The Sequel to Lore.
“The king is dead,” it said, “come home.”
He lowered it slowly and realized his hands were shaking. Ten years ago at the age of eighteen he had a disagreement with his father the king of Acoona, and left. Before he went, he told his mother that he would only return when his father was dead. He was the king of Acoona, he realized and the shaking of his hands intensified.
Quickly he pulled his long blonde hair back into a ponytail, then turned and grabbed his saddle bags, where they lay on the bed. He opened the door to his room and stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind him. He hurried down the stairs and almost ran into Shaleah.
He grabbed hold of her, the awkwardness of her large belly making it difficult for her to keep her balance.
“Where are you going Shimon,” she asked, then noticed how upset he looked.
“I have to go back to Acoona,” he told her, “my father is dead.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, “I’ll tell Kerrick why you left so suddenly, he’ll understand.”
Shimon nodded his thanks, then hurried out the front door, toward the stables. Once inside, he saddled his mare Honey, and guided her out of the stall. Once he was in the yard, he turned toward the door where Shaleah was watching him and raised his hand in farewell. Then he mounted onto the horse and kicked her into a gallop, riding out of the yard quickly.
He traveled for a month, before reaching his destination. Acoona was a beautiful country, full of green hills and majestic mountains. But as Shimon rode through it, he just felt the chains of duty tightening around him. He had never wanted to be king. He wasn’t even the first born. But the mystics of Parlu had seen in a vision that he was the one, so he had been named the successor, much to his dismay and his brother Gerar’s anger.
He neared the city of Safestern with much trepidation, knowing that the responsibilities of a country would soon be heaped upon him.
He entered the city quietly, knowing that the years had changed him, and no one would recognize him as the prince who had left.
He rode through the streets, noticing that nothing had changed in the ten years that he had been gone. He smirked to himself. Nothing ever changed in Safestern or Acoona.
As he neared the castle a flash of red out of the corner of his eye made him turn and his heart stopped beating for a second. Standing in front of guard shack, her beautiful red hair cut shorter then he remembered stood the girl he had loved, and the reason he had left.
He halted Honey in front of her, and she looked up, for a moment she didn’t recognize him. Then she realized who he was.
“Shimon,” she breathed, all the color draining from her face.
“Hello Lorel,” he said.
For a moment, her mouth worked but no words came out, then she turned and ran the other way. Shimon sat watching her go, and he remembered the last time they had spoken.
“We should be married by now Lorel,” Shimon said.
“Shimon,” she said, “I can’t marry you, not yet.”
“Why are you so bent on proving what a good soldier you are?” Shimon asked roughly, “my father says I need to marry you, that we need to provide heirs.”
“What about my father?” Lorel said with anger, “he wanted me to become a solider, like he was, like my mother was. I can’t help the fact that the mystics said I was to be your wife.”
For a moment Shimon stared at her in anger, then he turned and left without saying another word.
Later that night he had fought with his father, then packed his things and left. But the real reason was because of her.
Shimon shook his head as if to clear it, then continued through the gates, onto the castle grounds. A young boy ran up to take the horse, when he had stopped in the front, and he dismounted, handing him the reins.
He slowly walked up the steps to the massive oak front doors, they opened as if by magic when he neared them, but he knew it was because of the two well-trained footmen stationed there.
“May I have your name sir,” the butler said, hurrying up to him, “so that I can announce you?”
“Liberio,” Shimon said, and the butler’s eyes widened.
“Shimon?” He asked, then stammered, “I mean king Shimon. Welcome home. Your mother is going to be so pleased.”
Shimon smirked, “I doubt that,” he said, “she’s never been pleased about anything I’ve done before.”
Liberio led him through the castle, toward the sitting room where his mother would be occupying at this time of day.
Liberio stepped into the room, and said loudly.
“My queen, you have a visitor.”
Shimon didn’t wait to be announced. He just entered.
His mother, who hadn’t changed since the day he had left, sat on a small velvet sofa. Her blonde her did up in a chignon. She was wearing an ice blue dress that matched the cool expression that came over her face when she saw him.
“Shimon,” she said, without enthusiasm, “at last you come home.”
“Yes mother,” Shimon said dryly, “your message was so heartfelt, that I hurried back as soon as I could.”
He saw movement out of the corner of his eye, and he realized that Gerar sat in a large high-backed velvet chair.
“Brother,” Shimon said, but Gerar didn’t reply, he just stared at him with hatred in his eyes.
“We weren’t sure if you were even still alive,” his mother said, “the messenger took forever to locate you.”
“And I’m sure my death would’ve broken your heart mother,” Shimon said.
He turned and started out of the room.
“I find myself quite weary,” he said, “I’m sure the king’s quarters have been prepared for me.”
Without waiting for a reply, he hurried out of the room, with Liberio following close behind.
“Master Gerar has been occupying those quarters,” the butler said nervously, and Shimon stopped for a moment.
“Then he’ll have to find new ones,” he said, “take all his stuff out and prepare them for me.”
Liberio started to laugh and quickly coughed into his hand.
“Yes my king,” he said, and hurried down the hall to do his bidding.
Shimon watched him go, then hurried out of the castle to find the one person who had been on his mind since he rode in.
He found Lorel in the practice arena, hacking away at a dummy, with a sword.
“Are you pretending that’s me?” He asked her, and she turned with an angry glint in her eyes.
“Why are you here?” She asked, then pushed past him without waiting for an answer.
“I’m here because I’m the next king,” he said, following her.
“You care nothing about being king,” she said, “you could’ve stayed away and let your brother have the throne.”
He laughed harshly.
“Gerar would never make a good king,” he said, “Acoona would be run into the ground in a year.”
Lorel turned and looked at him.
“And you think you’ll do better?” She asked.
“That’s not the only reason I came,” Shimon admitted, “I came because of you. I still love you, and I still want to marry you.”
“I don’t love you,” Lorel said, then turned and walked away.
Shimon swore with anger and grabbed her discarded sword, he turned and savagely swung it, decapitating the dummy neatly.
Slowly he dropped the sword, then walked out of the arena, in the opposite direction of Lorel.
That night there was a giant fete for his homecoming, but as Shimon scanned the crowd for one particular face, he didn’t feel like celebrating. She hadn’t come, he knew she wouldn’t, but in his heart he hoped she would. He slowly walked away from the crowd, wanting to be alone. He had just reached the bridge that spanned the river, when he saw her. She stood alone, looking down at the moon reflected in the water, and he felt his heart squeeze. He had been telling the truth. He wanted her for his wife, not because of the prophecy, but because of her. He looked at her for a moment, she had taken off her solider’s garb and wore a wispy violet dress, her red hair done up in ringlets that framed her face.
His foot made a shuffling noise on the gravel of the road and she looked up. Her face cooled as soon as she saw him, and she turned to leave.
“Don’t go,” he said, surprising himself with his sudden words.
She stopped, but didn’t turn back around.
“Were you coming to the fete?” He asked.
“Why should I?” She snapped, “when it’s celebrating something that I have no wish to celebrate.”
Shimon winced at her words, “do you hate me that much?” He asked quietly.
She seemed to jerk at his words, and she turned to gaze at him.
“I don’t hate you,” she said, then turned and walked away, without another word.
He watched her go, then turned and looked toward the celebration. With an oath, he turned and walked toward the castle, he wanted to find some alcohol and forget Lorel, at least for the moment.
Shimon, swore softly the next morning, as he attempted to mount Honey with the huge headache he had. He had gone through three bottles of alcohol, but nothing could make him forget about Lorel. Now he had a massive hangover and had to oversee the local cases in the nearest outlaying village.
Liberio appeared at his side, the butler looked cool and immaculate as ever, even in the heat.
“Are you ready my king?” He asked, seeming not to notice the condition Shimon was in.
Shimon nodded, his head, then winced at the pain the movement caused.
He rode out into the castle courtyard, with Liberio following close behind.
He almost groaned out loud when he saw Lorel mounted and waiting for them with the group of armed guards.
“What is she doing here?” He asked Liberio, who looked surprised at his question.
“She knows everyone in the surrounding villages my king,” he said, then smiled slightly, “she will make a wonderful queen when the time comes.”
“If the time comes,” Shimon said softly, before kicking his horse into a gallop and leaving the castle grounds, with his party following close behind.
As they approached the first village, a cry came up that the king was nearing and people crowded the dirty main road to get a glimpse of him.
Shimon saw the faces of his subjects, people that he was now responsible for and he felt unworthy. He was king, but yet he didn’t feel like one.
“Seems almost overwhelming, doesn’t it,” a voice beside him made him turn.
Lorel was riding next to him at the head of the group.
He looked at her and for a moment could’ve sworn that she looked sad, then the look was gone and she dismounted from her horse.
Shimon dismounted as well, and he was led to the local tavern where court was to be held.
He spent the day hearing disputes with neighbors over various things, then finally ended court for the evening.
After the villagers had disbursed, Shimon and Liberio left the tavern, Shimon stopped when he saw Lorel, she was distributing out the medical supplies and other items to the village women. As he watched her, surrounded by people who obviously adored her, he realized that the girl he had loved, had become a woman. He had only cared about marrying her because what was what he wanted, that he hadn’t stopped and thought what she wanted.
As if she felt his gaze she looked up and for a moment they just stared at each other, then he took a step forward.
“I hate to break up this moment,” Liberio’s voice said behind him, “but it’s getting late and no one wants to travel these roads after dark.”
Shimon nodded and started toward Honey. The party mounted, and left the village, heading back toward the castle.
They had reached the halfway point to the castle, when they came upon a large tree limb blocking the road. Two of the guards dismounted to move it, and Shimon moved his horse closer to Lorel.
“I don’t like this,” he told her, “there’s no reason for that branch to be here.”
She looked at him for a moment, as comprehension dawned in her eyes, then moved her horse forward.
“Watch for an attack!” She cried.
Just as the words left her mouth an arrow flew out of the dense overgrowth of the forest. It hit one of the still mounted guards, sending him flying off his horse.
Lorel drew her sword as men poured out of the forest.
“Defend the king,” she cried, and rode toward Shimon.
She decapitated one of the men, then swung her sword around, meeting another one’s sword in a clash of steel against steel.
Shimon fought as the men surrounded him, he knew they wouldn’t back down, that he would get no mercy from them because he was king. They were paid assassins and they only had one objective, to kill him.
He managed to break free from the men, and kneed Honey sending her barreling through the marauding assassins. Suddenly Honey stumbled and fell to the ground. He rolled free of her body as she hit and got to his feet quickly. One of the assassins grinned, and aimed at Shimon with a laser rifle. Suddenly a soft thwap filled the air, and the man’s eyes widened, he gurgled and fell forward, an arrow stuck in his back.
Lorel quickly galloped toward Shimon, moving her horse so he was blocked from harm.
“Hurry,” she yelled, holding out her hand and Shimon mounted behind her.
She kneed her horse, guiding it through the battle, trying to get Shimon to a safe place.
“We’re going to have to try for the trees,” she told him, “but we can’t make it on horse.”
She reined in her horse, “dismount and run” she yelled, “if anything happens, just run, don’t look back, Safestern is depending on you.”
Quickly they dismounted and Shimon ran for the trees with Lorel close behind him. Suddenly a loud boom filled the air and he heard Lorel cry out. Instead of running like she had told him, Shimon turned back and caught Lorel in his arms.
“Leave me and run,” she gritted in pain, and he shook his head.
“I’m not leaving you,” he said, then he picked her up in his arms and ran for the trees. He heard the loud reports of more laser rifles blasting around him, but he continued to run, until he reached the safety of the trees. Gently he laid Lorel down and unsheathed his sword, knowing that the assassins would follow him soon. Suddenly the sound of a horn filled the air and the assassins quickly retreated from the battle.
Shimon sheathed his sword and knelt beside Lorel, she was breathing shallowly, sweat beading on her forehead.
“Hang on Lorel,” he told her, “I’m going to go get help.”
She slipped her hand into his and began to speak, but couldn’t.
“Help,” he yelled and heard the sound of people crashing through the trees.
Liberio and some of the guards, burst into the clearing.
“I need a healer,” Liberio yelled when he saw how gravely wounded Lorel was in.
He knelt beside Shimon, laying a gentle hand on Lorel’s forehead.
“Hang on Lorel,” he said, but his voice seemed to be coming from far away.
She closed her eyes and her hand fell limply from Shimon’s grasp.
“Is she dead?” he frantically asked the healer who had just arrived.
He shook his head, “she has been severely wounded by a laser rifle blast,” he said, “she has slipped into an unconscious state, but if we don’t get her to a healing center soon she will die.”
Quickly a travois was fashioned out of tree limbs and Shimon gently picked Lorel up, placing her on it. The healer mounted on his horse, quickly riding away with her and the guards.
For a moment Shimon stood there and watched them ride off, then he turned to Liberio.
“I want to know who was behind the attack today,” he said softly, “I want them found and punished. Nobody hurts what is mine and gets away with it.”
Then he went to Honey who was miraculously unhurt after her fall and mounted her, riding away in the direction the healer had taken Lorel.
Liberio watched him leave, then turned to mount his own horse. Suddenly the glint of something in the dirt caught his eye. Bending over he picked it up and looked at what it was.
“I know who tried to kill the king,” he whispered. He put the item in his pocket, then quickly mounted his horse, hurrying to show Shimon what he had found.
Shimon turned as Liberio hurried into the healing center.
“Good news my friend,” he told the butler. “The healer was able to stop the bleeding from the wound, he said that Lorel will recover quickly.”
He noticed the grave look on Liberio’s face.
“What’s the matter,” he asked and Liberio sighed.
“I found who was behind the assassination attempt,” he said and reached into his pocket. “I found this at the scene of the attack.”
Shimon looked at the item in Liberio’s hand. It was his brother’s signet ring.
“My brother wouldn’t dare have me killed,” he said vehemently. “Someone must have stolen it from him.”
“You know as well as I do that your brother never takes it off,” Liberio said, “as much as it pains me to admit it. The only way for someone to get that ring, is for your brother to have given it to them.”
Shimon snatched the ring from Liberio, then turned and stormed out of the healing center.
He found his brother with his mother, in the sitting room.
He stepped in and saw the look of surprise pass over his brother’s face.
“Surprised to see me?” He asked.
“Why would I be surprised to see you my brother?” Gerar asked, then blanched when Shimon held out the ring.
“I was ambushed today,” he said quietly, “Liberio found this at the scene of the attack.”
“Someone must have stolen it from me,” Gerar said quickly.
“You haven’t taken this ring off since you received it at sixteen,” Shimon said, “ the only way someone could’ve gotten it, is if you have given it to them.”
Their mother stood up, “you don’t think that Gerar could’ve arranged this?” She asked, and Shimon looked at her coldly.
“I do,” he said, “the attack wounded Lorel, almost killed her. She is lying in a bed in the healing center at this moment.”
“I should’ve been king,” Gerar snarled suddenly, rising from his chair. “I am the first born.”
“Stop it,” the queen cried, “Gerar your brother was chosen to be king before he was born. It was his fate, not yours.”
Gerar looked at his mother, with a hint of madness in his eyes.
“It should’ve been mine,” he said, then he drew a knife. “Since the men I hired couldn’t do the job,” he said quietly, “I guess I’ll have to take care of it.”
He rushed at Shimon, who unsheathed his sword to defend himself, then his mother threw herself in front of Gerar. The blade meant for Shimon, sunk into her belly.
Shimon caught her as she crumpled to the floor, and with an anguished cry, Gerar dropped the knife and fled the room.
“I’m sorry my son,” his mother whispered as blood bubbled from between her lips.
“Get a healer,” Shimon yelled at the staff that had been drawn by the commotion.
“Don’t talk mother,” he said gently, “the healer will be here soon.”
She shook her head, “it’s too late for me,” she said quietly, “but before I die, I want you to know that I love you.”
She raised a bloody hand toward Shimon’s face, touching it gently.
“I should’ve told you this before,” she whispered, then her body shuddered with a ragged breath, and her hand fell limply onto the floor.
The healer, pushed through the crowd and knelt beside Shimon and his mother. He felt for a pulse, then looked at Shimon with a sorrowful gaze.
“The queen is dead,” he said quietly.
With a wild cry Shimon began to weep, as he cradled the dead body of his mother against his chest. He felt a touch on his shoulder and he found Liberio kneeling beside him.
“I’m sorry my king,” the butler said quietly and Shimon felt his fury grow.
“Find Gerar,” he growled, “there’s now a price on his head.”
He stared at Liberio, “when you find him, I don’t want to speak with him at all,” he said quietly and Liberio nodded his head.
The butler stood up and spoke to the two guards who had accompanied him to the room.
“Gather all the palace guards that can be spared,” he said, “the king has put a price on prince Gerar’s head.”
“It will be done,” he said to Shimon, then walked out of the room, leaving him to grieve in peace.
“It’s been two months,” Liberio reported to Shimon, “and there’s no sign of your brother.”
“He couldn’t have disappeared in thin air,” Shimon said wearily, “is there no where left to search?”
“The only place that hasn’t been searched, is the Caprias Mountains,” Liberio said, “troll territory.”
Shimon nodded, then walked out of the room without a word. He walked toward the balcony and looked out without really seeing the scenery. He wondered if his brother was even in Acoona anymore, maybe he had heard of the price on his head and he had fled the country. He cursed softly and squeezed his eyes shut.
Suddenly the sound of a soft footstep made him turn and he found Lorel standing behind him.
He stared at her hungrily, because of the chaos of the last few months he hadn’t seen her at all.
“You are well?” He asked and she nodded her head.
“I am recovered,” she said quietly.
For a moment they stared at each other again, then Lorel stepped forward and gently put her hand on Shimon’s arm.
“I’m sorry about your mother,” she said.
“She died to save me,” Shimon said softly, “it was the only thing she ever did for me out of love.”
“She loved you,” Lorel said and Shimon nodded his head.
“She told me that,” he said, “as she lay dying in my arms. The only time I ever heard those words from her, and it was because she stepped in front of a knife that was meant for me. I should’ve been the one who died, not her.”
Lorel pulled Shimon into her arms.
“It wasn’t your day to die,” she said, “your mother loved you and she showed you in the only way she knew how.”
“What of you?” Shimon said quietly, staring down at her, “do you love me?”
Lorel realized how close they were, and she tried to take a step back. Shimon’s arms tightened around her, keeping her closely pressed against him, and for a moment it just seemed like it was the two of them.
Slowly Shimon lowered his head and Lorel felt her lips part. She knew she should say no, that she should try to step away, but she realized she didn’t want to.
“I love you Lorel,” Shimon said quietly, his lips an inch from hers. “I want to marry you, for you to be my queen.”
“Shimon,” Lorel said, staring deep into his blue eyes. “I.....”
“My king there is a message for you,” a sudden voice intruded and they broke quickly apart.
A young boy stood there, with a parchment in his hand, quite unaware of the moment he had irrupted.
Shimon took the message and read it, then looked at the boy.
“Get Liberio,” he ordered, “quickly.”
“What does it say?” Lorel asked and Shimon handed it to her.
“I have made a pact with the Caprias trolls,” it said, “renounce your throne and let me become king, or Safestern will be besieged. Gerar.”
“What are you going to do?” Lorel asked.
“I can’t make this decision alone,” Shimon said, “we’re going to hold a council and decide what must be done.”
Lorel grabbed his arm, “and what if they decide that you must renounce your throne?” She demanded.
“Then so be it,” Shimon said.
“We can’t let him become king,” one of the elders said, “Prince Gerar would destroy Acoona.”
“I agree,” another elder said, “Acoona has become more prosperous under King Shimon’s rule, then ever before.”
“Then what do you propose we do?” Ogden, the chief elder asked.
For a moment the other elders conversed quietly, then one by one they stood up.
“We fight,” they said in unison, “we don’t allow this usurper to take the throne.”
Ogden looked at Shimon and said, “we fight.”
“Inform the troops,” Shimon told Liberio, “prepare for battle, because we fight for Acoona.”
Liberio nodded his head and left quickly.
Shimon looked at Lorel who stood there quietly.
“Will you fight with me?” He asked her and she nodded.
“I will fight for you and die if necessary,” she said, then turned and left the room without another word.
They heard the pounding of feet and swords against shields long before the trolls came into view.
Shimon stood at the head of the army, with Liberio next to him.
“Ready men,” came the cry as the trolls came over the rise, with Gerar at their head.
“Charge!” Came the yell and the two armies rushed at each other, converging in a loud clash of steel.
Shimon and Liberio were separated as they fought the trolls, and soon the smell of blood and death filled the air. Shimon had just dispatched one of the trooper trolls to hell, when he saw Lorel fighting two of them. Quickly he hacked his way to her, and decapitated one, as she finished off the other.
He looked at her, covered in troll blood, breathing with her exertion and he realized what he wanted.
“Lorel,” he said, as he flipped a troll over that rushed at him, stabbing him through the heart.
“Will you marry me?” He said and she looked at him as if he had gone crazy.
“Right now?” She screeched, then turned and gutted a troll, kicking him to the ground.
Shimon grabbed her, whirling her out of the way, as a troll shot a laser ray at them. He threw a knife and hit the troll between the eyes.
“Not now,” he said, as they changed places again, and dispatched more trolls.
“I love you,” he told her, “I want to marry you when this is done.”
For a moment there was a lull in the battle and she stared at him.
“What say you?” He asked and she grabbed him, pulling him toward her.
Quickly she grabbed his head, and pulled it down. Without a word, she kissed him hard on the lips, and the battle dimmed around them.
They drew apart, breathing hard and she began to speak.
“Your brother!” Liberio’s voice suddenly intruded and Shimon looked around.
Gerar stood nearby, unaware of his presence and Shimon quickly hacked his way toward him.
He looked up and smiled evilly, when he saw Shimon.
“Finally,” he said, then swung his sword at Shimon.
He met it with a clang of steel against steel, and brought it down. They began to fight hard, blocking and thrusting quickly. Then Shimon caught Gerar’s sword and knocked it out of his hand.
He brought the point of his sword against Gerar’s neck and for a moment his brother looked at him with fear in his eyes.
“You would not kill your own brother,” he said and Shimon hesitated.
“You will be put on trail for murder and sedition.” He said sheathing his sword.
Lorel watched in horror as Shimon turned his back, and Gerar reached for his sword.
She ran toward the troll that had the laser rifle clutched in his dead hand and grabbed it. She raised it, just as Gerar rushed Shimon and fired. The blast caught Gerar in the middle of the eyes, killing him instantly and sending him flying backwards.
Shimon looked toward her, the laser rifle still in her hand.
“I had to kill him,” she said, “he was going to kill you.”
“You saved my life,” he said, “I thank you.”
Suddenly a cry came up, “retreat, retreat, the battle is lost.”
The trolls began to run away, as the soldiers of Safestern began to cheer.
“Long live the king!” Someone shouted, “long live king Shimon.”
Everyone raised their swords and took up the cheer.
“Long live the king,” Liberio shouted, “long live the king!”
Shimon looked at Lorel who smiled back at him and raised her sword, and cheered.
Later Shimon found Lorel helping with the wounded.
“You kissed me, when I asked you to marry me,” he said, “but you never answered my question.”
Lorel stopped and looked at him, but didn’t answer.
“Will you marry me?” He asked her again.
“I love you Shimon,” she finally answered, “but I’m afraid. Afraid that I won’t be as good of a queen as I am a solider. Afraid that you’ll grow to resent me.”
“I could never resent you,” Shimon said, pulling her toward him. “I love you, just the way you are and I never want you to change.”
For a moment they stared at each other, then Lorel nodded.
“Yes,” she said, “I’ll marry you.”
With a whoop that was quite undignified for a king. Shimon grabbed Lorel and whirled her around.
“I love you,” he said, then kissed her softly as the people of Safestern looked on and cheered.
Two years later, Shimon and Lorel took their first born, to the mystic’s city. He was six months old and it was time for his prediction and naming ceremony.
Tala, the same mystic who had made Shimon king, told them of her vision.
“Your son will not rule Acoona,” she said, “that will be the daughter you will have in a year. Your son’s path lies in a different direction. He will travel to a far off land, and unite two people together. He will become a great peacemaker and be loved by all.”
“He will be named Talli,” Shimon said, then held up his small son. “He has a great future ahead of him. He will be a great man.”
“As his father is,” Lorel said, and gently they held their son.
The small family left the city, and started home. Now was a great time of peace and prosperity for Acoona, but their children would make it more so. It had been foreseen.