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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 14

            Morning brought with it frustration. Idus rolled over onto his side. “We’ve got to find a way to delay them. We’ve followed them all over Paris, all the way to Versailles and back. I’m exhausted by it all. I’m itching to cause some trouble.”

Usem  agreed as he sat and yawned. “That wizard always seems to be wise to our antics. One of us has to lure him away so the other two can get to work.”

Aghilis chuckled to himself and then spoke. “You’re both right. Idus, you are to go to the river and find someone who will rent us a boat, a nice one that would please the queen. Usem, since you brought it up, you are to lure the wizard to another part of the city. I don’t care how you do it, just do it. I’ll get them to the boat and we’ll sail down the River Seine. Once they’ve relaxed, we’ll bash holes in the bottom of the boat and we two will jump overboard and swim to shore. If we’re lucky a few of them will drown. If not, at least we’ll have the thrill of seeing them soaked.”

The three ate breakfast in silence and went about preparing for their tasks. Usem waits until he sees the royal group arrive for a morning meal. He sat in the corner, umbrella’d in dim light, watching them feast on fruits, breads, eggs and sliced meats. Laughter filled the inn as they joked with one another. The guards stood to leave when Aghilis entered. He approached the king and queen. “Good morning. You look like visitors to this area. May I interest you in a cruise down the Seine? Your highness will enjoy the gentle waters. It’s a grand way to see Paris at its best.”

King Kegan glanced at his wife. “That sounds wonderful. We’d love a trip down the river. When will you be ready?”

Aghilis grinned. “An hour? Will that suit you?” The queen nodded. “Meet me down at the riverbank.

On his way out Aghilis nodded at Usem, signaling to him that it was time to lose the wizard. Usem coughed to clear his throat, stood and marched over to the wizard. His strategy was to fake drunkenness. Knocking into tables, Usem played the part well. “Out of my way.” He bumped into the queen and she flew to the ground. The guards rushed to grab Usem, but the wizard reached for him.

“It’s you again, is it? I would like a word with you.” Zerahemna grabbed Usem by the back of his shirt and dragged him outside while the others tended to the queen. The wizard tossed Usem into a pile of rotting fruit that had been stacked behind the inn. “What are you doing here in Paris and what are you up to?”

“Don’t hurt me, royal wizard. Please, don’t.” Usem whimpered like a babe.

“Are you following us? I want the whole story.” Zerahemna pulled his wand from  flowing robes. “Start talking.”

 Usem blubbered away without a second thought. “Yes, we’re following you. King Dugan commanded us to. He’ll slaughter us if we fail. We’ve been on your heels since you left Burill.”

“I see. What was all that back at the inn? What are you and your fellow guards up to?” Zerahemna whirled his wand around, toying with the man’s fears.

“It’s all Aghilis’s idea. He wanted me to lure you away while he took the royal ones on a cruise down the River Seine.”

“That man is working with you?  I see. We still have time to catch them. Here is what will happen. You will pretend like you’ve lost me and rush to the boat like there isn’t a care in the world. I will hide, with my wand ready if needed. Allow the king , queen, and the others to board and take them for a lovely cruise as promised. I presume this Aghilis and your other cohort will be on the boat, at least for a while.” Usem nodded. “I have a surprise for them. I will spare your lives, this time, but it won’t be a good time for you.” He eyed the frightened Zanaadi. “So, what are you waiting for? Scram.” Zerahemna had to hold back laughter as Usem rushed toward the river.

King Kegan, Queen Sarmantha, Alroy and the guards ambled down the cobblestone lanes towards the river, chatting away with no worries. When they reached the riverbank, Aghilis stood waiting for them, the boat docked next to him. “Ah, King Kegan, Your Highness, you have arrived. The boat is ready for you.”

As they climbed onto the wooden planks, Usem came running down the street. Aghilis frowned when he saw the chubby man. “What are you doing here?” He whispered angrily.

“I got rid of the wizard and wanted to be in on the rest of the plan.” Usem turned his gaze to a pile of nearby wooden crates. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

“Get on board then. Stay out of the way. Go and entertain the royals until you are needed.”

“I can’t. They saw the wizard take…” Usem stopped in mid-sentence.

“Go ahead and finish what you were saying.” Aghilis spit as he spoke in anger.

“It’s nothing. I feel it’s best that I stay out of their way.” Usem ducked to the left and hid at the back of the boat, out of view of all the others.

Aghilis motioned to Idus to untie the boat from the wooden stump. Idus coiled the rope around his arms and dropped it on the deck. Aghilis joined the royals and began his tour, making everything up as they went. He didn’t know a thing about Paris and hoped they didn’t either. Alroy’s eyebrows arched several times when Aghilis mentioned an ancient building or church, knowing it couldn’t possibly be correct, according to French history. Still, he kept silent and let Aghilis speak. The king and queen seemed to enjoy everything the man said, so Alroy chose not to ruin the cruise. He kept his eye on Aghilis and the other boatman. The boat inched its way into the middle of the river, moving so slowly that nobody noticed until they were dead center. Idus used his sword and chopped a hole in the bottom of the boat. He used the same circle of wood to plug it up until it was the right time.

None of them noticed Zerahemna, who sat at the very back of the boat, waiting and watching, chuckling to himself. Using his wand, he sealed up the hole that Idus had just made, making it watertight. He turned the rope snake-like and had it wind itself around Idus’s legs, loose so he wouldn’t notice, and then it meandered around the boat until it found Aghilis’s legs and did the same. Both men had no clue. At one point Usem stepped out of his hiding spot and saw what was going on, but dashed back inside, hoping the wizard would spare him.

When the boat slowed to nearly a snail’s pace, Zerahemna caused the rope to tighten around the men’s legs. The other end had been tied to an anchor of steel which the wizard caused to fall overboard and sink to the bottom, pulling Aghilis and Idus with it. The men screamed as they went overboard, struggling to undo the ropes as they moved down towards the riverbottom.

King Kegan rushed to the back of the boat and spotted his wizard. “There you are, Zerahemna. I didn’t notice you board. Where did our captain and his mate disappear to?”

Zerahemna pointed to the water. “There seems to have been a little accident.” A grin formed at the corner of his mouth. “It seems our dear captain had some alternate plans for you. You can come out now,” the wizard called to Usem. The man slinked out through the door. “King Kegan, meet Usem. He is a guard in your brother, Dugan’s, army and was sent, along with our two men overboard, to keep an eye on you and send word to him when you ended your journey. Usem has decided to help us and has pledged loyalty, or will pledge, to you, King of Burill.”

Usem didn’t miss a moment. “I swear fealty to you, King Kegan. I am your humble servant.”

“What do you know of my daughters’ kidnappings?” Kegan scowled at his new soldier.

“I had part in it and I beg your forgiveness. They were taken to Zanaad with instructions not to harm them in any way. I’m sure they are safe. If you’d like I could draw you a map of Zanaad and show you exactly where they are probably being kept, though I’m sure they’ve only recently arrived.” Usem sighed and hoped he could win Kegan’s trust by helping him.

“Very well, my good man. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to help. I’m not sure what we are going to about rescuing my daughters. It may have to be put on hold until I send word to my twelve trusted men and meet with them once again. Zerahemna, I don’t think it’s proper to drown those two men. Why don’t you dry them out for a while?”

Zerahemna waved his wand. The anchor, ropes and two men flew from the water, choking and gagging. The anchor soared through the air and wrapped around a post on the nearest bridge, leaving Idus and Aghilis dangling by their legs over the river.  Grateful to be alive, the men swung back and forth in silence, trying to gain enough mobility to grab hold of the posts.

King Kegan left them there as they sailed down the river and back. That night was spent in front of a roaring fire in the inn’s main room, feasting and talking of preparations for the following day. “I say we head across the channel to the land of the Britons, or should I say Normans. I hear William the Conqueror attacked the Anglo-Saxons and defeated them. There are a few stray tribes scattered about the country and the Vikings own some of the lands. We need to leave Paris behind us and head for London.” Alroy Cathmore had kept up with the latest news passed on to him by travelers from these lands.

“Oh Kegan, that sounds wonderful. London? I’ve dreamed of going there since I was a little girl. I’d like to go to the Salisbury plain and see Stonehenge. I’ve heard so much about the stone circle. Perhaps we can stop by York before we head into Scotland.” Queen Sarmantha was overjoyed at being so close to the end of their journey.

“As you wish, my dear.” Her husband kissed her hand.

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