© 2003, Kevan Hashemi

The Rebels of Diamantis

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2nd July 2477

At Toylandic's request, Hocus, Wicklow, Scythe, and Heraklese move into a single, large room in his manor. As the Dukes of Diamantis arrive with their sons, knights, and soldiers, the manor is becoming crowded.

Wicklow is not feeling well. He appears to be coming down with a nasty case of the flu. He consigns himself to bed, and the others stay out of their room so he can rest. They stroll around the gardens, talking in Latin to help Scythe learn the language, and discussing the gathering forces of the rebellion, who are encamped in the fields around the estate, and in the village.

Now that the three foreigners have removed their disguises, most soldiers know right away who they are: the mercenaries who escorted Dushkin, and who killed the wizard. The story of their killing Fatimeh Shajarian has spread quickly. The reaction of the rebels is on the one hand relief that the much-feared court wizard is dead, and on the other hand disdain for the killing of an unarmed woman.

"Look, it's the lady-killers," one young knight says, his hand upon his sword hilt.

Other rebel soldiers thank our heroes for what they have done. Most watch them silently.

3rd July 2477

In the morning, Hocus, Scythe and Heraklese talk to Sallinis in the privacy of her quarters. Dushkin is not present.

"In the strictest confidence," Sallinis says, "I tell you that I believe that Toylandic wishes to make himself regent and then king. He must not succeed. He will not succeed, because it is Alamasius's desire that Dushkin be king, and that I be regent. Only I can be relied upon to hand over the throne to Dushkin when he comes of age."

The obvious contradiction in this statement is apparent to her listeners, but they do not draw attention to it.

"Alamasius has told you that you will be regent?" Hocus says.


"What do you propose to do?"

"Tomorrow there is a conference of war before the army. Toylandic and several Dukes will make speeches, and I will speak as well. I would like you to accompany me upon the speaker's stage and express your faith in Dushkin as the future king, and in me as the future regent."

"That would not be our style," Scythe says.

"When I am regent, I will reward your loyalty with grants of land and nobility."

Our heroes tell her they will think about it, and take their leave. Soon after, they go to the church in the town where they find a service in process, with fifty soldiers in attendance. They take their seats at the back, and listen to the sermon by the priest Peliathon. He speaks to the soldiers of the importance in any conflict of adhering to the code of the warrior. Have mercy upon unarmed civilians. Take prisoners and treat them well. Treat the enemy wounded as you would treat your own. To violate the code is to lose your self-respect and thereby to compromise your performance in battles to come.

At the end of the sermon, the soldiers leave, some of them nodding respectfuly to the adventurers, others raising their noses.

Peliathon invites the adventurers into his study, and serves them sherry.

"So," he says, "What can I do for you?"

"We were wondering if you could receive money from us that we could deposit in an Olympian bank account."

Peliathon says that this might be possible, and promises to look into the matter.

Now our heroes move on to the more delicate matter of the throne and the regency. They discussed, before arriving at the church, various schemes for questioning Peliathon without revealing the causes of their interest, or the details of their conversation with Sallinis, but decide to be frank with him. They did not, after all, agree to keep confidence with Sallinis. She merely assumed they would keep her confidence.

"Is it Alamasius's will that Dushkin should be king?" Hocus says, "Because Sallinis seems to think it is, and yet she is concerned that Toylandic will seize the regency and deny Dushkin the throne."

"How is she so certain of Alamasius's will?"

"She speaks to him through a space bridge."

"Does she now? That is possible, she might still possess such a bridge."

"What has Alamasius told you about the regency?" Heraklese says.

"Alamasius has denied healing to us until such time as Ortophus is overthrown, and Dushkin is recognized as the rightful heir to the throne."

"And what of the regency?"

"The regent will be chosen by a council of the victorious Dukes. Alamasius has not revealed to me his will in that matter. It is possible that he wishes Sallinis to be regent."

"Do you think it likely?"

"I talk to you in my capacity as Alamasius's priest, not in my capacity as a man with opinions. So I will keep my opinions to myself. I assure you, however, that Alamasius will wish what is best for the country."

4th July 2477

Wicklow is still lying in bed resting. A young woman of Toylandic's household, a niece once removed or something, has taken it upon herself to nurse him. She being rather charming, he seems content to lie in bed an allow her to minister to him.

Hocus, Scythe, and Heraklese meet with Sallinis after breakfast, and tell her that they do not wish to take sides in the matter of the regency, or to judge what is best for Diamantis, other than to aid the rebellion by military action.

She is disappointed, but they are firm.

Later that morning, they meet Dushkin in the garden, and he tells them that he does not want to be king. He would like to be an adventurer, like them.

"Well, now," Heraklese says, "King or adventurer, that's a choice I would like to have at my disposal. And I would choose king, and then be an adventurer-king."

Narassus arrives at the estate with one hundred light-armed trappers, who join the rebel army as scouts and skirmishers. Toylandic and the Dukes are delighted to receive them.

In the mid-afternoon, Hocus, Scythe, and Heraklese attend the conference of war. Including Narassus's company of trappers, the rebel army consists of about nine hundred light-armed militia, one hundred cavalry, and fifty heavy infantry.

Toylandic gives a restrained but inspiringly factual speech about the problems that face the army. They must supplant a king in a well-defended city. They must strive do so without harming the innocent citizens of the city, or damaging their trading relations with other countries. They must avoid causing hardship to the country that will lead to resentment and revenge when the rebellion is over. He says that Ortophus might strike at any time, and that they should be ready.

Sallinis presents Dushkin to the troops. He has met most of them already, but they cheer anyway, and they cheer her too. She declares her dedication to the nation, as always, and her delight at being home again. These statements the troops also greet with cheers. Sallinis does not address the military challenges that lie ahead in any detail, but instead assures them that they cannot fail: the Lord Alamasius is with them.

After the conference, our heroes (with the exception of Wicklow, who remains in his room) cross paths with Narassus, and talk to him. He asks after Sallinis, and is glad to hear she is well. He tells them that the trappers decided in their council that they should support the rebellion.

"I convinced them that it will not go well with us if we remain neutral. To join with the king is to betray God, so we have but one choice. Nevertheless, our women and children have sought sanctuary in the mountains."

That night, after supper in the hall of the manor, the Dukes discuss their plan of war. Toylandic argues against besieging Diamantis, but most of the Dukes see no alternative, and when the will of the majority becomes plain, Toylandic accepts it, and he begins to plan the siege. In order to deprive Ortophus of his freedom of movement within the country, and encourage rebellion in a wider area, they will move upon the city tomorrow.

5th July 2477

It is a beautiful, sunny day with a brisk wind and scudding clouds. The rebel army moves out of the Miastadon Estate. Wicklow remains behind. He is beginning to feel better, but shows no will for the fight as yet. His nurse insists that he needs a "few more days in bed".

Heraklese stays behind with a space bridge to keep an eye upon him and to try to arrange a money transfer with Peliathon.

Dushkin is going with the army, in Toylandic's party. Hocus and Scythe are with him. Sallinis asks them to guard her son, but they refuse to make this their only duty.

"We have work to do in the war," Hocus says, "We are not taking part as his guards."

"I will pay you well," Sallinis says, "He is only a boy, and there are many, perhaps even among the rebels, who would see him come to harm, now that the rebellion is under way."

"When we are with him, we will look after him," Hocus says, "And we will watch for plots against him."

Despite offering them a hundred gold pieces, Sallinis cannot persuade the adventurers to give up their freedom to fight in the campaign.

Ride all day at walking pace (because most of the army is on foot) and camp around the same inn from which our heroes began their trek to the river several nights previously. They learn from talking to Toylandic that King Ortophus has at his disposal in the city two hundred professional heavy infantry, three "knights of the realm" who are much feared for their prowess, ten "captains of the realm" who are also respected fighters, and eight hundred militia drawn from the population of the city.

Talk to Heraklese through the bridge and hear that Peliathon will perform the money transfer to Olympia for a 2% commission.

6th July 2477

The army arrives at the gates of Diamantis, surrounds it on the land-ward side in front of the city wall, pulls down the statue of Ortophus outside the gates, and sets Narassus's trappers to watching the river front. The docks they cannot reach. But Hocus has a few ideas about stopping ships from coming and going.

7th July 2477

Hocus and Scythe go down to the point opposite the Diamantis docks. They are on one side of the mouth of the river, and the docks are on the other. At about 10 am, a large sailing ship approaches. When it is within five hundred meters of the point, Hocus assails it with a flash spell above the deck. The ship turns around and flees.

8th July 2477

Another ship, another flash, and it flees.

9th July 2477

Raining all day, warm summer rain. Hocus and Scythe are wet but remain cheerful and expectant. No boat comes.

10th July 2477

A boat sails up in the afternoon. Hocus flashes it, but it keeps coming. He tries his more powerful flash, and places it so close to the middle mast that it appears to blind the helmsman. The captain turns the ship about.

But this is the moment the loyalists (Ortophus's soldiers) have been waiting for. Six longboats leave the shore of the city, upstream from the point, each carrying ten soldiers rowing as hard as they can. In two of the boats a man kneels in the middle with a bow, firing at the opposite bank. Narassus's trappers fire at the boats. The soldiers in the boats are brave, and their armor is tough, so they keep coming. The men kneeling are astonishing in their accuracy and the speed with which they string their arrows and fire. Several trappers fall at the river-side.

Hocus and Scythe ride up the banks until they are opposite one of the boats with an archer in it. They have concluded that these two archers must be "knights of the realm", and they have no intention of meeting them in hand-to-hand combat. But Hocus exhausts his remaining Flash spells (he had six in all, four ordinary Flashes and two super-Flashes). Scythe fires arrows at the rowers. The trappers are crouching all around them and firing too. Several soldiers on the boat are blinded or wounded or both. One of them takes a poison arrow from Scythe. But the boat keeps coming.

Before the soldiers can land, Hocus and Scythe each pull a wounded trapper up onto their saddles, and ride off while the trappers run back up the river bank towards the rebel army. By the time Ortophus's soldiers land, there is nobody for them to fight, and they dare not linger to await a counter-attack. So they embark again and go back to the city.

Of the two trappers carried away by our heroes, one dies of his wounds and the other survives. Our heroes, now covered in the blood of their trapper comrades, are well-received by Narassus and the rest of the army. The news of their calm under fire adds to the story of their success in deterring ships from the docks, and redeems them of the crime of killing a woman. They are pleased to find themselves well-liked.

11th July 2477

Scythe and Hocus once again at the point waiting to flash a ship. A ship approaches, but instead of attempting to enter the docks, it drops anchor a kilometer away, off the pebble beach at the foot of the city. Longboats row out from the city to transport the ship's cargo, no doubt food and supplies for the population.

Being tired of sitting on the point all day, and seeing as the enemy has found a means to thwart them, Hocus and Scythe decide to take a break and ride back to the Miastadon estate. When they pass through the rebel camp, they pick up Dushkin, who wants to take a break as well. He misses his mother.

When they arrive back at the Miastadon estate, Hocus and Scythe find Wicklow out of bed and restored to health and vigor. They are relieved to see him so, for the last time they saw him in person he had not been himself: not only sick, but sapped of the ambition that had drawn the three of them together and away from their distant home in search of fame and fortune.

Sallinis is much relieved also to see her son safely restored to her, if only for a while. She asks them again to promise to guard him if and when they return to the fray.

"We are committed to helping with the fight," Hocus says, "We will make what arrangements we can, but we will not guard him if it means staying out of the fight."

She cannot dissuade them, and walks off with a sigh.

Heraklese, meanwhile, is in high spirits, and eager to talk of war and strategy, which they all four do at length.

12th July 2477

After some discussion, the four of them visit Peliathon and Hocus gives him 100 gp to be transferred into Hocus's Olympian bank account. This account is the one associated with Hocus's Three Aces summoning bridge. Peliathon also interviews Scythe and Wicklow on behalf of the Pentacostal Bank of Olympia as part of their application to that bank for accounts. This bank is one with which Alamasius (Aries) has an association. Peliathon assures them of its efficacy and its standing with summoning agencies and other Olympian banks as a source of credit. Among other things, the bank wants to be assured of Scythe and Wicklow's place of birth, citizenship of Clarus, and freedom from any outstanding debt with any other Olympian creditor. Peliathon takes blood samples from each of them to act as their ultimate proof of identity, and finger-prints too.

Meanwhile, Toylandic has returned for the day, and after lunch in the manor hall, they talk to him in the company of his twenty-five year old son Daylan. Toylandic is fifty-five and has four sons aged 28, 25, 20, and 16, all of whom have taken up arms. Toylandic slowly and tactfully brings our heroes around to the fact that winning the siege by starving the citizens of the city will divide Diamantis with bitterness for a long time to come. Although the other dukes are in favor of the siege, Toylandic wants to bring the conflict to a swift resolution by overcoming Ortophus without first overcoming the people of the city. Therefore, frightening off the supply boats with Flash spells might be great for morale, and bravely done, but it does not serve his strategy.

It appears that Toylandic has made this trip home specifically to make this point. But he does not appear to be angry or frustrated about the matter. Far from it, he is keen to make use of Hocus. Our heroes follow his logic and agree with it, although they are careful to show no regret for what they did.

Hocus proposes to get space bridges into Ortophus's castle, hidden discretely about the place. Through the bridges they might be able to spy upon the king and his councils, or they might be able kill him with a ball of fire. At the very least they could sow havoc and fear. Toylandic agrees to try to convince someone, presumably a spy, to take the bridges into the castle. It is clear that Toylandic has someone in mind for the job.

Hocus has also been thinking about a superior form of Scrying Eye, consisting of three space bridges. One bridge he would release into the upper atmosphere with the help of a small conjured balloon. The other half of this bridge, remaining with him, would suck air into itself. This suction he would use, with the help of a mechanical contraption, to apply force in a range of directions to another bridge in the same contraption. The other half of this second bridge would act as a thruster to move the third bridge, the one through which he would look.

With Toylandic's approval, Hocus commissions the local blacksmith to make the contraption. The blacksmith is glad to do it, because he is tired of making horse shoes and arrows for the army.

13th July 2477

Sallinis again pleads with them to watch over Dushkin. They refuse, and instruct her to hire someone else to do the job. She agrees to do so, but begs them to watch over him until she finds someone. They say they will not do so officially, but they will keep his safety in mind, so long as he stays with them.

14th - 28th July 2477

The siege of Diamantis drags on. Ships have started to use the docks again. Heraklese declares that this must be because they know Hocus is not at the scene.

The blacksmith finishes Hocus's device, and Hocus tries it out for a couple of days. Unfortunately, his conception was flawed. The thruster bridge generates very little thrust, and he cannot steer the scrying eye. Now that he sees the thruster in action, it is clear to him why it does not work, and he begins immediately to design another, far superior version that uses static low-pressure air instead of air flow.

Instead of working on another Scrying Eye contraption, the blacksmith makes a bridge holder, nozzle, and piston for Hocus to squirt water through a bridge, in anticipation of launching such attacks upon the castle. Hocus devises a spell, which he calls Fire Ring that makes a space bridge with an extra-strong sheath that lasts for 256 hours.

Scythe and Wicklow receive their Olympian bank account numbers, and deposit 100 gp each.

Toylandic returns for a day and agrees to take six bridge rings in a few days time. He will pass them on to some brave agent, who will try to hide them in Ortophus's castle.

29th July 2477

Rejoin the army. Heraklese and Dushkin go with them. Hocus has prepared six fire ring bridges. That night, Hocus, Wicklow, and Scythe are in a war council with Toylandic, having handed over the bridges, when they hear Heraklese cry out from their tent. They rush out of the council and see a man running away into the night, and Heraklese lying on the ground bleeding.

Heraklese and Dushkin agree that a man with a mask entered the tent intending to kill Dushkin. Heraklese drew his sword and attacked the assassin without hesitation. Heraklese was not wearing his armor, and when his opponent stabbed him, he cried out. The assassin turned and ran.

"He must have lost his nerve," Toylandic says.

The Reverend Mickelmastis is with the army, and binds Heraklese's wound. After congratulating Heraklese on his heroism, they all go to sleep.

31th July 2477

Shortly after midnight, Wicklow checks upon Heraklese and finds him cold and shivering. Is he in shock? His heart rate is slow. Wicklow calls Mickelmastis back, a they both agree that Heraklese shows signs of being poisoned. Mickelmastis takes a blood sample.

"I will offer the sample to the Lord, and perhaps the Lord will enlighten us. But we will receive no help beyond enlightenment, I am afraid."

He returns at two in the morning to say that Heraklese's blood contains a deadly poison. He might live, or he might die.

"I do not have the antidote, and the Lord will not supply it. But I know its name."

Mickelmastis tells them the Latin name of the antidote. They write it down. The nearest country to the north in which they might summon the antidote is Belgoria. Its capital city Dakka is two days ride away.

"You could try Peliathon. He might have the antidote at hand. He is a keen medic."

Toylandic commissions a stage coach for them with four horses. They make Heraklese comfortable, light the lamps, and go as quickly as they can down the road to the south. They leave Dushkin behind, with Toylandic promising to post a strong guard over him. Dushkin is frightened and tearful, but our heroes are too worried about Heraklese to let that slow them down. If they cannot get the antidote from Peliathon, they do not know how far they will have to go to get it after that. They do take the precaution of leaving a talking bridge with Toylandic.

At sunrise they reach Peliathon's church. He is just getting out of bed. He does not have the antidote. They continue along the road to the border of Troka. There are guards at the border on the Troka side, but they allow the coach to pass. At the first town they come to, they find Balash the local priest. He is an old man, and stooped, but he is polite and happy to help them. He summons the antidote and a healing serum for Heraklese, and administers both.

In the town inn, Heraklese recovers quickly from the poison, and then passes out from the power of the serum.

At noon, talk to Toylandic through the talking bridge. Toylandic agrees to pay 100 gp for the six bridges Hocus gave him.

1st August 2477

With Heraklese feeling much better, return to the Miastadon estate in time for lunch. In the afternoon, Toylandic, over a bridge, tells them that the bridges are already in place in the castle, and lists their locations. There is one in the dining room. At around supper time, Hocus looks through all the bridges. In the dining room, the bridge is wedged under the table, and he sees the legs of people sitting down to eat.

Our heroes discuss the best use to which they might put these bridges. They recall Toylandic's objective which is to eject, kill, or otherwise overcome Ortophus without belaboring the inhabitants of the city. They decide to cause as much fear as possible by letting off fireballs from every bridge ring in quick succession. This they do immediately, after preparing everything and going out into a field near the manor house. The squirting piston is convenient and powerful. It provides a means to ignite the flammable gasses with minimum risk to the igniter. Each explosion causes a puff of flame and destroys the ring.

"Well, that's that," Hocus says, "Let's go eat."

As it turns out, the fires they start combine together and rage all night. In the morning they can see a column of smoke rising from the ruins.

2nd August 2477

Talk to Toylandic in the morning. There is much excitement in the army camp. He urges them to join him, because he plans to press their advantage. The castle burned all night, and is still burning. They leave Heraklese behind with their valuables and ride to the army outside the city. They arrive at noon. Hocus lets a scrying eye up into the air, and through it he judges the castle to be almost completely destroyed by fire. [98% destroyed, according to the dice.] Toylandic tells them to get ready for the fight.

3rd August 2477

But the fight does not come. The dukes with whom Toylandic must consult do not want to act. They welcome the burning of the castle, but only as another step in the prosecution of the siege, not as an opportunity to strike and take the gates of the city. But Toylandic is determined to convince them.

6th August 2477

An hour after dark, the rebel army is under arms, as it has been for the last four days, when it receives orders to move. Hocus gives Wicklow and Scythe two Fire Rings each, to add to their talking bridges, and rides to the point from which he previously harassed the ships. With him are twenty mounted knights and his squirting apparatus. From this position he watches the city and communicate with Toylandic and his comrades.

Scythe and Wicklow join Narassus's scouts beside the River, where they prepare to carry dozens of small boats out of the willows and down to the water. The sky is overcast, and it is dark.

Meanwhile, Toylandic arrays his army, with ladders, grappling hooks, and catapults, for an assault upon the city wall.

7th August 2477

At four in the morning, in the dark hour before dawn, Toylandic gives Narassus and Hocus the order to begin. For the next minute, Hocus lets off flash after flash in the streets of the city down by the docks. During that same minute, Narassus, his one hundred scouts, and Wicklow and Scythe, put their boats in the water and row for the city on the other side. Several guards see them, but appear to be unable to summon adequate support to repel their landing. The scouts are not accomplished rowers, but they are determined. The boats do not arrive at the far shore all together, nor at the same time, but they all arrive, and the scouts in each boat embark immediately and run through the streets of the city to the North-West. Along the way many of them encounter soldiers and city guardsmen. The city guardsmen tend to run, but some of the soldiers stand firm and fight. When they find themselves stopped, the scouts back off and find another way forward through the streets.

In groups of three or four at a time, the scouts reach the inner side of the city wall, and run along it to the gate. There they hide in the shadows of the trees and entrance-ways that face the wall. Scythe and Wicklow are with Narassus. When they near the gate, Narassus summons his men to his side. Sixty or seventy of them are there already. Many of the scouts fire at the soldiers on the wall. With Narassus at their lead, they charge the gate. Their job is to open it for the army outside. There are twenty mail-clad heavy infantry to defend the gate against them, standing in the light of lanterns hanging from the walls around them.

Even as they close upon the enemy, they hear a roar of hundreds of voices from beyond the wall. The rebel army is storming the wall. Moments later, their own swords clash with those of Ortophus's soldiers, and the din of battle fills their ears. The soldiers they face are arrayed two deep along a rough line between the two buttresses that jut from the wall on either side of the gate. The scouts outnumber the soldiers, and more scouts are arriving every minute from the streets of the city.

It is not easy to kill a man wearing armor. He must make a mistake, and you must exploit his mistake. Scythe and Wicklow are both wearing armor, and they are confident that they will not make any mistakes, not until they get tired and flustered. They attack their opponents vigorously and without hesitation. Wicklow quickly wounds his man, and then Scythe does the same to his. The line of battle moves back and then forward. More soldiers come down off the battlements to join those defending the door. Wicklow wounds another man, who backs away to safety. But Wicklow shows no inclination to kill his enemies.

Wicklow looks up and sees one of the three dreaded Knights of Diamantis descending from the battlements. Within moments, the knight engages Narassus. Wicklow backs away from the front line and moves closer to Narassus. The light is dim, and Narassus is facing away from Wicklow, so Wicklow must move up close before he sees the sweat and blood on Narassus's brow, and notices him stumbling and struggling to defend himself. Any moment now, Narassus could make a mistake. As for the knight, he fights calmly and skillfully. Narassus cannot last more than a minute. Wicklow pushes his way up beside him, and tries to engage the knight. But another soldier engages Wicklow instead.

Scythe, meanwhile, has just killed a man, and backs away. He takes a few deep breaths to calm himself down, and looks around him. Fifty soldiers are marching down the street towards the rear of the scout company. The scouts there are forming up to receive them. The scouts in the middle of the company are firing arrows at the soldiers on the wall. Some of the braver soldiers trust their armor and descend the stairs to the fray, but most of these get shot down by a hail of missiles. The scouts are fighting bravely, but they are not making progress towards the gate, and they are about to be surrounded. Scythe takes out his bridge to Hocus and shouts through it that he needs a fire ball. He takes out his fire ring and waits.

At the front line, Scythe sees Wicklow kill a soldier. Scythe is not sure what happens next, it looks as if Wicklow is trying to tell Narassus to back away from the knight, but Narassus refuses to do so. Two scouts step forward to protect their leader, but the knight kills one within seconds.

Scythe hears a faint voice from his talking bridge. "Ready! On three!"

"Okay," Scythe says, "Wicklow! Fire in the Hole!"

"Throw it!" Hocus says.

Scythe throws the bridge over the heads of the soldiers and at the gate. The bridge bounces off the gate and onto the ground. Moments later, fire bursts up the gate and out towards the soldiers. The soldiers near the blast turn and stagger in confusion and surprise. Wicklow and Narassus charge towards the gate, and Scythe too. The scouts follow after a few seconds, forming a wedge behind their leaders. The knight realizes too late what is happening. A few sturdy soldiers stand beside the charred and smoldering gate, but they cannot stop our heroes from lifting the bar. The scouts surge forward, fighting furiously. Behind them, the larger body of soldiers stops under another hail of arrows.

As soon as the bar on the gate is lifted, the rebel soldiers upon the other side push hard upon the door and its swings open. Both scouts and soldiers alike must back away or be crushed against the wall. Armored rebel infantry pour in, and then twenty armored cavalry. Narassus, Wicklow, and Scythe move back to the lee of the buttress, where they can catch their breath and leave the rest of the fighting to the incoming army. They have done their job, and none of them seem to want to risk his life any further in this battle. Narassus's scouts are scattered. He cannot summon them to him over the noise of the battle, but he is too tired to worry about that. It seems to the three of them that the battle must surely be won, and as it turns out, they are right.

As the sky begins to lighten, the battle has moved on into the city. Wicklow, with Scythe at his side, goes among the wounded to see what he can do for them. There, trampled in the dirt is the body of the soldier he killed, and there is the body of one he injured, a horse's hoof-print on his crushed skull. But here is a soldier Scythe wounded, still breathing in a corner by the gate. Wicklow binds his wound. The soldier sits shivering, his eyes staring into space.

When the sun rises over Diamantis, the king and his three knights are gone. Some say they are hiding inside the city, others say outside, some say he died in the fire, and others say they fled, with all those most loyal to the king, in a boat, bound for some allied nation where they can plot their return. Be that as it may, half the king's soldiers died in the fight, and many more were wounded. Toylandic insists upon clemency for the remainder.

9th August 2477

A warm afternoon finds our heroes back at the Miastadon estate, where they rest, recover from their cuts and bruises, and congratulate one another privately. They speculate upon what the future holds for Diamantis.

15th August 2477

Toylandic and Narassus return to the Miastadon estate. Before the dukes disbanded the army, they voted to make Toylandic regent of the nation until Dushkin comes of age. Dushkin just turned twelve. Toylandic will be regent for nine years, until 16th July 2486, Dushkin's twenty-first birthday. If Toylandic should die before that time, the dukes will vote again upon the regency.

17th August 2477

Toylandic Miastadon, Regent of Diamantis, makes Narassus a Knight of Realm. Now that he is a Knight of the Realm, he is entitled to ask Sallinis's hand in marriage. He does so, and Sallinis grants herself to him. Narassus moves into Sallinis's bedroom, and Dushkin finds himself with more free time on his hands. Heraklese finds the boy looking glum in the garden. Heraklese ruffles his hair.

"Hey, prince, what's bugging you?"

"Please don't ruffle my hair, it makes me look like a child."

"You are a child, Dushkin, don't be ashamed of it. Kids can do all kinds of things that grown-ups can't. Don't waste it while you have it."


"Why so glum?"

"I don't need another Dad."

"No you don't, but now you have a step-father, and you can make the most of it or you can fuss about it. What would an adventurer do about it? What would Scythe do?"

Dushkin looks at the ground and thinks for a while. "I guess he wouldn't complain about it."

"That's true, but what else would he do?"

"I don't know."

"He's make the most of it, kid. That's what being an adventurer is all about: making the most of it. You have Narassus as a step-father. How do you make the most of that, do you think?"

"I don't know."

"Think about it."

Dushkin thinks about it. "I guess he could take me hunting in the mountains, or he could take me to visit the dwarves."

"There you go. He's and adventurer himself. He'll be there for you. He'll understand what you're talking about when you say that you don't want to be king. This is going to work out fine for you, so long as you make the most of it."

Dushkin nods. "Maybe you're right."

"I know I'm right, kid," Heraklese says, and ruffles Dushkin's hair.

18th August 2477

Our heroes say goodbye to their Diamatian friends. They are pleased to see that Sallinis is happy. She can't stop smiling, even when she says goodbye to the men who brought her safely across the sea. But Dushkin is tearful.

"Will you come and visit us?"

"I'm sure we will," Wicklow says, "Take care of yourself and your mother."

Narassus shakes their hands one after the other. "Thank you for bringing Sallinis here safely. You will always be welcome in our house. I hope you will stay with us whenever you can."

"We will," Scythe says.

They set off to the city, and stay the night at the Inn on the road. With them rides Daylan, Toylandic's son.

18th August 2477

Daylan escorts them to the house where their balloon and basket still lie hidden in the basement. They retrieve it and strap it to a pack horse. They indulge themselves with a short tour of the burned-out castle. They stroll along the docks, busy with ships, and through the parks. Daylan takes them to his favorite restaurant and buys them lunch.

They mount their horses and say goodbye to Daylan. They set off to the north, following the roat to Belgoria. Belgoria's capital city is Dakka, and Dakka is famous for its libraries, its wine, its fruit, it old customs, its universities, and its museums. What awaits them there, they cannot say. Perhaps they will get some much-needed rest. But in their hearts they are hoping, as always, for excitement, adventure, and really wild things.