The quaint town of Elenor lay ahead of Castle Elenor. Now this was a castle to behold. It had all of the obligatory walls, turrets, and battlements, all white-washed, and bigger than life. There was a huge oaken draw bridge that led into the interior, complete with a portcullis. The walls had battlements all the way around. There were several towers, and each of them had a red and gold striped pennant on top, waving in the wind. Inside was a huge court yard, plenty of room for the two regiments on the grounds. On the right was a deep stable filled with horses and stable boys hard at work. After that was the garrison, a two story building that was almost as deep as the stables. To the rear was the castle proper, which also had a large oaken door. Above it was the crest of Elenor, more colorful and much larger than what was on the uniforms. It was resplendent with reds and golds and yellows, with a sky blue and forest green circular border and a pale orange background. Past the door was a very long, red carpet that led through a long pillared hall bedecked with paintings, busts, and tapestries of old sovereigns and old battles. Each pillar had sconces for torchlight attached to them. The carpet led to the throne room, which also had huge oaken doors. Inside the throne room, a massive room with more pillars and tapestries and paintings and very few seats, were the king, his wizard, and the captain of the guard. The king seemed perturbed. The captain anxious. The wizard, well…
King Percy, a thin-faced, tow-headed man with a flair for exaggeration paced in front of the other two, nervously staring at one then the other. Besides his red and gold patterned satin tunic, he wore a hooded cloak that he had the local tailors make especially for him. It was purple swirled with gold, made of satin, and when he turned it flared around him, something he enjoyed immensely. He always made sure to grab one edge or the other to add a swirl to his turns. “Shouldn’t we know something by now? Where’s your magic eyeball? Look into it!”
“It’s ok”, replied Darius the Great. “Everything’s fine.” His demeanor was much too comfortable for the king, and even more so for the captain. Darius was a weaselly faced man, with black hair that nearly covered his eyes. He wore a monk-like dark blue habit, but with a twist. The top half had large diagonal pleats that met in the middle of the garment, as did the sleeves. He used these large pleats as pockets, hiding a multitude of potions, talismans, and scrolls. It was baggy enough so that you would never know they were there, and still neat enough to be worn at court.
“How do you know it’s fine” pounced the king. “You didn’t even look in your eyeball!” He stood right in front of Darius, eye to eye. Darius didn’t flinch.
“Your Highness, I’ve sent my best men on this mission”, said Captain Barrish in a calming voice. “Please, trust in them as I do.” Barrish was a strong, tall man, and his uniform was tailor made for his strong physique. With the extra straps across his chest and the large buckle on his belt, he made quite the impression with the ladies. He didn’t trust Darius, not one bit. He only agreed to this plan because his king insisted. He may be a bit flamboyant, but he had a terrific head for business, which is why the town was doing so well, hence the castle was doing well. Barrish would do anything to protect this, and if that meant skewering Darius with his sword, he wanted that honor not just for the king and the kingdom, but for his own satisfaction.
“Barrish, how can you be so calm?” shouted the king. He twirled on him, holding his cape with one hand and furling it forward to give it that extra flourish.
“Your Highness, you know how I am.” The king looked at him and huffed. If their was anyone he trusted it was Barrish, for no matter what happened he was always able to keep a level head and direct the troops efficiently and with great success.
Their relationship began with the king’s parents. They practically grew up together, Barrish as a trainee for the king’s garrison, Percy in the castle, being waited on hand and foot. Percy was young for a king, but his parents grew tired of it all and retired, leaving it all to a sixteen-year-old boy while they relaxed on an island for their golden years. Percy took to the job well, as if he were born for it, literally. He made it a point to know who worked for him. He could name every person in the castle, and dozens of people that lived and worked in the town, which is an impressive feat. This was one of the things that made him a great king. He was flamboyant, but he was also personable, and spoke to everyone with the same respect that they had for him. And with his natural head for business the town and the castle flourished through trade and farming tithes. The town and Barrish admired him for that, for most princes turned kings usually cared more for their appetites. So he decided to work hard, putting everything he had in his training, and in due course he worked his way up the ranks to become Captain of the Guard.
Then several years ago Darius arrived. Barrish didn’t trust his slight-of-hand, hocus pocus from the start. And he definitely didn’t like his influence on the king. He entertained the king with tricks and prophesies, and distracted him from the daily goings on. It was all Barrish could do to keep the king focused on his duties. Darius was a man of mystery, never telling anyone too much about himself or where he was from, like he had something to hide, or a personal agenda. He began talking to the king, convincing him to send out troops and spies on various missions, to see what his imagined enemies were doing. The king was becoming skittish because of this, dreaming of attacks and coups that never existed. It really got bad when he had the ministers banished from the castle, mysteriously having made some error that angered the king. He knew Darius had something to do with that, he just couldn’t prove it. And there was nothing Barrish could say to dissuade him, lest the king think he was in on it. The prior missions involved the strengths and weaknesses of their neighbors, ordinary kingships that have never posed a threat to Elenor. This particular mission however worried him, for this time it was against another wizard. He sent his best men for the job, but if they were unsuccessful he’d be down four good men, and would probably have to defend the castle from that wizard, on the word of a man he didn’t trust at all.
Barrish gave a side-long look at Darius, who just stood there with his hands folded inside of his sleeves, eyes closed and a small smile on his face, then spoke to the king. “I have men taking watchful positions from here to the wizard. Should anything be known we will know in short order.”
“I know, I know,” replied the king. “Your a good man, Captain, always on top of things.” Percy paced a few more times, furling his cape in time with his turns, then flopped onto his throne. “I just wish this was over already!” he exclaimed. Both men remained silent, Barrish because he didn’t know what to say, and Darius because he was waiting for something. Barrish saw a certain smugness in Darius’ grin, but didn’t comment on it.
They remained this way for several moments. No one spoke or moved. Percy scratched at his nose, then returned his hand to the armrest of his throne.
Suddenly there was a loud boom from just outside the castle. The boom shook the ground and made the windows shake. Several lamps and paintings as well as a few of the busts fell from their perch to clatter on the castle floor, smashing as they met the it. The muffled sounds of terrified men rose into the air. The king shot up from his seat as the other two spun around.
“What was that?!” Shouted the king, ready to run.
“He’s here!” said Darius, full of joy. “To the balcony!” And he ran for the stairs that led to the processional balcony.
“He’s here?!” said the king and the captain simultaneously. They looked at each other, looked at Darius’ retreating back, then went to follow him, not sure of what was going on. Barrish went first, hand on the hilt of his sword. Percy followed behind, afraid and ready to run.
It was mayhem in the courtyard. Jarond’s mirror landed right in the middle of it creating a small crater. The force of the landing was enough to send anyone in the near vicinity into the air, where they fell to the ground several yards away. Everyone else had to deal with the dust and rubble headed their way. The horses in the stable began to jump and neigh their displeasure, while those who were further away tried to run for cover. There were cries of those who got hit by the rocks, as well as those who were stunned by the suddenness of the attack. Dust was everywhere, making it hard for anyone to see, let alone see to any wounded. Soldiers began pouring out of the barracks to try and help and to battle whatever monster created this scene. All was chaos, and it took some time for the dust to settle before anyone actually saw the mirror. King Percy, Captain Barrish and Darius the Great had made it to the balcony by this time, sitting just above the great doors to the castle, with the crest behind them. Barrish took a position on the king’s left, while Darius was on the right.
Barrish began shouting orders to the men. In short order he had the wounded tended to and removed from the area, archers on the parapets and guards with their swords drawn surrounding the mirror, giving it plenty of space. It took some time but the dust finally settled enough for them to see it clearly. Now it was just a question of what would happen next.
A tense moment passed, and with a bloop, the mirror rippled, round and perfect, once, twice, three times. Suddenly Victor, Stark, Chance, and Philip came tumbling out. They rolled for a few feet and came to a stop. Their appearance surprised everyone in the court, including Darius, who was not expecting this. They got up slowly and took in their surroundings, looking just as surprised as everyone else.
“Lieutenant Stark” shouted Barrish. “What’s the condition of your men?”
Lieutenant Stark looked up to his captain and replied “Well, uh, we’re ok, sir, none the worse for wear.”
“Then fall back to the guard position, now!” He shouted with more urgency.
It was then that Jarond stepped out of the mirror, slowly and carefully, just to make his entrance dramatic. As Stark and his squad moved away a foot emerged, the right one, coated in the mirror like water. The surface tension broke and the foot became clear, followed by a shin, then a knee, then a thigh, then a hip as Jarond’s upper body began to make the mirror bulge. As his foot came down to the grown the surface tension broke against his chest as it emerged, then his chin, followed by a face, shoulders, arms, and lastly his left leg. He stood there and looked around, slowly taking in his surroundings as Barrish shouted orders to the soldiers, preparing them for anything.
Jarond’s eyes finally settled on the king, who was staring at him in amazement from his balcony. He took a few steps forward, which made Barrish react.
“Stop where you are or you will be…”
“Hey” shouted Jarond, interrupting Barrish. “Are you the guy who sent these goons after me? If so, I don’t want your stuff.”
“You will speak to the king in a respectful…”
“Quiet you”, said Jarond, interrupting Barrish again. “I’m talking to him”. And he pointed a finger directly at the king. This action made Barrish bristle. “Archers”, he shouted, prepare to fire!”
“Well”, asked Jarond, “did you?” He wasn’t phased or concerned about the several dozen arrows aimed at him, or the several dozen soldiers surrounding him. But he did want answers.
King Percy opened his mouth to speak, but it was Darius who spoke first. “Ha ha ha ha ha, you’ve fallen into my trap! And now that you’re here there is no escaping!” And as he continued to laugh the king and the captain turned to him and simultaneously said, “Trap?”
Darius coughed into his laughter to make it stop, keeping an eye on Jarond the whole time. “My apologies your highness, it was necessary to draw him out of his house where his magik is strongest. Now that he’s here I’ve, uh, we’ve got him!”
“Excuse me, it’s a castle,” retorted Jarond, “because all wizards live in a castle. You should know that, you live in one.”
Barrish spoke up, the anger in his voice obvious. “You mean to tell me that I sent my best soldiers into a trap, not knowing if they were to survive at all? And what of the talismans you gave them?”
“Oh those were rubbish” replied Darius in a dismissive tone. “I just needed him to take the bait. And he did!” He turned his attention back to Jarond and said “You’ll never escape! You are surrounded and your magik will not work here!”
King Percy took all of this in. He looked to Barrish, who looked back at him sternly. Not knowing what to do next, he looked back to Jarond, who looked like he didn’t have a care in the world except to find out what this was all about. His priorities were clear.
“So it’s you I have to deal with”, said Jarond. “I thought there was a king here, only to find he’s more of a puppet. Your puppet.” Neither the king or the captain liked that. Their focus was split between the two wizards, but now it was fully on Jarond. “There I am minding my own business, when you send these oafs to kill me. As it turns out they were nothing but bait to get me here.” He turned to Barrish. “You the captain here? Did you know they were bait? Sounds like a waste of manpower to me.” He looked at Darius again. ”So what will you do, now that you have me?”
King Percy turned a scathing look to Darius as Barrish bristled. “Yes Darius, what will you do? You tell me that there is a danger out there, and now that danger is here.”
Barrish interrupted with urgency. “Your Highness, I knew this man couldn’t be trusted! Please allow me to deal with him now and maybe we can avoid any trouble coming from that wizard!”
“What do you know about trouble?” responded Darius, turning to face him. “Your Highness, I have this situation well in hand. This man can only respond with brute force whereas I will use the subtlety of magik to subdue him.”
“Rubbish!” Barrish practically yelled. “You’ve brought danger to this court and I will not have it!”
“Oh listen to you! You’d think this was your realm!” Darius turned to the king. “Your Highness, please allow me to finish off this wizard and then put your captain in his place.”
“You try anything and an arrow will be lodged in your head before you can raise an arm” snarled Barrish.
“Gentlemen, calm down”, said the king. “We can figure out who’s at fault later. Right now we have a situation.”
“A situation brought to us by a charlatan!” Barrish growled as his hand gripped harder at the hilt of his sword. He was ready to draw it and bury it into Darius’ chest.
“Watch what you say little man”, replied Darius. “I have more power than you can imagine in that pea brain of yours and I will do things to you that will make you beg for death.”
The bickering continued between Darius and Barrish, with the king trying to restore order, and failing. It was getting too much for Jarond, who just wanted this business over with. First he crossed his arms, then began tapping his foot, allowing his patience with the scene to play out. And then his patience ran out.
“Excuse me”, He shouted. “Did you forget I was here?”
The three men stopped fighting and looked back to the courtyard. It was Darius who spoke first.
“Please Your Highness, allow me to finish this. I have a plan that is guaranteed not to fail.”
Then Barrish spoke; “Your Highness, you can’t trust this man.”
And finally the king; “Quiet, both of you. Darius, As it was you who started this I will give you the benefit of a doubt and let you finish it.”
“But Your Highness…”
“Quiet, Barrish. Darius, finish this quickly. My patience is running very thin. Afterwards you will have to answer for what you’ve done. It would be in your favor if you were successful.”
And with a small bow Darius said “Yes, Your Higness.” And with a smirk to Barrish he turned to the court and addressed Jarond.
“Well now, it seems you’ve fallen into my trap. As you can see, you are surrounded on all sides. Surrender and we will be merciful.”
Jarond looked at him with growing incredulity. That this little pissant would think himself the better of him. Not because of his ego mind you, but because that’s what Darius was, a mere pebble in a field of boulders, trying to convince the other boulders that he is as mighty as they. Maybe it was his ego after all, he thought to himself.
Finally he spoke, and it was less than flattering. “Are you serious? No, really, I ask because it seems you’ve set yourself a daunting task and you don’t realize it yet. A tiny little man who knows a few magic tricks and you think you can take over the world. Did your mother give birth to you or were you found in a chamberpot, a curly piece of excrement crying for milk. That would explain the smell. You are someone who is in dire need to be taught a lesson, mostly in manners and to know his place. I can help you with that.”
“No wizard,” replied Darius, “it is I who will be teaching you a lesson. I am Darius, the greatest wizard in the land, and I have captured you, into such a simple trap I still can’t believe you fell for it! How do you feel, being so stupid?”
“Ooooh, calling me names. Isn’t that the last resort of a witless man, who hides way up high on a balcony, far away from that which he fears. Wait, I know, why don’t you come down here and face me like a man.” He raised his hand, aimed it at Darius, and let loose the ripples of magik which extended out and took the shape of an eagle’s claw. It took speed as it headed straight for Darius.
But before they could reach him the ripples turned steeply downward, to the base of the keep where several small vines grew along the length of the wall. The vines absorbed the ripples like it was food and water and actually looked better for it. They even grew slightly as the magik spread out evenly among them, the vines thickened, the leaves looked fuller,and the small pods that were under the leaves took on a slightly plumper look. Jarond looked at them curiously, wondering what just happened.
“As you can see,” shouted Darius, “You’re magik doesn’t work here.” He was beside himself with joy, thoroughly pleased that his vines worked. He clutched at the wall of the balcony, leaning over and laughing at Jarond. Percy and Barrish just looked at him, the first with ever growing concern, the second with ever growing outrage. “And now it’s time for you to say good bye.”
“Goodbye?” asked Jarond. “But I just got here.”
“Wha…?” was Darius’ reply. Then he caught himself and called out. “Archers, fire!”
“You don’t command my troo…!” Barrish exclaimed, but Darius interrupted.
“Fire! Fire now!”
The archers let their arrows fly, an implosion of shafts, each one aimed at Jarond’s heart, seemingly drawn there by his gravity. They struck, and Jarond exploded into a shower of broken glass, as did the mirror behind him. The sound was what you would expect from destroying a huge window, with larger pieces making the most noise as it tumbled and broke again and again. Most of the arrows hit the ground point first, leaving a circle around the pile of glass that was all that was left of him. The glass twinkled as it settled, showing no sign of life except for where it was still falling to the ground. Then it just lay there, inert. A quiet settled over the courtyard as everyone took a moment to wonder what just happened.
It was Barrish who acted first, walking around the king and grabbing Darius by his cloak. “What have you done here?!” he demanded. “What are you up to, what did you do? Tell Me!” He was shaking Darius very close to the edge of the balcony, such was his rage.
The king had to intervene. Grabbing onto Barrish’s shoulder he spoke heavily. “Stop this now! I will not have my top people fighting like this!” He joined the struggle and was able to separate the two. Darius looked out of breath but still elated. Barrish, on the other hand…
“My king, this man has manipulated you, all of us into doing his bidding! He has jeopardized everything we’ve worked for! He’s a danger not just to you but to the kingdom! Your Highness, we don’t even know…”
He was caught short by the king’s raised hand. He stepped forward and called out to the nearest soldiers below him. “You three, go and see what is left of that wizard.”
The three looked at the king, then at each other, then at the pile of glass that was all that was left of Jarond. Barrish broke their wonderment with a shout. “You heard the king, go!”
The three soldiers carefully approached the pile. When they reached it they poked at it with their swords, then kicked at it, then ran their feet through it. “There’s nothing but glass here m’lord” shouted one. At this the king and the captain looked to Darius, who was looking a little less confident.
“Well?” they asked in unison.
Darius looked out to the pile of glass, not sure of what to make of it.
“Darius! Explain this!” the king said with both fear and urgency.
Darius looked to the king, then to the glass shards, and started stuttering. “W..well, I think that, no, I know that I destroyed, destroyed? Y…yes, destroyed him, b…b…because he’s, uh, uh, destroyed, there, you see, in that pile, and, and, well, look…look at that. There’s nothing left. I destroyed him. Yes, that’s what happened. I am victorious!”
While he was sputtering Percy had stepped closer and closer to him. And now it was his hand that had grasped Darius’ collar.
“You don’t really know what happened, do you?” he growled in Darius’ face. “For all we know he could be out there still, plotting his revenge. And what was this for anyway? You said he was a danger, and then you bring that danger here, to my castle, putting me and all of my men, my kingdom, in mortal danger. Explain yourself!”
“Your Highness, please, trust me,” Darius tried to console the king. “Even if he did survive, which I’m not saying he did, but if he did he knows that his magik doesn’t work here, thanks to my vines. In fact, there is no wizard’s magik that’s immune to them. They are the perfect guard against such things, and as long as they’re here we are perfectly safe.”
“Bah”, said the king, releasing Darius and turning away. As he readjusted himself Barrish piped in. “Does this mean we are now prisoners of our own castle, never daring to leave lest that wizard take full hold of his grudge as he lays in wait?”
The king spun around and looked at Darius again. “Yes, what of that?” he demanded.
“Well, I can, uh, work something out where the, the leaves! That’s right! I will take parts of the vine that all can carry! And they will also act as a signal that a magikal attack is happening! Allow me some time to prepare and I guarantee that we shall be able to go about with no fear from him or anyone!”
“He’s making this up as he goes along!” Exclaimed Barrish. “Please Your Highness, let me deal with him. He doesn’t even know if that wizard is dead! For that, for ordering my troops around, and for putting the kingdom at risk he should be punished severely.” His words held all the eagerness of a man who wanted something really, really bad.
At this Darius’ vigor returned. “I warned you about threatening me Barrish. I know what I’m doing and I know what I’ll do to you if you try anything.”
“That’s Captain Barrish to you, little man, and on the king’s word I will run you through so quickly…”
“Enough!” yelled the king. “This is getting us nowhere and I will have answers! First and foremost, are we safe? Is that wizard dead?”
“Yes Darius, is he?” Barrish sneered at him.
“Yes he is, Barrish, and you could be next!”
The arguing continued, leaving the soldiers to stand around and wonder. The king was concerned that he was losing control of the situation. The captain was quite upset that things got this far. And the wizard?
Darius’ plan was to kill off Jarond. He had heard about his library and wanted to raid it for whatever spells and enchantments might be found in there which might give him the power, the true power he craved. But he couldn’t just walk up to Jarond and ask to look through it. His scheme seemed simple enough, after all, it’s the simple things that work. He hadn’t expected what had happened to happen. He was somewhat sure he got him, but not entirely.
So the three of them bickered and argued, and while that was happening Jarond had stepped out of the mirror that remained at Castle Jarond, much to the surprise of the maids who were still cleaning up the mess he had made sending the first mirror through the roof. They were looking at themselves in the mirror at the time when Jarond stepped through. Sheila screamed. Samantha shrieked. They both fell to the floor in surprise. Not something Jarond had intended.
“Oh my, ladies, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that. Let me help you up.” He extended his hands and helped them off the floor. Once up they began dusting themselves off.
“My goodness you gave us a fright”, said Sheila.
“You scared us half to death”, said Samantha.
I’m so sorry ladies”, Jarond said consolingly. “I didn’t mean to. Are you ok?”
“I guess, although I’ll need a minute to gather my wits”, said Samantha. “Sheila, how are you?”
“I’m good, Just need to catch my breath.”
They fussed over each other for a few more minutes. Jarond lead them to the two chairs in the room. The maids sat and took the time to catch their breaths.
“By the way, what were you ladies doing in here?” Jarond asked.
“We were cleaning up the mess from the hole in the roof”, Sheila replied.
“Yes, it was quite a mess you left”, echoed Samantha.
“Hole?” Jarond queried, then looked up. There it was, a ragged hole through the roof. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that.” He crossed his arms and stroked his chin. I’ll have to fix that sooner or later, he thought. It was his own reckless fault. Normally he goes out a window, but this intrusion into his life kind of rankled him.
“We were going to go into town to find someone to fix that for you”, said Samantha.
“Yes, I think Mergot does this kind of work”, said Sheila.
“No, no,” Jarond replied absently, still looking at the hole. “I’ll take care of it.” One last sigh, and he turned to the maids. “Ladies, I would like you to leave this room alone for now. I have some business to attend to that needs my attention.”
“Yes m’Lord”, they said in unison. Then they rose from their seats and headed for the door.
“Oh, and ladies, those horses are ours now. Would you please strip them of all that Elenor rubbish and make sure they’re fed? Perhaps tomorrow we’ll go into town and buy some new saddles for us, and do some shopping too while we’re there. In fact we’ll make a day of it. How does that sound? Uh, you do know how to ride?”
The maids looked to each other, then to Jarond. “No sir, we’re just maids”, said Sheila.
“We’ve had no time or opportunity to learn”, said Samantha.
“No problem” said Jarond. “We’ll go slow and I’ll teach you everything you need to know.”
The maids faces lit up at the thought. “Oh, your most generous sir”, replied Samantha.
“Yes, you are too kind, thank you sir”, said Sheila. Then they looked at each other and grinned mightily. Clasping hands, they made for the door, almost skipping on their way out. They stopped short of the door, turned around, and curtsied to Jarond. “Thank you m’lord” they said. Jarond bowed back. He liked to see them smile. They were just too happy for words. Then they turned and rushed out, already shrieking to each other about their fortune.
Once the door was closed Jarond clapped his hands together and said, to no one in particular, “Alrighty time to teach those buffoons who they’re dealing with”. He walked back to the mirror and stepped inside it, the glass rippling like a pool of water. Once inside, the mirror began to shake from side to side, slowly at first, then building up rapidly. It then burst into the air, making another hole in the roof, and off into the sky. This time the maids didn’t notice. They were too busy admiring their new horses.