The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Part III – The Alliance
The next day I awoke and began my usual routine. The lump on the side my head, while still prominent, didn’t throb like it had the previous evening. There was a little bruising around my eye on that side, but luckily not a lot.
After having a light breakfast with Nic, I kissed him goodbye as he left to start his day, then settled in to begin studying some ancient texts that had been delivered to me a few days before. Later I would access The Screen and attempt to cross reference some of the things I’d learn. It was a slow and tedious process, but since I wasn’t permitted to use the Battlecom for the next few days, it was the only other activity I had to keep me occupied.
It was a sunny day, and I was sitting on a soft stool by one of the large windows in our apartment. I was intently concentrating on my reading when suddenly I stopped, lifted my head, and began to listen for a sound I thought I’d heard. Sitting quietly for a few seconds, I was met with silence and so resumed my reading. A second time my head snapped up and I listened with greater concentration. Once more I thought I’d heard a noise. By now my senses were alert, and I sat quietly looking around the apartment. Finally the sound came a third time, and there was no doubt. I also realized the reason I’d almost missed it twice before was because it was so soft. It took me a few seconds to locate its source, but then I realized it was coming from the door of our living quarters.
I got up, walked across the room, and threw open the door. As the large wooden panel swung on its hinges, I was surprised to see Prince Andrew standing before me. The sudden opening of the door must have surprised him, because he quickly jumped to his feet from a stooped position. It appeared that he had been bending down to retrieve something from the floor. His surprise must have been complete, because in his haste, all of the material he was holding suddenly tumbled from his arms and onto the floor. Arising, he stood before me with a sheepish look on his face. At first we just looked at each other in silence, but after an awkward pause I spoke up.
“Your Highness, I’m sorry I didn’t answer the door sooner, but you rapped so lightly I thought I was hearing things.”
“I’m the one who should be sorry, Your Grace,” he said quietly, looking down at the ground and the jumble of papers and books at his feet. “I shouldn’t have disturbed you,” he continued, and knelt again in an attempt to retrieve his books and papers.
“Is there something I can do for you?” I asked, for he wasn’t the only one who was surprised at this turn of events.
“I stopped by to give you these.” As he spoke, he got down on his knees and began to pick up the papers and scrolls, which had scattered over the floor of the hallway. “I rapped at the door a few times,” he continued, “but when no one answered, I thought I would just leave them here for you in front of the door, with a note.”
“I was deep in study Your Highness, and at first I didn’t pick up on the fact that someone was trying to get my attention,” I said, smiling at the prince. “Most of the time it’s very quiet here during the day, and I don’t get interrupted. Everyone else is usually away, and the servants know not to come in. The only person I normally see is Sandro, who brings me something to eat and drink around the middle of the day.”
By now I was also on my knees, helping him pick up some of the books and papers that lay scattered about us.
“Then I must sincerely apologize, Your Grace.” As he spoke, a sad look crossed his face. “Had I known you didn’t wish to be disturbed,” he continued, “I would have just placed these in the care of your guards and left. I’m sorry to have interrupted your studies.”
“Oh no, Your Highness, you didn’t interrupt me.” I could see that Andrew was upset with himself for committing what he thought was a faux pas, and I wanted to allay his fears.
“It’s fine,” I said, “I was just trying to study some old parchments. It’s one of my daily exercises, and I was so lost in thought that I didn’t hear you when you first knocked on the door. Just because I said it’s quiet around here and I usually study, doesn’t mean that I don’t welcome a diversion. I’m glad you stopped by; please come in, Your Highness. Nic’s gone for the day – he and Lancelot are continuing to train the soldiers of the garrison. Charles is taking my place at a meeting. Philippe and Barsetba are practicing for their future concert. Cody is out with Luc and Jonathan on some type of adventure, so I’ve been here studying and by now I dare say I could use a break. So I’m very happy you came by.”
Giving me a small smile he reached for another scroll; after a few minutes, between us we’d retrieved all of the papers and books. Standing once more, we faced each other. I had a sheaf of papers, two scrolls, and a book in my hands, while Andrew had an even bigger stack in his arms.
“Uhm…” I said suddenly, looking around, “that’s strange.”
“What is it Your Grace?” Andrew asked.
“There should have been two rather large guards standing here,” I said. “I didn’t think about it at first, surprised as I was at discovering you at my door. I wonder where they’ve gone off to?”
“I saw no one when I entered the Amber Palace,” Andrew said. “I simply entered, came up the staircase, and walked to your apartment.”
Just then I heard, far down the hall, the sound of running feet. I turned to look down the long corridor. The sound grew louder, and finally two very large soldiers emerged from around the corner. Racing up the hallway towards us, they stopped when they came to the spot where Andrew and I stood.
“Our deepest apologies, Your Grace,” one of the men said, bowing deeply. “There was a problem in the kitchen.”
“What kind of problem?” I asked the sweating guard.
“Two men in a wagon pulled up to the back entrance of the palace near the kitchen,” one of the guards began. “They told Master Arnod that they had a delivery of fresh vegetables and fruit. The wagon bed was covered with a large canvas so Master Arnod couldn’t see what was under it. When he went down to the wagon and threw back the tarp, there were two other men hiding under it. One of the men hit Master Arnod and he was knocked unconscious. Then the four men, each holding a knife, rushed into the kitchen. One of Master Arnod’s assistants ran from the kitchen crying for help. He managed to get the attention of the two guards at the entrance of the palace, and then he ran up here and told us what was happening.”
“We rushed down to the kitchen,” the second guard said, interrupting the first man. “When we got there, we found the two guards from the palace entry had gotten there ahead of us, and engaged the men in a fight. Apparently these men were trying to infiltrate the palace. One of them had already been killed, but the three others fought like tigers. There was food scattered about, along with spilled pots of hot soup, and overturned tables throughout the kitchen. The kitchen servants were yelling and screaming; some of them were throwing ladles of boiling hot water on the men, but still they fought.”
“Finally we cornered them,” the first guard said, “but not until two more were killed. The third man was slightly injured, but he was taken to the gaol at the garrison, by the first set of guards. They told us they would sound the alarm and soon we would have reinforcements. Ason and I kept watch until they arrived.”
I stood in shocked silence at the men’s story. I quickly recovered and then, talking rapidly, addressed both men.
“Thank you for your bravery,” I said, “but were any of you injured? Are any of the kitchen staff hurt? And how is Master Arnod?”
“No, Your Grace,” Ason replied. “Three of them were killed, and the fourth injured, but no serious harm came to us or any of the kitchen staff. Master Arnod regained consciousness a few minutes after the attack was over, but the healer who attended him made him go to his quarters and rest. He’s been instructed not to work for the next few days.”
“But he’s fine?” I asked.
“Yes, Your Grace,” Ason said, “although I fear for his staff; as he was leaving he was shouting orders to them, and when he got to his room I’m told that he ordered Jarro, his first assistant, to attend him. I’m sure even though he’s not allowed to work he’ll be sending orders to the kitchen through Jarro and by the blood of Sarjanus, if they don’t get it right, Arnod will skin them alive and boil them in one of the soup caldrons.”
“Now it begins,” I said, looking at Andrew. “Nic was convinced that it was only a matter of time until hostile actions were taken against us. Not everyone living in Konassas is happy to see us. Nic told me that he thought Gude and his forces might attempt something against us. But, maybe it isn’t even Gude. It could just be some of the church’s devout and faithful taking matters into their own hands or even some scared citizens, afraid of what evil we might have planned against them.”
“The man was taken to the goal,” Ason said, “You can be sure he will be questioned. The guards are now tripled, Your Grace. There are men at all the entrances of the palace; you are all out of danger now.”
“Very well,” I said, not that convinced that we were as safe as he alleged. As I pondered his words I knew in my heart that with a just a little more planning, it might just have easily been assassins at my door as Prince Andrew – the distraction of the guards to the commotion in the kitchen had been complete.
I turned to Andrew, about to say something, when a thought came to me. Looking back at one of the guards I addressed him.
“Ason, I believe Cody and the boys are out in the city. Can someone locate them and bring them back here? And King Niklas should be informed immediately.”
“It has already been taken care of Your Grace,” Ason replied. “We knew you were in your apartment alone, and the two musicians were down in the grand salon, practicing. After the attack, we sent for all the others. It is best for everyone to be back in the Amber Palace; it makes our work easier.”
Just then Philippe and Barsetba turned the corner, flanked by two more guards. “Orrus told us there was an attack in the kitchen!” Philippe blurted out as soon as he was in front of me.
“Yes, that’s correct,” and I proceeded to tell him what had occurred. “It’s best if you and Barsetba plan on practicing in your apartments until you hear otherwise,” I said. “We need to sort all of this out.”
Nodding their heads in agreement, the two boys hurried to Philippe’s apartment. After closing the door, the two guards who’d accompanied them spoke quietly to Ason and his partner, and then left.
With a little coaxing, I managed to get Andrew – who looked rather pale and upset – into the apartment. For the first time ever, he wasn’t wearing his military uniform. Instead, he wore a green linen tunic that fell to about an inch above his knees.
“I can’t believe this,” he said, and I could see his eyes wide with disbelief and anger. “Right here in the capital of Kalas, they tried to break in and kill you!”
“I can’t say I’m used to it, Your Highness,” I replied with a sad smile on my face, “but this isn’t the first time we’ve encountered hatred, and even violence. I’ll never get used to it, but sadly it doesn’t surprise or shock me anymore.”
Andrew continued to stare blankly at me, and I could see that he was upset. To break his somber mood I tried to change the subject.
“So what have you brought me, Your Highness?” I said with a smile. “All of these books and papers look rather important.”
Shaken from his thoughts, Andrew looked at me. Then, as if suddenly recalling the reason for his visit, he began to speak.
“Here, I’ll let you take a look, Your Grace.” And with that, he was down on the floor on his knees, spreading out the material he had been carrying in his arms. “I wanted to show all of this to you, Your Grace.”
“Andrew?” I said as I looked down at him.
“Yes, Your Grace?” he said, looking up at me in anticipation.
“If we keep up this ‘Your Highness’ and ‘Your Grace’ protocol any longer, it’s going to make me crazy. My name is Jamie and I want you to call me that, at least in private, as long you will allow me the same courtesy.”
Andrew, who had tilted his head up at me as I was speaking, broke into a slight smile.
“I’d like that Your Grac… Jamie.”
“Great, Andrew. Thanks.” I said. “You know, for the longest time before we arrived in Konassas, Nic and I lived as best as we could by our wits, and then we came here and all the pomp and formality that have come to surround us sometimes chokes me to death.”
“It does get a bit annoying, doesn’t it? That’s one thing I enjoy about being with Uncle Marcus. When I’m in Tahkor at court, the formality starts to get a bit thick, and I consider myself luckier than most of the royals in the other kingdoms because my father isn’t one for long, drawn out ceremonies. But still, it can be a little oppressive.”
I looked at the prince and smiled. His last speech was the most that he had ever spoken to me at one time. And although I was almost tempted to enter his mind, I resisted the urge. Still, I could see a kind, intelligent, and sensitive boy kneeling before me. But I quickly reminded myself that Andrew had come here for a reason, and I was eager to find out what it was.
“So Andrew, what have you brought me?” I said as I flopped down on the floor beside him and started sorting through the collection of papers, scrolls, and books that surrounded us.
“After talking to Uncle Marcus, I found out that you were interested in studying ancient texts, so I brought some with me.”
“Uhm…” I whispered as my eyes scanned the material that Andrew was carefully spreading out before me. “Where did you get all of this?”
“The Academy of the Holy Office in Tahkor.”
“Well, you’re going to have to explain that a little more for me, Andrew,” I said.
“Oh yes, sorry,” he said as if suddenly realizing my lack of expertise in Xannameirian history. “You see Jamie, every kingdom has a school that’s attached to the Arch Abbey in the capitol.”
“You mean that every capitol has a monastery?”
“Yes. Actually, there are many monasteries in each realm; most are located outside of the towns and cities of each kingdom. Those that are located near major cities or areas of high population are quite large, with many monks attached to them; others, near the smaller towns or villages, look more like churches than abbeys and aren’t very big at all, but each capitol has a very large and grand arch abbey. They are headed by Arch Abbots, who also sit on the Apostolic Council at the Sacred Diet, in Wheems.
“Every arch abbey has a school attached to it. These schools are part educational academy and part seminary,” Andrew continued. “When a young boy is sent to become a novice in any of the monasteries, he’s carefully observed by his novice master and later his prefect, spiritual director, and abbot. If he shows promise, he’s chosen for further studies. Select candidates from each kingdom are then sent to the academy attached to the arch abbey in that kingdom’s capitol city. They’re given extensive courses in liturgy, theology, homiletics, church history, scripture, ecclesiastical and civil law, and scriptural exegesis. The graduates from these schools eventually become the leaders within the Holy Office.”
Andrew’s story had definitely caught my interest. Although I’d been attempting a study of the history of the Holy Office, the account I was now hearing from someone more intimately familiar with the present day functions of this mysterious religious network fascinated me. By now I’d totally forgotten the manuscripts Andrew had brought, and was captivated by his explanation.
“In addition to the training of the young monks who are chosen to attend the academies in each arch abbey, the children of the royal family and those of the nobility of each kingdom are also required to attend,” Andrew said.
“You mean that all the children of the ruling class also attend this seminary?” I asked.
“Well, not exactly. We don’t attend the seminary because we’re not going to become monks, although it’s true that some royalty throughout history have become monks, and eventually very powerful abbots and arch abbots. No Jamie, we are trained in the academic part of the academy. We study some of the same things the monks study but to a lesser extent. In addition, we are taught to read and write and we learn other languages, along with history, law, and the structure and function of the government.”
“So every ruler or person of power or authority at some point in their life passes through this Academy of The Holy Office?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Well, I’m not finished Jamie,” Andrew said, with a note of excitement entering his voice. “Because I’m just getting to the part about these manuscripts.”
“Oh sorry, please continue,” I said, eager to learn more.
“Each academy has a library. These books aren’t original – they’re copies. The originals reside at Eagle’s Eyre and are quite rare and valuable.”
“You mean Abbot Gude’s abbey?”
“Yes,” Andrew said, “the monks at Eagle’s Eyre work in the scriptorium and copy the ancient texts. Because of the great library at the abbey, the Sacred Diet made Eagles Eyre its center for research and scholarship. The abbot appointed to the Eyre is always noted for both his strict orthodoxy and great scholarship – it’s considered one of the most prestigious posts an abbot can secure. Only the office of the Sacred Father and the archabbots who sit on the Holy Council have greater rank.”
“Wait,” I interrupted, “I thought Abbot Gude was the head of the church. I’ve been studying about Sarjanism and the Sacred Diet located in Wheems, but I always assumed that Gude was the head of the church.”
“No Jamie, he is very powerful and has great influence – more influence then he should, according to father and Uncle Marcus – but he sits on the apostolic council not the Sacred Diet, and he’s certainly not the Sacred Father.”
“The Sacred Father is the head of the Diet and the church,” Andrew said. “He governs the church, along with the Holy Council which is made up of nine other Arch Abbots.”
“And Gude isn’t one of them?”
“No, although one day he might be. In fact if he manages to destroy all of you, his chances are quite…”
Andrew paused, and once more blushed when he realized what he was saying.
“Oh, I’m sorry… I… well… I was just repeating what father…”
“It’s all right Andrew,” I said, interrupting the now highly embarrassed prince. “We’ve lived this long with being hated and feared by stupid and illogical men. I can’t say we’re used to it, but at least Nic, Charles, and I understand the political and religious climate enough to realize no one is going to hand us the keys to Küronas and wish us well. Anyway, you were telling me how you came into possession of these books and scrolls.”
“Yes. Of course,” Andrew said recovering some of his poise. “As I was saying, the books are copied and the copies are distributed to the academies, and it’s from these copies that the students – both nobles and monks – are permitted to study.”
“So these all came from one of the academies?” I asked, gesturing to the manuscripts on the floor in front of me.
“Yes. They actually came from the academy at Tahkor, the one that I attended as a child.”
“So you just went in and took them?”
“No. It’s forbidden to remove any of the texts; all study must be done in the school,” Andrew said.
“So how did you get them?” I asked.
“About three years ago, I became more and more interested in the mysteries of the ancient history of our ancestors – those who built The City of Light and also my own city of Tahkor. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by all the stories that my nurse told me when I was little. I never seemed to get enough of them, and begged her to tell them to me over and over again. Also, the idea of fierce and evil winged creatures someday rising from hell seemed like a fantastic and terrible prophecy, and it intrigued me.”
I could see Andrew intently looking at my wings as his tone became more and more animated. Suddenly he realized what he was saying, and to whom he was saying it. Once more his face registered embarrassment.
“Oh… I’m sorry… ah…err…. I didn’t mean…” he stammered as his face became even redder.
“Of course you didn’t,” I said quietly, in a tone I hoped he would take as calm and reassuring. “I realize getting used to winged boys isn’t easy. I should know,” I added, chuckling, “I had to get used to myself. So no offense taken; now please, do continue.”
“Thanks for understanding, Jamie. I feel like such a fool.”
“You’re certainly no fool Andrew. The materials you’ve just presented to me and your tale thus far shows me that whatever you are, you’re no fool. Now please go on, I’m dying to know the rest of your story.”
“Well, as I told you, I became fascinated with the builders of The City of Light and their history. We were never really told much about them. The only thing that we were ever taught was that they made grave mistakes, used their knowledge to create an abomination, and through their errors, caused much suffering.
“I always felt that there had to be more to it than that, and I often wondered why we were never allowed to learn any more, so I began to search the academy library.
“Every day after our studies, when the other students were allowed to go outside and play some games, I would remain in the library. I always made the excuse that I was working on my studies and in fact, I was the top student at the academy while I was there, so my explanation seemed logical to my teachers and the librarian. I think that the Arch Abbot thought that I might eventually become a monk, and he was eager to get a member of the king’s family – especially the son of the king – to join the Holy Office.
“After weeks of combing through the large collection of books, manuscripts, and papers in the academy library, I came across a small area in one of the old manuscript vaults that was in disarray. It was in one of the farthest alcoves of the library and rather inconvenient to reach. It was also an area with very little light, so it was easy to see how this spot had become virtually abandoned over many hundreds of years. The alcove was so dark that I often had to pick up a book or manuscript and take it back into a brighter part of the library just to be able make out what it was. After about a week of secretly searching, I began to find… these.”
As he spoke he gestured to the materials scattered on the floor around us.
“At first I thought they were just old manuscripts that weren’t awfully important, but the more I studied them, the more I realized they contained information about the City of Light and some of its leaders. It took me almost a year to retrieve it all, because my ability to stay behind while the others played, in addition to searching and pretending to study while I tried to keep my actions hidden from the librarian, was limited by time and the normal surveillance that occurs in any place where the Holy Office conducts business. I also knew that if the librarian caught me, he’d confiscate the material and most likely would have had me punished.
“Throughout the course of the year, I carefully continued to remove the material from the library. I would hide a scroll in my cloak, or stuff some papers in my tunic. It took time, but eventually I took out everything that I’d initially discovered. I knew that if I succeeded, no one would ever notice them missing, since they were so old and obscure. I guessed that they probably had never been catalogued, unlike most of the other books and manuscripts.
“I’ve been trying to study them for the last two years, but I have to admit, much of what they say is obtuse, at least for me, since it assumes historical knowledge that I don’t posses. And on top of that, a bit of it seems to be written in another language.”
“Let me look,” I said as I picked up a paper.
For a few minutes I studied it intently; as I did, I could feel my eyebrows rise on my forehead. I put the manuscript down and picked up a scroll; again, I had the same reaction. Among the papers were a few books. I picked up a blue and gold bound volume. The words were faded and I got up and walked over to the window to take advantage of the light streaming into the room. As Andrew earlier mentioned this book was written in a language other then the one I had come know as the present day standard language of the land. I stood there carefully studying the book in silence for a few minutes, realizing I could easily read the text. Suddenly I slammed the book shut with my hands and looked intently at Andrew.
“Andrew, do you have any idea what you’ve just brought me?”
By now Andrew was on his feet, standing opposite me.
“No, Your Grace… sorry I forgot… Jamie.”
I paused for a second, suddenly realizing that he had called me ‘Your Grace’ as a reaction to my demeanor, which had completely changed from the boy he had been just talking to as he sat next to me on the floor, to the Wizard and head of state I was. I took a deep breath and tried to ratchet my excitement down a few degrees. I carefully set the book on the nearest table and walked over to Andrew. Putting my hands on his shoulders, I looked up into his face and smiled.
“Well Andrew, I’m going to tell you, but first I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
With that I reached up and kissed him on the cheek. Andrew’s face got redder than the sash Nic sometimes wore with his everyday tunic. Andrew jumped a bit and took a step back. I released my hands from his shoulders and looked at him very intently.
“Prince Andrew of Xannameir, you have given me a great treasure, and I want to share that treasure with you, if you desire.”
Andrew, his face now a little less red, nodded his head.
“Sit down, and let me explain.”
For the next hour I talked with Andrew, who for the most part remained silent except for an occasional nod, or a slight gasp after I would reveal some fact or tidbit of information. When I was finished, I added one final question.
“Would you like to learn more, Your Highness?” I said for emphasis as I smiled at him, with what I am sure must have looked like a twinkle in my eye.
“Yes, of course Jamie, it’s always been my dream to learn more about the City of Light, and the ones you call The Enlightened Ones.”
“Ok Andrew, but I have a few requests to make. First, tell no one what’s happened here today. Do not discuss our meeting or the fact that you have these texts. Do you understand?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Second, come here every day at this same time. Make sure no one sees you and make sure you tell no one about our meetings.”
“But I usually have some work to do for Uncle Marcus.”
“Ok, well I’ll say something to General Zakaria tonight, but as far as he’s concerned you’re helping me learn about the history of your world. That’s the story we tell him, and only him… understand?”
“Ok. I suggest you leave now, but tell no one you’ve been here and return tomorrow.”
“What about the texts?” Andrew said.
“I’ll make sure they’re hidden,” I replied, “You can trust me. They’ll be safe with me.”
“I do trust you, and I’m glad I brought them to you.”
“So am I, Andrew.”
With that, I accompanied the prince across the grand salon. Reaching the door, I opened it for him. As soon as he stepped out into the hallway, David dashed by; he was wearing his battle armor and appeared sweaty and overheated.
“Why are you all sweaty?” I called out as he dashed by.
“I finished my practice session on the Battlecom,” he said, stopping and walking back to us. “But one of the officers wanted to try some hand to hand combat, so we came back to the parade ground. We were finishing when someone from the garrison rushed up to us and told us about the attack here at the Amber Palace, so instead of going all the way back to the city, I thought it best to come to the palace as soon as possible. Apparently all the excitement is over, so I guess I’ll just stay here and use my own bath.”
“Ok,” I said. “But you’re right, things around here are calm for the moment – tense of course, but calm. Since you’re here, I might as well introduce you to Prince Andrew,” I said.
“Yes, I remember you from the Grand Council,” David said, breaking into a smile. “Ah, your father, he’s a king, right?”
“He’s the king of Xannameir,” I said sharply, “and Prince Andrew is his son.”
“Yes, right,” David said, and held out his hand. “Ah, it’s great to know you,” he added, smiling even wider.
“Yes, it’s a pleasure,” Andrew said, shaking David’s hand.
I couldn’t help notice Andrew intently staring at David, and as they shook hands it seemed to me that as it went on, their handshake turned more into holding hands, but I said nothing and we both said goodbye as the still sweating David turned to leave us and quickly strode away to his room.
After saying goodbye to David, Andrew once more said goodbye to me, and soon he was walking away down the hall. I watched him as he walked away from me, but just before he turned the corner, I quietly called out to him.
“Yes, Jamie?” He turned around and gave me an inquiring look.
“How old are you?”
“I just turned eighteen last month,” he said. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you’re a lot smarter than any human I’ve met who’s your age.”
His face grew deep red as he blushed. “Thank you,” he said.
“No, thank you, Andrew,” I said, smiling at him.
He returned my smile with a warm and sweet one of his own. “You’re very welcome.”
“See you tomorrow?”
“Yes, Jamie, I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that, Andrew disappeared around the corner and was gone.
I shut the door and almost flew across the room. I quickly began to look through more and more of the papers that Andrew had given me.
Moments after Andrew left, Nic came rushing into the apartment. Like David, he too was hot and sweaty.
I was about to speak, when he held up his hand.
“I know all about it,” he said breathlessly as soon as he closed the door behind him. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”
“I know it’s something you’ve warned all of us against for some time,” I said as I watched him cross the room and slump into one of the armless chairs against the wall. “But we both know that there’s never been a time when we were out of danger. We may live here in comfort, and it may seem like the citizens of this city accept us, but there’s bound to be hatred and fear in some quarters toward us.”
“Yes, of course Jamie, I realize that,” he said as the sweat rolled from his face, “but it’s still shocking to encounter it. And right here in the palace. Well, the guards are doubled and redoubled, but I’ll be glad when we begin the expedition to Küronas.”
“So will I,” I agreed, “but for now we’re going to have to be careful.”
“Exactly,” Nic said suddenly standing up and facing me. “From now on we must be very careful making any excursions out of the palace. I want everyone to be accompanied for every trip. And I want the number of trips limited – only those that are important will be allowed. We’ll have to restrict everyone to the palace and forum.”
“I agree Nic; we can’t take any foolish chances.”
Glad that I readily agreed with him and didn’t put up a fight, Nic retired to the bath to wash the dirt and sweat of his training off of his body. That evening everyone got together after dinner in the salon. We discussed what had happened, and Nic proclaimed the new rules he and I had agreed to.
The guards were increased and life seemed to get back to normal. Master Arnod hadn’t been injured badly and within a few days he was back in his kitchen, barking orders and creating delicious food for us to enjoy.
In the days following the attack, Andrew visited me every afternoon, and we diligently studied the ancient texts. The better I came to know him, the more I came to realize that I had a powerful ally in this remarkable boy. I also found that he didn’t realize how special he was, but as the days progressed, I became more and more impressed.
After two weeks of study, I asked Andrew to join Nic and me in our private salon for dinner. At the same time, I’d also informed Nic that there were some things that I needed to discuss with him. Earlier in the day, under increased security, I had gone to watch Nic spar on the Battlecom. Brotus was there, and after examining my head, told me to wait a few more days before resuming my training with him. After Nic finished his practice session, instead of using the baths in the training building, he decided to go back to the Amber palace and bathe in our private bath. We rode back to the palace and our quarters in companionable silence.
Once inside our apartment, Nic undressed and went off to bathe. A few minutes later he emerged wrapped in a towel, and crossed to the bedchamber. While Nic was in our bedroom getting dressed, I heard a quiet rap at the door. I opened it to find Andrew standing in the doorway. I thanked him for coming, and ushered him into the room.
I led him to our private salon and sitting room, where Nic was already relaxing. Andrew’s eyes widened as soon as he got a glimpse at my handsome mate, wearing just a short tunic; his bare feet propped up on one of the chairs in the room. Nic rose when Andrew walked into the room and reintroduced himself.
“It’s a pleasure to have a chance to meet with you, Your Majesty,” Andrew said as he extended his hand to the King of Icaria.
Nic and Andrew exchanged pleasantries and conduced the kind of initial conversation that usually occurs when people meet and begin to become acquainted. Just as we were about to sit, there was a knock on the door and Sandro entered our apartment with two other servants from the kitchen, bearing our evening meal. In our private dining room, we sat and enjoyed a pleasant repast.
During our meal – just as I’d asked Andrew to call me ‘Jamie’ when he first came to me visit me weeks before – after a few ‘Your Highnesses’ directed to my mate, Nic asked him to please relax and call him Nic. Andrew smiled and readily agreed. Our conversation during dinner was animated. I asked Andrew a bit about his assignment with his uncle the general, and Nic discussed the governmental structure of Xannameir with him. After our meal was concluded, we moved back to our private salon.
Once more Nic stretched out on a chair without arms that allowed him to sit without interfering with his wings, and propped his feet up on a nearby stool. The short, almost see-through tunic started a few inches above his knee, and I was sure Nic’s posture left nothing to Andrew’s imagination, although if it bothered him, he remained silent.
“Nic, I want to tell you about why I asked Andrew to join us tonight,” I began as soon as we were all seated.
“Of course Jamie, I was wondering about the reason for this meeting – pleasant though the company may be – but knowing you, I was sure we’d eventually get around to it,” he said.
As we sat there, I began to tell Nic about my initial meeting with Andrew, only a few days before. Andrew joined in from time to time, and also answered questions that Nic directed at him. When we were though with our story, Nic stared at us in disbelief for a few seconds, then he spoke.
“And the manuscripts are here?”
“Yes Nic, I knew you’d ask about them,” I said as I got up and fairly danced with anticipation over to the fireplace that took up a large part of the wall in the private sitting room.
When I got there, I placed my hand on the mantle and lifted it open, revealing a secret hiding place I had accidentally discovered a few days after we had first moved into the apartment. I reached in and withdrew some of the material.
Nic got up and walked over to me. Spreading the randomly chosen manuscript on the table in front of him, he bent over and began to study it. Then he looked up and smiled.
“Thank you, Andrew, for your courage and your wisdom.”
“No thanks are in order,” he said, “I only did what I thought might be helpful to you.”
“Maybe so Andrew, but I’ll tell you again that you had the wisdom to keep this quiet and come directly to us, and for that you have my thanks and gratitude.” Then he turned to me. “I suppose you and Andrew will continue your studies?”
“Yes love, that’s the plan.”
“Good. I only ask that you keep me informed. Will you bring Charles in on this?”
“Perhaps, in time. I want to know a little more about what we’ve got before I do, though. And,” I grinned mischievously, “I want to savor knowing something that he doesn’t.” Nic laughed and nodded in agreement.
By now, Nic was standing directly in front of me. He took me to his chest as he wrapped his strong arms around me. His mostly-naked body felt warm and comforting. I looked into his eyes and he kissed me. The kiss dissolved into a gentle but deeper kiss.
Then Nic ended the kiss, broke our embrace and looked at both the Prince of Xannameir and myself.
“You both did quite well,” he said with a smile.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Andrew said, once again reverting to formality, which I suspected grew out of the shock of the sensual scene he had just witnessed.
“I’m glad you’re pleased Nic,” I added.
We walked Andrew to the door and said good night. As he turned to leave, I looked closely at him, and it appeared to me that he had become a bit excited with the display of affection he had witnessed. I giggled to myself, but tried to remain nonchalant. Andrew left, and Nic and I retired to our bedchamber.