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Chapter 56
By Setcheti Posted in Story on 1 November 2022 1319 words
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In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 56

That night, Jack couldn’t sleep. He found himself walking back to the pass, and after a moment’s hesitation he went into it and made his way through. The moon was riding high in the sky over the hidden valley, lighting up his kingdom. His kingdom. It was so odd, to think that, to feel the magic stirring inside him that bound him to this land and the people who would someday come to live on it. He sighed and sat down on the ledge, just looking and feeling and wishing he didn’t have to leave.

He didn’t turn around when he heard footsteps coming through the pass, and then Pino came out, looked around, and sat down near him. “It is quite a feeling, isn’t it.”

Jack nodded. “I never felt this way about Fantastique, even though I was born there.”

Pino patted his shoulder. “I know what you mean. Vinci…she knew she was going, and knew we could not save her. The family magic made its way to me on my sixteenth birthday—it spilled out to my brothers, of course, but it was me it came to, and me it charged with finding it another home.” He touched his chest. “The day I declare a new island to be Vinci…well, it will be.”

“I had hoped to be closer to everyone else, as you will be,” Jack admitted. “This is my home now, and I feel it always will be…but it is so far away from the Fairy Isles. Even to send a letter will take weeks.”

“We will find a better way. Perhaps an improvement on the mechanical bird Noki made, perhaps something done by magic—we will find a way, Jack, I swear it. You are family, to lose touch is not an option.” They both ignored the spark of gold magic that flared between them. “What of your mother?”

Jack sighed. “So far as I know, and that from her own mouth, she had no expectations for me and had made no plans—she only wanted me out of her sight. And in the six years I have been gone from Fantastique, not once has she attempted to contact me. I will go there and tell her at least some of what has happened in person, of course, enough that she knows I now have a crown and kingdom of my own and will not be returning to the land of my birth.” A laugh escaped him, a humorless sound. “I guarantee that her first question will be to ask why Pierre was not chosen, or Marcel. And I will have to go carefully to convince her to let me take my younger brother when I leave again, assuming I can persuade him to leave his books.”

“Oh, that will be easy,” Pino told him. He waved a hand at the ruins which were just barely visible in the quarter-moon’s light. “He is a scholar, is he not? What would a scholar agree to in order to gain access to a library, do you think?”

And Jack smiled. “Yes, Jules would no doubt agree to venture into the Broken Lands with me for that.” His smile faded quickly, however. “But there are many things we must accomplish before that can happen, some of them impossible or nearly so. And if we fail, if we lose Merlin…I want us to gather as many of our people as we can and bring them here, to Valeureux, to take shelter behind her walls.”

“Just because we cannot save the world does not mean we must die with it,” his friend agreed. The golden glow was a slight golden haze around them now as royal magic responded to their intent and the pact they were making. “New Vinci would be honored to claim alliance with you, King Jacques de Valeureux, and accept your offerta di soccorso if it becomes necessary.”

“But we will hope it does not become necessary,” Hans said, coming out of the passage. He bowed. “The bastard son of King Rupert of Holle has no alliance to offer save his own, but that I will gift to you both without reservation.” When the faintest mist of power rose to join the others’, his eyes widened. “What…”

Pino chuckled. “You may not have claim to your kingly father’s throne, Hans, but a kingdom you shall apparently receive—perhaps the prolific kitchen maid we plan to find for you has one to share.”

“Do not blush, the king of Holle is an idiot,” Jack added, rolling his eyes. “I do not know how they thought that story about you being born sickly and hidden away for years upon years would be believed.”

Hans rolled his eyes right back and joined them near the edge of the rocks. “They did not, honestly—they just knew no one would mention it because he had ordered the queen to claim that I was her son. To call the Queen of Holle a liar is just not done, whether the telling of that lie was of her choosing or not.”

“To publicly call the queen of any kingdom a liar is not done, or at least not done without consequence,” Jack said. “To do such would be a death sentence on Fantastique. But in all fairness, I do not think I would be…kind to any man who cast aspersions on the character of my wife.” He made a face. “I will need to find one of those for my kingdom as well.”

“You will have time enough to worry over that,” Pino assured him. “And to find your people as well—nothing can be done here until the taint is gone, and we have plenty to keep ourselves occupied with in the meantime. The problem of the shadow-sickness will not be solved in a week or even a month.”

“No, that it will not,” Hans agreed. “And the damage it has caused will spawn other problems, problems which we may be needed to find solutions for. It is distasteful to say it, but some of those problems may be something of a boon for yourself and Pino—people will wish to leave kingdoms decimated by sickness or ruined by taint, and they will need a place to go.”

“Distasteful but true.” Pino shrugged. “Again, however, we have time to worry about such things. For now, we need to concern ourselves with how we will make our way back to the Black Isle. Returning to the Gate may not serve us as well as taking some other route which leads to a better-traveled part of the sea. I for one do not wish to sit around on the beach for weeks on end hoping a ship will happen by and choose to stop.”

“A very good point, as I do not either. Although if there were merfolk there Hans would surely not mind in the slightest.”

Hans snorted but didn’t deny it. “There were some signs that trade does go on here in the Broken Lands, and we know that the sea is literally just over there,” he gestured at the distant wall of broken granite. “I think the people in Sherd would tell us where those routes are if you inform them of your claiming, Jack.” He held up a hand when Jack started to object. “Not the location of your kingdom, of course, but you can tell them some of what we encountered and show them the medallion. They’ve kept quite a bit of lore, it would not surprise me if someone remembered something about at least some of it.”

Jack considered that, and then he nodded. “I suppose we can at least try.”


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