"Your Grace, I regret to inform you that the constant provocation of lawless elements from your duchy have forced my lord, His Majesty, the Emperor of Barundia, to declare war upon you." The popinjay ambassador from the power-mad tyrant bows as he speaks. "Do you wish to respond?"
"I would like a week's time to arrange my abdication," I answer. "If I can manage affairs with my subordinates, my people will not suffer."
"We know your coffers are full. Should they be plundered ere the week is done, no place shall hide you from our lord's wrath."
"Leave. I have a bare week to prepare. Note well, that should you cross my borders a single day early, my army shall fight and we will burn every field and granary, salt every field, poison every well, and allow our folk time to flee to the Kingdom of Marondika. Your lord will gain naught but a barren hellscape should he arrive early."
I sit and watch the ambassador leave, then motion my marshal forward. "Gather all the armsmen, retainers, and even the first levy. Gather them here in case of treachery. Allow their spouses and children to come as well, that they may all depart together."
I wave my hand and the bailiff dismisses the remainder of my court. I have a plan, but it will require the aid of my wizard, Garven.
"You're certain this will work?" I ask Garven.
"Yes, Duke Rondil." He motions to the hidden entrance. "None can find the caverns once the spell seals them and all within will remain timeless for the duration. To those inside, but an instant shall pass."
"Good. It can hold the number needed, along with all the gear and treasures?"
I leave him and go out to the gardens. I stop beside the statue of my late wife. "I may never see you after this. That barbarian will certainly destroy you in a fit of pique. But I must do this."
I am certain time shall prove fleeting.
The days have fled. Levies, many with young wives and small children, arrive in fits and starts, only to disappear into the depths of the castle. Rumors fly, but none speak openly. My senior retainers, lords all, fret with worry.
"Sire, are you ill?" Dyimes, my senior squire. Like all royal guards, he is a knight in his prime. A bachelor of twenty-seven. When we emerge, I must arrange a suitable bride for him.
"No Dyimes, but my decision weighs on me."
"I shall follow you into exile willingly." Ever loyal, he sees it as the only option.
"Walk with me." We traverse the hall of ancestors, a line of paintings which I cannot remove until the closing moments. Dyimes would trail me, but I motion him to my side. We reach a side corridor and I follow it to the empty solar, where my wife once held her lady's court.
"I've never been in this part of the castle before."
"Hardly surprising. It has grown over twelve generations." I give him a wry smile. "Once it was a modest chalet, but now it sprawls with offices and rooms until I can scarce credit none have torn it down to start anew."
"How do you intend to fare abroad?"
"I intend to go into an enchanted slumber."
"For how long?"
"Twenty years. Enough for the mad emperor to grow old and the people to tire of his rule."
"The disappearing levies." He blinks. "And the arms. You intend to rebel when you return."
"Exactly. I took the first levy, the men sixteen to twenty-five, to give me a double count of those men when I return." I start walking, worried that a spy might follow and overhear. "Coupled with the nobles and their retainers, we shall have more force than today, and they shall be led by either his son, who is a halfwit, or a tired old man."
"All this depends on your wizard. What if he fails to wake you at an appropriate point?"
"Then we shall wait for eternity I suppose."
Dyimes's words fill me with misgivings, yet I decide to enjoy this last day to the extent possible. I wander from hall to hall, room to room. I walk into the stables, where stablehands lead reluctant chargers- rounceys, coursers, and destriers away. Tack goes with the steeds or is already in the caverns. A youth pulls on Foecrusher's reins, hapless before the truculence of the massive beast. I wonder where Sir Acehilm, his rider, might be. Then I am past the stables and into the kitchens, where the harried cook makes a final meal even as supplies are taken down into the depths by those who will go with us into an uncertain future.
Maudlin sentiment overcomes me. I strip my household of provender and servants, my land of youth and arms, my treasury of coins and bullion, all to prevent the usurper of Barundia claiming them. Had only his brother lived, we might have a reasonable man over there and I would still enjoy my wife's embrace. My steps take uncertain turnings.
Then, the ambassador steps in front of me. I have no clue how he entered my court at this time. I suppose someone must have left a door open, or some such. Garven worked an enchantment to stay men's tongues. Once he seals us in, he intends to cloud memories. I shall be a lord from a magical tale, destined to return in my people's time of need. But only if none can tell my enemies where to find me.
"Ambassador," Dyimes says. "You have returned early. Are our agreements nullified?"
"This castle seems much reduced." Another of the fop's bows. "Perhaps your duke forgot that Emperor Frentowex warned him to not loot the treasury on pain of death."
"Perhaps I intended to spare you the fate you so richly deserve for aiding him," I say. "Do you believe me unaware that you escorted the assassin who murdered my wife bare weeks before the birth of my first child?"
Dyimes, instantly alert, steps past the ambassador to drop the man's bodyguard with a dagger to the belly. I have the ambassador by the throat with one hand while the other grips his wrist. "I and mine shall return one day to your liege's dismay. But you shall tread the paths of death ere sunset."
Dyimes plunges his dagger into the ambassador's back.
"Leave the bodies." I lead Dyimes to the secret entrance, where Garven awaits. "Is everything ready?"
"Including having a team of jongleurs to spread the mystery of the disappearing duke and his household."
Knowing the bitter chill which shall encase us, I step into the depths to chase my revenge.
author's note- This one may be a little rough. I posted just as I finished.
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I love this one! The concept is great, and the setting is god, too. I love that the jongleurs are going to tell stories about the disappearing duke and that there's an element of legend incorporated into the spell to give him credence. A question, though- You write the duke like he's a king. Is the duke a king in his own right, and the difference is merely in ego and title? I admit "disappearing duke" has a much nicer ring to it than "missing king". A few things to fix: "Your Grace, I regret to inform you that the constant provocation of...
You have done some really good catches for me. Thanks.
Hi Charles, another great story by you! I found no mistakes, and of course, I doubt that my level has even reached yours ;) I've come here to ask you to read my story. (I've heard that you've been called the "Critique King") I'd really love feedback from people like you, as you always make people strive to improve! Keep on writing, and looking forward to reading more stories like this from you! ;)
Rough draft? I wish my drafts could be so rough! I love reading dialog to get the setting and story, and you captured medieval style dialog well. I particularly love the “stasis” in a fantasy setting. I think most stories on this prompt are probably been more sci-fi. I could be wrong though. I look forward to reading more. Cheers.
Hi Charles, I really enjoyed your story, and liked that despite "stasis" evoking a futuristic technology (or may just be me) you chose to set your story in a fantasy world of magic. As far as suggestions, I did feel the below passage could be reworked. On first reading I thought the last speech was Dyimes's words. So maybe something along the lines, "my own reply gave me..." or "my replied failed to convince me or Dyimes, yet..." Just a thought. _______ "All this depends on your wizard. What if he fails to wake you at an appropria...
As always, I loved this one! I should learn the show and tell from your story! I am not getting it. Anyways, this is an wonderful story. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story And give some feedback?
I didn't see anything rough in here. It was a pleasure to read, even if I have to use a dictionary on occasion with your stories 😅 (which means that one can learn both technique and vocabulary from you). Please consider writing a sequel. I think there's even more potential in a future "revenge" piece. Awesome work!
I never INTEND to use big words, but they creep in anyway. Misspent youth reading too much with the memory I inherited from my dad...
Oh, I'm sure. They wouldn't fit so well, if it didn't come naturally to you. Good memory is not a bad thing to inherit 😉
Another amazing story! Love your writing and the plot is great. Entertaining to read, I was hooked until the end! Great work!:)
Hi, Charles~! This was a great story! I liked the way it was written, and your grammar is perfect. The only small alterations you'd need to make are the ones Regina commented :) I'd like to see what you think about my stories! Please choose any one and comment feedback on it. Thank you so much!
As usual amazing and rich, you are a senior whom I admire the most,😊
I really enjoyed this one and i'll give it a 10/10 :)
Nice! I was thinking of doing this prompt for the contest, but I didn't, so it's interesting to see how other people took this prompt. The dialogue fits the story perfectly, since the characters are so formal. Amazing! :)
I love this genre! Will there be more? hint, hint.......
We can see...
I always love a good pun title. This one’s a lot less corny than the ones I come up with 😂 I just love how pragmatic and “optimal” everyone is in this story; the wizard arranging an excuse for the dead ambassador, the narrator intending to return as a fabled hero, and of course the Big Bad sends spies to foil the plans. I get that this is a rough draft but I’m not sure if I have the authority to critique the critique king himself 😂 A suggestion, though: maybe you can slip in the line “Revenge is a dish best served cold” somewhere in t...
I always appreciate advice on stories. Especially ones which aren't quite right. Naturally, all the subordinates are at least moderately competent- dukes and kings can be choosy, and positions like court wizard (in a land of true magic) and spy/ambassador are important enough (but not prestigious) that political pull has less effect. Before the modern era, being accused of working as a spy was considered an insult.
Could you write any more beautifully?(-from Chandler) P.S.- https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/dhananjay-sharma/ drop by read my stories. Ok toodles.