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Peter Kenson, Author

Latest Release

Written By: peter

Heirs at War

 

 

Heirs At War: The Marmoros Trilogy Book 2 was successfully released as a Kindle e-book on Nov. 25th 2015.

It is now available to order at
Amazon.com/Heirs at War
Amazon.co.uk/Heirs at War

 

 

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Chapter 1

Jeren stood at the top of the palace steps looking out at the early morning drizzle. The thin rain glistened on the streets and houses of his beloved city but today he felt no joy at the sight. Angrily he waved away the slaves who were holding a canopy above his head to keep him dry, preferring instead to feel the wetness on his cheeks in the hope that it would hide his tears.

At the foot of the steps, the royal coach waited patiently; the three Ystradian ambassadors standing beside it, huddled together under a canopy held aloft by four slaves. Beyond the coach, the full strength of Lord David’s mercenary company was drawn up in parade order to honour the departure of Queen Rachel. His own redcloaks, now formally established as his personal guard, lined the steps leading down to the coach and stood proudly to attention awaiting the queen.

The palace courtyard had been completely repaved, concealing the massive crater caused by the destruction of the Belsian tank but the ruined doorway behind him, still bore testament to the savagery of the attack on Rachel’s life. That the attack had failed was due in no small measure to the man standing beside him; Lord David Held, the commander of the mercenary company and military advisor to the throne. It had been Lord David who had caused the destruction of the Belsian attack force by calling down a blast of magical power from out of an empty sky.

Outside the walls surrounding the courtyard, a small crowd of citizens waited quietly for the spectacle to begin. The spirit of the crowd was subdued, partly because of the weather but mostly because of the widespread knowledge of their king’s unhappiness at Rachel’s leaving. They knew, of course, that she was a queen in her own right and that she was going to seek out and try to save her own people but many still felt a sense of bewilderment at the speed of events, coming only two days after the coronation of King Jeren.

Inside the palace, in the vast entrance hall, the rest of the guests of honour were congregating. Every member of the council was there, along with the city officials and the ladies of the court led by Lady Falaise, Queen Mother now rather than Queen Regent. Also there were the Benyahim family with whom Rachel had travelled on the long journey to Marmoros; Josep, Agnes, Zak and Beth. All were gathered together to say farewell to the queen of the Ystrad.

***

The object of all this attention was, at that precise moment, tip-toeing down a side passage leading to the entrance hall, hoping fervently not to be noticed. Reaching the end, she pressed her back against the wall and peered cautiously round the corner. Fortunately the group nearest her all had their backs towards the passage with the exception of Izzy whose face lit up when he saw her. Quickly she put her finger to her lips and beckoned him over.

“G’morning Rachel,” he began happily. “I mean, your Majesty.”

“Sssh,” she whispered, drawing him back down the corridor. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.”

“Okay,” he frowned. “But why?”

“Izzy, I want you to find Lady Falaise and ask her quietly if I could talk with her for a moment. Don’t let anybody else hear you. It’s very important that nobody else knows where I am. Do you understand?”

“Oh! It’s a secret. That’s all right then,” he said, his face brightening again as he trotted off.

When he returned a few minutes later with Falaise in tow, they found Rachel looking out from the doorway of one of the empty reception rooms. Rachel took both of Falaise’s hands in hers and pulled her into the room.

“Izzy, please wait outside and don’t let anyone else in,” she said, closing the door firmly.

“Rachel, my dear. What is it?”

“I’m sorry, Falaise. I didn’t know who else to turn to.” She hesitated for a second. “I’m late.”

“Well you shouldn’t worry about that, my dear. You’re the queen. Everybody will wait for you.”

“No…no, you don’t understand,” she stammered, the colour rising in her cheeks. “I’m… late.”

“Oh!” Falaise stopped for a moment as the impact of the words sank in and then held out her arms to fold Rachel into an embrace. “My poor child. Jeren? Yes, of course it was Jeren. Does he know?”

She shook her head against Falaise’s shoulder. “You’re the first person I’ve told.”

“But you’re sure?”

“I…I think so. It’s been over two weeks now and the last two mornings I’ve been sick as soon as I got up.”

“Oh, my dear. I don’t know whether to congratulate you or feel sorry for you. This is going to cause some complications.”

“I know Falaise and I’m sorry for that. It’s going to make leaving Jeren even harder but I still have to go. My people need their queen.”

“Well we’ll talk about that later but the first thing is to cancel today. You won’t be leaving this morning.”

Falaise walked to the door and flung it open to find Izzy standing there chatting to Baltur. “Baltur! The very person. Both of you inside now.” She ushered them in and shut the door behind them.

“Right, now I have some errands for you two. Izzy, I want you to find Marta and ask her if she would come to my chambers and then find Lord Held and invite him as well.

“Baltur, I want you to go and tell the ambassadors and the guests that Queen Rachel is indisposed and will not be leaving today.”

Baltur looked swiftly at Rachel. “Are you not feeling well, your Majesty?”

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Falaise scolded. “Indisposed does not mean feeling ill. She is just not leaving today. That is all.”

“I beg pardon, my lady. But what shall I tell the king?”

“When you see my son you may tell him that, if he knows what’s good for him, he will stay out of my sight for the rest of the morning. We will send for him when we are ready.”

“You will send for the king? I mean, yes my lady. As you command.”

“And when you see Captain Jorgen, ask him to post two of his redcloaks outside the door to my quarters with orders not to let anybody in except Marta and Lord Held. We do not wish to be disturbed.”

“Yes, my lady.”

***

Marta was the first to arrive and knock quietly at the door. Falaise let her in and looked quickly up and down the corridor but there was nobody else in view.

“You sent for me, Falaise?” Marta said as she entered. “Oh I’m sorry, your Majesty. I didn’t realise you were here.”

“That’s all right, Marta. You weren’t meant to,” Rachel replied. “And please call me Rachel.”

“I should be honoured to.” She frowned as she looked closely at the young queen. “You look different today. There is an air about you; a glow almost. I think congratulations may be in order.”

Rachel coloured furiously. “Oh lord. Is it that obvious?” She sat down in one of the alcoves and hung her head.

Marta exchanged a look with Falaise as she walked across the room to sit beside Rachel and put an arm round her shoulder.

“No, you don’t need to worry about that yet,” she said. “It’s only because I have helped with so many births. But it’s not the sort of thing you can keep secret for ever.”

Further conversation was interrupted by another knock on the door. Falaise opened it a crack to find David standing there with two redcloaks.

“Come in, Lord Held.” She opened the door just wide enough for David to slip through. “And you two, nobody else comes through this door until I say so; not even the king.”

The guards’ reply was lost as the door was firmly shut again. David raised his eyebrows in surprise as he looked around the room and bowed in the direction of Rachel and Marta.

“What’s wrong, Falaise? What’s going on here?”

“David, we have a problem. A small problem.”

That brought a smile to Rachel’s lips as she stood up and walked towards them.

“No Falaise. That’s very sweet of you but you do not have a problem. I am the one who has the small problem, my lord.”

“David, please.”

“David then. I’m pregnant,” Rachel said simply.

“Oh! I see.” He paused for a moment. “That is presumably why Marta is here then. How long?”

“I’m just over two weeks late.”

“Okay. Rachel, please forgive the bluntness of my next question but I know that the Ystrad are a long-lived race and that your children and babies develop over a correspondingly longer time span. How long is a normal pregnancy for your people?”

Falaise and Marta looked at each other in shock as Rachel burst into tears.

“David, how could you?” Falaise exclaimed.

“No,” Rachel sobbed. “He’s quite right to ask but the answer is I don’t know.”

Both women put their arms around her but Rachel pushed them away. “No, it’s all right.” She straightened up and looked directly at David.

“I’m sorry, David but I really don’t know. Until I met the ambassadors a few weeks ago, the only one of my people I had ever known was old Jubal. I used to call him grandfather but he was actually an old family retainer who helped me escape from the palace all those years ago. He taught me many things about my people and about life on Ystrad but I don’t ever recall having a conversation with him about pregnancy.”

“Don’t worry, Rachel,” David smiled. “We can put that to one side for now. But before I offer you congratulations, I’m afraid my next question is going to be equally blunt. What do you want to do about the baby?”

Falaise and Marta glared at him as Rachel stammered. “W…what do you mean?”

“Don’t glare at me like that, please ladies. The question has to be asked. I’m sorry, Rachel, but at this early stage, you have the option of terminating the pregnancy. I’m not saying that’s what you should do but it would certainly smooth away most of the political complications.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that,” Rachel said. “And I’m not going to think of it now. There’s no way I’m going to give up this baby. If I have to leave here, then I will at least take a part of Jeren with me.”

“I’m not sure that Jeren will be too happy about that. Have you spoken to him?”

Rachel shook her head. “He doesn’t know.”

“Well he’ll have to be told. As will the ambassadors. I’m not looking forward to that conversation. In the meantime, please accept my congratulations. I’m very happy for you and I will do everything I can to help with the political situation.”

“Thank you, David.”

“If you don’t need me for anything else, Falaise, then I’ll be on my way,” Marta said. “Rachel here is young and healthy. I can see no complications of that sort at the moment and I would prefer not to get involved in the politics.”

Rachel gave her a hug. “Thank you, Marta.”

“Yes thank you, Marta,” Falaise echoed. “And if that is my son I can hear shouting angrily outside the door, you may tell him to come in now.”

The noise level increased dramatically as Marta opened the door. Jeren was arguing furiously with the redcloaks who were standing impassively, looking straight ahead but with their spears crossed in front of the doorway. Behind Jeren, the Ystradian ambassadors were nervously watching the altercation.

“Right, let me pass,” Marta ordered. “And Lady Falaise says that you may let the king through but nobody else.

“Now, your Excellencies. Her majesty is well but she is occupied at present with matters of state. She asks that you return to your quarters until she is ready to see you. Baltur, would you please escort the ambassadors to their chambers. Izzy, go and find Jaks and remind him that he is supposed to be looking after their Excellencies, or he’ll answer to me.”

Saying that, Marta shooed the group away from the door as Jeren slipped inside. He looked around at the occupants of the room, noting the frown on his mother’s face and the tear stains on Rachel’s.

He ran to Rachel and put his arms around her. “What’s wrong? What have they said to you?”

She gave him a fierce hug and then stepped away. “It’s nothing like that, Jeren. It’s just that…”

“I’m apparently going to become a grandmother,” Falaise finished.

Jeren’s jaw dropped as he looked at Rachel. “Is this true?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “It’s early days yet but yes, I’m pregnant.”

“But this is wonderful. Now you’ll have to stay.”

She put her hand on his chest and pushed him back. “No Jeren. I may have to rest a few days until the morning sickness passes but I’ll still have to go.”

“But you can’t travel all that distance while you’re pregnant.”

“Jeren, I’m having a baby, our baby. That does not make me an invalid. I still have a responsibility to my people. I have to go.”

Jeren looked at his mother and David in desperation. “Tell her,” he pleaded.

“No Jeren.” Falaise shook her head. “I would love Rachel to stay and for my grandchild to be born here but she is quite right. A queen does have duties and responsibilities and women are far stronger than men give them credit for. Women have been having babies for a long time now.”

“The only thing I would add to that,” David said, “is that I would like Rachel to be examined by a doctor before she leaves. Just to make sure there are no complications.”

“What do you mean, complications?” Jeren demanded.

“Jeren, you know already that there are some differences between Rachel’s people and yourself. They have different abilities, some of which you know about. I just want to ensure that there are no other racial characteristics that might cause a problem for the baby.”

“I’ll send for a doctor immediately,” Falaise said.

“No I’m sorry, Falaise, but this goes way beyond the medical knowledge of any of your doctors. Or Rachel’s for that matter. I want to bring in somebody who has access to specialist medical knowledge on this subject.”

The silence filled the room as Jeren and Rachel looked at David in surprise. Falaise’s lips tightened as she bit back a response. Finally with a visible effort of control, she spoke.

“Right, this has gone far enough. All of you sit down over there.” She indicated a small table in one of the alcoves. “ALL of you.”

As they took their places around the table, she went on. “There are two redcloaks outside this door to prevent anyone from entering. Equally, if I say so, they will prevent anyone from leaving until I get some answers.

“Now there were some things that I was prepared to overlook because I knew that Rachel was leaving and while I was sad about that, there was the hope that things would return to normal afterwards. But circumstances have changed. Rachel, you are carrying my grandchild and I cannot, therefore, ignore these questions in my head any longer.

“Jeren, I assume all this happened when you were hidden away together in that mysterious grey dome.”

“Well yes, that‘s when it started, mother,” Jeren admitted. “But we’ve been seeing each other ever since, whenever we can. We love each other.”

“I’m sure that’s what you believe but all I am seeing at the moment is an excess of passion. There is more to love than passion but that, I’m afraid, may be a lesson quite painful for you to learn.

“So let me turn to you, Lord David Held. You are not from this region. You are not from Gernia, despite your name. You claim to have magical ability; you have access to weapons, soldiers and now apparently medical resources that are beyond our comprehension. Who are you? Who sent you here? And where do you come from?

“And then you, Rachel. You are a sweet child and Jeren loves you, as do I. But the Lyenar are a much travelled folk and I have made extensive enquiries among them and all their contacts. They are all agreed. There is no place, no city or country called Ystrad. Nor any place called Belsi. If such places existed, we would have heard of them and almost certainly been there to trade. So, who are you, my dear? Where are your people? And where exactly is this place called Ystrad?”