It was late one summer afternoon in the land of Corridane. The King, Valun II, known as the Peacemaker, whose long hair had, startingly, grown gray long before its time, but in all other aspects proved to be only as many as five and forty years of age, stood on the coast, watching proudly as the long-expected boat approached ever more closely. Already, he could make out his son, Valun III, waving excitedly from the prow. Little time was left before the pair were happily reunited.
When the younger Valun rejoined his father, one man from the boat stepped off with him. This man spoke to the king in the language of another place, but his satisfaction with the prince’s behavior among his people was evident. The king replied respectfully in the same tongue. A few moments later, the king and his son were left on the dock, watching the boat return from whence it had come.
Still looking after the boat, which was rapidly disappearing from their view, the king asked his son “Did you savor your time among them, as you should have? Do you remember everything they taught you?”
“Yes, father. I did and I do. They taught me many things.”
“Your teacher told me that you learned far faster than he had hoped you would. You have honorably upheld the tradition of the kings of Corridane. Every king of this land was taught by those men.”
“Will you send Valnor to them too?”
“I would if they would allow me to. They accept only the eldest.” the king replied as the two mounted horses he had brought for the ride homeward. “And now, it is time we were returning to the castle. Valnor is waiting for us.”
Setting spurs to their horses, the king and his son raced away inland, first the prince and then the king pulling ahead, laughing all the while.
Some weeks later, the King was waiting in the courtyard, sitting astride his dappled horse. He was waiting in order to speak to his elder son one final time before he left on a journey to another country. As he looked out upon the silent courtyard, the silence was broken by the younger of his two sons, who was sitting beside him on his own horse, and was beginning to show his impatience with the delay. “Father, Can you think why Valun has not come yet? You told him we were leaving today. He always comes to say his farewells before you leave. This isn’t like him.”
Looking down at his younger son, Valnor, who was twelve years old and he deemed ready to accompany him on such a journey as this one was, the elder Valun replied “I am aware of that, my son, but he is fifteen years old now, and being the eldest, he will be the next to rise to the throne after I have gone to our fathers. It may be that, believing that I have already left; the courtiers have called him away to represent me at some function of theirs. But do not worry. We shall wait for him for a few moments more, and if he does not come, then we have no more time to spare, though he would shout after us.”
This placated Valnor, who promptly pulled his hand out of his horse’s mane and sat silently, striving against the urge to disturb his father’s peace once more.
Only moments later, their waiting was finally rewarded, as they saw Valun come running toward them from the castle. He cried out to them as he came. “Father! I was worried that I had missed you!” Then he paused, seeming to have only just noticed Valnor sitting astride his own steed close by. “Is Valnor going with you this time?”
“He is. The rulers of Brandia are our greatest allies. We shall both be safe there, and there I will leave Valnor to grow up far from anywhere that a father’s concessions could lead to sloth.”
Turning to his brother, Valun congratulated him, saying “You, a page at a foreign court? You will find excitement aplenty there, while I must remain here to do my best not to let ‘father’s concessions lead to sloth’ as he calls it. Make the best of it. It is the best recompense you will get for being my younger brother.” Slapping his brother on the back, he turned back to his father.
“Yes, you are right, my son, I do this for him because the throne is already yours, and I do not wish to see the two of you lose each other’s respect over something which can not be helped. He would not succeed you unless you had the misfortune to live out your life with no son to succeed you. Throughout his life, he will remain the Prince, and ever the Prince, of Corridane. Now, I can see that you mean to ask when I shall return. I will make the journey, determine the terms of your brother’s acceptance there, and turn home again after three days there. If I do not kill my horse, you can expect me to meet you in this courtyard within a month of this day.”
“I am thankful that you have told me this, father. But I will miss you all the days that you are gone.”
“I have told you. Those will not be many. And now if you have nothing else to ask, we must go. I meant to be out of the city by this time. I only remind you, listen to your officers, for they are wise, but if you are of such a mind, you will get what you would have quite easily. Do not abuse that, though. Farewell.” With the conclusion of these final words, the king wheeled his horse around to face the gates and rode away as Valnor followed closely behind him.
Valun ran ahead to open the gates for them, standing silently and watching as they disappeared into the city, making for the city gate, where one other man had been warned to be ready to open that gate for the king’s departure. Barely holding back his emotions, Valun ran back inside the castle, not stopping until he had found his way up to the highest point of the walls. There, aided by the design of the city, which mandated that no house’s roof could be less than three feet below the walls, he was soon able to make out the forms of his father and his brother riding away to the north. Suddenly, a feeling of dread came upon him as he stood there alone. “Father, why did you not let me go in Valnor’s place? I would have let him become king, even, to ensure your safety, could have protected you. But now, I am afraid I will not see you again. And you can no longer see me. Farewell.” With these depressed thoughts, he passed down into the castle, resolved to grow into his kingdom as quickly as need be.
It was not long after the king left that the officer in whom he had confided showed his true colors, declaring himself King over all Corridane. His first act after ascending the throne was to order Valun and his three closest friends exiled. He sent them out under guard at dawn one week after the king had departed.
The journey through the country was hard and long for the four boys, and by the time they had found their way to the city of Berunthia, which lay on the coast of the Deerunthin Lake, they were falling asleep in their saddles. On their arrival, a prosperous merchant who was still loyal to the old king took them in, sheltered them for a week, and then lent them his own boat crewed with his own employees. At Valun’s request, the crew turned the boat downriver.
Two days after they had passed the city of Carribeasa in Corridane, Valun and his friends disembarked on the shores of an unknown country. According to Valun’s request, the boat turned back then to return to their homeland. Three days later, they were picked up by a band of roving traders, who appeared to think them suitable to sell for labor.
Three days later, the party had reached the lakeside Ronaieran city of Taronga. Almost immediately upon being put up for sale, Valun and his three friends had all been sold to different merchants of the city. Valun, who went to a silversmith, was put to work as soon as he had entered the man’s shop. Knowing that he would not be believed, Valun did not attempt to convince anyone of his true position, instead following orders quickly and quietly. This situation continued for six years, as Valun’s skill in metalworking grew as he aged. In the sixth year of his apprenticeship to the silversmith, Valun, working secretly, completed his greatest work; the crown of Corridane.
In the same year, after he had completed the crown, Valun was chosen by his master to represent him in the annual fair which was held in the capital, Varaskel. Taking some of the finest work in his master’s shop, Valun made the journey and set up his stall in the capital as closely as he could to the castle.
On the second day, a steward of the King came down into the market to discover whether there was anything to be had which was fine enough for the King’s own use. As Valun’s stall was the nearest to the castle, he paused for a moment to look over the objects that were shown for sale.
Looking up from polishing one of the pieces, Valun inquired “Are you, Sir, a representative of the King?”
“I am glad to know that, for I have refrained from selling my finest pieces in hopes that His Majesty would condescend to buy from me.”
“Show them to me.”
At this, Valun produced several packages which were carefully wrapped in thick packaging. The steward opened one, examined every inch with the air of an expert, set it down, wrapped it once more, and declared “I have rarely seen work as fine as this, and of those, all are in the castle now. If every one of these,” he continued, placing his hands over the packages “is as fine as this one, the King will buy all, now. How much do you ask for them?”
“I value them at twenty Rodines each.”
“You are cheating yourself! Why, the one piece I have seen is worth as many as forty!”
“As you wish. I do not strive for more than I think fair.”
As the steward began to load the pieces into the arms of several servants who had followed him, he asked “Which of the men in your master’s shop made these? Was it the master himself?”
“It was I.”
“You? Why, you must come before the King! He will wish to know who has made these! A servant will stand guard over your stall. Come.”
Recognizing his chance, Valun rose and followed after the Steward.
An hour later, after the King had finally admitted him into his presence at the request of this steward, Valun stood before the King exhibiting the best of his work.
The King, who was as delighted with his work as his servant had been, asked Valun his name so that he might more easily hold his work before the other craftsmen of his realm. In answer, Valun remained silent, but reached into a bag in which he carried his tools, and drew out a document which he had kept carefully hidden ever since his exile at fifteen. He handed this over to the King.
The King, opening the scroll, read it, showing greater surprise every moment. For the benefit of his steward, who still stood nearby, he read it once more, aloud. “I, Valun the Second, King of Corridane, do hereby pledge by my honor that the bearer is the firstborn son and heir of myself and my Queen, to be honored in all courts as if acting in my stead.” When he had finished, he returned the scroll to Valun, who wrapped it tightly once more and restored it to its place.
“So that is why you have refused to show proper respect to me? Only be grateful that I did not decide to have you slain for it. It is your magnificent work which has saved you. But now, as you have revealed yourself to me, I presume that I am bound to release you from your bondage and offer you what you ask.”
“I thank you, my lord. I ask only for the release of my three friends from similar straits as I was in myself only an hour ago.”
“I agree to that. Only write the names of your friends, with orders for their release, and I will sign it and let you go. I hope you will enjoy living in my country.”
“I will. Once again, I thank you.” Handing the King the order, which he had written as the king was speaking, Valun took it back a moment later and left the king’s presence. In the days following his release, Valun rediscovered his three friends, released them, and took them away.
In the years which followed, Valun and his friends lived in honor at the royal court. On the day of his twenty-fifth birthday, Valun went before the Ronaieran monarch and announced “I am ready to return to my own country, my lord. I only need men who will consent to follow me and restore me to my throne. I would, of course, send them back to their own homes as soon as I was established.’
“Very well. I accept your request. Only wait for a week.”
“I thank you. You have ever been agreeable to us.”
One week later, the King presented Valun with temporary authority over ten thousand men, to aid him in reclaiming his throne. Being eager to start, Valun left that day, leading the men who had agreed to follow him.
Two weeks later, Valun and the Ronaierans had arrived at the gates of Corrandion, forced them open, and pushed their way through the streets until they reached the gates of the castle, which they also forced. Once inside, Valun, followed only by his three friends and five others, searched through the castle until he found the false servant, whose name was Damrod, in the King’s private room. Grabbing him by the collar, Valun threw him from the room, exclaiming “Get this foul double-crosser out of my land. Let it be known that if anyone sees him within my borders after a week, they are to kill him at that moment.”
The prologue continues in my interrupting post of Jan. 6, 2012