Following the incident on the first day, all was well until the boat reached the island known as Miran on the third day. For no recognizable reason, Sir John argued with nearly everyone, nearly turning the Captain off from his offer to extend the voyage to the opposite side of the lake. It was found upon inquiry that the mood arose from a private conversation Sir John had had with the Princess, but she refused to divulge exactly what she had said.
Shortly after midday, the Princess and her guards disembarked to visit the island. The crew was slightly upset when Sir John decided not to leave with the rest of the passengers. Instead, he stayed shut up in his cabin, refusing to come out for anything.
After some time in his cabin, Sir John emerged and requested a boat to take him to the island. There was no end of willing rowers to get him off the ship, and so he soon reached the stairway carved out of the stone which had been cut for the Princess’s use in her visits.
Reaching the top of the steps, Sir John looked out upon the lake, impressed at how far he could see. Then, he turned inland to explore the island. The island itself was a slice of paradise after the drab and uninteresting landscape of Gairbairia. It was even far preferable to the landscape of Corridane. There were tall elms and pines nearly everywhere, shading brightly colored flowers at Sir John’s feet. Here and there he could hear a bird twitter as he wandered slowly through the glades. The hours flew by as Sir John spent what he considered to be the best time of his life leisurely strolling around the bountiful trees. In fact, half of the island was covered with its own small forest. Tired out by his walk, Sir John lay down and let the peace of the island carry him off to sleep.
When he awoke some time later, he rose again and resumed his walk. After he had gone nearly all the way across the island, which was nearly five miles long, Sir John spotted, in the middle of a spacious glade, several of the Princess’s guards surrounding a small house. Ducking behind a tree so as not to be seen, Sir John continued watching the house. After a short time, the Princess emerged, carrying a small basket. She bent to pick some plants which grew near the house, and then vanished inside again. Sir John went away wondering what could be happening.
The question rolled in his mind for quite a while before he hit upon the idea that that the occupant of the hut was some person whom the king of Gairbairia had ordered exiled, unaware that they had simply moved offshore to the island of Miran. The guards were apparently stationed to assure that no one but the Princess found out who the person was. Satisfied for the moment with this explanation, Sir John returned the ship to wait for the Princess, so that she would not know that her secret had almost been spoiled.
But the Princess did not return to the boat that day, so, still wondering what could be so secret about the hermit that the Princess apparently saw quite frequently, and wonder why they deserved such regular visits, Sir John fell into troubled sleep, hoping to get an explanation for everything from the Princess the next day.
The following day, Sir John disembarked early, taking his rations with him so he would not have to return that day. He walked steadily in the direction that he had found the unknown’s hut, stopping short when he realized that, once again, the place was carefully guarded. Coming as close as he dared, Sir John found a stone at his feet and threw it, with all the force he could gather, of in the opposite direction. It made a satisfying crashing sound as it landed.
As the guards rushed to investigate the noise, Sir John made a mad dash to the thickest cover behind them. This time he was close enough to see clearly into the house, as there was a window directly in front of him. But that was no help at all, because there was a curtain placed across the window.
By this time, the guards had returned, and so Sir John had to be especially careful that he was not discovered. After a short time in his new hideout, Sir John saw the curtains on the window in front of him open just enough to show the face of the person looking out. The Princess stared long and hard, straight at the spot Sir John was hiding in.
A short time afterwards, Sir John was surprised by the guards, who tied his hands and led him far away from the hut to a spot on the other side of the island where the Princess was awaiting him. Untying his hands, the guards pushed Sir John down so that he was sitting in front of the Princess, who was obviously extremely upset.
How do you dare to encroach on my secret?! If I did not wish this to remain secret, I might have explained before this time! I- “
“Please, listen and understand, I beg you, that I never had any knowledge of any secret there could be about this island!” Sir John cried, nearly terrified out of his wits by the vengeful wrath of the Gairbairian lady.
“Even so,” she answered growing calmer “I had placed you upon your honor to honor my wishes. I am very disappointed. My guards will return you to the ship and watch to be sure you do not escape. I will not come aboard tonight.”
Suddenly feeling ashamed of himself, Sir John hung his head as he was taken away by the guards. He offered no resistance at the rough way they handled him, to ashamed to care. When he had been returned to the ship, he remained sullen and quiet, shutting himself in his cabin and throwing himself upon the cot. After a short time, he had calmed enough to retrieve a small sack of his things from underneath the bed. Pulling out a little book in which he daily recorded the thoughts and actions of the day, He began writing.
“August the fifth-“
“Today I nearly satisfied my curiosity about an inexplicably hidden personage who resides on the Isle of Miran. It seems that the Queen visits this person quite regularly, but wishes that it remain secret for reasons I have not yet ascertained. My attempt to learn the secret was found out by the Queen. To myself, I do not mind admitting that I was terrified that I was about be murdered and done away with on her orders, when I was brought in front of her. But I have gotten off surprisingly lightly, considering her mood. In front of Valun, the king of Corridane, I would have been exiled at the least, I am sure. All the same, I am afraid that I have fallen deeply out of the Queen’s favor, and only the fates know whether I shall resume the standing I held, soon or ever.”
Closing his book, Sir John replaced it in its sack and, stowing the sack back under the bed, left the room. As he was walking around the deck, he noticed a sail that had appeared on the horizon off the stern. Turning and rushing to confront the Captain, he pointed out the sail and exclaimed “We must leave, quickly! That ship is chasing us! They must be after the Princess!”
The Captain was too surprised to do anything at that point except shout “She is safe on the island!”, but Sir John noticed with relief that several of the Princess’s guards, who had evidently understood what he had meant, regardless of whether they understood the language, had leapt into the small boat and sped off.
Barely five minutes had passed before they were back, assisting their charge onto the ship. She immediately disappeared into her cabin and did not reappear for several hours. In the meantime, the captain seemed to become animated once more, and soon had his small ship running at full speed to avoid a confrontation with the unknown one.
It was late in the evening before Sir John saw the Princess again. She immediately came toward him, asking that they move to another part of the boat where they would not be seen. Then she spoke again.
“I will explain all to you now,” she announced in a low tone “so you may understand my actions. My reason for wanting total secrecy in my visits to the island is this. My father did have a son, but I, being younger, did not find out for several years, until my mother told me in secret that he did not live at the castle because he is afflicted with a terrible malady he has had since birth, and my father, ashamed of letting my brother become his heir, caused him to be sent away in secret to live in another place, and never let anyone know that he was the prince. My father does not know that I found my brother, and moved him to Miran, where I visit him every month. My father believes that I go for the peacefulness of the island itself, and not for any other reason. Indeed, it was my father who first discovered that island, and I named it Miran after my brother, as my father never gave it a name.
“And now, to the second question; why is the ship pursuing us? I can give you the answer in three words: Goman has fallen. The armies of the enemy must be even now marching across the desert to besiege our capital, after having found that I myself left on a boat only a few days before. I can only add that my father will be glad I had removed myself before the attack came. Do not wonder at this. My father knew an invasion would come in the future. That is the explanation for the bands of soldiers from the South which have been terrorizing our desert dwellers.”
In response to this, Sir John only said “You will be safe, though. Two days from now we will land in Corridane. You will live in the capital there and be out of the reach of your enemies.” Then, the two separated, noticing that they had gained ground on the other ship since the first sighting.
Sir John and the Princess remained separate for the remainder of the day, only nodding slightly at each other in passing, in complete understanding of the situation, although the truth weighed heavily on their minds.
During the night, Sir John went to his cabin and brought out his little book. Beginning a new paragraph, he added “The Queen has revealed her secret, but it is very sorrowful to know. Evidently, I have regained her favor by avoiding her. I may need to remember that.”
It was not until they landed at Berunthia two days later that anything more which was worthy of notice happened. As soon as they had landed, at about midday, Sir John, rather nervously, had leapt overboard and dashed off to hire horses. When he had brought them, however, he found the Princess and her party mounted on the camels they had ridden in her homeland. The Princess explained that she had given special orders for this particular voyage that the camels be accommodated. Out of courtesy to his attempt at helpfulness, though, she mounted a horse instead.
Immediately, the whole party, including all of the useless horses, which were returned along the way, set out to cross Corridane. A few hours out of Berunthia, however, they met a royal courier going the other way.
The messenger halted and asked “Are you Sir John of the Rock?”
“I am” replied Sir John.
The messenger handed him a note. “That is a relief to know. This is the second time I have been sent to find you. The King requires your presence at the castle as soon as possible.”
Instead of giving an answer, Sir John said hurriedly “Lead these people back.” and rode off as fast as he could. He rode hard (during the course of which exercise he passed a large encampment of soldiers) until dusk, when he dismounted and found some shelter. Lying down, he attempted to get to sleep, but some stray thoughts nagged at his mind. “What was he going to do? What was so urgent that the king had sent messengers looking for him twice? , and lastly, what was it that made him try so hard to play such a dangerous game?” There were other questions in his thoughts, but they were not so important, being, in fact, rather trivial compared to the questions at hand.
He rose early the next morning, goaded his camel to a start, and rode off, not quite as hard as before. As he rode, he continued trying to sort out the thoughts that had troubled him the night before. Finally, he hit upon the self-centered idea that Valun was not as intelligent as he had always believed, and desperately needed his advice on important matters. This idea was entirely wrong, but Sir John would have no way of knowing how wrong he really was until he finally arrived in the city of Corrandion three days later.
But at this time, he was entirely absorbed in the idea that he was a mastermind who had to be consulted on everything, unaware that at some time or other, this ridiculous attitude would most likely land him in hot water he would not be able to climb out of.
As the day wore on, Sir John became increasingly uncomfortable and worried. What if Valun became suspicious? What if he actually discovered what Sir John had been attempting all these years? Most of all, he hoped, as his whole plan hinged upon it, that Valun never discovered who he truly was. That would ruin him forever.