The inhabitants of the palace rose late the next morning. Some were refreshed, some were still tired, and others felt ready to feast still more. But, in the end, nothing of the sort occurred. Instead, horses were saddled, blades were shined, and farewells were exchanged.
It was decided between those who were to depart that they should travel south and stop for a time at Falnath Melanar, there leaving Miran and his mother. While Valun mounted his trusty steed who had brought him through the years, he still marveled at the mounts which the Princess and her ever-present band of silent guards had procured for themselves. He had last seen the humped beasts years ago in the Gairbairn capital, at the same great fair which has been mentioned. Miran, having been in seclusion for so long, was not familiar with them and remained in the saddle of his horse.
The two kings rode at the head of the party, while the others formed a line behind them. The party left the city to an enthusiastic send-off, their ears ringing with the cries of “Health and happiness to you all!” These cheers were acknowledged as cheerfully as they were given out. The party of nobles then turned toward the southern road and settled into a smooth gait which would take them for several miles.
Near the close of day they reached Falnath Melanar, which was now more heavily protected than they had expected to find it. They identified themselves from several yards away, giving the men time to open the heavy gate they had built in each wall. At a hail, Sir Dunstan himself came out to greet them, bowing low before his own monarchs and giving Valun a soldier’s salute.
“You have come at a good time, my lord. We have recently begun building your hall, as you said it should be done. We shall have finished before the week is past.”
“Thank you, good knight. I do not think I could feast again before that anyway. King Elmbran gave us far too much to put down our throats.”
“And the ladies? Do you wish that they have a house also? The men are tired, but they will do it.”
To ease the conversation, the nobles began dismounting. Miran put his man’s worries to rest. “No, that will not be necessary. Indicating the litter, he said “My mother will live in my house. My sister has other intentions, though, which she will reveal to you.” With a snap of his fingers, Miran brought forward the guards, who took the mounts and led them away without comment, as was their wont.
The next day, the people assembled in the central plaza to hear what the nobles had to say to them. It did not take long. Miran went first.
“My people! Brave swords and hearty workers, who would march all day for me and still fight the battle when it came, because you could, hear me! A new dawn has risen over the lands. The worry of the enemy, who oppressed all, even his own people, has been destroyed by brave men who had much left to gain and even more to avenge. Foremost among them we name Railon the Traveler, and Torlan the Magnificent, kings of the desert land, and of the hardiest people anywhere. The others were less well-known to most, but are equally missed by their houses. Those men we shall honor by keeping their houses in food and gear until such sons as they had are grown to their place. I will not leave you again. In time, we shall return to the banks of the Ishbana and there honor our fathers by toiling as they did. We are men of the desert. It is in us, and we can not escape it. So we will return. And now, listen to the words of my sister.”
Miran stepped back then and allowed the Princess to come forward to speak. Her speech was softer and more quickly heard.
“You are my people, and so you shall remain. I have met many of you, and those I have seen I shall not forget. But I can not stay among you. In my heart it has been decided that I should go to the Corridanes to be their queen. They also have suffered great loss, and their lord fears that he does not the way to put a roof on a house.” There were smiles and some laughs at this. Valun, surprised by such a strange announcement, simply shook his head, grinning with the Gairbairns. But then the Princess continued and concluded.
“And so I must go there, but in spirit I will live in his palace and in this town. And sometimes I will find myself riding here when you would not expect it. Farewell. Man your walls, do not let your banks flood over, and watch for the lady.”
For the second time, Valun passed down a street lined with people as he departed from them. But this time he was too satisfied with himself to notice. The main road was pointed out to them, they took their last farewells of Miran and his people, and set off.
An uneventful week passed until they reached the bank of the great river, where they had to wait for several hours before the boat which had brought Valun across finally appeared. The crew was surprised by the change in passengers, but a few words set them to rights and the boat started off.
Several more slow hours passed while the boat crossed the river. They disembarked at the Carribeasa dock, from which place they moved on to the central hall of the city. At this point, the captain of the city’s garrison, having been notified of the king’s approach, came out and gave his sword over to the king, saying “The city is yours.”
Valun promptly handed the blade back to its owner. “Keep it in my name. On the fourth day from this, give the people a holiday.”
“Your word is law.”
Valun, the Princess, and her guards then departed from the city. In the few succeeding days, they passed through several villages, not all of which acknowledged his presence. Out of respect to his friend, Valun did not lead the party across the boundaries of Longfurrow land, even though it was both within his rights and a shorter path.
It was about noon of the third day that they reached the capital, where Valnor had long since finally put men to work rebuilding the walls, along with the city itself. A sentry, whom Valun recognized as James due to the distinctive helm he wore, signaled acknowledgement from the walltop and then disappeared. When the king reached it, the gate had been opened. He entered through it slowly, relishing the gradually increasing cheers as he passed through his city. Fittingly, the cheers he was hearing now were the most enthusiastic he heard in years. By the time he reached the palace, he felt deafened by the volume of them.
There upon the steps of the palace, to consummate Valun’s rising to be a true king of the Corridanes, Valnor and the old priest were present. While Valnor handed off the royal power, the priest intoned “By brother, by mother, and by friend named in life, by father named by death, take now upon yourself the power to command all men in the land. See that you do it well.” As Valun placed the crown upon his head once more and stepped back to say a few words to the priest, Valnor took his place to cry the ritual statement once and for all.
“I, Valnor of the house of Valun, pronounce my lord Valun III, a blood descendant of the house of Valun, worthy to mount these steps and be crowned king of the Corridanes under The One!”
Before departing, Valun stepped forward one more time to announce to the people “There shall be a holiday tomorrow, for I have found the lady who will be my queen! By her own choice she comes here, and it took her long to decide that much!” The people close enough to see saw that the king was laughing, and so they joined in, which eventually resulted in the whole crowd chuckling. The Princess, who was watching from the side, took it peacefully, for she could see that the jab was a response to her statement to her own people regarding a proper house. She decided that the coming years would be a very happy time in Corridane.
The next day, Valun and the Princess walked together to the temple, which they entered, and later emerged as king and queen of the Corridanes.
In the course of time, it passed and the people thrived, feeding off the cheer which the king and queen both displayed. It was a time of plenty in the land, and little strife in the city which Robert and his men did not succeed in rectifying. First James and then Robert sent for and, paid well, the best architects from all the lands to rebuild their halls according to the plans in the memories of themselves and their acquaintances. Both halls were built to the lords’ full satisfaction, and several builders went away from Corridane with heavy purses.
In addition, masons built a cairn over Richard’s remains, and a statue in the plaza of the capital which recognized those men known now as the Twenty; their names became known only to bards, who were also already singing speculative versions of Richard’s last ride and Robert’s defense. The king and queen, now that all turmoil had passed, memorialized Roland Longfurrow and Eric Trondale at the seacoast, where it was generally believed that they had been unceremoniously interred.
In the middle of the next year, Valun rode alone with his brother to the northern coast where he had met his father so long ago. As had been arranged at last, the ship came over the horizon, and after a farewell and a few words to the boatmen, Valnor departed with the teachers, and Valun turned back to live out his life among his people.
About a year after the Princess’s arrival, Valun again declared a holiday. From the steps of the temple, where all the great step were taken, with the queen at his side, he announced that she had borne a son, who had been named Ryal.
Years passed, and James Earl Longfurrow asked for and was accepted by Anne of Trondale, even though he was three years the younger and still sometimes acted that way. By this time, Robert had himself found an admirable girl to perpetuate the honor of his house.
And finally, word was received from Gairbairia that the city by the river had been completely rebuilt and that the king wished for his sister’s presence at the celebration. Meanwhile, a new man who understood ruling had risen in Naibern. There was peace in the land.
Some time after hearing of this, and before his queen returned from her homeland, Valun went alone to the monument he had erected over his father’s body.
“It has all come to pass, father. The people are content. They came together as you asked of them. There is honor, peace, and justice in all the lands. But still I am alone, and still I wish for you at times.”
Suddenly, Robert stepped out of the shade which was situated close by the tomb, making Valun jump. “But, my lord, you have done it, and you are destined to be one of the people’s favorites.”
“You think so?”
“Duty before peace. As you know, it is…”
Together they recited “The price of a Throne.” Companionably, with little notice of rank between such old friends, they made their way back to the city, where the spires of the temple shone in the fading light.