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Sardi and Toron 4

By Geraldle

Copyright © 2002

THIRTY-TWO

The former New Empire war galley was sitting, the other galleys surrounding her. Sardi had decided after using a weather spell to check that it would be calm for the next twenty-four hours, to give the war galley rowers a night of rest.

After consulting with Tor, the two boys had decided to remove their disguises, since with the Orb active they couldn't approach Vale in the New Empire anyway. Dee was thinking moodily. He had an idea that he didn't like. Finally, he decided to go ahead, he would tell the Devant Island men what he planned, and see what they thought. He said the spell:

'As Tor and I be,

Let all on these ships hear and see.'

And he put his hand to his mouth and his eyes, and then he began to speak in a normal voice, knowing that everyone of the ships could see him and Tor. "Tor and I have been disguised for several weeks. We intended to try and rescue our Master Tomos, and we are somewhat conspicuous they way we normally look."

He said a spell to remove their disguises:

'Return us to what we be,

Remove the disguises that you see.'

And bringing his hand to his lips he simply blew across his palm to complete the spell, and suddenly for the first time in weeks they were blond haired and green-eyed again. However, while they still were the same size, they no longer looked quite as much like identical twins. Dee had matured mentally far more than Tor, in the time they had been looking for Tomos, and it showed on his face, it was thinner and more confident, and he simply looked older, while Tor's face still had the roundness of the little boy he was.

Dee continued to speak quietly, "I have a plan, and I wish to talk to the ship commanders about it, so would you please come on board. I didn't want to propose this plan with any falsehood between us, even if was to fool the New Empire and not you."

THIRTY-THREE

Dee looked at the commanders and their first mates. He began to speak, solemnly, "One hundred and twenty two years ago the last of your Royal Family died. Instead of choosing a new King, the Council of that time decided to rule your islands. At that time the Guardian Stone disappeared. I doubt if it was an accident. There was no way of knowing what a Council who no longer believed in the threat of the Orb and the New Empire would have done with it."

"The Orb weighs thousands of pounds. It is a misshapen mass of crystal. Once it might have been possible to move it. Today only the Chosen One can even touch it and live. If you had a one hundred foot pole and touched the Orb, it would still kill you. Whether it is malevolent and evil, I don't know, but all who have been able to use it have been evil, so I would say its basic nature is malignant.

"The Guardian Stone on the other hand, weighs less than a hundred pounds, and is a worked crystal. Since shaping a crystal heightens it's power, despite the fact that it is only a very tiny fraction of the size of the Orb, the power it contains is evenly matched with that of the Orb. However the Stone like the Orb sleeps when it had no Chosen One to activate it, and as long as you don't physically touch it, it's quite harmless. Unlike the Orb, since it a worked crystal it retains all the power it had stored up when the last King died."

"I say the Council no longer believed the Orb and the New Empire to be a threat. There is no other explanation for the fact, that they didn't choose a new King, since only a member of the Royal Family can activate the Guardian Stone. The Council has reduced your navy from the second most powerful on our world, to one that has only a few war galleys to match the one we're standing on. They've completely ignored the fact that the New Empire has one hundred and fifty to two hundred of these galleys."

"They've also completely ignored the fact that on this occasion the Islands will be the first target. The three other times that the New Empire has conquered the world, they left a free Island behind them and the Island on all three occasions, was the key factor in destroying their Empires. They won't allow that to happen again. If they are not committing treason on purpose, they are doing so by their inaction. The Guardian Stone disappeared when the Council first came to power. The Stone also had its guardians, and I imagine they wanted it hidden so the Council couldn't seize it and simply dump it in the sea somewhere."

Carrow sighed and he was echoed by most of the others. "We knew this, yet we did not want to believe. You are right, we will be the first target this time, and since we don't have the Guardian Stone, we will go down. Not easily, but we simply cannot match the manpower the New Empire can throw at us."

"You agree, then that the Council must go and a Royal Family reinstated? Or at least the Council must come back under the authority of the Royal Family?" asked Dee.

"That's impossible," said one of the other commanders, Vendel. "We all know the Scepter and the Coronet, were turned over to the Chief Temple of Salnow. No one but the Salnow's clergy may go there, and once it was put into Salnow's keeping, they cannot touch them, and without them a new King cannot be created."

Dee picked up a book from the table. It was a very small book and it hadn't been noticed by any of the men. He handed it to Carrow, who took it reverently. It was a copy of the Sacred Text of Salnow, and it was at least three thousand years old, since none of the Sacred Texts had been bound in that color for at least that length of time.

Dee said, softly, "While I could not speak your language, I could read it to some extent, and once my comprehension of the language became better I reread it. Carrow, if you would please read the last sentence. It's a very interesting sentence. And don't worry about handling the book, it has a preservation spell on it."

Carrow despite that statement opened the book cautiously to the last page. He read the sentence then read it out loud. "No man or women may visit the Chief Temple of Salnow, except for members of the clergy."

Dee picked up a second book. It also was a copy of the Sacred Texts but it was much younger, it's blue cover indicating that it was less than two thousand years old. "Please read the last sentence, Carrow"

Opening this book just as cautiously, he read it and he stiffened and he looked at Dee, who just nodded at him. "No one may visit the Chief Temple of Salnow, except for members of the Clergy."

Dee said, "Sometime since the first book was written and the second one was copied, someone decided that, 'No man or woman', meant 'No one'. It does not, it meant exactly what it said, and it was deliberately phrased that way so that children wouldn't be excluded from visiting the temple. I imagine so that young people who were interested might have the chance of visiting the Chief Temple whether they had any intention of becoming members of the Clergy or not. It deliberately excluded men and women because by the time they reach adulthood they generally have decided what they wish to do though of course that's not always the case. But the original writer of the Sacred Texts didn't want hordes of adults to disturb the tranquil life of the Temple."

"What if you're wrong," asked Carrow.

Dee said with absolute confidence. "I'm not, the writer of the red book is very precise. If someone is excluded or allowed to do something, he always says exactly who he means. I found more than twenty-five instances, a few examples. On the fourth page, he says 'men and boys' in the blue book, it says males. On the twenty-first page, he says 'girls and boys' the blue book says children. On the sixty-first page, he says 'boys' the blue book says children. However I've read about that particular ritual, while the book you use says children, only boys are ever allowed to participate."

"The books are yours Carrow. Since we could only read the books imperfectly Tomos and I weren't aware that they were Sacred Texts. If I were you I'd get it into the hands of your Chief Priest as fast as you can. If you let the wrong participants enter a ritual, Salnow wouldn't punish them, he'd punish the Priest who allowed it." Dee said.

Carrow looked at him, thoughtfully, nodding. "It would certainly explain some strange incidents that have occurred over the centuries."

Dee looked at the men with his large green eyes. "Unfortunately that means that only Tor and I can get the Scepter and Coronet."

"Why you?" asked one of the commanders suspiciously

Carrow answered from his knowledge, "Because only a mage can activate the Scepter and the Guardian Stone." he said.

"Unfortunately, you're right. Once awakened it doesn't require magical abilities to keep it awake, it automatically attunes to the King's children when they're born. Tor and I did a quick map spell, concentrating on the islands, and looking for any children who might be Journeyman level or higher. There were none. That means if you chose a child just to get the Scepter and Coronet he can, but if he has no magic he can't find the Guardian Stone, and you're going to be invaded and destroyed."

"I found out from Dwen, that the Guardian Stone is still on the main island, but it can't be found by normal magic. Only the King can find it using magic and the Scepter. These are your Islands, you and the people here must decide. You only have six hundred of your people here, but the Council changed the way you were ruled, and they only consisted of eleven people."

"You have until morning to decide. If you decide not to help us, then Tor and I will take a boat and using magic, we can reach the New Empire mainland in about six days. We will try to free Tomos." Dee and Tor's green eyes, so much alike were calm. They knew if they had to head for the New Empire the chance that they would even be able to land before being destroyed was so small as to be non-existent.

However, they knew only the high Adepts gathered together, could even begin to fight the Orb without the Guardian Stone, and if one had been kidnapped, then as many as possible, had been or were going to be kidnapped to render their power useless.

*****

Carrow had been chosen to act as spokesman for the Islanders. "It really wasn't that hard a decision, help you or be destroyed. The men on the galleys certainly trust you to do the right thing, far more than they trust the Council, so as you say the Council must go or become advisors to the King, which is the reason it was originally created."

THIRTY-FOUR

The ships got under way, but now they had a definite goal, to reestablish the Kingdom of the Devant Islands. The reached the entrance to the capital of the Devant, Dalwin Port, on the largest of the Devant Islands, Dalwin Island, at mid-afternoon on the second day. The war galley and the merchant galleys, prepared to enter the harbor, while a long boat was lowered and pulled away from the war galley, heading toward the small peninsula on which the Chief Temple of Salnow was located.

The long boat pulled up to the wharf and tied up, and prepared to wait while Carrow, Sardi and Toron disembarked, and behind them the galleys entered the narrow channel leading into the sheltered harbor, one by one. The guards, Sub-Priests of Salnow looked on with curiosity as Carrow and the two boys climbed the stairs, followed by Dikon, Pel and Tis. They recognized Carrow as one of their senior Priests, but when the Priest reached the top step and stepped onto the main level of the temple, they looked incredulously as the boys followed him.

The two sub-Priests moved to block the boys, and Carrow shook his head, "Leave them." He held up the red bound book. "This book gives a somewhat different interpretation to what we have always believed. I think this is one of the first copies. If it is correct and I believe it is, then the boys should be completely safe."

"We've seen some mighty unpleasant deaths, Carrow." said one of the sub-Priests unhappily, "Are you sure?"

"They were all adults though weren't they, Chen. No one has ever dared bring a child here, other than an acolyte, in more than two thousand years." Carrow said to them.

The nodded in agreement and reluctantly moved out of the way, and watched holding their breath as the Priest and the two boys approached the white marble inset into the regular rock that marked the actual boundary of the temple. When the two boys passed it with no sign of distress, they let out their breath in a woosh, of relief.

*****

Carrow threw the blue bound book onto the desk of the Chief Priest. "It's garbage, Tessen." He pointed to the small red bound volume he had placed carefully in the man's hand. "I read both of them and the blue book has more than a hundred differences, some of them very key differences. Those differences go a long way in explaining the anomalies that have occurred over the last two thousand years. Those Priests who died were performing an improper ritual though they didn't know it, and Salnow properly punished them rather than the worshiper's, because we didn't keep a proper eye on the original volumes."

"Yes." said Tessen, "You're right. Somewhere around two thousand years ago, all of the red volumes disappeared and the first of the blue volumes appeared. I don't think it was a coincidence. Someone deliberately set out to harm our religious institution, and I imagine it's only though the toleration of Salnow that it hasn't succeeded. He has punished extreme infractions, but ignored minor ones."

He passed his hand over the front of the red book, murmuring a low phrase, and lettering appeared. He looked at it, and his eyebrows shot up, and he said with reverence, "It isn't even a copy, Carrow. It's the First Book. The first Priest of Salnow wrote this himself from the words provided by Salnow. We must distribute it as soon as possible, but it'll take at least two or three months, just to prepare the number of copies that we need."

Dee spoke up for the first time, "I think I can help you, Sir. Not even an Adept could normally copy a Sacred Text, but since you are the Chief Priest, with your help, I should be able to do so."

The Chief Priest looked at the young boy for a moment and then nodded. "We are a small sect, with twelve temples on the Islands and three more small ones on the mainland. All told there are only seventy full Priests. Each full Priest carries a copy, plus each temple has two copies."

Dee moved around behind the desk, "Dikon, I think I'll need your help with this." Dikon leaped up onto the desk. Dee offered his hand to the Chief Priest, who took it, somewhat hesitantly. He seldom saw or conversed with children. "Please put your hand on the book, sir." Dee put his hand on Dikon's head, and said the spell:

'Copy and number this book,

One hundred times or more, green bound for all to look

Let all blue bound books disappear

And let all Priests know why far and near

They are being replaced by green

And why the new book is to be seen.'

He moved his hand from Dikon's head and reaching out he tapped the blue book that Carrow had thrown onto the desk. It was a six line spell, very rare, but when you were dealing with the Gods you either needed only a little power, or a great deal of it. The book on the desk turned green, and it was clearly numbered on the front, one hundred and one.

The spell was bad poetry, but it was a very powerful spell, it copied the book, numbered the copies, replaced all blue books wherever they were located, and told the Priests exactly why the books were being replaced.

Dee moved back around in front of the desk and picked up Dikon and began fondling his head. The Chief Priest looked at him with respect. "Some book collectors are going to be annoyed," said Dee cheerfully. "If they had one of the blue books, it's also been replaced with a green bound copy. That spell affected all the blue books in the world, even those you would normally think would be protected by the Orb. It was a spell that called on Salnow's power and not even the Orb can deny a God."

The Chief Priest looked up at that, startled, "The Orb is awake?"

"Yes," said Carrow, "Tennen, a bard who is with us, was in Vale, ten years ago, just before the new year and saw only the normal activities of a city. There were no hordes of small boys around. Dee asked Dwen and she confirmed that the Orb was awakened by a ten year old boy, eighteen years ago. Right now, they have war galleys snapping up Island ships. A preparation for an invasion, I would imagine."

Dee spoke then, "That's the main reason why Tor and I are here. In order to give the Islands any chance at all, the Guardian Stone must be found and awakened. The only way to do that is for someone to claim the throne, by taking the Scepter and the Coronet. The Council was very careful to put it under Salnow's safekeeping and they probably knew the phrase in the last line of the blue book which said 'No one may visit the Chief Temple of Salnow except for members of the Clergy'. Since no member of the Clergy is allowed to hold a public office in the Islands, including that of King, though that's not really a public office, except for one spot on the Council. That meant that no one, according to what the Council knew, could ever get the symbols of power again." Dee said with humor.

"Except we now know that the correct phrase is no man or woman, children may in fact visit this temple, freely. The only way to awaken the Guardian Stone is if I claim the Scepter and Coronet." Dee said, "It's not something I want to do, but there are no child mages except Tor and I in the Islands, and they are very rare in the eastern lands as a whole. Only in the west would they be common, and it could take months to get one here. I don't think you have months, I think a matter of weeks is more likely."

The hard blue eyes of the Chief Priest met the calm green eyes of the young boy, searching carefully. Then he nodded to himself. "No little one, I don't think you want the throne. I think you would run as hard as you could in the other direction, if possible, but your sense of duty won't let you. You know it could be very dangerous. Salnow can be a hard God. He may feel it's time for the Islands to spend a time under the boots of conquerors. If that is his decision you may die trying to take the Scepter and Coronet."

"We're willing to take that chance. It's necessary. If they conquer the Islands, they in effect conquer the world. Only the fact that they left the Islands free in the past ended their empires in previous eras." said Dee.

"You both intend to make the attempt?" asked Tessen.

Tor said firmly, "The King must have an heir. Your last King was irresponsible in not providing at least one heir. Once a mage King awakens the part of the Guardian Stone that was placed in the Scepter, his heir doesn't need any magical abilities to keep it active. The Scepter therefore stays awake, and allows him to control the Guardian Stone to protect the Islands."

THIRTY-FIVE

They were facing what looked like a curtain of green gauze, only the occasional sparks giving the lie to that notion. Tessen said, "No member of the Clergy may pass through this ward. We can touch it and to us, it feels solid, though we feel some warmth. What it will feel like to you, I don't know. Perhaps you won't even notice it, or perhaps it will kill you."

Dee just nodded. He wasn't particularly confident, there was sweat on his brow and under his arms, and he wasn't one hundred percent certain that he'd be able to control his bladder. He put his right hand on the curtain and pushed forward, and his hand entered, there was pain, but it was bearable as his left hand joined his right. He pushed forward, biting his lip as the pain increased in intensity. It began to level off and he sighed with his relief as the main part of his body began to pass through the curtain, and then the pain disappeared as the ward vanished completely.

He had to move quickly to retain his balance as the resistance was suddenly gone, and then he faced the next task. Salnow had allowed him access to the Scepter, which meant he would able to touch it, but in order to take it he would have to awaken the small crystal at its tip, which had been placed in the Scepter when the Guardian Stone was shaped. The Scepter was a slender rod about eighteen inches long, the base was a handle about an inch in diameter and six inches long, from which protruded a rod ten inches long and half an inch in diameter, the rod was attached to the base of a slender leaf shaped crystal, vaguely reminiscent of a spear blade, though there were no sharp edges.

Dee put his right hand on the base and his left hand on the crystal, and reached out with his magic, something he was accustomed to doing, because of his natural ability. A normal mage would have had much more trouble, in performing this necessary task. There was something almost like a click in his mind as the Scepter accepted him and the gemstone blazed with ruby red light.

He ordered it to its lowest intensity and when it was just glowing, he picked it up, and he turned to Tor who was waiting. The younger boy placed his hand on the crystal, and again the crystal blazed as Tor was accepted as heir, and then after about five seconds the light damped on its own.

He turned back and picked up the Coronet, looking at it askance, "What am I supposed to do with this?" he asked plaintively. "It's supposed to fit on the head, not around the neck."

Carrow and Tessen both chuckled quietly, and Carrow said soothingly, "Don't worry, little mage. This was the official Coronet, but only because the King was wearing it when he died. There are a dozen in the Council chamber at the Palace, of all sizes, I'm sure we can find one that will fit comfortably."

Dee looked at Tessen more seriously, "I will either change those sitting on the Council or dissolve it. Since one as young as myself will need a lot of advise, I imagine I will change those sitting on the Council. I know one member of the Clergy sits on the Council, the only public office that a member of the clergy may hold. Will you allow me to choose Carrow as that member."

"Yes, King Sardi, I will, and I thank you for honoring Salnow that way. The Priest of Dwen who presently sits on the Council is the only member who will be glad to give up his position. He is trustworthy, but we are in a period that may lead up to a war, so you need those who have knowledge of warfare, which a Priest of Salnow has, and a Priest of Dwen will very seldom have, unless he started in the army first and then became a Priest, which I know is not the case here."

"When the light blazed as you awakened the Scepter, the runner at the door, went to the Priest in charge of the signal fire, to have him light it. Your people are probably taking the Council right now, which should be very easy," Tessen said with disgust, "they only have a hundred men to protect the whole city and most of them are simply law enforcement guards. Certainly needed, but no way to defend a city."

THIRTY-SIX

Dee was sitting looking at the present Council members. They had found a Coronet that fit him, but while it was very light and he could barely feel it, it was still an uncomfortable burden. Tor was standing by his side and Tennen and Carrow were standing behind his chair, and there were guards stationed all around the room. Dee said quietly, "I am Sardinari, which is the long form of my name which I never use. I am more commonly referred to as Sardi, and to my friends I am Dee. I am your new King." and he lifted up the Scepter and allowed the light to blaze, before damping it.

"Despite my age, don't expect there to be a Regency period and right now the Council only exists because I wish it to. When you decided not to replace your last King, you exchanged one type of hereditary government for another, and you have served your people badly, ignoring the danger to the south that has struck three times in our recorded history. You have decimated your once mighty navy and become nothing but victims on the sea, and you have only one hundred men guarding a city, containing a quarter of a million people."

"The only one at the moment on this Council that I trust, is Santaro, a Priest of Dwen and the only non-hereditary member. You may possibly retain your seats on the Council if you swear the honor oath to Salnow, but even that would be doubtful, because you continued the unwise course that your fathers and grandfathers started, with not a care for your Islands safety."

Dee reached out his hand and Tor took it, "This is my younger brother Toronandri, like me he never uses that form of his name, he is more commonly known as Toron, and to his friends Tor, and he is my heir. Dikon, Pel, Tis we need your aid." and the three familiars jump up onto the table and sit on there haunches. While Pel and Tis could offer little aid at this time, from now on Dee intended to include them whenever possible. "The Eye, Tor."

With their free hands, they took hold of the Eyes of Dwen, putting their clasped hand on the table, and each of the cats put a paw on their hands. As they began to concentrate, much more quickly than before the figure of Dwen appeared. She looked with sadness at the boys as they opened their eyes to look at her. "I am sorry, my little mages, that your duty required you to do this."

"You're sorry for them." yelled one of the Council members his face red with anger. "They just became the King and heir to a Kingdom."

Dwen looked at him, and answered him scathingly, "A Kingdom which you and your forebears have raped. A Kingdom that could very soon fall to the swords of the New Empire, and unlike most of you, they intend to make no escape plans. They will stay here to die with the people who have become theirs."

Dee asked, "I need to know if any of them can be trusted?"

She shook her head sadly, looking at the Council, "None of them are trustworthy, except for my Priest, who you must replace with Carrow, since he has the combat experience that you need, and ironically the one who just yelled at me. He is the only honest one and he is the only one who hasn't made plans to try and escape the Islands with his family. They are his people as well, and he and his family are willing to die with them, if that is necessary. Is there anything else, young King Sardi."

"Yes. May we enter your temple to retrieve the Guardian Stone that your Priests have been looking after for the last hundred and some years?" Dee asked calmly.

She threw her head back and laughed a full-bodied laugh. Then she answered him throatily, "I did not suspect that we would be able to fool you for long, but you astonish me in how little time it took. How did you know?"

"The Scepter told me that it was close, and if that's the case the only place that it could stay hidden is in a temple. Since it's a globe in shape, I made the assumption that it was originally shaped to be put in one of your temples, before it was awakened in the distant past. Since that's the case, it would be hidden in the largest of your temples on the Islands, and that is right here in the capital."

She nodded to herself, then said, "Perhaps, Dee the Islands aren't in quite as bad a shape as I first thought. Good luck, little one, and you have my blessings."

THIRTY-SEVEN

Dee looked at the Council members who were shrinking back in their chairs, all but the red-faced man, who was sitting staring at him proudly. "Well you have heard Dwen's judgement. Only one of you can be trusted. Only one still regards himself as an Islander. However those I intend to punish are primarily your ancestors, so I must punish his as well." He looked at the red faced man. "Your name, Sir."

"I am Harden." said the man proudly.

"Very well, Harden. You will forfeit fifty percent of your estates, the others will forfeit ninety percent." Harden, who had been willing to lose much more, started to protest.

Dee looked at him and laughed, "Don't protest, until you see the type of taxes that you're going to be hit with. The Islands are now on a war footing."

He looked at the other Council members, "I imagine with ten percent of what you were worth, you're still quite wealthy. You may leave the Islands at any time, however to make sure you only take ten percent with you." He said a spell:

'I will look

At all the disloyal Councilors own in a black book.'

And he made a gesture of opening a book, and suddenly in his hands, he held a black book. He looked thoughtfully at the Priest of Dwen. "What job did you hold in the Council, Father Santaro?

"I served as head of finance, Your Majesty." the Priest smiled.

"I hate to get rid of trustworthy people. For the present the rule that only one Clergyman may serve on the Council is suspended. If we survive, we'll see what happens after that." He threw him the black book, who the Priest, a man in his early thirties caught easily.

"You heard the spell, so you know what the book contains. I imagine being the type of men they are, there are a lot of illegal activities included in that book. Those are confiscated completely, figure their ten percent based only on the legitimate businesses."

"And me?" asked Harden.

Dee looked at him, with green eyes dancing, laughter in his voice. "I know just what type of man you are, Harden. By making you figure out what you owe on your own, we'll probably end up with fifty-two or fifty-three percent." Then more soberly. "Don't short yourself too much, viable businesses in the long run provide a government with more revenue than taking it all at once. If we survive, we're going to need well run profitable businesses, so don't make it any more than fifty-one percent." Harden nodded thoughtfully, looking at the young boy who was now his King, with much more interest in his gray eyes. It was a perceptive comment, not usually something to be expected from one so young.

THIRTY-EIGHT

Early the next morning, they were at the temple of Dwen. People knew that something was going on but not exactly what, at the moment. The Guardian Stone had been hidden behind a false wall in the temple and was guarded by a ward. Unlike the Scepter ward in the Chief Temple of Salnow, it was an almost invisible curtain of energy, and even this close to it neither Dee nor Tor could feel any magic coming from it. He touched it with the tip of the Scepter and the ward went down, and the they could see the enormous ruby red gemstone globe.

Dee commented, "It's hard to believe that this stone and the Orb came from the same source, but according to what we know, they did. Once I awaken it, I will have the ability to use one enormous spell. Never again in this period of awakening, will I be able to do so again, except for the spell that will ward the Islands against the Orb. We have sailors though not enough, and we need the ships to go with them. I can create ships but the materials have to come from somewhere, and from what I've heard of the Islands, it's sparsely wooded. It'll take those trees and then it'll start to take wood from any source available, and people could suddenly find themselves sitting on the floor as their furniture disappears. Not to speak of what erosion would eventually do to the fertile areas of the Islands in the future. Any suggestions."

Tennen said thoughtfully, "I traveled this area extensively ten years ago, I wasn't welcome in the New Empire, but I had better luck in the other countries. One hundred leagues east of the Islands is the land of Tendale. They have enormous forests made up of a tree that they call ironwood, so hard is it. But the forests limit the amount of land that they can use for farming. Their loggers are lucky to cut down a couple of hundred trees in a year. If you can reach that far, they would be grateful for the additional farming land. The wood itself weighs about two thirds the weight of any other hardwood." [This isn't the ironwood tree of earth, but a completely different tree, which produces much harder, and at the same time lighter hardwood, than any other on Gendea.]

Dee nodded thoughtfully, and said a spell:

'Create a model of the New Empire war ship,

Make it one foot long, and in all others ways a duplicate of that ship ready to make a trip.'

And the gesture was his pointing at the harbor, and suddenly on the floor was a small model. Dee picked it up, "The trouble of course is that it has no sails." He grimaced. "I suppose that's fine if you have slaves to row it. But we don't have the slaves, nor would I use them if we had them. They'll be rowed by Island sailors, who can fight once an Island galley closes with a New Empire galley, that means we'll outnumber them at about two to one. Since that's the case we want a sail so that the men don't have to man the oars, all of the time."

"Carrow, we need a ship builder. One who can design sails, to put on this model. We'll transport the Guardian Stone to the Palace and put it in it's proper place." Dee said.

Carrow said, respect in his voice. "At once, Your Highness. We should be waiting for you by the time you get there." He turned and walked out, a man with a purpose.

Dee looked at the Chief Priest of Dwen. "Can you provide us with a wagon to transport it? We'll want to place it on a bed of straw and surround it with bales so that it doesn't roll around."

"As Carrow said, at once Your Highness." He gestured to one of his chief Priest. "Arrange it please, Bain." and the Priest nodded his head and also left with a purpose. "The wagon should be ready in about ten minutes, Sire. It's good to have a proper ruler again, Your Majesty. We've been longing for one ever since we saw how badly the Council was ruling us."

Dee started to protest, and the Priest just shook his head. "We know your reign has just started, but Dwen knowing that you would be coming to us sooner or later, has kept us informed about what you have been doing. You are decisive, compassionate but willing to take drastic action, and ruthless when necessary. Good qualities to start with, especially for a country headed for war."

THIRTY-NINE

The shipbuilder, Dinar, looked at the model reverently. He'd done some models himself, but never one so detailed. Dee said sardonically, "I hate to spoil your admiration of the craftsmanship, but it's not really a model. I used a magic spell to duplicate the war galley down to its smallest detail, one foot in size. I need you to design a mast and sail for it. This won't be rowed by slaves or prisoners, but by regular sailors or soldiers, and they need to have time to rest. I'm not willing to work them to death like most nations with galley slaves would do. If you need a larger model to work with, I can enlarge it with another spell."

"No, Your, Your Majesty," Dinar said, hesitant about the title. "This tells me almost everything I need to know, but I would like to see the full sized galley."

"Good, don't worry if you don't get it right on the first try, we have time. If you design it on paper, I can take it from that and your mind to get the intent and add it directly to the model. The fountain in front of the Palace would make an ideal place to test how it rides on the water, and I can provide a little wind with a spell. I'm still a kid and I'd love to sail a model." and Dinar grinned at that.

"I can tell you that it'll be an exact duplicate of the war galley in the harbor, except that it'll be made of Tendale ironwood, so it'll only be two-thirds the weight, keep that in mind when you look at the galley. It'll have the same number of oars, and since it's lighter, it'll be somewhat faster."

 

FORTY

This was the fourth model, the first three hadn't satisfied Dinar, but from the way this one was moving and riding the artificial waves this one was as good a mating as possible for a galley that hadn't been intended to have a sail. True to his word Dee was enjoying himself immensely wading in the fountain with Tor, he knew that there would be little time simply to be a boy ever again. They were both soaked to the skin, having ducked each other several times.

Dinar announced, "This is the one, Sire." and with a little sadness, he watched the solemnity reclaim Dee.

Dee sighed, "Once we get into dry clothes, it's time to awaken the Guardian Stone, and use the enormous power it has stored, to create a navy. Then we hope that the enormous surge of magic that it will cause will make the New Empire leadership hesitate for long enough to train it. They seem to be overly cautious. I would have attacked ten years ago."

*****

"This is the message that will be sent to all of the ports where a galley will appear. There's only room here for about thirty, but Carrow assures me that there are enough harbors for the rest of the ships."

To all Harbormasters:

I am your new King, Sardi, and my heir is Toron, when you read our names you will see a vision of us. We are mages and we have awakened the Guardian Stone.

In your harbor you will find war galleys, depending on the size of your harbor there may be as many as ten or as few as one.

You will man these galleys and train the men in their use. You will only need about twenty sailors, to handle navigation, and steering and the sail, and the rest will be both rowers and fighters, and when the enemy, which should be the New Empire, is contacted the rowers and the soldiers you have on board will fight them.

Since they use only slaves to row their galleys you should drastically outnumber their fighters, but do not underestimate them. They will be experienced, you will not.

The Orb is awake, but to counter that, the Guardian Stone is also awake. We may have months, but it is more likely to be weeks, before the New Empire decides to attack, so your training must be done quickly.

Sardi, Kind of the Devant Islands

 

Dee looked around at the room where the Guardian Stone was placed.

It was on the third floor of the Palace. Well actually, it was the third floor of the Palace, which wasn't the elaborate structure that would have been seen in the western kingdoms. It consisted of a roof and columns and the pillar on which the Guardian Stone rested.

He nodded to Tor and the younger boy placed the model on the floor. Taking a deep breath, Dee stepped forward and inserted the leaf shaped crystal into the slot in the Guardian Stone made for it. At the first touch the Stone began glowing, and when Dee pushed it all the way home, the ruby red light blazed, and he felt a solid thunk in his mind as the Stone accepted both Dee and Tor. The ruby red light could be seen for miles. Those who had the stories from their ancestors would know what the light was immediately, for others it might take a little time.

Dee began to say the spell that he had worked on. It was thirteen lines long and it would probably be one of the longest spells he ever created.

'Thirty square miles of Tendale ironwood

We will use what we should

For two hundred galleys which are good

Duplicate this model in full size

They will be our prize

Fit them where they will go in any Devant Island port

Where the harbormasters will sort

The rest will become board

For Tendale to hoard

And send this note

So the harbormasters will know what to do with this boat

And will see Tor and I

And know this message is no lie.'

Dee pointed at the model with his right hand and put his hand up moved it in a circle. The Guardian Stone blazed even brighter for a moment and then began to dim as it executed the spell. It probably took an hour before the spell was complete and the Stone released the Scepter. Dee stepped back and turning he went out to the walkway from where he could see the harbor and with a deep satisfaction he looked at the thirty-one brand new galleys floating at anchor.

*****

All across the Islands people gaped at the sudden appearance of galleys in their harbors. In one such a man named Darrow, was reading the note that had just appeared in his hand his son Tone looking at it over his shoulder. Darrow scowled, "What nonsense is this. Two children as the King and heir."

Tone walked to the door and stepping outside, he looked at the two galleys that had suddenly appeared at anchor in their harbor. He said loudly, "No nonsense father. We have a new King and he has used the Guardian Stone to provide us with ships for a navy."

The older man joined him in looking at the ships and his skepticism turned to enthusiasm. "Finally a way to fight the New Empire. We knew they were coming, but the Council ignored the danger. Apparently the new King, child or not, is fully aware of the peril we face."

TO BE CONTINUED

3/25/02 12:28 PM

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