turned and went back to her carriage, hurrying. Her guardsmen turning and quickly surrounding her. Sergeant Formilham stood for a second, “Don’t end up a fool,” the man said. Then he too followed his mistress.

“Come, you have blood on your tunic. Let us clean you up for you have a few rounds before you are to the palace for the King’s Council.” Master Gearman said.

“No, I shall wear the blood upon me. It shall be part of what the King should deal with. He can not punish me, for he has never punished the Duke’s son for his dueling. If he were to try, I think there would be a riot of all the workers in all the Makories. No, I do not fear that. I shall even curb my tongue if the King does justice about this duel. Though that I do not expect.”

The others tried to convince him to change his mind and his tunic, but he did not.

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    In this Chapter Jac’s who has been pushed into a duel, does not understand why. And is not told the reasons. He sees it in his own eyes. The nobles are exerting their authority by dueling to hurt those they feel should not have been rewarded in this new world that Jac has helped to create. Jac sees that the nobles are abusing their authority and privilege and at the center of those who are the most abusive is the crown prince.

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Chapter 5    Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8

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Chapter 5    Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8

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